Monday, November 24, 2014

Power Show

My day began with a walk over the Lee Bridge to stretch my legs before an all-day adventure.

There was a plan: go to southside and turn away from the sign for Huguenot Springs Cemetery and toward the artisan open house at historic Huguenot Springs.

The idea was that there'd be all kinds of artisans displaying wares - pottery, jewelry, homemade foodstuffs, paintings - along with munchables and fresh, country (ish) air on a bucolic property.

How better to begin a crisp Sunday afternoon?

Reason to go: Luke Flesichman's whimsical painted metal sculpture. Favorite bite at SausageCraft's counter: salted hog jowl. Coolest vendor space: an Airstream trailer. Loveliest soap dishes: Triple A Potters. Crunchiest contribution: Manakintowne Growers. Most talked about offering: Tutu Fab (because everyone needs a tutu?).

Scenes from an afternoon: The heart pine floors in all the old buildings that houses vendors. Crisp leaves underfoot, in some places ankle-deep. Wine for sharing with friends provided by James River Cellars by default (only winery).  Of course I didn't buy anything, but I looked at a lot.

The only horsewoman I know was dressed to the nines in a leopard print hat and gloves, black dress, silver jewelry, black fishnets and boots. I've never seen her so gussied up. The country squire who moonlights as a WRIR DJ shared the details of his upcoming sojourn to Jamaica.

Leaving all that behind, we set out in search of lunch, finding it at Mediterraneo, a generic-looking Italian place in a strip mall. Pane e Vino southside, so to speak, at a table with a view of the parking lot.

What it had going for it was a six top of Italian speakers at a nearby table, gesturing, talking loudly and eating non-stop. I did notice that when the patriarch went to the bathroom, though, the group reverted to English.

On the other side of the room, a multi-generational family spanning 83 years celebrated Grammy's 84th birthday. I'll give Gram credit, though, she had wine with lunch and triple chocolate cake afterwards, so she clearly still knows how to live right.

Long a fan of salad with protein, I reached back to memories of my 821 Cafe days for a baby arugula salad with craisins, Gorgonzola, apples and steak in a tarragon vinaigrette alongside Massone "Vigneto Masera" Gavi (just a tad past its prime) for a satisfying late afternoon meal.

Rain had begun when we headed back into the city for something completely different.

This documentary dork wanted to go to the Byrd Theater to see "Finding Fela," put on by the Afrikana Film Festival. African drummers played in the lobby. With overly buttered popcorn and Milk Duds in hand, we joined the throngs of film and music lovers wedging themselves into the ancient seats.

The women behind us had brought a box of fried chicken. Wish I'd thought of that.

I'd expected to see more music-loving friends than I did (one film friend was about it) given that Fela Kuti is the man responsible for giving the world Afrobeat - a melange of American funk and African rhythms - while writing songs that criticized the corrupt Nigerian government of the '70s and '80s.

The movie used the framing device of rehearsals of the 2009 Broadway production of "Fela!" but it was the old clips of the real Fela that were mesmerizing. Just to be clear, I mean that in a good and bad way.

The man had a true presence, a natural charisma and an ear for creating intricate, funky music with killer horns. His dancers were equally impressive moving to the poly-rhythms.

But he also married 27 women (he called them queens) at one time and believed it was okay to do whatever he wanted to them. A chauvinist pig of the highest order.

It was fascinating to learn how his music progressed; his early songs were about things like soup but after a trip to the U.S. and exposure to the Black Power movement and James Brown's music, he began writing lyrics that called out the Nigerian government, for which he was repeatedly beaten and jailed. In one scene, he shows his scarred body to the camera.

Given the strength of his music (and the size of the spliffs he smoked), it's hard to comprehend how he didn't catch on globally like Bob Marley did, but the film explains that because his songs went on for 20, 30 minutes, they weren't radio friendly. And we know it's all about the radio friendly.

Here was a movie that showed at Sundance in January and opened nationally a few months ago but never made it to Richmond. Kudos to the Afrikana Film Fest for giving music and film devotees a chance to know more about a remarkable musician and activist.

Not to mention it had a great beat and made me want to dance to it. I give my day a 9.


  1. ...perhaps unfair to say & [maybe not always true]...there's something about a strip mall that brings everything down about ten degrees..


  2. I'm with you on that, cw! It was a choice motivated solely by hunger.

  3. ..the soul of the tummy can lead us astray.


  4. ...and i'll end here on the thought of this Thursday...bring it on sweet Bacchus! may we survive the onslaught...