Friday, July 13, 2018

Pink Gooch is Different

It was throwback Thursday of a different kind.

First there was the Robinson Rose Crawl, which until it became unmanageable had been the Carytown Rose Crawl (and let me tell you, there are some stories there), and last year was abandoned entirely. But the power of Rose was too strong so a new crawl was devised, this one a seelf-guided tour instead of prior years when attendees were herded from bar to bar.

As someone who did herding duties several of those years, let me assure you that it's far better to let those on a pink mission set their own pace.

Mac and I began at Secco with dozens of other pink-clad people, she with Roquefort "Corail" Rose and moi with Raventos i Blanc Brut Rosat "De Nit" (I'm trying to think SPanish for the foreseeable future) to accompany a plate of season house pickled vegetables. I would have said that the beets were the tastiest morsels on the plate, at least until I tasted the asparagus which had been sweet pickled like bread and butter pickles, but there was also a lot to be said for the fiery pickled mushrooms, so let's just say they were all stellar and leave it at that.

I got my Rose passport stamped, our photograph was taken for the crawl memory book and we ceded our seats to a couple of women who'd just walked in. You never saw two people so happy to see us leave.

Walking down Robinson, we passed clutches of pink-wearing men and women, all seeming to be in high spirits. Arriving at Acacia, we were led to our table on the patio by the chef's son (also in a pink shirt) who already had the poise of a long-time host. It was a gorgeous evening to be dining outside, not to mention the bird's eye view it provided of the overgrown herb planter (so much mint gone to seed that Mac resolved to return with her clippers and give that mint a haircut) and the roving bands of Rose crawlers.

We toasted the crawl and the weather with glasses of Mimi Sparkling Rose from Provence (Mimi being Mac's nickname to her nephews) while chatting with the two overly tan and obviously high maintenance women from Goochland seated next to us. They'd been to Helen's and found both the Roses they'd ordered lacking, so they'd moved on.

When they found out we were going to see "A Chorus Line" after the crawl, they were fascinated.
Turns out Goochlanders have no clue that Richmond boasts a vibrant theater scene. "If I'd known I could go to a play, I could have planned to attend since I have a designated driver!" one exclaimed. Frankly, she didn't strike me like the play-going type, but at least she pretended.

It was our server's first night and a chaotic one at that, so we got our orders in quickly. Mac chose Peruvian tuna ceviche while I couldn't resist the redneck crabcake, a rich cake of whitefish and Old Bay with a side salad of pickled cucumber and red onion, accompanied by a glass of Paul D. Rose from Austria.

We wound up lingering so long we had no time for the other stops - Cask, Spoonbread and Helen's - planting our butts at Richmond Triangle Players. It was Mac's first viewing after I'd raved about how RTP had pulled off 17 dancers on that stage with aplomb and grace.

At intermission, she started her own gushing. Standing in line at the ladies' room, a woman behind me notes of the first act, "It's tough not to get up and dance. I was chair dancing so hard!"

Another makes an observation about the dancer affectionately referred to as "Headband Boy" for his long hair, cheesy mustache and, yes, headband, "He's every guy in 1972."

Those two things alone - dancing and 1972 guys - are enough to require repeat viewings of "A Chorus Line." And when preceded by Rose crawling with the best walker I know, well, it's one singular sensation.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Raining on the Hard Conversations

Heat lightening gave way to a hard rain falling, just as I got home, the soothing sounds of rain just what I needed.

Mac and I had both brought umbrellas (the newsworthy part of that being that she'd remembered hers for a change) when we walked over to the ICA for this month's installment of their film series. And what a compelling choice it was: "Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland."

Unlike last month when we'd foolishly shown up without tickets (lesson learned), we not only had ours but also an extra one (because of someone's illness) which we donated back to the cause before going inside to claim second row seats.

The attendant at the door had told us early arrivals to sit at the far ends of the rows, but no one listened. As the couple next to me pointed out, "Why should we take the bad seats when we were the ones here on time?" I couldn't have said it better myself.

The screening was especially poignant because yesterday was the third anniversary of Bland's arrest after a minor traffic stop and tragically, Friday is the three year anniversary of when she was found hanging from a plastic trash bag noose (curiously without a single fingerprint on it) in her Waller County, Texas jail cell. A death labeled suicide.

