Wednesday, October 15, 2014

True Love Seat Testing

Just another evening devoted to love, poetry and anniversaries.

While I'd been off celebrating summer last night, the Virginia Literary Festival had begun without me. Tonight I intended to wave my literary flag.

The rain had finally stopped by the time I left for Carytown, not that I'm complaining about a rainy day. My earlier walk down to the river had required an umbrella, but the temperature had been pleasant enough and I enjoy the unique perspective an umbrella provides: no sky, no rooves, nothing much higher than my chin. It's a very intimate kind of a walk.

But by early evening, only puddles remained as I walked to the Byrd theater for poetry and a film screening that began with buttered popcorn and people watching.

Like the couple who came down the aisle together but then each turned into different rows. From there, each would sit in a different seat, get up and move to another. They each tested out four or five seats a few rows from each other, occasionally exchanging glances.

Finally, she gave him a look and using his long legs to step over the two rows that separated them, he sat down next to her in a seat she'd already tested out for him.

The things some people do for love.

A group of older women came in looking for seats and were put off by how torn up some of them are. "Those seats look like rats have been chewing on them!" one said in disgust.

"I bet they really do," chimed in another. "You know, after it gets dark, they just come in here and tear into the seats." She sounded terrified.

My guess was more prosaic: that after 85 years of people using these seats, they're so threadbare that it doesn't take much touching for the fabric to begin to rip. Get over yourselves, ladies.

After greetings to the crowd of forty or so from the Byrd and the Virginia Literary Festival came the introduction of Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda, Virginia's Poet laureate from 2006-2008.

Explaining that she'd felt a real connection to Frida Kahlo after first seeing her paintings, Foronda began to research Kahlo's life by going to Mexico to see the blue house where she'd lived, the home of Kahlo's husband, muralist Diego Rivera and more of her work.

She said it helped that her husband was a native Spanish speaker and had good street smarts because he was able to talk some of the guards into letting her into rooms not usually open to the public.

All that research into facts became the basis for her book of poetry, "The Embrace," about the artist, her life and her relationship with Rivera.

She read three of the poems, including one called "Blue House," told from the point of view of the house which, she said, "knew more about Frida than anyone else." Another, "Wedding Fiesta" was told from Frida's viewpoint about the day she married the man who'd wooed her by saying, "I was born to love you."

Favorite line: "Long live love."

Then we watched 2002's "Frida" with Salma Hayek taking on the role of the artistic woman with the unibrow and her unfaithful but loving husband.

What was especially interesting for me was seeing Alfred Molina as Diego because I'd just seen him a few weeks ago in "Love is Strange." But in this movie, he superbly captured the complex Diego, a man with a huge artistic ego, a driving political responsibility and utter devotion to Frida and her talent despite dalliances with other women.

The scene where he comes back to see her after they've divorced (and she's had her toes amputated) to ask her to marry him again was incredibly moving. When she demands to know why he's back, he looks at her with those eyes and says simply, "I miss us."

Obviously it worked because she married him again. When he thanks her, she asks him for what.

"For making a fat, old Communist a happy man." Sounds like true love to me.

On the way out of the Byrd, I dropped a donation in the popcorn tub toward those painful seats, said hi to Ward from Chop Suey at the book sale table and headed out into the night.

Next stop: Garnett's to celebrate their fifth anniversary. Where does the time go?

It seems like just a couple of years ago that the little sandwich place opened and found an immediate following. Back when it first opened, they even served coffee in the mornings and I helped out for several months, showing up before 7 a.m. to bake scones and brew coffee for the early morning worker bee crowd.

I quickly discovered how tough it is to go to bed at 2 a.m. and be unlocking the front door at 6:45. Many a morning I rode my bike over there in the early morning light fighting off yawns.

Coffee service didn't last long (so I was off the hook) but Garnett's thankfully has and as a thanks to the public, anyone who came in today and ordered a sandwich got a free dessert.

While I wasn't so much in the mood for dessert after popcorn, I was hungry for a nosh. Walking in, the place was empty except for two beat-looking servers.

"We don't have any cake or pie left!" they warned me as soon as they saw me. I reassured them that I wasn't looking for dessert and ordered chicken salad.

Naturally it had been a crazy busy day with non-stop crowds coming to claim their free desserts, but what they wanted to kvetch about was the customer who'd just called. Earlier he'd called and ordered a Cobb salad and then been late in picking it up.

Once home, he was dissatisfied that the bacon on the salad was cold so he called to register his unhappiness. He wanted to make sure the owner got a full report that his bacon was cold. He whined that he's ordered that salad a dozen times and the bacon had never been cold. He insisted that he'll never be back.

The servers, worn out after a non-stop day, politely took his complaints and apologized. What else could they do?

Finally eating and happy, I reminded them that such a customer was perfectly appropriate on the restaurant's fifth anniversary.

They'd had scads of people in all day long, worked their butts off and heard a lot of really nice things from people who make Garnett's one of their regular hangouts. So what's one bad apple in the scheme of things?

The way I see it, if you make it to five years successfully, you're doing a lot right. Especially in the restaurant business, five years is significant. Impressive, even.

As a wise poet once said on his own fifth anniversary, double or nothing?

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