Saturday, November 30, 2013

Funny How Time Flies

I got the memo: it was small business Saturday.

With limited funds, I couldn't do a lot to support the cause, but I did what I could.

That meant a walk to Carytown, five plus miles there and back, to pick up a shoe being repaired at Mitchem's and observe capitalism in action.

It was a zoo.

Traffic barely crawled, the sidewalks were jam-packed and all I could hope was that all those independent stores were making bank today.

But you can be sure that once I procured my shoe, I escaped as quickly as possible.

Turning south to escape the hullabaloo of Cary Street, I was greeted by the sound of bells and horse hooves clopping as a holiday-decorated horse and carriage headed down Idlewood.

Nice seasonal touch.

Returning to Cary just in time to score a chocolate-frosted doughnut from Dixie, I headed east where I was surprised to see two artists working on a street art mural near Stafford Street.

Curious about why they were still painting at this point, I crossed the street to ask.

Seems there were a couple of unfinished sections of wall and they'd been given the chance to do something about that.

"This is our third weekend working on it. So now we're out here in the dead of winter, well, I guess the dead of fall, but it feels like winter, finishing up finally," one told me.

A foursome walked by and complimented her on her piece, saying it looked like a quilt and she smiled broadly as if she wasn't freezing with a paintbrush in her hand on the shady side of the street.

An unexpected art bonus.

Further on, a favorite bartender jogged past, waving and saying hi as we uncharacteristically saw each other in broad daylight.

In what seemed like no time at all, I was back in J-Ward where we also have small businesses in need of support.

This was more fun because it involved music.

Local band My Darling Fury (a brilliant band name if you ask me) was playing at Steady Sounds as part of Black Saturday/Record store day or maybe just because they frequently host bands on Saturday afternoons.

Here was my chance to support a local business and hear live music.

The first surprise was that the performance started right on time, a rarity in record store shows, but MDF began playing before I even got started looking through the record bins.

It was at least my third or fourth time seeing the band and I like these guys a lot.

In the casual atmosphere of Steady Sounds, the crowd was practically on top of them, but in a good way.

Some people continued to browse the stacks but eventually they were won over by the sound.

I recognized several of the songs like "Friendly Parasite" and "Spilled Milk" and laughed when during "Perfectly Mad," drummer Joel called out "guitar solo!" to alert us what was coming up.

Midway through their set, Todd, whose upright bass playing adds immeasurably to MDF's sound, suggested to the others that they do "Head Over Heels," and Danny claimed he didn't know the lyrics.

Conveniently, Joel had them in a zip-lock bag so with that instantly-recognizable (at least to me) intro, they launched into the 28-year old nugget as Steady Sounds owner Marty looked over at me grinning.

They did a really excellent version, and let's be real here, plenty of singers don't have the range for that song, but it took some of the audience a while before they recognized it, understandable since they hadn't been alive in 1985.

Singer Danny didn't want to do "Blots in the Margins" but bowed to band peer pressure and then finished with "The End of the World," which has been their closer, appropriately enough, every time I've seen them.

My music itch scratched, I finally got a chance to do some record shopping, picking up three albums for Christmas presents and doing my small part for small business Saturday while the band packed up.

It occurred to me that if My Darling Fury wanted to cover a Tears for Fears song, they'd have the perfect set-ender with "Goodnight Song."

Here on the stage the time has come
With the strains of "be my angel" of rock in two four
Time may keep alive that old swan song
That we've been playing forever
Till the time may be right to say goodbye

But then I remembered that my responsibility on this Saturday was to spend money, not offer set list advice to strangers, so I took my records and walked home.

You have to admit, 'tis the season for an angel of rock in two four...just saying.

Wet and Under the Tide

I'd been looking forward to this since September when I bought my ticket.

The Glaswegian band Chvrches, a trio that straddles '70s disco and '80s new wave with some of the best-written music that ever set a booty to shaking, was playing the National.

I couldn't find anyone interested in going with me, but as it turned out, that didn't matter.

Arriving ten minutes before the opening band, I found a drummer friend on bar duty at the very chilly front bar and from him got Cazadores and conversation.

Moving inside, I found far more people already there than usual, a good sign.

Opener Wet from Brooklyn was tough to categorize because while the trio's music was fairly minimal (think the XX), lead singer Kelly had an exquisite and soulful voice she could use in almost any way she wanted.

All their songs were short and most ended abruptly, but when she was wailing, the crowd was entranced.

After their second song, she said, "This is our second show in Virginia and this one's already way more fun!"

No surprise there since they played the Norva a couple of nights ago and that's always an unpleasant crowd, no matter what the band.

Fact it, they were so interesting sounding with songs like "U Da Best" and the lead singer's note-bending voice, we didn't really have any choice but to respond.

Baby, you're the best
Figure out the rest
Maybe it's a test
Think we better quit while we're ahead

And in what felt like a hot minute, they finished. A friend walked by, stopped and said, "A seventeen-minute set, that must be a record!"

Maybe they were annoyed by the crowd.

I was ready to judge them based on the idiots in front of me when a girl looked at her phone and read what the guy next to her had just posted.

"You stole my words!" she accused him."I was going to write 'great music, great friends' but you just did!"

She paused, unsure how to handle this catastrophe. "I'll just share yours now."

Give. Me. Strength.

Fortunately, I turned to my left when I overheard a guy say he had driven down from Philly for this show.

Now that's a music fan I want to meet. He and his date were debating between driving back tonight or staying with friends in Washington. I voted for the latter.

The couple next to me jumped in, too, and, lo and behold, they were from South Africa, now living in Church Hill.

He came here for his ph.D. and she followed, obviously smitten enough to change continents for him.

Once they found out I'd visited their motherland ("We never meet people who've actually been"), we became fast friends.

Talking about wine, he told me he'd been amazed to find that the CVS in the Bottom carried the South African wine Two Oceans, although, as he put it, "That's a shit wine we'd use to mix with Coke."

I assured him there were restaurants in Richmond who carry South African wines that do not require a mixer.

Like me, they were thrilled to pieces to be seeing Chvrches, so we lined up along the sound booth as the lights went down.

By then the crowd was dense, if not sold out then very, very close to it.

The Scottish trio came out and wasted no time playing their one album's worth of music against a pulsating backdrop of lights.

They began with "We Sink" and it was like they'd switched the on button for the dance party to begin.

The only problem was that there were so many people, it was tough to move much, not that we didn't do the best we could.

Singer Lauren was a bundle of energy whether singing or dancing and framed by Martin on synths/samples and Iain on guitar and keyboard.

After she stated the obvious ("This is our first time in Richmond"), they barreled through pitch-perfect renditions of songs that ensured the dance party never wavered.

"Thanks, guys," she said as nonchalantly as if we'd held a door open for her or something. "Hands up if you're feeling a little post-Thanksgiving full tonight. You! Put that away! I wanted you all to share, but we didn't need to see that."

My post-Thanksgiving feeling was I was thankful I hadn't seen whatever she had.

I loved hearing one of my favorite songs, "Night Sky," for Martin's backing vocals in a thick Scottish burr.

Saying that this was their fourth (!) tour in 2013, Lauren thanked the crowd again for coming out, as if there could have been anything nearly as much fun going on tonight.

"Recover," the fabulous pop song that several DJs have already remixed, sent the already dance feverish crowd into overdrive, making me wish there had been about 200 fewer people in there, but dancing nonetheless.

During another of my favorites, "Tether," the crowd sang out the chorus as if one cue.

I feel incapable of seeing the end
I feel incapable of saying it's over

"This is f*cking amazing," Martin said of our mass singalong.

Even better, he finally came out from behind his knob-turning station to roar out "Under the Tide" while Lauren took a back seat.

Her voice is a big part of the band's appeal, I admit, but his thickly-accented singing and killer dance moves during the chorus made me wish he had more lead vocals. Maybe on the second album.

"We're gonna play one more song," Lauren warned us like you do a small child so we could start preparing, "and let you get on with your Friday night cause there must be lots of fun things to do. I don't know what they are because I don't live here."

Listening to them play the bouncy "The Mother We Share," I think most of the crowd was already thinking about the encore.

Given that this is a band who just put out their first album in September, this was a room full of uber-fans not ready to let go of the real thing after listening non-stop to recorded music since it first began leaking out into the ether.

We made enough noise for them to come back in short order.

"Holy f*cking shit," Martin yelled. "This is my favorite show of the year!"

Lauren pointed to a child in the front row and chastised Martin for his language, as if a Scot could refrain when excited. "In context, it's fine," she reminded him.

"By the Throat" with its swirling synths and dark lyrics was the climax of the evening, thrilling as we listened and danced to it and leaving us worn out and already missing it when it ended.

All that's golden is never real
And I won't play fair with you this time
All that's golden is never so
And I'll be thankful when you let go

When the lights came up, I blinked at my new friends, the ones with whom I'd been dancing up against all evening.

Raving about what we'd just experienced, they finished by asking for my e-mail so we could stay in touch.

Extending his arms, the ph.D. candidate and his beloved gathered me in. "South African love hug!" he said, encircling us both. Tethered to strangers and set to a stellar Scottish soundtrack.

I'm with Martin. F*cking amazing night.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Over Hill and Dale

Black Friday, not really my thing.

I hate shopping any time of the year, much less on a day when you can get knifed in a Walmart parking lot over a parking space.

So looking for something as far removed from that madness as possible, I came across the best possible antidote: a farm tour.

Lavender Fields Herb Farm, an organic farm less than thirteen miles from J-Ward, was any easy drive but a world away.

