Sunday, July 24, 2016

Heatwave in My Brain, Smolder in My Soul

The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea. ~Isak Dinesan

My first choice would be the sea and my last resort, tears. So I sweat, while the rest of Richmond seemingly takes a different tack: retreat.

It could be when you're walking down the street and, block after block, there are no other people to be seen walking, much less the usual lounging on porches.

It's going four blocks to the ice cream shop and seeing that they're sold out of over half the flavors. Seems the neighborhood has been mainlining gelato the past few days.

It's most certainly when your friends - modern-day hippies and activists when it comes to environmental concerns - praise the benefits of releasing toxins through sweat, then admit that they're going to buy a window A/C unit tomorrow to install in the "community" room of their collective's house.

It's meeting a friend I haven't seen in months for brunch at Amuse (housemade ginger limeade, chilled one-note strawberry soup, Cheddar Bay biscuits du jour, yum, and a fresh take on tres leches cake with chocolate sauce), which is mobbed, but seeing people choose to leave rather than sit on the balcony.

Or it might be when I'm standing outside in my fourth change of clothes for the day, watering my garden and filling the birdbath at 10:30 at night.

I get it, it's next level hot. Call it "soup," call it oppressive, while I take cold showers and baths and train three fans on me while I do nothing more than read in bed or sleep.

Once I got up this morning, my apartment was already 93 degrees and it wasn't much past 9:30.

Arriving home from the Silent Music revival seeing Dharma Bombs play a soundtrack to Buster Keaton's madcap chase caper, "The Goat," it's a refreshing 96 degrees in here, down from 98 when I'd come home from a feisty three hour meeting discussing the past year's theatrical season and who's award-worthy.

While I'm at home, I pretty much live in a tank top and underwear with my hair up. A constant sheen is my new normal. There can't be a toxin left in my body.

No season suits me better than Summer in the South.

Baby, I was born to sweat.

Hello, Heat Wave, My Old Friend.

It was too hot today for me to do much more than read, eventually giving that up to take a heat nap.

Ostensibly, it was for similar reasons that TheatreLAB lowered the thermostat in the Basement to frigid for tonight's performance of "Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play," but now that I've seen it, I'm more inclined to think they lowered the temperature so our brains wouldn't melt from seeing such a complicated and brilliant production.

Beginning with a group of survivors huddled around a campfire with tree branches overhead to simulate the forest that has become their home, the play's cast easily deserves a best ensemble award for making their interaction throughout the play feel as natural and spontaneous as the bonfire parties my next door millennial neighbors often host on Friday nights.

Except they're not dealing with nuclear meltdown.

There are three things you may want to know about the post-apocalyptic world portrayed in "Mr. Burns:" 

First, people are not competent and, second, gay men drink more Diet Coke than straight men. No big news there, right?

Last, and perhaps most importantly, when required to start from scratch, civilization will turn to the "The Simpsons" for a cultural touchstone, specifically, to the "Cape Fear" episode, in and of itself a fascinating choice. Even the Simpsons theme wove its way through the entire production in one form or another.

Wait, now that I think about it, there's a fourth. This is a play so full of ideas, its scope so wide, that you'll leave the theater craving a second viewing just to clarify everything further in your head. My companion likened it to Charlie Kauffman's "Synecdoche, New York" for how meta it was.

But it's also the time travel aspect - the play covers 80+ years of post-global disaster life - that had our heads spinning at both intermissions. Yes, two breaks, both to allow the entire room to be reconfigured so the audience would experience each act from a different perspective.

But it had better be a smart audience, I tell you what, because this is a play that expects you to not only have a passing knowledge of "The Simpsons" and the DeNiro remake of "Cape Fear," but also Gilbert and Sullivan, Top 40 hits (yes, that was a Britney song we heard), the darkest reaches of capitalism, ole bedroom eyes himself, Robert Mitchum, life post-grid and Greek choruses.

I got them all, yet both our brains were in overdrive by the time we walked out of the ice-cold Basement, wowed beyond belief, deep in discussion about what we'd just seen and already planning to see it again.

