Friday, December 2, 2011

Scrambled Brains and Pumpkin Pie

How ironic that I spent the second anniversary of Virginia's smoking ban in a smoky restaurant.

But only after hearing how to scramble a cadaver's brain through his nose.

It's like this: Mr. Mummy, aka Bob Brier, was speaking at the VMFA on "Mummification; Resurrection of a Lost Art" and who could resist a topic like that?

Rhetorical question.

I was the one in my seat fifteen minutes before the talk began and after being warned by a museum buddy that it was going to be really graphic.

You see, Brier, a Senior Research Fellow at Long Island University, decided seventeen years ago to figure out the specifics of how the Egyptians mummified their dead.

So he procured a cadaver (someone who had donated his body to science) and proceeded to follow the step-by-step instructions written down by a long-ago Greek visitor to Egypt.

"Strong men faint during this talk," he deadpanned.

So he told us about using drawings to identify and replicate tools used in the process.

"It was the first time in 2,000 years that anyone had mummified a human body in the Egyptian style," he justifiably bragged.

A large C-shaped tool with a hook at both ends was used to enter the nose and scramble the brain ("like a whisk") before pouring out its contents.

A three-inch incision was made to remove the body's organs except for the heart.

It was left in the body because they believed that you thought with your heart and would need it in the afterlife.

The brain goes but the heart stays. Sounds like the aftermath of a bad breakup.

I found the talk fascinating as much for Mr. Mummy's expansive knowledge on the topic as for his casual and humorous way of sharing it.

After looking at spleens and bloody gauze pulled through a nasal cavity, what else was there to do but eat?

Upstairs at Amuse, I found an empty bar and planted myself before the slower-moving lecture crowd made their way up.

It was the last night of Amuse's Fall menu so I took advantage of a special that will be on the new menu starting tomorrow.

Oxtail chili with cornbread croutons and a glass of Cline Pinot Noir was just what I needed after talk of bodily fluids and palm wine poured into the abdominal cavity.

At my server's suggestion, I finished with the chocolate pate.

I must have made it look good because the women at the end of the bar followed suit, as did the couple behind me, who raised their spoons to me.

I allowed enough time to go see "The Majestic and the Mundane: Landscape Photographs of Ansel Adams and Lewis Baltz" before leaving.

The contrast of Adams' sublime National Park scenes and  Baltz's images of a trashed wasteland shared in common an abstract black and white beauty that transcended the actual subject of the photos.

Last up was a show at the Republic, a place I rarely go; the smoke is excessive and, as a friend put it, "These are not our people."

Or, as a friend had posted when he walked into Republic tonight, "Republic = New Jersey."

That's all I'm saying.

But Snowy Owls was playing and, like so many local music lovers, I am a huge fan.

Opening was D.C.'s Mittenfields and I definitely liked their three-guitar wall of sound, which at times bordered on post-rock when there were no vocals.

The lead singer played bass and he and the drummer never let up banging against that wall.

In what is surely a first, the band had brought mini-pumpkin pies to share with the audience. They were passed around and scarfed immediately.

For possibly another first time in my life, I saw a show from a couch facing the stage.

It was comfy, I had a good friend sitting next to me, another asked if he could "sit on my arm" and we had a straight shot at the stage.

Actually, also of the staircase to the bathroom where a large sign said, "CAUTION! Hold Handrail,"yet I saw multiple people trip down the first few stairs and catch themselves.

They couldn't say they weren't warned.

Snowy Owls played an excellent set and it was interesting to watch some of the DC visitors fall under their spell.

By the time the show ended, I could tell I reeked of smoke even though I was in a room reeking of smoke.

Once I got myself off the low-slung couch, I discovered any number of musician friends I hadn't seen come in, including several who had been at the Paul Simon show the other night.

We basked in the memories of seeing a legend while trying to guess how pricey tickets to next year's Graceland anniversary tour will be.

Leaving the restaurant, I ran into a long-haired friend and we commiserated about once again having to go to bed with smelly hair, a fact you notice every time you roll over in bed.

I could observe that at least no one else has to put up with my smelly hair tonight, but that would be thinking with my heart.

And I'm not Egyptian and I don't want my brain pulled out through my nose.

Nor am I counting on the afterlife; I'm hoping to get it right this time around.

Eventually anyway.

No comments:

Post a Comment