Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Conjugating Some Irregular Verbs

As travel posters go, it was succinct: If you love life, you'll love France.

And if I want to see a classic Hitchcock movie for the first time, the Byrd is the place to see it. But the starting point for tonight's outing wasn't a movie, it was a lecture, "The Art of Jewelry through the Ages," which just happened to be at the Byrd Theater and just happened to include a screening of Hitch's "To Catch a Thief."

Since I've only been wearing jewelry for a just over a year, you can bet I wasn't the one who noticed the lecture was happening. But Pru did, rounding up her jewelry-making mother, Beau and I for an evening devoted to personal ornamentation and sparkly things.

Naturally, she planned for the evening to begin with dinner, which is how we landed at Spoonbread Bistro for a butter and bacon-soaked meal not long after they opened their doors. Early enough that the piped-in music didn't even come on until after we were seated.

The happy couple was feeling autumnal and wanted a bottle of Bouchard Pere et Fils Reserve Pinot Noir, but I'm still lamenting summer's recent departure and instead opted for Treveri Sparkling Gewurztraminer. By itself, it was underwhelming but once the amuse bouche of creamy crab and salmon on an edible spoon showed up, it showed its true colors as a lovely food wine.

It had been six months since I'd last eaten there and the menu was identical, so choosing what I wanted took some time. Our meal was obscene, as meals at Spoonbread tend to be, with Beau and I each starting with a special of roasted beets over greens in a blood-orange vinaigrette with a golf ball-sized round of cashewed goat cheese.

My seared scallops over corn pudding with bacon drizzle were as rich as I remembered, while I also managed to score bites of Pru's steak and lobster and Beau's sea bass. As for the jewelry maker's rockfish with butter-poached lobster tail, well, that never made it to my side of the table, not that I needed it.

Dinner conversation revolved around #me, too because Pru had noticed my status and reminded me of a conversation the four of us had a year or so ago when Beau had been surprised to learn that all three of us had been sexually harassed or assaulted.

We discussed men's role in all this and Beau stated for the record that he did not want to speak as a representative for his people. I can't blame him.

After sipping, eating and gabbing so long - Pru insisted I taste the Pinot Noir -  we were suddenly in a hurry to make it to the Byrd in time for the lecture and film, both part of Artober, a month-long celebration of art all over town.

The womenfolk were barely in our (comfortable, wide, new) seats while Beau parked the car when we struck up a conversation with the woman two seats down. Pru explained that we were waiting for a man to buy us sweets and the woman, already munching on Snowcaps, sniffed and said, "Usually I make more money than the men I date, so I buy my own."

Lucky for us, we didn't have to because Beau was so gracious as to supply us with buttered popcorn and Milk Duds to tide us over, not that any of us were the least bit hungry. It's more about a Pavlovian response to being in a movie theater.

Tonight's event was sponsored by Carreras Jewelers and cards were handed to each attendee for 10% off a purchase - as if I ever bought any jewelry new - and Bygones, next door to the Byrd.

A Carreras jeweler took us through a fascinating slide show on the history of jewelry, tracing it from the Neolithic period to Greek and Roman times through the Egyptians and the Renaissance, while stressing why jewelry was so desirable: it was made of precious things, it was decorative and, early on, rare.

I was fascinated to learn that originally, jewelry was worn only at night when the light of candles made it look extremely sparkly. He told us about sentimental jewelry (with human hair woven into it...blech) and mourning jewelry (and, by the way, in the 19th century, women were expected to mourn for 2 years while men got off with 6 months...the gender disparities go back to the big bang, apparently).

He got us up to the 1920s and Art Nouveau before the owner of Bygones took over, sharing the history of costume jewelry in the 20th century, notable because it was then that jewelry began to be thought of as art rather than as a sign of wealth.

Whew, otherwise I still wouldn't be wearing it.

Coco Chanel helped turn the tide on that. And, in a nice segue to the film, she told us that the jewelry shown in "To Catch a Thief" had become available in department stores once the movie came out. Not that any of it would look like it did on Grace Kelly, but an Eisenhower-era woman could hope, couldn't she?

Then it was time for the film and, to our amazement, half the audience left because the lecture was over. Who walks out of a chance to see a free Hitchcock movie set in France on the big screen?

Neanderthals, that's who.

Manager Todd introduced the film, reminding us that Hitch filmed his murder scenes like love scenes and his love scenes like murder scenes. "Story of my life," Pru whispered. The woman cracks me up.

I'd been under the mistaken impression that I'd seen this movie before, but not long in, I realized it was all new to me. From the opening shot of a travel agency window full of wonderful mid-century travel posters (talk about art!) to a woman's cotton bathing suit that zipped up the back, it was an ode to another time.

In fact, all the costumes were fabulous because Edith Head designed them and what doesn't look good on Grace Kelly? Even her roadster was beautiful.

Of course, the best part of the story was the budding romance between the one-time jewelry thief and the gorgeous rich girl with attitude. Well, that and seeing Cary Grant in swimming trunks. Oh, yes, and the banter, that was excellent.

You're here in Europe to buy a husband.
The man I want doesn't have a price.
That eliminates me.

Only after the movie came to its logical 1955 solution - love with the promise of marriage - did I share with my posse that it had been my first time. Hell, after the spate of jewelry robberies when Cary Grant's character had said he'd been a reformed thief for 15 years, I wasn't sure if he was lying or not.

That's how clueless I was.

Not only did I enjoy that kiss last night, I was awed by its efficiency.

If you love life, you'll love edible spoons, nerdy art lectures and classic Hitchcock movies on the big screen. Kisses, efficient or otherwise, are also high on the list.

Story of my life.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Till Death When I Part

I can only hope my obituary does me justice.

After all, I'm out here, actively trying to live the kind of interesting life that will inspire someone to weave a seductive historical spell describing me after I've kicked the bucket. That I may live long enough that my obituary will only show up online because newspapers will be long gone is just a tragedy.

Unlike a lot of people, I don't have any quarrel with Mondays. They're just as likely to be fun days as nose-to-the-grindstone days since I work for myself, but today's started off strangely because the power went out. That may not sound like a big deal, but in 11 years of living in Jackson Ward, I think I've lost power twice. We're spoiled that way here.

Then there was the little matter of the weather. Intellectually, I knew that after last night's rain it would turn cooler - I even closed all but one of my bedroom windows last night - but emotionally, I wasn't ready for a high today of 63 after yesterday's glorious 80 degrees.

That meant swapping out yesterday's shorts and t-shirt for a wool dress, leggings, a jean jacket and a scarf when it came time to head out. Wool, for crying out loud because it's going down to 46 tonight.

Starving after a day that had been busy physically and professionally, I walked over to Asado only to find the bar looking full. Reluctant to waste a table on just me, the bartender pointed out a lone stool wedged unseen between lively happy hour revelers.

Immediately the guy at the end of the bar greeted me, asking how come I hadn't walked past his nearby barber shop lately. I told him my walks usually lead me to the river these days, causing the guy next to me to ask if I was talking to him. Nope.

"Well, you don't have to be snippy about it," he joked, then pivoted. "Do you know what Skunk Works are?" Um, nope.

He went on to explain that it was the code name for some revolutionary aircraft program and he was asking people because he was curious if they knew where their tax dollars were going. Clearly, I didn't, but I also discovered that the only reason he knew was because of a sister in the Air Force.

Just as he was introducing himself as Charles, sirens began wailing and lights flashing just outside the restaurant, so we turned around to see two ambulances had pulled up to deal with an accident that had just happened at Laurel and Broad. Some people flocked to the windows to watch, but I had no desire to see strangers put on stretchers.

Meanwhile, Charles is showing me a photo of an SR 71 Blackbird (which meant nothing to an aircraft imbecile like myself) and explaining that he's an accountant by day and a tutor in math, accounting and economics by night, which is why he's at this bar in the middle of campus.

Although he and his buddy have obviously been enjoying happy hour beverages for a while, he assures me his compromised state will not be an issue when he begins tutoring in 15 minutes. Since he had just explained to me that the reason he has a second job is because he's in that 1% who are allergic to most medications (so he needs to save for the expensive drugs he'll need if he gets sick), I raised my glass to his health, minus the affection for alcohol.

He wasn't even out the door before some of his friends took their seats and began discussing itemizing on their income tax. The bartender looked at me and wondered aloud if I thought that was as boring a topic for a bar as she did (hell, yes) and one of them overheard us and ended the discussion.

The one next to me had on an Edo's Squid t-shirt (he lives right behind it) and frequently walks the Northbank Trail. His buddy was in the process of moving to the city from Mosely (kill me now) and he was worried he'd miss all that Chesterfield County outdoors.

I reminded him that we have a whole riverfront to help with that. Then I shared a couple of my routes with the walker, who thanked me, saying the Northbank had gotten stale after walking it so long.

I'm just here to help.

When my honey sriracha grilled shrimp tacos showed up, the bartender said that they were her favorite, causing the pretty young thing busy doing shots of rail tequila with a beard, to pause, lime wedge in hand, and announce, "They're my favorite, too!"

Now that there was a consensus, I could chow down. By the time I finally said sayonara to my fellow bar sitters and left, I passed three cop cars still blocking Laurel entirely as I made my way to the VCU Student Commons Theater.

The Society of Professional Journalists was showing the award-winning documentary, "Obit," the story of the New York Times obituary-writing department, something other papers don't have. That's right, a documentary about the people making a living writing about death.

Except, as they pointed out so eloquently, the death part of an obit is generally two sentences and the entire rest of the article - whether 500 words or 1,000 words and 15,000 if you're the Pope - about the most interesting parts of the deceased's life.

It's a huge amount of research to track down and talk to those close to the departed (now and in the past) and try to locate as much background information as possible in a single day. Then they've got to write it up in a pithy and compelling way.

In order for The Times to deem someone worthy of an obit, the person has to have made some sort of impact, whether it was Brezhnev or the creator of the Slinky.

