Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Until the Poets Run Out of Rhyme

Despite what a girl thought last night, we do not have a drive-thru.
~sign outside the Village

Infrequent are the days I can start out with gay rights, move seamlessly through Van McCoy to lap steel and wind down watching a blowhard being thrown under the bus.

Tangentially, there was chocolate times two.

My interest was piqued in the Cabell Library's panel discussion on "The Struggle for Recognition of VCU's First Gay Student Group 1974-76" because of the student activist era, with a pinch of historical curiosity since I wasn't in Richmond in the '70s.

Read aloud by multiple people on the panel, the history of VCU's first gay student organization was a study in tenacity when the university's Board of Visitors refused official recognition to the group for fear it would encourage borderline students to become homosexuals.

That's right, VCU was sanctioning prejudice in 1974 (barely a year after homosexuality was removed from the official list of psychiatric disorders, mind you), which may help explain how sodomy wasn't legalized until 2003.

Truly, my mind boggles at the thought that it's only been 13 years.

But props to VCU's Gay Alliance of Students for enlisting the American Civil Liberties Union and fighting it all the way to the U.S. Court of Appeals, even if it did necessitate raising $300 in filing fees.

That's what doughnut sales and fundraisers at the Cha Cha Palace are for, right? Man, the '70s were simpler times.

Maybe it was all the bicentennial bullshit, but in 1976, the court soundly rejected VCU's argument, setting a precedent for gay student groups at colleges across the country.

That history alone would have been worth hearing, but the panel discussion provided four students from that original group, sharing their memories and insights about their historic quest to organize.

The funniest comments came from a panelist who'd been a straight advocate for the group back in the day and she began by saying, "I now know why I'm a gay person" and explaining how it took 8 years to become gay, but, "I'm so grateful."

We've come a long way, baby.

Listening to the radio getting ready to go out, the DJ played a Van McCoy-penned hit that was instantly familiar, but not from the disco era with which I associated his music.

No, 1965's "Baby I'm Yours" sung by a singer named Barbara Lewis was one of those songs you've heard 100 times but never really knew anything about.

But now I know Van was just honing his chops for the tsunami that would be "The Hustle."

Closer to evening, I headed to a favorite pocket park for the music event that relies on community not computers (no social media invitations), only to run into friends galore before the trio began playing under the trees.

Milling about were the dance party king, the international touring musician, the master looper, the passionate teacher, the bagel-maker and the scientist who, in his usual fashion, pulled out a bar of Ritter Sport dark chocolate with whole hazelnuts to offer me some.

You never travel without chocolate, I commented in appreciation. "What would that be like?" he quipped, offering me more.

Lucky me, I've never run into him at an event that he didn't have chocolate at the ready.

Playing al fresco tonight was acoustic guitarist and vocalist Andy Jenkins, sitting atop a picnic table, backed by the incomparable Cameron Ralston on bass and Alan Parker on electric guitar.

"Even in an intimate setting, I'm awful at banter, but I hope everyone is doing well," Andy told the crowd of 60 or so as they sat drinking out of growlers, munching on steamed shrimp and chewing the bones of pizza.

His plaintive songs told stories of being stoned, the Shenandoah Valley and finishing a book, while twice Cameron swapped his electric for an upright bass and once Alan sat cross-legged on the brick to play lap steel (a friend whispered, "Alan's talent is so ridiculous") for a song about a lazy man falling in love again.

And then it was fully dark, the sun having set as we enjoyed the music, and time to go to Camden's for tonight's VEEP debate, only to learn that the presenting sponsor of the debate was Anheuser Busch.

American politics in action, brought to you by cheap beer. Unseemly or not? Discuss.

My favorite honey-dripping southern accent was there with her "Big Daddy" (as she calls her handsome husband of decades) and sufficient smart-assed comments to carry us through the debate while parrying with other political junkies around us.

There was just enough time for supper - a special of seared scallops over wheatberry salad followed by chocolate pate pie - before glasses of Gruner Veltliner were topped off and the Virginian took the stage to sacrifice his own likability for the sake of prosecuting the absent Republican nominee.

It was a dirty job, but someone had to do it tonight.

What was fascinating, at least to this Democrat, was how easily and nonchalantly Pence threw the non-tax paying candidate under the bus, rarely bothering to defend his main man but clearly setting the stage for his own run in four years.

Tim Kaine, don't worry, we know you're a far more measured man than you were able to display tonight and we completely understand why you had to keep interrupting and pushing points about the buffoon who shall not be named.

What I would have liked to have seen, at least once or twice, was his wife Anne's reaction as he was thrust into the role of eviscerating a potato-looking megalomaniac to his self-serving minion. Because I do think she'll be his until 2 and 2 are 3, until the mountain crumbles to the sea.

Tuesday amused me in all kinds of ways.

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