Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Be Beautiful But Shut Up

I feel certain that I alone reveled in the table fan.

That the Italian film began with a close-up of a table fan, that said fan seemed to blow our (unexpectedly) blond heroine's hair no matter where she stood in the room while breaking up with her lover, that the fan set the scene for a warm weather plot revolving around love, undoubtedly made me happier than anyone else at the Grace Street Theatre tonight.

I'd gone to VCU Cinematheque to see my second Michelangelo Antonioni film, "L'Eclisse," but if I were honest, I went because I'd read Alain Delon was in it (and the lump sum of my knowledge of him was from reading and let's face it, you really need to see a man in the flesh to fully appreciate him) and because it was a 1962 film, easily one of my favorite periods in movie history (especially in Italy...or France or swingin' London) for its depiction of a cultural tipping point.

Let's just say that the first music played was a variation called "L'Eclisse Twist." Groovy.

But a table fan, I mean, come on, I still have one that does double duty: as auxiliary breeze during warm weather and as white noise every night.

I realize most 21st century people see them as relics of a bygone age, but not me.

And if you think my fan devotion is absurd, know that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. My father still has his mother's table fan, an extremely heavy relic from the '50s, which miraculously still works.

The beautifully shot black and white movie was full of post-war ennui as well as a Rome completely unrecognizable from the one I saw four years ago because "L'Eclisse" was shot during a period of massive urban renewal and aerial shots particularly showed huge swaths of the city as no more than empty lots and barren wastelands.

I wish I didn't love you or that I loved you much more.

Alain was rakishly handsome as anticipated, but he was also shallow, materialistic and incapable of love, as much a problem for our heroine as for any smart woman.

Two people shouldn't know each other too well if they want to fall in love.

Although the audience had several familiar adult faces - the Frenchman, the book reader, the record collector, the theater critic - the crowd was mostly students and while film students may have appreciated the 54-year old movie, many of the others apparently did not grasp our heroine's distrust of the frenzy of the modern world.

I feel like I'm in a foreign country.
Funny, that's how I feel around you.

But if they occasionally drifted out when the story got slow, they left in droves during the last 7 or 8 minutes when neither character showed up for their supposed rendezvous, leaving the audience to watch the business of life - buses, pedestrians, water - at the intended place of the assignation.

Too bad for them. Life doesn't always happen in a quick cut, rapid-fire manner but the beauty of Anonioni's film is that he demonstrates with exquisite beauty how hopeless the pursuit of love can be.

It's then that you shut yourself away from the modern world, turn on your table fan and drift off to dreams of somehow getting it right.

As an old friend said at dinner tonight, if not now, when?

The Naked and the Bloody

How could I not say farewell to Troma films at Gallery 5?

As I've learned over the course of this three-month film series, there are givens: tongue-in-cheek horror, graphic violence, buckets of blood and erotica, catnip for a crowd that laps up that kind of stuff.

What I hadn't anticipated was the pre-film erotica I walked in to, namely footage of naked dancing girls from the early '70s judging by the abundant pubic hair, non-augmented breasts, long straight hair and the psychedelic pinwheels, fireworks and haze effects that filtered over and under them, with occasional cutaways to a macho man-type with a serious porn 'stache apparently dreaming of the dancers.

I figured it was just a little something to occupy us until the main event, "Father's Day" began searing our eyeballs with the antics of a serial male rapist and killer (hence the "Happy Father's Day!" as he finishes people off) and the three brave men loose cannons (a priest and two victim's sons) who set out to stop the madness.

When the priest is told that Ahab, the man he needs to find to help catch the bad guy is far away, we see him crossing beaches, bodies of water, jungles and Antarctica before winding up, clothing in tatters, at a plain old cabin in the woods.

We're talking about a movie with a "Creature Effects" screen credit, with many of the so-called "creatures" being badly brutalized victims of the crazed killer, Chris Fuchman (get it?). So, yes, campy, gory and about as socially pungent as they come.

Unlike most of the audience, there's much about a Troma film I have to close my eyes for. Like disembowelment.

