A gorgeous sunny day like today calls for being outside...except when all your plans are for indoor activities. Not that I'm complaining considering what thoroughly enjoyable activities these were. I'm counting on there being other sunny days, but how often can you start with Mozart, move on to a new restaurant and finish with spoken word? Not enough, I'm afraid. Not enough.
A friend had suggested we see Don Giovanni at Center Stage and it sounded like a great idea to me. There were four of us, not a one who'd seen it, and with the vastly improved acoustics of the Carpenter stage, we were expecting great sound, which we got. Don Giovanni, the consummate player, had a theory about women based on their hair; with blonds you get gentleness, with brunettes, fidelity. Choose your priority, gentlemen. But my favorite line came from the besotted Masetto who, after allowing himself to be won over by his fiancee's physical entreaties, says, "We men are so pathetic." As long as you know.
The opera was long (over three hours) and for dinner my hungry friend and I wanted to check out the new Fan House in the old Verbena space. We couldn't have made a better Sunday night selection. As it happened, the guy sitting next to me at the bar eating was Sonny, the mastermind behind the menu. He saw us perusing the menu and offered to assist in any way he could. We braved it ourselves but got a major nod of approval based on our choices.
The grilled calamari salad was beautifully seasoned with perfectly cooked calamari. The beef kabobs had a savory sauce that he told us came from a region on the China/Russia border; it made the dish. The tuna tartare trio was tartare three ways, all outstanding in their own way. The tofu was probably the biggest surprise in that it was absolutely sublime: scallions, sesame oil and salt and a flavor to die for. The Surprise dumplings are billed as a family recipe and a secret and for good reason. The portion was generous and the flavor unlike any dumplings either of us have had.
Music was courtesy of Pandora, with Phoenix as the starting point, so I liked everything I heard. It would have been much better to discover it was somebody's iPod and thus chosen specifically, but at least it was all current, worth hearing and loud enough to enjoy.
And last, but certainly not least, was Henry Rollins at the National doing his particular brand of spoken word. It hasn't even been two years since I saw him at the Canal Club, but he's so topical, informed and well spoken that you can never really see the man too often. He described the Internet as "allowing people to hurl invective with impunity," in his opening discussion of the First Amendment. But then he also covered his child-like role-modeling, telling kids that"the nasal cavity can hold a lot more than you think." Segueing from children to teens, he observed, "I know how teenagers are. That's why there's Joy Division records."
Discussing his extensive travels, Rollins said he takes a huge hard drive of music to introduce foreigners to and that his mission was to be "like Johnny Appleseed, there to spread the funk." One kid was so awed by the music Rollins shared that he could only get out two words: The Stooges. I find it oddly reassuring to think of Henry Rollins as our musical ambassador overseas.
But mainly Rollins advocated overcoming cynicism, which he called "intellectual sloth." His solution? Engagement in the world. "Make as much trouble as you can and support the Strummer-Jeffersonian belief."
I'd like to think I'm already doing that.