Sunday, March 31, 2019

Sunday Movie, Almost

You don't go to the French Film festival for cutting edge cinema.

As Pru pointed out when she declined my invitation to join me yesterday afternoon, most of the films that get shown end up becoming available on Netflix, so your motivation to go has to come from something other than a desire to read subtitles (not that there's anything wrong with subtitles because some of us love subtitled films).

Besides not having a TV, much less Netflix, I enjoy the festival for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which is reveling in being at the FFF now that there are comfortable new seats (bonus: with cup holders) to spend hours in. Those years of camping out in seats with springs digging into our backsides and torn fabric are but a distant memory.

The film Pru had passed on was "Abdel et la Comtesse," a charming comedy about a Contessa with no sons, only a daughter to whom she couldn't pass down the nobility title of her late husband. To the rescue comes a jailbird named Abdel, who also happens to be an art-savvy thief who knows which objets d'art to take and which to leave behind because he's that well-informed about art.

Plus he ultimately has a heart of gold, a code of honor and the Contessa's veterinarian daughter falls for him, but only after Abdel teaches the Contessa to throw gang signs, walk like she doesn't care and take on a local gangster who looks to be about 10.

Plot aside, the movie gave me several French film staples that I love: a gorgeous, old chateau, a character who smokes everywhere and a love story.

Because I've been going to the festival for so many years, it always boggles my mind when I run into somebody without a clue what's going on. That was the case after Mr. Wright and I ate at Branch and Vine when we finished and the chef inquired, "What's next?" After sharing our intention to see a film at the FFF, she was gobsmacked. "Oh, so that must be what the crowds of people were about. I stopped by Carytown on the way over and it was mobbed!"

Okay, I can understand people not going to see French films, but how could you not even know about the four-day event? Especially since it's been going on now for 27 years. But I try not to judge.

Mr. Wright and I were headed back to the Byrd a few hours later when I ran into a couple of people I knew, another reliable perk of the FFF.

First there was the Frenchman, looking tanned and rested, whom I hadn't seen since he closed his restaurant so he could have more time to be with his aging parents in France. Next came the woman I'd met a few years ago at a music show when she first moved into the city. Introducing me to the woman she was with, she explained that her friend was a glass artist and that I wrote for Style Weekly.

It struck me that she was reducing us both to an easy description and I challenged her about how she'd describe herself as succinctly. I know her as a painter and a cyclist, but she admitted she'd have described herself as a graphic designer, which is how she pays the rent.

Funny how we reduce ourselves to what we do for money.

We'd all come to see "Le Collier Rouge," a film set in 1919 about a man conscripted into WW I. It's unfortunate for him because it happens shortly after meeting and falling in love with a woman at a nearby farm after she asks that he make a delivery of hay to her. The audience realizes that they're hot for each other because he's worn his Sunday suit to drop off the hay and she has put on a lovely white eyelet blouse to work in the garden while awaiting his arrival.

I mean, come on, some of us don't even shower unless we have a date, so I see getting gussied up is a sure sign of obvious mutual attraction.

The story, which was told in flashbacks, followed the man into the horrors of war (there were several bayonet-filled scenes I had to close my eyes for) as he became disillusioned with the chaos of war and slaughter of innocent men. In a moment that can probably be ascribed to PTSD, he eventually awards his dog his Legion of Honor medal in front of the entire village and gets carted off to jail for treason.

Naturally, it, too, had several standard issue French film cliches from using a bicycle as transportation to an old French house lit by oil lamps to a love story.

I'm telling you, I love French films for these familiar chestnuts.

After a leisurely morning and lunch at a bustling Garnet's, we headed to Carytown for the FFF one last time. Amazingly, we even snagged the same seats we'd had Thursday and Saturday evenings, minus the giant man with big hair who'd plopped down in front of me Thursday, necessitating craning my neck at an unnatural angle for the entire film just so I could read the subtitles.

