Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Having Too Much Fun, If Possible

And the second act of vacation begins.

With more guests and 14 hours and nearly 37 minutes of daylight, today was all about the summer solstice.

Over pancakes and bacon at breakfast, one guest mentioned that he'd woken up at 5 a.m. to find it was completely light outside and felt a bit unnerved. The sun took its own sweet time setting over the sound and dropping out of sight reluctantly, like a hammy vaudeville performer who gets pulled off the stage with a hook. At 9 p.m., we could still distinguish the ocean from the blue velvet sky with no difficulty.

Because of course we were sitting outside admiring that scenery.

I recall this time of year when my five sisters and I were young and our bedtimes fell long before daylight gave out. It seemed so unfair to have to try to go to sleep when you could still see blue sky through the bedroom window.

What sticks in my mind is a time when my bed was positioned beside a window and I remember kneeling in bed, my arms propped on the window sill, staring out into the backyard entertaining visions of a time when I'd be allowed to be outside while summer nights were so light.

A forecast of severe thunderstorms didn't stop me from walking after breakfast, although I had no takers on my invitation to come along. The loss was theirs.

The overcast sky and dire forecast are no doubt the cause of so few people being on the beach today, but anyone who was out enjoying the day would attest to the practically perfect temperature of the air, neither too warm or cool.

A favorite guest has suggested that the ideal temperature scale would not be Celsius or Fahrenheit but a new scale based on body comfort temperature, which would register as 0 on the scale.

He thought it was a brilliant concept but I foresaw issues with deciding what "ideal body comfort temperature" might be to assign that value. I know men who would find 58 degrees eminently comfortable while those of us with two X chromosomes and less muscle and fat would be in teeth-chattering mode.

Besides, no one wants to think about science at the beach. Or at least I don't.

No, I want to focus on finishing my second book of the week - Phyllis Robinson's "Willa: The Life of Willa Cather" - discussing a compelling New Yorker piece on Prog-rock (for the last time, Pink Floyd is not Prog-rock, kids) with a couple of guitarists and devouring a divine lobster and shrimp salad at the bar at Steamers while a jazz guitarist played a few feet away from our stools.

Unlike a traditional second act, mine has had not a single complication and the dramatic interest already arrived in Act One. What remains to be seen is how everything is neatly tied up in the final act.

Fingers crossed that the run is extended.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Delightfully Eccentric

Give me a self-proclaimed beach hater and I will return you an enthusiastic beach appreciator. It's a gift I have.

Granted, part of it is that I operate from a practically perfect beach headquarters, making my indoctrination all the easier. When I invite someone to come live at the ocean for a few days, I'm alerting them to the proximity of the ocean  (beach replenishment begins in Kitty Hawk July 1) which is both impressive and, as they soon learn, all encompassing.

I find the best way to welcome the beach-shy type is with Miraval Rose on the deck where the railing provides a convenient height for resting a motorist's weary legs and the ocean begins its seductive tease. That we also had the most delicious breeze - irresistible to those certain they can't live without air conditioning - only added to the certainty of the outcome.

Having a screened-in porch wrapping two sides of the cottage doesn't hurt the cause, either. The two big chairs made comfortable with throws and cushions provide ocean and sky views that spark cloud games and philosophical discussion set to the sound of crashing surf.

Showing a newbie around the "neighborhood" means a nice long walk along the beach after breakfast each morning, a gambit that acclimates them to the low-key appeal of this shabby and funky stretch of beach where McMansions need not apply.

Doing the heavy lifting for me, a guest's first outdoor shower here is a game-changer. No one who has ever lathered up to the sound of surf with the sky above and dune grasses visible through the slats in the floor can emerge anything but clean and happily mellow.

When I do invite a non-beach lover, I always make sure they're a reader. Besides the myriad obvious delights of beach life, this place is a slice of heaven for those who like to read, whether on the beach under an umbrella or on the porch with our feet up. We both bring back-up reading besides our stacks of books - me, the Washington Post, my guest, the New Yorker - so that we can trade off periodicals and make suggestions what the other should read.

The seduction onslaught is pretty much non-stop.

Naturally, when we do get in the car, it's to go somewhere that continues the charm offensive, whether a vintage seafood stand for locally-caught dolphin and tuna sandwiches that we then eat on the porch picnic table overlooking the ocean or to a porch overlooking a canal for more local seafood, this time shrimp and mahi mahi.

Beach beginners have no clue about the wonders of star-gazing in a place so far from city lights, so I make sure to include deck time at night when the whitecaps become the only part of the ocean visible, their irregular rhythms as mesmerizing as the flames of a fire. On the horizon, we see enormous, well-lighted boats and speculate on their purpose.

In general, I let things unfold organically. There are no schedules at the beach so my guest can set the pace and the priorities. If we want to open up a bottle of Nero d'Avola for lunch, why not? Get up at 4 a.m. to take in the moon's reflection because there was still too much cloud cover at 1 to even see the moon? Sure thing. Spend hours in the porch swing staring at the ocean while sharing personal histories? Let me get another cushion.

By Day 3, my non-believer has been rendered defenseless and unasked is already unashamedly admitting the error of years of anti-beach attitude.

A lethal combination of absolutely perfect weather ("How did you ensure that?" my guest marvels before resignedly attributing it to my "magic skills"), a breeze with as much kick as a roller coaster drop and the non-stop aural appeal of being practically on top of the ocean has made my guest a believer.

My hostessing skills are lauded, but I know perfectly well that anyone can fry bacon and eggs and make coffee and my true talent is putting the right kind of person into this setting and letting nature take its course.

All I really have to do to make a beach lover is share a few of my favorite things, be open to any conversation and smile.

I am so good at those things.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Darts of Pleasure

I was overdue checking off that musical box.

Back in 2004, my boyfriend had given me a copy of Franz Ferdinand's eponymous debut, no doubt because the band's sound mirrored that of all the post-punk bands then getting my admiring attention (see: Interpol, Editors, Bloc Party et al) along with him.

It was love at first listen. So arty, so cheeky, so Scottish.

And while I've since seen all three of those bands (Interpol twice), I'd yet to see the boys from Glasgow live, so when I saw they'd be playing the Jefferson in Charlottesville, tickets were purchased and plans made.

The crowd was still small when we found our place for Atlanta trio Omni in front of the sound booth facing a black and white backdrop of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Clever, if probably too obscure for some in the crowd..

Omni took the stage and it was immediately obvious why they'd been chosen to open for Franz Ferdinand. Their au courant take on post punk - all angular and passionate - clearly took a page from the Glaswegians' book.

My companion noted how surprising it was that so few people were using their phones to photograph the band, but my guess was that they just didn't care enough about Omni and, sure enough, once the headliners came out, so did the devices.

One person filmed practically every song with a stinkin' iPad, for cryin' out loud, blocking multiple people's views.

It was a decidedly under-tattooed crowd, but then I'm looking at it with Richmond eyes and this audience was nowhere near the usual majority tattooed.

By the time Omni finished, the crowd was close to capacity but not sold out and clearly eager for the main event. What was surprising was the youth of the crowd - many people did not qualify for alcohol wristbands - because this is a 13-year old band and how much Franz Ferdinand can you remember if you were in Pampers for the first two albums?

Since I had been plenty old enough to overplay that first album, I was nothing short of thrilled when the band came out and began their show the same way they'd begun that album in 2004: with the song "Jacqueline."

It's always better on holiday
So much better on holiday
That's why we only work 
When we need the money

Following that with "No You Girls" was a masterful move since it had been used in an iPod commercial, thus ensuring that everyone in the room besides me knew it well.

Kiss me where your eye won't meet me
Meet me where your mind won't kiss me
No, you girls never know
How you make a boy feel

I was unprepared for what a master showman lead singer Alex Kapranos was, his belt buckle worn over his hip and his legs in constant motion, scissor kicking, side kicking as high as his shoulder and wielding his guitar like a phallus.

After two songs, he had the room eating out of his hand and decided to toss out compliments. "Hello, Charlottesville! You've got a nice town here. We had a stroll around this afternoon and met lots of nice people. There's good vibes here. We could stay here a while!"

When they played "Darkness of the Matinee," I was reminded of reading  a critic's review of the album back in 2004 which likened the sound of "Matinee" to Roxy Music, a comparison neither my boyfriend nor I heard and was no more apparent tonight.

My companion, however, considers the second verse iconic, so I listened for those words instead.

I time every journey to bump into you accidentally
I charm you and tell you of the boys I hate
All the girls I hate, all the words I hate
All the clothes I hate, how I'll never be anything I hate
You smile, mention something that you like
How you'd have a happy life if you did the things you like

The band was incredibly tight and, to all appearances, having a ball and by the time they got to "Do You Want To," Alex was in full rock star mode, posturing, pouting and encouraging the adoring crowd to clap longer after each song.

A couple of guys near the stage had brought Scotland's flag and waved it around to get the band's attention. When one of the guys managed to scramble up on stage, he danced with it over his head until a security guard tried to whisk him away. Alex shook his head no, security vanished and the guy soon dismounted the stage the way he'd come.

We Franz Ferdinand fans are not heathens, sir.

Alex introduced "Walk Away" as "a breakup song about being in love and walking away from it, knowing you're making the biggest mistake of your life," but what struck me was that it had a bit of a Roxy Music vibe to it, something I'd never noticed before.

I cannot turn to see those eyes
As apologies may rise
I must be strong and stay an unbeliever
And love the sound of you walking away, you walking away

Their first big hit, "Take Me Out," got a nice long tease of a lead-in and then the crowd lost it for the song, so the band wisely moved directly into "Ulysses" to keep the momentum going.

During the encore, a fan gave the band a giant red heart that read, "Thank you for playing!" and Alex accepted it and put it center stage, which caused its creator to scream in excitement.

They finished with "This Fire" and Alex wrapped in the Scottish flag, an effect that paid homage to countless rock gods before him and only stoked the crowd's devotion. When the band bowed and left the stage, the room seemed to sigh with satisfaction and release.

Personally, I was just happy to have finally seen these guys do live what they accomplish so cheekily (and so very Scottish-ly) on their records with so much flair and passion. It was one musical box satisfyingly checked.