Although I'm not one to watch police shooting videos, because Sandra Bland had not been shot, I'd actually seen some of the dash-cam footage from her traffic stop online back when it happened. But the documentary included far more of that footage than I'd seen before and almost all of it was highly disturbing, including how the cop deliberately moved Sandra out of the camera's range once he began assaulting her.

The counterpoint to the violence was all the clips we saw of "Sandy Speaks," a video series she'd done to share her thoughts online about race relations (unite, not incite), policing and the need for blacks and whites to have more friends of other races, a series that highlighted her activism goals but also her desire for all people to get along.

Given that it had happened in Texas, it was all I could do to watch the scenes where local law enforcement and the district attorney's office - good ol' boys, all of them -  tried to place all blame on Sandra and eventually, her family.

As always when leaning into the difficult conversations about race, Mac and I were left feeling emotionally exhausted when the lights came up. "I should've known to bring tissues," she told me. Honestly, there aren't enough tissues to absorb the tears of what happened to this determined 28-year old who was just driving to the grocery store.

After the film ended, the entire room took a moment o say Sandra Bland's name out loud before a few moments of silence to honor her.

Afrikana Film Festival creative director Enjoli had seen the film at the Tribeca Film Festival and managed to arrange an exclusive screening tonight ahead of its Fall theater release and presentation on HBO. But I'd have to say that the real coup was in bringing so many of the people shown in the film to the post-screening discussion.

Bland's mother and two of her sisters were there, along with the family's lawyer and the film's writer/director. It was moving to hear the people we'd just seen on camera talking about Sandra, the questions still unanswered about the case and their hopes for her legacy.

Director David Heilbroner wasn't the least bit shy about stating that whether she committed suicide or not, her death was a lynching based on the state of race relations and policing in this country. Sadly, there's a lot of truth in that assertion.

Had I been pulled over for failing to signal, I'd be willing to bet the farm I wouldn't be slapped, threatened, tasered, yanked from the car or knelt on top of by a cop, much less dragged off to jail.

That's some galling white privilege right there.

During the Q & A period, some people used their moment with a microphone to ask questions that couldn't be answered and belabor points already made, while others echoed their fears about something similar happening to them or their loved ones. Everyone seemed to agree that major retraining of police officers in de-escalation is essential.

But the most important thing was that we were a roomful of black and white Richmonders having a meaningful conversation about race disparity and how each of us needs to work on our own small solution to that, regardless of what others may be doing.

If Sandra Bland's legacy becomes uniting rather than inciting, maybe her death won't be in vain. Saying her name so she isn't forgotten feels like the first step.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Determine to Live Through the Day

Stay with me here, I'm going to try to take you from shoegaze to Nippy, aka the past 48 hours.

Conveniently after a weekend away, Amtrak deposited me back in Richmond half an hour before a show I wanted to see was set to start. I have to admit, Bandito's isn't my favorite venue, but it had been too long since I'd seen Glass Twin and I liked what I'd heard online of Mon Chere.

Besides, I was overdue.

If we don't count musical theater, it's been ages since I've seen music and while I'd thoroughly enjoyed Cold Cave at the Broadberry, that was over three weeks ago and, frankly, I'm not okay with that. To address that, I put up with the excessive air conditioning (C'mon, Sunday's weather was exquisite), questionable smells (I don't even want to know) and overly talkative show attendees (why talk while standing 8' from where the band's playing when you could simply move to the large, uncrowded bar on the other side of the glass door?) like a trooper.

No surprise, the only people I knew were two of the guys in Glass Twin, talented musicians I'd been fans of since their 2008 days in their last band, Marionette and their smiling projectionist. Like that band, Glass Twin does old film projections on the wall behind them as they play for additional stimulation.

Familiar as a few of those clips are, I marvel at how easy it is to lose yourself in them while the band plays.

The band has evolved since I saw them last, with two new guitarists (one of whom is sharing vocal duties with Kevin the drummer), including one who announced that the next song was going to change our outlook on life. The sound guy apparently took that to mean it was their last song and when it finished, he immediately cued up music.

