A little over an hour into the evening on Friday, I realized what an incredibly long time it had been since Boo and I had gone out for a date "just the two of us". We go out a lot, but it's always with other couples, or friends, or people I like that Boo doesn't, or people that Boo likes that I tolerate, and so forth. We hang out at home a fair amount, but we've reached that point in our relationship where he can be sunk down in the cushions watching Big Brother: Return of the Assholes, and I can be in another room listening to what's new on Pandora, and it's not exactly quality time together. So it was nice to not only go on a date "just the two us", but also to realize that we'd gone on a date "just the two of us".
We went to dinner at the Loring Pasta Bar first of all, which is nowhere near Loring Park (can't believe I'm linking Lileks), but in fact over in Dinkytown. It's an offshoot of a restaurant that used to be on Loring Park, but lost its lease and is now only in existence in an ever-expanding Dinkytown empire that includes the Pasta Bar, the Kitty Cat Klub, and the Varsity Theater, our final destination.
Boo called for reservations for 6:30 only to be told that they didn't have any "but we always keep some tables open for walk-ins". The fuck? Boo opted for a reserved table at 7:30, just to be sure we'd be able to eat - Dinkytown is not noted for fine dining options. And I was fine with that - the doors for the show were at 8, show scheduled for 9, and no doubt to begin with some dreadful opener besides. We'd have had plenty of time. However, as noted before, when Boo has released the inner dominatrix, neither obstacle nor policy shall stand unchallenged.
Thus our cab picked us up at 6:30, and dropped us at the restaurant at 6:45. Indeed, there were tables open for walk-ins, and Boo grabbed one without bothering to cancel his reservation. And, really, it is a stupid policy, so too bad for the hosts. One of whom was short, cute, and gay, and the other of whom was tall, willowy, and gay. The tall willowy one was wearing a crocheted tank and a combination of silver chains and white plastic toy links that somehow worked on him, but makes me fear a new trend. Trust me kids, don't try this at home.
At any rate, he fit in with the Loring decor - all of the Loring properties have been set-designed to the last detail, mining the theme of faded, decaying elegance in ways both apropos and a little too precious. The Pasta Bar is in the old Grey's Drugstore, but looks like an abandoned, partially stripped beaux arts/art nouveau hotel lobby. No traces of the drugstore remain except for the clerestory windows which still spell out "Drugs" and help feed rumors that have dogged the owner for a decade.
Dinner was fine - I had the house salad of baby greens with a citrusy dressing that was quite nice, and an orzo, basil and shrimp entree which was light and appealing. Belgium's ubiquitous Stella Artois washed it down - the pasta dish had artichoke hearts with it and I hate the way wine tastes weird and metallic with artichokes. I love that we can get Stella on tap in this country - it's by no means the finest beer out of Belgium, but if I must drink a ubiquitous beer, I'll take Stella over Bud any day of the week.
Naturally, we were done quite early, so went up the street to a coffee house for whatever it is that they're choosing to call their variation on the coffee Slurpee. I went back to the restaurant to get tickets for a different show in August (Marty Casey - yeah, I know. I offer no defense. Except, that voice! and look at those eyes!) and had my little epiphany about the fact that we were out on a date alone. We drank our coffee snowcones, got cash for laters, and walked on in to the Varsity at 8:20. The doors were just opening from the lobby into the theater, and I'm very glad they were - the bartender in the Cafe des Artistes (which is what they call the front lobby) has the scariest voice ever. It's like that Simpsons episode where Bart hears angelic singing from inside the church, and rushes in thinking that it's his new girlfriend Jessica Lovejoy, only to find a disturbingly countertenor Flanders. Yeah, that. Anyhoo, we got our tickets scanned, got sticky armbands mired into the hair on our wrists (ouch!), and wandered in.
