Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A Single Sizzling Rivulet

Between today's discovery of the rape of Chapel Island and tomorrow's possible doomsday scenario, it only seemed prudent to plan a low-key evening.

What could be less demanding than a poetry reading and what could be more intriguing than the bookstore owner describing the poet as "William Blake in cowboy boots"?

Yes, please, give me a modern Romantic reading poetry on election eve. It certainly can't hurt.

With a one-time poet in tow, we headed to Fountain Books to settle into wooden church chairs to hear John Alspaugh read and ruminate on the writing life.

Before he got started, he explained why the evening would no longer be the multi-media experience it had been planned to be: the Kentucky musician who was going to play the sax on the street in front of the store while he read was unable to attend.

And while I mourned the loss of poetry set to saxophone, life goes on.

Alspaugh talked about rewriting a published poem and how sometimes it becomes necessary to just say goodbye to a poem and stop belaboring it. "Some poems won't leave me alone," he said about why he kept revising them.

First he explained the bible story of Salome for the benefit of the heathens in the room (not just me), then when he finished reading his poem, "Salome," or at least, tonight's version of it, he offered to autograph the ephemeral version. "I'll mail it to you with a stamp!" he promised with old school panache.

As he noted, there are people who have never mailed a letter to anyone in their lifetime. Talk about tragic.

Explaining that he now uses poems as part of his prose writing, he read the beginning of "Burning Man," with its references to being "entombed by clouds," followed by "Harmonies of an Echo," written while living in LA and alluding to "the lowing of distant trains."

I'll be honest, it's for entombment and lowing that I go to poetry readings in the first place.

Rather than stay and sip wine with the poet and audience members, we cut out after the reading. Since Laura Lee's had decided to make tonight the first Monday night they were open, we decided to show our support of another Monday eatery, always a good thing.

The bearded host greeted me with his usual bear hug, welcomed us in and led us to the last two bar stools while the Police played overhead on the sound system. I call Laura Lee's my kind of restaurant because the music is always set at just the right volume at the bar to have a deliberate presence.

Save me from wimpy volume music, now and forever, oh, primitive radio gods.

The wine was Sicilian (although labeled a product of Italy and you know the Sicilians hate that), the grape - Grillo - new to me and our starter a special of grilled baby octopus.

I followed that with the loveliest melange of crab meat, leeks and country ham with a green tomato relish over a Wade's Mill yellow corn cake, proving yet again that the Virginia trifecta of ham, crab and corn is one for the ages.

By then the music had switched to soul revivalists Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings singing about learning the hard way (join the club, honey) and I'd been greeted by a woman I'd met yesterday at the Bijou for the first time.

It was while I was working on a flourless chocolate cake with white chocolate mint that our genial host brought over wine for us to taste from a customer who'd not only raved about it but brought him a bottle to try: Rockbridge "Jeremiah" Rose.

Friends know I'm a fan of Virginia wine (my "Virginia is for wine lovers" t-shirt from the Roosevelt gets me compliments every time I wear it) and I've enjoyed the Rockbridge Cab Franc, but something about the bright green frog on the bottle gave us all pause.

I wasn't the first to pick out the flavor of Concord grapes (few are faster on the grape draw than the former poet), nor was I the first to wince at the foxy nose or cloying taste, but it was a group effort when it came to mocking the "mighty fine wine" of Jeremiah's namesake bullfrog.

Bet it's popular with the locals in Rockbridge County, though and isn't that what matters?

Well, sure, that and the country as we know it could end tomorrow. For multiple reasons, this optimist has her fingers crossed.

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