Good thinking, TheatreLAB, cooling our brains down before electrifying them. It's what Bart would have done.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Don't Tell Dad

Everybody has their own beach rules.

You can spring from the same set of loins, but it doesn't mean you "do" the beach the same way as your kin, a fact of which I'm reminded every time I share someone's beach time with them. The past few days have been at a cottage called "Flip Flops" with a couple of my sisters and various members of their clans.

We couldn't be more different beach-wise, at least in most ways.

Oceanfront is a must for me, while she's okay with oceanside, which is still considerably better than the sister who rents in the woods on the Sound side.  I want to hear and see the ocean every minute of every day I'm there.

I wouldn't think of using air conditioning ever (hell, my cottage didn't even have window units until two years ago), but especially when I'm surrounded by salt air and breezes, while my sister cools her beach house to meat locker temperatures. Walking in, hot from the beach or wet from a shower, is unpleasantly cold.

Every cottage needs a screened-in porch in my opinion, yet my sister only requires a covered porch, although I will say that this year's did at least have a view of the ocean. I said nothing when she began the day by slathering anti-itch cream on all the bites on her ankles from last night's porch session.

They like to be off the beach by 4:00 while my favorite beach time is just beginning then. Maybe it's the art historian in me, but I can think of no richer, more saturated colors in summertime than the last few hours before about 7:00, after which the evening can officially begin.

And what folly is this? My father instilled in the six of us the absolute need for binoculars at the beach, yet they don't bring them. So all the strange ships far out in the water, the dark schools of bluefish just under the surface and playful pods of dolphins have to be scrutinized from afar. What can a person learn from that distance?

Where we agree is that time spent at the beach means time spent in the ocean.

Knowing today was my last day there and breaking every mother's rule about eating and going in the water, I finished my lunch, wiped the crumbs on my legs and headed directly into the ocean just behind Sister #4's family.

Nephew #1 eventually joined once the left and it was just us when three dolphins surfed the waves directly in front of us. As many times as I've seen them, I'd never been closer. Yet he headed back once he realized his beer was getting warm onshore.

Left alone in the brilliant green water by myself became almost a meditation.

Up to my neck, with no one around to talk to, it occurred to me that this was why doctors used to send recovering patients to the seashore: the gentle exercise of staying above the waves, the warm yet still refreshing water, the briny air all combined to make me feel utterly relaxed but also strangely invincible.

After a while, Sister #2 joined me in the ocean, saying I'd looked pitiful out there by myself. Beer gone, Nephew #1 returned, only to crack us up with his Nature Channel impersonation as a pale, young woman who'd been floating on a paddleboard nearby attempted to awkwardly stand.

In the muted voice of a golf announcer, he intoned, "Yes, and now she's presenting her albino thighs and cheeks to capture the male's attention and find a use for her child-bearing hips...." before she took a nosedive.

So much for my meditative state.

By the time I finally climbed out of the water, fingers as wrinkled as raisins, it had been nearly two hours since I'd given over the rest of my day at the beach to the ocean and it was time for a quick outdoor shower to get the salt crust out of my ears before heading home.

Home, past signs saying "Blue Lives Matter," behind an 18-wheeler spewing dirt like smoke with projectiles (illegal, right?) which, given my open car windows, felt a lot like traveling in Pigpen's wake and uncomfortably close to a group of trucks with Confederate flags parked on the side of Route 460.

None of which, I'm happy to report, affected my ocean-induced state of relaxation.

I made it home in time to catch Afrikana Film Fest's outdoor screening of the 1988 cult classic "Coming to America" being shown up on the hill at Tredegar under the stars.

Guests were encouraged to recite lines, sing songs and act out and they did. Dogtown Dance even performed live when the palace dancers did their big number in the movie.

Honestly, I hadn't seen it since I saw it in the theater when it came out when we were all in Eddie Murphy's thrall and swooning to hear him say things like, "I want a woman that will arouse my intellect as well as my loins."

