Monday, May 30, 2016

Unmarried Woman Hero

Like the rest of America, I traveled for the Memorial Day holiday. Unlike most, my journey included Norfolk, Cumberland and Little Saigon.

Besides a tour of a gorgeously restored 1906 house, there were pork chops, presents and birthday cakes in Norfolk, after a hot drive down during which the phrase, "And in celestial news..." was uttered in all seriousness.

Cumberland offered up memories of steak salad at 821 Cafe, a lot of Bryan Ferry and New Jack Swing and poring over guidebooks and maps. Color me bowled over at the unlikeliest of clarifications.

Little Saigon, aka the multi-cultural neighborhood behind Mekong, presented a backyard party with crabs, crawfish and rap playing, the first two out back partially under tents and the latter in the house where homemade chocolate cake with cognac seduced me.

It was at the pickin' table (where I showed no less than three people how to dismember a crab properly) that I got reacquainted with the girlfriend of a rock star, herself a fashionista/hoarder (if that last part is to be believed about defining herself), providing several meandering conversations about the nature of textiles (she was elated when I explained with diagram the different in woven and knit fabrics), astrology (as a Virgo, she explained their perfectionist nature and why she's so hard on herself) and about the variable conditions of earning your "adult badge," a phrase she praised me for.

It was by the enormous wine cooler that I shared a story about the songwriter responsible for "Up, Up and  Away" and "By the Time I Get To Phoenix" that had the guy grinning, saying, "I know those songs, but if half the people here heard them, they'd have no idea what you're talking about."

"I hate talking to young people now because they don't know anything," his wife said. She, on the other hand, was beyond thrilled when I told her Irish actor Richard Harris, a huge favorite of hers apparently, had a pop album, immediately suggesting to her husband that he make a mental note for a future gift.

You don't meet a lot of people who even know who Richard Harris is, much less claim to be devoted fans.

I saw a kid eat his first oyster and a young woman take one, look at it sloshing around in its brine, curl her lip and return it to the table. "I just can't do it," she said.

That's fine, honey, I can do it for you, thank you very much. Slurp.

The councilman challenged our little circle by asking about a movie that changed us. One woman said, "Jaws," although she wasn't entirely certain why.

I hesitated with mine and he asked if I'd ever seen "An Unmarried Woman."

Freaky because that had been the film that had popped into my head when he'd first asked the question, but it's an obscure one that I'd mistakenly assumed no one would know. Not to mention I'd seen it at least half a dozen times at the theater back in the '70s, young and dewy-eyed at its depiction of a liberated woman.

And not just because Alan Bates represented everything sexy and artsy about guys, either.

He said the movie had changed his perception of women. I said it had changed my perception of what was expected of women. The others in the group had never even heard of it.

Explaining how it had transformed the way he treated his wife (taking her off the pedestal and seeing her as a novel for that era), he was agog to hear of my serial viewings and that I had the soundtrack (on vinyl, natch, although probably worn down to a slinky after years of playing repeatedly).

But where I stopped the conversation cold was when a friend announced to general surprise that she wasn't on Facebook. I think the party actually stopped for a few seconds when I trumped her by saying I didn't have a cell phone.

"You are my new hero," the film fan intoned. "But how do you have a life?" Hmm, let's see, without all the interruptions of constant connectivity?

It's pretty great if you like living in the moment.

And in technology news, the classic mini-series "Roots" has been remade for the generations with so little attention span that their characters must be limited to 140 and their life validated by Instagram and Snapchat.

What this means for Roots 2.0 is faster pacing so viewers don't get bored and 30 whippings instead of the ten in the original because we have become so accustomed to violence that whipping a human being on camera for a mere ten times just doesn't resonate anymore.

That is the world that I don't need to be a part of. "You're not ordinary," a fellow language nerd writes.

I know and I've got the badge to prove it.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Kiss Them For Me

Apparently it arouses suspicion if I answer an email at 9:45 p.m.

I thought you were out and about every evening. Here it is Friday night and you're answering me. Don't you have a restaurant to review or a gallery opening to attend?

Don't get smart with me, mister. My hired mouth had already met a friend for dinner and I was at home long enough to change clothes and shoes before going to Balliceaux to see Psychic Mirrors, the Miami funk septet I'd so enjoyed dancing to three years ago there.

A greeting at the front door evolved into a philosophical discussion of the myriad benefits of music - intellectually, physiologically, emotionally, spiritually - with the door guy. We only dropped our meeting of the minds when a line began to form to get in.

But not much of a line. Nothing like the line waiting to get into the line to ride the elevator to Quirk's rooftop bar was when I walked to dinner. Or the line for the '90s dance party at the National when I came back. Or even the two-sided line at the club on Harrison, with cops attending both side, on my second time out.

But enough of a line that he went back to work and I headed towards the back.

"Siouxsie!" the booker says, gesturing at my hair. When I don't have a snappy comeback, he prods. "And the Banshees?" like I'm an idiot, which I sort of feel like.

Moving on, we reminisce about how much both of us had gotten off on this band's last show.

Everyone I talk to - the gallerist, the record store employee, the IT guy - is here because these guys are from Miami and we get so little Miami music. Also, they note, Miamians don't even start playing until midnight.

In the meantime, to warm us up DJs are spinning obscure disco records getting the crowd in the mood. It's an odd assortment of people of all ages and colors who have not gone away for the holiday weekend. A guy walks in and his t-shirt tells me we must talk.

Rap - lies = Hip hop

Is it really this simple, I ask. He insists it is, saying that hip hop is about a vocal styling focused on a more laid back lifestyle than rap, one that focuses on kicking it old school and enjoying yourself with good people, not negativity.

Another guy decides to chat me up, but between his West End address, techie job and stiff manner, we're striking out until he asks if I'd like to see a picture of his girlfriend. Sure, why not?

He pulls out a picture of a shiny, red 1972 MGB, fully restored. Instead of fawning over the good-looking car, I tell him I had a 1971 MGB GT and his jaw drops. "Then you have to come for a ride in my car."

From there, we're just two MG nerds, swooning over chokes and lamenting electrical problems. "You know they were all hand-built?" he asks. Do I?

Before he cuts out mid-set, he hands me a card with the Barnes & Noble info scratched out. On the reverse side, he's written, "John 495 8230 MY CARD." Seeing that he's written MY CARD on this card may be the funniest thing I've seen all day.

He scuttles back to the West End and a weekend, he said, of doing chores around the house. Happy Memorial Day.

Once the merch table was being set up, we knew the show couldn't be far behind and if you could have seen the satisfaction on Psychic Mirror's sound guy's face when he looked at the singer just as the other five began playing, you'd have seen a Cheshire cat grin. Balliceaux is a good-sounding room.

I am dancing before the first song reaches the halfway mark and so is the guy beside me.

A song ends. "That song sounded like Steely Dan, didn't it?" Guy Next to Me asks. True enough. Before the set was over, any number of bands had been cannabalized: The Clash (particularly "Rock the Casbah"), all kinds of Stevie Wonder, the Time, maybe a bit of Sheila E. some '80s R & B obscurities.

Endlessly changing influences, the band stays in a constant groove like a disco DJ would have done, leaving very little time to recoup between songs. Most shocking is that some people are actually rooted in place, not moving so much as a shoulder or foot.

The set lasts just over an hour, we scream for one more and they oblige with a "new" song that sounds like '50s do-wop, except done with synth, screaming guitar, bass, keyboard, drums and multiple vocalists, including a woman.

Coming back to Jackson Ward, I spot two students on Marshall Street, each with one end of a white scarf in both hands. Standing under a tree, they are waving the scarves alternately to create a ripple effect and giggling with delight at the results in the warm night air. At 1:30 a.m.

It's only late if you're not out and about.  Let's face it, no one would be the least bit surprised to get an email from me at this hour, now would they?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Up on the Roof

Okay, so I dipped my toe back into the birthday pond.

But in my own defense, it was way back on April 28 that the three of us had made these plans: celebrate my birthday by checking out Quirk's new rooftop bar.

We couldn't have known then that it would rain for the next four weeks and once the sun reappeared, there'd be a mass rush to the roof, resulting in a line to get in.

Waiting did give us the opportunity to catch up, which had been the original starting point for this evening anyway, while also doing a preliminary check of the people in line.

Is it wrong of me to say that the crowd looked like they were there for the selfies? How about they looked like they didn't live in the city and couldn't parallel park?

So, yes, there was some judging going on, but my friends hadn't even been to the inside bar much less the long-delayed rooftop dazzler, so we were committed to the experience.

Upstairs, we somehow scored three bar stools at the pastel-striped bar, mostly under the canopy, in record time.

Now, getting a drink was a different story. That took every bit of 20 minutes (water took closer to 30) and that's probably being kind. When a woman behind me finally got the bartender's attention, she ordered a double rather than risk another marathon wait.

Just so you know, she was ordering a vodka and Red Bull. 'Nuff said.

I was just glad our stool backs protected us from the encroaching newcomers desperate to get a cocktail (we marveled at the sheer size of the bottle of bitters) or glass of Rose (bottles of which Quirk must empty in record time) now that they'd made it to the promised land.

While I could talk about the crowd (dubbed "douchey" more than once, but noticeably more diverse than many bars) and overheard inanities (tardy orthodontist visits for the kid and essential chiropractor appointments for Mom), it was really the view that made it worthwhile to have made it up there.

Someone had told me that the building was one of the tallest in the area, a fact which was apparent as we moved around the crowded spaces to ogle landmarks and the neighborhood's fairly dense tree cover. The minarets of the Altria (nee Mosque), the Belgian Building at VUU and Ebenezer Baptist Church were all readily apparent but my house was completely invisible beneath the intense green canopy of trees.

Broad Street never looked so good, unfurling between stretches of treetops like a soft black ribbon, looking unhurried, almost empty and extending as far as the eye could see.

