Sunday, November 15, 2015

Don't Believe What You Read

Vagabond was not to be tonight.

Oh, it was our intention to have dinner there before the symphony, but Holmes and Beloved had barely picked me up when Holmes realized that he'd left one of the symphony tickets at home, so back we went.

Finally parked and making our way up hill, we decided to detour into Greenleaf's since neither of them had been and I'm rather fond of the pool hall as a dining destination. Beloved's Negronis were testament to the skill of the talented new barman and she happily noted that Greenleaf's vibe and look felt more like being in NYC than RVA.

After deviled eggs - smoky classic style and picnic style with fried chicken skin on top - and bar toast - a scrumptious layering of Chorizo, chimichurra and goat cheese with caramelized onions - we all chose sandwiches for dinner.

High points went to all three, although neither the patty melt nor tuna melt were served as open-faced sandwiches for some inexplicable reason. The artisan bread supporting them was superb, though, with a companion noting, "I like my bread with some resistance." Men and bread, me, too.

And the grilled cheese and chunky tomato soup combo were out of this world, grown-up even, with Gruyere and aged Provolone adding depth and complexity to what is usually a simple, straight-forward sandwich.

I ran into a friend on my way to the loo and we paused to dissect InLight, which we both felt had been compressed into too small a space at the VMFA this year. We agreed that the experience was diminished by the necessity of herding visitors in a way that allowed no time for lingering and truly experiencing any of the installations, not the case in past years.

At least I knew I wasn't alone in my take on the evening.

From there, our trio strolled one block to CenterStage to join the throngs of white hairs and blue hairs slowly making their way inside.

Tonight's program was Sibelius and Liszt and the first selection, "The Swan of Tuonela" was dedicated to the victims and their families in Paris. "We stand in tribute," conductor Steven Smith said of the piece that featured Shawn Welk blowing a beautiful English horn.

As the grand piano was being maneuvered onstage for Liszt's "Concerto No. 2," Holmes sniffed and observed, "Aww, now we can't see the violas." I teased him because for him, a viola player, it's always all about the violas. But even he had to acknowledge, "But we can see the pianist's hands. We have good seats for that!"

Pianist Orion Weiss' hands put on a fine show, although the guy behind me tapping his foot against the back of my chair was maddening. Fortunately, that was followed by Sibelius's "Symphony No. 2 in D Major," a piece that was alternately ho-hum and positively rousing but elicited no foot thumping.

As Beloved noted afterwards, "Once I heard it change to a major, I knew we were coming to the end." I don't say things like that because I don't hear such things.

Because it was still ridiculously early, we took the party back to Holmes' man cave for record-listening with both Hillinger and Corail Rose, despite Holmes' complaints about being a bit tired after a too-raucous Friday night.

We headed straight back to my youth when he began with Squeeze's "East Side Story," in all its New Wave glory and multiple influenced sounds. I'd forgotten how Stray Cats-like they could be at times.

You have to understand the set-up to see the humor in the next story. Holmes is stationed behind the bar, next to the hi-fi, while Beloved and I perch on bar stools directly across the bar. He has full access to his record collection under the bar, which we can't even see, and pulls treat after treat out.

At one point, pulling out a record resulted in another dropping to the floor. "Oh, Streisand fell on the floor," he said and went back to putting Squeeze away. He had no intention of looking for the errant chick record.

Well, the cold hard fact is you're not going to mention Streisand - an album that undoubtedly came from his deceased wife's collection, not his - to two women of a certain age (see: Beloved and me) and not expect them to want to hear it.

Holmes acquiesced, I think because of the huge array of musical talent on the album.

Or maybe because he was tired, but he put on 1977's "Streisand Superman" while we discussed the array of song composers on it - everyone from Paul Williams to Kim Carnes to Roger Miller to Mr. Pina Colada song himself, Rupert Holmes.

Probably the best known song on it was Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind," a classic best sung by a New Yorker a la Streisand.

But for me, that album had been more about a woman's statement of self. Songs such as "Cabin Fever" repudiated the stereotypical housewife role while "Lullaby for Myself" sang the praises of the single life, at least right up until the very end.

Walked the night and drank the moon
Got home at half past four
And I knew that no one marked my time
As I unlocked my door...

Sure, it doesn't sound all that anthemic in 2015, but in 1977, it was enough to make a woman sit up and take notice. Don't forget, that was the same era as films such as "An Unmarried Woman" and young females I knew were taking the message to heart. Sort of.

Time to spare and time to share
And grateful I would be 
If just one damn man
Would share the need
To be alone with me...

I give Holmes high marks because he not only tolerated "Superman" but also located "The Way We Were," a soundtrack album notable not so much for the treacly theme song as for a robust discussion of the 1940s and the vintage music on the record, stuff like "In The Mood" and "Red Sails in the Sunset."

Which is right about where we sailed, but not until many hours after we'd left the dock. Not that it mattered. I knew that no one marked my time as I unlocked my door.

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