But we hadn't allowed for the introduction of the French delegation, students and volunteers, a lengthy process that involves introducing every intern, every student, every Byrd Theatre employee, every actor, director and creative person involved with the entire FFF. I'd sat through it in the past and vowed never to do so again, but the organizers had slyly not included it in the festival schedule, so we'd been ambushed.

I'm here to tell you that I sat there for an hour and a half of the introductions and munched through a medium buttered popcorn before feeling like we were never going to see ""L'echange des Princesses" and giving up. Well, actually I just turned to Mr. Wright and suggested we blow this pop stand rather than devote any more time to waiting for a 3:15 movie to begin when it was already 4:30.

Au revoir, French Film Festival. I love you, but I've got limits.

Until next year...because. let's face it, I always come back.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Court is in Session

Basketball seems to be a big deal right now. I'd like to say I care, but of course I don't.

My parents do, partly because they're both big sports fans and partly because they both have money on the outcome. Mr. Wright cares, so he was at home cheering Duke on when I met up with Holmes and Beloved for dinner.

Walking out of my apartment, I spotted two female students on the porch next door sipping beers and blasting their radio (seriously, ladies, "Don't Go Breakin' My Heart"?) while just across the street, a young woman was directing seven others. "Okay, I need someone over here screaming in agony," she said, holding her cell phone and pointing. "And I need someone over here by the street crouching down."

A cinematic masterpiece in the making, I'm sure.

The fact that it was 75 degrees on a Friday afternoon meant just getting to Holmes' house was an obstacle course given the hordes of people at the VMFA (and the lack of parking anywhere along the three blocks between the museum and Holmes' house), walking dogs along the streets and in general just milling about as if they hadn't experienced a sunny, warm day for too long.

When I finally nabbed a parking space, it was next to a backyard where three kids were climbing up on to the picnic table and jumping off while shrieking at the top of their lungs while the mothers of these daredevils posed together nearby taking repeated selfies of the two of them ignoring the screams behind them.

But it was a short-lived parking spot victory because I was elected to drive everyone to Nota Bene, where an open door greeted us. The bar was populated with stools, not people, so we took up residence at the corner, close enough to feel the warm air through the door with a view of the rapidly filling dining room.

Debating what to sip, we took the owner's recommendation of a personal favorite, G.D. Vajra "Rosa Bella" Rosato, a refreshing Rose with a bone dry finish that all but begged for a warm day like the one we were reveling in. It was my opportunity to thank her for having recommended Lady Pi Pi's, the charming outdoor restaurant in Dubrovnik, where we'd had a fabulous meal at her suggestion.

"Someone told me about it and I told you," she shrugged. "Now it's your turn to recommend it to someone else going to Dubrovnik." Paying it forward at Lady Pi Pi's, so to speak.

Once we'd wet our whistles, we dove into the new spring menu with abandon to celebrate it having come out just today. Tender wood oven turnips got the star treatment with tuna sauce, turnip greens pesto and trout row. Since Nota Bene is where Holmes first began enjoying roasted cauliflower, we had to try the decadent new version with Perorino, black garlic, lemon and the piece de resistance, Prosecco-cured egg yolk.  Then to take it over the top, we had housemade burrata with snap peas, radishes and mint in whey vinaigrette, which we slathered over bread toasted with olive oil.

If we hadn't already ordered dinner, we could have stopped right there since we were all stuffed anyway. But Beloved had been determined to try the legendary white Bolognese bucatini with pork and beef and Holmes had been helpless when our server had announced a special of skin-on duck breast with, as he put it, "some kind of pommes," which turned out to be fancy hash browns.

Their choices made my mushroom and garlic white pizza with caramelized onions, Parmesan and Fontina seem like a Healthy Choice entree, not at all what I was going for but a damn fine pie nonetheless.

If it sounds like an obscene amount of food for three people, let me assure you it was. So much so that dessert was out of the question, a rarity for this group. Fortunately, Beloved and I knew that Holmes had laid in a chocolate dessert at the house for once our fullness settled.