Since it was a walking tour, I'd followed directions to dress accordingly but we began inside the little cafe where the rest of the group, a foursome just finishing up their farm ice cream (whether they were having honey or lavender, I didn't ask) was already waiting for us.

If I hadn't still been so full from my traditional Black Friday turkey and stuffing sandwich, I'd have had some ice cream myself.

Nicole, one of the owners, began the tour with some family history about the house and property with all kinds of show and tell.

Oh, sure, she had an array of arrowheads and a very old shovel used for digging latrines, but she also had old belt buckles (both an officer's and an enlisted man's), old lead bullets and uniform buttons.

We heard about the Richmond Ashland trolley line that ran right in front of their farmhouse, how it took her husband to school and his father to work. The farm's been in her husband's family for something like eight generations.

After explaining how the barn's site had been chosen (high, flat and near water), she got up to lead us on the walking part of the tour.

That's when the ice cream-eating contingent began wavering, with one woman choosing to opt out even after she was informed it was not that far - 2/10 of a mile.

Come on guys, what's a walking tour without walking? The other three said they'd catch up with us.

Nicole and I didn't let their inertia stop us and she led me down a very steep hill toward a bend in the Chickahominy river, running high with the recent rain, talking about how General Lee had crossed near here despite the extreme difficulty of crossing wagons and horses given the vertical topography of the land.

She went on to tell me that we were on the Henrico side and directly across the water was Hanover County, where her two kids sometimes play within sight of their farm.

She showed me 200-year old beech trees including one with its bark eaten off on one side almost to three feet high, but the other side of the tree went vertically down to the river so the beaver hadn't been able to get to that side of the bark.

"That probably saved the tree," she said in her delightful Australian accent.

Curious about how she'd ended up here sounding like that, I asked and got a love story.

She'd been on vacation in New Orleans and so had her now-husband and they'd met on Bourbon Street.

Love, marriage and life in Sydney followed until she told him she'd always wanted to live in the U.S.

Now they're happily ever after raising thousands of organic seedlings and selling them to places like Ellwood Thompson and Whole Foods.

She showed me some of their beehives, from which they make honey, and their newest greenhouse, built by her husband from a kit.

Since he finished building it, he's had extra times on his hands, to the point that the kids finally asked her why Daddy was around so much.

Forget the kids, my first comment was about how great it is to have a partner who can build and fix things, leading to a woman-to-woman chat about how appealing that trait is in a man, at least to the two of us.

We wandered the 37 acres for a good, long while before heading back toward the shop and only then did she look at me and say, "They never caught up with us, did they?"

Nope, they never did but I, for one, was glad they hadn't since I probably wouldn't have gotten all that great girl talk about her husband and her farm life if they had.

"We started with a three to five year plan," she told me laughing. "And now I tell him we're on a 35 year plan with two kids and a farm."

Well, you seem really happy about it all, I told her and she agreed that she's right where she wants to be, loving her life.

I like a woman with an appreciation for how to do Black Friday right.

Praise Be

If the field at Abner Clay Park is filled with weekend warriors playing a Turkey Bowl, it must be Thanksgiving Day.

The other clue that the annual day of gluttony has arrived is that my neighborhood is deserted.

Wednesday evening I was in the Museum District and parking was impossible to find. Apparently all the turkey-serving grandmothers live there and all the starving students live here.

And there's really no other day that I begin by frying up a pound of hot breakfast sausage to go with the multiple sticks of butter that go into making stuffing, this year my only contribution to the big meal that defines the day...and leaves my apartment smelling delicious for hours.

Having a glass of wine at a not-so neighborhood bar, I met a couple who stopped for a snack before hitting the road for the Outer Banks to meet up with friends.

The time spent eating their mini-feast - smoked trout, housemade pickles, turkey, crackers- both fortified them and gave us a chance to get acquainted.

Because they lived in Washington and because that's my hometown, we found lots to discuss.

They live in Shaw, so they recommended their favorite Ethiopian restaurant. I told them I'm on my way to D.C. Sunday and they wanted to hear what my plans were.

Eat, art, eat, art, eat, art... they got the idea and we got off on a tangent about the under-appreciated Building Museum, one of their favorites and one of my destinations Monday.

I met a policeman who claimed he didn't like yams but gobbled them up for the first time today, acknowledging that perhaps it was the simple preparation that won him over.

There was a woman who started talking about how bad Virginia wines were until a friend (who, after years of wearing glasses, doesn't anymore and so I'm still getting used to seeing his face naked) with superior Virginia wine knowledge started a small campaign to inform her, leading off with Cardinal Point "Green" as a good entry point.

Since the last time I was at Cardinal Point, after doing the tasting, my date and I chose "Green" as the bottle we bought and took outside to enjoy on that sunny afternoon, I seconded his recommendation.

And of course, I ate a fabulous turkey meal, made all the more so because I didn't have to cook it; making stuffing doesn't count because it's really just an excuse to pick at the sausage and onion cooking in the pan.

As for what I'm thankful for, it's probably the same things we were all appreciating today.

Family and friends. Health. Sunny skies and occasional rainy days. Music and art, theater, poetry and anything else that entertains and/or makes me feel. Random conversations with strangers...and non-strangers. A funny man who can crack up an eccentric woman.

To paraphrase Woody Allen, I am thankful for laughter, except when milk wine comes out my nose.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

First, Last, Everything

Ah, yes, the annual Thanksgiving eve get-together with the city-bound.

I got the e-mail this morning, inviting me for what sounded like the typical Italian Christmas Eve meal - all kinds of seafood- and since it also promised, "reds, whites and a bubbly," I RSVP'd yes indeed.

The evening began with music from a Buffalo Springfield box set while we marshaled our forces and decided how to best attack preparing this meal.

My charming host began with the most time-specific wine choice for the next few weeks, a Georges Duboeuf beaujolias nouveau to celebrate the harvest.

That got us through the Stephen Stills covers of Neil Young songs, into the Graham Beck Brut Rose and through the shrimp cocktail, lobster tails, crab legs and basmati rice.

My charming hostess told me how she'd seen a blast from the past today: the Thanksgiving episode of the "Beverly Hillbillies" from 1963.

They ate on the pool table, FYI, she said.

It was four hours in when we retired to the living room to continue sipping and discuss life that I made the mistake of yawning.

"Don't you dare," my hostess instructed firmly. "Ordinarily, you'd just be going to Balliceaux now."

She did have a point. It was then that the host decided to put on "The Velvet Underground and Nico," the banana album, saying that he wanted to play a song for me.

The grand irony was that I'd never heard the album start to finish, so even after he'd played "Femme Fatale" for me, I insisted on hearing the rest of it.

Interestingly enough, my hostess had never heard it, either, but then she's a fan of '40s and '50s music, so there are a lot of '60s and '70s bands she doesn't know.

But after a few songs, and she did admit that Nico must have sounded like a revolutionary vocalist for the time (1967), she rolled her eyes at me as I rhapsodized about finally hearing this piece of musical history.

You have to remember, I reminded her, this band and this unique sound inspired legions of people to start bands.

And she, out of step with much past 1979, said, "And now they just sound like everybody else!"

Talk about nailing it on the head, but what an evolution that is.

When "Banana" finished, my hostess requested something from the disco era and the host obliged with "Saturday Night Fever."

Overplayed? Yes, to death. Listened to much recently? Nope, definitely not. Evocative of a very young period? Without doubt.

The host was not the disco fan we were, but totally got into it when "Tragedy" came on and picked up a nearby kazoo (noteworthy in and of itself) and played kazoo accompaniment for the rest of the song. And pretty damn well, too.

We challenged him to reach out to that other side of our impressionable young selves and he responded admirably with Joni Mitchell's "Hits" (as opposed to "Misses"), starting with a song from "Court and Spark," a high point for both her poetic songwriting about youth and the perfection of her voice.

I was a free man in Paris
I felt unfettered and alive
Nobody was calling me up for favors
No one's future to decide
You know I'd go back there tomorrow
But for the work I've taken on
Stoking the starmaker machine
Behind the popular song

"Stoking the starmaker machine" may be one the of the most well-written musical phrases of 1974.

Talking about "Court and Spark" reminded my hostess that on the "Beverly Hillbillies" episode she'd just seen, Elly Mae had been given lessons of courting and sparking.

Coincidence? We didn't dwell on it.

Not sure what possible musical direction we could go in with our Lemarca Prosecco, in a masterful stroke, our host chose "Barry White's Greatest Hits," a record so worthy I also own it.

A record so satisfyingly danceable that two of us were soon dancing on the couch, at least until the host grabbed his woman and danced with her on the floor.

The other of us continued her couch dancing.

When they finished, he chided her for not wanting to dance more with him. She challenged that she didn't know how to dance.

If you're old enough to have danced to Barry White the first time, you can dance. Hell, if you can do it, you can dance.

Never tell a man who's said out loud that any night he sees you is a special night that you don't want to dance with him.

Remember Barry's advice, my dear? "I'll Do anything You Want Me To."

Second only to "Let the Music Play."

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

An Apple Butter Future

I am not a weather wimp so I walk no matter what it's like outside.

But it's even better when I have a worthy goal in sight, so when the wonderful world of Facebook (thank you, Suzanne Hall) informed me that Goat Busters would have a herd hard at work behind Bark Park today, I set out for Church Hill.

I'd been reading about the public apple orchard planned for behind the dog park up there and today there would be goats munching their way to begin clearing the land.

Dressed for the weather since a wintry mix was forecast and with umbrella in hand, I set out to see some goat-scaping.

