Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Like a Great Game of Chance

Adam Goodheart's father  was a judge who married people on Valentine's Day so that their marriage certificate could be signed by Judge Goodheart.

Today Adam was the speaker at the Historical Society's Banner Lecture as he talked about his book "1861: The Civil War Awakening."

And talk he did, which is always preferable to a lecture read from notes, which today's was certainly not.

He had a casual way with facts, couching them in stories that no doubt engaged the group of St. Gertrude girls who'd been dragged to the lecture by their history teacher,

Contrast them with the charming white-haired woman next to me,  a regualar attendee,  who cracked wise as soon as I asked if the seat next to her was taken.

"No, but we're saving it for someone with bad knees. Do you have bad knees?" Despite good knees, I was allowed to sit.

We fell into a discussion of what we do and found that we were both fans of the UR International Film Series.

"Some of them are pretty frisky," she said sotto voice but with a big smile. I've been at some of the friskier ones, so I knew what she meant.

She couldn't wait for "that cute VHS President" to get the lecture started (no doubt Paul Leavingood has no clue he has a fan club).

Goodheart's talk centered on the significance of May 23rd, which just happens to be my birthday, although 1861 is a bit before my time.

He talked about Elmer Ellsworth and his regiment of Zoaves, which he described as "a cross between Cirque de Soliel and SEAL Team 6" for their showy uniforms and fancy drill routines.

He also mentioned that since Ellsworth was the first casualty of the Civil War, he ended up with 20,000 babies named after him as a result.

20,000 Elmer Ellsworths? It boggles the mind, but as Goodheart explained, Internet databases provided the proof.

Ah, but did Judge Goodheart ever marry an Elmer Ellsworth descendant?

Dunno.  But it's enough to hear some good stories and meet an amusing seatmate.

I never said all my questions got answered at a Banner Lecture.

My Idiot Heart Still Crazy After All These Years

My Random Life, episode 4,729: the Nice Neighbor.

In the almost three years that I have lived next door to this guy, we have had one very awkward conversation after he over-complimented me early on, here.

Since then we have merely exchanged greetings.

So imagine my surprise when, a few weeks ago, he asked if I liked Paul Simon and offered me a ticket to tonight's show.

At the time he offered, I a) didn't know Simon was coming and b) wouldn't have been able to pay $87 for a ticket anyway.

Tonight, he called as I was leaving to go to dinner and offered me a ride to the show. What, everyone doesn't have neighbors like this?

So off I went to dinner at the Magpie, where I ran into an acquaintance I hadn't seen in years as well as others on their way to the show.

"You're going in time for the opener?" one woman asked me, clearly surprised. Uh, yes.

After the past couple of shorts-wearing weeks, I returned to red wine tonight with Honora Vera Granacha, only to learn it's the owner's current favorite. One of the concert goers ordered it, too, making it a popular choice tonight.

Dinner was the sweetbreads with grilled pear and sage custard, one of those dishes I think could convert non-gland eaters with its wonderful texture and savory taste.

For the first time since Magpie opened, classic rock had been replaced by '80s music, so Wham!, Culture Club and Duran Duran were my dinner music.

Apparently the staff had revolted over so much classic rock. Heaven knows I would have joined that revolution had I known it was brewing.

I returned home to catch a ride to the show with my generous neighbor.

At the Landmark, the crowd's ages ranged from kids to oldsters and if it wasn't sold out, it was damn close.

Minutes after sitting down, the guy next to me told me I could put my coat on the seat next to him. I expressed surprise that he had an extra seat.

"It's a long story," he said ominously.

"What a shame," I said empathetically.

"Not really," he grumbled. Seems he'd driven all the way from Suffolk for the chance to see Simon for the first time, but no other details were given.

Carsie Blanton took the stage in a pretty red dress with a guitar and an upright bass player, announcing, "Hi, I'm Paul Simon. No, I'm the surprise opener, which is okay because I'm good."

She was correct and her clever songs ("He was the sweetest talker you ever heard but his motives were unclear") and beautiful voice got the crowd's attention.

She sang the title song from her new album "Idiot Heart," totally charming the audience and offering her CDs for pay-what-you-will. I bet she had a lot of takers.

Then it was Paul Simon who really came out and jumped into "The Boy in the Bubble" with an eight-piece behind him and three drummers to start.

The best thing about the show, besides how fine his voice sounded, was the varied takes on his own songs.

"Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover' got a funked-up brassy arrangement while "Mother and Child Reunion" had sort of a calypso sound.

Since today is the tenth anniversary of George Harrison's death, he did a beautiful rendition of "Here Comes the Sun" to far too many cell phone cameras.

In the moment, people, let's try to stay in the moment.

After a while, the aisles became crowded with enthusiastic fans dancing to songs like "Late in the Evening."

The last time I saw that much dancing at the Landmark was at a Prince show.

Personally, I could have melted at hearing "Hearts and Bones," the song he wrote when he was in love with Carrie Fisher.

The arc of a love affair
His hands rolling down her hair
Love like lightening shaking till it moans
Hearts and bones

There were two encores including an acoustic version of "Sounds of Silence" that garnered absolute silence from the crowd.

I found  it positively goosebump-worthy.

"Graceland" prompted a roar from the crowd, but "Still Crazy After All These Years" seemed to me like the ideal encore song from a 70-year old.

And unlike at some shows, no one seemed to be leaving early.

When they were really done, he appropriately introduced each of the band members, not surprising given how incredibly amazing they had been.

When the lights came up, the taped music immediately caught my ear: Frank Sinatra singing "Mrs. Robinson."

Perfect. Well, not for the guy next to me from Suffolk. Five songs into Simon's set, he had excused himself and left.

I'd have loved to have heard the story behind that hasty exit. A two-hour drive for five songs? What the...?

But then I'd been driven a half a mile to hear a legend, so I preferred to focus on that.

Lucky me, the good neighbor policy is in full effect in Jackson Ward.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wowee Zowee

In his running series of self-admitted "bad ideas," Joon Kim finally put on another cover show.

The last one, a salty tribute to Guided by Voices, had been so many months ago that some of us had given up hope that there'd ever be another one.

When it was finally announced as a tribute to Pavement, it became doubly enticing when more than one musician referred to it as sure to be a train wreck.

Just so you know, I'm talking about the musicians who were playing the show saying that.

In typical musician fashion, most left learning Pavement songs until the last week before the show and had minimal practices.

Which was fine because the whole evening was great fun and for the Pavement-obsessed (and there was a good-sized contingent of them) as well as plain old music lovers, it was quite a treat to hear.

Nelly Kate and Landis Wine of White Laces got things off to a fine start doing two songs beautifully, each doing lead vocal on one.

They admitted that they were breaking the first rule of a Pavement cover show by playing a cover and not a true Pavement song.

As it turned out, they were the first of several to do so.

Dave Watkins and his dulcitar took up the challenge next, throwing in a cover of "No More Kings" and inviting the audience to make disgruntled crowd noises.

Instead, the crowd ate it up.

It was my first time seeing The Milkstains, despite how often they play out and having been told I'd like them.

"Alright, we're going to try and do some Pavement songs or at least remember the lyrics," the lead singer said.

Doing only two songs, they succeeded admirably and friends were right; I really liked their surf rock sound.

Snowy Owls did five songs so well that there was no doubt that leader Matt was a Pavement fan. They'd also had multiple practices and sounded terrific.

Climbers took forever to get started and did two songs before adding in Willis on drums.

Seems he was a last minute addition to the band's line-up tonight, having learned the song in the bathroom just beforehand.

A pro, he made their last song the best of the set.

The crowd loved it when Kyle and Brandi of Diamond Center took the stage because they were in costume.

Kyle, in a sparkly two-piece dress and necklace looked particularly fetching drag-like except for his monumental beard and fur hat with flaps.

Brandi's pope hat and glitter make up couldn't compete. After some technical difficulties, Kyle sang a couple of songs before making a promise.

"We're playing a show here on Thursday and it won't sound anything like this," he promised.

A guy who'd never seen them before asked afterwards if that had been music they'd played. If he only knew them in their usual style, he'd be amazed.

Joon's ever-changing band Adah played last with Joon and his violin in front of the stage and the rest of the band on it.

They rocked it hard, about driving the audience crazy with "Cut Your Hair," a song even non-fans might know.

And there were plenty of them there, too. A musician friend asked me if I knew about Pavement when he came in.

Well, duh. Let's just say I was around when they formed in '89 and when they disbanded in '99.

But his girlfriend, whom he'd brought with him, had never heard of them. Another friend told me he hated Pavement but came to support his friends.

But there was a core group who sang along with every single word to every song, recognizing each one by the first notes.

That's the beauty of a well-chosen cover show. Casual fans get to see a bunch of bands play and uber-fans get to hear live versions they might never otherwise hear.

Toward the end, Joon took suggestions for the next event's band to be covered. Someone even yelled out my idea: Yo la Tengo.

And since they're known for an enormous repertoire of cover songs, both live and on records, it could be a cover show of covers songs done by YLT and performed by local musicians.

A "hall of mirrors" tribute to Yo la Tengo; can't you just see it?

Well if you can, it won't be anytime soon. These things happen on musician time.

With a nod to another favorite, I would suggest waiting with a glacier's patience.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Edge of Life

Sure, I know I can't single-handedly keep the Westhampton Theater open, but I can try.

Tonight I had lots of company in my effort and saw what will surely be called one of the best movies of the year.

I could be wrong about that, though, because it's not mindless escapism; it's about the way life sometimes knocks you down and then kicks you a few more times as you try to get up.

Not that I would know anything about that.

