Just when I'm ready to get discouraged about doing so much alone, I have an evening where I run into friends all night long. It may not be as good as a partner's company, but it was great to have the unexpected conversation almost everywhere I went.
And I went all over tonight. I began at the Visual Arts center for the other part of Darkroom: Photography and New Media in South Africa since 1950. This show had more contemporary photographs than the VMFA show, but was just as compelling.
The photo of 15-year old Lawrence Matjee after being assaulted and detained by the Security Police was heartbreaking. The unsmiling boy stares into the camera shirtless and with haunting eyes, both his arms in casts up to his armpits. Tragic.
Another photo shows eight young people running from a smokey blast during the political unrest in Soweto in the late 70s. Of the eight, only two have their feet on the ground. The other six are running so hard that both feet are in the air at the moment the shutter closed. It took my breath away.
In contrast to that is the image from 1952, Private Golf Lesson showing a couple in Sophiatown with their bodies curved around each other as he shows her how to make a shot. Their matching berets are seen against the background of the township's simple homes sloping up a hill.
If I'd been smart, I'd have taken the trolley from there instead of driving to the Anderson Gallery where I encountered a traffic accident (one car was up on the sidewalk of the Pollak Building), a street festival (one lane closed on Franklin on the first weekend of school? Lunacy) and non-existent parking. Luckily the exhibit was worth it.
Imaging South Africa: Collection Projects by Siemon Allen showed various collections of the South African artist, including relevant newspapers, 50,000 stamps and countless records. All three were meant to address the complex nature of South African identity.
Naturally the record and record label collections (two separate entities) gave me the most pleasure. The signature image for Darkroom is of singer Miriam Makeba and the record collection showcased primarily her records, in some cases duplicate copies, some autographed, some in other languages. I was surprised at how many records were on familiar American labels.
I ran into a friend who raved about the stamps (he's a biologist who pointed to a mole on a guy's neck and said, "Thought it was a tick." So stop thinking.) and a couple I have been running into everywhere lately ("Him: "Yea, but I like that."), who asked me about my later destinations, anticipating seeing me there.
I recommended to all three that they check out the accompanying VMFA and Visual Arts Center shows for a fuller sense of the South African experience, not to mention some outstanding photographs.
Afterwards, I strolled into Bistro 27 for a bite to eat, only to discover one of my very favorite couples, so I pulled up a chair to their bar table and joined them. After sharing some of their beef carpaccio, I had the deep fried sweetbreads over mushroom ragout and it was such a treat. Both of them tried it and agreed that this was sweetbreads done right. It's all about texture, as Carlos says.
I had such a good time chatting with them about a wide variety of topics (hangovers, the new Lulus's, birthday party plans, dressing faux pas) that I barely had time to pay my respects to the staff, always a favorite part of my evening at 27. I promised to be back soon to worship at their altars.
Lastly I made it to Balliceaux for Photosynthesizers and while I may not normally be much of a hip-hop fan, there is something about these guys doing live hip-hop that I knew from previous shows I loved. Two voices, male and female, with a live band and they had the audience enthralled (even the bad dancers who couldn't seem to find the beat).
And here I ran into loads of friends: the wild woman entrepreneur, the farmer and his harem, the restaurant owner and his chef, the trumpet player and his beloved, resulting in as much conversation as I could handle in between sets.
Eventually I took a seat at the bar, not to escape chatting with friends, but to talk to one of my favorite bartenders and to meet the random strangers stopping by for drinks. It's amazing how friendly people can be if they think you can get the bartender's attention. Or even just to kill time until it's their turn.
One guy kept asking if he could buy me another tequila and my bartending friend kept subtly shaking his head no at me, as if to underscore what I already knew: not my type, so don't let him get friendly. It's nice to have someone looking out for a girl when she's on her own.
And wouldn't you just know it was a restaurant owner tossing out the non-stop compliments and drink offers? Big sigh.
I see a lot of couple dating in my future.