It was strange to look down on the Emrick Flats' roof patio (because I'd been on it) but also a kick to be almost eye level with the towers of the nearby Renaissance Building. And the timing of seeing a brilliant red sunset sinking into a building we couldn't identify made it feel like we'd intentionally come for the sky show.

The three of us continued to marvel at not knowing a single person (in the words of Butch Cassidy, "Who are those guys?") while checking out the herb gardens planted in metal washtubs, the lower, less-crowded deck and the non-stop hustle of the enormous staff in flowered shirts.

Given Quirk's proximity to my house, I'll look forward to the day that it's not the top new destination in the city and the "in" crowd moves on to the latest and greatest while I continue to admire the 'hood from above.

But eventually the girls and I need sustenance, resulting in a visit to a surprisingly hopping 821 Cafe where I walk in, a server hugs me and guesses that I'm there for black bean nachos. There are benefits to being a creature of habit, I suppose.

She directs us to the bar for fastest seating ("And you can look at how cute Garth is!") and once we've ordered (two usuals, one surprise), we begin the nit-picking process of choosing which roof photos taken by the youngest in our trio are acceptable to all.

Translation:  which have posting potential.

Laugh if you want, but I know this process well. With five sisters, we know to take a minimum of three dozen photos of the six of us to have any hope of producing one that flatters us all.

Far easier tonight when we only need to placate three women's egos and two of them are under 40.

For the record, there were at least half a dozen that captured us splendidly and plenty more that I'd have been fine with, but I also know that one advantage of age is acceptance.

That was apparent when we touched on the subject of plastic surgery (Blythe Danner's excellent face work launched the conversation), with both of them saying that when the time comes, they won't hesitate to have it done if they can afford it.

That's one palliative I haven't been able to get on board with, but really, how surprising is that given my other eccentricities?

If I'm going to earn each of these birthdays with daily experiences and marathon celebrations, I should have the happy face to prove it, right?

"At least you're still hot," my friend opines when I crack wise about my age.

Girlfriends, the best sort of free therapy.

Earth on Hell

Not for one second today did I celebrate my birthday. Doubters, take note.

Probably today's unlikeliest adventure involved walking to the Virginia Historical Society at 9:30, an hour at which I am usually still happily between the sheets, to catch the preview of their new traveling exhibition, "Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame."

When the laughter subsides, I'll continue.

While I may eschew athletic endeavor or spectating sports, I was raised in a decent football fanatic household - since 1963, my parents have had Redskins season tickets at the 50-yard line, ten rows back behind the Redskins' bench - so besides honestly being curious about the historical aspects of the blood sport, I actually understand the game.

I know, surprise, right?

Chock full of interesting artifacts and interactive screens and shoulder pads, the show is a dense look at the game, right down to a ledger showing the first time a player was paid for playing. So it's a little something for the history nerd and a lot of something for the sports buff.

And, frankly, it's also an ideal payback for all those women who dragged their main men to see the "Dressing Downton" exhibit some months back.

Come, ladies, and marvel at the size of a linebacker's arm or thigh (there are molds).

Leaving the Historical Society, I walked by the Department of Historical Resources next door and decide there's no time like the present to research the house I live in, especially having recently learned that the downstairs windows are not original.

Besides immediately learning that the date I'd been told was incorrect - the house was built in 1880, not 1876 - I started digging through files of newspaper clippings, correspondence and other official documents, only to find my house not only once served as a girls' home but also had an additional third story.

Call me Nancy Drew, but I plan to go back when I have more time to dig deeper.

The big news in the neighborhood is the opening of Antler and Fin in the old Broad at Belvidere and with a party there tonight, I strolled the two blocks to check out the renovation.

You can't imagine my delight in seeing a guy busily sweeping the parking lot behind the Antler, an area that is treated like a block-sized trash can by people coming and going from the Rite-Aid or 804 Convenience store. When I asked if he was doing it because of Antler, he said yes.

Even better, he'd seen a cop who said they'd been trying to clean up the area with Antler & Fin moving in, hardly a surprise since the area used to be far better looked after when the B at B was there.

I'm just happy to hear J-Ward is back on their radar.

The renovated space looks completely different because the heavy shades that blocked the view of Broad Street are gone and late afternoon light pours in now in a way that never happened before. Prints of different fish types are framed on the wall along with antlers and even an antler chandelier. A living wall near the front window and a white grid with planters hanging from it on the side wall make for a groovy feel.

But the smartest thing they did was remove the back of the front booth to open up that row of dark, boxy booths and replace the tables with lighter wood tables.

None of the food being served - phyllo with wild boar or pulled pig, rillettes, smoked duck wings - appeared on the menu I saw, so that wasn't the point, not that that stopped me from eating it.

Familiar faces - a neighbor couple, a favorite drummer, the facilitator not in charge for a change, the PR beard - lined the bar and before long I'd met the commercial real estate agent whose name I've known for years and a tall man whose height means he never has problems ordering at a bar (except a Democratic one, according to him). Next thing I knew, a beer geek and a workaholic friend walked in to join the party.

The conversation turned out to be good, so I wound up staying far longer than I'd anticipated. Apparently I was the only one with the knowledge of who used to make those insanely good biscuits at Monument Coffee, a place everyone lamented losing.

And one by one, we scattered to the winds.

From one end of Jackson Ward to the other, my last stop was the Basement for "A Life Behind Bars," part of Theatre LAB's Cellar series in cahoots with Women's Mercury, written and performed by Dan Ruth, a VCU grad who moved to NYC in 1993, only to return (as they all seem to do).

The difference was that Dan had turned his years cleaning up customers' bodily fluids and picking up strangers ("What, none of you frisk your street trash?") into this compelling piece of theater.

Although I scored the full body hug from The Man About Town, the woman behind him must have taken an instant dislike to me because when I asked if the seat next to her was taken, she said, "I don't know," but moved immediately when I sat in it.

The women on my other side, however, were not only friendly but hugely enthusiastic about seeing Dan whom they'd seen ages ago and been "electrified" by (her words).

From the get-go, the show was compelling because years of bartending and being an alcoholic provided rich fodder for hilarity and piteousness once actor/writer Ruth decided to share (and get cleaned up). But it was also a poignant look at the Big Apple, both pre- and post - September 11th, with an emphasis on Brooklyn, Hell's Kitchen ("I'm here to get you loaded, not fix your life" he tells millennials) and kitchens with bathtubs.

"We were the last generation who knew how to bartend without a phone in our face." Only a 50-year old can say this.

He was especially funny ruminating on the changes in Richmond since he last lived here, marveling at the growth of VCU's footprint. "I"m going to try to finish the show before VCU tears down TheatreLAB and builds another dorm."

Another place he excelled was at impressions - drunk, old Jewish ladies, a skater punk kid, an entitled Manhattan millennial - effectively becoming the people he mocks, demonstrating particular skill at bringing to life the city health inspector he despises.

Of course the stories get pretty fierce once he descends into full-blown alcoholism, but the show ends with him announcing a decade of sobriety and a new lease on life (not to mention a solid piece of theater).

That had already become clear when he'd held up a photo of himself just before he went into detox, a disturbing shot of a man so far down the rabbit hole of alcoholism as to be oblivious to absolutely everything else.

A man who might, like me, celebrate his birthday for week, but would hurt more for it and likely wouldn't recall any of it.

Pity, because it's so much fun retelling the good stuff. It's like doing it all over again without any of the effort. And, believe me, birthday weeks take effort.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Dont Tell Me What the Poets are Doing

Wear sunscreen.

Twice over my birthday weekend, I heard that cheesy Baz Luhrman spoken word piece written as a mock graduation speech and played ad nauseum during its heyday. You know, the one written from the viewpoint of an older woman who's fairly sure she's figured a few things out.

Of all the unlikely birthday happenings - and there were several - one had to be the hour spent talking to my aunt/godmother, a woman I rarely see but with whom I share a passion for theater, ballet and the like. At 70-something, she has season tickets to the opera for the first time in her life. That fascinates me, that she's still trying new things.

I hear about the feminist meetings she went to when she was a young woman working at the World Bank on early computers and how strident she found some of the organizers. How even though she never had children, she's appalled at the parenting she sees today. How she resented being picked up from school and missing a school play because I was being born and my Grandfather wanted company at home.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded.

On the other hand, you will never be younger than you are today, so why not smile when the phones come out for birthday pictures? Although we're still tallying up the results, birthday photos appear to have been taken at Metzger, Nota Bene, L'Opossum, Acacia and Lucca. Only Garnett's was spared.

So. Much. Documentation. ("At least I'm not Instagramming it!" one photographer says).

The tasting menu and wine pairings at Acacia made for a beautifully leisurely meal with exquisite bites -white anchovies over radicchio, skate wing, venison over farro, melon soup, tuna tartare, calamari with curry - following sublime sips (thoughtfully chosen, as with Newton Cabernet Sauvignon or delightfully different as with Kesselstatt Riesling tasting of lime and stone fruit), set to a soundtrack that included Chaka Khan and Barry White.

Came home to a friend's message improvising a song about my extended birthday celebrating, a tuneful message that uses up every second of the recording mocking me.


I do, every day, before I go out to have my evening adventure, having taken up the habit when I read that doing so could add six years to my life. Do you know how much fun I could have in those six years? When I told a friend this is why I took up flossing, she responds, "Of course it is."

We managed to close down Acacia, with Robinson Street long since having rolled up the sidewalks, me clutching three itineraries in my hand. How to choose?

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or what other people think of it.

After a sunny lunch at Garnett's with an old radio friend who insists on double chocolate chess pie to celebrate, I go into full birthday girl mode, meaning I had a massage (hella good birthday gift) and then went to Victoria's Secret to buy bras, including a purple one that fellow Gemini Prince would have given the thumbs' up to.

For that matter, as I got ready to go out tonight I listened to the radio playing all Dylan and Dylan covers in tribute to my fellow Gemini's 75th birthday today.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few, you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

That would be Leo and Bonnie, she another fellow Gemini. I love when you two remind me how little and how much I have changed.