"The Descendants" has a lot going for it: George Clooney and a Hawaiian setting, not to mention a trailer that makes it look like a goofy comedy.

While it does have moments of comedic brilliance, they're the kind that life unexpectedly hands you when you're trying to wade through the tough stuff.

The kind that don't make anything better, but relieve the heaviness briefly.

Because the intertwined plots were some of life's heaviest.

When do you pull the plug on a comatose loved one? How do you forgive infidelity? How do you accept your own failures?

Once the climax had been reached and the ends tied up, there was a brief scene at the end which provided the closest thing to a feel-good "we will move forward" moment in the entire film.

It wasn't a happy ending, but it was about as good as it could get considering the storyline.

To me, it felt totally unnecessary but very typical of an American film. Still, it's hard to argue with hope and Hawaiian music.

Walking out, an older woman behind us told her companion, "That was interesting...and edgy."

Hmm. I would say it was about as edgy as life.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Clearly Not Everything

My pheromones are causing the wrong people to respond to me lately. Okay, all my life.

This is not a conclusion I came to, but rather something a friend observed tonight and pointed out to me.

I don't even notice anymore; it's just the way things are.

On an unrelated note, I turned down an invitation to see "My Fair Lady" but was vindicated when the asker said, "It's definitely gonna be geared for the blue hairs."

For the record, I am not a blue hair.

Instead, I went to Pasture for Friends and Family Night and almost immediately ran into a friend (family, fortunately, resides in other states) who was meeting friends.

The beauty of  friends is bottles, in this case, Cherrier "Les Chailloux" Vielles vines Sancerre, Gruet Blanc des Noir and J. Frisch Pinot Blanc.

Rich, festive tartness and full-bodied but not sweet, in that order.

I backed off the truffled deviled eggs tonight (no doubt my arteries thanked me) but partook of just as much fried chicken, fried oysters with slaw and "chocolate candy bar" as I had had Wednesday.

New tonight were the beef tartare and the butter bean hummus, both standouts. More, please.

The crowd changed, too, from Wednesday night as I ran into two musicians (bluegrass and shoegaze), multiple servers from other restaurants (Amuse and Roosevelt), a soon-to-be restaurateur I'd met months ago, multiple bloggers and a former boss complimenting me ("You can do everything").

It's unusual to find someone who can relate to "big family" syndrome and all that that entails. She, at least, was lucky enough to have a big brother.

It was great fun talking to so many people about so many topics while enjoying so much good food and wine.

Still, I look forward to the day when a guy who announces that I am hot, as I was told tonight, is someone from whom I want to hear it (although chances are, anyone who really interested me would never say that anyway).

Out, out damned pheromones.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Truly, Madly, Deeply

Sometimes you meet a person and you just know that they're your person.

But when I went to see a Sundance award-winning film at the Westhampton this afternoon, I had no idea that that was the premise of the story I'd be seeing.

"Like Crazy" turned out to be a beautifully (and hand-held) shot, exquisitely acted movie about relationship difficulties once two people fall for each other.

I appreciated that it wasn't cliched, but rather full of the realities of dealing with the problems that inevitably arise even between people who adore each other, especially when there's a period of separation.

Once more, popular culture reminds us how difficult relationships are and how much patience they take.

It was underscored in the film when he gave her a bracelet engraved with the word "patience" when they temporarily separated.

At the film's end, there was no pat Hollywood ending.

The audience was left wondering if the two were going to be able to overcome all the things that had happened both when they were together and when they were apart.

Like in real life, that's the kind of thing no one can predict.

It's just that you don't get awards for having that kind of story in real life.

Thanksgiving in 3-D

Why do sports when you can do dead bodies?

Which is to say that once the recently-killed Farm to Family turkey was stuffed with pig and in the oven, it was time to go to the VMFA.

Today seemed like an ideal day to catch "Mummy: Secrets of the Tomb," on loan from the British Museum, without dealing with buses of school children or hordes of weekend crowds.

In a nice touch, the first part of the exhibit is a short film requiring 3-D glasses to view. I chose stylish blue for mine.

Once we were ushered in and took our seats, the guy sitting next to me stood up and took a picture of his entire family wearing their 3-D glasses, all six of them.

"Dad, sit down, please!" the teen-aged daughter hissed in mortification.

The film was compelling, showing the layers of mummification and even images of the inside of the body (organs removed in preparation for the afterlife) of an Egyptian priest.

Patrick Stewart did the narration in his impeccably accented voice, noting as the 3-D camera scanned the pelvic region that the sex of the mummy was clearly male,

Yes, we saw what he meant but his tone was almost smarmy when he said it.

When the film ended, the audience of maybe 40 descended on the exhibit and all its riches.

Making my way around the galleries fascinated by the more than a hundred objects, I was amazed to see that after the initial crush of people, 90% of them left for the gift shop within twenty minutes.

As in done. Finished. Seen all the 3,000-year old bodies and artifacts they cared to. Got any Egyptian king rubber ducks (they did)?

But that's just an observation, not a complaint. It left the galleries less crowded to move around and see things without waiting behind others.

A massive sarcophagus lid made of granite stood upright and had the face of the dead man whose coffin it had been.

It had such presence; surely the intention was to ensure the man's entry to the Afterlife.

Colors were remarkably intact, like on a mummy mask with a gold face and the most beautiful blue "hair" panted of rare lapis lazuli.

A cat mummy with a tiny head held a kitten that barely took up any of the interior space, making me wonder why this kitten deserved such a large mummy.

The film didn't cover that.

I'm not much of a gift shop person, but in walking through, I did notice how many items were made in Egypt, which was satisfying on some level.

As was the entire exhibit, which demonstrated the enormous role of death and afterlife in Egyptian culture, so different from ours.

After an excellent turkey dinner, a walk was in order, followed by dessert of pumpkin mousse,

The delicately spiced mousse was the ideal ending because it wasn't too sweet.

On the other hand, the three cups of cream that went into it meant it only tasted lighter than pecan pie.

And to think that on that first Thanksgiving, each person's plate contained about 500 calories. We've come a long, disgusting way, baby.

My evening ended with stopping by a friend's feast for a glass of wine and to hear her annual Thanksgiving mix, which never fails to delight with its song choices.

Mellencamp, Finn brothers, Grass Roots, Hall and Oates. Obscure one-hit wonders like "Magic" by Pilot.

"Hold Me Now" came on and the twenty-something couple next to me began singing the chorus.

I made a comment about how '80s it sounded and they asked who the band was.

"It's the Thompson Twins," I told them. It rang a bell for neither of them, although they seemed glad to finally know who'd done it.

"But they weren't really twins," I said, stating the obvious.

"Awww," she said like I'd burst her '80s bubble.

Luckily '80s music, like Egyptian priests, has been preserved for future generations to come.

Let's just hope there's no 3-D Thompson Twins movie in our future.

"Dad, their haircuts are scaring me!" some teenager will hiss.

There are limits to what's worth donning cardboard glasses for.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Out to Pasture

If you're one of those people who always leaves town for holiday weekends, you may not know this, but Thanksgiving Eve is a big bar night.

If you're around, there's a good chance you're going to head out to be around others who've stayed.

With that in mind, the new Pasture opened with a party tonight in its beautiful space on Grace Street, knowing the stay-heres would want to come out.

The last time I'd looked in the window was months ago when excavation was still going on, so it was a real treat to walk in to the spacious restaurant with its white walls, bright green accents and wooden accent walls in the back.

The first person I saw was a personable server from Balliceaux and he immediately made me feel welcome.

Next up was a favorite wine rep whom my friend and I invited to join us for the evening.

There were no seats at the bar available, but I knew bartenders so getting a bottle of Bordeaux (Chateau Jacquet de la Grave) was accomplished easily.

The wine list had a nice choice of well-priced New and Old World wines, including Virginia's own.

We set up camp at the end of a nearby table, ceding the other end to a large party who needed overflow seating.

Food was set up at a long table with constantly rotating plates of simple foods prepared in creative ways.

Fried Barcat oysters came with a dollop of celery slaw on them. A Brussels sprouts and winter squash and walnut dish was full of earthy flavors.

Lamb sausage with white beans was a big hit with all of us. Deviled eggs were better than Mom's.

Jason Alley's recent award-winning pimento cheese was served on a Ritz cracker. Fried chicken drummettes were perfectly crispy.

Since there's nothing better than bubbles to go with fried chicken, we had Thibaut-Janisson Blanc de Blanc, all of us holding its crisp bubbles with our slightly greasy fingers. Yum.

After a while, a trio vacated three prime stools at the end of the bar, offering us first dibs; we took them over without hesitation.

From there, we had fun greeting people as they arrived and I enjoyed conversations with a host of people I knew.

One of my favorite theater people was there and we discussed what a boon to Center Stage Pasture will be. Imagine being able to park once and party twice down there now.

I met a blogger I'd been told I would like who told me, "I think you're the only person who eats out more than me!"

With him and yet another wine rep, we discussed the recent flap about a local chef doing reviews.

The music, when it could be heard over the ebullient crowd, was stellar.

That may just mean that Jason Alley and I have similar music taste, but it's always great to hear thoughtfully-chosen music rather than mere background-appropriate  music..

When Jason finally sat down, it was with a look of fatigue and satisfaction. The first night of his long-awaited baby had been an unqualified success.

He may not have had time to enjoy it nearly as much as we had, but his sense of accomplishment must have been huge.

We gathered our things and decided to make one last stop at the Belvidere, where things seemed unnaturally calm after the party vibe at Pasture.

But the bartender was willing, so we got a bottle of Micehel-Chiario "Le Orme" Barbera D'Asti, an elegant finish to our evening.