Not sure how many people would be willing to brave the cold and wet for the sake of watching omnivores eat, I was pleasantly surprised to find a half dozen people already there when I arrived.

Several were parents with kids, not doubt lured out on this dreary day to entertain, maybe even educate a little, the young 'uns.

Personally, I was there to show my support for public orchards, a cause I've long seen a need for here, wondering why it took so long for Richmond to be ripe (ha!) for such a thing.

Philly has long had public orchards and the idea makes sense to me on so many levels - use of vacant land, means of supplying healthy food to under-served areas, environmental boon of planting more trees- that I was thrilled to see that it was finally happening in the capital city.

Today's goat demonstration was just that since the herd of 47, which included a requisite black sheep, was clearing a fenced-off area not on the site of the proposed orchard but a nearby space.

But there they were in the cold and the rain chomping away at anything and everything they could find, even occasionally standing up, front paws against a tree trunk to reach some higher leaves.

It was funny when one did that because others would notice and head over to wait for a shot at the tree too, munching on kudzu until their turn.

Included in the herd were two dogs who'd been raised since they were puppies with the goats and who, with their white coats, were almost invisible in the group.

John from the Enrichmond Foundation pointed out the flat area behind the dog park where the goats will return in the spring to clear the orchard site, a process expected to take a week.

Thanking me for coming out on this miserable day, I thanked him and the group who'd conceived of this brilliant project, telling him I admired places like Philly who have been dedicated to public orchards for years.

"My wife's from Philadelphia!" he said, lighting up like I'd said the magic words. "Yes, they do a great job with public orchards."

As does Boston. As usual, Richmond's a little late to the party, but here we are finally doing it and I for one am wildly excited about that.

Since it can take up to seven years for apple trees to produce fruit, we need to get as many trees planted as we can and think about additional sites.

Naturally, I vote for Jackson Ward, for a possible second orchard.

Walking back from Chimborazo, the promised wintry mix began pinging off my umbrella.

"Pop Pop, it's hailing!" a little boy with a bucket called out excitedly from the fenced-in front yard of a corner house.

I'm willing to bet the goats continued eating right through the wintry mix.

Like me, they're no weather wimps. We might also have hearty appetites in common.

As for what that one black sheep and I have in common, you can draw your own conclusions.

Anniversary Song

Four years ago, in an alcohol-free church basement, the Listening Room was born.

I know because I was there that night, here, and thrilled to have found a place where music trumped blather.

Tonight was the fourth anniversary Listening Room and the program ably demonstrated how far the series has come.

Curated by Shannon Cleary of WRIR's Commonwealth of Notions show, it featured three local bands, all of whom I've seen before and all of whom impressed me mightily.

Chatting with some fellow long-time regulars before the show, we talked about how the series has evolved, having begun as all acoustic with no drums and no electric instruments.

Tonight was all about the drums and the plugged-in instruments.

Way, Shape or Form had originally appealed to me with their jazzy guitars and unique time signatures, dancing right on that edge of math rock with just enough pop thrown in to be catchy.

Tonight was more of the same but the band sounded even tighter than when I'd seen them last winter.

Singer Troy apologized late into their set, saying, "Of course I picked this week to get sick and have to do a show where everyone is quiet and listening to my voice."

Honestly, his voice sounded fine, plus they did two songs, the first and the last, without vocals, always a pleasure to hear because they veer beautifully close to soaring post-rock soundscapes.

I did the seated mingling thing during the break, turning to talk to friends behind me and waiting for others to come sit in the row with me and catch up.

As a veteran of 42 of the 44 Listening Room shows, I think I've earned the right to play queen bee on occasion.

Next up was Warren Hixson and just before they started, a bearded friend leaned down and asked if anyone in the band was actually named Warren Hixson.

Is there an Echo in the Bunnymen? No, and there's no Warren here either.

Brent, the leader of the band, began by asking if the stage lights could be turned down a bit.

"They're fixed," sound man Dave called down to him. "Just like me," Brent joked (or maybe not).

Their sound is unlike anyone else's in Richmond at the moment, one part garage rock, a little grunge-like guitar, killer keyboards that wove the most interesting sounds plus male and female vocals (including the incomparable Nelly Kate).

A couple songs in and the listener has to acknowledge the sound as a pastiche with no discernible genre other than its own.

Every time I think they're veering too close to classic rock for my taste, those keyboards kick in and they start sounding surf-like and psychedelic and I find myself sucked back in.

Pausing to acknowledge the room, Brent said, "This is cool. We once played a show in an attic with four dudes dancing and unplugging our pedals, so this is very cool."

Because they didn't have dudes dancing or people talking, they decided to do "Cruel Whims," the last song on their record and one Brent characterized as a "bedroom song, one that's awkward to do in loud situations."

Such are the benefits of hearing a band when they can be heard.

When their set ended, a photographer friend slid into the seat next to me and said, "I wasn't ready for that to be over. They were amazing."

Since he's a big show-goer, too, I was sincerely surprised that he'd never seen them before but agreed with him about their set.

During the second break, I got up and moved around to mingle, ending up talking to some people about how electric the Listening Room had become.

In the old days, breaks between sets were extremely brief; one guy with a guitar walked offstage and another guy with a guitar walked on.

Now it's like a regular show with break down and set up times that approaches 20 minutes, an unheard of amount of time in the old days.

"Yea, in another four years, we'll have entire orchestras playing," one guy observed humorously.

Curator Shannon took the stage again, this time to talk about the local music scene and what a terrific point in time it is for it.

He thanked the people who document the scene, mentioning specific sites and blogs (including this one, she said proudly), at "this moment in Richmond's music history."

Last up was trio White Laces, a band who only has to begin playing to remind me how very much I love their dreampop sound and that it's always been too long since I heard them last.

Tonight they were here to play the songs that will be on their new album, which they start recording in a week.

"Most of these songs have been played out once or never," singer Landon told us before treating us to some absolutely brilliant new hook-filled songs.

Admitting that many of the songs never got past their working titles - "Skate or Die, "Janet," "Keith Sweats"- the audience sat entranced by melodic songs, kick ass drums and guitar hooks that surely must get them laid.

Of "New Jam 2," Landis said, "It still doesn't have a name beyond that. We've been calling it that for five months now, which doesn't bode well for it."

Named properly or not, the song was one more strong example of songwriting and execution.

Drummer Jimmy kept track of the set list, reminding the others what was upcoming and occasionally getting distracted by the joking onstage.

"Every time we start laughing, I forget what the next song is," he explained before a do-over.

"We don't have humor at practice," Landis deadpanned, "So when we do up here, it's weird."

We didn't used to have alcohol or drums at the Listening Room and now we do but it's not weird, it only makes things better.

I'd say that bodes very well for the next four years. But don't take my word for it, check it out for yourself. Just be quiet about it, will you?

Because some things about the Listening Room will never change. Lucky us.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tending and Stoking

I am the daughter of a master fire-maker.

Growing up in what is now reverently called "mid-century modern" and what we then referred to as a three-bedroom rancher, I remember how my parents were always adding something to the little house.

First it was more bedrooms, a necessity given six children. Then a bay window with window seat in the dining room overlooking the backyard. A pool, but not until all six of us were old enough to swim so as to assuage my mother's fear for our safety.

But the most dramatic change began with a giant hole.

I came home from elementary school to find a gaping opening where one of the living room walls had been when I'd left that morning and as we ate an after-school snack of warm-from-the-oven cookies and milk (yes, really), Mom explained that we were having a fireplace put in.

And not just a standard fireplace, but a white brick one with a raised hearth and built in seats on either side with areas for log storage underneath that would take up the entire wall.

It was about as mid-century modern groovy a fireplace as could be imagined and once completed, my father took it upon himself to school all six daughters on fire-making.

We were taught the difference between tinder and kindling, how to properly use bellows and when to add logs to an existing fire.

As we grew up, I can guarantee you that every one of used our fire skills to impress a guy at some point or another.

But mainly, Dad instilled in us an appreciation for a well-made fire and the pleasures one brings in cold weather.

This is a roundabout way of saying what an unexpectedly wonderful time I had with a date in front of a fire last night.

Our destination was far beyond the city, not usually my first choice, but a leisurely drive out River Road landed us at Portico, a place I knew of, but hadn't been.

He'd been for lunch a couple of times so dinner-wise, it was a first for us both.

Honestly, considering it seemed like we were out in the sticks, I was surprised at how busy it was for a Monday evening.

There was a large, older group with loud voices and napkins tucked under chins. Beside us was a young couple, also on a date, although she was very dressed up in a one-sleeved red cocktail dress. Near them was another couple looking at a map and discussing going to Bowling Green via Route 301. Several couples arrived after we did.

We took a table with a view of the garden patio with its big stone fireplace full of logs burning briskly beneath a candlelit mantle.

Over a bottle of Pinot Noir, we considered the all-purpose menu (burger, sandwiches, pizza, pasta, entrees) while doing the early-stage date chatter about what each of us had been up to lately.

I told him I'd been reading in the Washington Post about how so many restaurants up there keep their patios open year-round, adding fire pits and heaters and serving toddies and hot buttered rum to enhance the experience...and their bottom line.

We agreed that a heated rooftop bar with a view of the monuments and a drink sounded right up our alley. The date was going well.

But for now, food was the priority, so beginning with simple green salads, we moved on to penne bolognese and pizza rustica, more notable for its Italian sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms and pepperoncini oil flavor than for its flacid crust.

The music, when we could hear it over the noisier customers, was safe and soft, artists like Willie Nelson and James Taylor.

