Y’know that Heineken commercial with the cool song where the skinny guy in the tux walks into a party and greets all these interesting people doing interesting things? I kinda felt like that last weekend—and as a band nerd/English major with questionable social skills, I gotta tell ya, it was pretty freaking cool.

It started Thursday, when CCB and I met up at Pangea after work. They normally don’t open until 8, but they were hosting an AIA “10X10” event: 10 locals in various creative industries displaying 10 slides that tied into their creative process. Frankly, it just sounded like a neat idea. Made me feel all avant garde. And it was free. And I love Pangea.

Anyway, there were tons of people there, but our waitress seemed sweet and down-to-earth and apologized for the wait. Of course, with all those people, trying to cash out after the event was going to take a while, so we opted to clamber up to the bar in the back and wait for things to die down a bit. Brad the owner was staffing the bar—he and his partner, Chef Lan, are also responsible for Pangea’s neighbor, the love of our short culinary lives, Lan the restaurant.

We were just waiting out the crowd with our usual dual-wallflower routine, but Brad, apparently, has quite a mind for faces—he immediately remembered our last visit, months ago, and is a great, chatty conversation starter to boot. Now, that’s cool as hell, and we felt all special and accepted, but I have to admit that he’s not the first bartender in town to recognize us. The really cool part was half an hour later when our waitress, who’d been in perpetual motion bussing tables and whatnot, made her way down to the far end of the bar and extended her hand. “Hi, I’m Lan,” she says. The audio took a while to catch up in my brain, so I shook her hand and responded, “Oh, hi, I’m Hannah and th—I’msorrydidyoujustsayyou’reLan?!” Awesome. “THANK YOU FOR COOKING,” was CCB’s immediate and sincere response.

Like, here we are, just hanging out, and bam—Chef Lan comes over to say hi. I mean, that’s some social validation right there.

And that wasn’t even the end of it. Dinner at Nancy’s with the Deelios Friday, and Nancy herself shouts my name in greeting from across the dining room as we wait in line. Nancy’s awesome to everybody, of course, but you still gotta love the popular owner of a popular restaurant giving you a shout out across the place. What I didn’t see was that one of her companions was Paul Reubens. They’ve known each other since they were 12, she’d later explain. (My parents have also been friends with Paul since his days as an Asolo apprentice, so you could say he knows me, too, although he doesn’t really know he knows me.) This is truly a random and wonderful encounter.


Krazy Jenga at Mr. Beery's.

From there we hit up Mr. Beery’s and commandeered a couple of tables for Jenga. It was seven of us all told, with the Deelios, Little J, Suzie Q and Krazy Kevin, and we were kind of intense about the Jenga—holding our breath for each move even three or four games in. But not long into a game, a guy comes up all of a sudden and slaps the tower to the table. The pieces go everywhere, and seven fanatical Jenga players whip their heads around to glare daggers at…?

Mark. Mr. Beery himself. I’ve never felt the mood of a group go from murderous to jovial in a split second—so powerful is Mark’s following. And how cool is it that a guy that well liked feels comfortable enough around us to wreck our Jenga game? Not to be interviewed or to send regards to your parents or to pitch a story—to smash your Jenga game, and hugs all around. It just…well, it makes you feel like a part of the party.