More fun began with the sharing of stories and since we were a first-time trio, we had entire lifetimes to cover amusing each other.

By the time we left, the city felt truly deserted.

As it is, my neighborhood's been cleared out for days, but even on a night known for people being out, by this point in the evening most have gone home to get a good night's sleep before the big day.

It didn't bother me. I don't need to rest up to eat.

And I certainly don't need to rest up before tomorrow night's party. Let the holidays begin.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Now Please Return to Your Seats

The way I see it, sometimes you just have to take the light switch into your own hands.

Of course, it may have been the pre-show wine that gave me the courage to do so.

I met a friend for an overdue happy hour at Six Burner, where the featured red was South African, so there was little chance of me resisting it.

The Left Bank was a full-bodied Western Cape blend with lovely soft tannins and an unlikely name.

Like I care what they call it.

Wisely, before we got down to the business of the past five weeks, we ordered sustenance for the storytelling that was to come.

The salmon rilettes with clementine, olives and toasted bread was a creamy ode to salmon, more of a terrine than a true rilette, but beautifully flavored.

The lamb chili came with a layer of creme fraiche, cheddar and chives, but it was the two hushpuppies floating on top that got our immediate attention.

I'm a big fan of chili and this had a pleasing depth of flavor and variety of beans that would have made it a perfect meal on a cold night.

Despite tonight's temperate air, we all but licked the bowl of every bit of lamb.

My friend told me of her pain-in-the-ass boss and her husband's attentiveness while the best I could do was CDs and head scratching.

We channeled our frustrations into a chocolate terrine with dried cherries, pistachio crumble and a clementine syrup that was one of the best desserts I've ever had at Six Burner.

Chocoholics, take note.

We took so long with dessert and the last of the wine that I barely made it to the Listening Room on time.

As it was, the man-about-town was in my seat (a fact my friend noted and said he thought, "Karen's not going to be happy about that") and my usual LR buddy was M.I.A.

The scientist was kind enough to offer me the seat next to him and ply me with dark chocolate throughout the first act.

I took it to be polite.

Nelly Kate walked onto the stage barefoot and began to do to the first-timers what she'd first done to me last June.

That would be knock my socks off.

Sharing that ever since she'd moved to Richmond she'd aspired to play the Listening Room, she began singing in her clear, little girl voice while looping guitar, hand claps, cooing, whatever she wanted.

"My loop station is a nice way for me to travel alone," she explained. It's true; it allows her to layer her dense sound and hypnotize an audience with her overdubs.

The audience reacted like they'd seen something amazing, which they had.

Afterwards, the break allowed the large crowd to mingle as if it were a party. Since this is the last Listening Room for two months, there was a special energy in the air, it seemed.

Even so, after a while it was time to sit down and hear some music and nothing was happening.

That's when I took things into my own hands and walked over to the light switch and started flicking it.

Intermission is over, kids. Sit down.

And they did, surprisingly quickly, and Bonnie Staley (of the Girtles) and Cliff Boyd (of Sport Bar) started their set with two back-up singers, Julie and Maya.

I'd like to read into the record that all three girls in the band had on dresses. Being the dress lover myself, I was impressed.

Their bass-heavy sound was complemented by girl-group vocals that would have been at home in the sixties.

In fact, the song "Samby" was, Bonnie said, part hers and partly the Beach Boys'. Seems her Dad used to sing "Wendy" to her nephew Sam and she assumed it was his song and riffed on that.

They also did a song of Julie's, about which she said, "I'm not going to explain it because I hate when people do that."

The song explained itself beautifully.

During the next break I ran into a guy I'd met at the Camel when he'd come up and introduced himself, telling me he saw me at shows everywhere.

Tonight, his first Listening Room, he referred to me as a scenester. I set him straight, welcomed him to the LR and then flicked the lights.

Somebody's got to take charge of misconceptions and intermissions.

James Wallace of Richmond via Nashville played last, acknowledging, "A lot of this equipment I don't know how to use yet so we're just going to work around it."

Their sound of guitar, upright bass, keyboard and James' voice made for a pleasantly poppy take on the singer/songwriter genre with just enough of a vintage sound (and maybe a dash of alt- country) to make it clear how talented this guy is.

But of course everyone who plays the Listening  Room is talented. Okay, there was one exception once, but every one else.

That's why I can't believe there are still people who haven't been.

Come, be a scenester. Just pay attention to the flickering light.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Laugh Track Services Provided

Drat the technical difficulties.

It was right after the mother started cutting out pieces of her body to feed to her son that the movie stopped.

By that point, the guy eating his pregnant girlfriend was a distant memory.

Still, you hate to lose that momentum when you're engrossed in a film about making a film about a difficult son and the parents who love him.

Did I mention that it wasn't a romantic comedy?

A friend was having a get-together to show her husband's opus (two years in the making) to a few friends.

I didn't expect to know anyone except her and her brother so I was pleasantly surprised to happen on one of my favorite musicians and his roommates.

One of them is in "Lincoln" (although these days, who isn't?) spurring talk of locals growing long beards, metro-sexual barely-there beards and long hours at the Ballet.

The movie was very well done with some fine performances, causing a woman near me to whisper to her husband about calling someone she knows in California about distributing it.

Now that's the kind of friend you want to invite to see your husband's movie, not useless people like me. Even if I am a huge fan of local filmmakers.

All I could offer was much heartfelt laughter at the dry humor that permeated the movie.

And I could only do that when my eyes weren't squeezed shut to avoid seeing all the spurting blood and oozing flesh.

Now that I think about it, I'm lucky they invited me at all.

Good thing I can laugh.

Pilgrim's Progress

Do I think our forefathers took seven hours to eat a meal?

No, but I don't think their meal began with a Kir Royale, either.

Amour was doing a dinner of Thanksgiving flavors from Virginia and pairing a French wine and a Virginia wine with each course.

One long table, beautifully set, a group of mostly strangers who ended up being friendly enough to make it a party by the end, and a congenial host who made a game of which wine was which.

I had a blast.

The first course was scallop and chestnut-wrapped  in bacon with a flat leaf parsley vinaigrette, paired with Jefferson Vineyards Pinot Gris and Fritsch Pinot Gris.

Almost everyone was surprised that the sweeter wine was the Alsatian.

For the endive salad with walnuts, duck cracklings and beet vinaigrette, we savored Boxwood Estate Topiary Rose, a personal favorite, and Perle de Roseline Rose, which was even lovelier.

The most creative course was the next, a Pilgrim's Purse, Amour's take on a beggar's purse.

The filling had lobster and cream and although we were told to just bite into it, most of us used a utensil to prevent cream from running down our chins.

Our main course surely beat anything the Pilgrims (or those at Berkeley Plantation, the real first Thanksgiving) enjoyed all those years ago.

Roast breast of pheasant and duck with balsamic cranberry and rosemary glaze was served with spoon bread and roasted root veggies.

Spoon bread was a staple of my childhood thanks to my Richmond grandmother, but I rarely get it anymore, so that was a real treat.

Domaine de Rothschild and Boxwood Estate "Boxwood" fought it out with this course and both were excellent.

I'd probably give the edge to the Boxwood, a blend of Cab Sauvignion, Merlot and Petit Verdot, just to represent.

By this course, there were no longer any strangers at the table and meat was moving from the plates of people who were full to those who still had room (read: guys).

Next came Virginia cheeses with autumn fruit compote and I'd go with the Grayson as my favorite; its sheer beefy stinkiness reminds me of a version of our very own Virginia Taleggio.

With the cheeses we had Domaine Ricard Le Vilain p'tit Rouge and White Hall Vineyards Monticello.

By this time, we were toasting our new acquaintance, the birthday girl.

We finished up our gluttony with a seasonal trio of desserts: spiced pumpkin mousse, apple sorbet with sage-honey drizzle and a chocolate pecan barquette.

Perhaps in a nod to our host's Alsatian roots, we got our bubbles on with Lucien Albrecht Blanc de Blanc and from the Old Dominion, what else but Thibault Janisson Virginia Fizz?

By that point, one girl was shooting video of the merriment at the table.

John the magician had set up shop outside and the females among the group went out there to be entertained with tricks while the male contingent stayed put.

In another time, I suppose they would have been smoking cigars while we retired to the drawing room.

When we came back in one by one, someone looked at the time only to discover that we were now at the seven-hour point for this meal.

In the interest of blood circulation and allowing owner Paul to finally close his restaurant on a day he's not even typically open, we began to leave.

And with the misguided logic of people replete with terrific food and wine, we went directly to Secco for more good wine.

Our group was small enough by that point to take over the couches and lounge (I'm not sure we were capable of much more) whilst enjoying Pierre Paillard Brut (chosen by the wine geek among us) and the Marrugat Cava Brut because the birthday girl wanted it.

When the remaining lot of us headed out on to Cary Street, it was way past midnight but the temperate air made for nice strolling weather.

One by one, we peeled off to our cars, cabs and the walker to his neighborhood.

I have no doubt that every one of us was thankful for so much good food and wine, and unlike our forefathers, enjoyed with no threat of hostile native interference.

Ha! Only because Sweet Frogs was closed by then.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tiny Bubbles and the Tights

I do it for the romance, you know.

Because I certainly don't  morph from a lazy afternoon magazine-reading sloth to making myself presentable in public for any other reason.

It happened over a dog.

(cue gypsy accordion music)

When I sat down at Bistro Bobette, I was the only customer at the bar.

It worked to my advantage, garnering me a tasting of Michele Turgy Champagne, an unexpected delight they're considering carrying.

Even better was the Jean Vesselle Brut Rose de Saignee, a deep pink and complex sparkler that almost qualified as chewy (GB, this is your kind of bubbles), so I got a glass of that.