Tonight's social companion is another fellow Gemini and when she comes to pick me up, I suggest we walk. My jaw drops when she tells me she's worn cute shoes and prefers to drive. Not ten minutes earlier, I'd chosen sensible shoes over cute, just about certain she'd show up ready to hit the pavement.

"Go put on your cute shoes," she directs me and I do.

Whether anyone at Lucca notices or not is debatable, but the feast we enjoy constitutes all the food - Maryland and Newfoundland oysters, an octopus and potato salad that could inspire poetry, clams in green garlic sauce, mushroom and Gruyere risotto, charcuterie and cheese, roasted calamari with fresh garbanzo beans and mushrooms - leaves us so full that even our shoes feel a tad tight on our feet.

Then I remember my mother's rule that everyone has a corner in their stomach for dessert, so we gorge on chocolate hazelnut crostada and panna cotta.


And travel to romantic places while you still have a romantic bone left in your body. Like Dublin...or Vienna, Prague and Budapest...or Paris and the Loire. But definitely travel, and not with hot rollers or there will be ultimatums.

Advice is a form of nostalgia.

Power and beauty fade, albeit a bit more slowly with judicious use of sunscreen, but birthdays are forever. Or at least a solid week or so.

Monday, May 23, 2016

A Voice of Reason

We've been through a lot together, and most of it was your fault
~wording on birthday gift (box of out-sized matches)

I hear this a lot, but that stuff wasn't my fault, just a byproduct of, you know, having fun.

Besides, birthdays aren't a sprint, they're a marathon.

They're an opportunity to discuss the Oxford comma, which happened at Metzger while drinking Anton Bauer Zweigelt Rose, eating a cheese plate and a charcuterie plate and listening to vintage soul thanks to a Taurus also obsessed with my favorite New Jersey DJ.

For the birthday girl who grew up in Maryland, the fried softshell crab was a decided highlight.

Sitting five abreast, from the farthest bar stool I overhear, "He's talking about putting tse-tse fly sauce on his sub," and wonder how my friend can be so far along when it's only our first stop.

Oh please, do go on! I could listen to you talk about your blog all night!
~ front of birthday card showing couple deep in discussion

Prom kids commandeered a long table behind us at Nota Bene, where we wound our five-top around the corner of the bar - and I learned that the bartender's prom date 20 years ago had been named Nikki LaRoqua and that she measured up to her name - for ease in hearing each other blather.

Words fell short when a steady stream of food began showing up, a lot of it off the specials board: two bowls of braised fennel with capers and tomato, two more of sugartoads with bagna caude and lots of bread to soak up its buttery, garlicy goodness, pizza of Tellegio and onions, the same roasted cauliflower with lemon, olive oil, capers and fresno chilies I'd fallen hard for just over a week ago and a big bowl of clams and fennel.

People think I'm bossy, too."
~ caption on birthday card image of Ghengis Khan talking to dark-haired woman with glass of pink bubbles in front of her

There was spirited discussion of the difference between a harlot and a strumpet, with the consolation "harlot" t-shirt going to Pru.

Lights were dim but the restaurant was still packed when we arrived at L'Opossum for our final course. Inquiring about the nature of the black bottom, our server summed it up by saying, "It's a circle of life in a chocolate cupcake."

Perhaps not everyone could glean her meaning from that, but I could.

With disco alternating with k.d. lange crooning cover songs, we had three of them, mine with a lit candle, plus creme brulee, fiery chocolate and foie gras bread pudding. I sipped glasses of Cocchi Barolo Chinato while others savored plastic-wrapped Laura Palmers.

Holmes ordered a Glen Moray and our server asked if he wanted it over a  Death Star. He did, allowing us all to marvel over the globe-shaped ice.

It takes a long time to become young.
~ Picasso, but handwritten inside one of my birthday cards

For the second year in a row, we closed down L'Opossum in service of celebrating my birthday.

Today began with a birthday gift being delivered (on Sunday, no less) before motoring through the mist to Upper Shirley Vineyards for lunch. I hadn't expected the place to be so large, but both the packed parking lot and capacity dining room prove that the word was out.

I'll tell you this much: it appears to be the place for ladies who lunch (eat? trash talk?) in the East End. Lots of bling, lots of all-female tables, lots of shrill conversation bouncing off hard walls.

Addressing the Southern half of my heritage with practically perfect ham biscuits sweet with pepper jelly eaten on the couch for lack of a free space, followed by a move to a table of our own, shrimp and avocado salad and then fried chicken and waffles, we saved the wine tasting for afterward in lieu of dessert.

I am too lucky to have you as a girlfriend, companion, confidante, soul sister, advisory. partner-in-crime and voice of reason when I need one.~ sentiment written inside a birthday card

How hilarious is it to hear me referred to as a voice of reason? I'll take it with a grain of salt.

The Tannat was the most arresting of the bunch but it was glasses of Rose we took first to the big porch to get a view of the river, where it was too chilly and damp for the birthday girl before moving back to the couch and eventually to the city for a double hot fudge sundae at Bev's and at Secco, a bottle of Can Xa Brut Rose because birthdays.

A quick stop at En Su Boca made birthday nachos my reality and I finally got to see "Barbershop: The Next Cut," a film I'd gone to see weeks ago only to find it sold out.

Funny and not funny, relevant without being strident, with talking points that come across like an overdue rap session, it's the kind of film that makes you realize that white people don't see nearly enough black movies.

Shakedown 1981 during the scene when the entire barbershop breaks into dance at the first notes ("Can't fool myself...") of Luther Vandross' "Never Too Much" and I immediately flash back to a Christmas party that year when the exact same thing happened, albeit not as rhythmically since we were white.

And can we just have a moment for how good looking - body and face - Common is? It's too bad about that time I didn't get in to see him at the Pit. Needless to say, I also have new respect for Nicki Minaj's bountiful booty. Truly, a masterpiece of human engineering.

And wear some jeans for chrissakes.
~ sentiment written inside a birthday card

I might if I had that kind of booty.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Seagreen Serenades

This weekend, it's Jackson Ward, not Ashland, that's the center of the universe.

So after wandering through "Celebrate Jackson Ward: Past, Present and Future" at Abner Clay Park for a bit, I headed up Adams, looking for a slice before a show. A guy in round-framed glasses sat on the railing of his porch playing an accordion against his bottle green shirt, one leg crossed over the other.

What, your neighborhood doesn't have serenading accordionists?

On Broad, I saw a guy approaching half a block away from Tarrant's with a full bucket of ice, headed toward Max's. What a method, I commented sarcastically. "Yea, right?" he asked rhetorically.

A sleek stretch limo took up all the real estate in front of Tarrant's and a guy in a silver tux posed next to a girl in a lavender gown outside the restaurant. I continue to the back door where, while waiting for pizza, two women came in looking for the sit-down Tarrant's.

Go down the block and make a left at the prom kids, I instructed them. Full service awaits you. The young bucks behind the counter found this hilarious.

Once I'd scored my dinner, I walked it up the alley and over a block to the wooden steps behind the Renaissance Building. My view included blue sky and the two arched towers of the Jefferson while being entertained by snippets of conversation from passers-by.

A sextet of West End-looking young millennials (a distinction I've learned matters to older millennials) passed by, with one woman saying, "When you grow up in the suburbs, you never even think about the city. Then you grow up and find out it's a big city." Cue enthusiastic chatter about how cool Richmond is.

As I munched my pie, clutches of prom-goers appeared in the parking lot headed to their cars post-dinner, pre-prom. All of a sudden a girl in a blue gown ran by in flat sandals at top speed, a boy's green jacket flapping on her shoulders.

The second time she sprinted by, the hem of her gown clutched in one hand, I opened my mouth and out came a comment about all her running. "Yea, I run track," she said without breaking stride or even breathing hard.

Yes, but in a long dress?

A crowd had already begun to gather at Gallery 5 when I arrived and was asked if I'd pre-ordered a ticket, which I had, but the printed list of ticket buyers was not in alphabetic order. "And with 107 tickets pre-sold, it's a pain," the girl said, scanning for my name.

Behind her, a sign clearly laid out the band schedule and stated that the capacity was 150 and not a person over. Good luck to the remaining 43 is all I can say.

I was delighted to run into a favorite older millennial who now lives in Forest Hill and is counting the days until WPA Bakery opens. It was the second time in five days I'd run into the dulcitar player but tonight there was time to actually catch up with him on all fronts: work, love life and music. The scooter queen and entourage showed up, along with a smattering of WRIR DJs.

You could definitely say the older hipster crowd was representing again, no surprise really given that electronic pioneer Silver Apples - formed in 1967, for heavens' sake - was headlining.

Before the big guns we got two hits of Richmond electronica, first Jon Hawkins of Navi, performing with bass and drums as trio Thumper and then the ultra-groovy psych folk vibes of Father Sunflower and the Golden Rays. Guitarist Christian's epic beard and breast-length hair made for a mountain man look while Stephanie channeled Janis in fringed suede boots and rose-colored glasses.

But flute and tambourine player Sara took top prize with her orange, white and blue paisley maxi-dress which (naturally) tied in the back. Their effects-laden set was full of good vibrations.

During the break, my friend shared that he'd been given a Silver Apples CD a decade ago by a musician who thought he should know about the band. He'd been blown away. I admitted that my first exposure had been when I'd gotten the invitation to the show.

This much I knew: drummer Danny died in 205, leaving Simeon to play his homemade synthesizers and sing as Silver Apples. He walked out wearing a black cowboy hat, a wide silver cuff necklace and a black t-shirt, ready to prove that the electronica world owes much to this 76-year old.

I'm honestly not sure how anyone could not move to the music he was making.

I don't even know what was on the table, but what all the playing and knob-turning resulted in was sixties psychedelia filtered through a club beat and Simeon grinned with obvious delight after finishing each song to applause and enthusiastic shouting.

He's having such a great time, I told my friend. "That makes it even better!" he enthused.