Only problem was, the band had two more songs. Awkward. One guy tried to help the sound guy's cause by yelling to the band, "How're you gonna top that anyway?" which was at least a left-handed compliment.

Actually, Susanna, Mon Chere's singer said it best when they finally took the stage a few minutes past midnight. "How is Glass Twin so amazing every time?"

What I'd heard of her band online had piqued my interest because of how many of my hot buttons their sound included: a fabulous, big female voice, electronic and shoegaze. Count me in.

Despite the annoying drunk quartet shouting at each other while Mon Chere played, I enjoyed their sound live every bit as much as I'd thought I would. Their online trail only dates the band back to 2016, so chances are they're very much in the "playing out often" stage and I can check them out again.

When I finally deposited my bags at home at 1:15, it felt like a very long time since I'd gotten on the train at 6:45.

The dearth of eateries open on Monday only made Metzger's Monday Funday - a NOLA-themed night of fundraising for No Kid Hungry and Chefs Cycle - all the more appealing. Funny part was, it wasn't chef Brittany who'll be cycling come September. Seems she volunteered her husband to do that.

What she was willing to do was make a big pot of gumbo (for the first time ever, she said), offer raw or grilled Tangier oysters (any questions which I had?) and donate the proceeds. Meanwhile, the bar staff had come up with some appropriate Big Easy type cocktails.

While they didn't have an absinthe drip, I must have shown enthusiasm while ordering an absinthe frappe because my partner followed suit. It may have been my first, but it's a drink I should know because not only is it a superb summertime refresher (simple syrup, soda water, mint), but there's a 1904 song about it.

At the first cold sip
On your fevered lip
You determine to live through the day
Life's again worthwhile
As with a dawning smile
You imbibe your absinthe frappe

Some might see it as mere early evening drinking, but I see it more as cultural education. If not for that drink being on the menu, I might never have upped my theater literacy by learning about the turn-of-the-century Broadway play, "It Happened in Nordland" and its most enduring song.

Well-chosen New Orleans music from various eras played on the sound system and a lot of the people who came in lived in the neighborhood. Since they're not usually open on Mondays and it's the first of these monthly events, things were as uncrowded as I've seen Metzger in eons.

We'd come early just in case and the bartender said they were ready to be slammed, but when we headed out nearly 3 hours later, it was still very civilized. I don't know whether to to feel glad for us or sorry that more fundraising wasn't accomplished.

I've had a lot of suggestions lately to be more selfish, so I may just go that route.

This morning while out walking, I had one of my finest moments when I came to where Clay Street is closed at Harrison. When I walked that block last week, I dutifully walked blocks out of my way because of the signs saying the street was closed because of all the heavy machinery and the dug-up street.

Today, I just wasn't feeling it and joked to one of the construction guys that he was impeding my progress. He grinned and pointed, "Come right on through!" so I didn't hesitate. As I passed, he said, "You look great!" which was nice and all, but nearly as good as being allowed through.

Meanwhile, the guys at the other end of the block gave me the look that said, how the hell did you breeze right past our boss? In my defense, all I did was state the obvious and he offered a solution. Not a big deal.

I didn't have time for a detour because I'd stacked my day full: an interview done at the Kroger Training Center, of all unlikely places, being interviewed myself (a highly unusual role for me) and a meal in service of my hired mouth took me right up to movie time and an opportunity to satisfy my inner documentary dork.

There were two main reasons I wanted to see the new Kevin MacDonald film "Whitney." Critics have been raving about it and Whitney Houston was the very first concert I saw when I moved to Richmond in 1986. I hadn't chosen it (my husband had) but in hindsight, I can say that if I was going to hear that one-in-a-million voice, the time to do it was the '80s before drugs ravaged it and her.

Like a good documentary that teaches me things, I learned that Whitney's interpretation of the national anthem had been inspired by Marvin Gay's version, done before an NBA championship game. Even more impressively, there was no rehearsal. Her music director wrote out the music and played it for her once and she said, "I got it," then went on to sing it in a way no one could ever forget.