It also didn't hurt to have - flashback! - Arsenio Hall say stuff such as, "Girl, you look so good, someone ought to put you on a plate and sop you up with a biscuit."

It's a compliment I know I'd be happy to hear, although it might taste a little gritty. I've still got sand in my hair.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Summer's Here and the Time is Right

They are commandments, not suggestions ~ god

Puh-leeze. Only heading South would I see such nonsense painted on the side of a truck.

Whoa, big fella, separation of church and commerce, remember?

Once I'd moved on to the easterly portion of the drive, I pulled over at Adam's Country Store for ham sandwiches and a discussion of who does what around the store. The old gent opening my soda tells me Dad used to spend a lot of time when he was supposed to be working sitting on the stool behind the counter, even napping on occasion.

"We said we were going to put a seatbelt on that stool so he wouldn't fall off!" he jokes for what surely must be the hundredth time. Nice work if you can get it, I crack. He pauses, looks at me to let it sink in and laughs out loud, as if I hadn't just said the first thing that came to mind.

"It sure is!" he says with a big grin. All this appreciation for my wit and an RC Cola, too.

So I'm back in Kitty Hawk, four tenths of a mile from my usual house on what is easily the narrowest and therefore most fragile stretch of beach on the Outer Banks.

At high tide, the waves are rolling up under a half dozen houses. When you pull into one nearby house's driveway, all you can see at the end of the carport is ocean. A few years ago, I walked this stretch at high tide one morning after a bad storm and sunk into the sand to my knees. It was terrifying.

But it's enough that I'm at the beach, so I'm certainly not complaining about the width of this particular stretch.

Especially because the ocean looks like the Caribbean, striped uncharacteristically brilliant green and deep blue as far as the eye can see, a line of cumulus clouds stacked along the horizon.

Even better, it's completely clear so when you're in it, you can see crabs and shells on the bottom. Yesterday's water temperature was 74 and today it was 75.

I know these numbers solely from the lifeguard station board, which also informs me of the hormone-driven millennials charged with protecting us from a watery death.

Yesterday's ace team was Cat (complete with a feline face drawing) and Hunter (he of the side ponytail and nose covered in white zinc), while today we got another dose of Hunter, but this time paired with - wait for it - Linsea.

Wow, Lin-sea, really?

If her parents did that to her, they should be charged, but, who knows, maybe her distinctive name set her on a path to make the beach a safer place and who can argue with destiny?

Today's board also carried warnings about "strong shore breaks," which meant that an especially high percentage of people in the water were being knocked down close in, right where the waves were breaking.

I'm not saying it was entertaining, but for those who appreciate physical humor, we did have front row seats to the action.

A nearby man - whether just gawky or frail, it was tough to tell - got clobbered so many times that eventually he became one with the sand and required assistance to pick himself up out of the water.

Because there are seven in our motley crew, when we're not on the beach seven hours a day, we tend to congregate on the L-shaped deck that faces the beach road with a view of the ocean behind it because it's a sprawling space with room for everybody.

We've played Scattegories out there, eaten breakfast out there, spotted the moon on the rise from out there, eventually following it down to the beach to see its shimmering reflection. It was from the porch that we hear Harleys rumbling by and someone doing cannonballs into the pool next door at midnight.

Every morning, from the deep bush-covered backyards around here come the songs of small birds hiding in the shrubbery, an ecosystem completely different from the shoreline one just across the beach road. At night, it's crickets we hear.

There's a rustic outdoor shower and a fish-cleaning table under the house. I've just about finished my first book and I finally evened up the shorts tan I have from months of sunny day walking.

I am in my element and in high goof-off mode. At the beach, there are no commandments, only suggestions.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Burning Photographs

Of course he didn't. He's Ryan Adams.

Play a single song from "Rock and Roll"? Of course not despite its near pop perfection. Okay, surely play something from his complete cover of T Swift's "1989," his most recent album? Hell, no.

The stage at the Charlottesville pavilion was set with two massive pretend Fender amps, a Dr. Pepper machine, a couple of early game machines and a flag with a peace sign for stars. The juju appeared to be good.

