Friday, October 30, 2015

Fate Up Against Your Will

Because some days, you want to feel as if you're a ball pinging from one side of a pinball machine to the other.

Driving to Urbanna on a gloriously sunny, warm day meant that I got to see an original 1754 map of the then-colonies, impressive enough, but mind-blowing when I hear that it's valued at $550,000.

Of course I touch it, not that my hands make any contact through the museum quality glass.

Attending the opening of "Design 2015: A Retrospective of Winning Work" at the Branch Museum ensured that I saw the very best of design and restoration projects in the middle Atlantic over the past year.

Because I'm the kind of architectural geek who doesn't even use her two drink tickets at the opening.

My favorite honorees are places I know, such as the gorgeous new waterfront Research and Education building in Wanchese, N.C. Its best side is the one that faces the water and I intend to see it next summer.

Or Seaside Hall in Wachapreague, Virginia, built by VIMS for William & Mary. The brilliant use of the local architectural style - wood-framed, on stilts, a fabulous long, screened porch - ensures that it fits in from the day it was completed. Next trip to the Eastern Shore, it's a must-see.

Even the VCU Depot took honors, with the judges noting that, "Removing dreadful 1970s aluminum facade...was a gift to the city." As a walker, I agree, but mainly I was glad I'd finally been in the Depot for the first time last week for a frame of reference.

And, of course, Citizen 6, the six modern townhouses built on Floyd Avenue were honored for keeping the scale, mission and relationship to the street that nearby houses have, but without trying to do faux historic.

As one who made my home on that street for 13 years, I can assure you we tolerate no faux on Floyd.

Walking around looking at the winners, I overheard a visiting architect tell another that his wife had been busy going to see historic buildings around town, in Williamsburg and Charlottesville since they arrived. The other man nodded knowingly.

"There's basically more history here than anywhere," he said knowingly. Hopefully he meant in this country.

Having dinner on Supper's patio for the first time was not only an unexpected delight but also meant a long conversation with my favorite summer friend and lots of catching up.

Estrogen was rampant, as evidenced by our extremely feminine ordering: wine, salads with protein and an enormous chocolate dessert dubbed the southern hot mess, which, incidentally, was dusted with shaved candied bacon.

Cliched or not, as she put it, they probably knew our order the minute we walked in.

I will say the patio had a lot of charm. Old doors, hanging wooden flower boxes, a vintage wash sink in a stand planted with trailing vines, a fountain with coins in the water and generous tables with umbrellas all contributed to a place conducive to lingering, especially on such a balmy late October night.

Even if it hadn't, we would have because it had been a couple of months and we both had lots to share. Joaquin pictures and stories, Cinebistro memories, what we wish we could have told our 25-year old selves, you know, the usual.

Best story gleaned? That in trying to figure out life and love, she'd written a memoir (I was terribly impressed) to sort out her experiences and where she wanted to go, which turned out to be straight back into the arms of the man she'd already tried a relationship with once.

Moral: writing works. And seeing my girl crush always makes me happy.

Beginning my Halloweek festivities meant walking over to the Comedy Coalition for the start of their annual Nightmare on Broad Street because this heathen has no other time to celebrate the Christianized feast influenced by Celtic harvest festivals with possible pagan roots.

Tonight's offering was irresistible: Vincent Price's Late Night Horror Hotline, made even better because the fun kicked off with Echo and the Bunnymen's "Killing Moon" playing to a practically full house.

Horror icon and dead person Vincent Price (okay, an imitator, but one with a mustache, burnt orange ascot and smarmy delivery) was our host for an evening of things we wouldn't be able to unsee.

There were monsters of stand-up, with Teen Wolf complaining about the unreal standards of werewolf beauty set by things like "Twilight" and "True Blood." The Mummy complained because his parents never sacrificed any of his sisters and you know how annoying sisters can be (oh, don't I?).

Freddy Kreuger said he might vote for Ben Carson because he "speaks to me as a fellow sociopath," while Frankenstein had Vincent's favorite line of the night when he said, "Bitches be lobbing" about cutting off a hand.

An improvised sketch called "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" played on every slasher movie cliche - campers and campfires, terrifying sounds, woods - but also millennial malaise - "I haven't been affected by this so I don't know if I care to get involved," one camper tells another.

But its beauty was that the campers were being terrified by "pioneer spirits" and the only way to kill them was by reading from a history book. Historical facts flew and they wilted like the bad witch with water thrown on her.

"We all came together to fight this through the power of history!" one camper exclaimed. "Give me liberty or give me death," another chimed in.

Meanwhile, the audience was rolling on the floor laughing.

Our Vincent Price came out and said, "Patriotism is the truest exorcism. Go Trump! Make America great again!"

In between acts, he also took hotline calls from high school bullies, lonely women and indignant viewers upset because "Mad About You" had been replaced with his show ("I was angry when I called but that pun was delightful!").

"The Paranormal Sisters from Kalamazoo" featured Claire and her sister Silence, both of whom had been struck by lightening. Claire ended up with a southern accent and Silence was rendered, well, you know, but now she could channel spirits.

Using audience members, they conjured Tim's Uncle Barry (sounding very New York), Robert's dog Blue who'd died of cancer ("Claire: "What, your parents were too cheap to pay for chemo?") and Albert Einstein, who was asked what he thought of Google ("Why use Google when you can use your brain?).

Vincent came out after that, trembling. "Ooh, I'm "E" equals MC scared!"

But the absolute funniest sketch was the Match Game with the late Senator Ted Kennedy as the red-faced, cranky, drunken host who arrived late ("I had some car trouble, let's put it that way"), insulted/hit on contestants and ridiculed the panel mercilessly.

Even the Match Game music didn't escape his ire ("Stop that shitty music now!" every time it started playing).

The panel was too good to be true: pregnant Michelle Duggar, Glen Danzig, Carrie, Keith Richards, Lena Dunham and Roseanne Rosanna Danna.

Sample round: The rumor is all over the circus. The bearded lady is going to marry _____.

Michelle Duggar: The man her father chose for her. Danzig: the hounds of hell. Keith: the guy who  picks up the elephant shit. Lena: I had a beard in college, so I put another bearded lady.

You get the idea.

Or, Frank was such a good salesman, he sold a NuvaRing to ______. Michelle: me.

I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard for nearly two hours straight.

By the time Vincent Price bade us farewell, I had no memory of Urbanna, limited recall of architecture and only a passing idea of dinner conversation with my crush.

Just call me a pinball wizard tonight.

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