And while I'd seen "The Bodyguard" when it came out, I had no recollection of what a big deal it was to show an interracial relationship. When asked, Whitney said she was just glad that her character was a strong, black woman. I'm guessing that didn't occur to most of us in 1992, either. She was also the first major musician to play post-apartheid South Africa, not to mention looking fabulous in a bejeweled  yellow turban and gown doing it.

The audience at Criterion was mostly women and a lot of them didn't hesitate to answer back, advise and admonish people on screen. You could hear how appalled some of them were when Whitney's Daddy sued her for $100 million. Whose father does that?

Of course, one of the earmarks of a good documentary is holding your interest even when you know what's going to happen and I'm here to say that MacDonald had talked to all the important characters except Whitney's lesbian lover (although she was shown and mentioned extensively) and they were remarkably candid about some very difficult subjects.

Oh, yes, and her nickname from childhood was Nippy. In one weird scene, she tries to address Nippy as Whitney, but can't. Then she has Nippy call up Whitney and that works. Some deep stuff there. Or at least I think there is.

What really matters is that I've now caught up the blog, so life is worthwhile again.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Just One Look

Conclusion: Uber drivers are the new Everyman.

Its easy to say this after a weekend in Eastport and multiple Uber ride conversations with voluble drivers. And why not? Each ride brings new conversational partners.

Driving us to Cantlers' Riverside Inn to eat extra-large crabs at 10 p.m., 80-year old Norman regaled us with his life story.

Interesting as it was that he began working at NASA in the '60s before becoming an engineer for the Department of Transportation, I was most fascinated to hear that he married for the first time at 44. That would be after he retired.

When I asked how his bride was doing, he gushed, "She's 18 years younger than me and she's doin' just great!"

By 1974, Norman had taken a job at the Department of Energy as part of the new solar energy program. When I asked if Jimmy Carter hadn't put solar panels on the White House, he was tickled to death. "Our program did that!" he told us proudly. I didn't bother mentioning how Reagan had ripped them out, though I'm sure he had an opinion on that, too.

Norman's funniest story was about his fellow engineer who'd driven his Jaguar XKE through Huntsville, Alabama in the '70s and gotten a ticket for changing lanes 57 times. Ah, the '70s.

Personally, I'm in awe of the cop who had patience enough to wait through that many lane changes before pulling the guy over.

Saib, the Pakistani who drove us from Cantlers to the Middleton Tavern was a poster child for immigration. A US citizen for 10 years now, he enthused about his wife and 3 kids, the wonderful life they've carved out in this country and his hopes for his children's futures.

When he heard I was from Richmond, he wanted to tell me about his very favorite kebab restaurant, which just happens to be in Richmond and how he'll finish his shift and hit 95 to get there because their kebabs are that good. When 2 1/2 hours is just too much, he'll grab his second favorite kebabs. They're conveniently located in Crystal City, which still seems like a fer piece to drive from Annapolis for a kebab.

Then again, who am I to tell a Pakistani where the best Virginia kebabs are? And why is Maryland so lacking?

When I left my friends at Middleton's listening to a blues band, it was for an Uber ride with a young man who, it turns out, not only grew up in nearby Midlothian but is doing his pre-med at VCU. Currently, he's working at G.W. University (coincidentally where I was born) on a research project. We talked about Richmond the entire four minute drive home and as I exited his car, he thanked me for the dose of home.

Now I ask you, what are the chances I'd climb in the car of a local guy while at the Annapolis waterfront? Apparently pretty good.

Besides absorbing the sagacity of assorted Uber drivers, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting my friend's new main squeeze, a decidedly funny man ("I'm just a pork-eating Jew boy," he cracked after admitting his new-found fondness for pancetta thanks to her) with a passion for music (our pancake breakfast began with Linda Ronstadt, moved through kd lang and settled on Gary Clark) and with the added benefit of being a wine rep.

Translation: he brought scores of Roses (heavy on the Loire Valley and Spain) for us to sip through.

But when it came time to get out the needle to taste Callejon de Crimen Gran Reserva, a pricey and stellar Mendoza Petit Verdot, it was just the two of us since my girlfriend insists on sticking solely to whites and Roses. Her loss, at least when it comes to wine. When it comes to him, I think she's got a keeper.

The funny part is, the last time I was up there was April  when she was still smarting from the breakup of a long-time relationship, convinced she'd never find the right partner for the rest of her life.

