Thursday, February 26, 2009

Poetry to Feed the Soul and Mind

Fresh Ink, a new author series at the Visual Arts Center debuted tonight with two poets doing the reading.

Carol Ann Davis and James Hoch were very different stylistically, which made for a most enjoyable contrast in what the audience heard. I couldn't have been the only one who appreciated the contrast.

Davis' work was far more introspective and even she acknowledged having to look for "something lighter" to read us toward the end. Her poems had the loveliest phrasing and, not surprisingly, I could relate to her female take on things.

On the other hand, much of Hoch's poetry contained a great deal of humor, both overt and implied. Not all of it was humorous by any means, but when it was there, it caused many of us to chuckle or even laugh out loud.

I know poetry readings aren't for everyone, but then neither is poetry. In my humble opinion, though, far more people would appreciate poetry if they heard it read, rather than just reading it silently themselves as is so often the case.

Not sure I'm right? Close your eyes and imagine a lover reading a poem to you.

Especially when it's read by the author, poetry read aloud can be a beautiful experience.

And who isn't looking for beautiful experiences?

Heaven on a Plate

I'm not a big fan of dried fruit, but I sure do love some bacon-wrapped dates like the ones I had last night at Bin 22.

Just about every tapas and small plate restaurant has some version of dates on its menu these days.

Some are fried, some are stuffed with cheese, but, as well know, bacon makes everything better, and that includes dates.

Moments after I ordered them, the restaurant began to smell divine as the bacon was being fried up.

The owner even tried to entice a girl on the patio to come in, saying, "Mmmm, bacon. Don't you want to come inside?"

I just sipped my Cabernet and waited patiently.

And I was not disappointed.

When the plate arrived, there were at least half a dozen dates, each wrapped in a full rasher of bacon (which meant repeated wrappings), and arranged atop and beside a lovely salad of mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette.

So I got sweet, salty and bitter and thoroughly enjoyed every bite.

Okay, so maybe I do like dried fruit more than I give myself credit for.

Mmm, bacon is always worth coming inside for.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Taking the Amazing Legs for A Walk

I'd been meaning to meet up with my friend Scott since he got dumped back in January, but pneumonia intervened.

By the time I recovered from that, I'd been dumped, so clearly it was time for the two of us to meet up for lunch and commiserate.

That day came yesterday and the place was Bistro 27, so I didn't have to go far.

Carlos, the handsome and talented chef/owner asked me what was new and I mentioned the breakup; he said the ex had been in for lunch the day before.

Whew! Scott and I had considered meeting Monday and now I was glad we'd put it off until Tuesday.

We had a delicious meal and he told me his story and I shared mine.

Talking to Scott is always a pleasure; he and I share an enthusiasm for life and a consistently positive attitude so neither of us is ever likely to bring anyone down.

Afterwards, Scott's bacon, ham and cheddar frittata was so filling that he suggested a walk...and walk we did.

We went further downtown to look at the progress of the Performing Arts Center, we checked out the hole that will supposedly be the Century Tower and even inspected the crumbling John Marshall Hotel facade.

It's a shame to see nothing much happening on that grand building because it would be such an asset to the neighborhood.

Steel bands were in place in several places on the building, apparently to prevent any more of the limestone pieces from falling to the street.

Several satisfying hours later, we parted.

Upon returning home, Scott updated his status with, "Scott had a great afternoon with the most amazing legs in Richmond."

That's the kind of afternoon that does a girl's ego good.

Cheese Lust Delivers Music Talk

Monday night I headed over to everyone's favorite hipster/vegetarian joint, Ipanema, for dinner.

Partly I was craving their amazing smoked gouda grilled cheese and partly I just needed to be out amongst others.

It worked out great because I had a delicious meal, got happy hour prices for my wine (2 bucks a glass is hard to beat) and sat next to a music-loving VCU grad student who supplied plenty of thoughful conversation for the evening.

I can make small talk with the best of them, but after discussing the weather (way too cold), his studies (advertising), our birthplaces (Oklahoma and DC), art (we'd both seen the Turner exhibit at the National Gallery) and birth order (only and first), it was time, at least for me, to move on to music.

I love a good discussion of musical taste and my bar mate Tony was ready to provide.

We began with Animal Collective, moved through his Phish days, my fondness for Joy Division and their followers, our mutual admiration society for Yo La Tengo and assorted concert experiences.

Several hours passed in a haze of band comparisons before we both realized it was time to get home.

I love evenings like that.

I went in for a favorite sandwich and as a bonus got stellar conversation, all kinds of musical challenges and some excellent conversation.

Thanks, Tony.

Life is good.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Brunch Takes Care of Stomach AND Legs

I met up with a friend I hadn't seen in months for brunch at Deluxe today.