Around us were, presumably, Ryan Adams fans from a five year old with a Queen patch on his little denim jacket to a guy with a souvenir t-shirt from the recent Guns 'n Roses show in D.C. The crowd looked pretty diverse age-wise, with the largest concentration - no surprise - in the decades before and after Ryan's 41 years.

Except none of them looked like someone Mandy Moore would have married, if you know what I'm saying.

It was a warm night for an outdoor show, though it didn't compare to the epic swelter of the Arcade Fire show in June 2011 when people were passing out and everyone's clothing was soaked, and Blenheim Rose gets credit for helping with that.

Given my vertical brevity, of course a 6'6" man and his wife had to sit down in front of us, but the guilt in doing so was killing them. The giant insisted on measuring my height against his to determine how far he'd have to bend over if he sat in front of me. Meanwhile, his wife asked if I could be bought, offering me a warm cinnamon doughnut from the brown bag in her lap.

I can be bought. Tall people get in front of me at shows all the time, but rarely am I compensated for the inconvenience.

Ryan Adams looked about as curmudgeonly contrarian as he'd appeared when I first saw him in 2007 at the Norva, balancing that out with his off-beat humor, telling the crowd good-night after almost every song.

After playing the closest thing to a crowd-pleaser, "I Still Love You, New York," he cracked, "I just made that up. Thank you and good night." He sang happy birthday to the lighting guy.

Or, "Okay, I'm going to do the mellowest version of a song ever and later do something with sock puppets," before playing "Let It Ride."

Despite having driven through driving rain and hail to get to Charlottesville, I'm here to tell you there were no sock puppets.

Which was okay only because there was a fabulous dinner at Alley Light first, a make-up date since I'd been under the weather when we'd gone last Fall.

Fortunately, there are do-overs for some things.

Tonight's goal: a fuller experience, meaning we stuffed ourselves silly with a special of earthy French lentils with bacon and sausage, light and bright potted shrimp with garlic mayo and pickled carrots, ricotta with beet cubes and pistachio pesto that we slathered thickly over crusty bread, the thinnest of tuna tartare with shaved Parmesan and a massive vegetable board (that looked like one of those late Renaissance elaborate fruit and vegetable still life portraits) over a Provencal aioli, accompanied by a Maison Shaps Cremant de Bourgogne.

We ate all the things, drank all the bubbles and listened to Ryan Adams outside on a warm, summer night. It was glorious and I have the tie-dyed t-shirt to prove it.

But what  I wouldn't have given to hear "Anybody Wanna Take Me Home?" live. Anybody? Thank you and good night.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Dressed to Kill

No parasol shame.

If that isn't already a thing, I'm calling it right here. There are so many reasons - the strength of the late afternoon summer sun, my experienced skin, hello, common sense - to carry an umbrella when I choose to walk outside and don't care to wear a hat.

The last few days, it's become a new habit to bring my own shade, like I did tonight for nearly a mile to meet Pru and Beau for dinner at Lucca Enoteca. The occasion was cashing in one of my birthday presents, namely a ticket for tonight's Eddie Izzard show across the street at CenterStage.

I'd nudged Beau about dinner reservations last week, knowing that half the show's attendees wouldn't think that far ahead. Not only did they not, some were foolish enough to walk into the packed restaurant as late as 7:00 and think they were going to be seated.


We, on the other hand, were tucked in a corner table in the front window, away from the fray and with a fine view of the growing mob of Izzard fans directly in our sight lines. Color us surprised that people began lining up to get in two hours before the performance even began.

Not us. We devoted 99% of those hours to eating and drinking, aided and abetted by the affable bartender subbing as our server because of the full house, while being honest enough to share that despite the kitchen staff being well-coordinated and running up to speed, the front of the house was green and struggling a tad.

A large tad.

It didn't affect us as I introduced them to Lucca's sublime octopus and potato salad, or as we munched through a meat and cheese tray and an exquisitely flavorful salad of beets, golden raisins and pistachios before polishing off one crostada, hazelnut, and two panna cottas under macerated fruit.

