As a recovering Gaucho, I’m a big fan of Thursdays: They were the unofficial start of the weekend (assuming, of course, I’d taken off Wednesday night), but comparatively mellow, and the tourist factor was kept to a minimum. I also blame my time at UCSB for my lingering penchant for the progressive party: It was there I learned the folly in committing to one gathering, when a short stroll could take me to another, and another, and then, maybe, another. All of which is why I adore downtown S.B.’s new 1st Thursday program. With more than 25 venues opening their doors to the public, offering free access to art, music, and mingling, it’s like dej vu all over again-minus the cheap beer, or the risk of being tagged with an MIP.

And so last Thursday, the second 1st Thursday, I decided to hit the town. My date collected me around 5:30 p.m., and we formulated a “plan,” which went something like this: Start at Frameworks and then see which way the wind would blow us from there. (Detailed plans clearly are not my strong suit-yet another reason to love 1st Thursdays: With so many gathering spots in such close proximity, this admittedly not ambitious plan of ours was actually more than adequate.)

We rolled up to Frameworks’s De la Guerra Street entrance and found photographer Jeff Clark-whose awesome images lined the walls-right inside, along with Kalyra wines, appetizers, and a good-sized crowd busily revving their party engines. The Afro-Caribbean jam band Parallel 23 was just getting warmed up when we decided it was time to motor on, but on the way out we promised gallery owner David Court we’d be back in time for the later-night festivities.

We headed down De la Guerra Street, with the newly renovated Studio 3 East in our sights, but on our way were lured into the Patty Look Lewis Gallery for a brief pitstop. After a bit of mingling and a quickie tour of Lewis’s bright works, we ducked out, and made our way to 3 East-the clock was tickin’, and I was anxious to check out Erika Carter’s recently renovated space. And it did not disappoint: candlelight twinkled against the whitewashed, art-studded walls, the cut-out windows and corner balcony offered killer downtown views, and the grand piano and bar room had the crowd enchanted. We chit-chatted and checked out work by Carter, Dug Uyesaka, and Mary Price, and eventually made our way back to Frameworks, where Parallel 23 was kicking into gear.

It was a quality night of nomadic socializing, just like the good, decade-old days. But when I headed to the bar for a glass of wine and the bartender sheepishly said, “I have to check your ID,” it was made even better.


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