Sunday, January 22, 2017

Life at the Center of the Maze

On the day after inauguration, with the Washington Post's headline-for-the-ages bluntly announcing, "Trump takes power," a wise woman could be found grabbing at every opportunity.

Quick, before we're a totalitarian state.

That means walking a few blocks to Atlas gallery for a string quartet and Nate's Bagels, one of the few combinations that would get me somewhere at 10:30 a.m. Ish. The brainstorm of R-Symphony violinist Ellen (overheard: "Ellen always has such great ideas!"), the 35-minute piece told the story of a young immigrant boy discovering what American music was.

That meant I got to hear Mozart, Gershwin, Duke Ellington, bluegrass, W.C. Handy, Scott Joplin and Native American music while losing myself in one of Nate's outstanding everything bagels with a big schmear of chive cream cheese.

Even better, Ellen shared that she'd first met Nate when they were playing in a band together (Romanian music, I seem to recall) so of course he wanted to supply breakfast for a musical performance.

Bagels and strings, it's what's for breakfast on day one of the reign of terror.

Fab and fabber is what I had for dinner with Sancerre at Secco with fellow playgoers Pru and Beau. Seated at the back-most table, only I had a killer view straight into the kitchen while they looked out on a bustling Saturday night.

Everyone had the view they wanted.

The first bite of my starter made the rest of the room disappear: thin slices of acorn squash delicately fried then stacked with Burrata and fermented honey under a crumble of gingersnaps. Crisp/creamy, savory/sweet. Perfection.

"I would marry it, I love it so much" is how we used to phrase it in elementary school, long before we had any idea what marriage entailed.

Sharing my enthusiasm for it with our server, she saw the dish as qualifying as a complete meal because it was savory, but had enough sweetness for dessert status, a fact I didn't dispute. However, I prefer to think of it as only my first complete cycle of savory and sweet so I can go on and have another of each.

"That's a really wonderful attitude!" she congratulates me. Years of practice.

Not content with their cheese and charcuterie slate, my companions took such generous bites of my squash that I considered ordering another for my next course to prolong the pleasure.

Instead we shared a creamy wild mushroom spaetzle with gloriously toothsome red cabbage and downsized to two entrees: confit duck leg cassoulet (Beau, unaware: "This is the saltiest chicken I've ever had. It's so rich!" Pru: rolls eyes) and arctic char over red quinoa and cauliflower with a cracklin' seasoned skin as tasty filled with quinoa as fish flesh.

Everyone except moi claimed to be too full for dessert (though not for coffee), but let's just say that mine wasn't the only spoon in the local apple and cranberry crisp with white chocolate granola and cinnamon creme fraiche I ordered.

We rolled out of there full as ticks and, to my mouth, having enjoyed some of the most artfully combined flavors I've had the pleasure to down lately. Secco for the score.

Let's hope small businesses like them continue to flourish under our new megalomaniac leader.

We already know he wants to do away with the National Endowment for the Arts funding, so productions such as the one we were headed to  - Quill's "The Top Of Bravery" staged at Richmond Triangle Players - are bound to struggle in the years to come.

That's unfortunate because this country could use a lesson on the racism experienced by black vaudeville performers around the turn of the century, in this case Bert Williams and George Walker. That history was threaded through with song and spirits to comment on the unfairness of the situation.

Playwright Jeremy V. Morris played Bert with his perfect diction and thoughtful monologues, but the supporting cast showed some serious chops, too. Compelling dramatically, the piece was also a history lesson, if a tad heavy-handed every now and then.

When the cast began singing "Oh, Rock My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham," I flashed back to elementary school (again) because that was a song in our music books that classes sang regularly. As a kid, I recall being struck by the words "Negro spiritual" under the song's title in the book.

As a metaphor for the starting point of the play - the indignity of white actors playing blacks, but not as they were but as how whites saw them -  I'm here to tell you now how much better four black actors sounded singing Negro spirituals than 25 white children ever could.

Favorite line: Lovin' and dancin' come from the same part of the body.
My addendum: No matter your color.

At the end, the millennial quartet behind us was buzzing about the first act and the older woman with them advised, "You're going to have to go home and look up a lot of things."

Not a bad idea for a lot of people since the more we know, the more fully we understand everyone's history. But how important is acquiring information and continuing to learn in a country where our new Duce President doesn't see the point of reading?

Will we have more or fewer little free libraries in four years? What about publicly-funded ones? Scary to think.

Post-play debriefing was to be held at Saison once we navigated the rain. Pru and I, under umbrellas, expressed envy for Beau's nonchalance, but his curly hair is only helped in wet weather. Not so ours. I'd look like a wet dog without an umbrella, I assured them.

"No, you won't," said a voice standing in a recessed doorway and all three of us jumped back when we came upon the two guys. Just when I'm thinking it might've been a compliment, one says, "Dogs can't talk."

So we're laughing as we walk in to Saison and a trio scoots down to give us the corner and enough stools for the next three hours of discussion and tangents, a situation involving five cocktails and two glasses of Vouvray.

Pru was clear. "I'd like a big bowl of rye and some fruit." An Old Fashioned followed and when asked about having another replied, "I'm not gonna change drinks mid-stream," and Beau, ever pithy replied, "She's gonna ride it to the end" so another Old Fashioned appeared.

My contribution to the bill was a glass or so of anejo tequila, Dolin rouge, Montenegro, cynar 70 and tiki bitters over a monstrous, slow-melting cube that would look at home in a trendy bar photo shoot. Mocking aside, though, who doesn't want a slow-melting cube to prevent a watery Center of the Maze cocktail?

"Good tunage," Beau said, bobbing his head and echoing my thoughts, of the well-considered soundtrack: EWF, Spinners, Chic, Temps, all smooth and originating from the same place.

Beau amused us by showing off images of haircuts he's considering for his lusciously thick hair (Pru vetoed the '80s-looking ones, much to my disappointment) and revealed his handy dandy "Loafer Guide" (they were both wearing loafers) and how could I not tease him about that?

He told us about growing up listening to his Dad's records, gems such as ABBA, the Cowsills, the Spinners and, Dad's favorite, Neil Diamond. He had every single one in Neil's vast catalog, so naturally Beau wound up loving Neil, too.

Not so much his high school classmates who made him a laughingstock when he tried to sell them on the virtues of Neil at the time when people like my parents were Neil fans and concertgoers. Beau was mocked.

"And you didn't see that coming?" Pru asks him incredulously.

High school talk led to college and onward and next thing I knew they were talking about people doing poppers in the bathroom at Scandal's and I just had to blow the whistle because this conversation was out of control. I don't even know where Scandals was, for crying out loud. Come-here, remember? And poppers, what?

An industry friend I hadn't seen in over a year stopped by Saison looking gorgeous and we caught up on the difficulty of her relationship ending and how she's moving on. Suddenly, she looked at me amazed, noticing I had on jeans. "I've only seen you in dresses and understandably because of your legs, but what's up with you?"

Yea, well, change is good, right?

What I left out is that I finally realized that wearing jeans just means I can wear shorter dresses and call them tunics.

Sort of like installing an authoritarian government and calling it a democracy. I make my reality yours.

There's a reason an entire gender staged a protest to stand up to a tyrant seizing power. The idiot probably never saw it coming.


  1. "Sort of like installing an authoritarian government and calling it a democracy. I make my reality yours.

    There's a reason an entire gender staged a protest to stand up to a tyrant seizing power. The idiot probably never saw it coming."


  2. Thank you!It's good to know a reader agrees with me.

  3. K, it's quite possible that you have something that Mr. Trump might want...