Granted, we're not talking the kind of filmmakers who are going for realistic decapitations or shootings, but even so, I can live out my life without seeing a bad guy slice a child's eyeball and leave him for dead, but that's just me.

Fortunately, no Troma film would be complete without large doses of humor and "Father's Day" accommodated with insider winks (a sign outside a large building that read, "Tromaville Courthouse," the local bar, the Lowlife) and sight gags (more fat, white naked man butts than anyone needs to see) and enthusiastic incest.

There was a whole lot of laughter in the room besides my own, probably as much at the gross bits as for the intentionally hilarious parts.

We even got to see Troma founder and big cheese Lloyd Kaufman in the white-suited role as both god and the devil, but coming across more like a modern day Mel Brooks than anything else. And that's funny.

"Lock up your fathers!" the movie warns us. Since August, when I wanted absurd and unsettling, Troma delivered  the goods.

Wow, Gallery 5, those three months of neo-grindhouse just flew by. Isn't that always the way with self-mutilation and pole dancing?

Monday, November 28, 2016

Remember Me as a Sunny Day

Depending on your threshold for pain, there are multiple ways to relive the past.

In the less than two weeks since I got my turntable, I have lost hours, nay, entire day parts (and half the nights) listening to records, mostly with others, but alone as well.

It's already obvious I won't have any problem getting people to listen to records with me, but even better, some of my guests bring me gifts - the first three Pretender albums, new Yo la Tengo and the National - to ensure they'll be asked back. Smart men, all.

The sheer delight of listening to my decades-old record collection (so many albums lost to exes) keeps landing me in the Way Back Machine as I repeatedly get lost in what the song/album meant to me or reminds me of, how I came to it and why I loved it enough to buy it.

So after reading an article about Diana Ross in yesterday's Washington Post (ahead of her upcoming shows in D.C.), I thought it a fitting listen when I came across her 1976 Greatest Hits album.

The songs were mostly familiar, but where I became completely enraptured was when "Remember Me" came on.

The first notes of the piano grabbed me by the adolescent heart as I recalled how that Ashford & Simpson song - about a girl dumped by her guy, wishing him the best and imploring him to remember her as a good thing - had ruled my young world for a bit, despite the plain fact that I hadn't had so much as the stirrings of a relationship yet.

Remember me as the sound of laughter
And my face the morning after...
Remember me as a breath of Spring
Remember me as a good thing

Was I already looking past getting a boyfriend to getting dumped and moving on? Who knows how the teen age mind works?

And while I like how present you have to be when you're playing vinyl - even when it takes you directly to the past - some people I know prefer to look back at their lives by being mocked by all their friends rather than listening to old records, so when I got an invitation to Parker's 40th birthday roast at Gallery 5 last night, I signed on.

The only requested donation was for scarves, hats and canned goods for the Dakota pipeline protesters and I was more than happy to winnow my scarf and glove basket for the sake of a worthy cause. That it was also a benefit for Planned Parenthood, with all monetary proceeds being donated in Mike Pence's name made it even sweeter.

Lobo Marino played first and it was harmonium player and singer Laney who asked of the crowd, "Can I real quick get a show of hands of who's seen Parker's testicles?" Fully two thirds of the room raised their hands, although mine was not among them.

Because Laney had a cold and because the evening was all about Parker, Lobo Marino planned to play a short set.

It was after they did a moving new post-election song from their upcoming album that they invited former bandmate Nathaniel to join them onstage to play banjo.

During that song, the brown-skinned, mutton-chopped musician and one of the night's official roasters leaned toward me and whispered, "Let us not deny the whiteness of this - one man is playing banjo and another is playing jaw harp while beating his bare foot on a drum."

It was mighty white, I had to agree, but then, so is Parker and the diaper he's been known to wear.

Next up was singer/guitarist Georgie Isaacs, and part of her connection to Parker, like several others, was learning about the coal ash situation from his non-stop Facebook feed. See, it's not only about genitals with Parker.

But probably in a nod to the birthday boy, she did a mash-up that included "I Wanna Be Like You" from "The Jungle Book," as well as a couple of self-penned gems, one about needing a penis between her thighs and the other about procrastination masturbation ("I'll get to it as soon as I get off").