I haven't been in the Varsity since it was redone. When I first spent some time in Minneapolis back in 1982, sleeping on Michael's futon a few blocks away, it was a movie theater showing second-run reps. For those of you born after VHS/DVD, this is where you could go see movies from years gone by that wouldn't be too likely to show up on your television. John Waters, Radley Metzger, and Herschell Gordon Lewis alternated nights with the umpteenth rerun of Gone With the Wind or THX-1138. Cult films were invented and sustained here, or at places like it - the long-gone Westgate Theater on 45th and France was notorious for a 100-week showing of Harold and Maude from 1972-74. However, as there was a new video store just across 4th Street, the writing was on the wall for the Varsity, and only a few months after I saw a rerun of 2001: A Space Odyssey while evading the sticky heat of Michael's un-airconditioned apartment in August, it was shuttered.
After I moved to the cities on a more permanent basis I had reason to go back - for about a year it was rented out on a monthly basis for a gay nightclub event that I can't remember the name of, which coincided with the period after David and I called it quits. It was alcohol free, so the crowd could be quite young, the music was way better than either of the downtown bars, and on one memorable occasion I saw Michael Jordan. No, not that one - this one was a hot gay young white dude with ripped jeans and no underwear, whom I didn't work up the courage to talk with at the time. I didn't forget him, though, and a few weeks later, he showed up as my soon-to-be ex's date. That'll teach you to be shy, dumbass. He also turned out to be quite the libertine, and I have fond memories of him indeed! He's also the reason I can claim to have been naked on stage, which is a story we'll save for another time, because somehow, I think all of this is detracting from the romance at hand.
The Varsity is a really great performance space. It was never a large theater, so it definitely has an intimate feel, and the lack of columns, and raised side platforms make for excellent sightlines. As we were so godawful early, we nabbed a table on the right side of the house, and I grabbed a beer. Any performance venue that keeps beer priced at $4, while offering a "shot of the moment" for $3 gets my undying adoration. I think the last beer I had at First Avenue was almost $10. Fucking outrageous. Anyway, they've covered the concrete floor with a big oriental-style rug, there's lots of deep red fabric hanging about, and it's just a great space. Can't wait to go back next month, though I don't know who's going to see Marty with me yet. Not Boo, anyway.
Not so great? The opening act - something called "The Dance Band". Or maybe it's Dance Banned...I've seen worse, but not often, and I'm damned if I'll try to find a link for them. Picture a group that wants to be the B-52's, but is mostly made up of puddingy space geeks in fringe, and you've got it. Novelty entertainment only goes about as far as the second song, and they did at least 12. I think Boo has finally learned his lesson, though, and for the next concert we'll be fashionably on time for the main headliner.
Which was, of course, LOS AMIGOS INVISIBLES!!!! Wheeee! Big fun. Venezuelan 70's-style porn-funk. Nas-tay! Infectious rhythms doesn't even begin to cover it. Two songs in, and straight boys were beginning to shuffle. By half-time, a third of them had learned to mambo. God only knows how many of them ended up going home together; probably not as many as I fantasized about. Boo, who dances better than he thinks he does, even got the itch, and dragged me out for a few booty-shakin' songs - we even got to sing along on Masturbation Session and Superfucker, which they conveniently played back-to-back. The lead singer is extremely hot; a lithe latino in an Enabl t-shirt (fan yourself, Grouchbutt!), which isn't all that obvious in the photos on their website. The lead guitar is not cute, but is one intense player - I'm amazed he still has fingers on his right hand. And he and the bassist can bounce very high when they want to get the audience movin'. Hot loud fun, and exactly why I love live performance.
At midnight, they played a blistering finale set, and we set off in a cab for home, after a little snafu that involved calling Airport Taxi and having them dispatch a Town Taxi without telling us to look for the orange cab instead of the maroon one.
I'm thinking we should get out alone more often. We've been together long enough to bicker viciously on occasion, find fault in every petty thing you can imagine, and to have all manner of doubts about whether we're still moving forward together or growing continually farther apart. But now and then, we have such a sweet romantic evening together that I remember why he's mine and why I'm still in love with him, even though he makes me completely crazy.
To quote the evening's headliners:
What is love? It's in the blood, it's just a way of life
What is love? It's everything, it's something you can't hide
What is love? Is it the way you look into my eyes?
What is love? The things you do that take me by surprise...