Friday, February 25, 2011

The Corner of What?

It was a multi-cultural evening beginning in the deep south, stopping briefly in China and and settling into 70s-era Italy for the duration.

To kick off VCU's Southern Film Festival this weekend, author Charles Shields was giving a talk ("Let's keep this more of a conversation," he said right off the bat) about his book "Mockingbird: An Intimate Portrait of Harper Lee" at Fountain Books.

Audience members shared their first memory of reading "To Kill a Mockingbird" and they varied widely; some people fell in love with Scout's character while others saw Atticus as the memorable one.

I only first read the book ten years ago and I remember being struck by how very Southern small-town it was, probably because it depicted a world so different from the one in which I was raised.

Shields got some fascinating input for his book, especially about the interpretation of the Scout character.

Harper Lee described Scout, who was based on her own childhood persona, as "Too hard for the girls" and the Truman Capote character of Dill as, "Too soft for the boys," making them both misfits and kindred spirits.

A lesbian fan of the book told Shields that, "Scout is enough to make any girl-loving girl's heart go pitter-patter." That is high praise indeed.

Shields is speaking again Saturday before the screening of "To Kill a Mockingbird" at Grace Street Theater, but I knew it couldn't possibly be as intimate as a Fountain Books talk. There's something about sitting in evangelical church folding wooden chairs to hear about Southern literature that just feels right.

Walking up Cary Street in the rain afterwards, I peeked out from under my red umbrella when I heard the unmistakable sound of accordion playing in front of Bistro Bobette; it was the guy I'd met there recently who plays in the restaurant on occasion singing and playing his heart out.

It was delightful seeing and hearing him on the sidewalk and under a streetlight on a rainy, reflective evening. Don't tell me Richmond has no charm.

I ducked into Peking for some take-out (hot and sour soup, Hunan pork) to bring home and devour while I knocked out a writing assignment before going out again.

My fortune cookie laid it out for me: Love is just around the corner.

Dinner demolished, story submitted, I made my way to Balliceaux for the Mondo Italia dance party with Glows in the Dark. This free jazz group is a long-time favorite of mine, but tonight they were doing something they'd never done before: not improvising.

Like the last time they did something similar, here, there was an Italian film showing behind them, this time 1977's "The Big Racket." But this time, guitarist Scott Burton had actually arranged all this 70s Italian movie music, so there was no noodling.

His musical choices were inspired and the group well-rehearsed. Trombonist Reggie pace also played wah-wah guitar and percussion, Cameron Ralston was on electric bass, John Lily on sax and Scott Clark on drums.

We were even treated to Eddie Prendergast of Amazing Ghost doing lead vocal on one very disco-sounding song and he was a show stopper with his smooth delivery and near-dance moves. The crowd went crazy, but so did the band. It was a highpoint in an evening of stellar moments.

The idea behind not improvising had been to keep the music going for the sake of dancing, but it took a while for people to get started actually dancing and then it was just a few people.

It was a shame because the music was so danceable, so very 70s groovy with big old bass lines that made you move almost involuntarily. Nobody does movie music better than Glows in the Dark.

I had a great vantage point from the settee by the bar and my musician friend Marshall, who'd been with me last night, joined me there again tonight. At one point, trumpeter and funnyman Bob Miller came over to say hello to us.

"Have you guys moved since last night?" he asked, half in jest. Well, we're wearing different clothes so we must have, we told him.

Hell, I'd been through Alabama and China before he found me back on that settee enjoying 70s grooves Italian-style while gunfights and bad moustaches played out on the wall.

There could not have been a more amazing experience going on in RVA tonight. If I wasn't going to turn the corner and find love, Balliceaux was the place to be.


  1. "Wiseblood" was on the list of movies to be shown. Highly recommended. cw

  2. I know, I know, I really wanted to see that. It wsa only because I was driving back from Charlottesville at 4 that I missed it. My loss.

  3. Since we're talking about...(the ones' you missed).If you haven't screened, "Biutiful" [the foreign film at the Westhampton]'s a good one. Trust me on

  4. Of course I trust you on this. I appreciate the recommendation.

    You've been so quiet lately, I was afraid you'd given up on me! Glad to have you back, cw.

  5. No K...rarely do I give up on people, places or ideas that i care for. in a way if i "read" you... you become a part of me... hence i carry you along. [cw]

  6. Very nice. Thank you for carrying me along, cw.