Sunday, July 22, 2012

Life Emits a Symphony

It may have been the ultimate compliment.

"I admire you for being true to who you are and living your life the way you want to. Lots of people talk about it, but not many actually live it."

So that was me being true to myself by going to a mid-afternoon poetry reading by Grant Cogswell.

The audience was especially small and, as one attendee noted, "Not many people go to poetry readings...even though poetry is meant to be read aloud."

Which was exactly why I was there.

Grant's perfectly cadenced voice made listening to poems from his new collection, "The Dream of the Cold War" (which he called "a long series of secret measures where no one had an original thought") a real pleasure.

"Time moves too fast for a thing to represent itself," he read from Luna Park.

His Seattle roots showed in Pacific Bell with "We're freer in places where clouds move like paper boats in a  bay."

His humor shone when he explained that he'd he submitted a poem to the group Poets Against the Iraq War ("I wanted to call it Anti-war Poem but that would be like putting a label on an apple that said 'food") as well as his empathetic side (""And the dead are expressed in mathematics.")

And my favorite line?

Sunset emits a symphony.

Who wouldn't want to have a poet read that line to them?

Don't look at me.

I stayed true to myself by visiting my neighborhood record store, Steady Sounds, for their monthly "Summer Sounds Steady" show.

It's the second in the series  but this time the crowds were bigger because of the Saturday artwalk going on.

The first band, Little Smoke, was a self-described lo-fi, bedroom pop quartet who looked too young to sound as good as they did.

Energetic drumming, two guitarists trading leads and songs like "Makeout Anthem" meant we were having  as much fun listening as they appeared to be having playing.

Nashville's Ttotals were a garage duo with enough reverb and '90s-sounding energy to be the perfect balance to the sunny youth of the first band.

I laughed out loud when the drummer announced, "This one's new so it might be terrible. We'll have a panel discussion afterwards to decide."

No panel and not even close to awful.

After much consideration, I'm not sure my friend's compliment included my devotion to food, but if not, it should have.

This is the last week I had to meet him for dinner before he moves to Colorado.

We met at the bar at Aziza's to talk about everything: tequila menus, Stellenbosch, manual labor and meat glue.

Doing so required Man Sauvignon Blanc because we're like-minded in our devotion to South African wine

The first thing we decided was to eat so that we'd ensure hardening our arteries before the night was over.

Cashew-encrusted whipped prosciutto with thin slices of summer melon and honey/olive oil emulsion melted in my mouth.

Pan-seared foie gras with homemade granola and peaches was easily the most unique foie gras re-imagining I'd ever come across.

The chewy oats and fresh peaches gave it almost a breakfast-like feel to set off the richness of the foie gras.

My pig face and pickled mushroom terrine sandwich on sourdough rye bread with turnip creme fraiche arrived on its side, but our server explained that it should have been standing at attention.

Ah, terrine, how do I love thee? Besides, who doesn't love a good pig face sandwich?

As we devoured everything in front of us, my friend told me his theory of successful relationships.

According to him, you either find that special someone young and grow together (see: my parents and his) or you wait until you're fully formed and then find someone who suits that person you've become.

Well, that explains what I've been doing.

His wisdom belies his tender years.

By unspoken mutual agreement, we got a cream puff to share, my friend telling me that his family rule is that whomever cuts the food in half  must allow the other person to choose which piece they want.

I guess we never had that rule in my family since there were six kids.

The evening lasted far later than we anticipated (we both had later plans), probably because the conversation was so enjoyable and we got more wine.

We finally said goodnight but only because we agreed to meet up one last time before he goes.

It would have been easy to have gone home then; it had been a full day and I'd already enjoyed poetry, music and dinner.

But in order to stay true to me, I couldn't resist just a little more music.

So I joined the throngs at the Camel for some Charm City talent.

I walked in to rowdy rock with a hint of '90s alt-rock in the form of Dope Body and their manic lead singer Andrew.

A guitarist friend immediately said, "I can't decide if I love them or hate them," but by the end of the set, he was acknowledging, "That's the best band I've seen in ages."

He said it was partly the interesting guitar work but for me, it was all about the pure energy of rock music, a sense of humor that shone through in their three-minute songs and Andrew spazzing out wildly as he sang.

The crowd, tentative at first, finally gave in and did their best vertical moshing to show their appreciation for the band's effort.

But what I'd really come for was Future Islands, another Baltimore band, but one that turned the room into a dance floor with their smoldering synth-pop.

A lot of that smolder comes from lead singer Sam's voice which roars and croons, depending on the song.

For "Lighthouse," he said, "Last time we were here, we played this song for the first time," and, judging by the crowd's reaction, a lot of them had been at that last show.

Sam was a gregarious performer, sharing tidbits about nearly every song ("This is 'Cotton Flame' about my girlfriend Kate") and sending the already-dancing crowd into a frenzy when he said, "This one's called 'Walking Through That Door.' It's a southern song."

I could point out that considering the band was originally from North Carolina, probably all the songs are southern songs, but that would be nit-picking.

And honestly, I was having way too much fun to nit-pick.

The Camel was essentially a dance party tonight and every song started the frenzy anew.

And I admit I wasn't immune to it. Come on, synths beg for dancing or is that just my '80s roots talking?

One girl trying to make her way past me said as much when she walked by saying, "It's very hot in there" and pointing to a clutch of dancing people.

Sam wasn't immune, either, saying, "I'm the rainmaker yet again. I leave puddles where ever I am."

It was true that he was soaking the stage with his sweat, somewhat of a problem since he almost slipped on it several times.

As they began playing a new song, Sam said, "Check out that fat bass line," which we did right up until the last song when the bass player broke a string.

"You can't play bass with three strings?" he asked, no doubt hoping to finish up the sweaty show and cool off somewhere.

After an appeal for Dope Body's bass, Sam killed time waiting for it to arrive by singing a capella.

The dancing crowd was having none of it and cheered when the bass arrived.

"Okay, so I learned a capella doesn't fly on a Saturday night," Sam laughed before launching into their last song.

It was "Little Dreamer," and he justified it by saying, "This song is about someone I still dream about. Maybe you have someone you dream about."

It was the ideal last song, showing off his crooning skills and allowing the dance party to end on a slow dance.

I held onto my dreams, like they could run from me

And to my departing friend I would say, that's how you stay true to yourself and live your life the way you want to.

For me, that's holding on to poetry, pig's faces and dance music.

You see, it's easier than you think if you really want to.

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