Sunday, February 2, 2014

To Ancient Evenings and Distant Music

Nothing like starting your day with a good cry.

I hadn't made up my mind about going to see 1995's "The Bridges of Madison County" at Movieland, but when I woke up in time and saw the sunny day outside, it seemed like the ideal way to get myself up and out of the house.

As expected the crowd at the theater was overwhelmingly female: nine women and one guy and she'd supplied him with sliders, a mega-soda and pizza to keep him there.

What was unexpected was the commercial before the film began.

"An hour from now, your movie will have a plot twist. Don't have the worst seat in the house." Cut to stall door with someone sitting on the toilet. "Go before the show."

Thanks, Charmin, for the reminder.

As for the "Bridges," I'd read the book back in the '90s at a friend's insistence, but I'm not sure I ever saw the movie, so I had no idea Meryl Streep's character would be Italian-born.

I did understand how a woman would be charmed by a man who'd gotten off a train in her hometown knowing no one and simply because it looked pretty.

The kind of man who says, "I was just picking you some flowers. Men still do that, don't they?"

If you're very lucky, yes, they do that.

They also slowdance with you to romantic songs by Johnny Hartman, my favorite jazz singer, although I didn't even know who he was back in 1995.

And they tell you things like, "Don't kid yourself, you're anything but a simple woman," because what woman wants to hear that she's simple?

Men like that quote Yeats. "And when white moths were on the wing and moth-like stars were flickering out." And often.

Most importantly, with absolute conviction, they say, "This kind of certainty comes but just once in a lifetime."

So naturally when they end up unable to be together with him standing across the road looking at her for the last time, the tears come. And come.

I'm not sure if I just needed a good cry or if the story just resonated differently now than it had two decades ago, but I was pulled in completely, right down to nose-blowing and mascara running.

Let's just say when I left the theater, I was grateful it was a beautiful day and I had all afternoon to take my walk and get over a sad love story.

After shedding a layer and touching up my mascara, I started south toward the river, passing all kinds of joggers and people in shorts.

As I crossed Brown's Island to get to the pipeline walkway, I crossed my fingers that the pipeline wouldn't be underwater as it had been the last couple of times I'd come down to walk it.

Happily, it wasn't and I took it all the way, amazed at the two dozen nests I spied in the heron rookery across the river, three of them adorned by their impossibly long-necked owners.

After scrambling down to the sandy beach to sit and watch guys fish and kids skip rocks, I headed back up the pipeline, eventually getting behind a slow-moving couple.

Suddenly, the guy turned to me and quipped, "Come here often?"

Sure do, regularly even, I told him, inquiring if he did.

Nope, he was a first-timer brought by the woman he was with.

"Oh, do you live there?" he asked, gesturing at the condo building looming over us.

As if. Nope, I live in Jackson Ward, I said, anticipating exactly the reaction I got.

"How long have you lived there?" he asked. Seven and a half years says I.

"Alone?" he inquired with such incredulity I had to ask where he lived.

No surprise, West End. At this point, he finally introduced himself and his companion, also named Karen.

But he wasn't finished grilling me yet.

"Why'd you move to Jackson Ward?" he needed to know. Let's see, central location, arts district, nearby music venues and restaurants. To avoid homogeneous neighborhoods like the one you probably live in.

Turning the conversation to them, I asked what was next for them after the walk. No surprise there, lunch in Carytown.

"Where would you recommend?" he asked, somehow presuming that I knew something about where to eat.

With my two favorite Carytown brunch locations closed today, one due to fire and one due to the business of corporate sports, I tried steering him to J-Ward instead.

"What about the place on the corner where I had some great shrimp and grits?" he said, eager to show he knew a little something about the 'hood.

Croaker's Spot moved to southside a good five or more years ago, sir. May I suggest Lucy's or Mama J's instead?

By this time, his Karen was glowering at me so I politely excused myself so they could get on with their afternoon.

Oddly enough, Karen did not seem the least bit sorry to see me go.

Coming up the hill from the river, I saw the same bagpipe player I'd seen on Brown's Island last month, only this time he was under a shady tree at 2 Street and Byrd, his bike and backpack at his feet, playing to the hills.

He was kind enough to turn and play uphill as I walked by so I got to hear his music for another block before losing it to the breeze.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands
I will find out where she has gone
And kiss her lips and take her hands

Nothing like ending your afternoon with the sound of bagpipes in your ears and Yeats in your head.

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