It was while we were sharing a creme caramel that my date suggested we finish the evening outside by the fireplace with some other sort of warming beverage and our server said he'd go throw some additional logs on the fire for us.

We wouldn't be able to see any monuments, but the tables on the slate-floored patio were twinkling with tea lights and that fire had a nice glow to it.

Carpe diem and all that.

Not surprisingly for Goochland, the tequila choices were limited, but my date encouraged me to give Cabo Wabo a try and if not Sammy Hagar tonight, if not in front of a roaring fire, if not with a date thoughtful enough to suggest such a thing, then when?

In a bonus bit of forethought, he asked for his bourbon and my tequila in snifters, the better to warm them.

We had the patio to ourselves and with snifters in hand, stood in front of the raised fireplace (shades of childhood) laughing, drinking and enjoying the kind of late-stage date banter that feels like it could go on all night.

I'll even admit things got pleasantly warm out there with him and maybe a small part of that was my occasional stoking of the fire.

There is nothing like being wooed well and making Dad proud at the same time.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Everyone Needs a Person to Turn Their Pages

The one thing we couldn't be thankful for at tonight's Ghost Light afterparty was heat.

Maybe it was there, but if it was, the females in the room couldn't feel it for the second annual 1st GLAPsgiving celebration (also given a shout-out as the weirdest GLAP ever), but Princess Di sat next to me with his Cosmo and I used his furnace-like body heat to warm my hands throughout the evening.

Hostess Maggie wore a fetching green circle skirt with "thank you" written in a dozen languages on it. Host Matt wore a headband with a giant acorn and pine needles. The guy who volunteered to run sound, a funk DJ at WRIR, was not only new to the job but new to the space. There was only one microphone instead of two and it only worked when it wanted to.

And nobody ever did find pianist Sandy's sustain pedal ("So we're going to have some choppy-sounding piano tonight, y'all").

"It's a technological shit storm," Matt warned.

"Usually I'm thankful for heat," Maggie said, shivering in one of Matt's bustiers.

Given that the set was one of a glitter-encrusted igloo (albeit with a rainbow over it), the absence of warmth fit right in.

The festivities got off to an amazing start with her saying, "First I'd like to thank the lord. You can snap along," and then she, Matt and Audra launched into Lorde's "Royals."

With nothing but the occasional bongo beats and snapping fingers, they nailed the song everyone knows.

Let me be your ruler (ruler)
You can call me queen bee
And baby, I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule
Let me live that fantasy

Nick from New York (who's apparently in the cast of "Fiddler on the Roof") was invaluable tonight, at one point calling out during a lull, "I have a pop song in my back pocket if you need it."

Wouldn't the world be a better place if we all had a good pop song in our back pocket?

Matt and Ali did a goosebump-inducing version of "I'd Give It All for You" when their two incredible voices harmonized.

When Audra and Ali got up to sing a song from "Little Women," Ali introduced it by saying, "This is where one of us dies," host Maggie broke in, saying hilariously, "Don't spoil it for the people!"

We already knew it was going to be serious because Ali spit out her gum.

Another devastating song followed when Brittney did a song from "Les Miz," Princess DI's least favorite musical.

The always clever Starlet Knight said she was going to sing the only Thanksgiving song she knew and did the sweetly retro "Counting My Blessings" while wearing a spotted Cruella deVille jacket.

From there, the weirdness flowed like syrup on pancakes.

Sam, the sound guy did "Fly Me to the Moon," a standard you might not expect from a funk DJ.

Joe did a dramatic reading of a hand-written letter he found on the sidewalk that began with, "Boo, I know things be whack," and moved through discussions of (and he'd warned us about the adult language in his "dramatic reading") both his anatomy and that of the babe he was writing to and where he'd like to see things placed.

With each reference to a body part, we in the audience began snapping our fingers in applause, beatnik-style.

When he finished, both Maggie and Ian bowed down at his feet.

The first half closed with "The Circle of Life" because what is a GLAP without it and the accompanying interpretive dance, bongos and myriad shaker balls?

Instead of the usual pizza, there was a GLAPSgiving feast of fried chicken and a yard of cookies (really, the box was 36 inches long) while dance music (Janet Jackson, Go-Gos, Tony Basil) blared.

The second act got off with a bang as Nicole got up to sing "As We Stumble Along" from "The Drowsy Chaperone," which I'd just seen a couple weeks ago.

Hilariously, she started singing, then stopped and said of herself, "She already messed up."

Maggie, who is also in the show, smiled and said, "We're in week four of our run," and pianist Sandy said, "Take 2" for the rousing tribute to alcohol.

Could there be a more appropriate song at GLAP? I think not.

Nick and guitarist Steven (whom Maggie called Jesus when she couldn't remember his name) did "Dock of the Bay," Nick promising to "break it down" for us.

Another old chestnut that got rolled out was "Suddenly Seymour" with David and Audra acting out as well as singing, while a couple slow danced over by the bathroom to it.

Wearing her Hello, Kitty gloves for warmth, Starlet returned to sing "Romance is a Slow Dance," perhaps inspired by what was going on nearby.

Suddenly it was last call and we finished out the night with Audra and Ali singing.

"This is from a musical about co-joined twins," Audra explained. "It's kind of a creepy story."

But the song, "I Will Never Leave You" was gorgeous and surprisingly well executed considering the hour and alcohol consumption, while it had the princess next to me all but tearing up.

I had to break it down for him. Don't be cryin' at the GLAP, Boo. That just be whack.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

So Not Starving

The last thing I expected when I went to the movies was to get a full day out of it.

But walking into the theater to see the Movies and Mimosas screening of "Auntie Mame," I heard someone call, "Hey, lady!" and somehow knew it was directed at me.

A favorite couple was already in my row so I joined them as we waited for the projectionist to figure out how to make the movie show correctly.

It seems like projector issues are standard at Movieland these says, at least from my recent experiences.

Finally they figured it out and "Auntie Mame" began in full Technicolor with sets and costumes designed to dazzle.

Whether I'd never seen it or just long since forgotten that I had seen it, I did at least know what it was about: an eccentric woman's philosophy of life.

Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving.

Well, needless to say, I can certainly get into that kind of attitude.

Drinking humor was abundant, whether Mame chiding her nephew, Patrick, "Pipe down, kid, I'm hung!" or asking for "a light breakfast- black coffee and a sidecar."

Or leaving for a trip, "Don't forget the maps and the martinis!"

Ah, the good old days.

After Mame loses her money in the 1929 stock market crash, she takes a job as a telephone operator, something both my grandmothers did for a living, and then at Macy's during Christmas season.

There she meets Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside (which, by the by, is only one name removed from much-beloved local drag queen Magnolia Jackson Pickett Burnside) and falls in love.

When she goes down to meet his kin at his estate Peckerwood (!) in Savannah, every cliche about the south is put into play.

A banjo playing "Way Down Upon the Swanee River." Truly awful southern accents. An old lady with a snuff box. Men in Colonel Sanders-esque white suits.

Oh, it's bad.

Back in the real south, it was during the fox hunting scene (of course) that the man sitting in front of us called out loudly to a guy in another row, "Sir, would you put your phone away, please?"

I don't know about the rest of the audience, but the three of us nodded in affirmation.

Despite Patrick's trustee's opinion of Mame ("You're a deceitful, irresponsible bohemian"), she is also a cultured, witty and intelligent woman who brings up her nephew the same.

So when he brings home a pretentious social climber who observes of Mame's apartment, "Books are really decorative, don't you think?" she knows everything she needs to know about the girl.

Like so many mid-century movies (this one was 1958), the movie was a blend of the period represented (late 1920s through early 1940s) and the time it was filmed, with clothing especially far more '50s than anything and lots of modern art.

At two hours and 23 minutes, it was a long movie but between the elaborate sets, fanciful costumes and depiction of la vie boheme, before we knew it, it was the end.

I asked my friends about their afternoon's plans, sharing that mine included a trip to the VMFA and suddenly we had a date to meet at Amuse for lunch.

They were already ensconced in the mid-century modern green lounge chairs and a bottle of J Brut Rose arrived moments after I sat down, thus allowing us to continue with Mame's decor and penchant for bubbles.

One of my friends shared a Mame-like anecdote about a trip to the beach and a Tupperware pitcher of Bloddy Marys that the back seat contingent consumed before the ocean was ever in sight. Bravo.

We barely got started when three seats opened up at the bar and we took them and our J with us.

Since I have to be a hired mouth tonight, I chose the cornbread waffle with spicy apples, maple syrup and applewood-smoked bacon while they went heavier with pork belly poutine and corned beef hash biscuits.

Given the ridiculously cold and windy weather outside, it was a pleasure to eat and sip in Amuse's sunny dining room, although even its magnificent windows weren't immune to the weather and had big areas of condensation on them.

While enjoying my waffle, I spotted Lady Di coming in, as he always does, to meet friends for drinks on Sunday afternoons.

Kiss, kiss and he was on to his friends, promising that we'd see each other tonight at GLAP.

Once lunch was history, my friends and I went downstairs to get our tickets for "Made in Hollywood," the companion photography show to "Hollywood Costume."

As a photography devotee, I have to admit that this show interested me even more than the costumes.

With 93 vintage photos of stars during the golden years of Hollywood, it was both a memory jog and a reminder of the studio system that shaped human beings and careers.

And sometimes, it was just a breathtaking look at a superbly-composed photograph, like the one of Louise Brooks in a black dress against a black background.

The only things you can discern are her face, neck, hands and a knee-length strand of pearls. It's a study in black and white contrast.

A shot of Marilyn Monroe applying lipstick was striking for the book laying next to her purse, "The Thinking Body."