Passing through the harried-looking staff replete, we made it across the street with time to spare.

Now it's confession time. When Beau had gifted me with a ticket for this show for my birthday back in May, I had zero idea who Eddie Izzard was. It's not like I wasn't grateful for the gift, just clueless about what it was.

My benefactors were amazed at my ignorance.

"Well, did you at least look him up on YouTube to get an idea what to expect?" Pru asked logically. Of course I didn't. Would I look at a trailer before going to see an unknown film? Not on your life.

When the usher who seated us admitted that she had no idea who he was (but that the show had sold out), I confided to her that I didn't know either, that I was just there because of a birthday present.

"Ooh, happy birthday!" she squealed.

With no idea of what to expect, I was delighted by it all. The light show, the backdrop of a large target with a man's form on it (so Bond!), Eddie coming out with a bowler hat and cane before tossing them away, all of it.

"He's dead sexy," Pru had warned me, as if ten seconds of watching him wouldn't have told me so.

But that initial excitement was trumped many times over once he began sharing his thoughts, riffing on everything and letting loose a stream of simply yet brilliantly-stated opinions about gods, politics and transvestites, among which he counts himself.

Did I mention there was even Virginia humor?

He blasted the three holdouts to the metric system: Liberia, Myanmar and that other third world country, the U.S. He reminded us that Britain had a civil war first. He insisted that he gave Richmond its first German comedy sketch. "Lord of the Rings" was dissected with a chicken deciding to keep the ring.

How many comedians are able to work in Charles I, "It's  A Wonderful Life" and the Magna Carta into their act? I love my comedy with a side of European history ("What do you mean you lost France?").

Within minutes, I was worshiping at the feet of this intellectual liberal with even more opinions than me, plus a penchant for make-up that began at age four. Thank heavens I had on fabulous Berry Seductive lip stain so I could hold up my head in front of this wondrous specimen.

His was just such a wickedly smart humor.

"Humanity can go backwards," he began. "As shown by a recent referendum vote in my country. So now you know how to vote in your election." Weighted pause. "I'm not telling you what to do, but do not vote for Donald Trump."

Cheers and applause.

There was an entire bit on the use of the term "et voila" and its practical application, a recurring joke throughout the night. He discoursed on how the English language developed so oddly that four seemingly similar words - cough, bough, dough and through - could each be pronounced differently.

When non-English speakers question how we understand the differences in pronunciation given nearly identical spellings, he nailed the English/American response. "We just know."

Pru and I about lost it when he explained himself as an "action transvestite," someone who digs both action movies and make-up commercials. "Yippee-ki-yay, motherf*cker," he purred.

Particularly hilarious were his rants about gods, which detoured into human sacrifice, god's absence at every major crisis in the world and the problems of being a transvestite in biblical times.

"What did transvestites do in those days? Say I wanna wear Mary Magdalene's outfit!" (Response: "You already are!")

The Kracken made several appearances including one where it came out and started stamping on things willy-nilly.  "Basically, right wing foreign policy," he joked to prolonged clapping.

I saw an usher tell a guy to quit filming the show and not long after, Eddie called out a guy in the third row, saying, "Is someone taking photos? Please turn that thing off so you stop bothering your neighbors and stop doing it every few seconds or it's a video!"

How refreshing to expect the audience to stay in the moment.

An extended segment on the folly of dressage - he called it "like riding into a cabinet and parking" - showed his command of physical humor while saying it made the horses look sneaky like burglars demonstrated his offbeat wit.

"There's no burglary in dressage," he deadpanned. Nor is there any shame in coming late in the game to the Eddie Izzard fan club.

How do you know if a smart man with razor sharp humor is worth walking miles for under your parasol? You just know.

Monday, July 18, 2016

I Feel Like a $3 Shirt

I have a crush on a new theater collective and I'm being really obvious about it.

How obvious? Four days after I saw Nu Puppis' deconstruction of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," I wanted to see it all over again, to see if my response had been solely a first time thing or if I'd still be laughing (or grimacing) throughout.