In the ladies' room afterward, I overheard a young voice ask her friend if she was going to go to the bathroom.

"I'm too much in awe," she said breathily. "I never thought I'd see them live!"

When I walked out and saw her impossibly young face and lack of alcohol wristband, my first thought was, and you've been waiting since when? Kindergarten? Puh-leeze.

No, you girls never know what delayed gratification feels like. It's really sweet.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Ogle 'Em If You See 'Em

After yesterday's thunderstorms, today's air felt scrubbed clean.

Mac and I set out for a walk of fairly epic proportions - 6.82 miles, as it turned out - and returned sweaty, smelly and satisfied. How much more can a woman ask of a friend first thing in the morning?

Heading directly to Brown's Island, I had the brilliant idea that we should begin by walking Belle Isle to see what the lower river levels looked like after the recent flood stage levels.

Now that the water has receded, it's clear just how much of the island's edge the swollen water "ate" away during those torrential days and how uncomfortably close the path around the island is to a precarious drop-off now.

Over near the quarry pond, we chatted with a shirtless guy ("Easy on the eyes," was how Mac described him) who works for one of the outdoor companies who host activities on the island. My question to him was when the floating dock was going to be rebuilt on the pond.

Two years ago when the deck came down, a park employee assured me it would be rebuilt during the off season. Two off seasons later, still no dock. The large, square space was ideal for fishing, for watching the climbers on the rock wall opposite and for education, since a sign explained the quarry's original uses.

It seems to me that if the city can't find the funds, surely a Kickstarter by the Friends of the James River Park could raise enough to build a simple floating dock. The guy was a font of information, sharing with us that a canal runs under the island and river water feeds the pond, which actually holds cleaner water than the river despite its constant movement.

He also shared that during their summer activities in the past, they always had the kids jump off the dock into the pond to start their adventure. Apparently the lack of a dock now denies Richmond youth the distinctive pleasure of hurtling into a quarry pond.

We were able to easily get out on rocks near a rushing stream of water and abandon our shoes and socks for a whirlpool foot bath and a fine view of the skyline. After sitting there a minute or so and taking it all in - the sunshine, the cool water, the view of Hollywood cemetery - Mac said softly, "I love my city."

Ditto, girlfriend. What neither of us could comprehend was the young woman sitting nearby, her ears encased in headphones that surely blocked out the life-affirming sound of rushing water.

Crossing back over Brown's Island, we headed directly for the pipeline walkway, where yesterday I'd seen kayakers hot-dogging in the rapids, rolling underwater and back over, and a clutch of young Mennonite-looking women in long dresses and head coverings who asked me to take a picture of their inaugural pipeline adventure.

Today's interaction was with a trio of fishermen - one missing a lot of teeth, but this is the South - who were pulling up a fishing line heavy with 4 or 5 one and two-foot fish, according to them, catfish, bluegills and something else that got swallowed in translation.

Their dilemma was how to get this bounty of fresh-caught fish up the ladder that wraps the pipeline, with one angler asking if we knew where they could get a mini-crane to aid the cause. Corny, yes, but I cut him slack since pride and male hunting and gathering were involved.

Further along the pipeline, we got more eye candy when a young guy in slacks and a button down white shirt stripped to the waist, draped his shirt on a tree branch, pulled out a fishing rod and went from businessman to fisherman right before our eyes.

"Ooh, plaid boxers!" Mac observed, ogling again as we walked by him on our return leg across the pipeline. Plaid, we decided, is a deal-breaker for neither of us.

Everywhere we went, enormous magnolia trees were full of blossoms fresh and fading and Queen Anne's Lace bloomed in profusion, providing a classic Southern summer tableau.

Just not quite as titillating as half-clad guys.

On The Highway to Happiness

Correcting one cultural lapse only reveals additional ones.

I went to the Byrd Theatre for "Sullivan's Travels," a 1941 film, because it's #61 on the American Film Institute's top 100 films of all time, has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and because I'd never seen a Veronica Lake film.

Apparently that's all it takes to lure me out on a thunder-storming Wednesday evening.

What I didn't know was that it was about a director who wants to abandon directing comedies and make a serious film (a la Frank Capra) about the Depression and call it "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" Incidentally, that's another film I've never seen.

I can't help but wonder if Coen brothers fans know this tidbit.

Before the movie, though, I situated myself at the bar at Nota Bene for Stobi Rose (Macedonian), the only cauliflower I know of that makes fans out of haters (mostly men) and wood oven pizza (margarita) while rain poured down on Main Street and vintage soul - including rarities like "Up the Ladder to the Roof" - played.

Conversation centered around "A Quiet Passion," the movie about Emily Dickinson I'd recently seen because I finally had access to someone else who'd seen it and needed to discuss it as much as I did.

And speaking of Dickinson, hers was one of the quotes - "My friends are my estate" - on the menu at Eleven Months, the new pop-up in Carytown which plans to revamp concepts once a year.

To keep track of that limited time, there's a digital clock on the wall counting how long they've been open (28 days, 9 hours and change while I was there), but the bartender explained that once they got to 5 1/2 months, the clock would begin counting down to closing day.

Got that?

Presently, the theme is "best friends forever" and the menu is full of quotes about friendship, but as soon as that begins to feel tired, the plan is to replace it with another theme.

The catch is that no iteration can last longer than 11 months, which I have to assume is the average attention span of their intended diners. Don't worry, kids, that's plenty of time to post video to Snapchat before moving on to the next new thing.

Not me. My eccentricities are my estate.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Calling CRS What It Is

I have many concerns today, but one of the most important concerns our Attorney General's terminal case of CRS, as in "can't remember shit."

The sheer number of times that man's answer amounted to, "Not that I recall" or "I don't recall that" was nothing short of jaw-dropping, even for a 70-year old. When he said, "I don't want to be rushed this fast. It makes me nervous," he sounded doddering and old, as if keeping up with rapid fire questioning was beyond him.

Remind me, please, how long Hillary sat - cool, calm and collected - answering endless questions and we'll go from there.

How is it okay to have a man in charge of the U.S. Justice Department who a) was named after the president of the Confederacy and the general who bombarded Fort Sumter, thus starting the Civil War and b) who has zero ability to recall, well, anything of importance?

A woman can watch only so much of that testimony on the tiny video of her computer before needing to seek the solace of others as outraged as she is. I took shelter at Camden's because there I knew I'd find the TV on and the vocal critics of questionable AGs in attendance.

As a bonus, I got to hear from the recent Bonnaroo attendee about his sore 20-year old body, the result of four days of twerking non-stop while on mushrooms. Ah, youth.

As I'd anticipated, of all the bands he saw, it was The XX's show that he deemed truly epic. He was particularly scathing about the Red Hot Chili Peppers all but phoning in their performance and dubbed U2 merely "good."

And for this people are willing to live in a field and bathe in a fountain for four days? I think not. And don't get me started on the guy taking a glitter bath - is that like birds taking a dirt bath?

On the latest in a string of ungodly hot days, few things could have been as appealing as a salad special of chilled shrimp and radishes with micro-greens and Meyer lime for piquancy. When the bartender-turned-IT student who sat down nearest me ordered the same, his enthusiasm for the spot-on summer combination matched mine exactly.

Watching the analysis of Sessions' testimony threaded through with election results ensured that the bar sitters (and occasionally, those paying their check nearby) kept up a running commentary about unfolding events. My favorite had to be Pelosi saying that she thinks the narcissist is going to self-impeach, an appealing outcome if ever there was one.

Speaking of narcissists, the subject came up closer to home when a woman mentioned that her father was one and pulled out a photo of him modeling to prove it.

Although bearded and dressed in appropriate lumberjack attire, she assured us he'd never so much as cut off a tree branch. But he's got a great Dad beard and apparently they're in high demand as the beard grooming industry moves into the coveted and expanding bearded Boomer demographic.

My Cava-fueled dinner continued with a perfectly lovely flounder over white beans and greens, a plate I would have licked clean if I'd not already done the same to its shrimp and radish predecessor.

Discussion of today's events inevitably drew in other customers, my favorite being the woman who overheard me questioning the wisdom of an AG with CRS and felt gratified since that had been a major sticking point for her as well.

It was while enjoying a chocolate pate with nut crust ("Let's just call it what it is," implored the bartender-turned-IT student, "Fudge!") that we dove into the subject of the white patriarchy (hello, Republicans repeatedly interrupting Senator Kamala Harris for her audacity to press Sessions on not answering her questions) and how, amazingly, there are still people who deny such a state exists.

Of course, there are still those who fail to acknowledge that the Confederates were committing treason, so I shouldn't be surprised at any sort of deniers, I suppose.

My good fortune was having a terrific meal with a rotating company of similarly-minded voters dropping in and out of a wide-ranging conversation about the state of this administration. With comparisons in mind, someone piped up asking how long Watergate lasted and two of us were quick to recall, "An entire summer."

With no precedent for self-impeachment, looks like we'll have to just wait and see, an excruciating proposition.

Surrounding myself with good food and like-minded liberals makes it somehow easier to bear.

Chocolate pate doesn't hurt, either.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

I Wanna Hold Your Hand

In the end, all I want is to swear by you.
~ graffiti on pipeline walkway

[heartfelt sigh]

Today's walk along the pipeline walkway involved a guy in a hammock seductively hung from two trees by the river 's edge...tragically occupied on the phone rather than with his proximity to nature.

Crossing over to Brown's Island, I encountered a guy busy mopping his sweaty head every other step, yet with no hat on. After admitting that his dermatologist uses dry ice every six months to freeze off the pre-cancerous growths on his head, he allowed that he'd erred in grabbing his towel and ear buds and leaving his hat sitting on his desk.

Ya think?

Today's heat meant that my walk on the pipeline inevitably led to scrambling out over the rocks, the better to lower my feet into the cool, moving water. It was impossible not to notice the radically different water levels from barely two weeks ago, the recent abundance having already given way to trickles.

A letter from Sister #2 today brought this sentiment: Our lives are so different from what I expected and what Mom and Dad had.