Back in the museum district, parking spaces were emptying out and things were settling down a bit. Holmes forewarned me that while yes, we'd be having a listening party in the basement as usual, the TV would be on but muted behind Beloved's and my bar stools. He'd be able to see it and we'd never know it was on.

The plan was for an all media night, meaning we started with a CD I'd never even heard of. It was the Beatles' "Real Love," named after the Lennon song the three remaining  Beatles had overdubbed after he died and the demo was found. I've got to say, I found it really strange to hear a "Beatles" song I'd never heard before.

Next came one of Holmes' classic cassette tapes, this one a collection of songs by George Harrison and Eric Clapton doing a wide range of songs and covers. And while Holmes had neatly labeled which songs were on the tape, he'd not indicated the sources, a shame since some of the live versions had us curious about their origins.

Vinyl came courtesy of two 45s - John Hiatt's "Missing You," and the Go Gos' "Our Lips are Sealed" - before we dove into the Elton John record "17.11.70," an album taken from a live radio broadcast where his piano was accompanied only by bass and drums. His  cover of "Honky Tonk Woman" sounded positively audacious for 1971.

In between music selections, Holmes checked out the game and I realized that Beloved must have some interest because she was appalled that Holmes was rooting for Duke when he usually roots for whatever Virginia team is playing. "You even rooted for Liberty and they're a bunch of religious crazies!" she admonished him.

He refused to budge, so she retaliated by becoming an uber-fan for Virginia Tech.

Meanwhile, I kept my back to the whole thing, remembering a post by a reformed Christian friend that said, "Strongest evidence I know that there isn't a just god: Duke continues to win." Even my Mom hates Duke and that's saying something for my mild-mannered mother.

One of the more charming aspects of our ongoing conversation was Holmes enumerating some of the 99 reasons why he and Beloved should get married, a list that he added to periodically throughout the evening, apropos of nothing. So they can spend the winters someplace warm. So they can sell one house. So they can retire and goof off.

Interspersed with such practical reasons was Holmes' constant refrain, "Mostly because I love her."

Mushy talk beats basketball talk any day, no matter who's winning. That's real love.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Synopsis en Francais

It's that magical time of year when all the Carytown banners are equal parts red, white and blue and French speakers mill about on Cary Street.

Bonjour, 27th Annual French Film Festival. Glad to have you back.

And since it wouldn't be a French Film Fest without running into Barbara, we'd only gotten as far as Bygones before she and her new husband passed by and stopped to chat. It's sort of the unofficial launch to the festivities for me. Or put another way: every year for well over a decade, Barbara and I - always without dates - have run into each other socially because we were drawn to the same nerdy events.

We still do, except we now have companions who like nerdy women.

They'd just come from "Libre" and we'd just finished dinner at Greek on Cary and were headed to see a short, "Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" followed by a full length feature, "Fait d'hiver."

Before going inside the Byrd, I chatted local theater with manager Todd, who had not only enjoyed TheatreLAB's production of "Sweeney Todd" as much as I had, but had used his specials effects skill set so that he and his wife had gone to see it with fake slit throats.

And lest I doubt him, he showed me photographic evidence.

Waiting for the films to begin, I checked out the crowd. A woman behind me had been to three of the four master classes offered this morning. The trio two rows behind me had driven down from Bethesda for the four days of the festival and like to hang out at "Con Con," as he pronounced it, at least until someone corrected him to Can Can. Meanwhile, an official usher draped personalized seat marker covers on the three seats in front of us, a privilege for having donated cash money to the festival.

I'm happy to report that once again, festival goers were told to stay in the moment with an onscreen sign reading, "NO texting during screenings. Violators may be removed." Mais, bien sur.

The French are civilized like that.

French director Robert Enrico (RIP) was the focus this evening, with his first and last films being introduced by his lookalike son Jerome before being shown.

We were told that "Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," yep, from the 1891 Ambrose Bierce short story, won at Cannes as well as at the Oscars when it came out. The story of a Civil War-era civilian being hanged on a bridge struck me as the unlikeliest of starting points for a French director in 1962, yet the film captured the era evocatively in shades of black and white.

