Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Light, the Heat

It's 4/20. We know you're hungry!
~ sign outside the Village Cafe

Today is 4/20 (smiley face)
~ sign outside Rumors Boutique

A 420 Carol
~ tonight's show at Comedy Coalition Theater

With all that in mind, it only made sense to start the evening in a split level, just the kind of house where kids probably smoked pot to escape their southside ennui.

The occasion was another Designmonth RVA event, this one at a 1954 house on Riverside Drive that has been renovated from a suburban-looking cliche to what the architects referred to as "West coast modern," which involved re-imagining it by removing the split level and replacing it with an enormous vertical addition, moving the garage to the front and putting a massive garage rooftop patio atop it.

Besides more bedrooms than I can recall, it had a home brewing room (see: drain in center of floor), a closet that ran the length of thee master suite and was wide enough for a couch and gorgeous old azaleas in full bloom crowding the back deck.

One of the Modern Richmond crew referred to Riverside Drive as "Mulholland Drive Richmond" because of its view sheds and distinctly mid-century architecture. Driving out, I saw several houses that supported that theory.

Headed back to the Fan for dinner, I couldn't help but notice how much better at being pedestrians the VCU students are at this point. It's a shame, but by the time we train them in the art of walking around in a city, it's the end of the school year. Pity.

Today's warm yet dry weather meant that the top of the blue Dutch door at Garnett's was open, the screen door keeping bugs on their side of it, but allowing soft evening air to waft in.

The only two seats open in the lively restaurant were at the counter and we took them.

The two women behind us were discussing experiences with men in bars, a couple was enjoying a bottle of Early Mountain Rose as part of the date night deal and a young couple with twin babies was trying to have a meal despite two vocal babies.

When our server took a small hotel pan filled with boiling water to their table, it was to put a baby bottle in it to warm the milk. Impressed with her ingenuity, I complimented her on such cleverness. "Yea, I was pretty proud of that," she grinned. "I used to babysit a lot."

Before we'd even finished our salads, we ordered double chocolate cake and the check because we knew "A 420 Carol" was starting soon. Walking by Gallery 5 to Coalition Theater, the throbbing sounds of a punk show reverberated out while black-clad and deliberately disaffected-looking kids milled about outside smoking cigarettes. It could have been 1982.

Ah, youth.

Using the characters and premise from RCC's recent improvised series "High There" about a guy who inherits a head shop from his stoner Uncle Jim, tonight's special edition focused on owner Jonathan's indifference to the high holy day for potheads while his staff wants to close up and experience Bongzilla, the $11,000 bong that's the shop's centerpiece.

Ho, ho, ho, Merry Spliffness and good luck finding the true meaning of 4/20 and all that.

The staff wants to close the shop and party while he wants a good night's sleep (early morning meeting) while they keep the shop open for the expected 4/20 consumers. Further complicating things is that it's his anniversary and all his wife wants is to celebrate that ("He is a boner, but tonight, he should be my boner").

But, of course, Jonathan's sleep is interrupted repeatedly through the night, beginning with the Bob Marley poster on his wall coming to life as the ghost of Uncle Jim, complete with long multi-colored dreadlocks and lots of beads.

"Every mistake I made, I put a bead in my hair," Marley tells Jonathan. So glad that's not a universal rule.

Poor Jonathan, all he wants to do is sleep - "My mellow is 18 hours of sleep a night. Don't harsh my mellow!" - but all Uncle Jim has done is prepare him for a series of ghost visitors to keep him up.

The ghost of 4/20 past showed him how much fun he used to be, frequently using "Full House" analogies, reminding him of nights capped by a group sing of Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes," while the ghost of 4/20 present, wearing Redskins pajamas and stuffing jalapeno potato chips in his gob, wanted to know why he wasn't celebrating 4/20.

"Because I'm sleepy and I want my store to be profitable tonight?" he asked. In the voice of Moses, host of 4/20 present thundered, "Oh, what have you become?" and proceeded to show poor Jonathan how dull the party was downstairs without him.

An ongoing source of laughter was how none of the ghosts could remember their role, always identifying themselves as the "ghost of Christmas, I mean 4/20 past, present or whatever." Sounds to me like ghosts are freelancers who take whatever jobs they can.

You wear as many hats as you need to to make rent.

Wearing black satin elbow-length opera gloves ("These gloves feel amazing right now" said the first-time satin wearer) and a black shroud, the ghost of 4/20 future points out Jonathan's grave marker and shares that if he doesn't change, his High There shop will wind up becoming a Blimpie's when he's gone.

"Which would be perfect if Blimpie's came back," Future opined, momentarily unconcerned about Jonathan's fate for the sake of a good sub.

Laugh-out-loud improvised moments were constant, including a Matthew Broderick/Godzilla reference even some of the actors didn't get ("Huh?") but was quickly explained. Once Jonathan realizes that he really does have a wonderful life, he tells his girlfriend, "It's our anniversary! Roll me into a blunt and smoke me like one of your French girls."

That was the cue for the staff to toast each other with blunts and begin singing "In Your Eyes" again.

The end, except not really, because the sound guy immediately cues up the real "In Your Eyes" and everyone in the audience went out on a high note, possibly even hungry, definitely not harshed.

And my mellow? Nine hours of sleep a night. Yea, I'm pretty proud of that.

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