Saturday, February 4, 2017

Too Many Things, Not Enough Clocks

The green fairy opened her arms and welcomed us in tonight.

Pru and Beau came by to scoop me up (early, it should be noted, and with a flapper dress I need for an upcoming soiree because only Pru has an extra flapper dress lying around) to go to the VMFA.

There we walked through the 20th century European gallery, pausing to admire Salvador Dali's "God of the Bay of Roses" in advance of one of tonight's cultural offerings, but also prompting a discussion of the role of a muse.

Following the music as we exited into the atrium, we saw Plunky Branch enthusiastically performing onstage to a middlin' sized crowd, but strolled slowly enough to enjoy the jazz he and his band Oneness were putting out. Even better, once upstairs at an uncrowded Amuse, we could still hear every note, right down to the band's cover of P-Funk's "One Nation Under a Groove."

With a window table facing west to admire the darkening sky, Beau ordered J. Mourat Rose and our server responded by looking at Pru and I, asking what we'd be drinking. Just bring the damn bottle, man, and be done with it.

Although I'm not entirely certain what our starting point was, the conversation may have begun with cross-dressing, which quite naturally led to hiding "junk," but Pru was able to inform us that such a thing as thong gaff panties exist to hide a male bulge.

Every night is a learning experience when you're with the right people.

According to Pru's ratings of what we ate, her artichoke hearts with fennel, carrots and an obscene buerre blanc took top honors, closely followed by my amberjack over roasted cauliflower with fried garlic and frisee in a caper vinaigrette, but Beau made a case for his special of housemade ravioli stuffed with Ricotta cheese with housemade sausage in a red sauce. Venison stew got a tepid reaction.

Clearing the table of plates and stacking them precariously, our server noted, "Who knew Tetris was a life skill?"  The consensus was that it was clever, but sounded like a line he'd used before.

After I ordered dessert of salted chocolate bar over lemon curd with whipped cream and my compadres requested coffee, we each ordered an absinthe drip, only to have the drip placed at the center of the table within minutes.

My introduction to an absinthe drip had happened at this very museum restaurant years ago during the Picasso exhibit and while it no longer sits at the end of the bar, I happen to know it will be brought out for anyone who asks.

Me, I ask.

As we each adjust the dripping of ice water over a sugar cube and into the glass of absinthe, we get caught up in a reverie of the pleasures of not just this spirit, but this manner of drinking it and the process of creating your own iteration of the green fairy based on how you set your tap, how much of the cube you allow to dissolve and how much water you want mixed in.

It's not long before Pru, who'd earlier regaled us with descriptions and photos of her new wine jail, decides than an absinthe drip is her must-have birthday present, conveniently coming up soon.

Dropping hints for Beau like Hansel and Gretl dropped breadcrumbs, she gives him one last instruction,
"Don't go half-assed on me." As if Beau ever goes half-assed on anything.

While sipping this nectar of the gods, we went down the rabbit hole of licorice (Beau's never met any he didn't like) and the distinction between "old man licorice" as opposed to more refined examples of the flavor profile such as absinthe. Twizzlers were, we decided, not worth mentioning although Pru admitted to being a fan of black jellybeans.

I never met anything licorice-flavored I liked until I met absinthe, so I didn't have a dog in this fight.

When we got back down to the atrium, the crowd had tripled or perhaps even quadrupled and Plunky and Oneness had the room in its thrall, making it impossible not to dance our way through the hordes of happy people. Had we not had tickets for a show, I'd have happily stayed there for the rest of the evening.

But we did because tonight was Richmond Famous at the Comedy Coalition and sharing personal stories so he could be mocked (by the talented improv artists of RCC) was writer and hatted flaneur Harry Kollatz.

Because we'd lallygagged a bit over our absinthes, we arrived barely moments before the show was to start, joining the owner of Saison (who introduced me to his wife as, "Karen, a woman about town") in line and scrambling for seats once inside.

