Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Trouble Finds Me

It's seasonal change time for new people in my life.

Ye gads, I don't mean I switch out friends when Fall inches toward Winter, I mean that people - those new in my life who've yet to know me through cold weather - haven't yet learned to be prepared.

Translation: always dress appropriately for possible hoofing. My date had proper layers on, but decided against bringing his scarf, a move he later regretted on leg three of our evening.

They live and learn or fall by the wayside. I believe that's called survival of the fittest.

After dealing with especially dense traffic traversing the city from Carytown to chez moi (I could empathize after a recent 23-minute trip from Chop Suey home at rush hour), he was more than happy to put foot to pavement en route to the Grace Street Theater for VCU Cinematheque.

Along the way, he was providing an impromptu history lesson about the area, from clubs I'd never heard of to Grace Place, which I had, as well as a hilarious explanation of why he hadn't frequented the Lee Art Theatre for its porn programming.

It's always a lighter than usual crowd at VCU's screening before Thanksgiving and tonight was no different for the 76-minute "River of Grass," director Kelly Reichardt's first film and recently restored to its glorious 1994 brilliance.

Who knew films needed shoring up after only two decades?

The reigning visiting Prof introduced the movie by reading what would have been a fairly compelling paper on Reichardt and the development of her films, but came across as flat yet inquisitive when read aloud because each sentence ended with his voice going up so it sounded like a question.

It's a film that deals with later wave feminist issues?
It's far from a perfect film?
This is a getaway film in the style of Bonnie and Clyde?

Well, it is or it isn't? For god's sake, man, mean what you say and stop sounding so damn tentative.

Two unhappy people - the kind of young mother who puts Coke in her baby's bottle and a n'er-do-well who's finally kicked out of Grandma's house at age 30 - meet in Florida, think they killed someone and take off in his car.

Looking very much like an old school movie, it also delivered a smack upside the head about the role of Fate in our lives, but always with a wink and a sly nod.

There was narration that didn't always match the action ("He told me to stay home while he was on his crime spree," as he goes through his grandmother's underwear drawer). Languid pacing that appealed to seasoned audience members but only a millennial film student could stand. Jazz music and a character who practices that kind of drumming throughout the story.

It's love on the run seen through a post-Coen brothers lens, not to mention wearing its '90s indie heart on its sleeve. Dreadful things happen that seem very funny in the moment. Lotsa deadpan reactions.

Not to be missed is the marvel of watching our lovers smoke a joint by passing it to each other using only their toes. I would doubt this scenario more if I hadn't once been able to open a man's wallet and remove a credit card from it using only my toes.

But enough of that...

After a thoroughly satisfying 76 minutes of sun-drenched Florida seediness, characters born to hopelessness and an ending emphasizing the inevitability of Life, some bracing cold air was just what we needed.

That we had to walk a half a mile to eat may have resulted in a tad more bracing than He Who Shuns Scarves required, but so be it. Inside 821 Cafe, there was a heater practically with my name on it positioned right next to the booth in the front window, so the decision was made.

Our server was new to me, so she was unaware of my standing order, but when the bearded guy delivered my black bean nachos, he nodded, saying, "Oh, of course" when he recognized me. The 821 virgin called his choice of a grilled cheese with turkey and a side of chili a "sick day lunch," but he didn't wolf it down like he was ailing, if you know what I mean.

Besides, sick days always involved ginger ale at my house.

Walking back, I teased him that he'd shown up at my door with a record so I'd invite him up to show off my new (old) turntable again, but he insisted his motives were purer than that. Did I mention his decided sense of humor?

Still, he didn't hesitate to accept my invitation upstairs for a listening party that included his gift: a double album, the National's 2013 "Trouble Will Find Me," and my first vinyl of theirs. Even four sides in, Matt Berninger's voice never sounded so warm.

Just the thing on a cold night involving traipsing all over with a fair weather friend who seems motivated to get the hang of Winter with a walker.

And who, like me, is already counting the days to Winter Solstice. In the meantime, there will be scarves.

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