Burlesque queen Deanna Danger did a clown striptease (because, of course, Parker wanted one) that involved putting a gold top hat with shamrock on the birthday boy (clad in a vest and red sequin Speedo) and having him hold a rainbow while she squirted Velveeta into his pot of gold.

The roast itself skewered not only Parker ("Dude, I'll never get over the visual of you kissing my Mom") but the other roasters as well, making for equal opportunity mud-slinging.

You'd have to be a brave soul to sign on to being onstage with this bunch.

If my friends were to roast me, I can just imagine the aspects of Karen they'd mock. Bon would blast how fast I walk and Pru my need for multi-tasking, while Holmes would berate my overly long bangs. Moira would tease me about expecting my friends to keep up with me.

The list could go on if I'd allow it.

Instead, I'll skip the roast and go back to listening to records with friends. Although I began my new millennium record-listening party with a selection of rag tag albums from my checkered past, the irresistible urge to go buy more now that I have myself this groovy hi-fi has taken me to three record stores, one twice.

From "Roxy Music: The Atlantic Years 1973-80" to three Joan Armatrading records to "The Best of Donny Hathaway," I am meandering through the byways of my past via music I haven't heard in years, if not decades. That it all sounds so fabulous on vinyl only makes the trip better.

Welcome to 40, Parker. Ain't no mountain high enough to keep you from exposing your genitalia for decades to come. Age, my friend, isn't about how old you are, but how many friends and records you enjoy along the way.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sex is a Dish Best Served Piping Hot

The only thing missing from the movie tonight was a bowl of hot ramen, but then, one of the Bijou co-founders acknowledged as much.

"If I'd thought about it in time, we'd have had ramen here tonight," James said during his introduction to "Tampopo," a 1985 Japanese ode to food that began with the requisite strangers of a classic Western riding into town reading from a master's book on how to eat ramen.

First, observe the ramen...caress the surface with the chopstick tips...then poke the pork.

If that didn't make it clear enough that we were about to see a film abut the romance of food (not to mention the sex of it) in the context of a "noodle Western," I don't know what would have. If I'd had a lick of sense, I'd have gone out for ramen before the movie rather than watching two hours celebrating the glory of the steaming bowl while salivating the entire time.

Thanks to the Bijou, we were watching a new 4K restoration of a film I'd never heard of, but one considered the precursor to other classic foodie movies such as "Big Night" and "Eat Drink Man Woman." I was so out of the loop on this one and they were here to bring me up to speed.

What surprised me most about "Tampopo" was how unexpectedly funny it was throughout, never more so than when noodles were slurped to their final whistling sound as they slid between lips.

Our hero was a cowboy hat-wearing truck driver who, along with his sidekick, happens on a ramen shop run by our heroine, a widow with a young son, one rainy night and decides to help her turn the failing venture into a top chef ramen joint.

Along the way, he wears his hat in the bathtub (a scene so steamy and appealing it made me want a bath STAT... Calgon, take me away...), fights some locals to make his point (but as in any good Western, they do it outside so as not to mess up the place) and tastes through every iteration of her ramen until, with the aid of the five men helping her research (so a whole lot of man-splaining goin' on), she finally gets it right, a climax that requires he smoke a cigarette.

Interspersed with the story of building the perfect ramen shop - visiting competitors, comparing recipes, and finessing culinary secrets from another chef - are a series of food-related sub-plots that reinforce the theme.

There's the gangster and his moll, both dressed all in white, sometimes even when they're using food to enhance their sex. Breasts get the whipped cream treatment, honey is poured and, in one startlingly memorable scene, they pass a raw egg yolk back and forth between their mouths until she bites it and it runs out of her mouth. Ahem.

Wait, there's more. A freshly caught oyster is eaten with a drop of blood atop it from a cut caused by the shell. A food-savvy street person sneaks into a restaurant to make a rice and ketchup pancake for the widow's son. A man forces his deathly ill wife to make dinner before dying  and she does, then dies.

