Most people get to dine on corn dogs, funnel cakes, and blooming onions at Lexington’s Festival of the Bluegrass. Not us. We had barely checked into our hotel this weekend for our annual pilgrimage to this 40-year-old festival, when the foodie I married began scouting great restaurants for dinner. (What my Mom says about my husband: “That boy sure does love to eat!”)

There’s one thing that confounds me about fine dining. What do you make of the way these eateries insist on jamming tables together, where unrelated guests are seated elbow to elbow? The better the establishment, the closer the tables and the less chance you have to share a private conversation with your dinner companion.

This puts all diners in an either/or situation, doesn’t it? You either spill your guts in front of your neighbors or you eavesdrop. When you’re married to a guy who is hard of hearing, you make the only sensible choice: you listen and learn from your neighbors. That’s what I did Saturday night at Dudley’s On Short during our dinner break from the festival. The wilted brussel sprout salad with manchego cheese, pine nuts, and aged balsamic vinegar is a wonder. You only THINK you don’t like brussel sprouts. If you visit Dudley’s, you must try this dish.

We were seated near three tables that provided hours of forced fascination in close quarters. On one side of us, two academics were engrossed in a conversation about psychosynthesis, a fancy word for personal growth. Another table topic was how disrespectful some of their colleagues had been toward committee members who did not share the same point of view. On the hallowed ground of academia, I suppose intolerance is a cardinal sin, but it’s fairly common in the rest of the world. Isn’t it nice to know there’s a vast subset in the universe who are willing to strive for tolerance?

On the other side, two unmarried people were out on a date, possibly their first. You may wonder how I arrived at this supposition. If there is one thing I have learned in nearly 22 years of marriage, it is how to differentiate the married from the unmarried. For the sake of brevity and wholesomeness, I won’t mention what signs I took that these two were probably not living as husband and wife. Just trust me. Married people with more than two decades of practice know these things. I will say that the woman in question was wearing a beautiful, but not altogether modest red dress.

And finally, there was a small birthday party of six lovely women seated directly in front of me. My husband observed the antics of this mostly thirty-something group from a mirror on the wall behind me. Knowing him as I do, I could read his thoughts: they were way too full of themselves. I can easily forgive/overlook this trait in young people, which probably explains why I studied the guest of honor instead. I only wish I had more time to observe the subtle and advanced form of charm that she must have been practicing since birth. Is this a learned or a genetic trait among southern girls? Can anyone answer this question?

From the steady stream of well wishers that swirled around her table, I gathered that the celebrant is a well-known figure in Lexington society. She stood and greeted each of her admirers as a cherished friend. “Oh, my precious,” she said with sweet conviction as she embraced one woman, then sent her on her way, wishing her a fun evening. Was the person genuinely precious to her or not? I can’t say, but her squeeze-and-release technique allowed all parties to feel good about the exchange without wasting a lot of time. That’s what I call having social graces.

The con artists and their black contraption.

The blond con. Can you imagine the devastation this face could cause?

Back at the Festival of the Bluegrass, I couldn’t resist two con artists who tried to swindle me out of a quarter. The blond was the advance man for the boy with the crew cut. Together they were wandering through row after row of lawn chairs that formed the audience. “He can make a quarter disappear,” the blond announced as they passed through our aisle. “Let me see,” I said. I found a quarter and let crew-cut man insert it in a contraption that did indeed make my quarter disappear. This picture is worth more than a quarter, don’t you think?

While we’re soaking up bluegrass, I like to study the most interesting hats women wear to keep from scorching in the sun. Here are three of my favorites.

Her sister owns 300 hats that will be given away as remembrances at her own funeral.

There are always a few clothing vendors that catch my fancy on these junkets. This year I resisted the two for $50 special on these fabulous sari skirts that can be worn 100 ways. They are two layers of fluid fabric cleverly made for versatility. I wanted one, but I sat on myself until the impulse passed. Of the 100 ways they are shown, I reasoned that I could only wear 10 of them at best.

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.

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