Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Go with the Flow

On a day such as today, I want every bit of that 74-degree weather I can experience.

Before I even make breakfast, I open every window in the apartment and it smells like Spring is really coming..

On my walk past the Science Museum, I see a tree hanging with dozens of origami paper cranes, each one containing a child's thoughts on trees (I only know this because of a sign nearby about the Giving Tree project).

Plucking a bright orange one, I reluctantly unfold its beautiful precision to find that William, age 10, from J.B. Fisher Elementary, has written, "Trees are important because we make pencils out of woods." He's also drawn a sheet of 3-hole notebook paper and a pencil, for reference.

Sounds to me like young William was trying to impress his teacher.

Later in the day, I have two interviews to do and opt to do both sitting outside on the stoop of my neighborhood's 166-year old firehouse facing the sun, wrinkles be damned.

Neither of the artists I'm interviewing seems to mind my choice of location while it's all I can do to stay focused on asking questions and recording answers on a day that feels more like a May holiday than a March work day.

Tonight's dinner plans are at Postbellum. Driving over, it belatedly occurs to me that I've chosen a popular bar on a major drinking holiday. Oops. Upon arrival, I am directed upstairs to the deck because "that's where everyone else is." One green-clad person after another passes me on their way up there.

My dining companion and I instead choose the empty bar because we're not ready to enter into St. Patrick's Day revelry quite yet. Okay, probably never, despite my O'Donnell roots.

It had been ages since I'd been to Postbellum but one bite of food was all it took to remind me of the talent in the kitchen. My salad of Romaine, fried brussels sprouts, crispy fingerling potatoes, rosemary-smoked peanuts and the mildest of blue cheese dressings was a finely-tuned symphony of textures and flavors.

As we ate, tonight's topic was moving cross country: routes, stops (so far only Austin is confirmed) and how much furniture to take. There's something quite romantic about just pulling up stakes and restarting on the other side of the frontier and I applaud those inspired enough to try it.

Despite lingering for a while, only two other people join us at the behemoth of a bar. One is a middle-aged guy in a t-shirt with a long-winded message that contains the word "Irish" in it, but I can't be bothered reading it to find out if it's at all humorous.

Maybe it's that St. Patrick's Day celebrations began last Friday night, but it already seems like this made-up holiday has gone on too long. As a result, I've done the only logival thing: chosen to celebrate with a French new wave movie.

Director Alan Resnais' "Wild Grass" is being screened as part of the VCU Cinematheque series and tonight's audience is the smallest I've ever seen (although I do spot two people I know) and I've been to a fair number of them. I can't decide, is it the movie or the green beer that's keeping people away?

The film professor who's been noticeably absent at the past few showings was back tonight, but only long enough to give us some background on the 88-year old director's body of work. "It's a comedy. I'm not saying it's an easy film. Just let it flow over you."

I was ready to lay down and let it flow.

When I looked up almost two hours later, I knew the film had been visually lovely, the story deliberately obtuse and that French women age much better than we do. And it had, at least to me, clearly been made by someone with a lot of life experience poking fun at traditional notions of love and life.

The story, such as it was, follows two middle-aged people attracted to each other who only meet because her purse is stolen and he finds her wallet, which leads to a fateful ending and some pretty absurd moments along the way.

Interestingly, no one laughed harder than the Frenchman I know who was seated behind me. No doubt understanding the dialog was a far superior way to experience the movie than reading subtitles.

"You're here because you're in love with me," the wallet finder tells the woman when she inexplicably shows up on the street and they meet for the first time. The nervous laughter of students around me convinced me that they weren't quite sure if that was intended as humor or not (it wasn't).

What I liked about it was the fine line the movie walked. It wasn't quite a romance except that there was something very romantic about two people who meet randomly and surprise themselves by being caught up in the chance nature of it all. What if it was supposed to be? What is it's just life playing out?

Apparently when you're an 88-year old French director, you don't have to answer those questions, you can just toy with your audience.

Afterwards in the bathroom, an older woman told me that she'd come because her sister had insisted. Why? Because, like the main character, she'd taken flying lessons so her sister thought she'd enjoy a film about a woman who has her pilot's license.

"But I learned on a Cherokee Piper," she informs me casually. "Ohio state offered flying lessons so cheap you had to learn." Here I'd been excited to take a pool lesson last week and this woman is talking about learning how to fly planes. People are moving cross country and I'm sitting on local stoops.

Clearly it's time to up my game.

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