The obit game-changer came in 2012 with a piece about the death of John Fairfax, a handsome adventurer who'd crossed both the Atlantic and Pacific in a rowboat. As a Boy Scout, he'd settled a fight with a pistol and as a young man, attempted death by jaguar over a broken love affair. Oh, yea, he'd also been a pirate's apprentice.

His story was too good not to be told in his obit.

As a result, the obit-reading public went crazy, proving that obits could be as riveting and swaggering as their subjects, the better to do justice to a life.

And while I've never written an obit, I could completely relate to the journalists onscreen, particularly the one who typed with two and three fingers (don't judge). But also, the familiar negotiating writers and editors do about word counts and article placement.

Then there were advance obits, ready to go as soon as someone shuffled off the mortal coil. The Times has 1700 advance obits ready to go, which is only a problem when someone dies young and unexpectedly.

Someone talking about the Reagan assassination attempt recalled the panic, because of course they had nothing ready, the man had only been in office four months. About his fellow staffers, one writer said, "I don't care if they voted for him or not, they were praying he lived because we had no advance obit for him."

The kind of thing only a journalist would say.

With any luck, my swaggering obit will reference my beginnings as a love child, my brief relationship with Bobbie Gentry and my time spent at Squid Lips.

They'll just have to use the blog to glean the rest.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Music is a Woman

I'd been remiss in my global folk.

Although I've been at the Folk Fest the last two days, I'd yet to see anything but American music. Oh, it had been some fine American folk music - Memphis soul, western swing, soul blues, go-go, zydeco - but I couldn't be happy with my festival experience without hearing music from further afield.

It's not like the world revolves around this country.

So after the disappointment of finding that my Sunday Washington Post wasn't waiting for me on the front porch, I set out for the river, hoping to beat some of the slow-moving hordes on the Folk Fest's final day.

At the Westrock stage, I slid into a seat adjacent to a large, multi-generational Iranian clan to see Shaba Motallebi and Naghmeh Faramand school us in their instruments - Shaba on tar, a long-necked stringed instrument and Naghmeh on goblet drum and frame drum - and play classic Persian music, which we were told was all about improvising.

Shaba played a song she wrote during the birth of her second child and dedicated it to all the mothers in attendance, saying afterward that she always relives the birth when she sings that song.

Explaining how a tar was made (they're only made for a specific person and only after the maker has seen them play), she mentioned walnut and mulberry being used for the frame and the front being made with "baby lamb skin...unfortunately."

Even that disturbing bit of information didn't rouse the green and purple-haired teenager sitting in the row behind me next to her purple-haired mother. She stared stonily ahead to show her Mom her disdain for the being at the Folk Fest (or perhaps just for a mother with purple hair).

We also heard about the daf, a frame drum comprised of a large circle of goatskin in a wooden frame with rings attached to the back so it sounded like two instruments at the same time. Naghmeh shared that because of the way it was played, with hands toward the sky, it was believed to harness the power of nature,

"It sounds like Buddy Rich!" a guy behind me noted once she began playing.

Midway through a classic Persian song that was supposed to segue into improvisation, a ridiculously long coal train rumbled through and after trying to sing and play over it, Shaba gave up. "That's the longest train I ever saw. We'll wait for it to pass."

Not only was it worth it, but the closer was just as beautiful, sung in Farsi and a melding of Persian and Indian music.

The Iranian clan left when their set ended, and were replaced by two older couples, one from Bon Air and the other from New Kent County and they proceeded to argue about the best way to get "that damn horse track" (Colonial Downs) reopened so they could enjoy it again.

"Pass legislation to tax the hell out of the owner, that'll make him sell!" one suggested. Clearly he's never heard the fable about the wind and the sun.

Despite their inane conversation, I stayed put for Nicolae Feraru, a master of the hammered dulcimer, and his Chicago band playing traditional Romanian music that the announcer warned us about. "You're going to hear danger and espionage."

Turns out there were two hammered dulcimer players and a lot of the music did have a sinister sound to it, though not everything they played sounded that way.

Even so, it wasn't long before the man behind me whispered to his friend, "My bride says she wants to go," and they made tracks.

After the first few notes by the accordion player, a woman behind me clapped and grinned. "We finally get a polka!" she squealed and began dancing in her folding chair.

I spotted an old guy dressed as Uncle Sam and carrying the American flag heading toward us and all I could think was, don't let this be about the fact that it's a group of immigrants playing onstage, but happily, he and the Mrs. were just looking for seats in the shade now that the sun had come out.

Wow, there was a time when such a thought never would have crossed my mind, but that was before last November 8th.

Heading up the hill, I managed to not only catch the last part of Innov Gnawa's set of Moroccan trance, but run into a former Balliceaux regular I used to see almost weekly. He's still lamenting the loss of regular jazz in his neighborhood, but was willing to settle for another beer to lighten the mood and catch up.

At that point, I was finished with the Folk Fest, having earned my global credits in one fell swoop of an afternoon (and feeling pretty good about it), but not with the subject of music entirely.

That was because the Richmond Jazz Society was bringing Duke Ellington's granddaughter to town today as part of the "Virginia Jazz: The Early Years" exhibit currently at the Valentine and I had a ticket to be there.

Although she's a talented and well-respected dancer and choreographer, of course what people wanted to hear about was life with her grandfather, who asked his own son to dye his gray hair brown so as to make Sir Duke not seem so aged.

Sure that such a man wouldn't dig being called Grandpa, Mercedes asked him what he wanted her to call him. He suggested "Uncle Edward" and he forever called his granddaughter "Aunt Mercedes." That's some serious male vanity right there.

She shared stories about growing up in Duke's orbit because she was raised by her grandmother in New York City and went to a Catholic school where she learned Irish jigs and reels (predecessors to tap dance, she said) and a love of dance was spawned.

There were stories of Sir Duke's favorite singer, Ella Fitzgerald, babysitting her and how, because the band toured year round, any time they were playing in NYC, it was a celebration for the families with presents and fried chicken.

When asked about being around so many musicians, Mercedes diplomatically said, "They were unique. I was going to say strange," and went on to clarify based on "Uncle" Edward's theories.

Trombone players were "very slippery" and sax players who didn't play any other reed instrument were "not very bright." Bass players were "the salt of the earth" and "drummers were fine after they'd had their first nervous breakdown."

It was a good thing it was a mostly older crowd when the subject of the old Jackie Gleason show came up, because no one else would remember the show's June Taylor Dancers, of which Mercedes was the first and only black member, eventually moving to Miami when the show began taping there.

Given that she began dancing with the troupe in 1963, she had plenty of stories that reflect the sad state of race relations in this country.

Trying to rent an apartment in Miami, the landlord took her friend aside to ask "what" Mercedes was. The friend said she was Hawaiian so she got the lease. Traveling with family to Hawaii after a 7-month gig in Australia performing "West Side Story," a woman on the beach wanted to know why she was there since she didn't need a tan.

The mortification of being a white person never ends.

She reminded the room of rapt listeners that Duke always advocated for "a mixed bag of people" and made sure his orchestra had both black and white musicians. The Broadway musical based on his songs, "Sophisticated Ladies" was likewise cast.

His advice to his granddaughter was to move to Europe because there were more opportunities there for blacks and that home is where the work is. His mantra, Mercedes said, was to keep moving.

On that point, Duke Ellington and I are in full agreement. I don't know know how else you could describe my day...or even my life.

Meanwhile, like with an annoying train, I just wait for the interruptions to pass.

One Is More Than Enough

You can ask me to do many difficult things, but walking slowly is not one of them.

And, sadly, at the Richmond Folk Fest, there are frequent times when I am forced to walk at the snail's pace of humanity. It is excruciating, I can assure you.

And that was after I tried traversing the block along Second and Grace where a quintet of skateboarders had made it their own this Saturday afternoon. A guy walked by me, warning, "You better walk faster, this is now a skate zone."

Then he leaned in chuckling, saying, "Ain't never seen a guy with a gray beard on a skateboard." Clearly you don't spend enough time in certain parts of the city, then. I know 50-somethings who still skate regularly.

Because a writing deadline had kept me from making it down to the Folk Fest until the shank of the afternoon, I was bound to wind up in the crush of music fans heading across the bridge to Brown's Island at the exact same moment (side note: how do people stand to walk that slowly?).

By the time I reached the dance pavilion, I'd run into the radio show host, my favorite hippie musicians, a WRIR DJ and two musicians in search of the best world music. Before the day was over, I also saw the printmaker and her husband, one of my first blog fans and her man, the bookseller and my neighbor, in a particularly gregarious mood after 4 beers (and on his way to score his fifth).

My arrival was ideally timed to find a spot on the dance floor barely four people back from the stage that gave me a bird's eye view (minus his feet) of Memphis soul singer Don Bryant and his band the Bo-Keys, who played without Don on the first song to build the anticipation.

Then the dapper Don joined them and you could just see the joy of performing radiating from his face. This is a 75-year old man who put out his first album in 1969 and his second this summer, a man still marveling at his good fortune.

He kicked off their set by measuring out the ingredients he was going to need - four tablespoons of Memphis guitar, a cup of fatback drumming, a pinch of organ (I was especially taken with the organist's showmanship: every time his hands left the keys, he yanked them back dramatically, as if he'd touched something hot and beamed a smile) - and began strutting and dancing like a man half his age.

As far as I could tell, his only concession to age was alternating a barn burning song with a slow jam to allow him to catch his breath.

When I'd interviewed him a few weeks ago, he'd told me his show would be all about the love and he wasn't kidding. The set included songs about doubting your partner, jealousy, being hurt by love and being true and the ones that weren't danceable were perfect for swaying to, slow dance-style.

