Saturday, May 31, 2008

Supper at the Black Lab, Jazz at Cezanne's

Emma and I went on a date last night.

We planned it a month ago as a surprise for Herb and Nathaniel. We would go to the Black Labrador Pub in Montrose, dine on fish and chips and fruit and cheese, then climb the stairs to Cezanne's to hear our new Russian friend, Eddie A., play a concert of his own compositions on his alto sax.

We forgot to account for one thing. We forgot Father Stanich's penchant for having a High Mass on important feast days, and our date Friday was the Feast of the Sacred Heart. This meant that Herb and Nathaniel had to sing in the Schola and stay afterward to practice for another high Mass this morning for the Queenship of Mary.

Emma was devastated.

She had looked forward to the whole thing--dressing up, eating what she refers to as "Heidi food", seeing and hearing Eddie A. again. We met him a few months ago at a "girls' party" that a young lady from church had invited us to. She had hired a jazz band, and Eddie sang and played alto sax.

It was a perfect afternoon--chocolate-covered strawberries and wine in the house, clear blue skies and jazz on the patio.

After the rest of the band and most of the guests had left, we ended up singing folk songs with Eddie while our hostess and some of the other young ladies formed a train and danced through the house. What fun! Eddie endeared himself to me when we were singing "She'll be Comin' Round the Mountain". I prompted the verse that begins "We will kill the old red rooster,". Eddie, a Russian mind you, immediately put his hand to his ear in the telephone symbol, (thumb to the ear, three fingers folded to the palm, pinkie to the mouth) and sang lustily, "We will call the old red rooster when she comes."

After the singing and dancing, Emma and I spent about a half-hour visiting with Eddie and thoroughly enjoyed him. He showed us his green card and invited us to his Cezanne concert. We promised to come.

So despite my great fear of going to downtown Houston at night with my beautiful princess but without the protection of my true knight, I succumbed to Emma's entreaties, and we drove forth upon our adventure.

Thankfully, it was still light by the time we arrived in Montrose. Otherwise I think I would have turned around and gone home after the second wrong turn. For the record, I think that one-way streets are a really bad idea. Putting little commuter trains in the middle of busy roads is a really bad idea to the tenth power. But no one ever consults me on these things.

We found the Black Lab, and gratitude welled up in my heart when I saw it was next to the Montrose library. Maybe my feelings are completely misplaced, but I just didn't think anything bad could happen to us next to such a nice library.

We ordered zucchini crab cakes and a fruit, Stilson cheese, and water biscuit (round crackers) plate. We scarfed up the crab cakes, but stumbled over the cheese. We first tried it on the crackers. Emma described that combination as "shocking". Next we spread it on the green apples. "Tolerable" was my description. We kept nibbling at it, for adventure's sake, but I can't say that we ever enjoyed it. We finished off with a sumptuous Raspberry Trifle, which we eagerly scooped up with large spoons. I would fain have eaten it all, but Emma insisted that we take part of it home. She also insisted on taking the leftover crackers, fruit, and cheese.

So we left the Black Lab and ascended the stairs to the Cezanne Club toting two plastic containers of assorted leftovers.

You can take a girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl.

Entering Cezanne's, I saw that we were alone in a small lobby with two chairs and a table. Thinking quickly, I sat down and slipped our leftovers under the floor-length tablecloth. Our dignity restored, we entered the main clubroom, greeted Eddie, and sat down.

The Cezanne is described as "intimate". That is accurate. There was room for one row of tables and chairs between the band and the bar. Another line of tables and chairs flanked each end. It was a cozy, comfortable atmosphere. Most of the people there seemed to have been invited by Eddie. They were there for the music, not to party or find a date. One waitress was able to serve the whole room.

I ordered a glass of wine. Emma ordered a fruit punch, heavily flavored with pineapple juice. Lovely.

Soon Eddie began the concert. He was really nervous, which surprised me. Maybe it was because he and the band were only going to be playing his compositions, no jazz standards to ease the customers into their comfort zone.

Once he started playing, though, he relaxed. "You can't be nervous when you're playing as hard as he was playing," Emma said later. By the time he got to "The Road to Kazan" he was jamming, and I couldn't stop smiling--I so enjoyed watching his energetic performance. Plus, as I told Emma, I love his sweet, boyish expression.

At half a glass of wine, just when I was really happy that Emma had talked me into coming, I knew, suddenly, that I had not locked the car. Library ambience aside, I trembled with this dreadful revelation. It was 10:00 in Houston on a Friday night, and we were parked on a dimly-lit sidestreet, with our doorlocks standing perkily upright, inviting streetsmart passersby to take advantage of the silliness of an over-the-hill country bumpkin. And it was Herb's car. I didn't know what valuables he might have in there.

I decided that it was safest to leave Emma in the Cezanne, and I slipped out, hurrying down the stairs and through the parking lot, passing the friendly library, and turning onto the sidestreet while worrying ever and anon, "What will Herb say?".

There was the Honda with the clearly visible unlocked doors.

Seeing that no one was inside, I jumped in and locked the doors. I tried to remember what had been in the car when we parked. The only thing I noticed was that the sunglasses compartment was hanging open. I didn't think it had been open before, but I truly could not remember. I gave up trying. Making sure to lock the doors this time, I quickly returned to the Cezanne.

We stayed for another half-hour; the music was just as invigorating, but I never re-gained that joyful exuberance that I felt earlier. It was enough, though. We had sampled Stilson cheese, heard great live jazz, and remembered to get our leftovers from under the table on our way out.

Now we just needed to find our way home again.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

Bilbo Baggins song, The Lord of the Rings

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