Where do I even begin to respond to the comparison of what they found at 22 and 23 and what I still seek? She's married but seems to be admitting she's not as happy as she perceives our parents to be, but also that they retired in their early 50s.

Part of my afternoon winds up being devoted to explaining in letter form why we can't expect to find such luck in either arena at this late stage of the game to someone merely 13 months younger but far less accepting of our reality.

Fortunately, the disappointment of low river levels and relationship failures was forgotten when I met up with a favorite conversationalist for purely friendly dinner and drinks.

Our outing stayed in the neighborhood, specifically Quirk Hotel's "Dinner for Two" at Maple and Pine. In fact, our server informed us that we were the first to come in for dinner for two, resulting in him scrambling to come up with the appropriate menu and a liter of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

The music was spot on: Washed Out, Real Estate and other dreamy-sounding bands, while we munched through grilled eggplant with olive tapenade, feta, pine nuts and lentils as well as a green salad of radishes and green goddess dressing for starters.

We watched countless millennials come through the lobby only to have their IDs checked so they could take the elevator to the rooftop bar. A surprising number wore off-the-shoulder blouses, a fact which we took as a major fashion trend, albeit one that's come and gone countless times.

Discussion revolved around tomorrow's election, a beach getaway and overlapping music shows in the '80s (his with a smoker, not with each other) while we enjoyed fettuccine with pea shoot pesto, country ham, egg and Parmesan and roasted crispy-skinned chicken breast with potatoes and fennel.

Because the conversation was good -  it inevitably is, though we spend too little time engaged in it - we were halfway though carrot cake glazed with cinnamon creme anglaise before even dancing near the interesting topics, namely vacation possibilities, inept help and a ticket to Franz Ferdinand sold away for want of a man to use it.

Keeping to a neighborhood theme, we stopped into Yaki, the newest bar in Jackson Ward and one convenient to us both. The music was leaning toward late era R & B and several of the faces at the bar are usually found at their own bars.

It's while we're drinking Sicilian Rose, specifically Squadra Terre Siciliane Rosato (described on the menu as "bachelorette party in a glass but more reserved) that we politely skirt my preferred topics and instead settle on innocuous conversation to keep things on a purely platonic level. It's enjoyable if a tad safe.

In the meantime, I am fortunate to have a friend who makes me laugh (and occasionally snort) and better accept that my life is completely different than what I'd expected. Unfortunately.

The fault is mine, I would imagine. Here's to correcting that before I die and, like my parents, getting the chance to swear by someone who matters in the end .

Except I will say it and not spray paint it on a railroad support.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

40 - Love

I was born with a forehead that reads, "Tell me anything," anecdote #648.

So there I am standing in the organic chip aisle at Kroger, wondering for the second time in a week why they're out of Red Hot Blues, my favorite spicy blue corn chips. Is it as simple as a supplier shortage, has Kroger disavowed them or have they ceased making them because I am in the minority of those who like their corn chips spicy?

I'm startled out of my reverie by a voice inquiring, "How old are you?"

When I pivot, I see a woman standing in front of the supplements and vitamins, a box in hand. I'm curious why you're asking, I tell the stranger.

This is when the words, "Tell me anything" begin lighting up my forehead and she takes it to heart.

"I'm 57 and I just started dating this man," she begins in a conspiratorial tone. "Now, we haven't consummated anything yet, but he doesn't use, you know, condoms. And I don't believe in abortion. I don't believe in birth control, either."

Two things occur to me. First, surely this woman I've never laid eyes on isn't asking the world's biggest relationship failure for dating advice and second, how many 57-year olds worry about birth control?

She extends her arm so I can see the box in her hand: all natural prenatal vitamin supplements.

"If there's going to be an accident, we're going to have a healthy baby!" she assures me, tossing the supplements into her cart. "Better not take any chances with the baby."

Go for it, I tell her. Take charge of your body, especially if you don't want this man to keep it in his pants.

But mainly, I'm impressed that this woman who doesn't believe in any sort of family planing apparently has no qualms about pre-marital sex. Even better, I admire that she's optimistic enough to think pregnancy is a possibility.

Wishing her the best of luck with him, I continue shopping. When I get to the check-out, there she is in line and graciously waves for me to go ahead of her since I have fewer items.

"Do you play tennis?" she asks and I laugh out loud.

It's the skirt I have on - an athleticwear skirt with shorts built in and a gift at that - that no doubt caused her to guess I had even one athletic bone in my body. No, I can walk long distances but zero hand/eye coordination, I tell her, placing my groceries on the belt.

Turns out she teaches tennis to the 40+ set on clay courts in Northside ("Much easier on our knees") and she suggests I give tennis a try. Her confidence about my tennis potential is matched only by her positive attitude about the results of sleeping with this new man.

We are soul sisters in unfounded optimism. Introductions are made and email addresses exchanged.

I couldn't turn off the sign on my forehead if I wanted to, but the truth is, why would I want to?

Friday, June 9, 2017

Kiss and Tell

Humor is always part of the program at Richmond Triangle Players.

When Mac and I arrived, we found the lobby full of people but the theater not yet open. Curious about this unusual situation, I asked an usher what the cast of "It Shoulda Been You" could be doing back there.

"Maybe someone's got cold feet about getting married," he joked about the play's wedding theme. They both should be, I pointed out, we're talking about marriage.

"Someone had to say it out loud," he quipped, testifying to my point with a grin and raised eyebrows.

We scored a bag of gumdrops from the bar, part of a wedding-themed array - Mexican wedding cookies, mints - tied to the production. The usher who led us to our seats was immediately familiar to me and I realized it was because we'd both taken the VMFA's Docent training a dozen years ago together. She was amazed that I remembered her.

We weren't in our seats long when a couple joined our row, looking for their seat numbers. It only got more confusing when another couple - one I recognized - showed up and it became clear we were running out of chairs in row D.

As they tried to enter the row, I put my leg across to the next row, effectively blocking the people I knew from coming in. Because they hadn't looked at who was already in the row, they had no clue I was playing with them. When she finally looked around and saw me, she laughed, admitting that she was wondering, "Who is this woman blocking my way?"

Just another devoted theater lover, friend.

It was only then that Mac and I looked at our tickets to discover that we'd been seated in row D rather than row B so the fault was all ours (with a smidge going to the usher who'd not had her reading glasses with her).

We vacated row D to the gentle mocking of friends and neighbors, our bag of gumdrops in hand.

To get to our correct seats, we had to mount the stage and once there, we found someone in one of our seats, although her husband was in the far seat at the end of the row. Hmm, don't people usually sit together when they go out?

I asked how long they'd been married that they'd sit on opposite ends of an empty row of seats. Turns out 9 years legal and 5 years before that. When I asked about kids, she admitted to a 6 and 4 year old.

Wow, they were deep in the parenting trenches, I pointed out. "My life is hell," she said, sharing that this was a rare date for them. She asked if we'd mind switching seats so she could sit by him and we happily agreed, politely not pointing out that she was sitting in our seat anyway.

"It Shoulda Been You" was a delight, a well-acted musical about the elaborate wedding machinations required to legally acquire a steady lay. It touched on the futility of relationships where the couple don't make each other laugh (don't get me started) and, like a good Shakespeare comedy, ended with multiple lovers about to get married.

We laughed through it all from our second row seats, occasionally getting a glimpse up an actress' skirt during a spin because of our proximity and low slung vantage point.

It made me laugh enough that if it were a suitor, I'd marry it. If I were the marrying kind, of course.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Lookin' for Adventure

It was a day for relaxin' with the womenfolk and then showing a gent around.

Pru, her boho-clad Mom and I had made a date last week to lunch at Merroir for a reprise of our "ladies-who-lunch" extravaganza, meaning all of us had been eagerly looking forward to it.

When the weather forecast showed that it would be a cloudy, breezy and cool afternoon, Pru got nervous. Me? I interpreted those conditions as prime beach weather and looked forward to not having to slather on sunscreen for our al fresco meal.

"You and your silver linings," she always chides me. Yea, aren't they great?

The trip there, as always, delights with that bucolic, small town Northern Neck charm that announces you are heading toward a body of water. It's not just the flat landscape - her Mom, a Rodanthe native, likened it to Currituck and I could see the comparison - but the softness of the air as you get closer to the river.

With an hour's drive, we had plenty of time for chatter about non-assertive men, being gas-lit and how people change because of what life hands them. Pru tried to label us by saying, "We are some hard, jaded, bitter women," but I disagreed.

We are some experienced, cautious, complex women if you ask me.

We were also far from the only people who'd wanted a riverside lunch despite the forecast, although we did choose to eat on the porch rather than out in the open air. Fortunately, the "windows" of the plastic porch enclosure were rolled up on the marina side and the front door facing the river was open, so we had all the smells and occasional errant breezes but without getting chilly.

The food, as always, was second only to the view.

When our server asked if we wanted un-spiced or spicy steamed shrimp, she looked to Pru for an answer. I immediately did my best impression of spicy, which unexpectedly involved jazz hands and a vibrating body that the server found hilarious.

In fact, I may have over-vibrated since there was so much spice on the shrimp and accompanying vegetables (onions, celery, red pepper) that our mouths were soon on fire. Meanwhile I polished off a dozen Old Saltes and probably the best bowl of crab and vegetable soup I've ever slurped.

There were also angels on horseback, a stuffin' muffin and grilled shrimp to round out the meal on the porch. The sky was just as cloudy and the air just as beachy when we reluctantly hit the road for Richmond, making a stop at Norman's produce just long enough to score vegetables and hanging baskets of petunias for Pru's Church Hill manse.

"Are you sure you don't need some vegetables?" she asked. "Don't you ever cook at home?" Have we met?

And, yes, I make oatmeal every morning.

Back at home, I had enough time to answer a few emails before heading out for a walk that would take me to my evening's plans and provide the walk I hadn't had time for because of my lunch plans.

Unexpectedly, I had company.

Barely two blocks from home, a girl walking a bike joined me at a corner and we began talking. In Richmond a year after growing up in Roanoke, she's an anthropology major who knows she wants to work outside. Except she might want to do something else, she admitted guiltily.