Don's voice, honed by years of singing gospel, had no problem producing notes high and low that got the crowd screaming in appreciation. "Don't Turn Your Back on Me" gave us possibly his best lyric:

I'm doing the best that I can
Remember, I'm only a man

Don't worry, we never lose sight of that. Then, just to prove he's still nothing but a man, he closed with "One Ain't Enough (and Two's Too Many)," entreating the adoring crowd to sing along and offering the mic to a few people up front to sing the classic line about having too few or too many women.

Crossing the footbridge after his set ended, I heard a terrified-sounding woman tell her children about the overcrowded bridge, "We're all gonna die." Quality parenting at its best.

Dropping money in one of the Folk Fest's orange buckets to earn my Saturday sticker, I was caught off guard when the guy bearing the bucket threw his arms around me, then turned to the crowd, shouting, "Cheap stickers, free hugs!"

After scoring a foil-wrapped Maryland-style crabcake, I headed up the hill to the Community Foundation stage and soon ran into a DJ/musician friend heading away. I was incredulous that he wasn't staying for Be'la Donna, the all-women go-go group from D.C. I'd been looking forward to all day.

"Doesn't sound like go-go to me," he grumbled. I didn't take him for an expert on all-women go-go groups and kept going to find a better view.

Besides having great hair and all the energy in the world, these women were dressed to impress in bright dresses and tops that made for an explosion of color as they sang, danced and played in high-heeled lock step, singing, "They don't love you like I love you" and doing shout-outs to prove it.

No question it was hot onstage and one of the singers used a large folding fan to cool herself off in between stints at the microphone.

Near where I was standing watching, a mother with an affection for go-go began dancing in circles around her mortified teen-aged daughter who couldn't even look her mother in the eye as she gyrated. A better question might have been, how could the daughter not be moving at all to such an infectious beat?

When their set ended, I began walking, only to hear my name called and see my favorite part time server/professor beckoning me over to meet her friend ("Karen's not too cool to go to a poetry reading," she assured him) and catch up. Before it was all over, we'd covered a multitude of unmentionable topics before moving on to going to Godfrey's Latin night later and the demise of the Virginia State Penitentiary that once stood near where we did.

It's what we like about each other: our interests swing widely.

Walking back up the hill toward home, who should I run into again returning for a second stab at the Folk Fest, but the two musicians with a taste for world music? Turns out they'd taken my advice and parked on my block before hoofing it down rather than wasting time trying to park downtown.

Still, at a festival teeming with people, it was amazing to happen on the same two twice in one day.

With enough music under my belt to be able to live with myself, I finished out the night at the Comedy Coalition to watch three of the house teams do long form improv. It was completely different than what 'd been doing since yesterday and for that reason, it was a fine way to close out my day.

The Johnsons' cue was "planetarium" and that sent them off riffing on scarecrows hitting on people in a corn maze ("Don't flatter yourselves. I said I had pimento cheese!") and a married woman making a Jolene-esque plea to her husband's first wife so he'd pay attention to her instead.

Dollar Machine, in their last performance ever, got "basement" as their starting point, which took us to hoarders, colonies of feral cats and hamsters being buried in Crystal Light containers. Just as funny were alley trolls who put strolling daters to various tests (like demonstrating second base) to see if they'd make sound couples.

If only such a thing could be determined so easily in an alley.

Last up was Big Bosses, comprised of the Coalition's heavy hitters, long time staff and teachers, making light of a phrase from a bad Christmas movie, "It's turbo time!" which quickly became, "It's justice week!"

Before long, we were enmeshed in comedy involving Superpowers like Single Dad Man, Subtraction Man and Inquisition Man and a reporter who persisted in saying, "I'm from the local papes" before taking notes.

A character named Dick Cheney was the bad guy (casting to type), fixing the 2000 election and killing anyone who disagreed with him. These days, you laugh so you don't cry.

But only after you've danced to a Memphis soul singer reminding you to never give up on love. His rationale? "Love's not giving up on you!"

Is that a promise? Because I would be willing to walk slower to make it so.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Of Hens and Brisk Slips

I stretched for the stars and I know how it feels to reach too high, too far, too soon. Even so, I intend to see the whole of the moon.

With two articles to write today, I skipped my morning walk and got right to it. Doing research for a quote, I came across one of those beautifully written sentences that stay with you, this one by  F. Scott Fitzgerald: They slipped briskly into an intimacy from which they never recovered.

I'm not sure what's more romantic about that, the speed or the inability to resist, so I want to think about it some more.

In early afternoon I was interrupted by the phone ringing and answered to find a pollster at Roanoke College on the line. I tried to beg off, but allowed myself to be cajoled into doing it for the sake of representing the intelligent voter.

When she got to a question about my opinion of 45, I eschewed choices of approve, disapprove or no opinion to deliver a scathing indictment of a lunatic. "We're not supposed to say this, but I agree with you!" she  laughed. "God, it's so refreshing to hear someone answer like you just did."

How, honestly?

Facebook had alerted me that a DJ at WRIR who'd been at the Paul Weller show Saturday was devoting his entire show to a tribute to the Modfather, so once my work was finished, I tuned in to hear rare, alternate and acoustic versions of his songs mixed in with similar artists.

Some sets were so achingly perfect: solo Weller on "Into Tomorrow," Style Council's "Walls Come Tumbling Down" and the Jam's cover of "Heat Wave" segued seamlessly into the Waterboys' "Whole of the Moon," and it was such a beautiful musical flow, I just sat there smiling in appreciation, unable to do anything but listen.

That's some well-curated music, son.

Toward the end of the show, the DJ (who, I'll admit, I've known for 25 years), was tripping over his tongue after so much rhapsodizing about the show and Weller's music, not that it wasn't warranted.

Sounding utterly smarmy, he made a wisecrack about his tongue being too big, and amended that to say it wasn't always a bad thing. "If you know what I mean...and, frankly, I think that you do," he cracked hilariously before thanking listeners for joining him in basking in the afterglow of the Weller show.

I'll bask as long as you play, good sir.

It was damp and getting dark when Mac showed up to trek with me to the Richmond Folk Fest and besides desperately needing the walk, the visuals were stellar with the city looking atmospherically romantic with fog and muted lights along the bridges and canal.

The hordes hadn't yet arrived, so we easily made our way to a row of food vendors where she got a banh mi and, from La Milpa, I chose Mexican-style shredded chicken tacos that sang with the flavors of onions, lime juice, cilantro and white cheese. No sour cream or salsa to be found.

We ate our meals at a community table under a tree with leaves still attached rustling in the night breezes. When I commented on how positively musical the wet, green leaves sounded - completely unlike the rustling of dry brown leaves on a tree - the stranger across from me (notable because she and her companion were first-time Folk Fest attendees) agreed. "Yes, it's like music."

From there, we headed to the Westrock stage to see Hot Club of Cowtown's stylish pastiche of hot jazz and western swing.

There was a pink-collared dog onstage and the bass player (who looked like a cross between a young Patrick Swayze and Chris Isaac) was wiping the strings on his upright bass, presumably to dry them off in the 100% humidity.

The Austin trio played Richmond 10 years ago when it was the National Folk Fest, has now been together 20 years and their polished set showed that with a helluva range of songs: "I'm an Old Cowhand" to "The Continental" to "Big Balls in Cowtown," I kid you not.

After thunderous applause, the bass player (the front of his shirt soaked with sweat from slapping that bass so hard) noted, "Maybe we need to come back here more than once every 10 years!" and while that seems logical, I question how many in the audience would come see the band if it was at a local venue and not in the sheltered confines of the Folk Fest.

Just an observation.

As we sat under the tent surrounded by hundreds of people, we could feel a cool breeze blow across us from the river every few minutes, a reminder that fall is trying to assert itself.

We hurried over to the dance pavilion to catch the end of C.J. Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band's crowded set because Mac loves zydeco, before crossing the bridge to leave the island (where we passed a young woman telling her friend, "I would just give him a blow job") and heading up the hill to the Altria stage for soul blues - a genre based in gospel - courtesy of Eddie Cotton, Jr.

The blues master announced from the stage that he was about to "turn this place into a juke joint," which would've been a real accomplishment considering that we were on a steep, grassy hill, but he did a damn fine job of trying.

Unfortunately, we landed next to a guy who chose the same spot to talk non-stop to his companion for 45 minutes straight.

"That's the thing," he explained patiently to her as if she cared. "Other women tempt me." Apparently they also dump him or turn out to be transgender and he explained how often both had happened to him loudly, along with his theories on why.

Mac and I could have moved, I suppose, but we had a lamp post to lean on, a clear view of the band and enough optimism to think he'd eventually shut up. We were wrong.

Meanwhile Eddie sang out, "Hey, Richmond, let's have some fun! You only get one life, then you're done," a philosophy I embrace wholeheartedly. His music ensured that the crowd would be moving non-stop and his voice harnessed the power of church singing.

During another song he asked all the men who were in love to raise their hands. "How many of you are henpecked?" he asked and many hands went down.

"There's nothing wrong with being henpecked as long as you're pecked by the right hen!" he told them and a few hands went back up. Nothing like a blues master to set the menfolk straight.

"Okay, on the count of four, I want everyone to get up and shake something!" he demanded, causing even the Baby Boomers to shake their aging tail feathers, some more appealingly than others.

For that matter, Mac and I couldn't hep but notice that you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting a middle-aged man at the Folk Fest, so it could be a good place to meet fellow music lovers of the male persuasion who aren't yet in love.

Recovery from intimacy is optional, if you know what I mean. And, frankly, I think that you do.

Friday, October 13, 2017

An Underhand Serve

Once you've experienced the real thing, no facsimile can possibly stand up.

A year ago this month, I'd gone to see Billie Jean King speak, here, and come away dazzled with a fuller sense of who she was as well as her life's achievements. She seemed bigger than life (despite being the same height as me) because her accomplishments made her so.

So while I was curious to see a film version about her infamous match with Bobby Riggs, I'll admit I went to "Battle of the Sexes" mainly to see how well the filmmakers depicted the era.

Right off the bat, they showed their commitment to the decade that gave us disco and Watergate by starting the film using the Fox Searchlight logo from the '70s. Now, that was a nice touch.

