Monday, November 16, 2015

Promise of Change

Sometimes the big questions rear their heads and the right answer isn't immediately obvious.

Or, it is perfectly clear, but no one's quite brave enough to deal with it yet, a situation better suited to a procrastinator than the efficient sort. For the record, I'm not a procrastinator.

Without hesitation, I did go to the second installment of Battery Park Stories to hear reminiscing from long-time residents about the neighborhood. One recalled his childhood in Battery Park as akin to "The Wizard of Oz" after Dorothy got to Oz and everything was technicolor. Apparently the birds were chirping and the sky was sunny every day in Battery Park in the '60s.

Another recalled how back in the '80s, he couldn't get a pizza, much less a sub, delivered to his house, a sorry fact that is no longer the case.

Connections were made. A man on the panel spotted a woman in the audience and said, "When did you grow up? I haven't seen you in 40 years!" It was kind of charming.

One woman told a fascinating tale of her siblings and their vastly different school experiences. The oldest two went from kindergarten to graduation with the same  bunch of neighborhood kids.

One of her sisters wound up being bussed, a circumstance that required her friend's grandfather to walk them across Brookland Park Parkway for safety. The woman on the panel had yet another experience. She'd been bussed to an integrated school where she found the shock to be not kids of another race, but kids of another (shocking!) neighborhood.

The most poignant moment came when discussing changes in the 'hood. One man said intellectually he loved the diversity, the additional businesses, the feeling of living in a TV show, but emotionally, he had to acknowledge that it was no longer the neighborhood where he spent his childhood.

He's still trying to adjust to the joggers and free libraries. "In ten years, will I even recognize it?" he mused aloud. "Will I be a minority in my own neighborhood, the place where I grew up?"

Another woman pointed to the post-Gaston period when neighbors pulled together and race was of no importance. She got choked up talking about it and people in the audience nodded their heads in agreement.

Everyone seemed to agree that we can all get along.

Rather than stay for the potluck, I moved on to dinner at Rancho T, which was so low key as to be almost dead tonight.

That said, we had a lovely meal of short rib pupasas, roasted beet salad, tacos (both rockfish and beef tongue) and chocolate ancho cake, with a bottle of Gruet Brut and the most fabulous '70s soundtrack of the likes of Chic, Earth, Wind & Fire and Jean Knight to accompany it.

I love how great music adds so much to the dining experience. Just as cool is that space, where I once spent so many nights watching bands when it was Sprout, and now still echoing with music I want to hear.

Leaving my date's wheels at Rancho T, we walked in the chilly night air to Balliceaux for music to finish out the evening. Luray was playing and all I'd ever heard live of them had been a few minutes as their set ended. Unacceptable.

Lots of familiar faces crowded the room, including Luray's bassist, just back from a mini-tour and singing the praises of the Philly audience, as respectful as a Listening Room setting, he said, while NYC's crowd had cut out after the opener. Their loss.

First up tonight was Andy C. Jenkins and the New Blood, the blood consisting of Cameron Ralston on bass, Pinson Chanselle on drums and Alan Parker on guitar (and, oh, that lap steel!), with Andy singing lead. Things got very earnest with a solid rhythm section behind and Alan producing terrific noodling or what my date referred to as "tasty licks."

For the next-to-last song, Andy invited local star Matt White to join him onstage for a song they co-wrote, a real treat for the crowd, especially those of us who'd missed his Friday show at the Broadberry.

And speaking of treats, finally seeing and hearing Luray's full set was rewarding on several levels because lead singer Shannon's voice was gorgeous and the trio behind her - Scott Burton's cinematic stylings on guitar, Brian Cruse's steady bass lines and CJ's interesting drums and percussion - took her banjo playing firmly into indie territory while her beautiful voice beckoned us along for the ride.

As a friend so succinctly put it, "Least BS I have heard from  a young band with a banjo in forever." We should know given all the young band banjo we've heard together over the past six years.

Practically every song started out sounding like the scene was being set for a movie, before seguing into a definitive shape, her appealing vocals weaving a sonic tapestry with the three talented musicians around her.

It took me far too long to see these guys and not because I'm a procrastinator. I do, however, think long and hard about the big questions.

I'm not getting any younger, you know?

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