Sunday, September 24, 2017

Big Love

Be present. Well, duh.

That zen-like reminder was painted on the wall of the restaurant, but not the first restaurant I went to today because that one was in service of my hired mouth and was for breakfast.

Breakfast was before we took a road trip to Norfolk listening to REM and the Bo Deans and cursing people who brake for no good reason and before our silver-tongued tour guide gave us a walking tour of Norfolk's waterfront.

It was during that walkabout that he led us to Java Surf Coffee Shop, passing a window display with a sign that read, "In a relationship, one person needs to be the emotional designated driver," sparking a discussion of whether that's true or not. Dissent was expressed; I abstained.

Eventually, we made it to the piece-de-resistance: the USS Wisconsin, a circa 1943 battleship rising up like a giant silver blowfish on steroids when we first encountered it head on.

Honestly, I was unprepared for how massive it was and if we'd had the time, I'd have been all about touring it. Another time, I hope.

Impressive in a different sort of way was a ridiculously long dark blue sailboat (by that, I mean far longer than my apartment times two) with masts too high to fit in the photograph I tried to take of it. That it was registered in the Cayman Islands gave us to believe there was drug-laundering money involved, but made it no less beautiful or tremendously sized.

After meandering through downtown, we landed on the sidewalk in front of a doormat-sized inlay that used fancy script to spell out "The Fontaine Room," giving testament to the restaurant's former life.

These days, it's a swinging hot spot called the Grilled Cheese Bistro which required a short wait for one of the community tables (which is the only kind they have, a trend I embrace), but paid off in spades with exceptional sandwiches (cooked in buckets of clarified butter), killer fries and a bartender who never let the hordes wipe the smile off her face or the good attitude from her words.

I think it was because she was being present. I know I was.

Now that I think about it, though, I may also have been swayed by them having Dominion Brewing root beer on tap, because what accompanies a Johnny Appleseed grilled cheese better?

By the time we rolled out of there, a long line had already begun snaking down the sidewalk in anticipation of tonight's Hanson show at the Norva, bringing up the question, who loves Hanson that much in 2017 anyway?

Clearly the show was sold out, but it mattered not because by late afternoon, we were heading back because we've got shows of our own in Richmond, you know.

And tonight's was a helluva bill: the Richmond Symphony with Tim Barry, Clair Morgan, Natalie Prass, Bio Ritmo and Matthew E. White.

Setting out on foot, we breezed past the crowded Grace Street restaurant patios to land at Maya, where our server was a familiar face and, coincidentally, a J-Ward neighbor. Given tonight's show, the place was mobbed and he was keeping everything handled with his usual aplomb and self-deprecation.

I don't often eat three meals out in one day unless I'm on vacation (I could stretch that a bit and say that with the road trip and playing tourist all day that it was vacation-like), but sometimes you just have to eat the fish tacos and be happy someone else is willing to cook for you.

Across the street, the Carpenter Center was filling up with a mix of longtime Symphony Pops subscribers and a whole lot of people who'd probably never been to the Symphony in their life, but were fans of one of the bands performing tonight.

It was a pretty fascinating show in that local musician Trey Pollard had written arrangements for their songs based on what would best suit their existing music. It ranged from Tim Barry being just a voice and guitar to Bio Ritmo's nine musicians (tonight with the bonus of singer Laura Ann Singh) and salsa rhythms, providing huge flexibility in where and how much the symphony came in.

Clair Morgan provided humor when his band took the stage without him and he finally came out, saying, "My wife's gonna kill me, but I can't find my guitar strap." Luckily, it was soon located and they could play, vibraphones and all, without any husbands being killed.

Ultimately, rock trumped symphony and light projections made the performance oh-so groovy while the crowd didn't hesitate to call out to friends and favorite performers onstage.

In the loo during intermission, I heard my name called and there was the woman I run into everywhere: the Northern Neck, a southside coffee shop, an obscure house show, now the symphony.

Heading back to my seat, I heard my name called and turned around to see my former neighbor. When I marveled that he'd recognized me from the back, he said it was my hair. I think I believe him.

Walking through the inner lobby, I ran into a gorgeous girlfriend and once in the outer lobby, a favorite sax player greeted me. My people were everywhere.

Be present often enough and they all find you. Okay, maybe not in the Fontaine Room, but definitely here in Richmond.

Does being asleep count as being present? Asking for a friend...


  1. K...your last question is loaded....


  2. Does that count against me, cw?

  3. No not really but then it's not my place to make that decision....