As we crossed Broad Street and headed down Grace Street toward her boyfriend's apartment and my plans at Secco, we talked about a woman's range. She said she felt like her interests were so wide and she had no idea how to begin to narrow them down to figure out who she is and what she wants.

I may have made her day when I shared my age and that I'm still narrowing my range and figuring out who I am and what I want. When she admitted that she's often quiet in group conversations, she said it was because she was eager to hear other, more knowledgeable people's thoughts to help her form her own opinion.

I couldn't help but assure her that the older she gets, the more comfortable she'll be with what she thinks and likely lose that hesitation about speaking out. Opinions form themselves as you navigate the pleasures and perils of life.

When we parted, I told her I couldn't have asked for a better companion for my walk and she thanked me for the wisdom.

I was meeting a friend who'd been to Sicily a few years back and swore he hadn't been able to find Sicilian wine in Richmond since returning. Always happy to take on a challenge, I'd suggest meeting at Secco to see what it offered up.

One Sicilian red, but since we were looking for something a bit lighter, we wound up drinking a Basque Rose, mainly because he'd never heard of Basque wine, much less had any. Wait, there's more: he hadn't had a Rose before.

Intervention was essential.

The slightly spritzy Ameztoi Txakolina Rubentis not only brought him into the Rose fold, but did so with zippy notes of mineral and red fruit. It was a gorgeous pairing with smoked arctic char bruschetta and roasted asparagus with a crusted egg, its yolk oozing richness over every bit of green.

We finished the bottle with just enough time to stroll over to the Byrd to see a film that had already aroused the envy of everyone on Secco's staff who had to work tonight: 1969's "Easy Rider."

My friend had not only never seen it start to finish (my one and only viewing had been at Capital Ale House a lifetime ago back in 2010) but it had been one of the first two albums he'd bought with his own money.

In other words, it was inexcusable that he'd never sat through it.

From the footage of Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans (which might as well have been newsreel footage for how fascinating a glimpse into what the parade used to be it was) to the masterful use of existing music rather than a true soundtrack (can you ever have too much Roger McGuinn?), we were both completely sucked in to the late '60s with Captain America and Billy as they encountered hippie communes, free love and a whole lot of bad attitudes about nothing more than long hair.

We took our post-film discussion to the Gypsy Room so as to have the accompanying musical stylings of the Mikiyas Negussie Trio - jazz guitar, upright bass, drums - with more Rose education for him in the form of glasses of La Galope Rose.

We'd barely settled on the couch when my friend commented on the beautiful tone of Negussie's guitar, but soon corrected himself to acknowledge that it was as much about the young trio's talent as the instruments.

And although he'd played the room before as a musician, this was his first time hearing a show there and was inordinately pleased at the room's sound. The low-lit vibe and three sets of music, the final with a sax player sitting in, didn't hurt either.

Cultural lapses corrected? Check. Rose education begun? Check. Great company morning 'till night? Check.

Captain America may have put it best: "I'm hip about time." I like to think I am, too, especially when using it like I did today to store up especially satisfying interludes for those times when things are not so pleasurable.

Just another deposit of good times in the bank of life. Ya dig?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Do You Come Here Often?

I have sunk to a new low: I watched "America's Got Talent" tonight.

Truth is, I didn't go to watch reality TV or even any TV at all, I went for dinner. And I got that in a light, weather-appropriate lemon/thyme/chicken soup - the thyme having grown just outside the restaurant - and a crab melt with dilled Havarti on housemade grilled bread accompanied by Prosecco.

Delicious, all.

But apparently a rumor had been going around the restaurant that Puddles the Clown (whom everyone but me seems to remember as Big Mike from his years in local band the Useless Playboys) would be on the show tonight. Hence the viewing party.

Despite sitting through some of the most inane performances imaginable - a dog who could read a flashcard and bark the number on it;  a man who danced with a blow-up doll; and perhaps most appallingly, an 8 and 9 year old gaudily-clad "couple" (she wearing far too much lipstick in that Jon-Benet Ramsey creepy way) dancing together suggestively - Puddles never came on.

I don't know if you can appreciate what a punch to the gut it is to watch a show such as "AGT" when you haven't watched TV (beyond the presidential debates and election results) in decades, but the show aside, even the commercials are excruciatingly bad.

I was gobsmacked to see that after each segment of the show, we'd be shown a promo for the next section and it would inevitably contain the funniest moment to come. Seeing that scene, albeit out of context, ensured that there would be little to no pleasure in seeing it in context and why would you want to spoil the most amusing bits in advance?

Is this sort of mindlessness how we wound up with a "super-callous-fragile-racist-sexist-not-my-POTUS" in the first place? Who can watch this stuff on a regular basis and not want to poke their eyes out?

Don't answer that. I'm not judging, I'm just incredulous.

In other news, a website called Room 5 has decreed that, "Richmond has emerged as the gay capital of the South," and I couldn't be prouder.

I was one of several bar sitters tonight who had to admit (for me, the second time in a week) that I've never once in three decades in this town been to Godfrey's drag brunch. Oh, I've seen the queens taking a smoke break on Grace Street while the music pumps inside and you can hear the women's hoots and hollers bouncing off the duct work, but I've never been among the hooters.

Our server explained that you always wind up spending too much money and you go in late morning and emerge as the day slides into evening, but that it's all totally worth it. Judging by the lines of eager customers I've seen, I'm inclined to believe her.

Believing that there's any justifiable reason to spend another minute of my life watching TV, however? Not so much.

Good luck in the next round, Puddles, but you'll have to win without me watching.

I've sacrificed all the brain cells I can spare without getting any pleasure in return. Frankly, I have better things to do in the gay capital of the South.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Company Charm

If you're going to hang out with someone who's still getting his feet wet in the Richmond scene, it only makes sense to offer up a wide variety of experiences.

If you're going to start by going to Garnett's for lunch, go late.

Even on a Sunday afternoon, regulars know that the more traditional lunch hours tend to be the busiest, but when you don't plan to arrive until 1:30ish, you can anticipate soon having the dining room to yourself. Completely.

You can also expect the servers to be gracious enough to tailor the soundtrack to the remaining guests' taste (or, perhaps, era? hmm...) and in this case, the result was vintage soul: Al Green, Marvin Gaye and the like. Whether the wine pours got more generous or they just felt that way because of the wide-ranging conversation, I really can't say.

In any case, it was an ideal setting for a discussion  of how some people can sleep to music or read and watch TV and the consensus, at our table at least, was that music and reading are all-encompassing and not meant to be multi-tasked.

If you're going to leave the city for the Lilly Pad Cafe on an afternoon when the Pinewood Boys are playing, you'd best bring your luck.

We came in from the back door because that's the new entrance now that they've fenced off the outside "patio" - and I use that word loosely because it's really more of a concrete slab - and joined the line at the bar waiting for service.

I couldn't have been more surprised when one of the bartenders recognized me and welcomed me back (we have a guitar player in common) or less surprised when the wine we ordered came straight out of a 1.5 liter bottle of Woodbridge Chardonnay.

Meanwhile, even though the chalkboard behind the bar clearly stated, "No buckets after 4!" I know I saw at least half a dozen fluorescent plastic buckets full of canned beer pushed across the bar and scooped up by thirsty/drunk customers headed outside for music.

It wasn't my first Lilly Pad rodeo or even my first time hearing live music there but never have I seen the place so thoroughly packed, with people occupying every square inch and plenty of them standing around for lack of a place to sit.

That's where the luck comes in and I wasn't shy about scouting for unused chairs at otherwise full tables and dragging them to a shady spot near the stage. Voila! The first time visitor I'd brought along now had a front row seat for the Pinewood Boys and a river view, although, like the musician that he is, he commented on the dobro being played before even noticing the water.

Best of all, there was a stellar breeze and that, combined with our shady spot, made for the best possible introduction for a newbie to a particular kind of Richmond summer pleasure.

I heard my name a second time when a food friend and her husband walked by en route to the bar. When she commented on the large crowd, I said I'd never seen it so crazy, which is how I discovered that they live barely a mile away.

"We don't usually come on Sundays for that reason but it was such a nice day!" she explained. The temptation of the Pad must be mighty when it's so convenient.

Not everyone has all their teeth at the Lilly Pad and the percentage of smokers is unusually high even for tobacco-loving Richmond, but this was the first time I ever saw someone come in with a firearm tucked into the waistband of his jeans.

When the band began playing "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," my musician companion, a pro, remarked that that usually meant it was the last song and I, a Lilly Pad pro, let him know that we should now be alert to the status of the wooden gliders.

Yes, they were both currently occupied, but I knew chances were good a lot of the crowd would head out once the band stopped playing.

The music hadn't been switched over to classic rock radio for more than a handful of songs when I spotted and we scored one of the gliders and made ourselves at home. From there, we had far better views of the incoming and outgoing boat traffic, including the snack boat, its lighted "open" sign still on even once it tied up at the dock.

We watched people arrive in their boats, climb up on the dock to pull on jeans or shorts and t-shirts over their bathing suits (the sign on the door of the Lilly Pad is quite firm: shirts and shoes required for service) and wander over for a beer or a bucket.

Our decision to sit facing west meant we had spectacular sunset views over the river and only after admiring the dramatic sky for a while had the sense to turn around and see the moon making its way up the still-blue sky. Before the sun even fully set, one of the servers stuck his head out of the door and hollered, "Last call!" but we weren't the only ones who stayed put until our glasses were empty.

If you're going to head back to the city for dinner and you're still trying to ensure a memorable experience, My Noodle's dining rooms provides charm few first-timers can resist and food reliably fresh and delicious.

We got the far tiki booth - the one without the curtain for privacy - near the sound system which poured forth two hours worth of gems ranging from Roxy Music to Nirvana unplugged while we devoured dumplings, inhaled entrees and sipped a Rittenhouse Rye cocktail.

If you're going to sum up a 10 1/2 hour Sunday, consider the delight of the first-timer (seemingly extensive), the multiple soundtracks live and recorded (consistently enjoyable) and the number of weapons brandished (zero).