Ah, my little petunia, you just never know what the Adjustment Bureau will lay lay at your doorstep.

It's like what Norman the Uber driver told us in parting: "Every new journey happens for a reason."

Allow me to be the first to say amen to that.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Catch the Moon, One Handed Catch

Apparently I need to leave town to have time to blog.

Now that I'm ensconced on Amtrak's quiet car and headed north, I finally have time to look back at this ridiculously hot and continuously busy week trying to play catch-up after the beach. A week that meant pitching new stories to my editors, planning upcoming getaways (you know, like next weekend and, oh, June 2019) and trying to get back into some sort of cultural life after a week doing little more than worshiping at the altar of the crashing waves.

Independence Day meant a walk and an interview about death followed by a seventh floor terrace view of the fireworks at Rockett's Landing. The challenge was getting into Rockett's before practically every adjacent street around it was closed. Trying to pull into the parking lot, an official-looking security guard stopped my car and asked if I had a permit.

Pshaw, I don't need no stinkin' parking permit. Instead, I pulled out my Rockett's pool pass where my smiling face matched the smiling photo and he stepped back, smiling and saying, "You're good! Come right on in."

A shame I hadn't brought my bathing suit.

Up on the terrace, we bypassed a small group already staking out the chairs and loveseats to take up residency on the southwest corner with a view of over a dozen boats anchored in the river. Before long, the terrace crowd grew behind us while we sipped Italian Rose, nibbled on chocolate and watched the endless line of cars trying to navigate all the roadblocks.

When the fireworks display finally kicked off, we had a primo view, not to mention slightly more distant views of two firework displays on southside, the displays at the Carillon and at the Diamond, plus a couple more somewhere north of us (Dorey Park?).

It was nothing short of a fireworks wonderland from that rooftop.

Thursday evening was given over to taking my favorite fan of show tunes to Virginia Repertory's stellar production of "West Side Story," but only after settling for dinner at Tarrant's (my grumbling about the venue was met with a reminder from my partner, who reassured me, saying, "We have 30-some years to eat at good restaurants") after my first choice, Chez Fosuhee, turned out to be closed for the 4th and 5th. Ever adaptable, we made do with the back-most booth (he loves his prospect and refuge) where we were surrounded by fellow theater-goers.

The blue hairs at the booth in front of us probably got an earful, never more so than when I made a crack about a love hangover and one woman's head nosily whipped around like it was on a swivel. Hilarious.

After having seen "Romeo and Juliet" together a few weeks ago, "West Side Story" was not only added theatrical romance, but visually stunning, beautifully choreographed and proof that some plays are truly timeless. Issues of immigration (the Puerto Ricans reminding the Polacks that they used to be the newcomers), assimilation and overstepping policemen felt as relevant now as they surely did 60 years ago when the play debuted.

The late, great Jerome Robbins' groundbreaking choreography for "WSS" was on full display with a cast that often moved as one unit and in the air. Richmond Ballet dancer Paul Dandridge played A-Rab and his full-out extensions, his graceful hands and his skill at getting air and lifting his partner were nothing short of breathtaking to a lifelong fan of dance.

But equal love has to go to the 11 members of the band - reeds, trumpets, trombone, violin, synthesizer, bass, percussion and drums - who made Leonard Bernstein's music soar to the rafters inside the November Theatre. And don't even get me started on the unabashed brilliance of Stephen Sondheim's lyrics and internal rhymes.

I feel charming, oh so charming
It's alarming how charming I feel
And so pretty
That I hardly can believe I'm real

I feel stunning and entrancing
Feel like running and dancing for joy
For I'm loved 
By a pretty wonderful boy

Honestly, I could happily go back and see it again if I had a free night in the foreseeable future. As if. From the expectant wonder of Tony's  "Something's Coming" - a feeling I experienced for the first time back in February - to the unbridled optimism of "Tonight," seeing "West Side Story" with the right person was a revelation, both theatrically and emotionally.

If, as my friend of 40 years Leo has always told me, I am a hopeless romantic, this was the production to indulge that part of me.

Last evening was also spent in the Ward, making the rounds for First Friday, albeit with umbrella in hand given the scattered thunderstorms hovering above and promising relief from the punishing heat.