From what I read of her in ex-husband Arthur Miller's biography, that's exactly how she wanted to be thought of.

In a photo of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing, they are so fluid, so graceful-looking, that it's a shock to lean in closer and realize that both have their feet are on the floor not in the air.

Passing a picture of Rita Hayworth, a woman next to me said to her companion, "I forgot all about her."

Based on the father/daughter duo I heard in the gallery, many of the people in the photos needed an explanation for some visitors.

A stunning photograph of 16-year old Liz Taylor was proof positive of why when, as a child, I asked my mother who the most beautiful woman in the world was, she said without hesitation, Elizabeth Taylor.

Many of the photographs were stills, taken between scenes when the photographer had limited time to capture a moment but did so wonderfully anyway.

The most playful was one from "The Thin Man" with William Powell in pajamas sitting on a couch with his legs up and a gun between them, Myrna Loy at his side and alcohol behind them.

In that one photo, the crux of "The Thin Man" movies is distilled to its most basic elements - Nick, Nora, booze and humor.

Despite being on an impromptu couple date, I didn't walk through the show with my friends because we each started in different directions and strolled at our own paces.

But afterwards, we met up to look at some photos together and discuss others, before they decided to go home and take a nap.

Just between you and me, they may have been a little hung, as Mame would say.

Drinking in the afternoon...just one of many little pleasures of the bohemian life.

Take a Chance on Me

I have found a man who doesn't watch TV and doesn't have a cell phone and as if that weren't enough, he's a musician.

Be still, my heart.

Granted, he's married and not the least interested in me, but it does my heart good to know that men like that exist.

Tonight he was playing a show at the Camel, so you can be sure I got there in time to get a ticket before the show sold out.

Waiting for things to begin, a friend approached me, lamenting that I hadn't been at the last Secretly Y'All, Tell Me a Story event ("Not to call you out, but..."), an evening she helps coordinate.

I explained that a hot date had kept me otherwise occupied, to which she responded knowingly, "I understand completely." There's a friend.

She shared her very own Jonathan Richman story, which took place the night before she was flying to Spain and involved him giving her a shout-out from the stage.

You can be sure she became a life-long fan that night.

Tonight she, like me and all the other people squeezed into the Camel, was just happy to have another chance to hear from the man who made an indelible mark with that first Modern Lovers album back in 1976 and has continued on doing things exactly his own way ever since.

With no fanfare at all, not so much as an introduction, Jonathan appeared from the back of the room, making his way to the stage and causing applause and shouts in his wake.

Onstage, he called to the sound guy. "Brendan or Brian, you asked if I needed anything. There's air conditioning going on up here. Turn that off. I don't do well in air conditioning."

My head was about to explode since I had no idea there were men out there who, like me, don't care for A/C.

First off, he laid down the ground rules, saying that he and drummer Tommy had played concert halls, but this wasn't one of those. "We may play quiet, but we don't expect you to be quiet. This is a party!"

While this got a lot of cheering, as soon as the duo began playing, everyone shut the hell up.

He began with "No One was Like Vermeer," the kind of song only Jonathan Richman would write.

Back in the days of old Rembrandt
Back in the time of Jan Steen
All of them giants of shadow and light
But no one was like Vermeer

Yes, all that's true and as an art history geek, I love hearing songs about Old Masters, but who else writes about such things?

In between verses he free-styled about the old days specifially the '30s and the '50s, somehow weaving in Kotex, Vermeer's daughter and women getting the vote, pausing finally to say, "Let's see what Tommy's up to on drums."

While we watched Tommy, he went to the back of the stage and took a swig from his silver thermos.

Water, I'd bet you anything.

Beginning with the uber-romantic lyric, "I asked the heavens to send me a girl who could challenge me inside," he did "I Took a Chance on Her," winning over every female in the room.

He sang in Italian, Spanish and French (eliciting a huge grin from the French musician standing in front of me) and reminded us that this was a party so we should be dancing, leading by example.

With his ever-present humor, he used a song lyric, "I know what," to segue into a mini-rant, saying, "I know what. What? You still haven't turned off the air conditioning!"

Putting his guitar down, he grinned and said, "We'll wait."

Owner Rand came up on stage to feel the air and left to turn it off despite fans calling out that they were hot.

Sorry, folks, Jonathan (and I, for that matter) don't like air conditioning.

That rectified, he went on, his guitar playing getting as much applause and hooting approval as his clever lyrics and singing.

And speaking of clever, "Keith Richards" was a hilarious tribute to the emaciated-looking guitarist with a nod to his velvet blazers, dirty jeans and ultimate cool.

Besides sliding in the riff from "Brown Sugar" a couple of times, he sang tribute to Keith's "internal melodies and minor sixth harmonies." It was brilliant.

It took barely a couple of notes before everyone recognized and reacted to "I was Dancing in the  Lesbian Bar" and Jonathan began swiveling his hips like he was atop a table in that lesbian bar while the crowd sang the lyrics back to him.

Everyone got so into it that he left the stage, dancing, almost limbo-ing he bent so far backwards, as he made his way through the room and the crowd parted to watch him pass, everyone clapping in time as he shimmied, shook bells and grinned like a kid.

Ditto with "Bohemia," where we did call and response to the chorus for his story of trying to make it in the big city.

Pretentious artwork in hand
They showed me the door to Bohemia

That song led to a reference about talking back to the Velvet Underground, sending him off about Lou Reed, whom he referred to as "my teenage hero."

He said that when he'd first seen the band, Nico was touring with them but not singing and Andy Warhol was there, too.

"I had to be near him," Jonathan said, "So I walked up and confessed to him that I didn't understand his art. And bless his heart, he said, kid, sure you do. He was a friend to youth."

Finishing the song, he told us goodnight and got a rousing ovation, only to stay for one more.

And just to seal the lock on my heart were his final words after he put on his jacket and put his guitar in its case to walk off stage.

"May we not have an air-conditioned life!"

Hallelujah and pass the deodorant. You gotta love someone who is completely comfortable in their eccentricity.

Or at least I do.

Marital status aside, Jonathan and I are practically soul mates.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Pipes and Pipelines

Why did it take me so long to break out of my same-old, same-old walking route?

Since it was 55 degrees when I got up today, it only seemed appropriate to head down to the river.

But instead of the route I'd taken Monday to do the same, this time I went down Belvidere to Byrd where I spotted a path alongside the Ethyl headquarters on the hill.

Sure, there was a gate blocking the path, but I also saw a young woman and her dog strolling down there, so at least I'd have company if we got hauled in for trespassing.

As I passed her, she greeted me and gave me a warning. "Be careful further on because my dog went off on the grass and the ground was hollow under him, so he started falling in. Stay on the path."

Will do, I assured her.

I followed it down to the back of Tredegar, unsure where I'd be able to cut back to the sidewalk, and just as I spotted an open gate, I heard bagpipes.

Now that was something I wasn't expecting but what could be lovelier than hearing that distinctive sound carried up on a river breeze?

I followed the music down Fifth Street, crossing the new pedestrian bridge to Brown's Island, which, I learned from reading a sign, now has free wi-fi.

After all, the river and scenery couldn't possibly be interesting enough to occupy visitors to the island, she said, tongue firmly in cheek.

After watching the guy play bagpipes for a while, I turned to cross the island, having just decided I would walk the pipeline trail.

Midway across, I saw a familiar face and then a couple more, all of them out of context.

My music world and my walking world were colliding right there at the riverfront.

It was the prettiest part of the Speckled Bird, Antonia, along with her music-loving parental units and her own progeny, baby Casimir, looking handsome and happy to be out on a beautiful morning.

We discussed the unlikeliness of hearing a bagpiper on our respective walks, but as she, an accordion player, noted, you can't practice bagpipes just anywhere.

I said what had surprised me was that he'd brought them down here on a bike, a risky endeavor I would think given how expensive they are and the possibility, however remote, of a spill.

But when the muse calls...

They were headed off the island as was I, but in opposite directions so I continued on to pick up the path through the woods, finding one section had been toilet-papered for some inconceivable reason, to get to the trail.

There are so many pleasures to walking the pipeline, from the balancing act of walking the uneven cement-covered section to seeing the huge flock of geese sunning on the rocks to the powerful sound of rushing water over falls and rocks.

Sadly, a glance up at the building fronting the river there (Vistas on the James maybe?) revealed not a single window open to that beautiful sound.

If I lived within hearing range of water in motion, you'd better believe I'd have my window open on a 55-degree day.

Of course, there's also a chance that the windows don't open and if that's the case, that's just tragic. Why live on the river if you can't hear or smell it through an open window?

Making a U-turn at the end of the pipeline, I went back the way I'd come and found the bagpiper packing up and mounting his bike.

I'd have liked to have heard more, but since I hadn't expected music at all, I felt fortunate to have heard any.

So many rewards for getting off my own beaten path.

The Here and Now

History was reviewed and made, all in the same evening.

"Age of Kennedy," a black and white 1966 documentary was being shown in 16 mm at Studio Two Three as part of their Film & Video series to commemorate this 50th anniversary of the assassination.

After reading countless articles this week about every aspect of Camelot and Dallas, my interest was piqued by a film made so soon after it all.

And what a film!

Probably due to the Kennedy patriarch having been an early financier of Hollywood, there was an incredible amount of footage of JFK from the '30s, '40s and '50s, back before most people had home movie cameras.

Family winter vacations in Miami, while a student at Harvard, fishing on a boat, during his junior year of college abroad.