We knew enough to arrive at 1130 (before the beautiful people show up) and grabbed two spots at the bar...which was hopping.

And, not surprisingly, once we saw how generous the bartender's pour on the mimosas was.

He might just as well have used a little red and yellow food coloring for all the orange juice he put in the mimosas.

This is a good place to drink mimosas we decided.

Friend enjoyed a big old omelet and I had a steak salad, so everyone was happy.

We discussed my recent relationship woes and his as well; he's just recently rid himself of a former quasi-girlfriend.

 His take on my new single status was in the form of an analogy.

Apparently, growing up his mom's blueberry pie was to die for.

If anyone ever declined a slice, his dad's response was always, "Fine, more for me."

When I asked if he saw any tragedy in my break-up, he invoked his Dad's blueberry pie response.

Alrighty, then.

Knowing my fondness for eye-catching tights, he did bring me a belated Christmas gift of two especially great pairs.

And while it may seem odd for a friend to buy me tights, he's certainly not the first.

It's almost the go-to gift when my friends think of me.

Since I always wear a skirt or dress, I can never really have too many pairs of great tights...or too much blueberry pie.

RVA Jazz Fest: A Treat for the Ears & Eyes

I am so lucky to live in Richmond where an event like last night's Jazz Fest at the Camel offered so much talent and music for a mere ten bucks.

Not only that, but we arrived around 745 and were able to score a couple of sets in the second row.

Only here does that kind of luck happen.

There were excellent sets from Glows in the Dark, Boots of Leather and Fight the Big Bull.

And even though I've seen all three groups perform before, they all continue to bring something new to every performance.

The crowd was a jazz-loving bunch and really into the musical meanderings of the performers.

Clearly this was a destination performance: the two guys seated next to me had driven in from Charlottesville for the show.

One highlight of the evening was watching a woman open a bathroom door to find Matt White, leader of FTBB, inside.

The look on her face made me laugh.

Now, he claimed the door didn't lock properly, but of course, he is a performer...

Although this was the first RVA Jazz Fest, we were told last night that it won't be the last.

I think it may be necessary to find a larger venue next year, though; we took up every available space in the Camel last night.

Here's to RVA's thriving jazz scene.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Nothing is Different, but Everything's Changed

Clearly my planets are out of alignment because it has been one seismic life event after another since mid-December.

No doubt, these things cause major stress, but I am doing my best to accept and move forward as best I can.

I've been jobless for two months, but, given the economy, that's not a very long time.

When I was laid off in 2004, the economy was much stronger and it still took me 4 1/2 months to find a job and not even one that I wanted, but one that paid the bills for 2 1/2 months until I found the job I did want.

So, no reason to be discouraged about my job state yet. I continue to send out resumes and hope for the best.

Okay, pneumonia for a month was completely out of the blue.

I almost never get sick, so being incapacitated for so long, including five days in Intensive Care, was daunting.

But, I am probably 97% recovered now so that's behind me.

I've paid my pneumonia dues, so to speak.

When a long time relationship ends unexpectedly, there's not a lot to do about it other than accept and grieve.

That simple statement belies just how devastated I was at being dumped by the person I thought was the love of my life after six years.

I had honestly thought we would grow old together; I loved him that much and thought we had committed to that.

But since you can't make someone love you, I have no choice in this awful situation.

That's where I am right now.

Will I feel differently about it in 6 months or a year or two?

I don't know, but going forward I have to hope that I won't be this sad forever.

Or maybe I will.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Lunch Talk

When I was among the employed, I generally brought and ate lunch at my desk every day.

Now and then I'd meet someone for lunch, usually to try a new place (Aurora, Papa Ningo, etc.).

Now that I am among the unemployed, I usually eat at home, but I broke bad twice this week for lunch out with friends.

Thursday was lunch at Kuba Kuba with a girlfriend I hadn't seen since before "the great sickness" (my pneumonia).

She knew about the layoff, but wanted the details of the other stuff going on in my life.

It was cathartic to open up and tell her all the crappy stuff that's been happening in my life lately...especially since I usually lead a charmed life.

My oh-so tasty lunch was mussels in a garlic/tasso ham broth with plenty of Cuban toast to soak up that brothy goodness.

One of the waiters, also a musician in Fight the Big Bull, gave us a flier about Friday night's performance in at the Robinson in Church Hill.

Today's lunch was with a guy friend at the new Gibson's at the National.

We used to work together, so he filled me in on the latest office gossip.

What I wanted to hear about was his new relationship, since it had come about since I'd last seen him.

What he wanted to know about was whether everything was okay with me and since it's not, I just alluded to things being a bit overwhelming at the moment.

Like my other friends, he was surprised that I would acknowledge any problems since I always wear my happy face.

That's been tough lately, though, so I didn't really open up.

