Sunday, March 5, 2017

Big Mistakes Now Dirt Cheap

Resolve and thou art free. ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sitting next to me at Firehouse Theater tonight was a woman who'd resolved for 2017 to stop working so much and see a play a week and here she was on a Saturday night, taking in "Boatwright," a play about a man resolving to build a boat and sail the ocean despite no boat-building or sailing experience.

A friend resolved to be more spontaneous this year, acting on ideas when he has them instead of overthinking them into oblivion. Unfortunately for me, I'm still overthinking which is why I'm not in Cuba at the moment.

The friend who picked me up tonight has resolved to create more "me" time and tonight that meant a whole lot of "we" time.

It was the second time for me seeing the Virginia Historical Society's exhibit "The Original Art: Celebrating the Fine Art of Book Illustration," but the first for the tall person at my side. Compelling as it had been on first viewing, it was even more so with the ultimate geek guide: an artist to provide observations about materials, composition and technique.

We lingered so long the guard had to tell us twice they were closing and all but escort us out of the building before we turned our sites on dinner.

The action at Secco was barely getting started, making a couple of bar stools an easy grab for us to begin catching up and sipping on a bottle of Basque Rose with a light spritz, Ameztoi Txakolina Rubentis.

Accompanying our thirst-quenching pink was house-smoked fish salad made creamy with creme fraiche, but also getting a serious flavor jolt from mouth-filling cured lemon, which we slathered over toasted baguette slices with abandon.

Part of that abandon had to do with our multi-tangential discussion - how much communication is enough? where does one draw the line between an orderly life and OCD? what constitutes decent manners these days? - in which neither party held back much.

We were in solid agreement on going vegetarian from there on with Brussels sprouts swimming in a bath of shallots, Aleppo pepper, capers, candied pecans and more of that delightful cured lemon, along with fried acorn squash with Burrata, fermented honey and gingersnap crumbles, a dish I so adore I have now introduced it to no fewer than five of my favorite people.

You will know I like you if I suggest you eat this.

I know there are people out there giving up dessert and chocolate and such for Lent, but neither of us are among that hapless group, meaning we happily shared a non-traditional chocolate bread pudding, served as slices topped with the rich, complex flavors of morello cherries and hopped ice cream.

But what was really complex was the conversation because why would I want to spend hours with someone who isn't as into conversation as I am? I can dine all by myself, as I prove handily every week of my life, but for the best possible time, I need a quick mind and a forthcoming voice.

Check and check.

Tonight's play demonstrated what can happen when a middle-aged man loses a beloved wife to death and then has to figure out how to be happy in his new state. Coincidentally, I recently met just such a man and have since run into him on multiple occasions, so perhaps I have my own source for those answers now.

But in the play, the distraught Ben has his life interrupted when a neighborhood 19-year old (admirably played by Tyler Stevens) who's been kicked out of college and is looking for his own direction in life, drops by his garage with his camera.

And while the situation reads like a win/win for both - Ben will build the boat while listening to a cassette tape of waves crashing and film-making student Jaime will document it - it also brings to a head both their underlying issues.

And that Ben and I share certain opinions.

Ben is old school and can't stand the way every one of Jaime's statements sound like questions, so he calls him on it. Jaime's reasoning is that his generation speaks that way to check if anyone's listening. Most people aren't, he says.

Jaime mocks Ben as Amish for not having a cell phone (ahem) and Ben says, "I try not to let my appliances tell me what to do." This may be funnier to me than to most, but no one can argue with his dismay over rudeness when Jaime begins texting in the middle of their conversation.

Ben's point is summed up when he says, "Being alone in this world is not allowed anymore." Always connected, always available. Thank you, no.

But it's his concern with "being held hostage, and not by people, but by things" that resonated particularly because that's so many people I know and even some that I'm fond of. Held hostage by things, now there's a living hell.

During intermission, the drama continued when I tuned in to the conversation happening in the row behind us.

A guy whose career at McGuire Woods has gone very well (or so he claimed) admitted to a desultory end to his recent marriage.

I was trying to meet expectations and she wasn't trying to do anything.

When I came home, she was glad to have help with the kids but she wasn't happy to see me.

His date for the evening (and she was clearly a date) was lapping up his saga with empathy, trying to make a good impression while not judging him for his marital failing. For all I know, they were a Tinder date. Even without looking them in the face, I didn't hear a lot of potential in their verbal chemistry.

Or perhaps they don't need any because they're not actually listening to each other.

During the second act, young Jaime's inability to deal with life rationally results in being sent away for treatment, then daily meds, the combination eventually producing a more balanced young man who has learned some life lessons from the boat-builder over the months of their project.

And while Ben's impending journey seemed a bit far-fetched to him originally, Jaime comes around to the resolute older man's way of thinking.

When will a big mistake ever cost me less than right now?

Never. Like cassette tapes and statements that end in periods rather than question marks, that's just one more benefit to age.

It's all about crafting your own boat.

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