When I was younger a major night out just happened. Now it takes weeks of planning, emails back and forth, clarification and re-clarification, quite possibly more time than the actual event. Mid-life and family obligations require the need for setting expectations (yes, I will be drunk when I come home) and communicating contingencies (yes, if it goes too late and I get tired I will be calling you to come get me). In this age of project planning to the nth degree we removed all randomness and scheduled from the first drink to the hangover recovery. That being said, here’s the recap…
M and I drove over to Cy’s to pick him up. To ensure silliness and start the music bar at the lowest possible rung we listened to Pat Boone singing Van Halen’s Panama from his ill-advised album, I’m In A Metal Mood. Finn, a budding music lover, looked horrified. M dropped us off at Capital Ale to begin the pickling of our livers. It had been a couple of years since I had been to Capital Ale but it had been a number of times so thought I knew what to expect. I was wrong.
The initial bartender blamed it on shift change (and actually joked that he would hear about all this on a blog – little did he know…) but the problems went deeper than that. I have never seen so many staff, so many manager types, accomplish so little. Drinks would get made and then sit on the bar while the bartender went off to do something else. Food would sit under heat lamps while a gaggle of waiters would stand inches away chatting. Drinks and food ordered once, twice, thrice… Our group of two swelled to nearly twenty and we moved downstairs. There was no shortage of staff. They just had no clue what to do. Throwing bodies at a staffing problem doesn’t help if they don’t know what to do. Having a huge number of manager types doesn’t help either if they don’t lead or direct the action. It was a mess. What they actually need is a senior McDonald’s manager who at least knows how to manage a large group and keep things flowing.
I did discover a new gin there. Spruce, from a winery in the Rogue River Valley in Oregon. Very in your face gin. My first thought was that it was like drinking a tree. Very heavy juniper flavour. I actually enjoyed it as both a martini and in a gin and tonic. Good strong flavours without too much alcohol heat.
From there we went over towards the National and bent the law a bit. A little tailgating in the parking deck across the street. In high school that would have meant lukewarm PBR bought with the help of a kind stranger at a mini-mart or from a clerk too dumb to do the math on an 17-year-olds drivers license. Today it means well-chilled Stella Artois from a cooler. Once we were sufficiently lubricated we entered the theater.
This was my first visit to the National since the remodel and I was impressed. This cleaned and restored theater had been opened up to create a music venue that Richmond has been lacking. The lobby area has simple raised Wedgewood-style reliefs. Simply painted the wall has been removed so you can walk right into the main floor area. The chairs have all been removed opening up the main floor for listening, dancing, or getting close to your friends and strangers. Bars upstairs and down serve beer and hard alcohol at slightly inflated prices ($6 for a gin and tonic). I saw a food menu at one point but was unable to focus on it. They kept the seats upstairs, part of which is a VIP area. The four balconies are available for $5k per season, not sure how many tickets that includes.
For those of you who don’t know; The Machine is a Pink Floyd cover band. The crowd reflected this. Nearly all 30 and 40 somethings, only a couple of teens with big black X’s on their hands identifying them as underage. Quite a number of people had brought their kids (5-10 year olds) and had them upstairs away from the swaying crowd below.
The band took the stage and started playing. With the precision of studio musicians they played Pink Floyd music, from the famous to the obscure. The crowd was fun and I do enjoy live music but at times, if you closed your eyes, you wouldn’t have told the difference between the band and a recording. The keyboardist, I believe his name is Scott, brought life to what may have otherwise been a flat performance. Slack jawed and eyes rolled back he swayed back and forth in a kind of fugue state doing justice to the decades old music.
The concert ended rather abruptly, the old and tired crowd ready for bed and unable to muster the energy to get the band back for an encore. Phones came out to alert sober drivers waiting at home to come collect us. The level of inebriation evidenced by the level of laughter when a friend, calling home, dropped his BlackBerry into his cocktail mid-sentence. That should make an interesting replacement report at work this Monday morning… (actually it kept working so no report will probably be filed)
At home, to sleep.
The next morning it was off to RVAFoodies for brunch. Prior planning had allowed for some recovery time so we arrived at noon. Fresh ground coffee and strawberry-banana smoothies from Foodies blender helped take the edge off. Amuse Bouche of grilled nebulsi cheese was a hit, especially with Finn. It reminded me of something but, as my taste buds were fried from the night before, I couldn’t quite pin it down. Brunch was homemade tortillas, eggs with special bits and Mexican acoutremont, mole (think chocolate Mexican not the rodent) roasted potatoes, Bayless refried beans, and a colourful fruit salad. All were excellent but you need to go to Foodie for the recipes. Finn ended up not eating brunch as that was the point he finally became friends with Foodies pug, Frankie, and much noise ensued. Foodie, for a moment, questioned his choice to reproduce. Regardless, a nice way to recover from the night before.