Friday, October 2, 2015

All Through the Night

She bopped all over town tonight.

I made my first visit to a former tobacco warehouse, joining a small group of shivering art lovers - the Hat, the gallerist, the painter - huddled on a loading dock, awaiting the opening of the massive, ancient-looking door.

We were there to see a performance piece and new art by Eva Rocha entitled "Stitched." For those willing, we were also there to be hand models.

Not my best feature, but happy to oblige.

The warehouse looked exactly like I felt it should look with a wooden ceiling and tall, wooden support posts throughout. Dimly lit for the evening with spotlights on each of the installations, the space emanated with a history and presence I'd never felt in a warehouse.

Because the interior was so huge, there was lots of breathing room between installations, allowing time to process and discuss between viewings, key because the theme was human objectification.

One particularly moving piece showed a wedding dress on a headless mannequin, its long sleeves tied together with heavy ropes behind the dress, tin cans attached to the ropes' ends. It struck me as a metaphor for arranged or forced marriages.

Another showed the frame of a single bed, a bale of female clothing atop it and dozens of men's hats surrounding the floor around it, suggesting a sex worker and the men she serviced.

One installation was a wooden box, inside of which a woman lay on a bed, clad in a head to toe body stocking completely covering her skin and hair.

I didn't realize as I was walking by and she sat up that the performance was beginning.

On one wall hung an array of lingerie and piece by piece, she would pull a pair of panties (or bra, garter belt, bustier) off the hook and put it on, layering until every piece had moved from the wall to her person. She then put on a pink robe and looked like she was going to step out of the box but couldn't.

There was no music and the audience standing to watch her was raptly silent (except for some idiot's cell phone ringing mid-performance), not at all sure where this was going.

Next she systematically removed each piece until she was back to just the body stocking. Taking out a small pair of scissors, she began cutting into the body stocking before taking out a needle threaded with twine and sewing up what she had just cut.

She did this in various areas of the stocking, cut and then repaired,  ending with her mouth and then laying back down on the bed. End of piece.

Afterwards, she invited us to partake of the food at the table, being careful not to insert our bodies over the table and block the view of the overhead camera, which was filming our hands for another project.

Be a hand model and eat party food? Yes, I think I can do that.

And yet, several of us discussed how we suddenly felt self-conscious extending our hands across the table to nab a deviled egg or pick up the components of a ham sandwich, knowing the camera above captured all.

Mingling afterwards, I paused in front of a tableau featuring two white columns and a grouping of vintage mannequin legs, each of which had been adorned with a small fake fur patch to simulate pubic hair in assorted trendy patterns like a heart or "landing strip."

Before long, the Man About Town, the gallerist and I were deep into a heavy conversation about hookup culture and the new cultural norms of pubescent, hairless bodies. The recent Planned Parenthood fracas weighed heavily on us all.

On the other side of the room, I met a charming Brazilian woman and wound up having fine discourse about Richmond and its scene, her tenure here almost identical to mine. Like me, she'd come from a much bigger city and keenly felt the adjustment to a far more provincial one.

I feel certain that now that I know her, I'll run into her everywhere because that's what seems to happen in Richmond. The subset that goes out regularly is a recurring one.

But I'd also enjoyed some of the best conversations I've had of late and there's a certain frisson to being surrounded by new faces and opinionated minds. Don't know me? Ask me my name and I'll tell you.

Since in service to being a hand model I'd eaten plenty, I needed only dessert when I left my first tobacco warehouse.

Garnett's seemed the logical place to stop, a fact proven when I walked into a Cyndi Lauper fest. To make it even finer, the top of the Dutch door in the back of the restaurant was open, allowing  the moist pre-hurricane air in.

Discussion around the counter centered around Cyndi versus Celine Dion (please!) and playing overhead was "All Through the Night," a sterling example of Cyndi's timeless talent. Meanwhile, I got the very last slice of chocolate/chocolate cake.

The Celine challenge was batted down by the server doling out my cake, who proclaimed, "I will argue to the death Cyndi's talent with anyone." Whoa, there, Tiger, as someone who was there when Cyndi first exploded on the scene, I'm a longtime fan. She's still got it.

And, frankly, girls still want to have fun, even at my age and Cyndi's.

At the counter was a girl I know and without hesitation she asked where I was off to next, presuming I had additional plans. When I said I was going to an open mic improve comedy night, her companion perked up.

Seems he's a stand up comedian who often does open mic nights. He starts telling me about an upcoming gig where he'll be doing an all girl comedy night. I pointed out that he was a boy.

The plan is that he and his buddy will dress in drag, and along with a drag queen, take on the roles of the women on "The View," forcing their opinions on anyone brave enough to step up to the open mic. This statement causes the girl with him to roll her eyes.

That old routine, they seem to say. Sounds like big fun to me. I bid the crew farewell and leave for the Coalition Theater and the Lab: Comedy Improv Open Mic night.

The show kicked off with some recent graduates of improv school, broken into three teams named by the audience - the doctors, the haters and the corn dogs.- and put through their paces using some of the improv games (exercises) they use in class, like giving them an acronym and expecting them to riff on it based on their team name.

As a result, the doctors turned "MQ" into matriarchal questionnaire ("We take her stressed out answers and use them to diagnose her"), the haters into mean quails ("We hate 'em but we also hate rambunctious robins") and the corn dogs into mustard quills, which were meant to be inserted into cute mustard nooks when the acronym changed to CMN.

You could definitely see where some of the class members were better at pulling ideas out of thin air and others waited for inspiration from others to respond to.

Next it was pros Jim and Ken, two bathroom workers. One was a novice while the other was a graduate of Sanding Advisory School as well as Urinary Advisory School, with the class ring to prove it, although it got him in trouble when it spouted.

Never were so many laughs created out of #4 and #5 sandpaper.

For pure feminine hilarity, it was tough to beat the Duchess of Brunch duo, two friends who tried to impress each other with the men in their lives and their quantity mimosa drinking. Their audience suggestion was cheese fries

"I'm all about the juice fast," one bragged, snapping her fingers overhead.

Their conversation rang true in passive aggressive girl fashion.

Her #1: You're so smart.
Her #2: Are you saying I'm ugly? Are you saying I have a good personality?

If you can't be pretty, be nice. Isn't that what they used to tell girls?

Jokes about sleeping with a two-sided body pillow with Cory Haim on one side and Corey Hart on the other (btw, no idea who either one is) concluded with a mimosa toast. "Here's to finding the perfect grumpy old man."

Followed by, "Here's to turning that Jack Lemon into lemonade." Flippin' brilliant.

Jim and Vinny came next with "dead things" as inspiration playing two old guys who share lunch every day because their wives are dead and Vinny never learned how to make a sandwich by himself, preferring to mooch half Jim's mayo sandwich and two-pack of Twinkies every day.

Over lunch, they discover they'd each cheated with the other guy's wife, which soon degenerated into male humor.

Him #1: Did you know she wrote "Ode to a Superfluous Scrotum" about me?
Him #2: (resignedly) I figured that out.

The aggressive shoppers team closed out the night riffing on a lazy roommate (spin the chore wheel and clean the toilet!) and the festering sores caused by spending hours in a Barney costume ("Chester rhymes with molester and I feel a real weird vibe coming off you").

I bet the women on "The View" could have a field day with my night, says the first-time hand model.

Also, please pass the lemonade.

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