Finally another customer approached the bar and I was told he was a regular and quickly given his name and occupation.

It made it easier to greet him by name and see the look of confusion on his face since he'd never laid eyes on me before.

We were introduced and we started talking with and without the bartender joining us, until we both got hungry.

He'd never had the Bobette dog, and asked about it, allowing me to share what I liked about it (everything).

I got one myself to make it seem like a good idea. Actually, I was going to have one anyway, but he didn't need to know that.

Come on, it's the chef's recipe executed by Sausgaecraft with harissa mustard and Gruyere on crusty bread.

Oh, and a mountain of frites so perfectly cooked and seasoned that ketchup seems like a crime against cuisine.

We talked about music, discovering we had very little in common; he likes old, I like new.

(fade in Journey and out quickly, fade in Dum Dum Girls))

He told me about a bunch of restaurant projects he's worked on, so we knew some of the same people.

The conversation was quick and we laughed a lot.

We even discussed the definition and execution of creativity.

Then, as I sat there in my floral-patterned magenta tights, he told me that he has a tights fondness. Well, actually a fetish.

A stocking fetish.

(sound of record being scratched)

Which came off as more comic than anything because we'd just finished discussing his personal life.

He's been dating a girl for eight years. "First off," he said, "I love her."

She has the misfortune to be married (to someone else) with children. They have agreed to stay together until the kids are out of school.

Meanwhile, the Mrs. and tights fan have been meeting for lunch Monday through Friday for eight years, biding time until she's free.

He misses her terribly on the weekends but thinks she's worth waiting for.

Maybe it was those lovely pink bubbles, and I know the whole situation is wrong on one level, but that devotion struck me as very romantic.

And yes, she does the whole tights thing for him.

(cue vamp)

But lunch every day for eight years? Isn't there a romantic comedy in there just waiting to be filmed?

So, yea, I had a hot dog with a tights fetishist tonight, earnestly discussing holding out for your own true love.

Top that.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Woe is Me, All Hope is Gone.

I missed out on art and music for the sake of meeting up with friends whom I hadn't seen in a while.

Agreeing to see my long-absent friends put me at Rowland for dinner instead of at the Visual Arts Center or Ballcecaux.

Compensation came  in the form of a guy whose house was to be used for the filming of "Lincoln" and also satisfied my need for stranger conversation.

Moving down to give our group room at the bar, he told me about the film crew renting his Monument Avenue house for filming.

What did I learn? Daniel Day Lewis is a method actor who insists on staying in character.

He makes the crew refer to him as "Mr. Lincoln" at all times and during breaks, he sits on a cot like the Great Emancipator would have.

It made me wonder if he also adopts the symptoms of Marfan's syndrome and pretends to have a crazy wife,

Justifying that interaction as my culture for the evening, I resolved to enjoy my choice to get down with friends.

To celebrate getting together, we decided to go festive with multiple bottles of the crispy, dry Lamrac Prosecco.

Dinner was just as good: lump blue crab cake with roasted fennel, tomato ragout and sauce Choron ( a Bearnaise tinted pink with tomato) and Bavette Steak au Poivre over autumn root veggies with Porcini sherry reduction.

Interestingly enough, I had just learned about the bavette cut at the butcher party I attended a couple of nights ago. A variation of flank steak, it's a popular choice of French chefs.

How unexpected (and fitting) that I got to taste it tonight.

I love this time of year for crabs because they're plentiful and meaty and the crab cake was exactly that.

The bavette was out of this world: rare, toothsome and flavorful. As usual, the French know what they're doing with food.

We watched as an inexperienced bartender made shots for a group of girls ("I think I'll call it...the "Thanksgiving" he improvised).

One of our group had just returned from a seminar in Virginia Beach and told us about Pat Robertson's restaurant, the Swan Terrace.

He was as surprised at its Wine Spectator award as the absence of hard liquor.

He was almost as impressed with the chocolate bomb dessert as with a girl named Jill who looked like Wonder Woman.

After a dessert of two Derby chocolate pie slices shared by all, we got down to the lowest common denominator of the evening, music.

The chef and one of my friends commandeered the music to serenade us endlessly with the Byrds. I didn't complain because I'm such a fan of the twelve-string.

Some air guitar songs were so entertaining that video was shot.

But obviously not by me. It was enough that I agreed to carry a hypothetical cell phone if a future boyfriend ever asked me to (assuming that he was the only one with the number).

We talked about couples who stop on the side of I-95 to have sex (it's true) and boyfriends who show their love by taking their girlfriend's sinks (ditto).

Despite aspiring to such tales, I avoid I-95 like the plague and I have no spare sinks.

Perhaps I can Method act my way out of this.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Automatic for the People

You don't have to be a domestic goddess to appreciate the Eclectic Electric Gallery.

But the quirky space with the fish on the roof definitely hearkens back to a time when the tools of her trade were as much art as useful objects.

Thomas Osdene and his son amassed a most astonishing collection of electric household items which, as I learned today, is the largest in the world.

Comprised of 9-10,000 pieces mainly from 1900-1930, it would be even larger if not for the fire during the construction of adjacent Ramz Hall back in 2004.

In fact, there's what looks like a piece of sculpture hanging on the wall but which is actually a section of melted display stands, wood  from Ramz Hall and toasters.

Sadly, many items were lost from the heat of the fire.

But what's left is magnificent. Scores of fans of every possible type began Osdene's collecting habit. There was even one with rubber blades for children's safety.

From fans he moved on to toasters and there are some beauts, including ceramic and hand-painted ones.

An advertisement for a toasters boasts, "Makes golden toast right at the table or bedside."

Bedside toast? What world was this I missed?

There was an impressive collection of Art Deco electric teapots by the German Bauhaus artist Peter Behrens, most of which would look right at home in the VMFA's collection.

The beauty of irons came as surprise to me since I hadn't known that they ever came in an array of colors to brighten a dull chore.

Near one was a bottle labeled "Distilled water for your Steam-Rite Automatic Iron," automatic being the key word.

Grilled sandwich makers were also made in beautiful colors and designs of porcelain. Heaters were made to look like sailboats and butterflies.

Some of the stoves and refrigerators were amazingly small, no doubt meant for flats rather than large houses.

Primitive looking washing machines required the lady of the house to turn them endlessly to agitate; still easier, I suppose, than washing by hand.

A long line of vacuum cleaners showed how little the basic form has changed in the past century.

As I walked through the light-filled  galleries repeatedly, I was struck by how compelling a look at cultural history these objects were.

Credit has to go to Mr. Osdene, who passed away in August, for spending years antiquing to amass such an amazing collection of everyday objects from a time most of us will never know.

I only wish it were open all the time because I'd recommend to every local and to every visitor for a way to spend a satisfying afternoon looking at a different kind of art history.

Martha Stewart would be pea-green with envy.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentile Men

As I'm driving to see a holiday play tonight, I passed an SUV with a Christmas tree tied to its roof.

It seemed a little early for both. I was going to the play because a friend had an extra ticket so there was at least some justification for that.

Free theater? Count me in no matter the season.

As for getting a tree on November 17th, Happy Thanksgiving and deck them halls all in the same week.

I can only imagine what a dried out fire hazard it'll be by Christmas Day, though.

It was opening night for "The Holiday Stops" at Richmond Triangle Players, a campy holiday song extravaganza sung by four church organist ladies.

Played by men, of course.

Only at RTP is the audience told, "Please turn off any devices that may beep, ring, chirp or play show tunes."

The play, a sequel to the original about these four, had a lot of funny elements like forgotten Hanukkah carols and lost carols from other lands, which included a haggis carol and a Swedish carol sung to ABBA's "Dancing Queen."

Because if they'd based it on Bergman, it would have been long, dark and difficult to understand and if they'd used Ikea for inspiration, it would have taken forever to assemble onstage.

Holiday pop culture humor.

Not all the laughs came from the songs; when Rose announces she's come out as a lesbian, one of the women asks, "Oh, is that why you bought a Subaru?"

Euglena conducts gay sensitivity training seminars, including one for the audience, explaining that when you meet a homosexual you should make eye contact and say hello.

"But don't speak in a loud voice or you may scare them," she explained to an hysterical crowd.

Turning to my gay friend, I whispered, "Did I do all that when I first met you?"

Grinning, he whispered back, "Well, I wasn't scared."

Whew! And without a single gay sensitivity lesson in my life.

She also patiently informed us that brunch is the only meal gays eat, a fact my friend confirmed after the show.

Hands down, one of the funniest parts was the medley of Christmas TV specials done in four minutes and covering everything from "A Charlie Brown Christmas" to "It's a Wonderful Life" to "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" and even more in between.

Sort of a "Compleat Wrks of Xmas TV Spcls (Abridged)" and certainly Fringe Festival-worthy.

Woven into all the funny stuff were heavier things like alcoholism and racism which were a bit of a buzz kill among lines like, "He lit up a Christmas tree in my pants."

A couple of Jewish friends noted the poor pronunciation of certain words like sufganiot, the deep-fried jelly donuts served during Hanukkah.

Forget pronunciation, can I just have one of those donuts?

My quibble was far less intellectual, if not downright base. It was that the organ ladies' breasts didn't ring true.

Here were four middle-aged men playing four middle-aged women and they all had breasts that started just south of their chins like 19-year old lingerie models.

If you're going to strap something on, it's key to strap it on in the right place for maximum effect.

Just an observation. And, no, I don't drive a Subaru.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pretty Good Rye

"We're like the tree house club," organizer Mike Jones told the small group of Thursday Film for Lunch regulars today.

