Friday, January 29, 2016

Footsteps in the Dark, Parts 1 & 2

Trust me, I can show a visitor from the county a real good time.

Step one: when they call on the way over, advise them to park the car because it won't be needed again until they head back to suburbia.

Step two: invite them up to your apartment to "see your newest pieces of art" (not a euphemism), marvel at the 9' ceilings and remark on the coziness of your bedroom.

Spotting a framed print with broken glass that mysteriously fell off the wall Christmas Eve when the Ghost of Christmas Past blew through, my guest insists on taking it to redo the glass for me. Everyone should have such a generous guest.

Favorite comment: "Your apartment is the antithesis of a suburban house." Oh, you noticed?

Step three: stroll over to Saison Market where the music is set to the Isley Brothers and "For the Love of You" is playing. This thrills me but the staff is debating how wise a choice it is. I assure them that anyone who walks out because of the Isleys is no customer they want and they take my word for it.

We make a meal of mussels in herbed white wine broth accompanied by piles of grilled Billy bread and one of the most artfully presented cheese plates I've seen in a while. Dried apple chips marched down a plate of Meadow Creek Mountaineer, piles of hazelnuts, Gruyere cheese straws, onion marmalade and, most intriguing of all, cider gel, while the cutest white-muzzled beagle stares at us from his perch outside the window facing us.

A couple of the guys from Richmond Comedy Coalition come in, not the first time I've seen them here given their theater's proximity to Saison, and we chat with our mouths full while the Isleys sing "Between the Sheets." Life is good.

A quick trip to the loo and I come back with a new philosophy from bathroom graffiti: Be the person Mr. Rogers thought you could be.

Working on it, every day, in every way.

Step four: backtracking to Steady Sounds to arrive early enough that we have time to browse the offerings at Blue Bones Vintage while upstairs, DJ Troy of Scorpio Brothers is playing his usual stellar soulful mix, somehow playing R & B songs you don't know but are nonetheless familiar.

While I can't be bothered with the racks of jeans or flannel shirts (although the cropped Geoffrey Beene plaid flannel is one for the ages), the dress and coat rack calls to me and before long, I'm trying on a full-length fur coat just for the hell of it.

There's already a section of white dresses, a nod to this year's all white Elby's theme. One very '20s-looking dress has a large portrait collar and a loose silhouette, much like something Zelda Fitzgerald would have worn.

If there's one color I can't wear, don't wear, it's white. Looks awful on me. And as the owner pointed out, it's not exactly slimming for anyone with a real figure. Count me out. As we discussed, a black and white theme a la Truman Capote, would have been far superior.

But there were other gems, one that looked like something a secretary in Manhattan in the '50s might have worn to her low-level publishing job and another that screamed French college student in the '60s, probably worn with knee socks.

Curiosity had me teasing a musician/DJ friend (and known homebody) I hadn't seen in months about his unexpected presence. Turns out today was his first post-snow day back at work and interacting with people had him feeling like a real person again. "So I decided to keep it going by coming out, plus it sounded interesting."

My thought exactly. Author and pop music critic Rashod Ollison's new book, "Soul Serenade: Rhythm, Blues and Coming of Age through Vinyl" had come out just two days ago and as Fountain Bookstore's owner told us, "The books still smell new."

I ask you, what reader doesn't love that new book smell?

Ollison was delightful to listen to and not just because of his Arkansas drawl and self-deprecating humility. He explained that his memoir tells the story of growing up with the soul records left behind by his Vietnam vet father ("A cold Miller in one hand and a Viceroy in the other") after he divorces his mother. "The connective thread in my dysfunctional family was music."

Son, you could have worse connective threads.

Explaining that even as a child, he could predict how things were going between his parents based on what music they were playing - some songs guaranteed a fight but, "Whenever Aretha was on, order was restored" - he went on to read a chapter to us before taking questions.

Needless to say, my date was among those in line to buy the book ("We'll share it") and have it signed while Troy went back to spinning soul.

So far, I was two for two in dazzling my suburban guest.

Step five: sauntering down Broad Street to the Basement, our book discussion gets a real world comparison when my guest shares a childhood anecdote. Seems you could guess how the family's night would go based on what Mom and Dad were drinking - gin meant fighting and probably no dinner, while bourbon made for a mellower night and hopefully dinner by 9.

So, loosely speaking, Aretha = bourbon.

We pass a guy who does a double take when he sees me. "Well, hey there!" he says, clearly surprised. He's one of the regulars I see on my walks but he's never seen me in anything but walking clothes. "You look very nice!" he says with a big smile.

I'm out on the town, don't you know?

We're at TheatreLAB to see "9 Circles," a dark and riveting play about war crimes based on actual events and loosely correlating to Dante's version of Hell. Because it's such a difficult story, it helps immensely that the actors are up to the task of interpreting it.

It's tough not to focus entirely on the very young-looking Tyler Stevens who admirably plays the disturbed and clueless young man sucked into military service when that's the last place he should be. For me, the heartbreaking part about a character such as his is knowing that there's some terrible back story that created this kind of person and it's too late to undo it.

Wrenching as the play is, my guest is bowled over with having seen such impressive theater.

Step six: taking the scenic way home past Quirk, my guest points out that it's not just the terrific food, satisfying soul music, interesting author reading and edgy play that made this night so outstanding, it's also all the walking we've done together (not that they - or anyone except my favorite walking buddy - can walk at my pace).

Aw, shucks, that's nothing but living up to expectations. Mr. Rogers must have thought I could be the kind of person to deliver a good time. I like to think he was right.

1 comment:

  1. Perfectly said! I had a great evening - many thanks for including me on an extraordinary evening that is just commonplace Karen- xxoox

    Sent from inside a large bear...