Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Dangling Conversation

Robert McNamara was the game-changer.

The evening had begun in the sunshine of the front porch, sipping Aime Roquesante Rose and taking in the last of the afternoon's warmth as cars drove by (windows down and music blaring), students walked by in shorts and tank tops and my date explained why his Tuesday night had been lacking.

Since I was in charge of his Wednesday evening happiness, I could take no responsibility for the night before.

Once glasses were drained and preliminary conversation established, we wandered over to Steady Sounds for an hour of browsing the bins and seeing who commented on what records, the better to decide what needed to be folded into the evening.

He scored the first big find, "Spinners Live" from 1975 and that was the start of our stack, not to mention my first indication that I'd lucked into a fellow Spinners fan (Leo, are you listening?). From there we uncovered Cass Elliott (I'm a long-time fan of her voice), Laura Nyro (one of his), a Luther Vandross album I don't have (because Luther), an Emmy Lou Harris (seen her live, never owned her music) and a few other personal faves.

But it was when I came across Simon and Garfunkel's 1966 award-winner "Parsley Sage, Rosemary and Thyme," their third album, that I really got his attention. My only Simon and Garfunkel record is the Greatest Hits, a record I acquired from my parents once they stopped listening to albums. Time to diversify.

Glancing at the song selection, I saw that the album I was holding in my hand had four of the songs that made it to the greatest hits album including the heart-stoppingly beautiful "For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her." On top of that, the record had several songs I'd never even heard of, including the aptly '60s-titled, "A Simple Desultory Philippic (Or How I Was Robert McNamara'd Into Submission)."

Okay, let's just reflect for a moment on that magnificent title, shall we?

I would have been impressed solely with the use of "desultory" in the title, but add in "philippic" ("a bitter denunciation") and it's practically a word nerd's wet dream of a song title. But it was the ensuing in-depth discussion of McNamara that sealed the deal. That and his sunny memories of driving across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge hearing "The 59th Street Bridge Song" blasting from the radio.

And while I had no memories to back it up, I was charmed enough by "Music for Dining" by one of Great Britain's most popular orchestras (at least in 1954) and part of a series of mood music albums by the Melachrino Strings that included "Music for Relaxation" and "Music for Reading." Personally, I don't need or want music to read by, but eating, that's another story.

While we were deep in the bins, a friend spotted me and came over to chat. I'd just seen a picture online of her, her husband and baby celebrating their second anniversary at Dinamo, so I asked about what she'd eaten since we were headed there next.

Afterward, my date concluded that our rehashing of their meal had been so thorough and enthusiastic that he felt like he'd already eaten there. We talk good food, she and I.

Our walk to Dinamo was a reminder of how quickly the temperature was dropping, but the interior was warm and offering up all the smells to entice us, not to mention familiar faces. First off was a server friend who'd inadvertently abandoned her leftovers on the bar and rushed back to reclaim them, only to run into me. "Mmm, leftover white pizza," she said, wiggling the box in my direction. I'd come back for that pizza, too.

While we were digging into smoked whitefish crostini, fish soup and matzoh ball soup, I looked up to see Richmond's master puppeteer Lilly (with her partner) looming over me and looking for a hug. Next thing I know, she and my date are talking about art galleries in L.A. while her partner and I are discussing what an amazing installation Lilly has crafted for the opening of the Institute for Contemporary Art. The funny part is, the last time I saw Lilly was at Dinamo. It's like our guaranteed not-so secret meeting place.

By the time I was finishing off the chocolate torte and the last of my wine, the crowd in the dining room had thinned to us and two other tables, one of which had gotten a serenade of "Happy Birthday" earlier. My date was convinced that it wasn't really the guy's birthday, that he just wanted the attention (and the tiramisu with a candle in it), so on the way out, I stopped to ask how old he was turning.

"Forty nine," he admitted kind of sheepishly.

Pshaw, that's nothing, son. Some of us not only remember Robert McNamara, we have the music to discuss him to.

Life, I love you, all is groovy.


  1. I'm listening. And still grinning.

  2. Join the club!
    PS: About time, don't you think?