Which is fine because as long as I get to see all these classic literary adaptations on 35 mm, I don't really care how many other people show up.

And as Mike pointed out, a rainy day like this is perfect movie-watching weather.

Embarrassing as it is to admit, I had never seen 1946's "The Big Sleep" with Bogart and Bacall made after they'd fallen in love a few years before.

Their chemistry was palpable, even with the mounting body count and the dark tones of film noir.

Playing second fiddle to them was alcohol, which was the common thread that ran through the entire film.

When asked how he liked his brandy, Bogart replied, "In a glass."

When he's trying to get information out of a shop girl, he says, "I got a bottle of pretty good rye in my pocket" and next thing she's pulling down the shade on the door and closing the shop.

When Bogart says he's going to drink with Bacall's father, she tells him, "My brandy's just as good and I have a lot of it."

Actually, all of the dialog was wickedly funny despite it being the forties and the themes of nymphomania and pornography being whitewashed.

The innuendo between Bogart and Bacall, which must have seemed risque then, would still come across to me as sexually-charged if someone were to say it to me today.

Like when they were talking about "horse racing."

Bacall: I'd say you don't like to be rated. You like to get out in front, open up a little lead, take a little breather in the backstretch and then come home free.
Bogart: You don't like to be rated yourself.
Bacall: I haven't met anyone yet that can do it. Any suggestions?
Bogart: Well, I can't tell till I've seen you over a distance of ground. You've got a touch of class, but I don't know how, how far you can go.
Bacall: A lot depends on who's in the saddle.

Spoken for all womankind.

Thursday Augmentation

Tonight was really all about tomorrow, except that tomorrow couldn't officially begin until midnight.

It's not that I ever really wondered how  a butcher prepares a side of meat to turn it into the "ice cream cuts" everyone clamors for.

It's just that it sounded kind of fascinating and I had a friend I knew would be on board if I suggested it. Besides, it never hurts to learn something new.

Even when it means driving to Goochland in the pouring rain for Nadolski's Butcher Shop's beef processing workshop.

The enticement of wine (the beautiful, plummy Honoro Vera Monastrelle), hors d'oeuvres (including meatballs made from the cow being cut up) and a chance to see big hunks of dry-aged cow become flank steak, NY strip and rib eye was sufficient to head to the sticks.

Resting on the table was a side of beef from Powhatan cut into three large sections, the front of which resembled something from The Flintstones.

Turned out it was the same hunk o' meat that topples Fred's car in the opening sequence. Now I know.

We watched butcher Jonathan trim fat effortlessly and take every piece of meat down to a recognizable cut.

Telling us about the sirloin tip as he cut it, he said it was a very popular Brazilian cut.

He has a Spanish woman who put in a standing order for every sirloin tip he gets; she prefers it with a thick layer of fat for grilling.

I like her without knowing her.

My friend and I had a great time sipping and eating while watching Jonathan do his magic with a curved knife and an electric saw that sounded fierce (being a guy, my friend was particularly impressed with its sound).

Driving home, my friend spoke of his new-found understanding of where cuts came from in relation to other cuts.

I may have learned a little less than he did, but had far more fun conversations with strangers.

Beef gave way to beast and I made my first trek to Bogart's to meet a friend and hear Beast Wellington, the local jazz collective so often recommended to me.

I didn't expect so many cover songs (Bill Withers, Micheal Jackson, CeLo Green), but judging by the crowd's reaction, it was just what they wanted.

After an hour or so's stopover, we headed over to Amour to eagerly await the 12:01 opening of the 2011 Beaujolais Nouveau.

Since it can't be opened until the third Thursday of November, we spent a bit of time enjoying conversation with regulars and wine geeks.

In a last minute twist, Amour was only pouring one Nouveau because the other two which had been ordered had resulted in last minute phone calls from wine reps explaining that they would not be available.

So Georges Duboeuf it was and the fun, fruity wine led to a discussion of its uses, at least for the next two weeks, which was about how long the owner allowed that it was worth drinking.

He calls it "a good pizza wine."

One guy referred to it as his "hiking" wine because it's his wine of choice along with meats and cheeses when he and friends take to mountain climbing.

I can't imagine that the meats and cheeses he stuffs into his backpack are as wonderful as the ones offered during last night's tasting, though.

Plates of speck, Olli salami, pate, three kinds of cheese, and duck rilletes kept showing up as the conversation got livelier.

"It's not about competition, it's about augmentation!" a husband laughingly told his wife, explaining why he would do something for her.

As it got later, a group of us got into a spirited discussion of Bermuda and its ties to this country, especially during the Civil War.

My friend grew up there, an anthropologist had done some work there and I'd visited a few years ago so we all had opinions on the little island that inspired "The Tempest."

The tasting turned out have more of a party feel than anything and even when glasses were off the bar, talk continued to flow.

When the lot of us finally got up to go home and looked at the time, we were amazed at how many hours had flown.

"Last year we were here until 4:30," one guy said, making us all feel like grannies heading home at just after 3 a.m.

But when the French say you have to wait until Thursday, they mean Thursday.

Besides, with only a two-week drinking window, you have to enjoy hiking wine while you can.

It's not like I've got a backpack to put mine in.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The First Rule of J-Ward

Imagine being taken to lunch only to be accused of having an avatar.

I'd been in a gallery recently and saw the New York Times piece about Jackson Ward on the counter.

Being my usual smart-assed self, I made an off-the-cuff remark to the owner about how there were probably people in RVA, much less NYC visitors, who had never been to all the places in the article.

Her sheepish look said it all. "Actually, I've never been to Ettamae's," she admitted.

Explaining that you weren't allowed to do business in J-Ward if you didn't support its merchants resulted in today's lunch date.

And don't think I didn't walk right in there and introduce her as an Ettmae's virgin, either.

Like everyone else, including Kate Capshaw and Spielberg, she fell in love with the place and its food after one visit.

One thing she made clear from the start was that she wouldn't be getting dessert. She's just back from seeing her mother and had over-indulged all week.

Although it was pouring when we arrived, it wasn't cold, but I used the wet weather as an excuse to order today's soup, a seafood tomato chowder with scallops, shrimp and crab and a grilled cheese.

The soup was so chunk-ful of seafood you could stand up your spoon in it (I know because I did) and not red like I'd expected, but flavorful and filling.

My decadent  grilled cheese used the chef's housemade Amish white bread, making for a thick buttery crust around gobs of cheese.

Once we'd ordered, she got right down to business. "I have to ask you, and I know probably everyone does, but how do you do it all? You have an avatar, right?"

Without answering that I have absolutely no love life and nothing better to do, I tried to pass it off as owing to the array of compelling things to do and my flexible schedule.

Yea, right.

Lunch lasted for hours because we're both culture nerds so we talked about the labyrinth of the UR campus despite the attraction of their rich offerings, the wonder of the Ife show at the VMFA that so many people missed and local theater.

When we finally finished chowing down, our server came over to offer us dessert, but small desserts, she said.

My friend cracked like a peanut under a car tire, telling me she would if I would.

For those who don't know me, I'm the wrong person to say that to. I always will.

Take that any number of ways.

"What do you have?" asked the same woman who had earlier sworn off dessert.

We each ended up with a raspberry-plum puff pastry and by no means were they small.

The combination of all those layers of, let's face it, butter with the sweet tartness of the raspberry-plum sauce and nuts was heavenly.

Neither of us left a bite, just a smear of the most beautiful magenta you ever saw.

We'll just call it a metaphor the the deflowering of an Ettamae's virgin.

But not by an avatar.

Dirty Southern Bedtimes

Sometimes the audio and the visual don't match up, like in a badly dubbed movie.

Or like when I walked into the Camel for an early show tonight, a show I had been told repeatedly was going to start on time.

It was several minutes past the starting hour, confirmed by the fact that on entering, I heard Dave Watkins' distinctive dulcitar playing.

Curiously, at the same time I saw Dave Watkins standing at the bar ordering from the Camel's extensive beer selection.

Uh huh.

Turns out the show had started on time; Dave had already played something and was now looping it while he got a libation.

Thirst quencher in hand, he returned to the stage and with Joon Kim on violin, the show began in earnest.

Dave is always able to sound like multiple musicians with all of his dulcitar string playing and tapping, drumming and singing being looped.

With the addition of Joon tonight, it was an even fuller sound for his all too short set.

"God, he's talented!" the girl next to me said as he finished up.

Uh huh.

Athens, Georgia's Madeline was next and she didn't even bother with the Camel's sound system, instead using Dave's amazing pedal board to amplify her guitar and singing.

She has a beautifully clear voice with an old-time quality to it (sort of like a cross between an Appalachian and Irish singer) and a great range.

"Johnny Cash" told the story of the Man in Black in heaven wishing for an appropriate jukebox while "Dirty South" was about tying one on to forget an ex-lover's face for a few hours.

Hmm, I think I've heard of that method, but rarely has it been sung so beautifully.

Checking the time to see how many more songs she could sing and saying, "I wish all shows were this early. I'm a grandma when it comes to bedtimes" got her hoots of agreement from some in the audience.

Better her than me.

Because she's soon going on hiatus from touring to write and record, she was taking requests all night and gamely sang them all.

Even after singing a few extra songs, it didn't feel anywhere near anyone's bedtime.

After a brief break, Lobo Marino set up shop at the opposite end of the room to begin their set.

They're just back from yet another of their lengthy trips which always seem to provide fresh inspiration for  songwriting.

As a friend pointed out, there's no way to easily label their sound, but their great energy, offbeat lyric topics (the Pope naked, lobster claws) and South American influences (it's all that traveling they do) make it unnecessary to do so.