Simeon didn't just push buttons and turn things, he did it all with high drama, freezing into a pose for a second or two before changing a sound, reacting as if electrified when hitting something, throwing his head back to mimic a sound.

At one point, he pressed something and what sounded like a ship signal filled the room. Whatever this primitive sound-making machine was, it had a hell of a lot of personality.

But so did Simeon and as my friend pointed out, his enthusiasm could be seen as a reminder of the importance of doing what you love.

Even better methinks if you can do it right here in J-Ward.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Not If You Were the Last Librarian on Earth

It was a night for helplessly hoping, but then aren't they all?

A friend called while I was out, his words barely audible over the Crosby, Stills and Nash box set that's booming in the background. When I return the call, he brings me halfway up to speed on the Nash/Crosby fuel I didn't even know was happening.

Google it, he says, suggesting the 21st century answer to everything.

Walking in to see the 2004 Sundance Festival Documentary Grand Jury Prize winner, the booker looks at me and says, "What're you doing here? I thought I banned you." He's kidding, of course, and we move on to movies that should be shown in public places, with him suggesting "Harold and Maude" and "Being There," two of his favorites

As a fan of strangers and the dark, I assure him I'd attend both.

A friend suggests we meet up and do something fun, something I enjoy. When I tell him I enjoy dancing on a concrete floor for three to four hours watching bands exactly like I did last night but question his interest in doing the same, he comes clean.

"I guess it would depend on the show but, yes, standing 3-4 hours would require me to make a real commitment."

To what, I wonder, having a good time?

"Happy birthday!" a friend messages me. I remind him it's Monday but allow as how he's probably too busy smooching his new squeeze to notice such details.

"I thought I put it in my calendar last year, but no," he writes. "I have missed you this week, even with my new hectic schedule of thinking about her all the time."

I would never find fault with a man who can't stop mooning over his love.

As the film is about to start, a friend tells me his story of seeing "Dig!" in Holland over a decade ago. "We watched part of the movie, then they announced it was intermission and to go get beer." Sounds like a perfectly reasonable request.

"I got curry," he said, still sounding surprised at the idea of intermission curry. "And high."

Well, it was Holland.

The best pre and post-film discussion came from a 29-year old who sat down near me and immediately asked if I'd seen the film before. I hadn't but he had years ago and he was eager to see if his impressions of it had changed since that first viewing.

What struck me about our in-depth conversation on the subject was how much he identified with the '90s ("I'm mildly obsessed with that era"), despite having been born near the end of the '80s (what he referred to as "the plastic era").

"I can't understand how a band like Matchbox 20 were ever big," he mused. None of us could, friend. I have to say, I can't recall the last time a stranger wanted to discuss Sugar Ray, Third Eye Blind and Tonic with me.

More to the heart of the movie, afterwards we discussed whether the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols truly mattered musically. When I got up to leave, another familiar face wanted to chat about the same thing. Was either band talented? On the way out, a third brought it up.

Now that's a provocative film.

Today a friend sent me a birthday present, a t-shirt which reads, "I'm a librarian. That means I live in a crazy fantasy world with unrealistic expectations. Thank you for understanding."

Not that I'm complaining about a gift, but far better if instead of "librarian," it said, "I'm a reader" or even "I'm a Gemini," so the first statement would be as true as the second.

I want to be perfectly clear on my commitment to unrealistic expectations.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

So Here We Are/Positive Tension

Every evening should end with a man making the heart sign with his hands at me.

Part of my annual birthday celebration involves a designated birthday show (as opposed to any other live music I happen to catch during the festivities), but what are the chances I'd run into the same two guys I'd met at last year's birthday show?

Both at the National, then it had been Psychedelic Furs and tonight it was Bloc Party - a band I coincidentally saw ten years ago in June at Constitution Hall in D.C. - but the guys were the same, as was the spot where we reconnected: in front of the sound booth. Small world.

The band Oscar was fronted by a baritone Brit named Oscar who wore a knee-length dressing gown with red embellishment on the sides and a giant image of Mickey Mouse on the back over jeans and a t-shirt. Walking in mid-song, I nudged the guy next to me to ask if it was the first song.

"No, it's the third, but they're good!" he enthused, although I knew from the first two minutes of listening how good they were. I'd made a point to be there in time to catch Oscar.

Smart words, poppy lyrics and just the right amount of young man swagger made for an ideal start to my birthday show.

"I got all excited cause I thought Missy Elliott was from here," Oscar said. "She's not, though, she's from Norfolk." The audience begged to differ. "Portsmouth!" several people hollered.

Oscar shook his head. "Norfolk, Portsmouth, Richmond, you do know those were all English before you stole them?" I knew, but I can't vouch for the rest of the crowd. Hell, I was surprised at how many had the badge of youth, a telltale "X," on their hands.

Practically every song was dance-worthy, but "Daffodil Days" was one of those practically perfect ones that marries sunny 60s-sounding pop filtered through strong bass lines, occasional synths and '80s guitars.

Be still, my Aqua Net heart.

"Are you excited about seeing Bloc Party and the Vaccines?" Oscar asked the room. "We're here to. Warm. You. Up." Part blase, part sarcastic, Oscar's attitude was as colorful as his kimono and he'd already made me a fan.

After their set, the guys next to me needed clarification. They'd misidentified Oscar as the Vaccines because they'd never heard of either one and apparently have no access to the Interwebs to research such things.

From what I'd heard of the Vaccines' music over the past few years, I knew it was well-executed and incredibly catchy, but seeing lead singer Justin's bigger than life dramatics onstage - pointing at people in the crowd, dropping to his knees to sing from the floor, hands over his eyes for effect - only upped the ante.

Well, what did you expect from the Vaccines?

The chords of slow burner "Dream Lover" got the full effect with the fog machine, providing eye candy for those of us without slow dance partners, while the clever lyrics of "Bad Mood" ("Oh, am I not as thoughtful as you thought I'd be?") got points from the language geeks.

Part of the pleasure of Britpop is the Brit boys singing it and Justin was no exception. After multiple leans, one foot atop his monitor as his body arched out to the crowd, he showed himself to be a bit of a fop by tucking in his shirt, then blousing it out just a bit and adjusting his pants.

There! His look was complete again.

Naturally the crowd went bonkers for "Post Break-Up Sex" and "If You Wanna" off their first album in 2011, but really, between his theatricality, how tight they were and the catchiest of songs, their entire set was strong.

"So which band was that?" the guy next to me inquires after their set. I thought we'd covered this, but I needed him to guard my spot while I went to the loo, so I had to be nice.

When we got to chatting about Bloc Party, I was surprised to hear that while he loved the band's new album "Hymns," he had never heard any of the old stuff. I, on the other hand, have 2005's "Silent Alarm" and 2007's "A Weekend in the City" and don't know any material from 2012 on.

Together, we made one complete Bloc Party fan. Where I had the advantage was in knowing singer Kele's distinctive accent wherein all "th" sounds become "f."

"Fanks for coming out!' he calls. "It's always fun to get to see real America!"

So while I'd go crazy for "Banquet" ("A heart of stone, a smoking gun, I'm working it out"), he'd get excited about "Different Drugs" ("You're standing in the doorway with a look I used to know") from the new record.

I have to admit, I'd forgotten how shot through with post-punk revival guitar work their sound was, but that is in no way a complaint. Every guitar geek around me went nuts for the solos.

All three of us agreed that the turnout was far better than we'd anticipated for a Wednesday evening, the only problem being the late arriving trio who planted roots directly in front of us.

The couple was all hands while the long-suffering friend kept her gaze fixed forward, at least until they suggested leaving and she got furious. They wound up staying for two more songs before the girl stalked out. The funny part was that the couple didn't immediately leave, pausing to suck face hard for a couple of minutes before following what was presumably their ride.

"Peace out, Richmond!" Kele called to end my birthday show and a stellar evening of Britpop.

Walking out through the crowd, I spotted Oscar at his merch table alone. Sliding over, I told him that while I'd seen Bloc Party before and thoroughly enjoyed the Vaccines perky take on '80s pop, his was the performance that made my night.

And that, my friends, is how you get a man to make a heart of his hands and direct it at you.

Fair warning, though: I'm not entirely sure, but it may only work on British men or at your birthday show.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Auntie Gin Would Approve

Dig, if you will, my first pre-birthday get-together.

My friend dubbed it the same for him, mocking me with his December birthday. Mine's next week, yet some people try to make it sound like I milk it by getting a slight early start.

I'm just not sure why this is frowned upon.

In any case, we weren't actually meeting to fete me. A friend was in from out of town, so I was invited to be the fourth - I'm also quite good at being the third or fifth when asked - at dinner, a role at which I excel.

At the opening pow-wow, we decided on Rowland.

Unless you live in the neighborhood, it's easy to forget about Rowland's understated but reliable charm and on a drizzly Spring evening, it was completely welcoming with low lighting, Hopper-esque people at tables and bar and a soundtrack that swung from Marshall Tucker Band to vintage soul.

Rowland, it's been too long, and if you want to know precisely how long, just ask the owners, who informed us exactly how long it had been since each of us had last been in.

I've heard some mothers think it's good to start a meal with guilt.

And impeccable taste. Because where else are you going to get a chilled salad fork except Rowland? Take your time, I'll wait for your answer over here.

The manly one was eager to try the special of softshell crab over corn pudding, but it was when the visitor ordered the Joe chop, a bone-in beauty, that the lovelier of the two owners expressed disappointment. One of her frustrations as chef is that her regulars so often order the exact same dish while she longs for them to branch out.

So you can imagine when a customer who hasn't been in for years still orders her usual that there may be some chef eye-rolling, albeit while acknowledging that the customer is always right. Boring, perhaps, but right.

I got no such look because I ordered the lamb sliders with curry yogurt beside four massive yucca frites riding shotgun, a dish I'd never laid eyes on. Just don't tell her I'd happily eat them again.

