Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Bright, Willful, Curious Woman

Mining the record collection of my youth continues to be absolutely fascinating.

Apparently a young woman couldn't have too much Joan Armatrading, or maybe that was just me, while "Wings Over America" doesn't hold up nearly as well as I'd have expected. Luther Vandross on the other hand, well, Luther is timeless.

But the real gem was a Bill Conti soundtrack album to Paul Mazursky's 1978 film "An Unmarried Woman," all the more dated for the notation on the album that says, "Also available on 20th Century Fox Stereo Tapes."

Wow, I don't even know if that means 8 track or cassette given the era.

Coming across it in my stacks was a kick, not just because the movie had been such a big deal for me (and scores of other young women at the time), but because inside the record sleeve was a calendar page dated "Tuesday May 23, 1978."

Why I stuck that in there, I have no clue, other than that date - my birthday - was two months after the release of the film so perhaps I thought there was some cosmic connection.

This was, after all, not only my introduction to the hunky Englishman Alan Bates (and hearing him describe our heroine as "a bright, willful, curious woman" surely one of the finest compliments my young ears had ever heard directed at my sex) but a film that laid out in no uncertain terms that life without a partner was not only okay, but preferable in some ways.

Attention, kids: hard as it is to believe, this was a revolutionary notion at the time.

Although my then-boyfriend Curt liked to mock me about the movie's message by parroting Lily Tomlin's feminist catch phrase, "Right on, Sister Boogie Woman," the movie did have a huge impact on how I thought of relationships and what was expected of me in one.

All of a sudden, I was remembering how empowered "An Unmarried Woman" made me feel. None of which I expected when it came up next on the turntable rotation.

But I only got around to pulling out records to listen to after a soggy walk and a busy day researching and writing. At that point, my evening plans were nebulous at best until, voila!, I was offered a lifeline.

Do you have plans for dinner this evening? I can't stay out late but would enjoy company if you are available.

Sure, there was comedy happening and, yes, I'd found some live music, but neither comes close to a human who wants to share food and conversation, so I wasted little time in accepting the invitation despite the rain.

After all, I don't melt, despite the presumption in an email I came home to find from a weather wimp friend saying, "I assume you are out doing your thing. Pretty adventurous of you in this miserable weather." Is it?

We were far from the only adventurous souls who landed at Nota Bene where it was unexpectedly Date Night, so we played along, taking seats at the bar because the few open tables in the lively room were reserved and soon filled.

Almost immediately I heard my name called by a beer rep enjoying date night with her Dad while her husband is off in France drinking wine and missing her. As she pointed out, where better to be this wet night than in the cozy, wine and fire-warmed confines of Nota Bene?

Already, several items on the specials board had an "X" next to them, meaning they weren't meant to be for us, so we turned our attention to the plethora of menus for consideration.

Before long, we were joined at the bar by a trio of women who sat down, ordered and basically never shut up until they left. My friend was seated next to them, making it easier for him to overhear them than it was for me, but, as we learned later, one had been eavesdropping on us the entire time, concluding that we were, in fact, on a date.

Isn't everyone on a date when it's date night?

Our personable server delivered a bottle of Loire Valley Chardonnay along with a salad of mixed greens and herbs as we dove into dinner and recaps of our inner and outer lives since last we'd met.

Of paramount importance was establishing how much guilt was involved with tonight's rendezvous.

Only once our two pizzas - a classic Margherita and Pizza Tonight's standard-bearer, the fig and pig - showed up did we approach tonight's headlining topic of discourse, which had been pre-determined last Friday during a rescheduling of plans.

What, everyone doesn't designate a conversational topic days in advance?

Luckily, neither of us is so straight-laced we couldn't digress. I voted for the personality of Route 460 over the soul sucking of I-64 for his trip eastward tomorrow. He looked to me for restaurant recommendations down that way.

We compared thoughts on the new T-Pot bridge and I shared my personal back story on T Pot himself. When he described a cheesy '80s cover band he'd recently seen in the West end, I tried to suss out if it was the one I know and have seen in the east and west ends.

Curious about the ink arising from our server's shirt, I inquired and she graciously displayed the tattoo of a bat hanging upside down between her breasts before discussing the merits of almond brittle on chestnut honey panna cotta over the alternative, almond cake.

She may be no fan of nut brittle, but I am, so we chose brittle-covered pudding - the honey notes on the finish came across like a sunny, summer day on the palate - for our final course.

Well, not our final final course because that was Virginia whiskey and Mexican tequila - small cubes, both - as we lingered long enough to be the final guests in a restaurant so warm I was able to remove my sweater, a rarity for me.

Sort of like a rare last-minute Tuesday non-date. Right on, Sister Boogie Woman.


  1. Curt was always so much of a Neanderthal! Gerry was always so much more evolved, always thinking women were so much more intelligent then men. I loved "An Unmarried Woman". I remember thinking why shouldn't a woman live with or without a man and why shouldn't she decide if marriage is for her or not? And the sound track was amazing. Thanks for a trip down memory lane. Love you

  2. He was, wasn't he? Gerry was ahead of the curve in his view of women, even if he did eventually go to the dark side politically speaking.