Monday, May 30, 2016

Unmarried Woman Hero

Like the rest of America, I traveled for the Memorial Day holiday. Unlike most, my journey included Norfolk, Cumberland and Little Saigon.

Besides a tour of a gorgeously restored 1906 house, there were pork chops, presents and birthday cakes in Norfolk, after a hot drive down during which the phrase, "And in celestial news..." was uttered in all seriousness.

Cumberland offered up memories of steak salad at 821 Cafe, a lot of Bryan Ferry and New Jack Swing and poring over guidebooks and maps. Color me bowled over at the unlikeliest of clarifications.

Little Saigon, aka the multi-cultural neighborhood behind Mekong, presented a backyard party with crabs, crawfish and rap playing, the first two out back partially under tents and the latter in the house where homemade chocolate cake with cognac seduced me.

It was at the pickin' table (where I showed no less than three people how to dismember a crab properly) that I got reacquainted with the girlfriend of a rock star, herself a fashionista/hoarder (if that last part is to be believed about defining herself), providing several meandering conversations about the nature of textiles (she was elated when I explained with diagram the different in woven and knit fabrics), astrology (as a Virgo, she explained their perfectionist nature and why she's so hard on herself) and about the variable conditions of earning your "adult badge," a phrase she praised me for.

It was by the enormous wine cooler that I shared a story about the songwriter responsible for "Up, Up and  Away" and "By the Time I Get To Phoenix" that had the guy grinning, saying, "I know those songs, but if half the people here heard them, they'd have no idea what you're talking about."

"I hate talking to young people now because they don't know anything," his wife said. She, on the other hand, was beyond thrilled when I told her Irish actor Richard Harris, a huge favorite of hers apparently, had a pop album, immediately suggesting to her husband that he make a mental note for a future gift.

You don't meet a lot of people who even know who Richard Harris is, much less claim to be devoted fans.

I saw a kid eat his first oyster and a young woman take one, look at it sloshing around in its brine, curl her lip and return it to the table. "I just can't do it," she said.

That's fine, honey, I can do it for you, thank you very much. Slurp.

The councilman challenged our little circle by asking about a movie that changed us. One woman said, "Jaws," although she wasn't entirely certain why.

I hesitated with mine and he asked if I'd ever seen "An Unmarried Woman."

Freaky because that had been the film that had popped into my head when he'd first asked the question, but it's an obscure one that I'd mistakenly assumed no one would know. Not to mention I'd seen it at least half a dozen times at the theater back in the '70s, young and dewy-eyed at its depiction of a liberated woman.

And not just because Alan Bates represented everything sexy and artsy about guys, either.

He said the movie had changed his perception of women. I said it had changed my perception of what was expected of women. The others in the group had never even heard of it.

Explaining how it had transformed the way he treated his wife (taking her off the pedestal and seeing her as a novel for that era), he was agog to hear of my serial viewings and that I had the soundtrack (on vinyl, natch, although probably worn down to a slinky after years of playing repeatedly).

But where I stopped the conversation cold was when a friend announced to general surprise that she wasn't on Facebook. I think the party actually stopped for a few seconds when I trumped her by saying I didn't have a cell phone.

"You are my new hero," the film fan intoned. "But how do you have a life?" Hmm, let's see, without all the interruptions of constant connectivity?

It's pretty great if you like living in the moment.

And in technology news, the classic mini-series "Roots" has been remade for the generations with so little attention span that their characters must be limited to 140 and their life validated by Instagram and Snapchat.

What this means for Roots 2.0 is faster pacing so viewers don't get bored and 30 whippings instead of the ten in the original because we have become so accustomed to violence that whipping a human being on camera for a mere ten times just doesn't resonate anymore.

That is the world that I don't need to be a part of. "You're not ordinary," a fellow language nerd writes.

I know and I've got the badge to prove it.

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