Bonus points awarded for eating the sandwich named after me. A bon vivant always notices.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sweet Smoke of Rhetoric

All the couples wanted my company today.

The newlyweds invited me to join them for the RVA Clay Studio Tour, a drive-yourself opportunity to visit over 20 studios and houses to ogle more than 100 artists' handiwork.

The Beauty, herself a beginning clay artist, promised that we would not be out all day because her husband Beckham had already set parameters: "There are only so many clay pots you can look at in one day."

He can say that to her.

When I got in their car, she admitted that she was still amazed that Beckham had been willing to come along. "I only came because Karen was coming," he joked, but we both benefited from having company every time she got into discussions of glazes and kilns with another potter.

Our first stop was in Bon Air, in a house the owner said was one of many in the neighborhood designed by a Frank Lloyd Wright apprentice. "They were kit houses brought in on the railroad," he shared.

At a Forest Hill studio housed in a backyard outbuilding, I inquired about a row of wood circles, only to find they were her husband's collection of tree knots, culled from his work in the tree biz.

"You'd be amazed what people think they are," she whispered, raising her eyebrows. Her pots were eye-catching because of the unusual substances - Miracle Grow to make blue and baking soda to create a cloudy white effect - she'd incorporated into her glazes.

We made two more stops somewhere in the Westover/Stratford Hills area, providing glimpses into neighborhoods I didn't really know between admiring pottery and bantering about the shrubs he'd been making lately.

That is, when he's not making orange-iced rosemary cake or goat cheese cheesecake. Beauty found one of the truly great ones when she met Beckham (and vice versa).

The next stop was to be the Depot, but we slid into Assado (Beckham hadn't been there since it was the dark and claustrophobic Empire and he was amazed at what letting in all that light did to the place - he didn't recognize it until I told him what it had been) first for tacos - barbacoa, patas bravas, spicy ginger grilled shrimp, fried green tomato and bacon and finally, fish tacos - and non-clay conversation before they moved on to see more pots and I walked home.

Much as I enjoyed seeing the handiwork of so many talented artists, I also love being with this couple because they're young and in love and it's soul-nourishing to be around.

When I offered him a bite of my shrimp or fish tacos, he demurred, saying, "No, I want to to be able to kiss her later," a reference to her dislike of anything seafood related. Just as I was marveling at how considerate he was being, he relented and had a bite.

Maybe he planned to brush before going in for a kiss. When we parted company, they had more pottery to see and I had walking to do.

The couple who picked me up tonight, Pru and Beau, are at a slightly different relationship stage than the newlyweds, so they don't gush or look at each other with cow eyes. Plus Pru's Mom was along for the ride and who wants to make sex jokes in front of their parent?

Fortunately, we were going to see a play about love, but our first stop was L'Opossum for a dinner that outdid itself.

To get us started were ham and escargot biscuits, chilled vichysoisse with crabmeat and corn, the vegan orgy on Texas Beach (aka papadoms with five vegetable spreads) and French onion dip gratine taken over the top with currant rye bread.

With Shakespeare looming large ahead of us, dinner discussion revolved around language, at one point about how to pronounce "niche." Beau, ever the technology geek, couldn't stop himself from researching it mid-meal, only to learn that both pronunciations - neesh and nich - are acceptable.

Don't get me started on multiple pronunciations based on popular usage. Really, if enough people mispronounce a word, we're going to say the incorrect pronunciation is also valid? Please.

Most interesting thing learned? That niche can also be a verb, a fact that led to extended niche wordplay which Beau tried to shut down (unsuccessfully) multiple times.

More exceptional eats arrived in the form of melt-in-your-mouth grouper over wild rice and greens, crabcakes with so little filler they fell apart into lumps of crab meat, obscene seared Hudson Valley foie gras and - ta da - lobster mac and cheese described on the menu as in a "ridiculously rich white truffle mornay cream sauce."

Ridiculously may be a fine adverb but it does not begin to cover butter-poached lobster. We did a number on it anyway.

Needless to say, dessert was out of the question, but my sweet tooth was unexpectedly satisfied by a final course of salad with pickled leeks and two dressings, a Green Goddess under the mesclun and a tequila sorbet dressing on top. Perfection.

Tonight's entertainment was Quill Theater's "Love's Labour's Lost" (considered the most Shakespearean of Shakespeare's plays) at Agecroft and, for a change, the weather was so perfect, so breezy and un-humid, that we didn't need the fans we'd brought.

Hell, I'd brought my entire fan collection, all six of them, and never required a one.

The mind shall banquet, though the body pine.

The program had informed us that the play was a master class in the use and abuse of language, and if anyone enjoys language abuse and use, it's this crowd. Because it's less often produced, I hadn't seen it since 2002 at Dogwood Dell.

Love is familiar. Love is a devil. There is no evil angel but love.

When the play began at 7:30, the half moon perched off to the side lingered over the trees in a soft blue sky and at dusk, frogs began to make their presence known. By the second act, that moon was hanging high over the James, with fireflies and moths looping around the courtyard.

Is she wedded, or no?
To her will, sir.

Just the other day I'd told a girlfriend I was coming to Agecroft for this tonight and proceeded to wax poetic of the sensory pleasures of seeing the actors use the 500-year old building as a set and a prop. "No one's ever explained it to me that ways," she'd marveled. "Now it sounds like something I'd love to do."

Young blood does not obey an old decree.

In one scene tonight, Berowne appears head and shoulders over the top of the stone wall that separates two English cottage gardens (a wall, by the way, that was directly behind our seats) and then slides out of sight. That's the magic of using Agecroft as a prop.

Oh, they have lived long on the alms basket of words.

At one point, the ubiquitous Richmond train whistle moving through the night from somewhere along the river competed with the actors' voices for our attention.

Nip not the gaudy blossoms of your love.

Dan Cimo killed it as Boyet, the companion to the Princess and her ladies, scheming and plotting to ensure that the womenfolk outwit the men, while Alex Johnson played Berowne as ably in diction as in humor. Not for even a nanosecond out of character as Don Armado, Luke Schares used a hilarious accent, killer timing and an affecting performance to make him my focus anytime he was on stage.

Maggie Bavolack's portrayal of the country wench Jaquenettta, all tight skirt and decolletage, was hilarious, one step removed from that girl in "West Side Story" who proclaims, "I and Velma ain't dumb."

Our wooing does not end like an old play.

I certainly wasn't being wooed tonight, but absent that, watching an old play in a courtyard under the stars after a spectacular meal was pretty wonderful.

And for the record, I remain wedded to my will but willing to bend it for the good of the cause. My goal: for the mind and body to banquet.

Goodness knows the stomach already did.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Cross the Sea

I don't believe I've ever been so glad to see May end.

That's a pretty remarkable statement coming from someone who's always adored stretching out her birthday and diving into the start of warm weather, but, man, this has been a tough May.

June kicked off with a leisurely lunch on the Chickahominy, talking with the couple I'd gone to visit about everything from what she was reading that I haven't - Joan Didion's "White Album" (the successor to "Slouching Toward Bethlehem," which I have read) - to a house concert with an environmentally conscious vegan potluck.

She had me in stitches talking about the oblivious hipsters who'd brought dried out Trader Joe's jicama, wrapped in plastic and boasting an enormous carbon footprint as their offering. "My beet hummus was the only homemade thing there!" she marveled.

Of course there were Oreos because no vegan potluck is complete without them.

Now that I see how far out they live, I am terribly impressed at how often I run into them at events in the city.

The first Music in the Garden at the Valentine for the season not only delivered good tunes (the always satisfying odd time signatures of Rattlemouth's world beats and an all-acoustic version of reggae band Mighty Joshua, complete with acoustic bass guitar and pump organ, but the soft opening of Garnetts at the Valentine.

It was also a chance for Mac and I to catch up after May had messed with us both, leaving us with the mixed emotions of having weathered a sea of storms.

Good thing we're both optimists.

We ate at a table with an older woman with a pronounced Boston accent despite having left that city to go to college in West Virginia where she met her husband and then settled in Virginia. Fifty years later, her vowels were still instantly recognizable as Beantown's.

Low humidity and a gentle breeze made it a beautiful night for live music in the Valentine's garden under an enormous magnolia tree in full bloom that we guessed had to be pre-Civil War judging by its girth. During the break between bands, we headed inside the museum so she could see "Hearts on our Sleeves," the new fashion exhibit I was happy to see a third time.

That 1970 cocktail dress with ruffled bell sleeves had my name written all over it.

And because there's no reason to go to only one show when you can go to two, I also landed at Flora for the Kia Cavallaro EP release show. Incredibly, it was my first time in Flora's back room for music, a fact that boggled not only my mind but that of one of the long-time managers, too.

"How is that possible?" she wanted to know.

I have to assume I've been remiss on my musical devotion and that's nothing I want to brag about. See: life's been a little rough lately. Begone, May.

Kia's sound had been described as homespun songs that weave together dreams and roots music and her fretless banjo certainly contributed to that rootsiness, while her little girl voice gave the songs an appealing earnest innocence.

But where she was truly in a league of her own was that she wore tap shoes and tapped out some rhythm to accompany herself and ensure that every part of her body was making music. It was nothing short of delightful and in the most unexpected way.

Next up was Kenneka Cook whom, coincidentally, I'd first seen last year at one of the Valentine's Music in the Garden shows as she layered her rich voice over beats.

Ordering wine, I got into conversation with three guys I know to varying degrees. One said he had a long history with smart women, one accused me of making people like me and one chided me for not replying to his "what are you up to?' message the day before.

I wanted to explore the first, I disagreed with the second and I reminded the third that I can't spend the abundant time on social media that he does.

Right now, I'm just trying to sort through the wreckage of May and come out happier in June. I keep reminding myself that all I can do is keep my head down and continue working on becoming a better me. I need to do this because it's overdue.

And as Didion famously wrote, "We tell ourselves stories in order to live." I tell myself scores every single day.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

For Ace, Wherever You Are

Plans, it seems, are just suggestions and now I reek of a stranger.