And even though they had star Emma Stone gain 15 pounds for the role, nobody, I repeat nobody, would mistake Stone's lithe form for King's athleticism. At least she had the sense to lay off the mascara and lipstick to play King a tad more effectively, although she was still way too classically pretty.

Issues of feminism and male chauvinism (Riggs says he "put the show in chauvinism) pervaded the story, in the same way that those topics became part of so many college conversations back then

Seeing someone use an aerosol deodorant was a fine throwback, as was stockings drying on a shower curtain pole. Been there, done all that.

Probably most fascinating was the decision for the Women's Tennis Association members (founded by King as a way of seeking better pay for female players) to wear tennis dresses that incorporated color into them. I'm not talking the black lace or silver spandex tennis get-ups that came later, but accents of color and pattern that seemed modern and stylish back then.

Clearly color must have seemed like a bold step because King got pushback for wearing blue Adidas shoes for her match with Riggs. Being Billie Jean, of course she wore them anyway.

Where the movie really scored for its authenticity was in using actual audio and visuals showing Howard Cosell providing the commentary on the match. Unfortunately, it also showed him on camera with his arm and hand on the shoulders of the color commentator, one of the women players of the WTA.

Now there's progress: male announcers now know better than to touch their female counterparts unasked. At least on camera.

The music choices were strong, reminding me of songs I hadn't thought of in eons: Tommy James "Crimson and Clover," the Left Banke's "Walk Away, Renee," George Harrison's "What is Life?" and, because no movie taking place in the '70s can be without an Elton John song, "Rocket Man." The Sara Bareilles song, "If I Dare" was an unexpected treat.

And don't get me started on the parallels to today in a story of a talented and well-qualified woman (albeit a controversial one given her attraction to a woman) having to face off against a showboating buffoon and being treated condescendingly simply because she has girl parts.

I hate to point out the obvious, but our strength lies in how smart, talented and funny we are plus that we have girl parts.

Match point.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

It's Not Houses, It's the Life Lived in Them

Romance is wherever you find it.

Whatever the room had originally been - mud room? l'orangerie? former stable? -  it must have given off an aura of unbridled passion, or else why would the woman who led us there whisper, "It looks like where the chauffeur would meet the Downton Abbey daughter."

Since television isn't my forte, I saw it more as a place where Lady Chatterly might meet the gamekeeper Oliver and wile away a sticky afternoon such as today reading poetry to each other. Or, better yet, "reading poetry to each other." Wink, wink.

The room was notable for the minimally framed windows (the kind that open out) that made up the upper half of three walls of a brick-floored room that looked out on the garden. It seemed to be more of a final resting place for anything that didn't have a more appropriate place in the house proper than a room dedicated to anything in particular.

The charm of it was that it was completely unexpected.

Tonight was the first installment of House Story, a new monthly series that mashes up the storytelling elements of Secretly Y'All and the voyeuristic urges of Modern Richmond tours. Since I'd been going to both of those events for years, House Story seemed like a natural.

The chosen house on Grace Street looks completely different from those around it, so that was a definite draw. Add in that Mac and I had both walked by that house countless times (she used to live 2 blocks down and I walked that route for years) and always been curious about the interior and backyard, and it was all but assured we'd want tickets for the tour.

What I didn't expect was to walk through the front door and immediately run into a poet I know. For that matter, I did a double take with a woman (and she did the same) as we passed in the kitchen, only to turn around and realize we had met through work some 15 years ago.

"Just being in this house makes me love it even more," Mac observed as we made our way from one gracious room to the next, indulging our voyeuristic tendencies.

What was unexpectedly striking was that the 1838 house was mostly furnished in mid-century modern furniture and contemporary art while boasting details such as molded cove ceilings and curving walls, while the floors were remarkable for the intricate herringbone patterns throughout.

In the upstairs bathroom, a tiled undulating wall backed an open shower, but the owner said that they'd found the curved wall buried in a closet and immediately decided it needed to be seen, not hidden away.

After traipsing through rooms up and downstairs while letting our imaginations wander, we joined the group gathering in front of the staircase for some history and storytelling.

The current owner told us that the house had been built by a wealthy farmer named Talley - hence the house's name Talavera - on 25 acres in Henrico County in the Greek revival style: two rooms upstairs, two rooms downstairs and a central hall.

At some point, the house was moved from a Broad Street location to its current digs on Grace between Strawberry and Davis and enlarged. Then a two-story wing was added by C.F. Sauer in 1901 when he bought it. By 1922, it had been chopped up into a rooming house and by 1961, the city assessed the house and land at $10,000.

It was a fascinating history, to be sure. And the kicker was that two weeks before his death, Poe had done a public reading of "The Raven" in the front room by the fireplace.

Lois, the next door neighbor, had lived there since 1975, so she came next and shared memories of a previous owner named Serge who recalled hearing the clang of swords as Confederate soldiers climbed the stairs.

Lois pointed out that those stairs hadn't existed during the Civil War, but Serge had apparently been insistent. Other ghost sightings followed. Tonight, a kid who was filming the speakers piped up and said that a yellow orb had appeared in the frame as she talked about ghosts.

What the hell?

More recently, a woman showed up at the front door and asked to come in because she'd been married in the house in 1964, right in front of the fireplace next to which Mac and I were now sitting.

The director of the Poe Museum shocked everyone when he told the story of how when Vincent Price came to town, he'd asked to visit Talavera (for obvious reasons) and once there, read from "The Raven."

Because he could, that's why.

It was the perfect lead-in to a reading by poet Gregory Kimbrell of, that's right, "The Raven," done in front of the same fireplace where Poe had read, except with all the House Story attendees gathered 'round.

For those like me who stopped to think about that, it was a remarkable thing to experience given the location and reading material.

Acknowledging that his work owed a debt to Edward Gorey and was campier than Poe's, he followed that with a couple pieces from his own collection of macabre poetry, "The Primitive Observatory." And while I'd heard him read from it several times, I'm guessing many in the room were experiencing his disarming and disturbing poems for the first time.

Short of finding a willing gamekeeper in the mudroom, how could I not appreciate an event that delivers house porn, history, neighborly anecdotes and poetry?

Quoth the raven, nevermore...

Ampersand with Flourish

I'm not gonna lie, my purpose was twofold.

Being the documentary dork that I am, I can honestly say I was jazzed to see that there was going to be a screening of "Pressing On: The Letterpress Film" at the Byrd tonight. Why not, with a subject that not only interested me but one that I know so little about?

But it certainly didn't hurt that after years, nay, decades, of sitting in the Byrd's rickety, scratchy, busted springs, torn pleather seats, I was completely stoked to sit in one of the chairs installed since I was there last Monday.

Hallelujah and pass the buttered popcorn, it felt miraculous.

As if just not having to work around the uncomfortable, protruding parts wasn't enough of a gift, there was the unimaginable: leg room, a cup holder and even a wider seat. I took mine for a test sit, bouncing just a little so I could feel the springs respond and not play dead like on the old ones.

They're not the eye candy the old seats were - I seriously doubt they make 'em like they used to - but butts don't care about visuals.

It was in such comfort and spaciousness that I got to see the Richmond premiere of "Pressing On," presented on a city-to-city tour by its producer and co-director. Their first order of business was drooling over the Byrd Theater's historic grandeur, saying "This is the coolest theater we've screened in."

A series of former pressmen (some second and third generation), press collectors, young artists discovering letterpress, a guy who repairs old presses and others took us through the history of the letterpress and why it's so important we don't let the old machines wind up in landfills or rusting in basements.

One pressman marveled that the young are fascinated by the obsolete technology, attracted to the physicality of having to move to do it, rather than just pushing a button on a computer. Another old-timer, said, "Twenty, thirty years ago, I thought letterpress would die with me."

Happily, that no longer is the case.

Naturally we heard about how Gutenberg's printing press had changed the course of culture, allowing people access to words formerly interpreted by priests. But also it represented the sheer explosion of information that could now be printed and disseminated.

Because old type is wearing out and new type needs to be made, there are now guys working diligently to repair old machines - apparently built to last multiple lifetimes - and return them to serviceability.

A lot of the people in the room seemed to be in the graphic design fields and you could see them nod or murmur when things like that were mentioned in the film.

One of the more fascinating aspects of it was not only the devotion it inspired in people, but the early attraction. One man shared that he began working at his local printing press when he was 10. "And when I turned 16, they began paying me for it."

Just about everyone interviewed was adamant that old presses not end up in museums - the Smithsonian was specifically mentioned - where they would sit unused, a consideration a non-printer such as myself wouldn't have thought of.

The point was also made that these days, event posters are made for celebrating and commemorating, not for advertising purposes since that's now mostly done online. It's not like even 10 years ago, when I would make sure to read every telephone pole's posters as I walked by so I'd know about any interesting shows coming up.

I'd be inclined to say that we're kind of spoiled in Richmond because the print collective Studio Two Three has been offering classes and making presses available to the community for, what, a decade now. I've purchased several posters from them over the years, attracted to their singularity, flaws and all, which is something you can't get with digital reproduction which always looks the same.

Damn conformity.

It was mainly the passion of everyone in the film that made it so engaging for a non-printer. I mean, when a person says he intends to keep printing until the hearse shows up, clearly he's doing something he loves.

Whereas what I love is watching yet another nerdy documentary, but in a seat so comfortable I don't leave with cramps in my butt cheeks for a change.

Instead, what I do leave with is a newfound appreciation for why old presses are getting new lives: for the love of printing.

And truly, is there a better reason for doing anything than love?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

All That Glitters

On Richmond theater's high holy night, all I can do is dress up, walk five blocks and settle in for the show.

The scene: the November Theatre for the 10th anniversary of the Richmond Theater Critics Circle Awards, aka the Artsies. To put that in perspective, the Artsies began on the cusp of the new world order: the year the first iPhone was available.