Because my delight in this production is so great, I had to bring a like-minded friend along, hopefully to experience the same jambalya of reactions I'd had. We met at my house and walked to Saison for fried chicken night first.

You don't approach this kind of ritualistic millennial mocking without a full belly.

Even though it had been months since I'd made it there on a Sunday night and despite a full reservation list, we were lucky enough to slide into the bar with no problem. My thirst after a busy day was quenched with a rosy combination of grapefruit juice, passionfruit juice and Cheerwine and arrived in a funky 60s-looking glass with palm trees adorning it.

Today's sides were redskin potato salad and squash casserole with still-recognizable squash in it, so neither cooked to death nor buried under too much cheese, but as I told our server, it didn't matter what the sides had been, my order wasn't changing.

Quarter chicken dark meat, washed down with my fruity libation. If only all Sunday suppers were so satisfying.

The plan was to arrive early enough at Firehouse to ensure getting tickets, a smart move given how quickly the room filled. Unlike with "American Idiot" when we were instructed to use our phones, tonight we were told to turn them off because there was no such thing in the '50s when it was first written, nor even during the 80s when it became a play.

So it just wouldn't be right. "We don't want to open up some weird wormhole," artistic director Bassin informed us. No, we don't.

Next thing you know, Max Erlich was belting out "Bless Your Beautiful Hide" and I was thrown back into the Oregon Territory circa Hollywood 1954. It was glorious.

Everything I'd been smitten with last week was just as (choose one or many) funny, irreverent, off-color, snarky, hysterical, smart-assed, well-rehearsed, culturally referenced, corny, stirring and memorably performed as the first night.

You haven't lived in the theater until you've watched a gaggle of 20-somethings show off their stage fighting skills or stuff their faces with microwave pancakes.

Seeing it a second time showed me where the ad-libs were and how different they were from night to night. The twenty actors were just as nimble and their voices harmonized even more beautifully from tonight's better seats. The actors' posturing and asides were every bit as side-splittingly funny.

Best of all, my friend reacted precisely as I'd hoped, doubled over laughing, grimacing at the sound of fist fights and gasping in amazement at some of the stuff that came out of their mouths, the sly side looks and creepy innuendo. In awe of young bodies springing, jumping and arching, oblivious to concrete and metal.

Bottom line: the kids are putting on a show capable of bursting every musical theater notion you might have in your pretty little head.

Get over it. If this is the direction Richmond theater is taking, it's a wonderful, wonderful day.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Lean In to Discomfort

When the world around you seems to be falling apart, you do your part to start knitting it back together.

By the time I got the notification about the RVA Roundtable on Race, it was full. I felt lame until reading that it filled up in less than an hour. My name went on the waiting list, along with enough others that a second session was scheduled.

My fist thought was to invite Mac to join me since we'd just been discussing this subject a few nights ago. What are inherently privileged white women going to do to make things better? Both of us were willing to join a roomful of strangers to find out.

We set out from my house, she with a fetching straw hat and me with an umbrella, intent on joining Stoplight Gelato for today's grand opening celebration. This long-time J-Ward resident has had to schlep to Carytown for ten years for her ice cream fix.

No more. Love you, Bev's, but sometimes a girl only wants to walk three blocks for frozen dairy product.

The place was bustling, the case full of appealingly rich-looking gelato and within no time, a tiny woman came over to thank us for stopping by. I reversed the thanks, happy to have a source in the 'hood. And unlike some places, portions are sized right, prices are just as fitting and the place oozes charm.

I got a cup of mint chip with chocolate bourbon sauce and Mac went with a sugar cone of coconut to enjoy as we sauntered over to the Black History Museum and Cultural Center for the roundtable, passing by the usual Sunday neighborhood characters in place, some under the shade of large Crepe Myrtle trees with coolers and a radio blaring a soul station, others sweating it out playing basketball in the bright afternoon sun.