Waking up after only seven hours of sleep this morning, I couldn't drift back off. I knew I had exactly three things planned for today, each one progressively more appealing: an interview on the Northern Neck, lobster dinner with my parents at the Inn at Montross and a show with my favorite music lover.

Returning from a walk where I'd investigated the eastern end of Brown's Island (finding it soggy, debris-strewn and still inaccessible to the pipeline walkway), I found a message from Dad: we would meet at the Kilmarnock Inn, not Montross.

This was actually more convenient for me (less driving) so I sign off on the change. The moment I hit the send button, I get an email from my editor asking if I can please cover an event tonight from 6-8.

Well, not if I'm eating dinner on the Northern Neck I can't.

Now I've got to check with Dad and see if we can meet before my interview for lunch instead of dinner. He agrees, but warns me he won't be freshly shaven if we do.

Shaving not required, I tell him.

The drive out is pleasant and only mildly unnerving when I get to the White Stone bridge which is being worked on. This means only one lane is open and a flagman is directing traffic, but it also means stopping at the pinnacle of the bridge for our turn to go and, let me tell you, it's an unsettlingly windy place to stop.

I console myself by looking at the portable toilet perched atop a trailer next to the construction equipment, feeling grateful that while I have to sit in my car at the height of this bridge, at least I don't have to relieve myself on high.

And as along as I was up there, I took a few photos out the window of the shimmering blue Rappahannock surrounding me, my arm hairs glinting in the sun.

The Inn is crowded and the table next to us is discussing impeachment, which would be a good thing except they're discussing Clinton. My parents live deep in conservative territory, so they're often in the minority when it comes to politics.

Dad and I have Crab Louie salads piled high with crabmeat and we all share housemade peach ice cream for dessert while Dad tells me how much relief he's getting from acupuncture and Mom ghoulishly describes watching the needles being inserted.

When I get to where my interview is scheduled, I learn that the interviewee is stuck on the bridge, which is how I wind up in an Adirondack chair on the front porch of a radio station reading the Washington Post waiting for the manager to escape the bridge line.

A woman who'd won a prize on the morning radio show drives up and asks if I work for the station. When I say no, she heads inside to claim her prize. I learn that today is also her birthday and I wish my fellow Gemini a happy one.

Because my subject was a half hour late, I get back to Richmond later than planned and I need to be at this event in half an hour. Fortunately, it's 3 blocks away and I walk quickly.

I have just long enough to glance at my inbox, where I'm surprised to see that a friend from Boston has emailed, but I don't bother opening it now when I have somewhere to be.

Once there, I begin talking to people for my story and all of a sudden a woman approaches, throws her arms around me and hangs on for dear life. I don't know her, but I hug her back so long and hard that she finally mumbles, "You're a really good hugger!" Even so, we hang on to each other even longer.

We move over to a bench to sit down and I get a whiff of her scent on me. It makes me feel very unlike myself since I don't wear perfume, but I unexpectedly enjoy knowing that I smell girly. She tells me I'm beautiful, raves about my dimples and runs her fingers through my hair, saying we should start a band because of our punk hair.

I have no idea what rabbit hole I've gone down.

After the tribute ends, people begin drifting over to Quirk for drinks (a somewhat ironic way to celebrate a man who died of alcoholism) and several ask if I'm coming. Because I have plans in an hour, I really can't, although it would be a beautiful evening to be on the rooftop at Quirk.

Turns out the friend from Boston is in town for the night only and wants to get a drink and chat after not seeing each other in years. I have exactly 58 minutes free before being picked up for music, but I'm game and ask where he is.

Before he responds, I hear from my favorite music lover, who is suffering from too little sleep (join the club, Tiger, I'm operating on a two-hour deficit myself and all because of anticipation about seeing you-know-who) and indigestion, so he's bowing out of music tonight.

As compensation, we spend a pleasurable hour volleying words back and forth as I put away the detritus from today's road trip, take off my going out clothes and settle myself contentedly on the balcony with a bowl of raspberry sherbet.

And, man, do I smell good. Too bad nobody will know.

To Wow, To Stun, To Amaze

Where do you get your validation from?

Citing my minimal Facebook postings and complete absence on Instagram and Twitter as leaving me without a platform with which to know when people think well of me, a good friend posed that question the other day.

Before I could even formulate a clever response, her husband did it for me. "She was old enough when all this nonsense started to already be confident about who she was, so she doesn't need validation."

Okay, I might not have thought of framing it that way, but that's as good an answer as any.

Of course I feel gratified that people read my blog, but when I stop writing it, I know life will go on. Like most people, I appreciate a compliment, although much more so from someone close than a stranger, but I'll take what I can get.

I don't know if it's true of everyone, but I've always been happiest when I felt validated, especially on an emotional level. Maybe it's the Gemini in me, but nothing validates me like conversation with the people I care about most...except laughter with those same people.

And maybe that's it. I've been accused of being able to talk to a brick wall (untrue, by the way), but maybe my tendency to talk to anyone within conversational distance is nothing more than a desire for validation.

If I talk to them, if I can get them engaged and smiling, maybe even chuckling at something I say, I feel like I've accomplished something. It's a real world "like."

Waiting at the bar for Chinese food, I struck up a conversation with a young guy eating dinner after he smiled when I gave the bartender my order. In no time, we knew what each other did, shared opinions on city versus beach living and discussed the ease of recording music in 2017.

As I was paying, he handed me a tiny purple card printed with the words, "I love you," smiling and saying, "In case no one has told you that today." Corny? Maybe. Sweet? Certainly. Then he left.

Because some days, validation comes from the most unlikely places.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Chemistry of Romance

I'm as contrary as the next woman, but I couldn't quite figure out who to root for at first.

When it's a story about a middle-aged couple bored with each other after 30 years of marriage, it's only natural to want to see them each end up with their younger lovers, right? Why keep plodding through a relationship that's grown tepid when you can start fresh with someone new who doesn't know you as well...yet?

Because why wouldn't I cap off a Memorial Day afternoon eating crabs by myself in the back yard with a movie that takes an unabashed look at screwed up grown-up relationships by acknowledging that romance and sexual attraction continue unabated into middle age?

Don't answer that.

Anyway, I had every reason to go because "The Lovers" was directed squarely at adults, an authentic comedy that was played for the familiar notes of reality rather than easy laughs. That it starred a 62-year old Debra Winger as Mary and Broadway actor/playwright Tracy Letts as Michael turned it into the most fascinating kind of character study.

Watching the two of them go from happily unfaithful (Michael tells his girlfriend, "I was just tired of all the bullshit" about why he strays) to re-finding their attraction for each other amounted to a master class in acting, especially watching cold-hearted Mary melt with the attention and PDAs of her real love.

And once that happened, watching how much passed between them without words was as romantic as having poetry read to you (or written about you).

Almost immediately, they're cheating on their paramours with their spouses, an absurdist premise if there ever was one. But it also oozed romance because they're not just lusting after each other, they're firmly back in love with each other, or at least acknowledging that the love never really left, it was just buried under duty, routine and ennui.

Even Michael's girlfriend notices a difference, telling him, "You're so light and cheerful and nice! I love when you're like this!"

Needless to say, he didn't admit what had put the spring back in his step.

One of the sweetest scenes involved Michael sitting down at the piano after decades of avoiding it to play and sing (not particularly well, but that wasn't the point) a Madness song to Mary.

I never thought I'd miss you
Half as much as I do
And I never thought I'd feel this way
The way I feel about you
As soon as I wake up
Every night, every day
I know that it's you I need
To take the blues away
It must be love, love, love
It must be love, love, love
Nothing more, nothing less
Love is the best

How often does a film tackle the nitty gritty of middle-age relationships - why we plan to leave someone we love, what makes us choose to stay and what urges lead us in both directions - and deliver a classic '80s ska song?

Spoiler alert: I rooted for Mary and Michael, not the lovers. It must be was clearly love.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Socially Engaged

When everyone's heading out to Memorial Day barbecues, where else would I go but to a matinee at the Bijou?

It was steamy and the rain had let up for a bit, but I'd have walked through a downpour for a good documentary and "Citizen Jane: Battle for the City" was definitely that.

Based on how many multiple pleasure points it hit - cultural history, architecture, civic activism, feminism, urban life - I concluded that I was just the nerdy demographic for a film about a woman journalist taking on a big league NYC developer to stop him from destroying neighborhoods circa 1950s to '60s.

You go, girl.

Embracing the deeply flawed mid-century goal of urban renewal (aka "Negro removal," the film reminds us), big bad developer Robert Moses has no compunction about extending a road through a park, running a highway through lower Manhattan (a move that would have wiped out entire swaths of SoHo) and replacing tenements with massive housing projects.

Naturally, it took a woman to point out that a city is not made up of shiny new buildings and easy access for cars, but made up of people, people living their lives on the sidewalks and streets of that city. Social engagement nearly 24/7.

And when you take away stoop culture, the neighborhood becomes more unsafe because fewer children on the street mean fewer adults looking out for them. Fewer shops and restaurants interspersed between houses mean fewer people out at night and history has proven that strangers and bad guys show up when few people are around.

Jane also noted that cities are like a social ecosystem that corrects itself when something is out of whack and when you stack people on top of each other, it messes with the ecosystem.

The documentary used lots of wonderful old film footage to show the bustling sidewalk scenes of life in NYC during the 20th century.  In one memorable scene, a woman who lives in Little Italy and is at a protest against the Manhattan Expressway expresses frustration about people being made to move so anonymous hi-rise housing projects can be built.

Her complaint? Without cafes scattered along the streetscape, it won't be safe for women to walk around at night. She says she feels perfectly  safe walking around the neighborhood, even at 2 a.m., because she knows that all the men are in cafes looking out for them when they go out at night.

Besides the flagrant sexism of men sitting in cafes every night while all their womenfolk can do is walk over to a girlfriend's house, that's a pretty fascinating slice of immigrant life at mid century.

Moses tried to shake off Jane and her band of concerned citizens (so you have to kick some people out of their homes, it's all in the name of progress, rah, rah) but organized protest prevailed and today Soho stands and there's no highway through lower Manhattan.

The film even connected the dots on significant female treatises of the period, linking up Jane's landmark book "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" with Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique" and Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring," all published between 1961 and 1963.