A non-event for me then and now, the difference being I am now a complete anomaly and not just one of the less connected.

A decade on, the Artsies involve blasts of smoke and confetti falling from the ceiling, the constant shrillness of screaming girls next to me (an unearthly pitch that hurt more than the noise of a punk show) and reminders to actors to limit their speeches to one minute.

Please, they're actors.

As it turned out, that was a non-issue because one presenter and eight winners weren't in attendance for a variety of reasons - just moved to NYC, at a rehearsal, couldn't find a sequined tux - so the show just moved along.

Some non-attendees planned ahead, so when "In the Heights" won best musical direction, a stand-in could share, "If you know Ben Miller, you won't be surprised that he sent words to read." Nope, no surprise there.

One of the most hilarious moments came early on when the lovely and talented Georgia Rogers Farmer took the stage to such thundering applause that she had to curtsy and wait for the crowd to settle down, "Please!" she squeaked with her mega-watt smile over an absolutely gorgeous dress, "I'm a professional!"

Cut to row F, seat 5, where I am sitting next to Melissa Johnston Price's best friend from college and in front of Alexander Sapp, tonight's big winner, it turns out.

Having marveled at just about every performance he's ever done, I shouldn't be surprised that he plays an audience member with everything he's got, making him among the loudest at applauding and shouting affirmations when nominees are announced and winners called to the stage.

When he won Best Supporting Actor, he dazzled the crowd with well-deserved praise for the local theater scene, warning newcomers that, "People who come here from New York or Chicago, L.A. or Terre Haute, you better bring your "A" game!"

It was positively inspiring.

Proving that he was worthy of being part of the cast who won Best Acting Ensemble (for "Toxic Avenger," with the entire cast wearing some shade of toxic green) for more than superior acting skills, when Dean Knight won Best Leading Actor (along with the stellar Jeremy Morris for "Top of Bravery") and began praising such unsung heroes as stage managers, Sapp called out, "Dean, you classy guy!"

He then showed his own classy guy cred by praising the other nominees when he won best actor, but only after saying, "Holy shit! Thanks, Richmond, I'm in love with you!"

It's mutual, I'm sure.

Cut to jokes about the longevity of actors in this town - Jill Bari Steinberg admitted to 39 years in theater and Michael Hawke (who couldn't resist tossing out, "Trump is still an asshole!") to 50 years, and you have some idea of how theater talent can thrive here.

When Grey Garrett won best actress in a supporting role for a play for "Rabbit Hole," she immediately began singing the praises of getting to ask a Pulitzer Prize-winning author questions about his play as the cast worked on it.

Cut to Debra Wagoner winning best actress in a leading role/musical for her masterful turn in "The Toxic Avenger" and bringing it down to earth by saying her feet hurt and her contacts were dried out and it had been 10 years since she stood up there to say thank you. Too long.

When Dawn Westbrook won the same award but for a play ("Grand Concourse") she began by saying, "I have just two words: TheatreLab!" and praised the upstart company to high heaven. She then assured the people who had seen the play that the cat was alive and doing great (significant because in the play, it had died due to neglect).

When Nathaniel Saw won for best direction/musical for "In the Heights," he seemed genuinely touched. "This marks one year of me being in Richmond. Thanks for welcoming me into this beautiful community!"

Of all the unexpected presenters, our former first lady, Anne Holton, showed up to deliver the awards for best play and musical (after some mild ribbing about how it feels to lose to a narcissist) to "Grand Concourse" and "In the Heights."

As another year of Richmond theater was brought to a close, all the glamorous people headed across the street to Quirk to celebrate while I made my way home to change out of glitz and into everyday to meet an old friend from D.C. for conversation and laughs, always lots of laughs.

Seven years we've been friends and he still waits until the last minute to alert me that he'll be in town, so I can't help but razz him about that.

I found him in a dark corner at GWAR Bar eating, but convinced him it would be far more pleasant to be outside in the warm, humid October night than in the frigid air conditioning with heavy metal screaming from the speakers. The windows were dripping with condensation from the contrast inside and out.

Call me a good salesman, but it was an easy sell.

Apparently we weren't the only ones looking for night air because Saison Market's patio was full, so we settled for an indoor table until a prime spot opened up outside.

I'll give him this much: he's a master with words (and likes to tell me that he gives better words than any man I know) and not at all shy about teasing me about my "gentlemen callers," as he likes to call this non-existent group, among whom he counts himself.

But his best line came about during a discussion of his older brother, with whom he has a fractious relationship these days.

"I'm the last person to talk to about norms, but I do know what a norm is," he claimed, despite hours discussing the freelancer life we both live. Can't say that I do, but I'm also decades into being non-norm.

Please, I'm a professional.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Pass the Claws

Metaphorically speaking, David slew Goliath. Again.

Generally, when I want crabs, I head down and over a few blocks, where a cadre of men sit talking in chairs near a sidewalk with a sign advertising fresh steamed crabs. They're as nice and friendly as neighbors. One of them has a cousin who crabs on the northern neck and what they get of his haul is steamed nearby in somebody's backyard and sold to people like me on a strictly cash basis.

I'm sure it's all quite illegal, but the crabs are always meaty, well seasoned and priced for a budget. I stop by and visit the guys for crabs whenever I get a craving and wave as I walk by even when I don't.

But today I saw that Rapp Session was running a crab special - blue crabs steamed in Miller High Life, $3 each Saturday and Sunday - so I messaged Mac, my partner in crustaceans, to see if she wanted to join me in some picking.

Her YES came back in all caps and further, she'd be here in 30 minutes. Yes, we take our crabs seriously, she and I.

We walked to Rapp Session, passing Godfrey's just as a trio of women were rushing toward it, trying to make it to Drag Brunch before the show began. A large man outside the door waved a wad of cash and asked them sweetly, "Need any ones, ladies?" The first woman wanted $20 worth, so clearly she had plans to tuck a lot of bills into panties while eating her overpriced omelet.

You go, girls.

We had more important things on our mind, but once at a table, the bad news hit: crabs were a dinner special only, although our hapless server tried to convince us that crab legs would be just as good.

I don't care for crab legs, son, I want blue crabs. Capisce?

The only logical thing to do was walk back to my house, change into walking clothes and head down to the river to kill time until crabs were available, never mind that the humidity was hovering at 98% under rapidly moving cloudy skies.

On Brown's Island, we navigated around the Folk Fest tents and preparations for next weekend's extravaganza, walked the pipeline and came back up through Capital Square, which seemed to be bustling with far more tourists than usual for a Sunday. Walking back, we detoured through the Second Street festival to gawk at the vintage car show - look at that Cadillac, it's as big as a whale - and run ionto friends.

Only after losing our sweaty walking clothes did we return to Rapp Session for crabs and, as it turned out, disappointment. Mac and I, crab pros, should have been suspicious because the announcement had said that the crabs would be served with melted butter and no crab eater worth her Old Bay or J.O. Spice uses butter, but we rolled the dice anyway.

Rapp Session, I bow to your superiority with oysters, but you don't know diddly squat about crabs. I'm not even talking about giving me a lobster cracker as a mallet. But of the eight crabs we ordered, one was delicious, two were so far past their prime they smelled and five were watery and the crab meat mushy.

Unfortunate, to say the least.

The only logical way to address our loss was with Old Saltes and we swallowed the briny bivalves as much for their salty punch as to erase the memory of lackluster crabs. Mac used smoked bluefish dip to do the same.

This is what happens when you cheat on your primary crab supplier, kids. Don't do it. Learn from our mistake and stick to kindly old men on folding chairs for the real deal. We sure will.

Also, butter is for amateurs.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Wishing On a Star

The Modfather = marriage.

Allow me to explain. When you mention Paul Weller to a music-lover of a certain age, well, honestly most of them have no clue who he is.

But a few of the more musically savvy will recognize the man who burst on the scene in the '70s with the punky mod revival band the Jam, followed that with the blue-eyed soul of the Style Council, and then kicked off an exquisite solo career in the '90s.

For those people (and me), Paul Weller is forever the Modfather, a nod to his original band's sound and style of dress. These guys looked as good as they sounded.

But mention to me that Paul Weller is on tour and I can guarantee you one thing: on the night when he plays at the closest venue to me, I will be expected to be at a wedding. I kid you not.

About a decade ago, he was playing in D.C. and I was thrilled to think that I might finally get to see him after being a fan for decades. That emotion came to a screeching halt when my then-boyfriend reminded me that we were attending a friend's wedding the same evening.

Fast forward to this past May and one of my birthday gifts was a pair of tickets to see Paul Weller in D.C. with the gift-giver. I was over the moon to think that I would finally get to hear Paul's soulful British voice live.

So after waiting months for the show, I shouldn't have been surprised when I got a wedding invitation for that same night. To add insult to injury, the gift-giver also had a wedding to go to the same night.

It would have been funny if it hadn't been perfectly tragic. What does a woman have to do to see Paul Weller in the flesh?

My solution was simple and exhausting at the same time. I would drive to my sister's house in Maryland (a grueling 3-hours on soul-sucking I-95) to dress, then drive another 45 minutes to the wedding in Baltimore and leave after a couple hours to drive to D.C. to see the show.

To paraphrase Rhett Butler (who once told Scarlet, "I can't go all my life waiting to catch you between husbands"), clearly I couldn't go all my life waiting to catch Paul Weller between weddings. It was now or never.

The wedding was at Gertrude's, the restaurant at the Baltimore Museum of Art, a place I've visited for art exhibitions as well as for brunches and dinner. It's a lovely spot and this was the first visit to afford me the chance to stroll the sculpture garden, as pleasurable for the art as for the opportunity to stretch my legs after so much time in traffic.

Everything about the wedding was charming: the bride's ballerina length dress worn with blue kitten-heeled pumps, the ceremony taking place on stone slabs over the fountain, the easygoing charm of the online-ordained officiant (after both bride and groom said "I do," he responded, "Okay!").