I don't know if I've ever read the short story, but I think I must have because I somehow knew halfway into it how it would end.

As the credits rolled, a woman near me turned to her spoiler of a companion and complained, "You shouldn't have told me what was going to happen!"

Jerome had informed us that we'd be seeing "Fait d'hiver" on the only subtitled 35 mm copy of the film left in the world, which felt pretty special. I always get a kick out of seeing the blip on the screen signaling the switch to the other projector.

The 1999 film was set in 1970 and based on a true story about a divorced man who decided not to return his kids to his ex after they come for a visit. Although the oldest daughter escapes and returns to her mother, the two younger ones want to stay on with Dad, barricading the windows and doors and shooting at anyone who dares approach the house.

It touched on several issues - fathers' rights post-divorce, PTSD, the bonds soldiers develop in wartime, overeager media hype - while always keeping at the center of the story the fact that this guy sincerely wanted to be with his kids but his wife had full custody.

Mr. Wright took issue with its slow pacing because the saga unfolded over 16+ days, many of them represented by little more than the police captain deciding to give the man one more day to surrender. Because the captain had served with him in the military, he felt certain he wasn't going to do anything awful and wanted to give his old friend a chance.

And there was such a purity to how devoted to their father, not to mention fun-loving, these two kids were, whether standing sentry with a gun at the window or collecting the bottles of nutritious milk that the local doctor delivered at the roadside for them.

The interesting part was, when the powers-that-be decided that they'd wasted enough time (other divorced dads were publicly siding with him) and the tanks and gendarmes began rolling in, breaking windows on the house and tossing stinkbombs?/teargas? inside, the camera froze and the credits began rolling up.

"Oh, no!" the woman behind me wailed loudly. "They can't do this!" Of course they can, honey. Ever seen "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?" She was far from the only one moaning and groaning at the absence of a clearly expressed ending.

But, hey, this isn't Hollywood, kids, and if a French director who'd been making films for 27 years wants to end on an unclear note, more power to him. Besides, if the police wound up killing those two adorable children, I, for one, didn't need to know about it.

It's enough to know that I can count on four days of hearing French spoken and seeing French films that follow no American rules.

And most likely, another Barbara sighting or two.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Celebrating My Sex

Man, the women killed it tonight.

I'd invited Mac to join me for a 1.8 mile progressive walk with multiple stops, both cultural and edible, and, trooper that she is (and despite having been up since daybreak), she signed on.

Our first stop was the VCU Depot where artist Hope Ginsberg was holding a preview of her new work, "Swirling." Walking in, I ran into an artist who hugged me and thanked me for the piece I'd written about her recent exhibit. When I pointed out that it had been a show worth calling attention to, she'd agreed, suggesting that was mostly because of its universal theme: f*cking.

Hard to argue with fact.

Further in, I spotted musician Josh Quarles, who's also Hope's husband and partner in art-making, and said hello. "It's been a while," he answered, echoing something I've been hearing from old friends for a while now.

But then again, I'm only one woman and I've only got so much time.

Mac and I made our way through the gabbing artsy crowd to the partitioned off room where Hope's video was showing on three walls of the room. Ultimately, it'll be presented on three two-sided screens arranged in a triangle formation that will allow viewers to "swirl," that is, move around them freely, to see the different videos about underwater coral farming, reef restoration and possible outcomes.

The only way to describe looking at the scuba divers in coral nurseries in St. Croix is fascinating (I can't be the only one who had no idea that such a thing went on), albeit thought-provoking because of the United Nations report predicting massive die-offs of coral reefs by 2040.

My point? If you're still using sunscreen with Oxybenzone or Octinoxate, you're part of the problem. End of story.

Watching the scenes unfold on the walls was accompanied by the sound of many voices having conversations at the preview reception just outside the cordoned-off space, but other than that, it was a compelling piece of art that raised some important question about ecological priorities.