All the cool kids were there, including a favorite photographer who told her friends, "I always feel better if I see Karen when I go out because it means I'm in the right place." I don't know about all that, but I saw a lot of familiar faces in the room.

A blue wing chair was brought out for Harry to relax in after telling his stories about his Dad's collection of Edsels and how, as a youth with no friends, he had plenty of time to catalog the items found in these old cars.

Being the organized type, he'd list them by the Edsel's year, the object found and the weather. This, ladies and germs, is probably the seed of how Harry wound up giving weather reports from under the Lee's Chicken sign lo these many years later.

The RCC crew managed to turn Harry's geekdom into comedy about the lubricants of adventure and a used kid lot ("Never turn your back on a kid you've disowned"), while a reminisce about encountering a "dangerous bees" sign on a hike resulted in riffing on Dungeons and Dragons (David: "Hey, pretty lady, have you ever had a man really listen to you before?" Josh: "Wow, this man can role play a loser!") and a reference to Yahtzee.

When the comedy at Harry's expense ended, the audience was told to vacate the building before the staged reading which was to come next, but fortunately we already had a plan for how to best enjoy those 25 minutes before returning, having already verified with the owner that Saison carried absinthe.

"Carried" was a bit of an exaggeration because they were down to their last two pours, but the affable bartender stretched it to fit into three glasses, we fashioned our own drips and were back on the sidewalk heading to RCC in time to score far better seats this time.

Friday night Part Deux was the 20th anniversary performance of Harry's play, "The Persistence of Memory" about that time in 1966 when Richmond considered having Salvador Dali create a sculpture for Monument Avenue to commemorate Captain Sally Tompkins for her heroic nursing work during that war.

Dali won out because Henry Moore was too sensuous and Giacometti had just died. Leave it to Harry to document for posterity one of Richmond's most absurd moments in history.

Waiting for it to start, I was totally digging the soundtrack - Herb Alpert's "A Taste of Honey," "The Ballad of the Green Beret" and other groovy mid-60s hits - when Nancy Sinatra's "The Boots Are Made for Walkin'" came on, prompting Pru to tell me about a recent Nancy Sinatra film she'd seen, "The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini."

Because a bikini doesn't already reveal enough?

When the woman in the seat nearest me smiled at me, I began chatting with her, only to learn that she was a musician and had opened the show every night for a week when Harry's play had originally been produced, so she was especially tickled to be witnessing it again 20 years later.

I'm here to tell you that fabulous as it may have been, "The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini" couldn't possibly have compared to "The Persistence of Memory."

The story involved the village people (the blase local artists who hung out at the Village, albeit before it moved to its present location), the Monument Avenue committee (which included two of the original cast members who crossed state lines to perform tonight) including Mrs. Douglas Southall Freeman, Dali (local actor Jeff Clevenger on video talking on an actual lobster), Harry as his secretary of the military and his assistant, plus the Reynolds company representative trying to get a statue made with his aluminum.

Naturally Harry's script set the scene first, with references to Henry Miller, LSD, LBJ, Vietnam, Anais Nin and Gypsy Rose Lee ("My talking was always better than my stripping") courtesy of the village people, all sunglasses, snapping fingers and condescension about art as commodity.

Besides telling a fascinating story, the play brought on laughter, audience finger snapping and a fresh appreciation for how far Richmond has come since the time when change was seen as unacceptable.

Playwright Harry practically busted his buttons watching from the back and afterwards taking much-deserved congratulations from the crowd.

Out on the sidewalk, the air was freezing and we were still on this side of Saturday, but just barely.

Ordinarily, we're a trio who like one final stop for the sake of discussion post-culture, but He Who Starts to Wane (Pru's pithy descriptor of her man) is still getting the hang of hanging with us and looked a bit peaked so we called it a night.

His absinthe drinking was never as good as his Dungeons and Dragons role playing, but he is catching on. Meanwhile, my talking continues to be better than my almost everything else.

Just don't hold me to any green fairy giddiness, no matter the topic. Beau, I'm looking at you.

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