On the subject of years passing quickly, a man refers to a couple's trip as having happened "a couple years ago," but the woman quickly reminds him that it was, in fact, six years ago.

In no universe does six equal a couple of anything.

Case in point: I have five sisters and at no point in my life did anyone ever refer to the six of us that way. A brood, yes. A budding sports team, sure. A couple? Nope.

This turns out to be an excellent jumping off point for a discussion of the discrepancy in how men and women perceive time, how I can have a female friend who thinks a proposal is overdue while her hapless boyfriend is still adjusting to the fact that he's now in a real relationship.

Time discrepancies.

It's some time during the chocolate chess pie and ice cream that a Beatles geek-fest begins between two Fab Four obsessives who not only sing the words but the horn parts on "When I'm 64" and debate whether or not it's possible that a young rapper could have absolutely no idea what Paul McCartney looked like, much less who he was.

Or maybe the rapper just didn't want an old guy at his party.

It seemed prudent to point out that someone at our table would not only not recognize Sir Paul, but would most certainly not let him into her party. She confirmed it, looking up his picture on her phone for reference.

Pshaw, I'm not so choosy. If someone wants to celebrate my birthday with me, chances are I'll let 'em in.

Those Beatles fanatics would've loved that one.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Drive It Like You Stole It

No one wants to be Debbie Downer. It gives me no pleasure to find a restaurant disappointing.

Just about everyone who finds out that I write restaurant reviews as part of earning my living as a freelance writer expresses some level of envy, whether about the exposure to the newest spots, the underwriting of meals out or even the questionable role of being an arbiter of taste.

But the truth is, there are times when I go out to eat at a new place and over the course of that one meal, I realize if I weren't being reimbursed, I'd have absolutely no need to return. The problem is that I would never be so cavalier as to review a restaurant based on one visit.

So I return, not just once but twice, so that I can have an informed opinion after a total of three visits. And still sometimes, there just isn't a lot positive to say.

That's when I try to go into humor mode, so at least my review can be a good read of a bad place.

So when my latest review, here, made it clear that I'd been underwhelmed, I braced for a backlash and instead was rewarded with the opposite.

This review is beyond any doubt the most entertaining I've ever seen in Style. Thank you!

No, thank you for getting my humor.

Best restaurant reviewer in town. Always a great pleasure to read. Thank you.

Somebody gets my writing, so this is all kinds of affirming.

Ripped. To. Shreds.

That's a succinct summary, but it makes it sound like I didn't have a single kind word, which I did. The guacamole and tequila were delicious. Period.

But dining out so much also means I have plenty of experience when it comes to picking where I want to eat.

That means when a social companion suggests lunch, I politely ask if they have any preference where, only to be hit with options such as Casa del Barco, Third Street Diner or Bottoms Up, none of which will do and if you'd like to know why not, please ask.

Others wisely defer to my choices, asking simply what place and time and I mull and make a suggestion.

Today's bright idea was My Noodle & Bar, perched in the "treehouse" booth and with a stellar soundtrack of dream pop, except once when a '20's Tin Pan Alley song showed up in the mix and jarred the entire restaurant out of its reverb reverie.

When I immediately questioned our server on this musical gaffe, the woman at the booth next door said an emphatic, "Thank you!" to me because she'd had the same reaction to the shift in musical direction. Don't mess with guitar effects and synths when there are fans in the room.

It was a gorgeous day to be in the "treehouse," with the restaurant's front doors open wide, sunlight streaming down the dragon-painted steps and neither of us on a schedule.

Being the least ladylike eater on the planet, I cleaned my plate of chicken and broccoli with carrots and black beans in brown sauce while my friend and fellow avid reader barely finished half his sesame chicken and required a box.

I could say there's no shame in a hearty appetite, but it was likely the six-mile walk that proceeded lunch that ramped up my appetite. For that matter, when you're going to chat for four hours, a fair amount of sustenance will likely be involved, no?

Walking home afterwards, I run into a J-Ward neighbor and a gallery curator I know. As we approach high Gemini season, I'm discovering I know far more other Geminis than I realized.

One of the best comments on the subject came courtesy of a sunny Gemini who wasn't happy to hear of other people's negative take on our multi-faceted personas, saying, "I think most Geminis use their powers for good."

Realizing the power we wield, I know I try to.

I also try to see all of Irish director John Carney's movies - I saw "Once" in Philly and then got in the car to drive home, ruminating on it for the entire trip - which tonight meant seeing "Sing Street" at Criterion with a crowd of seven people.

The audience was so sparse that when the screen reminder to turn off your cell phone came on, the man behind me joked to his wife, "I'm turning it off even though we're the only people in here."

Turning around in my seat, I asked him what was I, chopped liver, a comment he found hilarious.

Set in the '80s, the movie told the story of nothing more than a boy named Cosmo who starts a band during the MTV era to win a girl (that old chestnut). The distinct pleasure in it was both the inclusion of period music (A-ha, Duran Duran, Hall and Oates) but also music newly written to sound like that period some of us know so well.

Naturally, the band's outfits and make-up follow whatever band is in their sites at the moment.

And the music humor is delicious. The Cure's music is explained as happy/sad music and that's as apt a description of any I've heard since fans began obsessing over it three decades ago.

When older brother Brendan learns that Raphina, the object of his little brother's affection, has a boyfriend who listens to Phil Collins, he assures his brother that the boyfriend won't be a problem.

"No woman can truly love a man who listens to Phil Collins," he advises. Chances are, she'll have a hard time with a man who wants to eat at Third Street Diner or Casa del Barco, too.

No amount of Gemini powers can right some wrongs.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Yours in Acceptable Humor

We're pretty sure it's not about you. You're cool. ~ a musician friend, referring to Dadmobile's new hit single, "Caring Ain't Cool."

Wordplay, like the lobster and leek quiche I had during a late lunch at Can Can earlier, is simply irresistible.

My only walk of the day took me to Balliceaux for Classical Incarnations' latest installment, "Night of the Living Composers," some of whom played their own music, some who interpreted others' and one who suggested we download an app so that we could contribute sounds to his composition.

Even some of those with devices, like my social companion, opted out of going the app route and instead, like me, just experienced the piece as pure audience.

Looking dapper, Walter Braxton performed the fourth movement from his Dance Suite, a piece that took him nine years to write. Tonight his opus was having its world premiere to a packed house.

An earnest-looking guy named Niccolo improvised on a medieval fiddle played viola de gamba-style and French horn player Kristen played Tonia Ko's piece, "Glass Echoes," tied into sexual assault issues, but also proceeded by a customer dropping a drink, making for the sound of breaking glass.

Robert's "Meditations" were notable for their restraint, for the lack of music played by harp, viola, cello and flute in many sections. The funny part was that such a minimalist composition was also accompanied by the noise of a kitchen cleaning up and closing down, sounds that were particularly obvious during so many quieter moments.

Dressed in a diaphanous black crop top and pants, vocalist Nicole looked fabulous, so I took the opportunity to compliment her ensemble, especially how she'd mixed decades with the genie-like disco outfit over stiletto pumps, a completely un-1970s shoe style.

"Really? I didn't know," she gushed. "My boyfriend's mother gave me the shoes." Not period appropriate, but then, isn't it the beauty of today that a stylish person can draw from multiple decades, much the way musicians can for a final product that is an all-encompassing pastiche rather than an imitation?

Yet another mash-up was a woman who used her computer to draw - which we could see on the wall behind her - while a music clip played of her reading a spoken word piece written in middle school about trying to figure out her truth as an artist and person.

Never in my life could I have conceived of such a thing, much less executed it in front of a crowd. Yet people think I'm cool?

I'm pretty sure it's as easy as being there for a Sunday night show of living composers that's fooled people into singing my praises.

Next up: dynamic, highly intelligent, refreshing. Why not shoot for the whole enchilada?

Sunday, May 15, 2016

And You Will Know Me By the Trail of Pink Skirt

As a child, I scored in the 99th percentile for map-reading. Maps made sense to me.

My Dad doesn't hesitate to draw impromptu maps to explain his unlikely back road routes (his map from their house to Reedville was epic) and there was a time when people drew maps for strangers who were lost.

Still is. An Ashland native named Kenneth was kind enough to draw a map to get me from the Shell station where we stood this afternoon to Center of the Universe Brewery.

I laughed off his first suggestion to hop on the highway to the next exit, explaining that I'd driven up from Richmond on 301 and had no intention of now joining the madness that is I-95 even for one exit.

"Calm down," he says, misunderstanding my avoidance of the soul-sucking highway. "We'll get you there so you can have your beer." I explain that I don't drink beer, that I'm headed there for the Pickled and Fermented Festival. One eyebrow goes up.

Without overtly judging me, Kenneth proceeds to explain how to get there, expecting me to parrot it back after each new turn is revealed. I'm doing fine at repeating each step but it's not enough.

"Are you sure you're going to remember all this?" he asks suspiciously, as if he's wasted time giving directions to other lost souls only to find them lost again later. No, I've got this, I tell him.

"I'm going to draw you a map," he says decisively, pulling a small six-ring notebook and pen from his pocket and once again explaining the route, only this time as he draws it, ending with an "X" marking the spot of the brewery.

Tearing it from the book, he hands it over smiling, saying, "Enjoy your pickles!"

After paying a sampling fee and getting both my hands stamped with a tiny green pickle (the guy next to me wonders, "How come you got two pickles and I got one?"), it's time to sample.

I fell in love with bread and butter pickles as a child when Mabel, my favorite grandmother's best friend, made them every year and today was an opportunity to indulge that craving, along with bites of dill pickles, sweet pickles (some so delicately pickled the the flavor of the cucumber still shone through), pickled mixed vegetables, chow chow, pickled ramps, kimchee, Sriracha-pickled carrots, pickled watermelon, you name it.

My social companion liked them all.

Because this is the first year of the festival, it was not only perfectly civilized with small numbers of people but quite pleasant on a breezy, sunny day with occasional low-flying planes casting the rare shadow. My only complaint was that, unlike Dayum This is My Jam, more booths didn't offer a palate-cleanser such as oyster crackers to tamp down one heat or flavor before trying another.

