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Pre-dinner Warm-up: Begin in the late afternoon at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. This place is free and it gives the allure of class and money without having to cough up the actual coinage. There is a "suggested" donation box where they suggest that you pay $4. Don't let that bother you; in fact, I suggest that you ignore it completely. Walk casually by the box pointing off in another direction. Distraction is key here. Strolling through the galleries, you can talk about form and style even if you know nothing about art.

Dinner: Here's the part where most people blow all their dough, but there are a number of good deals in Richmond if you know where to look. I suggest a Vietnamese restaurant called Pho So No. 1 on Broad near Horsepen. Also, any foreign food seems more exotic and gives you an aura of travel and mystery. There isn't anything above $5.95 on the menu at Pho, so you can't really go wrong.

After Dinner: There's an alternative to the overpriced and unimaginative movie scenario. Chop Suey Books, a used-bookstore at the corner of Cary and Randolph, usually has something going on at night. About two or three times a month there's a free arts event at the bookstore that can range from fiction and poetry readings to experimental films. Even if you aren't an avid reader, you can make like you did at the museum and talk about form and style in literature. Those terms can be used for just about anything. Remember: distraction is everything. — Francis W. Decker

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