After stopping to chat with Hope about her art and our repeated yet thwarted attempts at taking a walk together, Mac and I headed to Soul Taco for dinner because I was overdue to check out the new spot on Second Street. The way I see it, J-Ward could use more casual places to eat.

Soul Taco was small but happening, with a wall of colorful art, music loud enough to feel like you were someplace fun and a uniquely soulful menu of Mexican staples. I decided on cornmeal-crusted catfish tacos (crispy, with tomatillo and corn salsa) and low country shrimp tacos (Old Bay lending its distinctive flavor to the sauteed shrimp and the crema), while Mac went with pulled pork carnitas and Mississippi pot roast taquitos.

Housemade limeade washed it all down as we sat on stools in the front window wishing for a time when all the unoccupied storefronts across the street have eateries in them.

Since neither of us had counted on Soul Taco having desserts, we had a Plan B: to score a giant piece of cake at Mama J's Kitchen. In what can only be considered a personal tragedy, we arrived to find the cake rack empty. Empty. Years of going to Mama J's and neither of us had ever been faced with empty cake racks.

Sitting pitifully on the end of the bar were a half dozen individually boxed slices of pineapple coconut cake, the only remnants of the day's original cake offerings. It wasn't what we were in the mood for.

Rather than accept defeat, we moseyed over to Lucy's, only to find that the flourless chocolate cake we were counting on is no longer on the menu. But Mac and I aren't quitters, so we made do. She couldn't resist their fried oysters and once they were disptached, we shared a housemade ice cream sandwich of dark chocolate cookies with vanilla ice cream (all the while wishing it were mint chocolate chip).

All I can say is, it shouldn't be that hard for two chocolate-loving women to score some dessert in the Ward.

Only then, once our savory and sweet needs were met, were we ready to walk over to the Basement for opening night of the Women's Theatre Festival, featuring four different one act, one actor plays performed by women and directed by women. Tonight's offering was "Pretty Fire," a production of 5th Wall Theatre starring Haliya Roberts and directed by Carl Piersol.

Beautifully acted by Roberts and skillfully directed by Piersol using only a red bench as a prop, the story of a young black girl born prematurely, exposed to racist name-calling in the north and the Klan (the pretty fire of the title was when the girl saw a cross being burnt by the KKK) in the south, ends with the young girl getting her first taste of stardom as a soloist in the children's choir at church.

Playing all the parts - mother, father, sister, grandfather, grandmother, mean kid, choir director - Roberts was a marvel to behold. Whether singing Aretha's "Respect," being taught her ABCs by her father or being terrorized by a bully, she created believable voices and mannerisms for them all.

From her fearless Grandma, she learned never to let anybody have the last word if you know you're right. From her mother, she learned the components of the "breakfast of life:" grits with butter, scrambled eggs with onions and sometimes hamburger and homemade biscuits.

Talk about life-affirming. Who couldn't conquer the world after that breakfast?

When the play ended, Mac and I looked at each other in awe. No question, the play had been a masterful choice and Roberts had nailed every nuance of it. So. Much. Talent. Then she turned to the woman next to her to say as much, only to have the woman share that Roberts is her daughter.

When I asked when they'd known how incredibly talented she was, her mom said they knew by age two that she had something special. Truly, what we saw tonight won't soon be forgotten.

And that, I'm here to tell you, is how you kick off Richmond's first women's theatre festival. Leave it to the XX.

All I can say is, let the estrogen flow, but let's make sure there's chocolate available nearby. It is the food of life.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Let's Groove Tonight

The rules are different on a girls' night out.

Mac and I were eating at the counter of Galley Go To when she spotted the chocolate/chocolate cake on the other side. Since our pizzas hadn't arrived, we wasted no time in walking around the U-shaped counter to inspect the cake up close. And I'm not going to lie, the coconut cake sitting directly next to the chocolate did give us a moment's pause.

But then Mac decided the matter, announcing, "Nah, I want chocolate cake" and that was that.