I stayed, sampling and chatting with the Ashland musician about not losing sight of who you are at your core until big black clouds rolled in around 4:00, secure in the knowledge that my gut was sufficiently healthy after ingesting so much fermentation.

No insult to Kenneth, but I couldn't read his map in reverse, which is how I somehow managed to take Ashcake Road to Staples Mill Road as rain began to pour down, eventually winding my way back circuitously. Since I had nothing better to do, I just enjoyed the ride.

No map was required to get to Chop Suey Books for a poetry reading with Mac, although we did start upstairs at Madame Zoe's, an installation by artists Noah Scalin and Thea Duskin recreating the home of the psychic adviser who lived on Southside and was mentioned in author Tom Robbins' "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues."

The rooms posed so many questions - the red yarn connecting things, the writing on the wall, all those pills - that I'll need to go back when someone is on duty at Madame Zoe's so I can get the full story.

It's fascinating seeing a room where I've selected Christmas presents (Bizarre Market), sipped moonshine (book reading) and bought art (Donald Schrader's "Dancers Around the Record Player") transformed into a tarot card reader's boudoir.

More performance art followed downstairs with alternating poems read by former UVA buddies Amy Woolard (leading a double life as a lawyer and a poet) and Heather Derr-Smith who is terribly excited about seeing Thurston Moore play this summer (when Amy reminded her, "Kim Gordon!" Heather says, "Yes, solidarity!").

Solidarity, my ass, but starting that discussion would have taken away from the poetry.

It was an interesting if slightly overly long way to read, alternating one poem each, during which we heard about Heather, a runaway at 17, tripping on mushrooms and Amy, who wrote of "prom-fluffed girls," being obsessed with the "Wizard of Oz" ("Now a fugue settles over the trees").

Mac and I both liked the colloquial language Amy evoked reading, "Ugly ain't a word for how she looks. Ugly is for how she talks." Both our grandmothers used "ugly" as a deterrent for certain words and behaviors.

Ostensibly tying together their poems thematically, Heather read "I-95" from her upcoming collection and Amy read "Things Go South," with the fabulous line, "The shade from a sidelong glance."

After dinner spent talking about Mac's first poetry reading, we adjourned to Castanea for gelato, running into a couple of food warriors and her parents, stuffed from a fine dinner at Nota Bene. They left with their treats but we stayed to savor our double chocolate and Sicilian pistachio in situ.

'Which dance party are you going to now?" Mac asks, driving me home. Last night, Pru had fretted, "You're not going to make me go dancing, are you?"

I'm not confirming or denying anything I'm doing now. I might, however, be casting a bit of shade from a sidelong glance to make a point.

And may I say, it's my distinct pleasure when someone picks up on it.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

It's Only New Until It's Post

One of the more unlikely perks of being the upstairs tenant is being a fly on the wall to youth.

My living room windows are directly over the downstairs porch, so when the windows are wide open - as they've been for over a month and will be until practically Halloween - snippets of conversation from the guys downstairs waft up for my amusement.

Often it's music geek talk because they're all VCU students, musicians and spirited enough to want to discuss things passionately while dragging on cigarettes. A couple of days ago, I overheard bits of a conversation about post punk, but not enough to establish the direction of the conversation.

Naturally, the next time I walked by the porch to find them strumming and earnestly discussing, I stopped to clarify what they'd been talking about, namely whether they'd been discussing actual post-punk or the more recent post-punk revival.

When I asked, they got the same confused look they had when I'd asked how they felt about Prince dying: vagueness, a little confusion, curiosity at my interest.

Explaining the difference to them seemed to be as appallingly illuminating as when I'd ranted about why three guitarists should know Prince's place in the guitar pantheon. They knew nothing of the original post-punk movement. Nothing.

The lively conversation I'd overheard bits of centered entirely on the post-punk revival, that is, Interpol, Editors, Franz Ferdinand, all very much 21st century stuff. I'm shaking my head in disgust that that's as far back as their musical memory goes before realizing that they'd been about six or seven years old when those bands had hit.

To them, the revival is ancient history and the original post-punk era lumped in with that period when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

So I lectured the boys (yes, I'm calling them that) about Joy Division, Husker Du and the Waterboys, hoping to impress upon them how completely differently that music registered after short, fast and hard ruled. They nodded, but the names meant nothing to them. Hell, they didn't even know all the post-punk revival bands I threw out.

This is when I go on with life and give up trying to expand their horizons.

My date tonight was Pru, who arrived in time for a glass of Rose and a recap of recent events before we set out for dinner and a show. On the way out, we found a package cleverly hidden under the open-weave doormat downstairs (this is the UPS driver's pointless attempt at camouflage) and I delighted her by opening it on the spot.

It may be a while before I live that down.

At Saison Market, we took seats by the window with a view of street theater to eat Spring salads - proprly May-like with fresh peas, asparagus, charred Chevre, coriander vinaigrette, pea shoots - and a cheese plate with Meadow Creek Dairy "Grayson," sweet pecan crumbles, pickled ramps and whey on it. It was way good (lame, I know).

Tonight's theatrical entertainment was Cadence Theatre's "4,000 Miles," a play about generational adjustments when a 21-year old shows up in Greenwich Village to visit his fiercely independent 91-year old grandmother after riding his bike all the way from the West Coast.

He's every millennial cliche: bearded, unwilling to eat food that isn't locally sourced, eager to follow his unstructured path in life and it's only when he skims his dead grandfather's book on fighting the good fight for Communism that he gets a glimpse of what he's not.

"I thought I was non-cynical, but Grandpa took non-cynicism to another level," he says before offering his grandmother "a hug from a hippie," which, by the way, he was not. The concept of a hippie culture revival is laughable because of the movement's inability to exist outside of a specific time in cultural history, a fact that seems to have escaped playwright Amy Herzog.

There's no denying the satisfaction of seeing two generations separated by 70 years hit it off in small ways, whether it's smoking a joint together or discussing a shared admiration of Marx, but I have to question a 21-year old male character who tells his grandmother, "Stop, it's making me sick for you to talk about her body that way," when she suggests the woman could stand to lose a few pounds.

I have no reason to believe that those words ever came out of a 21-year old man's mouth, except when written by a woman.

Look, I've got years of experience with things men of all ages say and that one just doesn't sound likely to me. In fact, it sounds stilted and totally implausible.

Sorry, boys, I pre-date the original post-punk movement.  Shoot, I pre-date punk. I should know.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Something for Us All

No evening should probably end with someone yelling, "It's like the running of the bulls!" to a crowd trying to exit a venue.

Especially when there are people in that crowd who admit to having no strong feelings about anything or anyone. As the maitre d' said in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," I weep for the future.

My original plans for tonight got rescheduled, leaving me to punt, although it wasn't much of a challenge given that Wild Nothing was playing the Broadberry tonight. I had my ticket by 2:45.

Walking in just after Charlie Hilton and her band got started, there was no doubt I was in the right place given the sound: hazy guitars, surging synths, female-penned lyrics and a voice detached yet pointed in its word choices.

After a couple of slow songs, she announced, "Enough of that sad stuff, here's a love song," and did "Let's Go To a Party," a club-ready song that got some of us dancing:

I'm only happy when I'm dancing
When I'm dancing for you
Please don't think about it
We don't want that here

Her look - long bangs, dark hair past her shoulders - immediately reminded me of Karen Carpenter's but I realized that to the two young beards in plaid falling hard for her in front of me, the frame of reference was more likely Zooey Deschanel.

A minor point, but with her skirt and colorful jacket, she was looking pretty groovy and her delicate hand gestures as she sang only added to the appeal. Besides, young men should worship at the altar of female guitarists/singers as part of their music education. Hello, Julianna Hatfield et al.

I was sorry when the band's set ended because of how much I was enjoying them, but that's why there's a merch table, right?

Waiting for Wild Nothing to set up, I tried to engage a guy standing nearby alone by asking whether he was waiting for someone or just standing out of the fray like me.

"I'm looking for people I know so I can spot them before they see me," he said as if this were perfectly logical. When I commented that all his people looked alike, he nodded. "It's a hip town." It was news to him that it hadn't always been.

A woman walked by and he acknowledged that he knew her but hadn't spoken because he really didn't want to have an interaction. She circled back and they exchanged words, but when she left, his comment was, "That wasn't so bad. I could talk to her again."

He sounded surprised. Curious about why he had no interest in human interactions, I asked point blank. Nothing. No broken home, no annoying siblings, no clear emotional trauma. So what were his happiest childhood memories, I asked.

"Being in front of the computer," he says without irony or awareness.

Asking why he'd come, he said it was his fifth or sixth time seeing Wild Nothing. He'd bought his ticket three months ago, not mid-afternoon like me. Clearly a music lover.

Yet when I inquired what his first concert had been, he had no clue. "It's all been a blur since the first one," he explained. And the first one was...?

2010. He's 24 now and already his show history is one blobby history but no specific memories. I wasn't accepting it, so I asked for the last really great show he saw.

Archers of Loaf last Fall "wasn't too bad," he admits. Frankly, I see that as damning with faint praise and insisted on hearing about at least one show he'd rate higher than not bad.

And then the kicker. "I don't have a lot of strong feelings," he tells me. "About anything." I'm not sure which is more tragic: how they've turned out or that they know it and accept it.

Fortunately, it was time for Wild Nothing, whom I'd last seen on a shirt-soaking August day in 2012 at Strange Matter around the time "Nocturne" was released and singer Jack had found it necessary to form a band so he could tour the album he'd recorded all by himself.

That night, I'd recognized lots of faces in the crowd, but tonight nary a one and, in fact, it felt like a lot of infrequent show-goers with bad manners.

Let's just say it wasn't the kind of crowd who would have sweated out three bands in an un-airconditioned venue four years ago to hear Wild Nothing.