But like Cinderella, I had a deadline so after the wedding, cocktail hour and toasts to the happy couple were raised, this fan was changing out of her wedding-appropriate dress ($4.50 at the thrift store) and into something more music show appropriate ($3) to make her way to her hometown.

Congratulations, have a happy life and I'll catch you later.

If you know me, it's hardly surprising that I immediately got turned around (despite printed directions) leaving the museum and drove around lost until flagging down a stranger who directed me south. The good news was that once I was in D.C., my lack of navigational skills were a moot point since it's a city I know and understand.

My parking spot was on the block with the theater, not obviously illegal and a miracle considering how late I was (too late to find anyone in search of a ticket since I had a spare). I'd expected to miss the opener, Lucy Rose, but Paul had already started when I got inside, too.

An usher assured me I'd only missed a few songs - a miracle considering how long I'd been lost in Charm City - and I could finally breathe now that I'd arrived at my long denied destination. All the seats seemed to be taken (it was hard to tell with so many people standing in front of them and dancing) while the aisles and sides of the venue were lined with those happy just to have standing room.

The theater was noticeably hot, undoubtedly a function of a sold-out crowd and a whole lot of shaking going on. I took off my little jacket, grateful my dress had an open back. This was a party.

I joined the hordes to worship at the altar of the Modfather, as he dazzled the crowd with so many good songs: an extended version of "My Ever Changing Moods," a horn-blaring version of Style Council's "Shout to the Top" and a shimmering "Above the Clouds," to name some highlights.

Fans - perhaps as long-deprived as me - weren't shy about calling out requests and Paul reminded them, "We can't do everything. I've got something like 150 songs!" I couldn't have been the only one who'd have listened to as many as he was willing to sing.

A guy named Demetri introduced himself and asked if I'd seen Paul before. I gave him the Cliff Notes version of my saga and he told me that although a long-time fan, the only reason he was there was because a buddy had bought him a ticket.

"This is a great show," he gushed. "It definitely goes in the storybook of my life." Maybe he meant scrapbook, I don't know, but I understood perfectly what he meant. I'd waited years to be here listening to this.

Wearing a fitted pale blue sweater over blue gray pants and white shoes, Paul looked every inch the aging Modfather and moved easily between guitar and keyboard duties while belting that soulful voice to the rafters and inciting butterflies in middle-aged women's psyches throughout the Lincoln Theatre.

Remember how we started on a summer's night
Too drunk to care about what might
You turned my head to kiss your lips
Time stood still as my heart skipped a beat

If I could, I'd take your hand and lead you off back to the past
I know a trail, a secret mile, better to cry than never smile...

Since I'd been tardy, I was thrilled he and his band did two encores, one that included "Hopper" about painter Edward Hopper from his album "Kindness Revolution" released this summer and the second that graced us with the Jam's "Start!" to bring it all full circle.

Driving home with the windows down listening to Paul Weller's eponymous first solo album (which a friend had told me in 1992 he could put on and listen to endlessly on repeat, a friend who Facebook said had been at the show tonight) as well as to his "Studio 150" album from 2004 (a gift from the same person who'd given me tonight's tickets and couldn't attend), I felt like I'd finally achieved the impossible.

Uh huh, oh yeh, I got to see Paul Weller perform and it only took seven hours on the road, $7.50 worth of dresses and 35 years of fandom to add the Modfather to the storybook of my life.

Shout it to the top: finally, no wedding was able to stop it.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Stiff Upper Lip

The beauty of going to see a sex farce is that you're bound to talk about sex. What's key is inviting someone with good sex stories.

I shared tonight's performance of "Cloud 9" at Richmond Triangle Players with a girlfriend I've known for years, meaning I wasn't the least surprised when she exclaimed, "Ooh, a sex farce!" with great delight. What we didn't know at that point was that the play was as much about feminism, gender politics and colonialism as about sex.

After dinner in service of my hired mouth listening to '80s music, we found ourselves at the theater early enough to score some cookies for dessert and share a bit of catching up on our lives.

When I casually mentioned that I'd seen the Psychedelic Furs last weekend, she cocked an eyebrow. "Did I ever tell you I f*cked one of those guys?"

No, I'm quite sure you never mentioned it because I would remember that I had a friend who had slept with one of the Psychedelic Furs! But first, which one had it been?

She couldn't remember that, but she did recall having to cut it off after a while. "I got tired of doing it in cars and back alleys," she explained. "He was married." She might as well have summed it up by saying, "it was the '80s" for how of the era it sounded.

And speaking of dated, the first act took place in a proper Victorian-era British colony in Africa, so it dealt with repressed homosexuality, women trying to conform to what men wanted them to be and children being constrained by gender expectations.

Thank goodness I missed all that.

As the characters keep reminding themselves, "We're not in this country to enjoy ourselves," not what with that crushing white man's burden and all.

Just to mess with us, it also boasted a white actor playing a black servant, a man playing a wife and mother and a woman playing a young boy who already knows he prefers playing with dolls (or Uncle Harry) to doing manly things with his father.

It was a time when men believed that women were darker and more dangerous than men because of their dark, female, lustful impulses (rats, we've been found out). The problem, of course, was how few outlets existed for them to indulge them.

Act two updated the action to a London park in 1979, a time when mothers still reminded their daughters that you have to suffer a little for beauty. A time when friends could set up a menage-a-trois household and Grandma would happily watch the kids for you.

A time when feminism had at last made inroads into respectability.

The act's hook was that each of the actors now played a different character from who they'd played in act one, though this time there was only one man playing a woman.

Throughout the play, through orgies, women being given oral sex and a monologue about an older woman discovering the pleasures of self-stimulation, these characters are unabashedly casual about their sexual needs, asking anyone who appealed to them for it.

Shall we go to the barn and f*ck? Will you have sex with me? What's a f*ck between friends? You know, just like in real life? Well, not mine, but surely someone's.

As it turns out, a lot like my friend's. Because finally, we womenfolk are in this country to enjoy ourselves.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Full Hunter's Moon Fever

For a while there, we couldn't find it.

Mac and I strolled Jackson Ward to reach the Basement, confident we'd be able to catch a glimpse of tonight's full hunter's moon along the way. Wrong. At nearly an hour past sunset, we walked nine blocks and never saw so much as a glimpse of it.

I was so determined to see it that after we'd claimed our tickets, we returned to the streets to stroll some more in hopes that the taller buildings were just blocking its rise. After all, we'd both seen how magnificent it had been last night, so tonight was bound to be even better.

Nada. We walked two blocks east, then three blocks west and all we got was a guy panhandling. When I told him that regretfully, neither of us carried cash, he slapped his leg and said to me, "Now I remember you!"

Now you remember the woman who walks this neighborhood without carrying cash? Good, so stop asking me for it.

And still, no moon to be found, so we gave up our quest.

After admiring the new sign on the brick reading, "The Basement," we walked down the stairs to the subterranean theater to see "The Last Five Years."

Because who wouldn't want to see a play that addresses the issues of a relationship that only lasts five years? Hell, I've known people who've set that as their maximum relationship tolerance right from the first date.

Like so many plays I've seen in the past couple years, this one had no intermission which allowed the differing memories of a couple - his told in chronological order, hers told in reverse - to play out against each other without interruption, the two threads meeting in the middle only for the wedding scene.

It was the kind of story that anyone who's ever been in a loving relationship that ultimately ended - and, let's face it, that's an awful lot of us - can relate to on various levels.

What was interesting was that the action played out on a stage down the middle of the room (with the band in the back) and the audience lined up on two sides, able to see the action and the other side's reaction.

I don't know about you, but a musical that begins with a woman singing "Still Hurting" post-breakup is going to resonate on a lot of levels, some of which we could see in people's faces across the stage.

It was a simple story, really: boy who's written a book and girl who wants to be an actress meet and fall in love. Jamie's career gains traction (about getting a story published in Atlantic Monthly, he sings, "Two thousand dollars without rewriting a word!" - a writer's wet dream) while Cathy struggles and they lose sight of each other, resulting in a break-up.

We didn't have to get very far in for me to realize with certainty that the play must have been written by a man. There was an insecurity to Cathy, an inability to be happy for Jamie's success because her own career was stalled, that made her seem petty and playing victim.

As the two worked through problems, both began looking for the reasons - what didn't he do, how she didn't give as much as she could have - just like we do in real life when cracks in a relationship inevitably show up.

As Jamie, Alexander Sapp owned the stage with killer vocals, insightful gestures and effortless acting from the moment he appeared. In fact, on the chalkboard in the loo, someone had drawn five stars and written, "Alexander Sapp...tasty!" and signed it Michelle Obama.

And when is Michelle wrong?

Christie Jackson with her stellar voice and heartbreaking songs made the most of a role that gave her character the power to fall in love almost at first sight, but not to change what life handed her, whether career-wise or in her love life. The kind of powerless woman you'd expect from a '50s play, not one written in 2001.

In the director's notes, Chelsea Burke wrote that the play was an invitation to reflect on past relationships in their entirety (gee, I've never done that at 4 a.m.) and a reminder that love leaves no one unchanged.

If there's a more timeless topic, it doesn't immediately come to mind.

Back on the street after being wowed by the performance, Mac and I were greeted by the hunter's moon, finally hanging above the building line and beaming its light over the city streets.

Love may not always be reliable, but at least the moon is. What matters is remembering that love is always possible...

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Do Right Woman

As Tom Petty tributes go, Rhiannon Giddens' "Don't Back Down" was goosebump-inducing.

Of course, every note that comes out of her mouth is pretty much magnificent. And the beauty of hearing that live was that the opportunity dropped into my lap.

Scrolling through Facebook late in the day, I saw that a friend had posted "just now" saying that she had an extra ticket to the Rhiannon Giddens show at the Modlin Center tonight. She offered to gift it to the first person who called her.

You'd better believe I was quick on the draw with my land line. Yes, land line.