Even so, Jane was mockingly referred to as a housewife by the press despite years of journalistic experience writing for Architecture Forum and Vogue. Twice as hard, backwards and in high heels, that's a woman's lot.

Walking out of the Bijou at 3:30 on a muggy afternoon, I looked around for some of that teeming social ecosystem that populates city streets, but hardly anyone was out and about. Oh, right, it's Sunday, the bland filling of the Memorial Day sandwich.

Looks like everyone else got invited to a cookout.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Take Me to the River

James, is that you I hear?

When I headed down to the river today, it was with the expectation that the river would be high, brown and fast-moving, just like it was yesterday on the T Pot Bridge when I'd watched enormous tree trunks, branches akimbo, bobbing along like toothpicks.

That was child's play compared to what I found once I got down to the pipeline walkway today.

When you descend the metal ladder to access the pipeline, the water all around tends to be shallow, nearly still and many feet below. It's a popular place for ducks to paddle around and bob for food.

Not today. I was gobsmacked to find that the raging James is already swirling maybe barely 18" below the walkway. Completely under several feet of water were my favorite beach as well as the bikini beach and the fisherman's beach.

It was completely disorienting to have all the signs of land missing with only treetops breaking the surface of the water.

The first set of rapids you usually see when walking west are so far underwater that they're no longer recognizable as rapids. Pshaw, it's just another maelstrom in a fiercely fast river. The second set, a favorite of kayakers whom I've seen careen over it and then intentionally flip themselves 360 degrees, looks downright terrifying in James' new state.

Powerful brown waves crash and circle a vortex of some sort, a huge and unnatural-looking hole in the water where rapids should be.

It was impossible even to get to the end of the walkway without waves hitting the pipeline with such force (and a mere foot below walking level) that my legs and shoes kept getting wet. The river itself was completely over top of the pipeline beyond the walkway, and not just covered in water, but with waves rolling along it.

Herons perched on old bridge supports and tucked themselves into the northern shoreline, one nabbing a fish from the river while a group of us watched. A woman with a telephoto lens captured arresting pictures of the herons going about their business on a day on the river where it was anything but business as usual.

I paused to speak to a couple who'd come down to walk and then have a picnic lunch. Holding up the little cooler that housed their food, the wife said, "I don't know where we're going to picnic now!"

My suggestion was Libby Hill Park for a completely different kind of view of the James in action. Surely that historical glimpse of the famous bend must be breathtaking now from so high up. They loved the idea, saying they'd never have thought of it.

What they'll lose from up there, unfortunately, is my favorite part: the roar of the James and today its volume and dynamism rival that of an ocean, a roar made up of fast-moving water and waves crashing in every direction.

Intellectually, I know such force is the sound of danger, but emotionally, the sound of water translates to a relaxed, almost meditative state for me. I attribute it to my parents first taking me to the beach when I was 14 days old.

I could stand here all day listening to you rage, James. And honestly, I don't mind getting a little wet to do it.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Pulling Mussels from the Broth

My right hand will never catch up to what the left hand already does ably.

I think there's a metaphor there.

I'm right handed so without giving it any real thought, I suppose I always expected that it would be my right hand that showed signs of wear and tear first. When it was my left that began giving me the occasional twinge, I was really surprised.

Then I began paying attention to what duties I'd assigned to each hand  and it quickly became clear that I expect indentured servant hours from my left hand while my right hand sits on the back of the parade car and waves at the crowds.

With my left hand, I do the heavy lifting, the grunt work, the multi-tasking and all the back-up work so that my right hand can stay relatively unencumbered. I'll come in from the car with a bag of groceries, a container of laundry detergent, a bottle of water and the mail, all in my left hand.

Meanwhile, my right hand holds my keys, and it should be noted that my key ring has only 4 keys on it. The question is, why don't I distribute more equitably?

Honestly, I have no clue, but my guess would be that my over-thinking brain decided on some level decades ago that the right hand must be favored at all costs, namely my left hand. And now that I'm trying to be more equitable about assigning chores to my hands, I am learning how pitifully inept my right hand is at a host of chores my left hand could do bandaged.

So I got to thinking about the bigger picture. Had I done the same thing with other aspects of my life? Do I excel at finding interesting things to do and going out daily at the expense of working harder at my friendships and relationships? Am I still guilty of the same thoughtless actions I was making during the Reagan years?

Hold the phone, how did I not notice sooner?

Reading through the curlicues of youthful handwriting in my college journal was decidedly enlightening and recent conversations with several long-time friends have helped bring into focus some thoughts that have been rolling around in my head.

More than a few times, someone has asked me if I felt obligated to go out so often in order to have something to blog about.

I could always say no with honesty, that I go out because, for the most part, this extrovert sometimes needs to be around people after working alone all day, and because I truly enjoy having experiences, whether the obvious - music, film, food, art, theater, readings - or the obscure - a VW Bug festival, belly dancing class, workers' parade.

One of the downsides of making plans for practically every evening is that it allows little room for the spontaneity of accepting an 11th hour invitation and often those are the best offers. Or perhaps they just feel that way because of the delicious way they drop in your lap.

This May I've rounded a corner and those realizations have been on my mind practically constantly. I'm consciously working on me because I know I could use some improvement and I'm that cockeyed optimist who believes it's time.

You naturally feel good. [Fact] Your need to complete a certain task could require some time. [I didn't expect to change overnight, so this isn't exactly news] You might be enthusiastic about the coming weekend. [Having little planned leaves me free to be enthusiastic about whatever happens] You take a proactive and positive approach with nearly everything you do now. [Because I sincerely want to re-focus]

A bookmark a friend gave to me today quotes Jennette Wells. "One benefit of Summer was that each day we have more light to read by." Now there's a beautiful sentiment.

I'd say that one benefit of Summer is that each day I have more light to slow down and figure out by. My aim is true.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Pretty in Pink

He didn't, of course, but he might as well have planned it for me.

If I'd wanted to attend a wine tasting class as part of my birthday celebration, chances are I'd want it to be a pink class.

And as Mac just recently pointed out, that's exactly what Amour Wine Bistro was having tonight: Le Rose Wine Tasting: Rhone Valley and Provence.

Birthday schooling of the highest order. Reservation for two, please.

An attendee tonight could be forgiven for thinking that the class was really just a means for the owner to gather a group of interesting women to hang on his every word, because that's what it seemed to be. Not that a restaurant owner would do such a thing.

Every single attendee was female. And eager to learn. Overheard: "Oh, I love eggplant, but I don't know how to cook it."

Looking to start off with something unlikely, the owner poured a tannic 2007 E. Guigal Rose from the southern Rhone valley to prove that some Roses have wonderful aging potential. "It's 2007 again and we're all young!" he joked. "Who was President then?"

The man who never looked so good as he has in retrospect the past 120 days, that's who.

To set the scene for Domaine Pere Caboche Rose, he painted a picture. "For this wine, you should be sitting on a terrace overlooking the Mediterranean, with a barbecue grill over here for the fish you caught this morning - or got at the market - and drinking this," he said, conjuring up a great visual. "Then you have it all!"

I don't know, give me the terrace, the sea and the grilled fish and I'd probably be quite happy drinking anything. With the exception of the woman who called out, "Are you gonna come cook the fish for me because I just can't do fish on the grill," we got his point.

He admitted his favorite was Le Petit Rouviere Rose and that's one I've swooned over for years because of its lush peach notes and long finish.

Lest it sound like we were hunkered down sipping pinks, listening intently to terroir lessons and taking abundant notes, it should probably be acknowledged that we had a steady stream of food coming at us all the while.

White bean, beet and arugula salad segued in to salmon and tuna tartar with capers on thick, chewy crostini and then creamy Dijon mustard sauced chicken with rice kept our Rose-addled attention spans focused until chocolate tart covered in fresh strawberry slices arrived.

Meanwhile, Teacher had moved on to the finer points of Domaine Petit Coeur Rose, so we refocused on the wine's refined elegance instead of drooling over the bottle's sexy shape because Mac and I just aren't that shallow.

That bottle would make a great candle-holder, that's all I'm saying.

It was while we were sipping the summery aromas of blossoms in a glass courtesy of Domaine Mas de la Rouviere Rose from Bandol, that the owner dazzled one and all by bringing out the equivalent of four bottles of Rose in one hand.

You could just see some of the women's eyes go glassy at the prospect of an entire box of Chateau Montaud Cote de Provence Rose and it wasn't long before several of them requested a box of her own to take home. Just don't be too quick to judge.

For those dedicated to the art of Rose, that's what we call homework. For those of us celebrating our birthdays in long form, it's a marathon, not a sprint.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Happy Birthday from the Modfather

Birthday/May 23
This year you warm up the waters with a difficult person in your life. You are prone to the unexpected and frequently can be found responding to situations triggered by surprising events. If you are single, take your time getting to know someone who seems like a nearly perfect suitor. If you are attached, communication flourishes between you and your sweetie. Taurus plays a significant role in understanding what you want from certain situations.

Leave it to the Washington Post to kick off my birthday talking about all kinds of relationships. Like I never give them any thought.

Technically, my parents inaugurated my birthday with a cheery phone call at 10:50 that woke me up and got me out of bed. According to Mom, they'd waited till then to call, thinking I'd be back from my walk, so I didn't bother disabusing them of that notion.

While I was making breakfast, the phone rang an unlikely second time and I picked it up to hear an instantly familiar voice, that of my college friend, biggest booster and, for the last few years, my long distance friend since he's now a Key West resident. Few voices could have surprised me more.

Although he reads the blog regularly and often emails to comment or share a related thought (he picks up a lot of nuances most don't because he's known me so long and so well), we too-rarely talk on the phone, which is a damn shame because we love to laugh together, challenging to do over the interwebs.

My birthday walk was satisfyingly beach-like, alternating damp and drizzle, but with mid-60 degree warmth and a capricious breeze to make it feel like the weather gods were stewing on something. Stew away, as long as I can wear shorts, it's a good birthday.