I never miss Candela Gallery's annual "Unbound" group exhibit, which I love for its variety as well as for the gallery's commitment to purchasing some of the pieces with the intent to donate them to a worthy institution someday (I'm hoping for the VMFA, natch).

This year's "Unbound 7" didn't disappoint, although my favorite photographs were straight out of my era: the '70s. Micheal Abramson's three vintage gelatin silver prints spoke to me with portraits of men with Afros and women styling in polyester dresses and big hoop earrings. The images had an authenticity to them that would be impossible to recreate today.

Making our way to Gallery 5, I ran into the silent movie king and, a bit further on, my favorite harmonium player before checking out the downstairs market and the friends behind the tables. Upstairs, I found myself scanning Courtney LeBow's portraits for people I knew and there were plenty including both the friends I'd just seen on the way over as well as musicians, muralists, puppet-makers, burlesque ringmasters, the mayor, the bartender and, of course, artists I know.

Sort of a who's who of local subculture and a solid reminder of how many talented people I"m lucky enough to know in this town.

We finished off the evening with a major dose of estrogen humor at Comedy Coalition's "Till Death Do Us Part: Decorum Manor," an ongoing live comedy series about a group of women trying to learn how to be ladies, which meant changing best friends, shunning the stuck-up rich girl and meeting the birth mother who donated her eggs 25 years ago.

Meanwhile, some of the funniest bits concerned the differences in the cultural literacy of varying age groups. Let's face it, millennials have no clue who Sarah McLachlan is or why Lillith Fair was such a big deal, much to the consternation of those who lived through the '90s.

Best of all, when we walked out, the rain had dropped the temperature enough to offer what felt like a new lease on summer. I just can't promise how reliable I'll be at documenting mine.

Just know that it's going splendidly and I do feel pretty. Oh, so pretty, but I can definitely believe that I'm real.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

And the Beat Goes On

The consensus was that it was too hot for whipped cream on body parts.

We didn't reach that conclusion immediately - I mean, who does? - but rather after kicking off our Fourth of July eve with a food orgy followed by a record party, where the subject inevitably came up.

Holmes, Beloved and I met at his house for celebratory glasses of Graham Beck Brut Rose before heading to Dinamo for dinner. Luckily, we had an 8:00 reservation because the place was full up and people never stopped coming in the door. Finding an open restaurant tonight was no easy task given how many have posted "gone vacationing" signs on their social media pages.

Sitting at one of the Rob Womack-designed tables, I had a new appreciation for the tables and artwork after seeing Womack's work as part of the "Coloratura at 35: A Retrospective" show at the Branch a couple weeks ago and shared the back story with Beloved, my fellow art geek.

But not for long because a bottle of Miano Brut Catarrato arrived, our cue to start ordering enough food for a proper pre-Independence Day feast. I'm talking fish soup, egg in creamy tuna sauce, crostini with cured salmon, capers and cream cheese, arugula salad with olive-oil poached tuna and shaved Parmesan, mussels in white sauce and white pizza with mushrooms.

If it sounds like a lot for three people, it was, but how better to celebrate our break with the mother country than with gluttony? I will point out that we eschewed dessert for the simple reason that even gluttons have their limits.

Back at Holmes' man cave, we listened to some recent record finds from an estate sale, beginning with one I wished I owned: "Smash Sounds," a compilation of 1967 hits that launched our record party like a bottle rocket into the July night sky.

Not gonna lie, I didn't even know all the songs and artists, but that didn't stop me from enjoying every single one, including Otis Redding doing "Respect," a song I hadn't known he'd written.

The first side ended with Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth," a complete shift in musical mood from what had preceded it, which caused a group singalong while Beloved rifled through record stacks, Holmes poured himself some whiskey and I danced in my bar stool.

Everyone was in their happy place, in other words.

Reluctant to listen to side two because of the unfamiliar songs, I insisted and we were rewarded with what sounded like the hip, '60s soundtrack to a swingin' cocktail party we all wished we were at. Side two had plenty of slow songs for close dancing, but when I commented that it was good grinding music, Holmes looked confused. Beloved not so much.