Lunch was a steak salad with fried onions and little potatoes, which was too large but mostly quite good, although the blue cheese dressing was mediocre.

I should get out more, because I was actually surprised that both places were mobbed during lunch.

It worked out fine both days, though, because we could discuss life without anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to us.

And right now the last thing I need is anyone paying attention to me.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Don't See Me if You Know I'm Too Good for You!

So I've had two job interviews over the past week.

I submitted my resume, they liked what they saw and asked me to come in to talk.

Fair enough.

The first time, the interviewer was a woman a few years younger than me.

She asked me all kinds of questions about my former positions, how I'd chosen my career path and even about how I spent my free time.

If we'd met in a bar, we probably would have exchanged numbers and met up again to chat.

It was a great conversation and I could tell she was impressed by me...right up until she told me that there would be no point in hiring me because I'd be bored with the job in a week.

Well, duh, I knew I wasn't applying for my dream job, but I am certainly more than competent to do what they needed.

Next time out, I was interviewed by a man and woman from the HR Team (gag).

They proceeded to provide job scenarios and asked how I would handle them.

No big deal; problem-solving is one of my strengths. They were particularly impressed with a couple of my solutions and said so.

Everything was going well until the end when they informed me that while they'd love to hire me, it would be pointless because I'd be sure to leave for a better job than what they could offer me.

Really? Because there aren't a lot of better jobs out there at the moment.

Anyway, this is really just a rant to potential employers.

If you look at a resume and think the person is overqualified, don't bother asking them in for an interview.

Chances are they'll just impress you more in person and then you'll have to tell them you can't hire them.

And I don't need to get dressed up for that.

A Super (8) Evening

The James River Filmmakers Forum last night was an interesting look at the state of local film making of all types.

A sci-fi horror film shot entirely against a green screen?


A XXX-rated parody that becomes a surrealist rant?


A time lapse film about Richmond's canal boats?

Yes, sir.

A French New Wave inspired memory?

Oh, yes.

A documentary about working 3 nights at Ground Zero after 9/11?

Most definitely.

The films ran the gamut from pure experimental, conceptual-type films to straight-on documentaries, but each offered the audience a peek into the mind of the filmmaker.

I was especially taken by the fact that so many of the works were a combination of new and old formats, many using the very old-school Super 8 while others also incorporated digital media.

Way back in college, I was part of a group who spent every Sunday shooting a movie on Super 8, so I found it pretty cool to learn that filmmakers are still into the format.

Who knew?

The evening ended with a town-hall kind of forum with the filmmakers answering questions and discussing the motivation behind their work.

The evening was presented by the Richmond Moving Image Co-Op, the same fine folks who bring us Flicker and the Italian Film Fest and the James River Film Festival.

With their support, no doubt RVA's indie filmmaking scene will continue to flourish and film lovers like me will only benefit.

Yes, But Can It Lure Me Out of the City Again?

I know I'm late to jump on the bandwagon, but I finally made it to Trader Joe's to check the place out.

I'd been to a Whole Foods before, so I haven't made a point of checking out the RVA store, but I'd never been to a TJ's, so I decided to see for myself.

Two things immediately jumped out at me: they've got a lot of inventory in a relatively small store and good gawd, there were so many people in the store!

Perhaps the newness hasn't worn off yet or perhaps Richmond was just so TJ's-starved that we can't get enough of the place, but you had to really pay attention not to be run over or bump into other shoppers.

That made it a bit tough for a first-timer who was just trying to take it all in.

The highlight was discovering pound and a half containers of blueberries for only $5.99!

I've been paying $3.99 for 6 ounces at Kroger, and I eat blueberries every day of my life, so that was a lovely find (and a huge savings for this unemployed blueberry eater).

I'd been told that the frozen food section was worth trolling at TJ's, so I did and saw some interesting options.

Over at the dairy case, they were offering samples of their lobster ravioli and I have to admit, it was pretty tasty.

That went into the basket.

The large wine section was crawling with winos, so I didn't even attempt that.

Would I go back?

My hatred of shopping is legendary, but the exception to that rule is grocery shopping, and this place was interesting enough for a return visit.

The problem is it's in god-forsaken Short Pump, a place I avoid like the plague.

Hmm, a rock and a hard place dilemma.

We'll see...

It's My Week to Be Everyone's Sweetie

Did I miss something or isn't "sweetie" one of those terms you only use on people you know?

Actually, people you're really fond of?

Okay, maybe ancient waitresses at diners use it on everybody and their brother, but I have been called "sweetie" by strangers three times this week alone.

And another thing: isn't sweetie a term you use on people younger than you?

I don't think Dustin Hoffman called Mrs. Robinson "sweetie."

All three guys who said "sweetie" to me were younger than me.

You don't get to call a girl "sweetie" if she's got ten or more years on you?