And speaking of that year in Europe, while over there for eight months he dutifully wrote a report on every country he visited to send back to his father.

There was fabulous footage of him as a 23-year old who'd just had his senior thesis, "Why England Slept," published as a book, showing him on a lounge with copies of his book surrounding him while he alternately made amazed and self-deprecating faces.

And may I just say, the amount of charisma and charm that emanated from those movies of him was palpable.

Because the film had originally been made for TV, it had two parts, "The Early Years" and "The Presidency."

The first reel left off with him as a delegate and the second one picked up with him already elected President; it was as if the filmmaker assumed that all the viewers knew the in-between parts because they'd happened so recently.

Still, it was odd.

We saw JFK covering the founding of the U.N. for Hearst newspapers, smoking and wearing sunglasses while watching weapons testing as the President and as a Daddy with his very young children.

This was rare stuff; I'd never seen a single one of the images before.

The progression of him from an always-smiling, slender young man to a solidly-built man of middle age with wrinkles and life experience written all over his face was fascinating to see.

I told the organizer, James, something I never thought I'd tell anyone: that he needs to be on Facebook so he can let people know when he's doing something unique like tonight's screening.

I couldn't help but think that there were other people out there - film buffs, history geeks, pop culture slaves - who would have come if only they'd known about it.

On the other hand, it's truly impressive to meet a 20-something who eschews social media.

He agreed to consider it and I said my farewell.

As a hired mouth, I'd already done my eating earlier, so my next stop was Bainbridge Collective in Manchester for a house show.

I'd been to this group house once before back in April for an evening of music and Virginia wine so at least this time I knew where I was going.

Things were just getting set up when I arrived and found music-loving friends already there.

Considering it had been billed as an evening of ambient, experimental and drone, I was surprised to see single mattresses being put in the two windows to absorb sound and a DJ friend lamenting that she'd left her earplugs at work.

I hadn't anticipated that things might get loud. Turns out, they didn't.

Once everything was good to go, people settled down on sofas, a sturdy wooden table and on the floor; it was all very communal.

First up was Counterspark, the solo project of a guy named Johnny, who used a turntable and knobs to create experimental soundscapes that fused song and words, in one case a recording of astronauts talking about their voyage.

That part of it reminded me a bit of the Books, while another girl pronounced at the end of his set, "That was very relaxing."

Part of that vibe is the big black and white wall hanging between the windows, behind which are strung colored mini-lights which twinkle through the cloth's design.

Very groovy.

Parties, the traveling band, showed up short. One member had fallen asleep and missed his flight from Raleigh so we had to content ourselves with two thirds of Parties.

"This is a band where none of us live in the same place," Andrew from California explained. "P.D. missed his flight and he should be arriving at the airport right about now. So this is for him."

With two guitars and many knobs and pedals, he and Joe sat on the floor under the twinkling lights, making hypnotic and beautiful music even without P.D.

Everyone was surprised to learn afterwards that they don't do any work together over the internet, choosing instead to get together when they end up within a reasonable distance of each other to play. This was the first night of a short tour.

Tonight's finale was Source of Sorcery, the new collaborative project of Dave Watkins and Nelly Kate, truly two of Richmond's most talented.

She had already said that the coolest part of tonight would be that she and Dave would be experiencing the music for the first time, just as the audience would.

With a blue light bulb hanging beneath for mood, they had a small table set up between them for Nelly's knobs while Dave's mammoth pedal board sat below it as they faced each other, he with dulcitar in hand.

Dave said they were going to improvise and Nelly explained that the lyrics she would be singing would be from T.S. Elliot's "Four Quartets."

Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter

Music and poetry? Could this night get any better?

As they began improvising, two different photographers (as in people with cameras, not people with phones) each took a side and began madly photographing the very first Source of Sorcery show.

I've seen both Dave and Nelly play individually many, many times but hearing them come together was an other-wordly experience.

I looked around at one point and saw others reacting in their own ways. Some closed their eyes. Others, no doubt first-timers, watched in amazement as they laid down multiple tracks, layering their sounds until it sounded like a half dozen people were making music.

The lush, dense soundscapes they were creating were a virtuosic give and take, with Dave taking off on intricate dulcitar parts that then gave way to Nelly's hushed vocals rising up out of it.

It seemed like everyone sensed we were seeing something truly magical.

The spell was broken only when they stopped and one of the Bainbridge residents said, "Talk about making love to your music!"

If you like to watch, it was pretty heady stuff.

Thanking everyone for coming, our hostess closed out the evening by saying, "There are a lot of new faces in the room tonight. Take a few minutes to talk to somebody new and make a friend. Or make love."

People started looking around.

"Just don't do it in the bathroom," she amended. "Just in case someone needs to use it."

Some nights, it's all about experiencing everything together. Very groovy.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Steal This Twilight

The clothing was the same, but the companionship was different.

I joined friends for another tour through the VMFA's "Hollywood Costume" exhibit, their first, my second, but this time on Thursday when the museum is open later and more people were bound to be there.

What was most interesting on this visit was the generational differences I saw.

Boomer-looking types seemed impressed by Indiana Jones' distressed leather jacket, made to look weathered with mineral oil and dirt rubbed into it and requiring ten jackets in total throughout the filming.

Millennials seemed far more taken with Matt Damon's "Bourne Ultimatum" ensemble, innocuous in style and color, but requiring 25 jackets to get through the rigorous filming.

Since I haven't seen either movie, my interest shifted to costumes from films I had seen.

Like the elaborate lavender dress with cloth flowers that Barbra Streisand wore in "Funny Girl."

Marilyn Monroe's exquisitely beaded dress from "Some Like It Hot," a movie I only saw for the first time in 2010, despite it being made in 1959.

With its nearly nude color on a curvy body like Marilyn's, it must have been a knockout, especially in a film with men dressed as women for contrast.

One thing that struck all of us as we looked at the men's costumes in the show was how much shorter a lot of the actors were than we thought; people like Mel Gibson, Stallone, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp don't even reach six feet.

It was clear, though, from the John Wayne model that he was not vertically-challenged.

The videos in the exhibit were illuminating, too, like Meryl Streep talking about how costume designer Ann Roth got her wish with "Mamma Mia" because she finally got to dress Streep in a sexy manner.

And, you know, looking at the array of Streep costumes in the show - "The French Lieutenant's Woman," "Out of Africa," "The Iron Lady," she had a good point.

All of us agreed that DeNiro's costume from 1994's "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" was the most sculptural item in the show, resembling as it did, a massive metal figure.

One of the males in our group fell in love with Joseph Fiennes' leather jacket? doublet? from "Shakespeare in Love," a marvel of intricate stitching and fitted like a glove to the actor's upper body.

Looking at the ornamented and enormously heavy dresses women of that era wore, it hardly seems fair men got way with boots, breeches and a doublet.

Luckily we'd corrected that by the time of Sharon Stone's white crepe suit from "Basic Instinct," with its short skirt and absence of underwear.

Far easier to maneuver in.

By the time we finished going through the exhibit, everyone had a different favorite costume, but some shared wishes for the displays, mainly more information.

How much did that Batman suit weigh? For that matter, how much did that dress from "Elizabeth" Cate Blanchett wore weigh? How did Tobey Maguire get that Spiderman suit on and how tough were bathroom breaks?

Inquiring minds wanted to know, but it was time to go our separate ways.

Not sure what their plans were, but I had a date at Ipanema where their "Steal this Wine" list assured me interesting choices at affordable prices.

Bartender Gabe greeted me with a "Where the hell have you been?" and a high five while I waited to see if my date would show.

He encouraged me to go ahead and order a bottle of wine, saying it would be a measure of my date's character to see how he reacted to me ordering wine when he was running late.

Lo and behold, there on the wine list was 2012 Occhipinti SP68, the Nero d'Avola and Frappato blend I'd had my last night in Rome, here.

Earthy and tasting of raspberries, it was everything I remembered from my Roman holiday finale.

Feminine and elegant. Delicate with lots of finesse. A bio-dynamic wine made by a talented, groovy woman.

Even better, it was right here in Richmond and I could drink it on this side of the Atlantic with a witty and talented man who'd asked me out tonight.


While the Ipanema crowd buzzed around us, we got into the quirky Treveri Brut Rose I'd recently had, the wall of sound with thick Scottish accents that is the Twilight Sad  and how to woo a woman with the sound of an ocean.

So far, he was doing really well.

With a soundtrack that segued from Jefferson Airplane to emo, we got into flower arranging, right brain versus left brain and squirrel traps.

Eventually, Gabe was gracious enough to bring us a bottle of 2011 Edmunds St. John "Fenuaghty Vineyard" Syrah, which server Jessica, whom I know as the violinist in Zac Hryciak and the Junglebeat, had recommended to me for its black pepper notes and which caught my date's eye for its maker, one of California's Rhone Rangers.

So while the girl with the bright red hair (and fake boobs) and her almost completely-tattooed companion took the stools next to us, we savored a lovely wine and mad flirting.

I don't have an Ann Roth to dress me in sexy clothing, but the companionship was outstanding anyway.

No telling what might have happened if I'd worn a wool crepe suit and no underwear.

Nah, not my style.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Third Thursday Eve

The moon is not in the seventh house, but in Gemini, my sign, which meant I needed two lively ways to spend my evening.

The first came courtesy of one of my favorite husbands, loaned to me for the night by his charming wife who, unlike me, does not eat everything.

We agreed to meet a Magpie, but only after he asked if he, a middle-aged suburban guy, would be safe parking and walking in Carver.

I didn't deign to respond to such nonsense.

