Friday, October 7, 2016

Without Words

I know all of you wanted it, but I'm hating it already.

Fall, that is.

It hadn't even crawled into the '60s when I walked late this morning, not to mention that walking west meant walking into the wind, and, well, the humidity? So low as to make it feel even colder.

I just hope all you "Fall-is-fabulous" people are happy now because I'm already sweater and socks chilly.

Sure, I could start closing windows in my apartment, but I refuse to this early. Besides, I know Hurricane Matthew 's effects are going to be felt soon, so I'm hanging on with only screens separating me from the potentially soggy and humid beach weather on the horizon.

But when Mac and I walked to Saison Market for dinner and the Perfect Unpop happy hour, I was layered with a tank top under my dress and a sweater over it.

Positively tragic for October 6th.

After ordering food, I chose a Squirt soda (Mexican, so sugar not corn syrup) in a green glass bottle from the case out of sheer curiosity.

Squirt didn't seem familiar, but it also didn't seem completely unknown and one swig of the citrus-flavored drink did bring back tastes of various green bottled sodas of my youth.

Like the last time I was in the market, a fair amount of time was given over to the wall, where a riveting school map of Virginia with smaller maps - annual rainfall, number of freezes, settlement, population - surrounding it caused endless study and discussion.

Mac, ever the Orange County expert, explained why the foothills tended to be colder (because dolts like me don't automatically figure such things out), how big Orange used to be (hello, Kentucky) and where the Spottswood Trail was (proving again how informative maps are as visual aids).

Everything about our meal was stellar, from an earthy root vegetable salad of beets and carrots with bleu cheese, walnuts, frisee and chives in a shallot vinaigrette (a dish that inadvertently reminded me that, unlike its weather, I don't hate Fall vegetables) to pitch perfect (meaning not overly sweet) cast iron cornbread studded with peppers to killer chicken wings with a dry rub of Sechuan peppers that left both my lips and fingers all tingly.

Which was kind of true of my ears as well because everything about DJ Kenny's music was just as outstanding, as he played song after song that spoke to various times in my life whether I'd heard them before or not.

As I told his gorgeous partner, I can see why she fell for a man of his superior musical taste and selection skills.

I'd have happily stayed and listened to such fine music until we left for the play, but Mac desired a cocktail and Saison's new Fall cocktail menu wasn't going to drink itself.

That we had to move from the market to the restaurant to obtain for her the tequila and mezcal-based Rose Colored Glasses cocktail (notable for its smokey grace notes between agave and citrus) meant we lost a DJ-curated experience, but at least I ran into a favorite neighborhood couple for widely varying conversations.

With the social butterfly I talked about the great music on tap next door and why he needed to get over there.

With the homebody, the topic was the VCU lecture on the early gay student group and how the millennials in the audience had reacted to the subject (hint: without a clue).

Here's a  tip, kids: you can't apply a 21st century prism to events of the '70s. There, I've said it.

Because the universe can, that conversation turned out to be a natural lead-in to our next stop at Richmond Triangle Players for "Perfect Arrangement," a play that was as much a cultural history lesson as theatrical experience.

Further coincidentally, our seats were next to those of yet another favorite Jackson Ward couple and with them we talked neighborhood tenure (their 17 beat my 10), our community garden and upcoming neighborhood cleanup.

At its most basic, "Perfect Arrangement" told the story of two State department employees in 1950 when the department (and Joe McCarthy) was on a witch hunt for communists (Red Scare), followed by one for perverts and deviants (Lavender Scare), along with any loose women and persons of general turpitude.

That's a lot of people to round up, you know?

Being set in 1950 meant all the usual period details: shirtwaist dresses, crinolines, hats and gloves, but also foodstuffs ("You know I adore potted meat," which everyone finds hilarious including those of us who really do adore potted meat) and love of lard.

The set's living room was painted the exact same shade of pink as my own, not that I believe for a second that anyone painted their living rooms pink in 1950.

Okay, maybe two gay couples, one male, one female, married to the opposite sex for propriety's sake but really each living in closeted same sex relationships might have, but no one else.

Presumptions about gay men - that they read movie magazines and go to the opera - abounded, as did references to the play's Georgetown setting (Wisconsin Avenue for shopping, U Street for a butcher) and arcane mid-century phrasing ("We caught a lark" about deciding to do something on a whim).

Generalizations about women by men - even gay ones- stung ("Give a woman responsibility and her emotions are bound to pop up") while comments about women by women - even gay ones - resonated.

Explaining how impressed she was with targeted "loose woman" Barbara's self acceptance and attitude, Millie shares her reasoning. "That woman told me her age! Who does that?"

Who? A woman tired of deception about her life and sexuality and finally motivated to be honest about it so the shame can stop, or at least lessen to the degree it could have in 1950.

Let's not forget that's barely 30 years after women got the vote and 53 years before sodomy laws came off the books. It's hard to fathom now how prehistoric a time it really was.

One of the most poignant moments of many was a scene where one of the lesbians explained to her partner that she'd give up all the material comforts of her sham marriage just to be able to display pictures of her with her female partner.

Strikingly, even the gay men didn't understand that desire.

Jennifer Frank chewed scenery as Barbara, the loose woman and subject of State Department scrutiny, who let go with one of the finest truisms of the night.

"Regardless of the gender, good sex is hard to find and always worth fighting for." Amen and pass the cornbread.

When the play ended, the guy in front of me announced, "That's the best play I've seen in years." Next to me, my neighbor looked stunned, saying only, "Wow, that was really something." Mac concurred. "Man, that was good!"

Yet again, Richmond Triangle Players ably demonstated that if they didn't do it, who would?

"Perfect Arrangement's" strength was in shedding light on the dilemma of gay people during a deeply closeted period when every American was expected to follow the straight and narrow and some chose instead to stand up for their hearts.

Me, I was just thrilled that when we left the theater, it was noticeably warmer and more humid than when we'd come in or even when I'd walked this morning. Is it too much to be thrilled that this storm will bring a short reprieve from Fall?

My favorite lesbian wrote me today, firmly instructing, "No ripping for you at the beach this weekend, ok? Stay out of Matthew's sights and be safe."

To the surprise of no one who knows me, I intend  to revel in his warmth and wetness.

I know, I know. Who does that?

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