Easily the grossest thing we witnessed was a soft shell turtle having his throat slit so the blood could drain and he could be cooked. Honestly, that was something I could have lived without seeing.

When our middle-aged heroine got a makeover with a new 'do and very '80s-looking polka dot dress with massive shoulder pads, our taciturn hero was unimpressed. "Now you look hard to talk to," he said.

A scene involving a woman who'd go into a grocery store for the sole purpose of squeezing things - peaches, cheeses, buns - was striking because of the lack of color in the merchandise other than fruits and vegetables.

When I commented on that to my seatmate, the scooter queen, she snickered and said, "Their stores were still made of real ingredients." I fear our stores had already passed that threshold by 1985.

I couldn't have been the only one feeling my head spin watching such an absurdist Japanese take on a Spaghetti Western, but also a seriously sensuous movie. Excellent choice, Bijou.

Watching yet another round of ramen being sampled noisily on screen, my friend leans in and whispers, "This is a movie about slurping, isn't it?" Hmm, well, yes, as long as slurping is a metaphor for savoring food and sex.

Because we all know you can only slurp for so long before you've got to poke the pork. Fact.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Say Good Morning to the Night

I went to see my first exhibit of Cuban photographs last night and then Fidel Castro died.


The show by Joe Ring at Artworks, "Cuban Chrome," focused on the colorful old cars from the pre-Revolution era (and now used as cabs), set against backdrops of the island's magnificent architecture, stormy skies and crashing surf.

For me, the appeal of the photographs was color, namely the serendipitous way a yellow car parked in front of a yellow building, or the scattered touches of aqua in an alley scene that popped between buildings, people and cars.

But for the guy with me, an appealing palette was insufficient and he was curious yellow. As he leaned in close for examination, he wanted to know how much post-production work had been done to the photographs to achieve what we were ogling.

Fortunately, the photographer overheard him and was gracious enough to point out specific areas he'd enhanced as well as those that were untouched, despite their hyper-colorful nature and brilliant reflection of light. His strongest point was how similar what he does digitally to photos now is to what he used to do to them in the darkroom during the finessing process.

The good news was my companion was more than satisfied once his curiosity had been satisfied by the artist. As we left, he was already declaring that the mustard-colored T-bird close-up was his hands-down favorite, which only proves that you can lead a man to art and, with any luck, he'll not only drink it in but thank you for steering him there.

I had more new experiences in store for him because he'd never been to Laura Lee's just down the road, and although I had, there was a new (yet very familiar) chef in place since my last visit, making it feel somewhat new for me as well.

Installed at the corner of the bar, I knew I'd chosen the right place when the first song we heard was "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" from 1972's "Honky Chateau" and a bottle of Mont Grave Rose soon followed.

Before long, a favorite chef and his date came in for dinner and the bartender got busy right away concocting a drink named for the chef's habit of singing loudly in the kitchen, and always replacing the word "girl" in songs with "squirrel."

Hence the cocktail that was forming in front of us: the Uptown Squirrel.

I'm gonna try for an uptown squirrel
She's been living in her white bread world...

On the other side of me at the bar was one of my favorite actors from the Comedy Coalition, notable because she inadvertently changed the trajectory of our meal when her heaping plate of fried shrimp arrived. The lightly-battered shrimp, a special, smelled divine and looked even better, so we pulled a Meg Ryan.

We'll have what she's having.

For my companion, it was a stroll down Memory Lane, reminding him of the fabulous fried shrimp he used to get at a seafood place in Lynnhaven called Steinhilber's and never seen successfully replicated anywhere else.

I'd managed to stir up fond memories for him without even intending to do so.

For good measure, we also got an equally large mound of fried oysters and a charcuterie plate, notable for the unlikely inclusion of southern staple hushpuppies (score!) alongside three kinds of meats including speck, prosciutto and a fabulous orange fennel ham, with a schmear of grainy mustard and everything from pickled okra and carrots to thickly-sliced housemade bread and butter pickles on the side.

