Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Listen Without Prejudice

When it comes down to it, it's all about finding a receptive audience.

I started my audience participation at the Virginia Center for Architecture and the social hour they were having to explore the new exhibit.

"The Art and Architecture of Carlton Abbott" was like a retrospective of the Williamsburg architect's career.

Which was as much about art as architecture.

Abbott's father had been the landscape architect for the Blue Ridge Parkway and his son documented many Blue Ridge Parkway buildings in pen and ink (even that most romantic-sounding of mediums, India ink).

Cantilevered barns, spring houses and weighted gates were captured by Abbott in the purest line.

But then there was Abbott, the engineer-minded architect, who designed the access bridge at Texas beach, the Visitor's Center at Jamestown and the frickin' mixing bowl.

Oh, yes, Abbott was the one behind the revamped Springfield exits on I-95.

Who knew such a logical, clear-thinking brain could also produce such pure art?

Abbott's postcards from France were a series of cards on which he sketched a French scene on the front, then drew a basic diagram of the layout of the location, maybe wrote a few words on the back, and mailed it home to himself.

And sometimes, to him and his wife.

Most were depictions of charming buildings and streets, but one was a carafe of wine and two filled glasses on a tabletop.

On the back, he had written, "Mon Cheri, I love you. CSA."

Kind of makes your heart melt, doesn't it?

A majestic charcoal over the mantle of the fireplace, "The Norfolk Dock" gave the viewer a sense of actually being on the dock due to its sheer size.

The man's multi-media art was of the deepest, brightest colors, super-saturated in their brilliance.

They were three-dimensional, some layers of fabric, some painted dowels, some intricately arranged geometric/mechanical-looking contrivances.

The man is in his fifth decade of creating and it's obvious he's still going strong.

The optimistic among us would call that encouraging.

The optimistic and the rest took off for Six Burner to discuss that kind of range of talent and enjoy well priced "midnight in a glass," Domaine la Bouissiere "Les Amis de Bouissiere."

We heard about an actor's upcoming audition and a film graduate's desire to find the local film community.

The music went from the Lou Reed station on Pandora to the Phil Collins station.

This alone fascinates me, but I won't go there now.

When George Micheal came on, I went to point it out to the actor, who was by that time dancing to George Micheal behind the bar.

Clearly he already knew who it was.

Big points went to the panzanella salad (redundant, I think) with Feta cheese, capers, roasted tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, preserved Meyer lemon and oil for its pleasantly chewy bred cubes and perfect saltiness.

The panzanella led seamlessly into the mussels in a white wine cream sauce with bacon, red onions and bleu cheese.

It was ridiculously rich and just the right sized serving to leave you with some sense of dignity. At least until the bread-sopping part came and then all bets were off.

I got theater talk ("Rocky Horror Picture Show" coming to Firehouse) and a chance to recommend some good local film events (Biograph 40th, Southern Film Fest, James River Filmmakers' Forum) before realizing that some of us had places to be.

It was a parking lot farewell.

Since I hadn't had time to have a sweet course, I defaulted to the best late-night dessert bar I know: Ipanema.

After ordering a glass of Analissa Primitovo and a slice of double chocolate cake, I took in the conversations around me.

"Why don't you have any girl bartenders?" a twenty-something girl inquired.

"Well, you know..." the bartender trailed off.

"This place is a sausagefest," I teased him, joining in.

"A Post Office!" he laughed. "A lot of male!"

Did I mention that the comedy is free of charge at the best late night dessert bar in town?

Two bites into my cake, a couple of musician friends walked up to see what I was up to.

One asked me where I'd already been, presuming that my night was not just now starting.

The other suggested, "When you finish your cake, you should head over there," pointing to his friends and band mates celebrating a birthday.

Near the end of my cake, I heard the guy next to me mention Jackson Ward.

If that's not an invitation for me to let them know I've been eavesdropping, I don't know that is.Surely he and I would have something to talk about.

What about Jackson Ward, I asked politely but eager to sing the praises of my 'hood.

One told me where they lived (two blocks away), near the park.

"Yes, it's great. My only complaint is the people from Gilpin walk through our park and they don't live here," he said in all seriousness.

Oh, wow. Clearly we have nothing to talk about.

So I moved away from them and over to my friends where the conversation centered on Tom Waits fishing and other things I could get behind.

My fandom of their band was complimented. Hey, they're the ones doing all the heavy lifting. All I have to do is appreciate it.

"So where were you before this?" the bass player asked, echoing the earlier question.

I wouldn't be presuming I've been anywhere, my friend.

Except, of course, I had.

By that time, I'd already been an audience several times over.

As my Richmond grandmother used to say, stick with what you're good at.

There are few things I'd rather be than a really fine audience. Insert applause.


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