Once inside the new museum, we joined participants, taking chairs in one of the small circles already occupied with a black man and woman. A younger white woman soon joined us and we were complete.

Like many facilitated discussions I've attended at the Valentine, the idea was to get us talking, first in our small groups, then together as a larger whole. A few rules- let one person speak at a time, use "I" not "you," but most importantly, "lean into discomfort."

About damn time.

The first questions involved our names and their significance, a subject that provided more fodder for discussion than you might thing.

When asked how many people have had their name mispronounced in their life, probanly close to 90% of the room raised their hand. My name is too basic for that, so I was one of the holdouts.

A woman in the back raised her hand and talked about frequent garbling of her names. "We took phonics out of learning years ago and it messed up the whole world!" she said. Preach it, sister.

Another woman said she'd married a Bobbit, with all the baggage that brought, and a round of laughter erupted. I looked at the young woman in my group and leaned over to ask her if she knew the reference. She didn't.

He was the first man most people read about whose wife had lopped off his member, I explained as her eyes grew wide. We elders have to pass on our knowledge to the young.

Moving through questions and discussions, it was startling to hear some of the stories. One man recalled confusion as a child about the races. "But, Daddy, that man ain't white, he's Jewish!"  One woman told of her father having to pay a poll tax to vote. A SW Virginia resident said the KKK is still very active near where she lives today.

And it wasn't just native Richmonders, either. There were people who came up in the Bronx, Queens, Bed-Stuy and the southside of Chicago, all with interesting experiences when it came to race. One woman spoke of a brother who consistently broke the law, disrespected policemen and never got in any real trouble. Because he was white.

"White privilege means getting second chances," one white woman succinctly said.

After brainstorming how to move forward collectively, we cleared the room, so session number two could convene. It's a start and that's something.

The only logical thing to do was to march our privileged white butts over to the Basement to participate in their "Haikus for Change: Poetry to your legislators" event. I'd already scribbled out a first effort and I talked Mac through creating her own as we walked over to Third.

I was inspired by the scene- some people were being filmed reading their haikus, others quietly writing on the carpet or at high-top tables. All purposeful. I wrote my haiku on a sheet of paper and then wrote another. Name and address of registered voter. Boom. Done.

Seventeen simple syllables each about things that matter to me. They're graciously taking care of the enveloping and mailing to our lawmakers.

We, the people, right? Emphasis on "We."

Folly of Word Nerds

Because being on a screened porch strung with fairy lights while a July rain falls just outside is a practically transcendent way to wile away an evening.

That the gentle night also involved mocking, condescension and outright compliments only attests to our unlikely activity: my first foray into the oh-so popular game that's swept the nation.

You read right, last night I was introduced to Cards Against Humanity.

That's right, I killed new age music. How, you ask?
...An ice pick lobotomy.

It wasn't the plan. That had been determined months ago and consisted of dinner and "The Merchant of Venice" at Agecroft. Given the play's talking points about Jewish-ness, I'd chosen Dinamo for its fusion of Jewish and Italian food.

He Who Shall Not Be named (aka Mr. Google Scheduler) had us there before the propeller even began spinning. Naturally, we were the first eager beavers in the place other than staff. Ouch.

Not that I cared once I was sharing octopus salami that looked like paper-thin slices of a jeweled window and tasted  like a seaside meal or polishing off my own cold plate of marinated seafood salad of mussels, clams, shrimp and octopus. Keeping it simple, I finished with a Nutella cookie and we left for Agecroft.

We were a well-oiled machine, seated, with new Shakespeare fans in hand when the entire audience was directed inside due to "pool rules." Thunder and lightening were fast approaching and they didn't want any of us good patrons to be electrified, as house manager Noah so quaintly put it.

A brief wait, a decision to go back outside and begin and then the cold, hard facts. The show was called.

So, you see, it wasn't like we didn't try to get some culture before descending into the gutter of sexually offensive and politically incorrect conversation.

It was my first time on the porch since it had been fully tricked out, meaning I couldn't help but admire all the little touches - Wellies by the door, cushioned chairs of various styles, tables with candles and lamps, flowering plants and antique window frames.

