Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Beer's Still Not Working for Me

"Are you still walking for exercise?"
"I hadn't for awhile, but I'm getting back into it."
"Do you walk alone or does Ed walk with you?"
"No, he only walked with me when we were dating. You know, prospect vs. sure thing. Now that I married him, no more walking."

That was the conversation of the two females behind me as I sat down at the lecture at the Virginia Museum's Pauley Center tonight.

It was as if she were saying that Ed falsely advertised himself to her or something.

But even so, it's not like he was cheating, just misleading which brings us to the topic of tonight's lecture, "Is it Cheating? Optics and Vermeer" about the technology the painter used to create his incredibly realistic effects.

Lecturer Jorge Benitez, an artist who teaches at VCU, showed his enthusiasm for the topic with sly wit and commentary such as, "I'm not going to say much about these pictures. They're so beautiful, I'll just let you enjoy them" and "If Stalin had had Photoshop, he'd still be in business today."

Possibly my favorite bit came at the end when he told us, "I hope we have time for questions or discussion...or a riot."

The upshot of the talk was that Vermeer was interested in optical effects as a means to an artistic end and as a fitting finish, he'd brought a camera obscura for us to inspect.

We art nerds love that kind of stuff.

But we art nerds also get hungry, so I met a friend and his friend at Ipanema for dinner.

Mine was soft-shell tacos filled with spicy Korean-style seitan, napa slaw and hot mustard and my, but they were good.

I could only finish two of the three (my manly friend took care of the last one) and still have room for dessert, which was blueberry pie a la mode.

Hands down, blueberry is my favorite pie but this was elevated by a top crust liked you'd find on an apple crisp, a sort of crumble with brown sugar.

If it's on the menu the next time you're at Ipanema, I highly suggest trying it.

Afterwards, we went a few doors down to Strange Matter for their free weekly documentary showing, tonight's being Festival Express, a 2003 rockumentary about a train trip across Canada in 1970 with stops along the way for the bands on board to perform.

On board were Janis Joplin, Buddy Guy, Grateful Dead, The Band and so many more.

One of the musicians characterized it as a "train full of insane people" and the partying did seem to be pretty much non-stop ("This train was not for sleeping.").

The film had performance footage as well as present-day interviews and scenes shot during the jamming and partying aboard the historic train trip.

The $14 ticket price was an issue for some who protested at the first stop while mounted police tried to quell them.

Jerry Garcia, relatively svelte and with hair and beard as black as coal, took the stage to try to calm things down, saying,"We'd like to have, like, 30 minutes of coolness."


For many of the musicians, drinking was fairly new, their self-medicating preferences having been LSD or smoking pot, but they quickly developed an appreciation for alcohol, even necessitating a stop in front of a liquor store along the tracks to re-stock.

"We were buzzing down the rails. Let's just say we achieved liftoff," Phil Leish deadpans.

The musicians expressed a desire for the experience to go on forever.

The impromptu jams that occurred endlessly on board sparked a lot of creative collaborations that then ended up on stage; watching these guys feed off each other musically was fascinating to watch.

It's not every night that even I cover so much ground: Vermeer to seitan to Joplin shaking her ass at the camera, with an actual camera obscura and a sip of 10% beer in between (a friend insisted I taste it. I don't need to do that again. Ever.)

And let's not forget the life lesson that kicked off the whole evening: prospect vs. sure thing.

I think I'm at the point where I see the beauty of both.


  1. I had those same tacos recently. I had never heard of Seitan, and didn't really enjoy the texture/taste of them there, sadly.

  2. I hadn't had it either, but I loved the contrast of their texture with the slaw. And that heat!

  3. Being a non-beer drinker I find it odd that of the hundreds of beers out there I've never had a beer drinking friend recommend one that might win me over. They seem resigned to accept that I just don't like beer and am not likely to change. Having said that I'll admit that once, many years ago, Stroh's brewery put out a beer called "Signature". I liked the way the label looked and knew the company was located near my home town so I gave it a shot and liked it. And wouldn't you know it. It was only on the market for a few months before they pulled the label. So there I was again and still am, not a beer drinker.