Praise be for summer-long art series.
I'd been a huge fan of the Anderson Gallery's happy hour series, but with it now closed, needed some long-term summer stimulation (ahem). Just because the students are gone doesn't mean the rest of us don't need our fix. Enter 1708 Gallery's "10 x 10" series where a different artist or community organization takes over the gallery for one week.
Tonight was the opening of "Performing Statistics," more activist statement than anything, making a powerful case for stopping the school to prison pipeline. The project uses Art 180's artists, incarcerated people, legal experts and policy reformers to address the many issues of juvenile justice reform.
The gallery had an artistic feel but its art was facts and figures about how to keep kids in schools not prisons. Facts such as, there are more U.S. citizens with criminal records (70 million) than the entirety of France's population. I don't know how to get my head around that.
Patterned pieces on the floor told stories of children's lives changed by suspensions and incarceration, both a factor of racial profiling and mandatory sentencing. It was sobering to take in.
It was most definitely a community call to action to address the human and financial cost, making for a unique intersection of arts and activism. Because of that, I wasn't in the least surprised to run into the socially conscious artist/musician, the dedicated school teacher with one day left in the school year and one of the firebrands of Art 180.
After I left, brain stimulated and interest piqued, I moved on to Rancho T to meet friends for dinner. Waiting for them to arrive, I heard from the staff that today's 96 degree temperature heat had necessitated putting black tarps over the skylights because the restaurant was baking like a cake in an EZ-Bake oven from their focused warmth.
It was 80 degrees when I arrived and I thought it felt divine, but then, I'd just come from my 94 degree apartment. A glass of Vina Sol Torres was just chilled and apple-y enough to further cool me down while ogling the specials board and pining for tongue, a common affliction of mine.
Once my friends arrived, we had the bar mostly to ourselves and wasted no time in getting them wine and ordering. With strong recommendations from staff, we began with a lemony chilled shrimp and mussel salad, pozole with clams, mussels and corn (and a broth so delectable that two fried tortillas was never going to be enough to sop up its goodness so I used a spoon) and, finally, beef tongue tacos with chile beer salsa.
The kitchen had knocked all three dishes out of the park, and that didn't even include my friend's entree of cobia brought in this morning to be broken down and served tonight.
As part of my ongoing mezcal cocktail research I had a Smokey and the Bandit, a gin and mezcal sour (lemon and lime juice), foamy with egg and enhanced with habanero shrub and bitters, that was a hit with one of my friends as well. Granted, she's never met a gin cocktail she didn't like, but I was behind her 100% on such a perfectly balanced libation.
As we were winding down, the only other occupant at the bar looked over and identified my friend. "I know you from the Triangle," he said smiling and showing deep dimples. When my friend didn't recognize or remember him at once, Dimples took off his hat as if that would help with recognition, showing a great head of hair. "When you knew me, I had a ponytail," he said, pushing fingers through his thick hair.
It quickly became apparent they had barely a degree of separation between them and Dimples was soon reeling off the name of restaurants he's had in this town over the years, including one barely a block away. I swear, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a restaurateur in this town.
"They had to come up with new liquor laws because of me," he said with not a little pride. As I pointed out, there had to be some good stories there. If you haven't got anything nice to say about the restaurant business in this town, please come sit beside me.
He joked about his past excesses - "At least a dozen 14 year olds must have given their lives so I could still be here," he quipped. "I should've been dead 20 years ago."
When he said good night, my friend asked if he was hurrying home to someone. "Nope, I got 2 dogs and 23 employees and that's more than enough," he said before shaking all our hands goodbye. Men who break liquor laws apparently don't need no stinkin' relationships.
For the rest of us, it's a lot more complicated than that.