Instead, even those of us who've seen them multiple times, and that was a fair number of us tonight, found ourselves moving, tapping and laughing out loud at the banter between songs.

"Just start playing," Jameson said to Nathaniel at one point. "That'll shut her up." And so Laney's audience interaction was squelched to laughter.

Walking from my car to the house when I got home, a neighbor whizzed by on his bike, saying, "Hi, Karen, on your way to a show?"

"Just came from one," I said, causing in him to do a double take from the street.

And deservedly so. I was getting home just at moonrise. Unheard of.

I know, I know. I'm beginning to get worried about me myself.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

An Afternoon Folly

I will die a perpetual student.

Despite having taken architecture history classes in college, years of attending architecture lectures, even taking an eight-week architectural literacy seminar a few years ago, I never fail to learn something new every time I go to an exhibit at the Virginia Center for Architecture.

I was delighted when I arrived there today to see so many of the diamond-paned lead glass windows of the Branch House open to the beautiful 73-degree air.

I'd never seen a single window open there before.

Inside, the new show "Design 2011: A Retrospective of Winning Work" was full of clever takes on new architecture, interior design and preservation projects.

Particularly appealing was the inclusion of some of the judges' commentary for why each project was chosen.

"Weirdness" was my favorite judges' descriptor, used for the winner of a house in Kensington, MD, a place I once lived.

Looking at the striking post-modern redesign, very different from the houses I recall in that neighborhood, I would guess that the neighbors would agree with that assessment.

There were more than a few university projects: VCU's Dental Clinic in Wise, Founder's Hall at George Mason and the Performing Arts Center at JMU.

But I was more interested in residential projects.

Virginia Tech's Architecture School had built their third solar house, this one notable for its net-zero energy use despite much glass and an airy, unenclosed feel, so unlike typical solar houses.

A loft in Winchester's historic district maintained its Victorian facade on the front of the house but the rest was open to interpretation.

The owner, a collector, told the architects to view the building elements as opportunities for modern, pop art sculpture, so interesting surfaces were everywhere in the back.

Today's new term for me was "folly," a building deliberately constructed to be ornamental.

One of the design winners included a folly as part of the construction of a pool and garden pavilion. The charming building was decidedly ornamental.

My favorite preservation project was the Hazel River Cabin which joined an historic slave quarters set for demolition with a 1794 toll keeper's cabin and its 1856 addition.

Inside it was rustic, functional and clean-lined. Outside, you saw three distinct styles of American architecture married in an aesthetically pleasing way.

It seemed to me that it was truly  fortunate that someone with enough money to make it happen chose to save three historically significant buildings while crafting a comfortable, modern-day living space for the 21st century.

Not that a lowly student knows what she's talking about.

Monday, November 14, 2011

You Can If You Want To

If you heard "Show me the beautiful weather," you might expect a sunny, mid-70s degree day like we lucked into this November day.

Even now, long after sunset, I sit here with my windows open, enjoying the sounds and smells of a Fall night.

And if you heard "Show me the honey hole," which was the theme for Secretly Y'All, Tell Me a Story at Balliceaux tonight, you might be surprised at the kinds of stories you'd hear.

I know I was and I wasn't the only one.

The bi-monthly storytelling events are always interesting since there's no telling what someone might decide to share

In the past, I've heard some positively amazing stories (church bombers) as well as some movingly personal stories (one-night stands).

With the topic of "honey holes" as the starting point, my mind went directly to the gutter and a few of the stories went right there with me.

One guy told of his first make-out sessions with a girl in his Ford Pinto.

He remembered feeling like he was the first guy to discover the wonders of petting, but then there was no Internet back in the '70s and that kind of thing certainly didn't make it to TV.

When he discovered her jeans were undone, she told him, "You can if you want to." He had no clue what she meant.

Using his best guess, he proceeded to button her jeans.

Even in the '70s, I'm quite sure that wasn't what she'd hoped for.

A well-known local musician told a story of trying to score with a girl when he was 25, only to discover that she was a virgin.

His tale was full of references to drugs, the fun of touring and how long he tried to get this one girl to have sex with him.

It even included details about her take on oral sex which, when she did it, in no way agreed with his.

A girl sitting next to me reacted to the story with her jaw hanging open for most of it.

A guy I met in the bathroom line afterwards told me he had left the room because the story was so objectionable. He couldn't imagine it hadn't offended every woman in the room.

All I can say is, it was definitely a story about a honey hole.

But like at any Secretly Y'All evening, interpretation of the theme is up to the storyteller.

We also heard stories about a grandmother's garden, fishing holes, climbing a tree and breaking into a middle school.

Obviously honey hole means different things to different people.

One woman told a story of her first job after graduating from UVA with a drama degree.

It was in Seattle as a receptionist for a company called All Things Electric; it was not exactly her dream job.

Looking for something to liven up her life, one night she took a friend and went to see her favorite MTV comedian (so you know it was the '90s).

After the show, she found him in the bar and one thing led to another. End of story.

Except that months later he called; the only problem was that it was 11:00 on a Sunday night and she had to get up and go to All Things Electric first thing in the morning.

She had to inform her comedic idol that she was not his honey hole.

Before the program had begun, one of the organizers had come over to say hello. We'd met back when I first started attending.

"You know, one of these nights, you're going to have to get up there and tell a story," she informed me.

And actually, I had a story from last summer that would have fit perfectly with tonight's theme. I've only told it to a few people and it always gets an amazed reaction.

I just wasn't ready to be on a stage telling my honey hole story to a room full of people.

Because I'll be honest; my story has nothing to do with fishing or gardens or middle school.

But it's definitely one of the ones I want recounted at my wake.

I figure a little honey hole humor will be just the thing to make friends smile at the memory of me.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Fatally Uncomfortable with Hip Hop

In what must surely be a personal record, I have seen films seven of the last eight days.

My only regret was that buttered popcorn did not accompany a single one of those screenings. I'm not proud of that, but it was out of my control.

Tonight's viewing came courtesy of one of my favorite semi-regular events, the Silent Music Revival.

My fondness arises from the fact that it melds my desire to learn more about old movies (a silent film is shown) and to hear as much live music as possible (an improvised score is played by a local band).

The chosen band was Photosynthesizers, an electronic soul hip-hop band I always look forward to seeing for their outstanding musicianship.

They attract a diverse audience wherever they play and brought out just such a crowd tonight at the Firehouse.

As a tease to start, organizer Jameson showed the 1907 short, "That Fatal Sneeze,"  while the band played.

It was about a boy who puts sneezing powder on an old man's brush and handkerchief  after the man got him sneezing with pepper.

The man starts sneezing, making things go awry at home. He heads outside where his sneezes destroy store windows, get a crowd following him and eventually set the ground rocking.

His final sneeze is so violent that he disappears in a puff of smoke.

That darn 1907 humor.

The main event was "The Uncomfortable Man," an experimental and silent film from 1948, significant because it was made years after the advent of talkies.

In it, a depressed artist is writing a movie while going about his daily life in NYC, where a sign advertised "Rooms, 30 cents."

Is it me or does that seem like a hell of a deal, even for 1948? Wasn't that during the post-war boom years?

But I digress.

He arrives in the office smoking a cigar, only to deposit it in his (wooden) inbox and start smoking a pipe instead.

I had to assume that pipe smoking was somehow more business-like.

Besides that political incorrectness, the man is also cruel to his dog, hitting him, throwing him and holding his muzzle to shut him up.

But there were unintentionally funny moments, too, like when the man slept in his shirt, underwear, socks and shoes.

And the little boy in front of his house peeing into the street. You don't much see public urination in movies anymore.

Through it all, the drunks, the fall into the elevator shaft, the horse on the sidewalk, Photosynthesizers provided an ultra-cool soundtrack to the weirdness happening in the film.

The man onscreen may have been uncomfortable, but the band was right at home creating the sounds to accompany the weirdness.

Kent Munson wrote, directed and starred in the movie and never made another one.

According to film geek Jameson, there's almost nothing available on the man, an unlikely situation in this, the information age.

Yet here we were 63 years later watching this man's oeuvre and listening to a group of very talented musicians play soulful hip hop to it.

That, I would say, is the brilliance of the Silent Music Revival.

One Ox, Two Flans, Three Deep

Nothing like a wine tasting to pass the time waiting for a bar stool in a busy restaurant.

And at 7:30 this evening, Pescado's China Street was a supremely busy restaurant with three deep at the bar.

After stating my intentions of eating at the bar to the host, it was recommended that I hover near a quartet who were next on the list to get a table.

The cowboy boots-wearing woman who was sitting in the bar stool soon to be mine even mentioned that she was warming the seat for me.

It's the little touches that make or break a dining experience. Cute tights are drafty, so a warm stool on a cold night is a lovely thing.

While I waited for her group to be called, a Spaniard approached and offered me wine.

As it turned out, his only motive was to let me taste his wares since he's an importer and was in house doing tastings for the evening.

I happily sipped an Azento 2005 Rioja Crianza, savoring its nice body and hints of cherry while enjoying conversation with this stranger bearing wine.

May I just say that this is a great way to entertain waiting guests on a busy night.

Restaurateurs, take note.

The diners-to-be were dislodged just as my girlfriend showed up so we slid into our stools as if they'd been reserved for us.

Starved by this time, I went ahead and ordered an appetizer while she ordered wine.

Although we have been friends for a couple of years now and have several areas of common interest, food is rarely one of them.

If I am a human garbage disposal, eating everything, she is the opposite, possibly the pickiest eater on the planet. She has scoffed at my orders of wild boar and been revolted by my sugar toads.