When I got home, I cut myself a birthday bouquet of lavender and blue hydrangeas, deeply fragrant pink heirloom roses and mauve lilies, putting them in a black vase to tone down the girliness pastel explosion a tad.

Dinner involved all my favorite things - bubbles, oysters on the half shell, crab, good bread, dark chocolate - set to a swinging Sinatra soundtrack over five unhurried hours.

The afterparty revolved around my birthday gift from a handsome friend (and his new bride), who'd thoughtfully brought back from their month-long honeymoon in South Africa a bottle of Spice Route Pinotage for me.

It was a beautiful wine, intense and rich, and the ideal sipper for a record listening party that involved more of my birthday gifts (thank you, Pru and Beau) as well as some of my own recent purchases and golden oldies.

From the gift pile came the number one album from 1982, Asia's eponymous debut, sounding so overblown and prog-pop it was hilarious. A gift nearly 20 years ago, The Pretenders' "Get Close" sounded just as funky as it had in '86. Choosing from Friday's purchases of Marvin Gaye's last two albums, "In Our Lifetime" and "Midnight Love," the latter got the nod.

Since conventional wisdom has it that unless you're desirous of certain results, the one thing you should never put on after Marvin Gaye is Roxy Music, it was inevitable that Roxy's "The Atlantic Years 1973-80" followed Marvin, raising all sorts of lyrical questions.

Can you really dance away the heartache? Who's got angel eyes? Is love the drug? Is it worth waiting till the midnight hour? How can Jimmy John's make a sandwich so fast?

More importantly, will I ever have birthday years where I'm not prone to the unexpected? When I'm not frequently being found responding to situations triggered by surprising events?

Today I woke up to an email from my best friend from college, still my biggest fan and, tragically, a Texas resident.

So, did you have a good night? I was going to call but figured you would be out and about. I hope you enjoyed your special day. I thank your Mom and Dad every year on your b-day for their horniness (I know, very tacky). Love you...

I don't know if it can be considered tacky when my birthday card from Mom and Dad referenced the same horniness: "When it comes to making the world a better place, we've done our part. We brought you into it!"

Out of the mouths of the two people whose relationship I admire the most.  Here's to another birthday year of owning who I am and where I came from.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Getting Busy On My Life Soon

When better than a solo birthday eve to reflect back on the early years that got me here?

Full as the card catalog in my brain may be (both family and friends defer to my collective memory rather than storing memories themselves), much of its archives are so densely packed at this point that they aren't easily accessed.

To the rescue: my handwritten journal, discovered in the bottom of a drawer today.

July 27, 1973
There was a picture on the front page of the Washington Post this morning showing the unanimous vote of the Watergate committee to bring Nixon for testimony. Should be interesting if he does appear.

July 28, 1973
Began Shakespeare's "As You Like It" yesterday and finished it today. I didn't know I had it in me. Really enjoyed it. I'd love to read them all soon, but I haven't got the time.

August 2, 1973
Roger wanted to see me badly tonight, or so he said. That was such a nice thing to tell me. Karen, the incurable romantic.

August 31, 1973
My third big day at University of MD. Botany lab doesn't look very encouraging. All that labeling could mean trouble. The pollution lately has been around 165 (100 being unsafe), which is the alert level. It just hangs in the air...The Watergate committee told Nixon he had to hand over his famous tapes.

September 27, 1973
The news is discussing the current gas station strike. They are closing to protest the prices of Phase IV (the illustrious plan of our wonderful leader)... My first hourly exams are coming up and I should be studying.

October 8, 1973
I heard Jane Fonda and Tom Haydn (husband activist) speak Friday. It was pretty interesting.

October 15, 1973
Agnew resigned last Wednesday and pleaded "no contest" to an income tax evasion charge. Nixon nominated Gerald Ford (minority leader) for the vice presidency. Agnew resigned on the agreement that he'd get court leniency and no more charges pressed...What a sad state of affairs this country is in.

April 3, 1974
The bookstore's still my part-time job and so far, I have no summer job. Roger got one at Greenbelt Park but he has to get a haircut first. And get this: he's going to do it!!! For a job! A year and a half's growth cut off! Oh, Pompidou died yesterday. France is all a-twitter wondering who will succeed him.

September 23, 1975
Kelsey and I went down to a club in Georgetown to dance Saturday night. Danced four straight hours...Bob had a party last week and we all had a great time. Got home about 4:45.

December 1, 1975
Bought a car last Friday! Blue VW, '66 that runs well...Jennie and I have taken up jogging  a mile every morning from 7:00 to 7:30. It feels really good and I don't mind the early hours at all.

December 7, 1975
I called Bob H. the other night to finally clear the air. I'm not sure if it did any good, though. He wants to either date but act the same at work or else continue ignoring each other like we are. I'd like to just be friends... Leo got married Friday at the courthouse. I was really surprised when he told us. Maybe he'll settle down a little, who knows? Leo was the one who told me to make up with Bob. He thought I'd probably blow it, though.

January 28, 1976
 I met a new person. Her name is Bonnie and she lives in Bowie but she's from California. We can talk about anything (and usually do!).

April 23, 1976
One month exactly until my birthday! We've had 80 and 90 degree weather all month. It's really weird. I can't ever remember April being like this...Curt and I saw America at the Capital Center last night. We saw a couple of ballets at the Kennedy Center the week before. Bonnie and I saw Carole King down at Constitution Hall back in March. The weekend before my birthday is the Paul McCartney concert and I'm really looking forward to that. Curt and I saw the Boston Symphony at the Kennedy Center a couple of weeks ago...I've been doing 40 sit-ups every night for the past month or so.

July 27, 1976
I registered to vote. The Democrats nominated Carter. It looks like the Peanut King may be our next President after all...Curt and I went to see "All's Well That Ends Well" at the Folger Theater. It was really super. I'd never been there before (nor had he)...Bonnie is teaching me to play tennis.

August 17, 1976
Curt wants to move to California next year. If he goes, so will I. He's worried I'll miss my friends and family but Bonnie says I'll love California. She's trying to convince Gerry to move out there but he doesn't want to.Who knows? Things could happen in the next year to change everyone's plans.

September 3, 1976
It's so unusual for me to make an entry in this book at night - and a Friday night at that...I saw "Same Time Next Year" with Cheryl at the National Theater Wednesday night. It was the funniest play I've ever seen.

April 5, 1977
Bonnie and Gerry may be moving to Boston in June!  I don't know what I'll do if Bonnie moves away. As it is, I can barely go two days without talking to her.  We're going to the Cap Center to see Boston tonight.

May 12, 1977
What do you do when you're bored all of a sudden and everything is routine? I'm not unhappy but I feel like I do the same things in the same way all the time. I wish I could think of some way to make this summer more exciting. It never does any good to get depressed and feel sorry for yourself (especially like now because I'm unsure why I feel this way) but then how can you stop yourself?

July 15, 1977
Sandy and I are in Guadeloupe...Monday breakfast: first croissant (good). Dancing: met Americans, hot!...Tuesday: beach and sunfish (always knew I'd like sailing)...Wednesday lunch: real Creole meal, stuffed conch (delicious!)...Thursday breakfast: boring, same ham and roll...Saturday afternoon: went to secluded nude beach to lay out...Sunday breakfast: I may turn into a piece of ham....

August 23, 1977
I registered for classes today. Schedule:
Art history -The Renaissance in Italy
Art history - Impressionism
...I am outside now and I am also listening to records.  It doesn't even stay light until 9 p.m. now. I guess Summer is fading fast. "Lemme go, lemme go," that 's the song now playing. P.S. I am listening through open windows...This reminds me of someone: "Baby, baby, I can live without you." Remember now? Tear stained lashes laced the pillow. Oh, my god! I'm turning into a romance writer! ...Elvis died last week. Sebastian Cabot died today...A guy walking his dog just asked, "How's your old man doing?" Etiquette 1977- Not how's your "husband doing" or "boyfriend doing," it's "old man doing." My boyfriend is fine.

May 31, 1978
Bonnie is down now visiting (I love it). She got down on my birthday (my 22nd- what an old lady I'm getting to be!)...Curt and I went through a bad period about a month ago, but that's over. He was feeling neglected  so I've made a point to spend more time with him. Mom gave me one of those talks about "losing a real gem" if I didn't shape up, so I've been thinking a lot about that...He's sweet, kind, patient (hard with me), gentle, generous (to a fault), loving and everything I could want except for deep-rooted male chauvinistic qualities which I would have to learn to live with...And would our relationship change if I did say yes to marrying him? Will we each subconsciously begin to role play? I dread such a thought and yet, who is to say?

November 14, 1978
Old Grandma died on November 2.  It was the saddest day I can imagine...I visited her every day except one during the three weeks she was in the hospital...I always teased her that I was her favorite...One day when I walked into her hospital room, her new roommate said, "You must be Karen, her granddaughter, the one she's always bragging about. She's always telling me how ambitious you are - how busy!" I just smiled but if Grandma had only known how much it pleased me that she would boast to a stranger about me- well, that's made me happy for weeks.

January 3, 1979
I can't believe I've been keeping up with this journal for 5 1/2 years - boy, all the things that have happened since 1973!... I'm going to be 23 this year and Curt will be 30! Boy, rocking chairs, here we come! If I don't get busy on my life soon, it'll be too late.

May 23, 2017
My, my, young Karen, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I still read the Washington Post every day. Let's see, the lively arts - Shakespeare, ballet, symphony, theater - continue to seduce me weekly. Even now, guys who can pull off long hair, nights devoted to dancing, endless live music and travel float my boat. I'm also just now noticing a thread of Virgos.

No memory of discussing a move to California; botany lab was as awful as I'd expected and, if I hadn't seen it in my own youthful scrawl, I wouldn't have believed I ever jogged - even for a mile - much less at that hour.

Oh, and learning tennis? I only let her attempt to teach me because I wanted a really cute tennis dress I saw in a newspaper ad (no, really). Didn't get it.

At the start of this year's birthday, I could say the country remains mired in a sad state of affairs but the good news is, I'm not yet in a rocking chair (is that even still a phrase?).

And, for better or for worse, I'm still the same incurable romantic I've always been.