Once there, we found the music set to a Stevie Wonder station, meaning Bill Withers and Curtis Mayfield, "Superstition" and "For Once in My Life" and fine by me.

After acquiring his standard well-bruised martini, the husband and I listened to the specials with an ear for what was irresistible.

Our amuse bouche arrived: tempura crawfish over curried sweet potato puree, one perfect bite of kick-ass flavors.

We got off on a tangent about the upcoming exhibit at UR, "The American Dream, Right?" about the influx of Russian Jews to Richmond in the late '80s and early 90s.

Yea, who knew?

I impressed him with my recent forays to the Hebrew cemetery and the unusual "consort" gravestones I'd seen.

Not only was he surprised to hear about them, he was able to recommend the archives at Temple Beth Ahaba as a place we could go to research the women.

Now that's an invaluable friend, not just because like me he eats anything, but because he can help up my nerd quotient.

The first dish to come out was the General Tso's sweetbreads, lightly breaded, slightly spicy and served with crisp-tender broccoli.

You really couldn't ask for an easier way to eat thymus glands.

Next up was one of the night's specials, braised beef cheeks over apple ranch dressing and topped with shaved brussels sprouts (my second of the day) and oyster mushrooms, an earthy combination ideal for this too-cold-for-me weather.

That led to a discussion of heat, with my friend saying he was always turning the thermostat down at work, leaving the women to complain that they were cold.

Like his wife, I tend to get cold easily but even so, prefer a cool room to sleep in, unlike his wife.

"I don't know why she wants the room so warm when I'm like a radiator in bed," he mused.

Warm men and cool women, that's a combination that's worked for centuries, at least according to my Mom.

I suggested ordering the root vegetable salad, to which my friend showed little enthusiasm, but I assured him he'd be impressed.

Midway through the beautifully colorful dish of sliced red and yellow beets, radishes, fried sweet potato chips and goat cheese with house ranch dressing, doubting Thomas looked at me and acknowledged, "Oh, my god, this is the best thing yet."

I may have pointed out that I told him so.

He told a hilarious and touching story about a friend who discovered after years of dating women that he actually preferred men, the realization coming after he met a certain man ("I met him and the room stood still").

When my friend asked him if it took any adjustment going from female to male, he said with masterful understatement, "I had to get used to that little stubble on his upper lip."

Don't we all?

About the time we stopped laughing about that, our final dish arrived and, man, it was a doozy.

Pig's head torchon Philly cheesesteak-style, complete with sauteed onions and peppers on - wait for it - a mini Amoroso roll.

Let's just say it left a properly greasy stain on the black and white checked paper in the basket when we scooped each of our halves up

Died. And. Gone. To. Heaven.

The properly soft roll, the lightly oiled pig, the oozing cheese, it was divine and then some.

The only way it could have been improved was with a good story and my friend had one.

He'd been telling me about how his extended family requires him to make certain dishes for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, stuff he'd prefer to forget, stuff like green bean casserole.

Oh, no, I laughed , not that canned soup abomination.

The very one.

The funny part was that two years ago, his mother had mentioned casually that that recipe was hers. They thought she was joking, but no.

As a young bride she'd been given a bunch of recipe cards from married women, all of dishes guaranteed to "keep a man."

One of them was the canned green bean, canned mushroom soup, canned onion ring classic, a card she still had, albeit yellowed and stained.

She had no idea until two years ago that the recipe had been on the back of cans for decades.

"You can imagine how much we made fun of her," my friend shared.

We were too full for dessert and soon my friend began yawning, still unused to a job that requires a 6:30 a.m. wake-up call after years of being on his own schedule.

I watched as he headed toward southside and I made tracks for Carytown.

It was, after all, only a matter of hours until the Beaujolais Nouveau would be released and while I'm not interested in drinking juvenile wine all the time, once a year it's a fun way to spend an evening.

Plus Amour wine bistro was starting the Wednesday part of the evening with a Cru Beaujolias tasting, necessarily saving the nouveau part of the evening for when it's legal, namely after midnight.

When I arrived, there was only one guy there for the tasting, but he hospitably  gestured to the stool next to him and introduced himself.

Before long, the owner donned a beret and a colorful Georges Duboeuf tie, the combination leading to a discussion of stereotypical Frenchmen and Pepe Le Pew, a character with which he claimed to have no knowledge.

Still, he looked very dapper.

I started with a flight of Cru Beaujolais that included the earthy Beaujolais Village Domaine des Nugues 2010, the elegant Fleurie Domaines des Nugues 2009 and the smooth Julenas G. Duboeuf Chateau des Capitans 2011, with the guy next to me mocking my ability to down the flight.

Slow and steady wins the race, my friend.

Before long lots of others came in to join the fun, couples mostly including his wife and a couple of her friends who'd just come from a wine dinner.

Many people were enjoying the sparkling Gamay Domaine des Nugues and loving it, but it got to be midnight before I got to it.

Once the bewitching hour struck, it was all about the nouveau and in short order, I tried them all: the mass appeal Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais nouveau, Manoir du Carra Beaujolais nouveau, the lovely Domaine Descroix Beaujolais nouveau and Manoir du Carra Beauejolais Villages nouveau.

Everyone acknowledged that 2013 wasn't a particularly good year for wine and the dominant notes of banana attested to that. Or as one guy said, "By the new year, this'll be vinegar."

That's why we were drinking it tonight, kids.

A highlight of the evening was hearing the French owner pronounce "village" with an American accent. Our vowels are so flat-sounding.

The music was notably not French for a change with Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby and Michael Buble crooning at us as everyone became everyone's friend and chatted across the room.

There were bad jokes about escargots, the color green and a ball, there was one woman repeatedly rhapsodizing about the fig goat cheese (which after a while got mangled to "fake goat cheese") and much discussion of the quality of restaurant service in Richmond.

Conclusion: not enough people who truly want to be service professionals, unlike in major and European cities where service is a worthy career.

Prosciutto quiche and Camembert and leek Croque Monsieurs were savory accompaniments to the flights and eventually people were sharing their food like we were at a party and not a restaurant.

By the end of the evening, the guy next to me was telling me why I should start following him on Twitter and why I should start tonight.

You know, with the moon in my sign, I think I have bigger fish to fry than reading  about why you don't eat sweetbreads and how you're a furnace in bed.

And what is it with guys bragging tonight about their heating abilities in bed?

Besides, I've got recipe cards too mister, so I've got ways to get a furnace man of my own.

Cans optional.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Hook a Brother Up

I am in need of a Karen fix. Are you free for lunch today? I promise I will be on time today.

Another friend had once likened time with me to a drug, so I knew what he was talking about. And he knew lunch was an offer I wouldn't refuse.

When I got to Chez Foushee, I inquired if there was a man waiting for a woman, but no, so they gave me the table in the front window so we couldn't miss each other.

I had a great view of the corner of Grace and Foushee with a parade of characters walking by, like the girl in colorful leggings printed with comics, although I'm not sure I'd want a big, red "POW!" on one butt cheek.

Then there was the guy walking by with a clergy member (judging by his white collar) who blew me a kiss while they were waiting for the light to change.

I eavesdropped on the trio two tables away, discovering that one was a artist and the other his dealer, with his trendy-looking wife who didn't say a word the whole time next to him.

After about 40 minutes, I heard my name called, but not from the doorway; my friend was standing in the middle of the restaurant.

Seems he'd arrived five minutes before I had and been seated in the back and patiently awaiting my arrival ever since.

Okay, not so patiently because he'd e-mailed me five times wondering where I was.

You should have seen the face of the guy who'd seated me when he spotted my friend. Oops.

Bu better late than never and when I got to his table, I saw he already had wine chilling although given the wait time, a fair amount of it was already history.

Pimento cheese and crackers soon arrived and he started telling me about everything going on his life, the purpose of our get-together.

When some people need a Karen fix, what they mean is they need a listener willing to tell them what they should do.

Can do.

I ordered the brussels sprout salad, my perennial favorite at Foushee for the bacon, bleu cheese and red onions that make it one of the tastiest ways I've ever found to eat seared sprouts.

We talked about how things are going with his love life and he showed me a text he'd gotten this morning, a romantic and suggestive missive to start his day.

Obviously I can't get texts, but I sure wouldn't mind a bawdy e-mail to start my day on occasion.

More than one server came over periodically throughout our meal to apologize for not getting us together sooner, but by then that was water under the bridge and what were we going to do, flog them for their mistake?

No, far better to indulge ourselves so we chose chilled double chocolate mousse torte with warm pecan-studded praline sauce, an obscenely rich desert that no one person really ever needs to eat alone.

It took a long time to eat because it was so heavy and we continued to gab as the restaurant began to empty out.

We may not have started on time (again!) but as he pointed out, that just gave him more time to get his fix.

A lovely lunch aside, gotta love a Karen junkie.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Femme Fatales and Pork Chops

I don't care what you expect or what they think. Tonight I'm gonna dance and dance.

And with that and a couple of bonnets, Scarlett O'Hara was represented in the "Hollywood Costume" show at VMFA.

I met a fellow movie-lover to take in the new exhibit, not sure how much would resonate with me since I don't go to blockbuster movies for the most part.

Although I'd never seen the 1934 version of "Cleopatra" with Claudette Colbert, I recognized her elaborate green satin dress right away.

That's because when I was at Amuse last Friday, the two female bartenders were discussing the exhibit and raving about that dress.

One said if she could have any dress from the show, it would be that one.

"But where would you wear it?" the other asked practically.

"Doesn't matter, I'd find a place," she'd said, leading me to wonder about the marvels of said dress.