Once we were eating our pizzas - the usual Bianca for me and Popeye's for her - she pointed out that we needed to finish soon so we'd have time to eat the cake before we left for the movies. That's when I had to remind her that we were going to see a movie about a middle aged woman looking for love, so there was no reason we couldn't eat our cake in the theater before the movie began.

All I'm saying is, I can't imagine they ever threw any women out of a certified chick flick for eating chocolate cake. I think it's in our Bill of Rights or something.

When we walked into the theater, we were the only occupants. Once we finished our cake, Mac asked if I thought anyone else would come. My best guess was we'd see 2 to 3 middle-aged women. As if on cue, two such women walked in a few minutes later. Next came a couple, surprising us both since we hadn't expected any men.

The final arrivals were a gay couple, bringing the final totals to 5 middle aged women and one straight man. Close enough.

"Gloria Bell" was a remake of Chilean director Sebastion Lelio's film "Gloria," except set in Los Angeles and starring a still gorgeous 60-year old Julianne Moore. Even in the film, a character can't help but ask if she's had work done and she's flattered, but says no. That she's gone on record in real life as saying aging is natural and she'll never have plastic surgery should make her a hero to all women.

Role modeling aside, I liked many things about her character, but probably none so much as her unshakable romantic optimism and her love of dancing as often as possible.

It was gratifying to see that I'm not the only one similarly afflicted.

So while she's certainly not the only woman of a certain age who still loves dancing, the world she inhabits has a leg up on mine because in hers, there's a club frequented by only middle aged people with nothing but good '70s and '80s music played.

Believe me, if such a thing existed in Richmond, I'd be a regular.

And between her nights dancing and her daily singing in the car (it is L.A., after all), that meant a whole lot of music from my youth. I'm talking songs like "Love Is In the Air," "Never Can Say Goodbye" and "September," along with the iconic dance floor anthem "Gloria."

Let's put it this way, there weren't many songs played that I haven't already danced to. Repeatedly.

But my favorite thing about "Gloria Bell" (besides John Turturro, of whom I'm a big fan) was how un-American a film it came across as. Since I hadn't seen the original, I had no clue how things would work out, so I was continually surprised by how the director handled a scene or outcome.

Like life, there were no easy answers and opening yourself up to love at middle age is bound to come with more than a few surprises and at least a little baggage.

Walking out of the theater after everything was not tied up neatly Hollywood-style, I heard my name called from across the parking lot. It was a guy I know, a regular movie-goer en route to see "Transit" and curious about our choice. Guessing what we'd seen, he said his conclusion had been that "Gloria Bell" was a film only enjoyable to middle aged women.

I didn't bother reminding him that gay men seemed to enjoy it, too, a fact he should have realized since he's getting a chemical peel tomorrow and will be unable to be out doing reviews for the next week.

Meanwhile, Mac took issue with the film's depiction of technology, informing me afterward that if a man won't stop calling you, all you need to do is block his number. Can't relate.

That aside, allow me to suggest to middle aged women across Richmond that chocolate cake pairs beautifully with "Gloria" and a girlfriend.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Porch After Dark

Today's glorious warmth translated to the first screened porch report of 2019.

Pru's birthday is Tuesday, but Beau is away on business all week. But since birthdays are a serious gift-giving occasion at the manse, Beau had organized an impromptu gift opening session followed by a simple supper prepared by the birthday girl-to-be.

I'd spent the warm afternoon at a Theater Alliance Panel meeting in the east end, discussing the first half of the theatrical season with my cohorts, a meandering discussion that addressed many things, including the anachronisms of a play set in 1940. A character in the play had been a repeat sneezer who had sneezed into her elbow every time.

As several of the critics had pointed out, no one in 1940 sneezed that way.

The funny part was that, until our discussion, the younger members of the panel had no idea that there'd ever been another way to deal with a sneeze other than projecting it into your elbow.

The times they have a-changed.

I'd barely gotten back from the meeting when I was summoned to the manse for the festivities. And while it was a low key affair in anticipation of the upcoming birthday and the blowout birthday dinner scheduled, any event that leads off with Roderer Brut is a celebration to me.