Apparently women who lived through the '70s are far more familiar with the term than men.

I got to make the next pick and chose the seminal 1976 album "Silk Degrees" by Boz Scaggs, causing Holmes to complain that he couldn't get behind Boz because he abandoned Steve Miller's band to strike out on his own. Beloved and I, no fans of the Steve Miller band, had no such issue.

I can't say what decade I last heard "Silk Degrees" but I'm here to tell you that the moment the white boy soul of "What Can I Say?" began, Beloved and I were immediately transported back to 1976 and all that meant to us (youth and lots of dancing in clubs).

But to make Holmes feel better, I shared that three members of Boz' band went on to form Toto, so he too must have felt the pain of abandonment. Holmes, no Toto fan either, decided to learn more. "Let's do some research the way old people do," he said, grinning, and fetching a musical compendium where we looked up Toto and wound up taking all kinds of tangents while "Lowdown" and "Lido Shuffle" blared at top volume.

Over the next three plus hours, Holmes told us about the room where he listened to a lot of Led Zeppelin and how while tripping ended up passed out in the woods. "Who found you?" Beloved wondered. "No one, I decided to get up," Holmes answered as if she were an idiot. Meanwhile, my musical IQ benefited from Holmes' detailed explanation of what a Moog synthesizer was and could do.

Next up was the Troggs' "Love Is All Around You," also from 1967, and as groovy a song as we could have hoped for at that point in the evening, despite its poor recording quality ("That's part of its charm!" Beloved insisted and I agreed). Holmes reminisced about taking a girl and a blanket to a grassy knoll and playing the song for her on his 12-string guitar.

Now that's some major '60s style romance right there.

"Krupa versus Rich," Traffic's "Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys" and Joni Mitchell's "Court and Spark" (lots of sparking tonight) took us into Independence Day before my hosts walked me outside to say goodbye. There we were greeted by a yellow half moon that resembled nothing so much as a thin wedge of lemon, causing the three of us to stand in the middle of Grove Avenue at 1:30 a.m. admiring it.

What can I say? At some point, you just have to decide to get up and go home.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Heat of the Moment

Let's talk hot, shall we?

Mac and I dutifully trudged to the river to walk even though we knew we couldn't cool off in the water because neither of us knew if e. coli was still an issue after all the media attention the high levels got a few weeks back.

Ordinarily, we'd get as far as the pipeline and either climb rocks to find a spot to put our legs in the water or dismount the walkway at one of the little beaches and wade out to cool off. Today we had to make do with the new Native American monument in Capital Square which conveniently has a water feature burbling out of its center. I couldn't resist sitting down on the water-covered surface while the more circumspect Mac just leaned in to wet her hands, meaning I had to finish the last mile with my shorts soaked in the back.

If I looked like I'd wet my pants I was okay with that because wet shorts are cooler than dry shorts. No shame here.

Driving down Broad Street this afternoon to run errands, I saw one digital clock that read 102 degrees and another that read 108. Even splitting the difference, that's still 105 degrees. Meanwhile, back in my apartment, the temperature has been stuck at 94 for the past ten hours, although that doesn't take into account the humidity which makes it feel far hotter than a mere 94.

Even so, I'm not complaining about the heat. Granted, it's the hottest day of the year so far but I'm the one who chooses to live without air conditioning (proudly, in fact) and let's not forget that summer is supposed to be hot, humid and sweaty weather. Sorry, kids, but it's just not natural to be comfortably cool in July in Richmond.

Hello, that's why seersucker, sundresses and the south were invented.

But I'm also not too proud to admit that I didn't hesitate to spend two hours at the movies to escape the heat this evening, just like people have been doing since the 1920s when theaters began advertising their air conditioned interiors.

Tonight was the kickoff of the Byrd Theatre's month-long tribute to Wes Anderson with his debut feature, "Bottle Rocket." Given how well attended it was, I have to assume there are a lot of Anderson fans stuck in town for the July fourth holiday since I'm quite sure I was the lone attendee to have central a/c at home and choose not to use it.

For anyone who cares about the full story, I turned my back on air conditioning in 1993 for myriad reasons - the environment, the cost, the unnaturalness of it - and never looked back. That decision dictates that I sleep under a ceiling fan with two other fans pointed directly at me and occasionally forces me into a heat nap, but that's a small price to pay.