Thanking her profusely for the ticket, she graciously insisted that it was nothing more than an overdue thank you to me for all the years I'd ghostwritten a gardening column for her. We made plans to meet up and I marveled at my good fortune.

The parking lot was so crowded that there was an attendant directing people around, a sure sign that I was about to see someone who was a really big deal.

Once in our seats, my friend told me about all the times she'd seen Giddens' first band (the Carolina Chocolate Drops) play, including FloydFest and a $2 outdoor show in Ashland 8 years ago. The woman next to her had seen the Drops almost as many times. I shocked them by admitting I'd never seen her or the band.

Both told me I had no idea how impressed I was going to be.

They were right. With a seasoned band - banjo, acoustic and electric guitars and bass, drums, fiddle, keyboard and mandolin - that traded instruments backing her up, Giddens asked how the crowd was doing and announced they were going to do some fiddle tunes for us before unleashing her operatic voice.

Even her ensemble was noteworthy: a bustier over a long, multi-tiered skirt under a bronze and brown brocade duster, all of which moved as she danced and swayed to the music.

She wore her influences proudly on her sleeve and in her song choices, doing songs by civil rights activist Odetta, Aretha Franklin and Pops Staples, among others. This was a woman who knew her backstory and wanted to share it.

And that powerful voice. Whether wowing us with her range, her scatting or her interpretation of an African folktale, she held the room in thrall with it, all the while also playing fiddle or banjo.

Her appreciation for history was apparent in many of her song choices. One was based on a slave for sale poster she'd seen in which it was stated that the woman for sale had a 9 month old baby and the purchaser had the option to take the child with the mother or not. The resulting song, "At the Purchaser's Option" was equal parts history lesson and heartbroken mother's lament.

Just as moving was her cover of Richard Farina's "Birmingham Sunday" about the four little girls killed in the 1963 church bombing in Birmingham, while the black spiritual "Children, Go Where I Send Thee" got a faster, more swinging interpretation.

During the intermission, a woman near me commented on how animated Giddens was onstage, dancing and moving about in a way she hadn't done when playing with the Carolina Chocolate Drops. "She had to be just part of the ensemble then," the fan noted.

When the band returned, Giddens came out and heaved a sigh of relief. "A musician's worst nightmare is to come back after intermission and everyone went home." I think it was safe to say that not a soul gave up the opportunity to hear more from her pipes and the talent around her.

She talked about walking through Carytown earlier today and how she'd lived near there for a year, one of many places she could call home. "You have to have a home everywhere when you're a musician," she said.

They did an old North Carolina ballad and a sibling gospel harmony tune with her sister doing the harmonizing. Then she said, "There comes a time in every show when it's time for accordion," and the band launched into a Cajun waltz and a Creole two-step.

Sharing more cultural history, she told us of learning about what were called "coon songs" - full of cliched black stereotypes - and then sang one she'd written called "Underneath a Harlem Moon." It was the opposite of a coon song.

We don't pick no cotton
Picking cotton is taboo
All we pick is numbers
And that include you white folks, too

But it was when she mentioned how tough the past few days had been and mentioned Tom Petty's death that she said she heard an intake of breath from someone near the front. That's right, Rhiannon Giddens was going to cover "I Won't Back Down," imbuing it with heartfelt singing and blistering fiddle work, and providing the audience with a cathartic way to honor Petty and further appreciate her voice.

"Thanks for showing what Richmond can bring!" she said to the sold out Modlin Center crowd. "You brought it!"

She closed with Pops Staples' "Freedom Highway," which is also the title song to her latest album and it sounded just as fitting in 2017 as when Pops wrote it in 1965 during the apex of the Civil Rights movement (she called it Pops' Don't Back Down). And for the encore, she covered Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

A lesser singer, one not as talented or confident, might not have pulled off interpreting so many legends, but a lesser artist also might not have been so in tune with creating a set list that ran the gamut of Negro spirituals to folk songs to civil rights anthems to proto-rock, gospel and soul, while making each wholly her own.

The warning from my friend had been spot on. Never having seen Giddens before, there was no way I could have been prepared for what she delivered on that stage tonight. I was blown away by her voice, her song choices and her captivating stage presence.

No question, it was a girl crush.

At the reception after the show ended, I tried again to thank my friend properly for sharing her extra ticket with me. "I'm just glad you could come," she insisted, saying she was grateful to share the evening with a fellow music-lover.

Consider this post an ode to a landline...and a friend generous enough to give me an evening listening to the phenomenal Rhiannon Giddens.

The stellar Tom Petty tribute was just icing on the cake.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

It's the Best State Fair in Our State

And you will know me by the fine sheen of Caroline County dust that covers my body.

Don't mind me, I've just spent the day at the State Fair of Virginia, you know, the one whose residency always means rain? Given today's warm, dry weather and the weeks without any precipitation, I'm just wondering how the climate change-deniers are going to explain this one away.

To join me in taking in a day of agricultural adventures, fryer oil-scented air and midway mindlessness, I'd invited Miora, a willing accomplice and state fair first-timer.

Considering we arrived just before noon, we were completely unprepared for the enormous state police presence at every turn. It made us wonder who's hunting down speeders on the interstates if they're all sitting in their air-conditioned cars watching people park in a field.

And since it was my friend's first time (and my first going in the afternoon rather than late afternoon or evening), we paused to appreciate the row of ticket booths, all of which were actually booths. It doesn't sound like much, but in the constantly evolving 21st century state fair, anything with even the vaguest of ties to what a fair used to be is noteworthy.

To lure Miora to come with me, I'd mentioned the fair's award-winning quilts she could check out as inspiration (or warning) for her own quilt-making. As we strolled quilt to quilt with her explaining different quilting techniques as well as the difference in art quilts and bed quilts, we heard music and a caller, leading us to a corner where square dancing was being demonstrated.

Gentlemen, take your ladies...

All the dancers looked to be social security recipients, but they all dressed the part, with the men's shirts matching their partner's ensemble in some way. The woman in the red skirt had clipped her red-covered cell phone to her belt, making for an anachronistic but well-matched accessory.

The song being played - "I Wanna Bop with You Baby All Night Long" - was delivered by a voice that sounded as old and anemic as the dancers. Clearly they took their demonstration seriously because you've never seen such stoic faces on people dancing before.

To the two little teenagers standing next to us, they must have seemed downright quaint.

"I think it's cute," one said to the other and led her away. No, Miora and I agreed, what was cute was that both of us had been taught square dancing in school as children, but we were pretty sure the Virginia Reel is no longer part of the P.E. cirriculum.

It was only the first of several reminders of our ages.

As dessert fans, we couldn't resist checking out the baked good competition, although the truth was that the pies, cakes and cookies were already looking pretty tired under their plastic coverings on the shelves.

Pointing to a Zip-lock bag of muffins, Miora observed, "There are bugs in that bag!" and moved away quickly. If they look raggedy on the seventh day of the fair, how the hell will they show on the tenth day?

Walking through the hordes of humanity, it was satisfying to see how diverse the crowd was. Prince concert-diverse, even. T-shirts ranged from Nine Inch Nails to Huey Lewis and the News on a kid who couldn't have even been 18. An older couple wore confederate flag stickers on their shirts to show they were idiots proclaim their allegiance to the lost cause.

Headed to a BMX bike stunt show, we passed a futuristic-looking go kart track with a clear sign: "Ride at your own risk." The guy we saw speeding around was obviously not worried about any sort of risk factors as he all but turned sideways on turns.

I, on the other hand, could only stomach seeing the introductions of the first two stunt riders as each one tried to beat his predecessor at making a grand entrance on a speeding bike. No, thanks, I don't want to risk seeing someone splattered on the ground.

The 4-year old kid in the stroller near us had no such concerns, bouncing up and down and squealing in delight at the spectacle he was witnessing. I feel sure that a future adrenaline junkie was unleashed in him as we watched.

On the midway - which looks tired in daylight as opposed to just seedy at night - we watched as a clown named Bozo insulted passersby in hopes of them paying to lob a baseball at his mocking face. "I've made more money than you'll ever see in your lifetime!" he called out to a group of girls after insulting their skill with make-up application.

Somewhere, Don Rickles is smiling down at him.

At the Lean & Toss game, which had a sign claiming it was "close and easy," we watched kids struggle to win. Both of us recoiled at the Cliff Hanger, a ride that required you lay face down and be strapped in booty up, which must come in handy when you have to hurl. We didn't stay to find out.

We came upon the mechanical bull just as a young girl (15? 16?) was signing a waiver to climb aboard. After paying her $5, she attempted to mount and immediately slid over the top and back down to the floor. Her ride atop Bucky the Bull lasted less than 60 seconds before she was thrown to the ground.

As my Richmond grandmother used to say, she may as well have flushed that bill down the toilet, except that at least she had her friend snapping photos so it can become part of her Instagram programming of her life.

In search of more authentic state fair attractions, we walked up the hill to Harvest Landing to check out Heritage Village and the impressive collection of vintage farm machinery. My favorite was the 1953 Farmall Cub which had a simplicity to it that belied how useful it must have been.

Where Miora and I were hit over the head with our age was on the tables showing examples of outmoded technology. Stuff like a wooden manure spreader on wheels, a waffle iron with a cloth cord, a Hamilton Beach milkshake maker from the '50s or red-handled sheep shears.

And - wait for it - a beige rotary phone sat there next to butter churns and wringer washing machines to educate young children with an artifact from the pre-mobile days.

There was an old Underwood typewriter on which a young girl was beating the keys furiously, causing a dozen of them to bunch up so she could no longer type. Musing to herself once it stopped working, she asked, "How do you clear it?"

Clear it?

Oh, honey. I politely showed her that the keys were stuck together and loosened them for her while Miora shared that you could only press one key at a time to avoid such a jam.

It was an interactive history lesson provided by prehistoric teachers.

At the horticulture pavilion we ogled sweet potato butter a few shades lighter than apple butter, plus eggplant preserves and pickled mixed vegetables.