Not that I took that into consideration when I ordered the braised oxtail on crispy tostones with oxtail jus and corn nuts.

The long-cooked meat was divine with my Rioja and she was hungry enough to try a bite, only to discover, "It just tastes like meat!" and finish one of the three on the plate.

Needless to say, it was her first oxtail, but I'd have bet the farm that she wouldn't have even tried it, so this was progress.

A couple sitting near us at the bar eyed our food longingly as they continued to hold out for a table.

The reluctance to eat at the bar when clearly hungry mystifies me; I know from experience that a meal can be quite intimate between a couple at a bar, so why wait?

But to each his own.

I was just lucky that they didn't have forks because I had a feeling that they wouldn't have hesitated to reach over for a taste. Or three.

As it was, they asked what I'd ordered and said they were going to order the same. And it was going to be their first oxtail, too.

It's been a month since my friend and I'd gone out, so some sharing of stories was in order.

During a break in the conversation, I strained to hear the music only to realize that the cacophony in the room made it impossible to know if they were playing metal or Muzak.

Much as I love my music, the lively vibe in the room made for a party-like atmosphere that perfectly suited a Saturday night so I accepted the absence.

On her way to the bathroom, my friend had spotted the fish tacos and the visual was enough to make her dinner decision.

I went with the marlin tostada with black bean and corn salsa, supposedly an appetizer, but so large on arrival that even a man standing next to me noticed.

"That's a small plate?" he asked about the abundance of smoked fish, corn and beans.

Yes, sir. You just have to know how to pick 'em.

The Spaniard finally went off duty and took a stool for dinner, even offering to share his chocolate flan with us.

After seeing it go by earlier, he too had been sucked in by the visual.

The guy next to him, not to be outdone, ordered another chocolate flan and shared that with us, too.

I couldn't think of a single reason not to take dessert from men who were offering it.

That doesn't mean there isn't a good reason to demur; I just didn't bother looking to find it.

And while it wasn't the most chocolaty of desserts, the lovely texture more than made up for its delicate flavor.

Friend was so impressed with the food and the vibe that she arranged to bring her boyfriend there next weekend and surprise him with a tasting menu.

She set it up with the chef once the dinner rush was over, even insisting that oxtail be part of the menu.

An unexpected wine tasting, dessert from a stranger and Miss Finicky Eater requesting tail. I could go home happy now.

My work here was through.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Oh, To Be a Sun

I didn't go to see "Anonymous" expecting a documentary about Shakespeare.

Everywhere you turn, the Shakespeare scholars have been up in arms about the movie. Historical inaccuracies! Conspiracy theories! Bogus facts!

Who cares?

The movie was a spectacle and it would have been worth seeing solely for the exterior shots of London, at least to anyone who's been there.

And, yes, I know they were shot with some new technology and not actually fully recreated.

Who cares?

The cast was stellar and the casting of Vanessa Redgrave as the older Queen Elizabeth and her daughter Joely Richardson as the younger Elizabeth positively brilliant.

On the male side, it was a film that could have gotten plenty of extras right here in  RVA; everyone with a "Y" chromosome had facial hair of some kind.

And there was plenty of romance. The Earl of Oxford, when questioned by his lover, the Queen, about a dalliance, says, "How could you possibly love the moon when you have first seen the sun?"

It goes without saying that that line got him forgiven.

The group of writers in the play were a funny lot, begrudging each other's successes but also attending their plays and offering moral support in a period when writers did not have an easy go of it.

"Have you ever been arrested?" the king's guard asks the chained poet/playwright Ben Jonson.

"I am a writer!" Jonson says rhetorically. In today's parlance, he could have just as easily said, "Duh!"

Personally, I found the movie to be a rollicking romp through Elizabethan times with the added benefit of a good, if implausible, yarn.

Call me simple, but it's not important to me who wrote the plays I so enjoy seeing produced.

My movie-going companion and I had originally planned to see "My Fair Lady" until I asked if she'd prefer seeing "Anonymous" instead.

"Yea, I heard it was rad," she responded succinctly.

From where I sat, that's the perfect adjective to describe a thriller about Shakespeare being a fraud.

But don't take my word for it. I'm a writer!

The Beauty of Brevity

Good things, when short, are twice as good. ~ Gracian


That philosophy was no doubt the genesis of the 2011 James River Shorts Festival. That or an acknowledgment that attention spans have become length-challenged.

It was the first year for the festival, which attracted 78 short film submissions, the top fourteen of which were shown tonight at the VMFA.

And the shorts varied widely in subject matter. Some were animated or stop motion and some were live action.

My favorite, "Solo Piano," was actually still photographs with a piano piece for background music.

A piano on a NYC sidewalk was photographed as people walked by it and stopped to play its keys.

Thinking it was a lighthearted piece about the randomly placed instrument pulling in people, I was saddened to eventually see men come along and destroy it, chopping up the wood and carting it away.

It ended with two young people showing up with dollies,apparently hoping to move the piano to their home.

It was a mini-tragedy in five minutes.

But there was humor, too. "The Pervert" used old '60s film footage to construct a tale of a nice boy gone astray after finding a pornographic magazine on the siddewalk.

"Another Dress, Another Button" was a stop-motion piece about the extra buttons that come with clothes.

Put in a bowl still in their tiny Ziplock bags, the buttons escaped and played games, only to hurry back into their baggies when the girl got home.

An artsy 16 mm film was "Watercolors," a silent movie with an impressionistic feel. The images of nature reflected in moving water truly looked like paintings.

Extremely touching was "My Son" about a choreographer dealing with cancer while raising a young son and continuing to dance and teach.

She saw her son as standing between her and death, while the little boy just saw her as Mom.

Especially beautiful was "The Leaf Woman and the Centaur," a combination of black and white drawings with vividly colored animation telling the story.

My friend and I had visited Amuse before the screening, enjoying a new-to-Amuse wine, Felino Malbec, which turned out to be wonderful blood-thickener on this unexpectedly cold evening.

With a local cheese plate and 40 minutes, we enjoyed a short repast to prepare us for the short films we were about to see.

Not aware of Amuse's limited hours, my friend was surprised to learn that they wouldn't be open for us to return to once the screening was over.

In fact, you could say that some good things, when short, are not twice as good.

A couple of things, Amuse's hours not being one of them, immediately come to mind to substantiate that.

But not tonight's films. Like well-written short stories, they delivered and were over.

Call it bite-sized films at their best.

Friday, November 11, 2011

My Present Reality

I've been in Richmond a while now and this is the first time I can recall seeing a play start with a straight shot of the underside of a guy's twigs and berries

As my friend said when we took our seats after chatting in the lobby, "If I'd known about this, I'd have sat down right away."

Wouldn't we all?

It was Firehouse Theater's opening night for "Why Torture is Wrong and the People Who Love Them," as absurd (and yet strikingly relevent) a social commentary as I've ever seen.

It's hard not to laugh at a violence-obsessed father who masks his shadow government headquarters with tales of being a butterfly collector.

Or an operative named Scooby Doo whose panties keep ending up around her ankles.

Or a girl who gets drunk and wakes up (naked) in bed with a short-tempered (naked) guy she married the night before at Hooter's.

Or a mother who is obsessed with theater in hopes of figuring out what is normal.

Her personality could be summed up with a line she quoted by the French playwright Giraudoux,

 "There is nothing so wrong in this world that a sensible woman can't set it right in the course of an afternoon."

Theater was a recurring motif, with lots of inside theater jokes, including a reference to suicide being preferable to sitting through an evening of Tom Stoppard plays.

Ha!

Probably the most interesting construct of the play was how the heroine decided partway through that she didn't like the violent direction the story had taken.

"Felicity did not like her present reality," the announcer told us.

With the sounds of voices being rewound, the cast did a couple of do-overs until Felicity was satisfied with getting off on the right foot with the guy she'd met at Hooter's.

Whether things worked out better, we'll never know because the play ended, but it's an alluring premise.

Socializing afterwards, my friend motioned me over to introduce me to her college roommate whom she hadn't seen in years.

Explaining to the former roommate that she was here with her friend Karen, a blogger, the friend asked, "Is she 'I Could Go On and On'?"

Is it just me or does that seem like a huge leap to make from those two clues?

Apparently the theater-going and blog-reading groups have more overlap than I knew.

Walking out of the theater, the actor who had played the lead in all his naked glory was standing outside.

The temptation to say something about having admired his naked body was tempered by good breeding (well done, Mom).

Still, I thought about it. It's not the first time I've seen someone naked on screen only to see them clothed in real life.

Last time I said something, only to make the guy blush. This time I held my tongue instead of using it.

Instead, I took my tongue to Amour for a post-theater glass of wine and dessert.

A trio of housemade sorbets (cantaloupe being my favorite) and a selection of macarons provided a fine backdrop to a discussion of the play, French movies and the challenges of a relationship.

Maybe it was the wine, maybe it was the sweets, but it all became crystal clear.

Karen is not happy with her present reality, but is convinced that there is nothing so wrong with it that a sensible woman like herself couldn't set it right in the course of an afternoon.

Would tomorrow afternoon be too soon to try?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Yes, Deceive and Entrap Me

If I'd realized what a great story "Great Expectations" was, I might have read it before now.

Seeing it in movie form for the first time today, I'm inclined to think it's a book I should finally pick up.

We saw David Lean's 1946 British version and while it got a bit theatrical-looking at times, overall the acting was excellent and the sets believable, especially for a movie almost devoid of location shooting.

The story of a blacksmith's apprentice rising in social class and standing wasn't nearly as compelling to me as the story of a rich, old woman jilted at the altar tears ago and raising her adopted daughter to be heartless and eventually break men's hearts.