Even my male companion commented on what a magnificent dress it was, if that tells you anything.

Impressive in a different kind of way was the dress from "Samson and Delilah," which had a coat and train of real peacock feathers.

Somehow, I feel certain that that's not environmentally correct anymore.

I found the wedding dress from "Camelot" to be very much of its time, 1967, with its finely crocheted, almost spider web-like, over-dress with tiny shells sewed on.

Any hippie chick of the era would have given her right arm to have worn such a thing while it seemed highly unlikely for the 6th century.

Just goes to show, costumes are as much about the period in which they're made as the period they represent.

Scarlett O'Hara's black mourning bonnet was there, the one she was wearing when Rhett Butler bid to dance with her and she agreed, scandalizing the refined women of Atlanta.

Tonight I wouldn't mind dancing with Abe Lincoln himself!

I saw Marilyn Monroe's dress from "The Seven Year Itch," and listened as a woman and her friend scrutinized the accompanying shoes.

"Those would be hard shoes to walk in," one said. Honey, I wanted to say, all she had to do was stand over a subway grate, so walking was not really an issue.

There was a whole section on femme fatales (a nickname my friend Holmes has used on me for years), those sultry and seductive women of questionable morals who seduce men and inevitably come to a bad end.

That's where I saw costumes like that of Annette Benning in "Bugsy," where she wore a dress with nine pounds of beads sewn on it.

Nine pounds!

I have one cocktail dress with beads sewn on and it's the heaviest dress to wear, so I can only imagine what a full-length beaded dress must feel like on.

It was fascinating to read that Austin Powers' suits were modeled on George Harrison's because he was considered quite a dandy at the time.

Didn't recall that.

Despite it being a Tuesday, there were plenty of other people seeing the show and by the time we finished, there was only an hour before closing time.

Quick like Rocky (his red, white and blue boxing trunks were in the show) running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum, we hurried up to Amuse for a drink and to discuss what we'd seen.

As soon as the bartender saw me, she asked if I wanted an absinthe and scurried to the kitchen to retrieve the drip so I could enjoy some Trinity, my new favorite absinthe.

We spent the next hour talking about the exhibit, mainly how we'd have liked to have seen more technical information about what we saw.

Like how much did those dresses from "Shakespeare in Love" and "Dangerous Liaisons" or that "Batman" costume weigh, because they looked like they were heavy as armor.

Eventually we had to table our discussion because the lovely green fairy of Trinity was gone and the museum was closing down.

After a change of clothes to evening attire, not green satin of course, I headed to Acacia to meet a friend for dinner.

It seemed quite civilized when we arrived but soon became a madhouse with one gigantic party and a host of smaller tables arriving to claim their reservations.

Stay calm and order wine, that's my rule.

Friend is a non-drinker, but I can't say the same so I ordered a half bottle of Karine Lauverjat Sancerre 2012, with a honeysuckle nose (oh, for the halcyon summer days of honeysuckle) and a beautiful, long finish.

Wine Guy came by to see how I liked it, noting, "That's a favorite of the Mrs," a supreme compliment considering she's a wine rep.

Friend and I debated over the menu as the room began to fill up, trying to decide whether or not to go with the prix fixe menu.

Once we confirmed that, it was just a matter of choosing our courses, no easy feat given the options.

I eventually went with roasted beet salad with creamy goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette followed by a pan-roasted Berkshire pork chop with country mustard sauce, macaroni and Gruyere cheese and garlic-braised broccolini.

Make no mistake, this was a superb pork chop, thickly cut, flavorful because it came from a Berkshire and worthy of picking up the bone and gnawing off every last scrap of meat.

My friend teased me as I sucked the remaining meat off the bone, but there was also envy in his voice.

But it wasn't the pork chop of Fred and Wilma, the pigs who'd supplied the toe-curling pork chops I'd had last month and which set the standard for all pork in my life going forward.

No, those chops had come from a small farm in Culpeper and had come from a Berkshire named Fred and a Tamworth named Wilma and, good god, the result was pig like you've never put in your mouth.

Reality check. Tonight's chop was excellent and even caused my friend to admit, "You out-ordered me tonight," which was saying something since he got the lump crab cake, or, more accurately, crab ball, a round of lump crab meat held together with a whistle, a prayer and some lemon juice and absent any filler.

Neither of us had much to complain about, although he did point out what a noisy room it always is, so I guess he did.

I always notice it most when I go to the bathroom which is the only place where you can reliably hear the music over the din of diners.

We watched fascinated as our bartender shook a cocktail shaker as if in slow motion, something neither of us had ever seen. Usually cocktail shaking is so vigorous.

Nope, he explained, not when making a vodka martini which requires a minimum of combining so as not to make the vodka cloudy.

And here we thought he was just showing off slo-mo style.

For dessert, I chose the milk chocolate cremeux with, be still my heart, salted caramel ice cream and chocolate streusel scattered about while Friend had a local apple streusel with brown sugar ice cream.

The individually-arranged slices of apples spiraling around inside his crust were a thing of beauty, but he couldn't convince me that my chocolate and salted caramel wasn't the superior dessert, at least for me.

Stuffed to the gills, we sat there talking while I finished my wine.

He's just started Doris Kearns Goodwin's "No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt," and we talked about the appeal of a glimpse inside a long-term relationship.

I laid out the reasons why he, a long-time music-lover, needs to see the documentary, "Muscle Shoals," leading to a discussion of old-school R & B and why we like it.

We geeked out talking about research, something the two of us enjoy and feel we excel at, despite the boring connotation to it.

That's okay. Even a boring researcher can put on a beaded dress and dance and dance when asked.

Especially if someone were to bid on me.

Monday, November 18, 2013

It's About Time

I feel like November Mondays like this are rare.

When I woke up to find it was almost 70 degrees, all my intentions were forgotten.

Errands? Bah! Editorial? Not today. Anything inside? Not happening.

Given how late I got up and how early dusk arrives these days, I figured I had just under five hours to savor the bright blue sky and warm air.

I started out walking toward the river, soon passing a man who looked at my pink shorts and t-shirt and smiled, saying, "You're not going to be able to dress like that much longer."

Sir, I haven't been able to dress like this for weeks.

I followed Second Street to the new connector road and down toward Belle Isle, with crossing the pedestrian bridge the only chilly part of the walk because of the wind sweeping off the river.

A couple of loops around the island and a stroll through downtown and by the time I got back home I'd used up half the daylight left.

I squandered the rest planting pink, purple and white tulip bulbs in my garden and raking and sweeping my handkerchief-sized front yard only to watch more leaves fall as I did so.

Oh, well, this was not about results, just an excuse to be outside where everyone who passed by was smiling and commenting on the weather.

I sat on my balcony and started reading "Diary of a Mad Housewife" in the late afternoon sun.

But once it set, I knew the temperature was heading down into the '30s, a rude and unwelcome change from my day spent in shorts.

Now I was willing to go inside and a movie seemed like just the thing.

I ended up at "About Time," partly because I like British films (that dry humor) and partly because I like Bill Nighy (he can say more with a glance than most actors can say with full-on emoting) and partly because I'd seen the preview and I knew it was one of those films where you feel, rather than think.

And today was a feeling kind of a day.

I got there as the previews began but the projector was stuttering and before long a woman notified the projectionist of the problem.

They said it would take ten minutes to restart the projector, allowing me and the women in my row to talk about all the screwy problems we've experienced at the Bowtie.

One had a horror story of a woman who came in to a movie an hour into it, sat in the back row and proceeded to talk full-voice on her phone, at least until a guy walked up there and told her to knock it off.

I had a similar thing where a guy came in to a movie in progress, sat down in my row with a drink, candy and a large popcorn, consumer it all noisily in about 15 minutes and walked out, leaving his debris scattered around his seat.

My question is, and I put it to the women I was talking to, were these people raised by wolves?

Finally "About Time" began, telling the idyllic story of Tim's childhood being raised in Cornwall, where the family had tea on the beach everyday and family movie night on Fridays outside on the patio year-round.

But now Tim was 21 and moving to the big city to practice law.

The movie was a lot of things - a romance, a family story and even science fiction because it had time travel in it- but I especially enjoyed the parts of the movie set in London.

In one scene, Tim and a friend go to a trendy bar downstairs that is intentionally completely dark.

As in, customers are asked to put their hand on the host's shoulder and he leads them into the dark room where strangers have conversations with each other for hours, just like at a regular bar, except you can't see the person you are flirting with (or kissing) until you leave and go outside.

Then there's the language difference. Dresses are frocks and bangs are fringe.

And less reliance on tradition. The bride wears a red dress and she walks down the aisle to "Il Mondo" by Jimmy Fontana, described by one of the characters as "an Italian singer with what looks like a badger on his head."

Of course there was romance, too, and not just young Tim's, but also his parents, whose devotion and enjoyment of each other was impressive.

When they learn the husband has cancer, the wife says, "I am so uninterested in a life without your father."

Now there's a powerful statement.

The film had a lot to do with do-overs, opportunities to go back and make right what you screwed up in a relationship the first time, only in this case, Tim could time travel to do it.

Oh, if it were only that easy.

But it also concerned time and how we decide to use the time we have and appreciate the moments we're experiencing as they happen.

According to Tim's father, the secret formula for happiness was simple.

Live day by day. Live day by day but notice the good parts of each day. It's the simplicity of the little things that actually matter.

Like walking down to the river. Reading a book and talking about it to someone. Baking cookies at 10:00 at night. Wearing a frock and sporting fringe at the cinema. Feeling happy with what I have.

Shoot, I nailed this formula years ago.