The sole male commented that the ledge covered in necessaries - various bug sprays for body and room, aloe if you did get a bite, sunscreens of myriad strengths - was the only jarring note in an otherwise lovely space, but I disagreed. Vehemently.

A screened porch is an outdoor room, but also a utilitarian one. Such a ledge was completely appropriate, in my opinion, because all the assorted sundries you could possibly require while enjoying the porch were readily available. You never had to leave the porch to stay comfortable.

Decorating roundtable finished, we got down to the serious business of cracking each other up.

As a CAH virgin, I immediately was curious about the fact that there were black and white cards. You mean like the races? Setting the tone for the evening, my hostess arched an eyebrow and announced without so much as a chortle, "All cards matter."

Not going to lie, we had all kinds of fun trying to figure out what combination would win the favor of the round's card czar (or, more accurately, czarina, since men were outnumbered 3 to 1), taking into account who leaned toward corny and who always opted for sick or intellectual humor.

A girl's best friend?
...David Bowie flying in on a tiger made of lightening

Brilliant, right? Okay, but so is this one:

A girl's best friend?
...Licking things to claim them as her own

Turns out this game's underlying purpose is encouraging players to inadvertently remember things or share personal history. Now I know I have a friend who's not ashamed to say she's a territorial licker.

Sorry, teacher, I couldn't finish my homework because of...sniffing glue.

"Oh, yea, I remember that," one of the participants says. I wouldn't have pegged her for the glue-sniffing type, but who am I to judge? That said, no one would admit to being "balls deep in a squealin' hog" when that came up as an answer, but the night was still young then.

I soon learned that some black cards came with two blanks, necessitating each of us to choose not one, but two phrases that best completed the sentence.

The Academy award for...flightless birds 
Goes to...battlefield amputation

To have two such disparate cards in your hand, much less to combine them so cleverly, well, kudos to me.

Although we'd begun playing around 9:30, it was probably sometime around midnight (post-Pimm's pops, Pimm's cups and Miraval) when we got our first card with three blanks.

"Having to come up with three cards is gonna take forever," our hostess warned, specifically looking at a certain slow player. "We're slow with two! We're good with one, one card, that's it."

What's George Bush thinking about right now?
...Not reciprocating oral sex
...Fiery poops
...Third base

Plausible, all of them, right?

As the night wore on, we especially enjoyed questions that referred back to the person asking. So when I read, "What's my anti-drug?" the friend in the colorful dress exclaimed, "Yours?" and stares at me as if she can discern it from my countenance.

Ultimately, it led to a big discussion of what exactly constitutes an anti-drug. That's one we didn't fully resolve.

After a while, I knew my competitors well enough to tickle their fancies with my answer, as when the formerly soggy one delighted at my response to his card.

I got 99 problems but...Count Chocula...ain't one.

Oh, he laughed. Man, if you only knew how long I held onto the Count Chocula card before finding the ideal place to drop it. A far better player, though, was the Bermudian, who caused us to about lose it when she proffered this:

Daddy, why is Mommy crying?
...The patriarchy

When I read the card, "What is my secret power?" a friend looked askance. "That's the question? I was about to answer!" No, please, tell me my superpower. I'm curious.

Looking at the answers submitted, the Czar mused, "It's between inappropriate yodeling and Toni Morrison's vagina," a sentence I would stake my life on has never having been uttered before in the history of humankind.

One minute we were playing, laughing almost constantly and next thing we knew it was after 1 a.m., and this is not a crowd that stays up late. With that in mind, I got up to leave, a different person than when I'd arrived.

Of course I didn't win, but I didn't do too badly, either. There's already talk of procuring other versions since we practically went through an entire box of black and white cards in one marathon session. Cards Against Humanity may be five years old to the rest of the first world, but it was brand new fun for me tonight.

Let's put it this way: I understood the game well enough to find my seatmate's two-part answer absolutely hilarious.

Step one...folly of man
Step two...Cards Against Humanity