Even Beau, who's not usually a bubbly fan, had to admit that he liked it and that rarely happens.

I'm not the gift-giving pro that Pru and Beau are, but I'd brought a present nonetheless. Mr. Wright had taken a wonderful photo of the happy couple at Bar Solita - with him laughing heartily and her glancing at him with a knowing smile  - which had been blown up and suitably framed to fit the manse's decor.

But it was one of Beau's gifts that got Pru most excited: a new iPad. Like a kid with a new toy on Christmas morning, she oohed and aahed before peeling off the protective film and trying to figure out how to turn it on. When it turned out that all she had to do to transfer everything on her phone to her tablet was put them in proximity, everyone was dazzled by technology.

My first thought was, I guess setting up an iPad for me would be a bit more labor intensive given my lack of a cell phone.

As her phone told her what to do, we had a front row seat for the process. Eventually, she picked up the iPad and began preening - or at least that's what it looked like from where I sat - looking at herself in the tablet's screen, turning her head left and right and smiling. Then she did it again.

Silly me, the iPad was actually scanning her face from every angle, the better to recognize her. After all, no one wants their technology to be a stranger.

After a lovely supper of beef cubes in au jus, an array of roasted vegetables so good everyone raved repeatedly and a bowl of butter beans procured last summer on the Outer Banks (I love a hostess who plans ahead), we adjourned to the screened porch for the 2019 initiation of the recently redesigned space.

Another of my gifts, two metal candle stands resembling trailing ivy plants, had found a home out there since I'd given them to her at Christmas. Furniture had been rearranged for better conversation acoustics and everything looked fresh and ready for another season of porch parties.

Let the Roderer flow.

Pru regaled us with a story about being sent away to camp, where she was appalled to learn that she was expected to kayak and swim. Instead, she used the camp phone to notify a friend who promptly had her mother drive out to rescue Pru from lanyard-making and group hikes.

Some people are born with nerve, others have to acquire it.

Another of her anecdotes involved the teen-aged Pru zipping around the island on her Peugeot motorbike while on vacation at the family home in Bermuda. Seems she'd had her first bowl of chilled soup - cantaloupe, she recalled - upstairs at Trimingham's, a department store with a cafe on the second floor.

It was about then that Beau deadpanned, "When I was that age, I was going to Indian Acres." Without having any idea what Indian Acres was, I laughed out loud. When he clarified that it was a campground in Stafford County, I laughed harder.

Not all of us have the cosmopolitan teenage life experience Pru did. I know I never spent entire days with my uncle and his best friend Hot Dog sipping alcohol or smoking pot. Ah, youth in Bermuda.

Meanwhile, Beau polled the group about things worth seeing near Jonesboro, Arkansas, which is where he's headed all week. Since Memphis is only an hour away and I've been there, I could at least speak to some good spots there - Gus' Fried Chicken, the Beauty Shop Restaurant, the Absinthe Room - beyond the obvious: Sun Studio, the Rock and Soul Museum and if you're into it, Graceland.

Granted, I was that rare Memphis visitor with no need to see Elvis' digs, but to each his own.

Although Beau had requested that the porch heater be put on, it was a surprisingly comfortable evening to be outside until 11:00 or so. When I finally got up to leave, it was only because Beau had a morning flight out and I felt sure Pru wanted to climb into bed and play with her new toy.

Besides, the Roderer was all gone and no civilized porch party is dry. This isn't Indian Acres, after all.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

A Lady's Imagination is Very Rapid

Let's start with the walk.

It was noon and sunny, completely dead in places and abuzz in others. The primary groups I saw were cars headed to brunch and cars headed to the river, a fact I know from several conversations I overheard thanks to rolled down car windows.

Walking down 5th Street on the weekends is always a bit worrisome because of the things I hear parents telling their children. Last week, it was a mom telling her kids  that the building on the hill was the governor's mansion. When I discretely explained that it was, in fact, Ethyl Corporation, she shrugged and said they'd never know the difference.

But why lie?