Part heist movie, part buddy film and visually a precursor to the celebrated Wes Anderson "look" he developed with his films, "Bottle Rocket" not only provided a respite from the heat but a slew of laugh out loud dialog ("Wow, you're really complicated." "I try not to be.") and - wait for it - multiple scenes shot inside and outside Frank Lloyd Wright's John Gillin residence in Dallas, the last Usonian house built before he died and the largest.

So, you see, I wasn't just catching a break from the heat, I was upping my architectural literacy. Like I do.

And now I'm back in J-Ward, all the street lights are out for some reason and it's still 94 degrees in my apartment. I call that another glorious summer night in the city.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Dance Card Filled

Beach vacation over, I have sacrificed two prized possessions to the gods of the ocean.

A towering wave claimed my prescription sunglasses with a smack to the back of my head while my favorite sunhat, that relic of 1998, finally succumbed to years of sun, salt and washings, arriving home a tattered shell of the SPF 100 head covering that has saved my face for two decades. That would be the same chapeau that causes strangers to regularly tell me that they like my hat as I traipse around the streets of Richmond.

A moment of silence, please, for a hat life well lived and traveled. That hat shaded me in places ranging from South Africa to the Loire Valley with a whole lot of seaside locales - Barbados, Bermuda, Pismo Beach - in between. With any luck, a replacement will be ordered post haste to carry me through the next 20 years.

My sunglasses, which had been chosen not because I thought I could pull off aviator frames (I had serious doubts but eventually decided that anyone who lived through the '70s could) but because they were on sale will also need replacing and now I've just got to decide whether the universe was trying to tell me to step away from the aviator frames or just to wear a leash to keep them attached to my big old head.

Those two incidents aside, my beach week finished out in a blur of sunshine, waves and the best possible company once the girlfriends had returned to RVA. In addition to the flowers that had preceded his arrival, my final guest arrived with yet another gift, this one a contribution to my beach reading: "Women Writers of the Beat Era."

I'd like to say I got around to reading it at the beach, but pretty much non-stop conversation and activity ensured that didn't happen. Fortunately, it'll read just as well now that I'm back to real life and fewer distractions.

Water temperatures hovered between 75 and 79 and most afternoons, the surf was so clear we could easily see our shadows on the ocean floor, right through the water, at least when we weren't being knocked down by waves.

Given my lifelong lack of hand/eye coordination, it should also be noted that when I was put to the "catch a football while in the ocean" test, I made a left-handed catch on the first throw. As the Bo Deans would say, ain't that what dreams are made of? At least to this thrower anyway.

Thursday night we devoted to the full moon, sipping Patron and settling in on the porch swing in time to catch the moonrise. In between dancing on the porch to a mash-up of '70s slow jams and pounding surf, we followed the moon's progress from low, small and red to huge, white and overhead, which is where we left it when we finally abandoned our watch.

At dinner Friday (a gorgeous and refreshing gazpacho with lump crab, a Mediterranean platter of bread and 3 kinds of baby carrots with olive tapendade, tzatziki and curry hummus, a crab-stuffed avocado and a Thai chopped salad with peanut dressing followed by German chocolate cake) on the screened porch of the Salt Box Cafe, we were seated across from N.C. restaurateur/chef/author Vivian Howard and four local women who were discussing work/life balance and other hot button estrogen topics before having Vivian sign copies of her first cookbook "Deep Run Roots."

And while I haven't been to her restaurant The Chef and the Farmer in Kinston, Mac has and we've talked about a pilgrimage back at some point. You just don't expect that kind of literary star power at a little soundside restaurant in Colington, N.C.

Saturday was devoted to last day beach pleasures (loss of glasses aside) and the night to a full fireworks display coming from the Avalon Pier area, a bonus considering it was still June, but a fitting sendoff after four practically perfect beach days with himself.

And that's with only having finished one book, an all-time beach low. Everything else about the trip, though? Glasses and hat be damned, easily an all-time beach high.

I'm also thinking of having that football bronzed as a souvenir. Who am I kidding? Like I'm ever going to forget any of this...