Because it was her first time, we paused at everything that caught our eyes. Tiny children on pony rides, fish tanks holding tilapia, catfish and small mouth bass. We decided against lingering in front of the chain saw sculptor, but couldn't resist worshiping in front of the biggest pumpkin and watermelon, although we disagreed with the winner for ugliest pumpkin. It just wasn't that unattractive to take top prize.

When we finally couldn't go on without eating, we scored chicken-on-a-stick, vegetable lo mein and, because it's not State Fair without it, lamb-be-cue from the Virginia Tech extension booth. Sitting under their tent, shielded from the bright blue sky, eating and sipping lemonade, we marveled at the American slice-of-life snapshot you get from the fair.

It's a far cry from our insulated Facebook world of like-minded people.

That's when we heard the guys at the table behind us pontificating on high school athletes who take a knee during the anthem. "It's disrespecting the coach and the school!" one guy announced. "Any of my boys do it, they're off the team for good!" said another in a tone that meant he wasn't kidding.

Really? Just outside the tent, the flags were flying at half mast for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting and you're still harping on that?

You see (and hear) all kinds of people at the State Fair. You hear square dance callers say things like, "Ladies in, men sashay!" You get a lesson in how to grind corn for corn meal from someone who does it for a living. You teach a youth that not everything can be cleared. You ignore ignorance.

And you eat lamb-be-cue and it is good.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Paying Our Respects

Carytown is in the eye of the beholder.

Now you take someone like me, for instance, someone who's lived in Richmond for 30 years.  Generally speaking, I avoid that stretch of Cary Street because of the hordes of suburbanites and tourists who make a habit of endlessly traipsing up and down both sides of the street.

Except, that is, when there's a reading or I need a book because Chop Suey Books rocks. Except when I need a card and head directly to Mongrel because no store in Richmond compares with their selection of offbeat cards for all occasions. And except for the Byrd Theater because everyone needs a vintage movie palace.

But beyond that, not so much.

But you take someone like author Zach Powers and he sees Carytown as everything that doesn't exist in the far-flung Fairfax suburb he calls home. Tonight he told the crowd that he'd been thrilled to see the shops, restaurants and vibrancy of the area when he pulled up for the reading he was about to give.

And here I was thinking it was just another Monday night park-once-party-twice kind of Richmond evening.

I arrived at Chop Suey early enough to thumb through a new biography of Anne Bancroft to find the section about the making of "The Graduate," which I'd seen just last week.

There were some fascinating tidbits there. Now I know that the scene where Mrs. Robinson takes a drag on her cigarette just before Benjamin kisses her and then exhales mightily afterward came from an old Mike Nichols/Elaine May comedy routine.

Lindsay Chudzik led off reading from one of her short stories about a guy who rehabs houses to resemble TV houses like the ones on "Full House" or "Golden Girls" and the woman who was trying to beat him at his game.

Best line: "It didn't matter if the experience was authentic, as long as people thought it was." If that isn't a succinct summation of the world we live in, I don't know what is.

She then introduced her friend Zach who, after rhapsodizing about finally stopping in Richmond after years of driving past it as well as the allure of Carytown ("I miss this so much"), admitted that he wrote weird stories.

To prove it, he read several of them from his recent book, "Gravity Changes," including two about being in love with inanimate objects: the moon and a light bulb. The latter produced wonderful imagery - "Dry leaves rasped against her ass" - and a tragic ending when the light bulb he married fell down the steps and he was left holding just a shard of her.

As if that weren't enough to convince us of his weirdness, he threw in "Neil Armstrong, Folk Hero" about a 3-year old Neil planting apple seeds on the moon. Because of course he was a huge Neil Armstrong fan.

Once the reading ended, I had almost half an hour until the movie started, so my plan was to go to Mongrel and leisurely shop for some cards I needed. That plan was scuttled when I walked out of the book store and saw a line snaking down Cary Street from the Byrd's box office to Mongrel.

Knowing that the box office wasn't even open for 15 minutes, I thought it wise to join the line. Ten minutes later, it extended to the end of the block and the box office still wasn't open.

The funny part of all this is, I'd had no idea that the movie I was going to see was that big a deal. Or even a small deal. I figured it out based on the growing crowd size and the number of people taking selfies in front of the marquee.

The reason for my ignorance is simple: Hayao Miyazaki's "My Neighbor Totoro" was my first anime film. Ever. And if you want the whole truth, I didn't know it was anime until I got in line and saw the poster.

And the hilarious part of that poster is that it was in Italian. And since raffling off the movie poster is always part of these repertory nights at the Byrd, that means some lucky person named Juan Lopez won an Italian poster of a Japanese movie being shown on Miyazaki Monday.

I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

Once I finally scored a ticket and made it inside, I began running into arty 30-something friends. Given that the film was made in 1988, I'm guessing it was part of their youth.

Inside the theater, manager Todd updated us on the progress of the new seats as I sat in one of the old ones complete with torn, ratty fabric and a spring jabbing me in the leg.

Hallelujah, installation begins tomorrow. That said, I'll believe it when I sit in it.

As for the film, I'm not kidding, I think I was part of the 1% who'd never seen "My Neighbor Totoro" because when he announced that he was showing it in Japanese with subtitles, applause broke out. Apparently true Miyazaki fans want nothing to do with the dubbed version Disney did in 2006.

As an anime virgin, I didn't expect to enjoy the film nearly as much as I did.

From the impressionistic background of the Japanese countryside to the sweet depiction of older and younger sisters to a father who takes everything in stride - that their new house is haunted, that the youngest daughter has seen a magical forest creature, that children let out to play on their own will eventually return - I was completely sucked in by the story.

Any Dad who tells his daughters that laughter keeps the bogeyman away is a very good parent and any parent who asks their child's imaginary woodland creature to watch over her is a great one.

Just as impressive were the ecological undertones about man and nature co-existing peacefully and the very Japanese-ness of the story: the family bathes communally, the children show respect for all adults and devotion to family underpins everything. Nobody whines.

Best of all, the nearly sold out crowd watched the movie in polite silence, allowing those of us first-timers to hear every word of the perfectly charming story without disruption.

Got my anime cherry popped tonight. And to think that it happened on Cary Street...

Autumn Nocturne

Stop already with the non-stop praise for how glorious autumn is.

After three days of low humidity, highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s (tonight 46!) Richmond is acting like it's deep November.

I overheard a mailman yesterday talking on his phone as he worked his route and he was incredulous. "You wouldn't believe it here! It's sunny and 65 and they're walking around in hoodies and jackets," he told someone, implying that it was time to stop the madness.

Meanwhile, I'm still wearing a t-shirt and shorts and slathering on sunscreen before my daily walk. And I'm certainly still hot and sweaty when I finish, something that won't be the case come January (insert small sob for the fact that January is coming).

All the windows in my apartment have been lowered to quarter mast at night - depriving me of the sounds and breezes of the city - although I'm still able to raise them fully during the shank of the afternoon.

By late afternoon I was driving country roads to a farm for an interview, but also taking in the bucolic views as if I were just out joyriding in the sticks. All I needed was a piece of straw to chew on.

Yep, it's looking like fall out here alright.

Most interesting part of the farm was the horse cemetery, now over-planted with corn. I found it touching that farm animals have their own plot when it's time to go to that great barn beyond.

It was going on sunset by the time I returned to the city, a bit dustier but with lungs filled with county air. That meant that the temperature was also dropping quickly in that annoying way fall has. It's only October first and I'm already wearing leggings and a jean jacket, for crying out loud.

Dr. Faustus didn't sell his soul to the devil for knowledge, friends. Au contraire, he wanted endless summer.

Yes, yes, I know it's all relative. When I mentioned to my interviewee that summer should get a speeding ticket, she looked at me like I'd grown two heads. "Summer lasted forever!" she claimed. "I thought it would never end!"

If only it didn't have to. Now we're looking at heating bills and long nights and more clothing. Remind me again what's appealing about that?

With limited time before music, dinner needed to be quick and 821 Cafe not only fit the bill but cheered me up with my favorite black bean nachos at the same time. The place was quiet, in fact quieter than I've seen it in years and the TV screen was off, making for a relaxed yet cozy Sunday night vibe.

I'm devoted to 821 anyway, but I rarely get to experience it in such a low key atmosphere.

Classical Incarnations was at the Hof and already in progress when I found a seat in a room heavy on the middle age crowd and lighter on the millennials, the latter no doubt the target demo for classical music in a bar setting.

I've been going to Classical Incarnations since it began nearly 5 years ago, not every month, but often enough to appreciate small groups of classical musicians playing whatever the hell they choose to.

Like the magnificent Sonata for Flute and Piano by Otar Taktakishvili that drew spirited applause for its uniqueness and beauty. Or the rousing polka played by a brass quintet, the kind of thing suited for a German beer hall. The musicians invited the crowd to dance, but no one took them up on it.

On my way to the back at intermission, I was grabbed by a favorite couple I hadn't noticed was there. They claimed I was trying to avoid them (never!) when really I hadn't bothered looking around very hard while the music was playing.

They were just bringing me up to date when the Man About Town appeared and joined the conversation. Next thing you know, he's showing off his Ben Franklin profile and talking about why it's not worth working as a movie extra for a mere $50 a day.

A fellow Psychedelic Furs fan who'd spotted me last night (though I never laid eyes on him) made the point that they're always worth seeing, no matter the frequency. Clearly we both like frequency.

I heard about my friend's trip to the hospital after becoming dehydrated playing soccer and how his doctor had told him he was borderline obese. His wife seemed to think that he over-estimates his good health and was finally learning that he had no choice - no beer, no bread - but to start paying attention to it.

Translation: what a drag it is getting old.

But I tell you, it's not half the drag that is fall rolling in every year and harshing summer's mellow. Said no one ever, except for yours truly.

Fortunately, summer is a state of mind. Mine.