Today it was a mother and son discussion after she insisted on holding something of his while he rode his bike down the fairly steep hill, especially for a 7 or 8 year old boy. The entire time he was inching down the hill behind me, he was reminding his mother not to hold "it" too tightly. She'd reassure him that she wasn't but he'd repeat the warning again. After the 4th or 5th exchange, she put on her Mother voice and said, "Don't make me sorry I brought you!"

Calling Dr. Freud. Who says that to a child?

After the deluge Thursday, the river is back to full roar, but walking the canal walk meant having a cyclist do a series of S-curves around me, while saying, "Great hat!" I like to think that's because I washed it last night so it looked particularly fetching in the sunlight.

Walking up Broad Street, I spotted a young woman in the kind of embroidered wide leg jeans (in that worn blue color) I haven't seen since the early '70s. The silhouette was similar to  a pair of sailor pants except shorter  and not belled, then with quarter moon pockets and all the embroidered flowers falling out from there down the legs.

When I told her how evocative (and adorable) they were, she lamented that she'd gotten them in Japan and never been able to find a similar pair. Just looking at them, I could tell how comfortable they were and she confirmed it.

In the parking lot of the Richmond Dairy building (where my Richmond grandfather worked, it should be noted), a guy had managed to wedge a good two feet of a parking lot median between his front and rear tires, so he sat there straddling it, trying to back up over the thing.

The whole time, the car is reacting by making horrible sounds and all I could think was, this had to be harshing this guy's sunny Sunday mellow big time. Not my problem, so I moved on.

All of which followed on the heels of last night's outing to Secco, then VMFA to see Quill Theater's "Pride and Prejudice."

Secco's patio was nearly full when we got there, not that we were eating outside. Mr. Wright and I had the same fabulous grains and petit greens salad we'd swooned over two weeks ago, plus roasted vegetables with goat cheese and an entree of rockfish over spaghetti squash pancakes with Romesco sauce, the latter a collection of things I enjoy eating, but would never make for myself.

Pru and Beau made a meal of an earthy mushroom soup, duck rillettes, vegetables and a cheese/charcuterie board that belonged in a still life. Beau and I both finished with a wedge of chocolate chestnut tort over orange marmalade, although I paired mine with Burmester Tawny Port while he got his buzz on with coffee.

On the table was a discussion of Pru's upcoming birthday, not just where and when, but how best to celebrate. How many people can an introvert stand in one evening? Or would it be better just to send out "Save the Date" cards for her next big birthday which is almost a decade away?

Those of us extroverted birthday celebrants never have to go through such machinations to celebrate ourselves.

Over dinner we discovered that not one of us seasoned theatergoers had seen a theatrical production of "Pride and Prejudice," which naturally led to talk about the film versions and then other Austen films.

Colin Firth, Alan Rickman, Richard Grant, how quickly we went down the British actor rabbit hole.

Walking into the VMFA theater, we found a good sized crowd and looked for seats. Explaining to my posse (and not for the first time), I said that I like to see the actors spit. Coming in from the left side, we settled in fourth row center seats, not bad for later arrivals.

To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love.

It's no wonder a 196-year old work is still being produced now given how strong and well-written the Lizzie Bennet character is. Even without the context of early 19th century Regent period mores, Lizzie's determination to wed for love not money is role model worthy.

There are few people whom I really love and still fewer of whom I think well.

And of course, a play about parents eager to marry off their five daughters, one that's full of quick wordplay and laugh-out-loud-worthy dialog, is going to appeal to a word nerd who's one of six daughters.

Joe Pabst impressed us all playing Mr. Bennet, his willingness to buck his wife's requests as well as his support for his daughter holding out for true love making him seem like a thoroughly modern man. Irene Kuykenall shone as Lizzie, as content to read a good book as socialize at a party and what reader can't relate to that?

Me, I always enjoy a good love story, especially between two strong personalities with confidence to spare. Where I overlap with Lizzie is that I must learn to be content with being happier than I deserve.

Because like Lizzie, I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.