Thursday, April 24, 2014

Eating Cake, Making Pies

When will I ever learn?

I can't stay up till all hours listening to honky tonk when I have to be up at 8 a.m. for a media preview.

I shouldn't rearrange my entire afternoon in hopes that an interview subject will actually make it to the interview.

And I definitely can't expect to resist chocolate and coconut even when I am determined not to have dessert.

Painful as it was to get up at the crack of dawn to go to the VMFA for the preview of their summer photography blockbuster, "Posing Beauty in African American Culture," I was rewarded for my effort with a first look at an incredible collection of images.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the subjects in the photographs was how easy it was to identify when the picture was taken simply by the clothes, hair and jewelry.

Even though there were photos taken in the last decade that were deliberately staged to look like vintage pictures, the details gave them away. People just don't look the same today as they did in the '30s or '70s.

One of my favorite pieces was a large scale collage by Hank Willis Thomas that used old centerfolds from "Jet" magazine of attractive black women.

A sample caption: Georgia Peach - Getting ready to take a swim, Ramona Miller, originally from the peach state and now a registered nurse in Los Angeles, shows off her shapely (35-22-36) figure.

And the only reason I know they were centerfolds (not that I even knew "Jet" had centerfolds) was because an older black woman who works at the Richmond Free Press walked up when she saw my intent interest in the collage.

She recalled that one time, the magazine had run a girl's picture in the centerfold but she'd been killed the week before. "But you know how magazines work ahead," she said, "And there was nothing they could do about it."

Another compelling photo was Stephen Shames' "At Home, Huey Newton Listening to Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited" from 1970. Besides the unlikely music choice, Newton was shirtless and looking mighty buff, even to be listening to Dylan.

The show is full of intriguing photographs like that and I'm already looking forward to my second visit.

Then there was the no-show.

My interviewee didn't let me know until late afternoon that he wouldn't be coming after all, meaning I could have left the house and accomplished all kinds of things rather than waiting for him, the upside being it forced me into working on an assignment I'd been putting off.

And while I didn't finish, I worked right up until the last minute before putting myself together and slipping out for a bite before a music show.

Walking in to Garnett's, I paused to grab some sections of today's New York Times and heard my name called and found a favorite theater couple lingering over happy hour drinks.

They'd just gotten the keys to their new Monument Avenue apartment, leading to a discussion of great landlords (like the one I have) and lackadaisical landlords (like the one they were escaping), not to mention the thrill of a new place to gussy up.

We took a tangent so I could share a story about a neighbor of mine who was oddly blase about her mother's attempted suicides before I bid them farewell so I could eat and run.

By the time I got home, it was to an online comment: "Always a treat running into Karen. She pretty much rocks."

I pretty much don't, but it's good to know I can fool some of the people some of the time.

Taking a seat at the bar, the server's face lit up when she saw me. "We just got in chocolate and coconut cake after not having any for ages. I know it's your favorite. Did you sense that it was here?"

Not that I knew of and here I'd already resolved to forgo dessert tonight and there she was insisting that I take advantage of my favorite cake combo while it lasted.

An enormous Cobb salad kept me busy while the two guys next to me tried to decipher the music on the vintage rock station.

When a Canned Heat song came on, the one next to me turned and asked, "Is this that song that goes, 'I took a beer, I took a shot'? You know, that classic rock song?"

Mister, I am the last person you should be asking to identify a classic rock song. That said, I had no problem identifying the Spencer Davis Group or T Rex when it came on. Some songs are more timeless than others.

Our server asked me what my plans for later were and when I said I was going to a house show, she beamed. "I was at a house show this weekend! I love this time of outdoors, bonfires, everybody hanging out and happy."

She makes a good point.

I declined a piece of cake and was served it anyway after the two guys insisted that if it was my favorite cake, I'd be foolish not to have some and our server agreed.

So much for freedom of cake choice.

The house show was at a friend's 3rd floor apartment in the old Mrs. Morton's Tearoom and tonight's musical guests were Haze and Dacey, also known as Kirsten and John, a duo playing keyboards, upright bass and guitar and singing gorgeous harmonies.

Oh, yes, and occasional mouth trumpet.

Last time I'd been to a show at this house, it had been winter and dark but tonight's show began with the tall windows framing a deepening blue sky as the band played.

The wooden floors made for a warm sound in the room and once the street lights came on, they cast shadows of the huge tree out front framed by the outlines of the window and showing up on the facing wall of the apartment.

It looked like a monotone Japanese woodblock print and was an exquisite visual to go with the music.

John had never played a house show before and Kirsten had only played one, but they dove right in like they knew what they were doing playing the instant classic, "Baby, If You Think I'm Crazy about You, You Gotta Change Your Mind."

During one of Kirsten's original songs, she suddenly lifted her hands off the keyboard, looked surprised and said, "I lost my words!"

She found them after a moment and the song finished before they did Patty Griffin's excellent "Making Pies," causing one of the attendees to squeal with delight and say, "Oooh, I love this song!"

"This is a song I co-wrote with William Shakespeare," Kirsten said of the next song, which they followed with the Everly brothers' "Wake Up, Little Susie." She compared them by saying they both had deep lyrics. Not.

The small audience loved that but I was just as thrilled to hear Guster's "Manifest Destiny."

The moon and stars are ganging up on the sun
Everybody, the sky is falling down
Friends and lovers, the world is coming down
Down, down

When they did "Singing for a Dollar," they changed "dollar" to "doggie" and Kirsten said John would attempt to sing four part harmony, "If he can divide his throat into three parts."

Some of the evening's best harmonies came on a cover of the Old 97s' "Big Brown Eyes."

You made a big impression for a girl of your size
Now I can't get by without you and your big, brown eyes

When they finished, Kirsten thanked us for coming, turning to John to finish her thought. "It's been..." she began.

"Kind of weird?" said the house show virgin. "And wonderful," Kirsten amended before they closed with a song she described as, "Kind of dark. A fun song," referring to April Smith's "Terrible Things."

I just reflect what you expect 
So that you don't suspect that
I could be exactly who I am

Brown eyed, hanging out and happy. It's enough.

1 comment: