Saturday, September 13, 2014

All Over the Map

It was a well-traveled evening.

Going to the Westhampton to see Woody Allen's latest, "Magic in the Moonlight," got me fabulous views of the south of France: azure blue seas, rose bowers so colorful you could almost smell them and winding tree-lined roadways circa 1928.

From the film's opening strains of Cole Porter's "You Do Something to Me," it announced itself as a Woody Allen movie.

Naturally, the language was delightful ("That young milksop who's smitten with her") and the life lessons spot on ("It's not where you go, it's who you travel with").

The story of a jaded and celebrated magician who sets out to debunk a dewy, so-called psychic was not Allen's best work but I'm not going to complain about looking at Colin Firth for two hours, even if he did play a grumpy, unromantic pragmatist who sees no need to pause and enjoy the pleasures of life.

Well, at least until he meets a sunny optimist with a great smile.

It was the age-old argument of fact versus fantasy, science versus magic and whether it's wise to take some things on faith.

Could it be possible some people are more cosmically in tune and can "see" things most of us can't?

All I know is that I was at a gathering back in the '90s and a psychic was present and when she stopped to talk to me, she took a ring from my hand, closed her eyes and told me things she couldn't possibly have known because no one else in the room knew them.

I'm talking things about a death very close to me and about a particular person who had meant a lot to me and she spouted off both.

So while Colin Firth's character didn't believe some people have a spiritual capability, I do.

Walking out of the theater, I found the sidewalk crawling with pods of young families with kids waiting for the dubious pleasures of eating at The Continental.

Stepping over the smallest ones sprawled on the sidewalk, I escaped back to my world to take my hired mouth out to eat, filling my belly (and taking mental notes) to fortify myself for the rest of the evening's activities.

Reynolds Gallery had two openings tonight: a solo show by Isabel Bigelow and a group show, "Taking Off: Hot, New Painters," of up and coming artists from New York and Chicago.

Moments after walking in, an artist I'd interviewed last year approached me to say hello, followed by a history and art buff I inevitably see at cultural happenings.

The kind of person who's trying to choose between going to an air show or a historical re-enactment. A nerd like me, in other words.

The perception of art openings as dull, dry affairs is a myth; they're highly social evenings fueled by wine and conversation.

But also art.

Bigelow's paintings were gorgeous images of nature in isolation, say a branch or a slice of river, rendered in a limited number of colors.

What the hot, new crew painters had in common was that they were all reworking abstraction in their own ways.

If I had pockets deep enough, I'd have shelled out for Nicole Mauser's "Untitled," a gorgeous piece of color abstraction. But alas, my pockets are so shallow they're almost concave, so I left with just memories of the big cities and the art they spawn.

It was time for music.

Sure, I'd been at Balliceaux just last night but that was for rock and tonight they were presenting world music from eastern Europe with a dash of folk and jazz fronted by Zeb Bangash, a Pakistani singer, and Michael Winograd, a virtuoso clarinet player.

Who stays home on a Friday night and misses that?

Waiting for the doors to open, one of the bartenders walked by raising an eyebrow at me. "Two nights in a row, Karen?"

Shortly after, a saxophonist friend appeared, smiling and saying, "I thought I'd see you here."

I gave him major points for being there since he has to be on the road to Charlottesville at the crack of dawn tomorrow to play from 9 in the morning until noon.

Because the band didn't  start until after 11, we had plenty of time to chat about our dedication to endurance training (his running, my walking), the perks of the freelance lifestyle (he teaches music lessons) and the unique charms of what he called "suburban dive bars" such as Sharky's (been there, done that) and Daddio's.

When Sandaraa finally took the stage, we were looking at a singer, violinist and bassist (all female), guitarist, accordionist, drummer and clarinetist, making for a sonic pallet able to bridge rock, Balkan, Afghani, Klezmer and NYC, where the group is now based.

The music soon had two couples at one of the booths dancing tavern-style in the booth, hands clasped with each other and over their heads.

That was just the beginning and before long one couple, then two, then three took to the dance floor to move to the decidedly eastern- sounding music.

If some of their dance moves looked a lot like Deadhead dancers, well, so be it.

Each song seemed to bridge multiple genres, always with Zeb's exotic-sounding voice pulling it all together, and often taking off on accordion and clarinet tangents.

The crowd wasn't large (no doubt the $10 price tag kept all the pretty people out, actually a good thing since they usually gab through shows), but it was quality, with everyone obviously there for the music, too often a rarity.

I started in the back of the room but eventually moved up front to better see the band, putting myself squarely in dancing territory.

Might be the first time I ever moved to a Pakistani singer.

Of course I'd be here.