Naturally the daughter is the one our hero falls for, but she stays aloof from him, allowing other men to shower her with attention.

When he challenges her on that, she responds, "Do you want me to deceive and entrap you?"

She may have been a heartless bitch, but she was a straightforward  one.

Besides, he was in love with her so he probably would have said yes to that anyway.

Turnout for today's screening was down from last week's "Film for Lunch" series at the library, but it was the perfect opportunity to catch up on some local theater rumblings with the James River Film Society fellow geeks.

I was glad to hear that they're planning to start a public conversation about the proposed demise of the Westhampton Theater.

Word on the street is that the chain theaters are going to stop even showing 35 mm films altogether and then where will we be able to see true film (and not digital) versions?

It's about time we had a non-profit theater in which to show the kinds of obscure first run and repertory art films that have such a hard time finding a place to be played here.

As it is, I'm at the Grace Street Theater, the Byrd or UR almost weekly to catch the stuff that plays once in RVA.

Come on, let's make it more efficient for film lovers like me. I need time to be out there deceiving and entrapping if I'm ever going to get a love life.

Don't spread it around, but I have great expectations.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Feeling Good in My Mouth

Okay, I'll admit it. I grew up without pimento cheese.

But don't pity me. I talked to several people tonight who said that they didn't like pimento cheese as children and love it now.

So even if it had been available to me, who's to say I would have liked it?

That's no longer the case, which put me at tonight's screening of "Pimento Cheese, Please!" at the Hippodrome Theater, where tastings of eight pimento cheeses were on the bill.

Best of all, ticket sales benefited the Historic Jackson Ward Association so I was supporting the 'hood.

That would be the same 'hood I walked through to get to the Hippodrome.

Walking down Clay Street in front of the Corner, a lively neighborhood establishment, a guy called to me from across the street.

"Those are some good looking stockings, young lady! Be careful!"

Will do, stranger.

It was my first time in the renovated Hippodrome and I'd been looking forward to seeing the refurbished heartbeat of J-Ward.

Although we were told that the place can hold 700, with chairs for 150 set up and eight tasting tables it was a tad crowded in there tonight.

Crowded as in some people stood for the film (Andrew, I'm looking at you).

Before we got to pimento cheese, we saw a brief video by Richmond Magazine about local chefs and childhood food.

Lee Gregory talked about boiled peanuts, Mama J waxed poetic about lunches of bologna or potted meat sandwiches (both of which I ate regularly as a child) and Kevin of Black Sheep reminisced about haystacks and banana pudding.

Then we got down to the (non) meat of the matter: pimento cheese.

The filmmaker, Nicole Lang Key, is a Yankee with the unique outsider's appreciation for the South.

I first met her at a New Year's Eve party two years ago, but my best memory with her was an outing to Byrd Park summer before this past.

A small group of us were taking a picnic dinner and going to see "Porgy and Bess" one June evening

The bats began swooping at dusk, the fireflies were twinkling over our heads and she was in awe of the magic of a free summer night's entertainment in Richmond.

Let's just say she knew she wasn't in Brooklyn anymore.

It was that passion for the Southern experience that led her to make a delightful short film about pimento cheese.

And the people she interviewed in the film were every bit as passionate about it as she is.

"It feels good in your mouth."

"In the South, it may not be your first food, but it's your second."

When one interviewee mentioned Miracle Whip, the audience reacted immediately and loudly, shouting down such blasphemy.

As one woman pointed out, Southerners are just pre-disposed to like things made with mayonnaise.

And preferably Duke's; my Richmond-born father never allowed anything else in the house.

Not salad dressing.

After the film, the madness began with 150+ people racing to get to the tasting tables and see how differently eight chefs handled the classic.

The variations were huge considering that they were all pimento cheese on something.

It came on pork rinds, sweet potato biscuits, with ham, Ritz and pickles, on rye, on homemade crackers, on Captain's wafers, with meat and on crusty bread.

It was creamy, it was dry, it was spicy and it was sweet.

Bonus points go to Parkside's chef who served his on his grandmother's platters. Nice touch, I thought.

The lines to get samples quickly became long but allowed for socializing and comparisons as you inched your way to the next table.

I have to say that after a while, I got really full.

Luckily, I ran into some terrific company and spent the rest of the evening talking with them about restaurant reviews, impartiality and chefs who won't date vegetarians.

And while I didn't make up for the absence of pimento cheese in my childhood years, I think I left with a better understanding of this Southern classic and a belly full of it.

It's not my fault that that didn't happen to me by age five.

You know, they didn't mention this in the film, but I bet that kind of deprivation would border on child abuse in some parts of the South.

Pimento cheese: part of the Southern birthright, but adopted by Yankees everywhere.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Copying a Relationship

Sometimes it takes the voice of experience to set a theater full of college students straight.

Tonight's film for the VCU Cinematheque series was "Certified Copy," a film shown last year at Cannes and which won Juliette Binoche a Best Actress award.

But that wasn't the reason it was worthy of being shown; it's because it was Iranian New Wave director Abbas Kiarostami's first film made outside his native country.

And that's why I needed to be there. Had I not gone tonight, I wouldn't have even known that there was Iranian New Wave.

Set in Tuscany, the film tells the story of an author whose new book is about how even "originals" aren't really original because everything comes from something.

After his book talk, he is taken by a shop owner for a day in the country and that's when the movie starts shape-shifting.

It was impossible to tell if the two were a long-time married couple of fifteen years or complete strangers spending a day together and pretending to be married.

Dialogue throughout in Italian, French and English suggested both possibilities.

"The way that you love someone changes their value." 

And that was the puzzle of the movie. At times it seemed that she was attempting to try new tactics to rekindle the relationship.

"If we were a bit more tolerant of each other's weaknesses, we wouldn't be alone."


Other times, they seemed like two smart people attracted to each other but playing at being a long-time couple after a shop owner presumed that they were married.

"It'd be stupid to ruin our lives for an ideal."


The notion of copying, whether in art or relationships, permeated the film, making for much philosophical discussion between the two.

You know, just like in real-life relationships.

If you copy the way you felt about a person originally, can those feelings be used to keep that relationship going forward?

And if you can, are the copied feelings any less real than the original ones? Any less valid?

During the discussion afterwards, the students in the audience offered myriad interpretations of the film; it was existentialist, Freudian, a mind game, even slow.

After a half dozen or so shared their opinions, a middle-aged non-student shared hers.

"You're young," she said to the students, "So you might not know this, but I thought the film was all about long-term relationships. Fifteen years is a long time and you've got to work at it to keep things going. I think that was the point."

I agreed with her. It really was as simple as that.

But, as one of the movie's characters said early on, "It's difficult to be simple."

You know, just like in real-life relationships.

The Booty Don't Stop

The beauty (and fun) of Found magazine is getting to be a voyeur.

I love hearing and seeing the random writings of strangers and tonight the Rothbart brothers brought another evening of obscure found objects to a packed house at Gallery 5.

A shopping list: gun, gun, ski mask, Nerds. Because every crime needs a candy chaser.

A letter from an angry girlfriend that closes with "Please die." Clearly "Yours truly" didn't fit her mood.

A sign: Lock this Door (to prevent unauthorized persons from defecating in the washing machine). Authorized persons, on the other hand, may?

A letter written to a dead mother and tied to a balloon and left in a cemetery. Found stuck in a tree...on its way to heaven?

A note from a kid: "Dad, please pick me up at the coffee shop when you are done taking a crap." Parenting 101.

If not for Found, I would not be privy to such hysterical words put to paper.

And although I've been to several Found events in the past, tonight's was different because it was a competition.

Found magazine was going toe to toe with the Found Footage Festival for the audience's favor; there were three judges chosen randomly from the audience to decide.

In each round, we heard readings from found writings and saw found video footage.

Some of it was painful for me to watch, like the snippets from old safety videos where people were hit by cars, cut off their hands with saws and fell from tall ladders.

Some of it was over-the-top funny like the enormous woman dancing while singing the praises of fat women only to be joined by a sexy black man dancing around her.

There was even live music from one of the Found guys, Peter, performing music based on finds.

"Bus or Beer" was about the agonizing choice of going for a drink or missing the last bus.

"The Booty Don't Stop" originated from a found tape of bad rap songs and contained lines like, "When I saw that ass, I knew I had to make it mine."

Peter did his own bootylicious version boy band-style and it was awesome, although the songwriter probably wouldn't have recognized it in its expanded form.

In retaliation, the video guys followed with a showing of bad full frontal nudity clips showing group dancing, arm wrestling and, um, enlargement techniques.

With the VHS videos, sometimes the cover or spine was enough.

"Bonion sergery" one VHS tape was labeled (with both words spelled incorrectly). One has to wonder, why would anyone want this on tape?

Another, originally labeled "Mom and Dad's 40th Anniversary," had those words crossed out and "Grumpier Old Men" written underneath. No doubt the first was much duller than its replacement.

The video guys ended up winning for the night and closed with a clip of a large, older man in a red, white and blue Speedo dancing for a semi-circle of seated octogenarians.

His dancing consisted of mincing steps and slapping his butt cheeks while the oldsters looked on in dismay. It was beyond funny. Why it was taped, I can't imagine.

The Found guys always collect found pieces when they're on tour. There was some discussion of whether found pieces have to be blowing or can just be discovered inert on the ground.

I have one I'd love to submit, but it wasn't exactly blowing and I know who it's from.

But it would fit in perfectly with the spirit of Found.

You're cute!
Do you want to be friends?
Check one
_yes
_no
_Fuck off

I'm thinking of checking my answer and letting it go on the street, hoping it will end up Found.