By then, the music had changed to the Zombies (with several Colin Blunstone solo cuts thrown in for good measure) and, like the Elton John, we were hearing multiple songs. Turns out it's Laura Lee's standard operating procedure to play whole albums and not just songs, a practice preferable for those of us weaned on entire records and not singles.

Score again.

There was no way I was passing up salted German chocolate cake while he was seduced by the Key lime tart with vanilla bean gelato, and you could've stuck a fork in us because we were so done by then, at least with eating.

Yet the night was still young.

Eager to show off some of the record finds I'd lifted from my Dad's collection, we made a bee line for the turntable to investigate the comedic talents of Brother Dave Gardner, a "beat" comedian in the vein of Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl, except a Southern boy, one-time seminary student, but also a jazz drummer and occasional lounge singer.

Let's just say that on every album cover, he's got a cigarette in his hand, Rat Pack-style and there was a fair amount of cigarette humor. His southern accent was so thick you could cut it with a knife.

Apparently he'd been big on college campuses in the late '50s and early '60s and Dad had given me four of his albums for consideration. Our goal was trying to listen to them in the context of the time for maximum effect.

Brother Dave delivered in spades on the 1961 album, "Ain't That Weird," saying, "We don't care if Kennedy's spending all our money because Johnson'll get it all back!"

The nightclub crowd howled.

He did a dated bit on politics - "I was from the South, so I was a Democrat. Then I learned how to read..." - and mocked JFK's pronunciation of Cuba as "Cu-ber" before referring to "this cat, Kruschev" as casually as if they were drinking buds.

But beneath his hep cat lingo was a sharp-eyed, quick-witted Southern boy who made observations like, "The Beats are seeking poverty to learn from it," a pretty profound statement if you think about it. And we did.

Because you can lead a man to your records, but you have to reach a certain point in the evening before thinking turns into deep discussion.

Meanwhile, I'm seeking to learn from it all.

Friday, November 25, 2016

A Lot of Sumthin', Sumthin"

A tradition since 2010 and Neil Young said "Tonight's the night" ~ Holmes

I broke Thanksgiving eve tradition and Holmes was not going to let it slide. Instead of our usual pre-turkey revelry, I'd been invited to dinner and a big show, necessitating we reschedule our annual standing Wednesday date to post-holiday.

Let's just say he wouldn't commit to a replacement date, but I'm still working on him.

Instead, my fellow music lover and I hoofed it over to Julep, which turned out to be a destination for others show-bound, not just the one we were attending - the king and queen of hearts world tour featuring Mary J.Blige and Maxwell at the Coliseum - but also Joe Bonamassa at the Landmark.

Not a lot of overlap of those two audiences on a Venn diagram, if you think about it.

But everybody's gotta eat, so we wasted no time in getting to the business of ordering because our show began at the ungodly hour of 7:00 and I'd been instructed to skip lunch (easier because I hadn't gotten up until 11:45 after a late night).

A bottle of Sokol Blosser Rose got the evening started right, followed by Hongatonk oysters from Maryland, which came pre-dressed with blood orange mignonette, while the soup special - and it's most definitely suddenly soup season - of duck confit and black bean in a clear broth was a stellar marriage of rich and earthy.

For the main event, perfectly pan-seared scallops were gussied up (and made obscene) with Woodson Mill polenta, oyster mushrooms, drawn paprika butter and hunks of buttermilk bleu cheese, while the larger appetite went with rockfish, although I believe he may have been swayed by the bacon, rice and collards underneath.

We had just enough time for me to get my chocolate fix with a three-layer flourless torte to accompany the last of the Rose before joining the throngs at the Coliseum, a process that involves not only having your bag checked, but a full body wanding to check for the kinds of things nobody should bring to a show.

Granted, I don't think I've been to the Coliseum in a dozen or so years, but this amped-up security was new to me. In fact, it had been so long that I was seeing the Coliseum with fresh eyes and, except for the truly awful concession stands and over-priced beer vendors, it wasn't nearly as big or unpleasant as I recalled.

Or maybe that's just because we arrived moments before Mary J. Blige appeared behind a curtain and began singing long before we could see her. Explosions and a light show announced the moment we finally laid eyes on the queen of hearts.