My solution was moving away from the talkers and those who spent 97% of their time looking down and texting, so I could better enjoy the dream pop I'd come for.

When he said they were going to play an older song, the crowd cheered. "It's not that old!" he admonished them, but I was more than happy to enjoy washed out gems like "Paradise" and "Nocturne."

What struck me as odd was that while there was a handful of people moving to the very danceable music, most people were rooted in place like tree trunks. How can you hear those guitars and synths and not want to move your body?

Because Jack grew up in Williamsburg and had gone to school in Blacksburg, there was a large family contingent present, perched high in the raised, former VIP area and yelling corny things to him onstage, as only family can do.

One of the last songs was also from Nocturne, "Only Heather."

Misunderstood yet she's good, I can tell
Though everyone tells me I'm under her spell
I'll never leave her, they don't know our deal
It's better to fake than to love her for real

Cause only Heather
Yeah, only Heather
Can make me feel this way

At least he feels something. That's more than I can say about my young friend without feelings. But "It's better to fake than to love her for real"? Why feel when you can fake?

Please don't think about it, we don't want that here. Cue weeping for the future.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

This, Sir, Is an Outrage

Sometimes the universe gives you a sign, good or bad, about what's to come.

Musician Jason Webley said that when he picks up his accordion, he knows by how heavy it feels what kind of performance he'll have that night.

When I'm driving over the Huguenot Bridge in the later afternoon glow of the impending sunset and Prince's 1992 song "7" comes on - a song I adore but haven't heard in years, I'd wager - I can pretty much feel that it's going to be a fine night.

My destination was a 1949 house on Southside built by Richmond architect Bud Hyland, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, open tonight for a Modern Richmond tour. The narrow street was already teeming with traffic when I joined the fracas, but a low-key gent suggested I back up and take a nearby driveway spot.

"Think you can back up that far? he asks me, one step short of mansplaining.

I got this, buddy. Backed, turned around and on my way to a more civilized street to park, another guy who'd watched me called out, "That's some good driving!" as if surprised. Please.

Walking back to the house felt like walking through a rain forest, buggy, muggy and near the river, so different than the city streets I'd just left behind in Jackson Ward.

But it was worth it to check out the house which, while built in '49, felt like the granddaddy to all those '60s and '70s tract houses with its wood-paneled walls (cypress, no less), infrequent doors and expansive windows to bring the outdoors in.

And what outdoors it was: a pond, a sloping hill, an 80-year old Dogwod tree with impressive undergrowth, just the kind of problematic location Wright relished. Its coolest feature (mercifully, the wall to wall shag carpeting had been ripped up years ago) was a 1950 Cubist-inspired fresco by VCU artist Jewett Campbell over the entrance to my favorite room, the screened porch.

The former garage had been turned into a weaving studio with three looms and a straw basket filled with multi-colored balls of yarn, a look I recall copying for my own bedroom when I was in college, not that I knitted or wove.

People streamed in for a look-see, demonstrating the fabulous flow of the house, evident when one of the organizers said that they'd never expected to get so many people in the house. Referring to the monthly Modern Richmond tours, she said, "This is the one night a month folks can imagine they're in Los Angeles."

I could imagine it but I couldn't imagine wanting it to be permanent.

Check, please.

Amour welcomed me into its bar during my break between culture with happy hour small plates and a glass of Terrasse du Midi Rose.

Saying yes happily to everything on the happy hour board, I was rewarded with a petite crepe piled high with duck confit in garlic butter, a Croque Madame with a quail egg astride and the owner's grandmother's potato pancake with applesauce recipe fried up golden brown and crispy.

Discussing the new rules of civility whereby potential employees can't be bothered calling in to alert staff to their no-show, a nearby millennial picked up the thread of our conversation and said in all seriousness, "Yea, what's wrong with my generation? They've got no worth ethic at all."

Best guesses were bandied about - too much coddling, no parental limits, meaningless sports trophies - and before long, someone else reminisced about mowing lawns to save up to buy a Nintendo when he knew his parents never would.

Somehow, we have bred out of our youth any willingness to mow or shovel snow for the sake of earning unreported income.

It's a crying shame, I tell you, and delicate Rose-poached pear with strawberries went a long way to taking my mind off the crisis at hand.

I left Amour for Gallery 5 because singer/storyteller Jason Webley was back after a five year hiatus, an intended break which he began by explaining had been compromised almost from the beginning. First friends wanted him to play, then he was offered money, then he was going to be in town (or nearby) anyway and, before long, hiatus was code for working musician.

Jason not only had a knack for (as he called it) long-winded storytelling but thoroughly enjoyed it, too, so he warned us early to keep him in check, not allowing too much music or too many stories. That's like putting the patients in charge of the asylum, don't you think?

Come on, it had been announced late, promoted almost not at all and still a solid and appreciative crowd had shown up on a random Wednesday for a show that wasn't even supposed to start until 9ish.

When Jason referred to getting older, a woman near me called out, asking how old he was. "43, how old are you?" Jason called back. She was 42 in a few months, but she also admitted, "Sorry, I heard that question in my brain and I don't know how it got out."

Sucking us into another story, this one was about kissing a beautiful girl on the railroad tracks while a train whizzed by on an adjacent track. "I'll never have a better first kiss."Just when I was thinking he'd hit a personal best, he said later that night they danced in a parking lot.

Now that's a night of high romance.

He took second place in a street performance contest after that and the two went to Bali together except by then she'd made up with her creepy boyfriend, so it was a platonic week during which he wrote a song which he now performed for us.

So, you see, the introductions to the songs were easily as long as the songs, but that's just how Jason rolls and a big part of why most people were there.

In the absolute pinnacle of a stellar show, he slid in a slow burn cover of Prince's "Purple Rain" during one of his songs, although most of the crowd didn't even recognize it until about ten lines in, a fact which only gives more weight to our earlier concerns about certain generational failings.

For heavens' sake, I can let it slide if you don't know the words to "7" (although I did better than I'd have expected), but we should all know "Purple Rain" by this point, right?

Jason agreeably played his accordion and stamped his feet for percussion and before long, many of us were dancing along to songs about pork goulash until all of a sudden he was notified he had sixteen minutes left and needed to decide how to use it.

His choice was a song about a candlelit march to a cemetery's pyramid, then a final closer that had people dancing tavern-style around him on the floor to a song about the need to relax.

That's some good advice. And if not, how about we smoke them all with our intellect and our savoir faire?


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Way We Get By

Few things are as charming to witness as a man falling in love.

A lavish lunch lasted until nearly 4:00 because there was so much to talk about, namely that he can't even look at her Instagram feed without fixating on her lips and wishing he was kissing them.

Honestly, just being around someone so utterly under a woman's spell feeds my soul.

Luckily, we built a walk into our lunch outing so we'd have plenty of time for discussion of other matters, too, but by the time I got home, it was time to get ready to go out for the evening.

Climbing over a man in the prime row at the smallish Criterion Cinema, I was surprised when I heard him say, "Karen?"

Sure enough, it was one of my play-going cohorts who, like me, manages to make it to most of the local art theater's offerings - especially when the movies are about to change - for the sake of seeing the more obscure films that make their way to Richmond.

Tonight it was "Elvis & Nixon," appealing to me on many levels - the '70s era it depicted, Kevin Spacey as Nixon and even the surreal notion that these two oddballs ever ate M & Ms and Dr. Peppers together - despite being distributed by Amazon Studios, and who knew they were even in the movie business, although no one will be surprised when they take over the world, either.

Fun fact: the official photograph of Nixon and Elvis taken at the White House that day is the National Archives' most requested picture.

Let's pause for a moment to consider what that says about us as a people. Even the moon landing shots take a backseat to the King and Dick.

The soundtrack, succinct but evocative, ranged from "Hold On, I'm Coming" to "Spinning Wheel," an effective cross-section of the time. At least it wasn't the usual hackneyed choices.

Yes, of course, I reveled in the cultural history details: ceramic coffee mugs on planes, multiple phones for bigwigs so they could multi-task, Secret Service agents fawning rather than protecting White House occupants.

But I also recall the 1970 photograph of the President and Elvis and that was enough to pique my curiosity about the unlikely tete a tete, even if Michael Shannon did make for a gruesome looking Elvis.

After watching a hippie-hating Elvis appeal to a war-mongering president, there wasn't much to do but go drink to forget.

Luckily, tonight was Secco's sixth anniversary, making for a full house, far too many amateurs and a killer flight of 2010 wines: Marguet "10" Grand Cru Champagne, Defaix Chablis and Sella Brammaterra, an understated mostly Nebbiolo gem to close out the flight.

Next to me was a couple with a bag from For the Love of Chocolate who, raised by wolves as they apparently were, saw no problem in pulling out pieces of candy and eating them at Secco's bar as they sipped their wine.

I was nothing short of overjoyed when a staff member informed them that this was not a good idea, which put them in a huff, causing them to leave soon after. Since when is it okay to bring food into a restaurant, children?

Meanwhile, a couple on a date took over two tables with their food and belongings, but my sense was that the date wasn't going very well because the woman kept disappearing into the bathroom (four times in 15 minutes, whoa) while he continued to shovel in food, seemingly oblivious to the red flag.

With the anniversary celebration public knowledge, it was an understandably lively vibe with people continuing to arrive as lights were dimmed and music went from Portishead to Spoon, making for a decidedly more upbeat vibe.

It was the regulars who benefited when it was discovered that a bottle of Pierre Paillard Grand Cru Brut Champagne had mistakenly been opened and its creamy contents shared among the fortunate few. Timing is everything and I was happy to be in the right place at the right time.

Olli Calabrese and Chateau les Valentines Rose took me through the home stretch, wherein I was warned that the full moon falls on Friday the thirteenth, that some people have never heard of a digestif and that dish pits make men out of boys.

And hopefully, the best kind of men: the type who wind up utterly in love and unable to think about anything else but her.