Walking down Grace Street this morning, a guy comes out of his house, passes right in front of me going to his car and smiles and says, "Hey, sweetie!"

I could have pointed out that I'm not his sweetie, but I just smiled instead.

I didn't correct the first two guys who did it to me this week, so why start now?

Maybe the "sweetie" usage rule changed and I didn't get the memo.

Hey, sweetie, I'm talking to you!

I Found German New Wave Hypnotic...Literally

I saw my second Warner Herzog film today at the Visual Arts Center, Heart of Glass, from 1976.

Previously, I had seen Grizzly Man, which was about a really strange character who spent his life tempting fate with bears.

So I knew going in that Herzog is an Oscar-nominated German film director and screenwriter, with a taste for the odd.

Most of the audience today came because it was a Herzog film being shown.

The director's trademark is a large amount of improvised script; in today's movie, it was even odder, because almost all the actors performed under hypnosis.

So imagine zombie-like actors improvising their lines and you get some idea of how weird this film came across.

The setting is an 18th century Bavarian town with a glass-blowing factory that produces a unique ruby-red glass.

Unfortunately for the town, the master glass blower dies and the secret to producing the red glass is lost.

As a result, the town gradually sinks into disorder and a hypnotic sort of way.

I hadn't known that the Visual Arts Center had a Saturday film series and now I do.

As for Herzog, I may need to try another film or two, but I'll make sure I'm in the mood for something strange, since it appears to be a given that that's what Herzog will deliver.

But sometimes nothing but strange will do.

Cinderella for a Song

Being unemployed means having limited funds, so when a friend suggested we see Richmond Ballet's Cinderella, I declined for the sake of my wallet.

Not necessary as it turns out, because the Ballet makes a number of tickets to each performance available for ten dollars.

Even I can afford a $10 ticket, so off we went for opening night.

Our seats were in the Grand Tier, front row and off to the left.

The view was really quite good, especially for what we paid.

The performance itself was enjoyable, although I could have used fewer children from the School of the Richmond Ballet as filler.

At times, their presence felt rather gratuitous and they seemed to be mainly occupying space on the stage.

But the age-old tale of Cinderella was delightful and the sets were especially beautiful.

This production uses a male and a female in the roles of the stepsisters, so there was much hilarity in all scenes involving them.

It had been a few years since I'd last seen Cinderella, so I was able to enjoy it with fresh eyes...and absolutely no guilt about the cost.

As a bonus, it was Valentine's Day Eve, so it was wonderful to get a big dose of fairy tale romance to kick off the weekend.

Some of us still long for happily ever after.

Angling for Architecture as Art

Photography lovers and architecture lovers alike filled the Virginia Center for Architecture last night for the opening of the new exhibit, "Building Images: Seventy Years of Photography at Hedrich Blessing."

H-B is a Chicago firm that began in 1929 transforming architectural photography from a documentary style to an art form.

Many of the photographs are large scale black and white prints from the period beginning in 1930 and they are spectacular.

The firm, still working today, shot the work of the leading twentieth-century architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer and Eliel Saarinen.

Many of the buildings are recognizable, but it's the unusual perspectives and angles that make the photographs so arresting.

At last night's reception, Hedrich Blessing photographer (and the exhibition curator) Nick Merrick talked about how the firm began and went on to change architectural photography forever.

Their intent was not to take a photo, but to think it.

These images are a beautiful marriage of the architect's intent and the photographer's vision.

If you need a push, here it is.

(drum roll)

Don't miss seeing architecture as art.

At Long Last: Birdlips!

The third time was the charm for me to finally see Charlottesville indie duo Birdlips (thank you, Les Enfants Terrible!).

I already had plans the night they played The Triple and the night they played Rumors was the night I was diagnosed with pneumonia. As it turns out, third time's the charm.

All signs were go last night for a really terrific set at The Camel and they didn't disappoint. Birdlips has a densely layered sound and Cliff and Lindsay's voices are the perfect accompaniment to each other. Clearly, they have a real fondness for the '60s (as do I) and their lyrics come across as both insightful and intimate.

Would it be too much to hope that my own writing might be described the same way some day?

The small crowd was definitely into the performance, making it a shame more people didn't make it out to hear these extraordinary musicians. Once word gets around about how amazing Birdlips' sound is, I expect to be shoulder to shoulder with a full house at future shows.

Opening was a newcomer to Richmond, singer-songwriter Ward Combs from San Diego. His set was engaging, the kind of direct and sincere music that would appeal to Iron and Wine fans. Being a big fan of the '60s, he, too, was as impressed with the band as I was.

And while I don't have any music credibility, Ward is a musician, so my advice would be to trust him and check out Birdlips for yourself.

I can just about guarantee you'll see me there.