I'm not going to act like I was a long-time fan, but the woman has been making music for nearly a quarter of a century, so she's pretty much woven into the musical fabric of our lifetime whether you were paying attention or not.

Unlike many people in the crowd, I couldn't sing along to all of her older songs word for word, but that didn't stop me from picking up on MJ's bold-faced message of all pain, all the time, augmented by multiple costume changes that showed MJ is still in fine shape, even if she's yet to meet a man worthy of her.

At one point, she began a pointed lecture directed at the men in the room about treating their woman like a queen and staying faithful, then switched over to the womenfolk for some consciousness raising, reminding us not to take crap from our men.

Pshaw. Clearly that message was intended for some of the younger women in attendance because those of us of an age long ago learned that lesson. I would go so far as to say that it's a woman's perogative to determine the boundaries of a friendship or a relationship, a fact not unnoticed (and often commented on) by the males in my own sphere.

The show was a major production, a well-oiled machine, no doubt intended to justify the expense of the tickets, with elaborately-curated video screens behind the stage as if the performer alone wasn't enough to keep the crowd entertained.

But for me, the real excitement began when Prince's "Kiss" ended on the speakers and the lithe and handsome Maxwell came out in sunglasses and a three piece suit (to me, looking for all the world like a 21st century Harry Belafonte and that's some high praise), singing the opening song, "All the Ways Love Can Feel" from his latest album and showing off his falsetto without delay.

Effortlessly and gracefully sliding down the ramps from the upper stage level to the catwalk level allowed him to be up close with his adoring fans, of which I'm a late-comer. Trying to catch up, I've had his latest album "blackSUMMERS'night" on constant rotation in my car for a while now.

But even for long-time fans, it would be tough to beat Maxwell's take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work," in which he did a duet with Bush's vocal in front of a screen honoring the important musical figures we lost this past year and concluding with a nod to the Black Lives Matter movement.

The song alone is magnificent, Maxwell's cover of it has always been a stunner and the live performance of it - he was on his knees at one point - well, it was enough to make the entire show a must-see.

He got lots of applause when he got political about the challenging times we're living in post-election, saying that we just need to get through the next four years until Michelle Obama can be elected President. Amen.

Hearing "Lake by the Ocean" live was pure pleasure, although I can't say I recognized all the older songs this suave man did, but I'm honest enough to admit that just hearing his soulful croon and remarkable falsetto is enough for me, familiar or not.

Add in thrusting hips, frequent agility moves like splits and drops to the knee, not to mention how he cuts the air with his hand to punctuate what his kick ass band is doing, and I, for one, am not going to look away.

But where he truly won my heart was when he spotted an over-zealous security guard and set out to right a wrong.

"Let them dance!" Maxwell called from the stage. "Let them dance! Let them dance, please!" Finally, the guard who'd been trying to stop people from moving in the most natural way to soul music looked up, realizing he'd all but stopped the show.

"I know you're just doing your job," Maxwell said in his direction. "But these people came here to enjoy the music and dance. Let them!"

Needless to say, the guard did. Other than Mary J. Blige - who likely doesn't obey anyone - who wouldn't listen when Maxwell tells you what to do? I know I would. We're talking about the King of Hearts here.

Not that I think Holmes will take that for an excuse if he's quoting me Neil Young. My, my, hey, hey, we'll see.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Trouble Finds Me

It's seasonal change time for new people in my life.

Ye gads, I don't mean I switch out friends when Fall inches toward Winter, I mean that people - those new in my life who've yet to know me through cold weather - haven't yet learned to be prepared.

Translation: always dress appropriately for possible hoofing. My date had proper layers on, but decided against bringing his scarf, a move he later regretted on leg three of our evening.

They live and learn or fall by the wayside. I believe that's called survival of the fittest.

After dealing with especially dense traffic traversing the city from Carytown to chez moi (I could empathize after a recent 23-minute trip from Chop Suey home at rush hour), he was more than happy to put foot to pavement en route to the Grace Street Theater for VCU Cinematheque.

