Everybody should be able to love and marry whomever they choose, right?
Well, yes, except if you were of different races and unfortunately living in Virginia in the 1950s.
The one film I'd missed seeing at VCU's Southern Film Festival had been "The Loving Story" about the interracial couple who fought for the right to be married all the way to the Supreme Court, and tonight it was being shown at the Library of Virginia.
Sitting waiting for the film to begin, I couldn't help but notice an interracial couple in the row in front of me.
Behind me, two older men sat down and began discussing their familiarity with tonight's topic.
"If you think about it, Virginia's got 100 counties and six million people, so I knew there had to be some out there," one commented. "It's just my observation, but I think a lot of them aren't legally married, they're just couples. I went to the Folk Fest and I was shocked at the scores of them! Shocked at how many black and white couples I saw. Younger people wouldn't even probably notice."
And if this old coot was shocked at what he saw last Fall, it's inconceivable what an uphill battle the interracial Lovings must have fought to be able to live together during the Eisenhower years.
They'd married in D.C. and were happily living in Caroline County when a sheriff broke their door down at 4 a.m. to arrest them for having the audacity to live together in the commonwealth.
Because apparently interracial marriage was still illegal in 24 states so as to preserve the purity of the race.
The film was a documentary dork's dream because they had so much vintage footage, black and white and color, taken when all this was happening back in the '60s.
Husband Richard was pretty monosyllabic but wife Mildred was articulate and sweetly charming.
"When we first met, I didn't like him," she admits to the camera, her pretty, young face riveting to watch. "He was arrogant!"
But she also talks about how in Caroline County, blacks and whites all grew up together happily. "We didn't know nothing about this racism stuff," she naively admits.
And even her redneck husband waxed on poetically to the camera, saying, "If they tell me to leave again, I will because I am not going to divorce her."
They tried living in D.C., but hated city life and missed their small rural community, so eventually they sought help to make it possible for them to move back to Virginia.
They were advised, "Write to Bobby Kennedy. He'll help you. That's what he's there for," so Mildred sat down and wrote a lovely letter to the then-attorney general.
The world was a far simpler place back then.
He passed them on to the ACLU, where two fresh-faced young lawyers got the case of a lifetime and fought it all the way to the Supreme Court.
The film showed reaction to the case, with ignorant white people with southern accents saying things like, "I am white today because my parents practiced segregation!" and, "Some of my best friends are niggers."
During these scenes, people around me shook their heads in disbelief and mortification. Interestingly, I heard nothing from the two gents behind me.
There was plenty of footage of the young lawyers talking about the case as well as recent interviews of them as elder statesmen recalling their incredible luck in getting the Loving case.
"We had to pinch ourselves because of what we were doing," one said about getting to argue the case to the Supreme Court.
We even saw footage from in front of the federal courthouse in Richmond circa 1967.
The Lovings didn't come to court ("Just tell the court I love my wife," Richard instructed the lawyers) because Richard couldn't be bothered and Mildred wouldn't go without him.
Not that it mattered.
The Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision and bans on interracial marriage had to be repealed.
But not as quickly as I would have thought.
Unbelievably, Alabama just repealed theirs in 2000.
2000! Hard to comprehend.
The saddest part of the story was how eight years after the decision, the couple's car was hit by a drunk driver and Richard was killed.
Such a tragic ending for two people who had spent so long just trying to legally live together.
I was just glad that I'd finally seen this amazing documentary.
My fellow filmmaker and I had a brief window to eat before moving on to the music portion of the evening and Olio got the nod for their superior sandwiches.
Fancy fast food, so to speak.
My Italian Picnic layered turkey, Granny Smith apple slices, my beloved Tallegio, fig jam and garlic aioli on a crusty baguette and I scarfed it down like I hadn't just had Roy's Big Burger for lunch..
Now that's what the 4th Earl of Sandwich was talking about.
The last stop of the evening was Balliceaux for a Steady Sounds listening party.
Walking in, I saw Marty, one of the owners of my local record shop and the sponsor of tonight's program and PJ the band photographer.
Seeing me, PJ raised his hand to hi-five me. "Yes!" he squealed. "I beat Karen!"
Satisfaction comes where you take it, my friend.
Marty came over and asked, "Want a free raffle ticket for a chance to win a free record?"
Why, yes, I did.
"The Trash Company: Earle Hotel Tapes 1979-1993" was the featured record and it was going to be played on what looked like a '70s record player from somebody's school AV club.
Being played was a brand-new reissue of fourteen years of music made by local musician Max Monroe.
And, no, not a one of us had heard of him before this.
He'd been part of a Jackson Ward funk band called the Trash Company back in the '70s and then left over artistic differences.
What was cool was that he'd spent the next fourteen years recording music in his bedroom at the seedy Earle Hotel and those demos were what we'd come to listen to tonight.
Part funk, part psychedelic, part lo-fi soul, it didn't sound like anything else I could think of.
It wasn't derivative, it was a pastiche obviously made by a talented man with a soulful voice and no musical outlet other than some cheap equipment.
The room began to fill up not long after the record was put on, with my only complaint being that many people were there to socialize rather than listen.
When side one ended, it took a minute for someone to realize and go flip the record over.
I don't have a record player, so I didn't buy a copy although I saw several people do so, a wise move since the initial pressing is already almost sold out.
Go Steady Sounds.
I can't fathom what it must feel like for this musician who continued to create music long after the world had forgotten him to suddenly find himself with a new album.
Probably almost as wonderful as being allowed to live legally with the person you love.
Sometimes you just have to pinch yourself to remember life is real.