That, my friend, is a high as good as a bottle of Pierre Paillard. Or so I've heard.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Silently Weeping, Laughing Out Loud

It's a thin line between painful life experience and comedy.

The proof was in the empathetic silences that alternated with helpless laughter when each duo took the stage to overshare tonight.

In this brave new world where editing out the unpleasant or even less attractive bits when posting and tweeting every minute life detail is as regular as train whistles in Richmond, it's easy to lose sight of the day-to-day difficulties of this thing we call life.

Fortunately, Comedy Duets was at Gallery 5 to remind us of the myriad unkind and unfair things most people experience just getting to adulthood, never mind running that gauntlet once they're legal.

None of which I'd yet been reminded of when I left the house ("I know I've told you before, but that blazer is sick!" my downstairs neighbor tells me as I leave) set on taking advantage of the dwindling student population by going to Dinamo for dinner, where Orvietto and my first softshells of the season await.

As if by design, the New York Times graced the bar, allowing me to read a review of Radiohead's record, "A Moon Shaped Pool," out today. Having heard the song "Burn the Witch" earlier on the radio, swooning over the sting arrangements in it, I was eager to know more and who better than music critic to guide me?

It was two tables and one other barsitter when I arrived but by the time my Nutella and sea salt cookie was history, tables were bustling with a nice old lady looking for a nice white Zinfandel and a large man who hovered awkwardly in the front of the small room rather than sitting down before his wife and her friends arrived. Very old school.

Meanwhile, two young beards stood outside the restaurant pointing at the slow-spinning propeller in the window and discussing it with great enthusiasm.

But back to picking emotional scabs in front of a roomful of spectators, it was later, during the pre-show mingling that I ran into a young woman I've known for about eight years. Maybe it was tonight's subject matter, but she wasted no time in getting into a tell-all about the life lessons she's mastered since I first met her.

It's compelling enough stuff that the bartender, who's known her for years, begins to listen in because it's experiences he never knew about her. She took a year and a half off from dating - "I had my blinders on" - following the Taylor Swift model for figuring out yourself a little before attempting a relationship.

But she also missed countless red flags along the way, warnings she'd never overlook today. Conclusion: if someone actually wanted you in their life, they'd actually put some effort into showing it. I applauded her success in learning from her mistakes and the bartender nodded in agreement.

First up were Grace and Patrick, who'd only met for the first time a few days ago, causing them to discover onstage that they'd graduated the same year, coincidentally the year the economy tanked - I suppose this is why millennials feel they got a raw deal timing-wise - and their question was about the most dangerous thing they'd ever done.

Hmm, mine? Riding on the back of a motorcycle wearing a tube top, cutoffs and flipflops. Yes, I wore a helmet. So there might have been something left of my head had we hit the pavement. Dangerously dumb.

Their answers, however, involved driving with the headlights out on unlit streets, although Grace's was as a child with two irresponsible adults doing the driving, which, as she pointed out, was "kinda f*cked up" for a kid.

Patrick's mother made a habit of jumping out from behind doors to scare him, once sending him rolling down the stairs after he jumped in fright. Seven-year old Grace was left at the base of an abandoned drawbridge while her Dad and his friend Jeff Riddle ("A strong, creepy name") climbed to the top. Patrick did Fernet bombs on the Cyclone roller coaster at Coney Island.

No one said childhood was easy.

Jess and Josh (who was celebrating his birthday and stood center stage so we could sing it to him) lucked into a question about the moments in childhood that still embarrass them, essentially open season for every youthful mortifying moment.

Josh's bully made fun of him every time he pooped at school. Jesse, in hand-me-down high-water jeans, wasn't cool enough to wear Jincos and was drop-kicked on the school bus.

The room about lost it when Josh shared that ten years later, his bully was on the VCU Quiddich team and again when first grader Jesse shouted across two tables in the cafeteria to the object of his affection, "Hey, Chelsea, guess what? I'm not allergic to anything!" to impress her.

This is what the world has come to: first graders boast about their immunity systems. Life is a tragedy.

Humiliation came in getting pity yeses from prom dates, ripping suit pants onstage at a high school talent show ("I was backstage silently weeping") and falling off a drum riser resulting in a broken kneecap, only to have a girl come over as he's being loaded on a stretcher, asking if he was still taking her to the prom.

It's a wonder both didn't go join the He-Man Women Haters' Club, you know?

Last up were Jim and Clay being asked what their worst breakup story was. And while Jim is in the throes of an apparently ugly breakup, Clay led off, warning us that his stories were not going to paint him in the best light.

He was right. Admitting to blackouts and bad choices, Clay was especially put out that his girlfriend had come home, awakened him up and broken up with him after kissing a guy at a party. The next day, post-breakup, she slept with New Guy.

His beef? She hadn't slept with her new paramour before breaking up so that he could hate her for that. Some girlfriends just don't take their exes into consideration, do they?

Jim's growing disillusionment came from his ex's repeated blackouts (I sense a bigger issue here), but Clay took top prize for sheer number of bad behavior incidents.

"I don't think you're going home with any of the women in this room tonight," Jim observed drolly.

"Maybe they can fix me?" Clay said half hopefully, mostly sarcastically, earning points for optimism even if it was feigned.

It might have been the funniest line of the night if it wasn't so heart-wrenching. Or maybe because it was.

Too personal? No such thing anymore.

You're So Vain, You Probably Think This Blog is About You

Google says that a blog is a regularly updated website or webpage, typically run by an individual or small group that is written in an informal or conversational style.

Pretty clear-cut, right?

It's the "regularly updated" part that trips up many would-be bloggers, although I readily admit that the only time I'm not regular is when I purposely choose not to be.

Truth: if I'm not writing, there's good reason, albeit not one always shared.

What some people have difficulty grasping is that my blog is a personal thing. Yes, it's online so everyone has access to it, but it's personal in that it's nothing more than bits of my life told through the lens of how I see things, filtered by how much I choose to share.

A few years ago, a commenter took me to task for talking about what people said to me at an event rather than dwelling on the event's purpose. I not so gently informed the anonymous commenter (aren't they always?) that it's my blog and I'll parse if I want to.

Granted, I love that a favorite couple sought out my blog, knowing I'd written about the show that was their first date, to confirm their anniversary date since neither could quite recall when it had been. But that kind of thing is a bonus for others, not the reason I write.

So I'm always surprised when someone reads a post and expresses surprise that my reality differs from theirs.

I enjoyed reading your blog about our encounter. Your writing style is easy, engaging and much in line with how you are in person. I, of course, would describe our encounter differently as one would expect.

As I told the visitor from Phoenix, in all likelihood, the truth about that encounter rests squarely between my version and his. But I included enough details to remind myself of the evening for possible future reference and that's my real intention, although sometimes I offend inadvertently.

Sorry to read that you didn't enjoy lunch.

Here's the thing: I most certainly did enjoy lunch at Vagabond. How could I not? I've been a fan of the chef's food since he opened Magpie so any excuse to eat it gives me great pleasure. But my blog take on lunch acknowledged that my companion hadn't seemed quite as taken with the creativity of the menu as I was.

Not that I allowed his food preferences to affect my enjoyment of lunch because, hell, why would I? Yet his panties were in a wad because he didn't care for my personal take.

It's silly because that's just what I do for my own record keeping. When I am an old lady, I shall look back at these posts and marvel at the wonderful things people said to me, the opportunities I was offered and the fun I had along the way.

I wile away a Sunday afternoon at the VMFA, walking the galleries and the sculpture garden, scarfing an Italian sub at Chiocca's where soccer is on the screen and our server shows off her garishly bruised thigh. Those kind of details are just place markers should I want a reminder of how I spent today.

The late, great Unknown once said that a blog is merely a tool that lets you do anything from change the world to share your shopping list.

My blogging intent falls somewhere squarely in the middle of that. It's my world and welcome to it.

And if you want to know the full story, don't expect to find it here. But ask and I might just tell.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

To Dote or Not to Dote, That is the Question

Dote (verb): to bestow or express excessive love or fondness habitually

Only in my family could we spend a good chunk of a pre-Mother's Day luncheon discussing who dotes and who doesn't, not to mention what constitutes doting.

The subject arose because Sister #5 doesn't care for her daughter's beau, openly stating such despite the fact that he dotes on her.

When Dad tells us that we should all be so lucky as to have a man who dotes on us the way he dotes on Mom, it opens the door to doting discussion.

"So whose husband does dote?" Sister #2 asks of the table.

Sister #6 quickly clarifies that her husband does not and has never doted, despite a long and successful marriage. We all agree that Sister #3's husband dotes unabashedly, but even Sister #4 herself isn't entirely certain if her husband qualifies.

Someone cracks that neither Sister #2 nor Sister #5's husbands dote, but both take issue with this, bringing up meal-making and housecleaning as examples of doting.

Wait, aren't those just examples of shared responsibilities?

Discussion is tabled when housemade ice cream - limoncello, peach, chocolate - arrives, but then Sister #6 remembers a critical point.

"None of us has ever doted," she reminds us. It's true and whether that's a failing or not is up for debate, as is practically everything in this family.

Fortunately, the day ends with a friend who not only wants to hear all about the sister round table, but is willing to knead the family-inflicted tension out of my shoulders after I share it at 821 Cafe over black bean nachos.

I reward him with an evening at Firehouse Theatre seeing "Maple and Vine," a play about an overly stressed couple who abandon focaccia, cell phones and Google for life in a gated community that recreates life in 1955.

Women are pretty and persuasive but men wear the pants in the family, crab puffs and charades constitute a party with neighbors and wives attend Authenticity Committee meetings to ensure they are living properly buttoned up and politically incorrect Eisenhower-era lives.

Their lives are no longer information-saturated, over-scheduled or diverse, so they are more present in their own lives now, even if their roles in it are more strictly circumscribed. But are they happier?

What it comes down to, of course, is how each person defines happy.

Happy (adjective): feeling pleasure and enjoyment because of your life or situation

Now there's another concept ripe for discussion.