Saturday, March 30, 2019

Court is in Session

Basketball seems to be a big deal right now. I'd like to say I care, but of course I don't.

My parents do, partly because they're both big sports fans and partly because they both have money on the outcome. Mr. Wright cares, so he was at home cheering Duke on when I met up with Holmes and Beloved for dinner.

Walking out of my apartment, I spotted two female students on the porch next door sipping beers and blasting their radio (seriously, ladies, "Don't Go Breakin' My Heart"?) while just across the street, a young woman was directing seven others. "Okay, I need someone over here screaming in agony," she said, holding her cell phone and pointing. "And I need someone over here by the street crouching down."

A cinematic masterpiece in the making, I'm sure.

The fact that it was 75 degrees on a Friday afternoon meant just getting to Holmes' house was an obstacle course given the hordes of people at the VMFA (and the lack of parking anywhere along the three blocks between the museum and Holmes' house), walking dogs along the streets and in general just milling about as if they hadn't experienced a sunny, warm day for too long.

When I finally nabbed a parking space, it was next to a backyard where three kids were climbing up on to the picnic table and jumping off while shrieking at the top of their lungs while the mothers of these daredevils posed together nearby taking repeated selfies of the two of them ignoring the screams behind them.

But it was a short-lived parking spot victory because I was elected to drive everyone to Nota Bene, where an open door greeted us. The bar was populated with stools, not people, so we took up residence at the corner, close enough to feel the warm air through the door with a view of the rapidly filling dining room.

Debating what to sip, we took the owner's recommendation of a personal favorite, G.D. Vajra "Rosa Bella" Rosato, a refreshing Rose with a bone dry finish that all but begged for a warm day like the one we were reveling in. It was my opportunity to thank her for having recommended Lady Pi Pi's, the charming outdoor restaurant in Dubrovnik, where we'd had a fabulous meal at her suggestion.

"Someone told me about it and I told you," she shrugged. "Now it's your turn to recommend it to someone else going to Dubrovnik." Paying it forward at Lady Pi Pi's, so to speak.

Once we'd wet our whistles, we dove into the new spring menu with abandon to celebrate it having come out just today. Tender wood oven turnips got the star treatment with tuna sauce, turnip greens pesto and trout row. Since Nota Bene is where Holmes first began enjoying roasted cauliflower, we had to try the decadent new version with Perorino, black garlic, lemon and the piece de resistance, Prosecco-cured egg yolk.  Then to take it over the top, we had housemade burrata with snap peas, radishes and mint in whey vinaigrette, which we slathered over bread toasted with olive oil.

If we hadn't already ordered dinner, we could have stopped right there since we were all stuffed anyway. But Beloved had been determined to try the legendary white Bolognese bucatini with pork and beef and Holmes had been helpless when our server had announced a special of skin-on duck breast with, as he put it, "some kind of pommes," which turned out to be fancy hash browns.

Their choices made my mushroom and garlic white pizza with caramelized onions, Parmesan and Fontina seem like a Healthy Choice entree, not at all what I was going for but a damn fine pie nonetheless.

If it sounds like an obscene amount of food for three people, let me assure you it was. So much so that dessert was out of the question, a rarity for this group. Fortunately, Beloved and I knew that Holmes had laid in a chocolate dessert at the house for once our fullness settled.

Back in the museum district, parking spaces were emptying out and things were settling down a bit. Holmes forewarned me that while yes, we'd be having a listening party in the basement as usual, the TV would be on but muted behind Beloved's and my bar stools. He'd be able to see it and we'd never know it was on.

The plan was for an all media night, meaning we started with a CD I'd never even heard of. It was the Beatles' "Real Love," named after the Lennon song the three remaining  Beatles had overdubbed after he died and the demo was found. I've got to say, I found it really strange to hear a "Beatles" song I'd never heard before.

Next came one of Holmes' classic cassette tapes, this one a collection of songs by George Harrison and Eric Clapton doing a wide range of songs and covers. And while Holmes had neatly labeled which songs were on the tape, he'd not indicated the sources, a shame since some of the live versions had us curious about their origins.

Vinyl came courtesy of two 45s - John Hiatt's "Missing You," and the Go Gos' "Our Lips are Sealed" - before we dove into the Elton John record "17.11.70," an album taken from a live radio broadcast where his piano was accompanied only by bass and drums. His  cover of "Honky Tonk Woman" sounded positively audacious for 1971.

In between music selections, Holmes checked out the game and I realized that Beloved must have some interest because she was appalled that Holmes was rooting for Duke when he usually roots for whatever Virginia team is playing. "You even rooted for Liberty and they're a bunch of religious crazies!" she admonished him.

He refused to budge, so she retaliated by becoming an uber-fan for Virginia Tech.

Meanwhile, I kept my back to the whole thing, remembering a post by a reformed Christian friend that said, "Strongest evidence I know that there isn't a just god: Duke continues to win." Even my Mom hates Duke and that's saying something for my mild-mannered mother.

One of the more charming aspects of our ongoing conversation was Holmes enumerating some of the 99 reasons why he and Beloved should get married, a list that he added to periodically throughout the evening, apropos of nothing. So they can spend the winters someplace warm. So they can sell one house. So they can retire and goof off.

Interspersed with such practical reasons was Holmes' constant refrain, "Mostly because I love her."

Mushy talk beats basketball talk any day, no matter who's winning. That's real love.

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