Wednesday, November 11, 2015

How Long is Too Long?

The thing about getting older is you realize there are no answers, only stories. Tonight brought me some really excellent storytellers.

Let's start with L. Doug Wilder, who was talking at the Library of Virginia tonight about his memoir, "Son of Virginia: Life in America's Political Arena."

The man is 84, was a state senator for 16 years, made Lieutenant Governor in 1985 and became the country's first black governor in 1989. Oh, right, and the first popularly-elected Richmond mayor in 60 years.

Naturally, he had some mighty fine stories with a history like that. Or as the RTD newsman who introduced him put it, "He's been good copy for 40 years."

From stories of his stint in the military in Korea ("My first experience being, eating and sleeping with whites, sharing the same experiences") to being appointed to the NAACP council by Thurgood Marshall ("We met at Slaughter's Hotel, where everyone met") to politics being the last thing he wanted to get involved in ("But I kept running my mouth"), he regaled us in his distinctive cadence, his voice rising and falling with inflection.

He bragged a little about his law firm being the first - black or white - in Church Hill and his back roads barnstorming campaign in which he never stayed in a hotel, only with voters ("I carried southwest Virginia, can you imagine? Show me a Democrat now who can carry southwest Virginia!").

Yes, he recalled chasing a young Arthur Ashe off the tennis courts, but he also was responsible for Ashe's body lying in state ("The last person to lie in state was Stonewall Jackson!") and 5,000 people coming to pay their respects. Well done, sir.

When asked Hillary ("She needs to be innovative and show that things won't be business as usual") or Bernie ("He's going to have a difficult time explaining socialism to a country that still fears it"), he was diplomatic, making the point that when you have a new poll come out every day, something is drastically wrong.

The fact is, he was unfailingly lively, funny and completely at ease, whether sharing anecdotes from his colorful past or taking the audience's questions. The combative Wilder of old was nowhere in evidence and the stories were pure gold.

Hate on him as a politician all you want, but as an octogenarian, the guy had spunk and a terrific memory.

Walking out, I ran into my favorite city councilman and former neighbor and his first question was about where I was off to.

That was easy: to meet a visiting septuagenarian, her former roommate (aka Pru's delightful mother) and a favorite couple at Amour for dinner.

Starting with a fun wine - a sparkling gamay called "G," fruity on the front and dry on the finish - and humor - "It'll hit the spot" - I took a seat across from the visitor from Mexico, eager to get to know the woman I'd heard so much about. The first things I learn are that she's a chef and rents part of her house on Airbnb, leaving her plenty of time to enjoy life.

Over the four hours we spend eating and drinking, one thing became obvious to us all: this tiny woman and I were cut from the same cloth. Showing me pictures of her house, I see a bedroom with violet and fuchsia walls, an orange coverlet and art everywhere. I could move in tomorrow and not change a thing.

But here's the clincher: when someone brought up that I'm a Luddite, I admitted to not having a cell phone. Her eyes lit up. "So? I don't have one either!" Beau, sitting across from me, rolled his eyes. "The two people on the planet who don't have a cell phone, right here at this table."

Lucky man. He had our undivided attention.

Bottles of beautifully crisp J. Fritsch Riesling accompany a cheese plate, a charcuterie plate, onion tarts, onion soup and two vegetarian plates while the visitor enjoys flounder and ratatouille and tells me about nursing one of the members of the New Riders of the Purple Sage.

We have an especially good time talking about how she likes to unwind and the product she's developing, which involves personal lubrication, among other things. When the subject of 15-minute orgasms comes up, everyone around the table is quick to clarify that 15 minutes is too long.

"Oh, no, it's not!" this feisty woman insists and I feel sure she knows of what she speaks.

Sure of what she wants and what she wants to know, she doesn't hesitate to ask questions ("Do you know when this fish was caught?") and impart opinions about the food ("This gelato needs salt. Just a little to brighten it up") to the owner.

Meanwhile, she regales us with tales of the recent Day of the Dead celebration just before she left Mexico, how much she was enjoying the Boathouse's oysters at lunch today and her hope to be green-lit on her flight back so her luggage doesn't get checked. She wants to return with a lot of, er, souvenirs.

When the subject of her gardener comes up, Pru interjects about how the man ogled her in the shower from above on one of her visits, causing jokes to fly. Better to be ogled than not, yes?

She pays me what is probably the best possible compliment, not because she says that I'm lovely, but because she also observes that I am completely present in the moment.

And why not? I may not get ogled from above, but there always seems to be something interesting going on right in front of me. Maybe that's the luck of getting older.

No comments:

Post a Comment