Along the way, he was providing an impromptu history lesson about the area, from clubs I'd never heard of to Grace Place, which I had, as well as a hilarious explanation of why he hadn't frequented the Lee Art Theatre for its porn programming.

It's always a lighter than usual crowd at VCU's screening before Thanksgiving and tonight was no different for the 76-minute "River of Grass," director Kelly Reichardt's first film and recently restored to its glorious 1994 brilliance.

Who knew films needed shoring up after only two decades?

The reigning visiting Prof introduced the movie by reading what would have been a fairly compelling paper on Reichardt and the development of her films, but came across as flat yet inquisitive when read aloud because each sentence ended with his voice going up so it sounded like a question.

It's a film that deals with later wave feminist issues?
It's far from a perfect film?
This is a getaway film in the style of Bonnie and Clyde?

Well, it is or it isn't? For god's sake, man, mean what you say and stop sounding so damn tentative.

Two unhappy people - the kind of young mother who puts Coke in her baby's bottle and a n'er-do-well who's finally kicked out of Grandma's house at age 30 - meet in Florida, think they killed someone and take off in his car.

Looking very much like an old school movie, it also delivered a smack upside the head about the role of Fate in our lives, but always with a wink and a sly nod.

There was narration that didn't always match the action ("He told me to stay home while he was on his crime spree," as he goes through his grandmother's underwear drawer). Languid pacing that appealed to seasoned audience members but only a millennial film student could stand. Jazz music and a character who practices that kind of drumming throughout the story.

It's love on the run seen through a post-Coen brothers lens, not to mention wearing its '90s indie heart on its sleeve. Dreadful things happen that seem very funny in the moment. Lotsa deadpan reactions.

Not to be missed is the marvel of watching our lovers smoke a joint by passing it to each other using only their toes. I would doubt this scenario more if I hadn't once been able to open a man's wallet and remove a credit card from it using only my toes.

But enough of that...

After a thoroughly satisfying 76 minutes of sun-drenched Florida seediness, characters born to hopelessness and an ending emphasizing the inevitability of Life, some bracing cold air was just what we needed.

That we had to walk a half a mile to eat may have resulted in a tad more bracing than He Who Shuns Scarves required, but so be it. Inside 821 Cafe, there was a heater practically with my name on it positioned right next to the booth in the front window, so the decision was made.

Our server was new to me, so she was unaware of my standing order, but when the bearded guy delivered my black bean nachos, he nodded, saying, "Oh, of course" when he recognized me. The 821 virgin called his choice of a grilled cheese with turkey and a side of chili a "sick day lunch," but he didn't wolf it down like he was ailing, if you know what I mean.

Besides, sick days always involved ginger ale at my house.

Walking back, I teased him that he'd shown up at my door with a record so I'd invite him up to show off my new (old) turntable again, but he insisted his motives were purer than that. Did I mention his decided sense of humor?

Still, he didn't hesitate to accept my invitation upstairs for a listening party that included his gift: a double album, the National's 2013 "Trouble Will Find Me," and my first vinyl of theirs. Even four sides in, Matt Berninger's voice never sounded so warm.

Just the thing on a cold night involving traipsing all over with a fair weather friend who seems motivated to get the hang of Winter with a walker.

And who, like me, is already counting the days to Winter Solstice. In the meantime, there will be scarves.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Up the Nose, Into the Lungs

Kepone: local band, song by the Dead Kennedys and, today, topic of a lunchtime talk at Library of Virginia.

When speaker Dr. Gregory Wilson inquired of the nearly full room who didn't know about the local Kepone crisis in 1975, only one woman raised her hand.

"Then this is for you," he joked of his lecture, "Toxic Dust: The Virginia Kepone Disaster." It's impossible now to fathom how it was ever considered okay to dump such a thing in our creeks, rivers, or even bury in on land, but there you go, it was a different time.

And while I knew of the insecticide, I didn't get to Richmond until '88, the year the ban on fishing the James River was finally lifted, so I definitely needed a remedial course on what went down in Hopewell that kept people out of the river I'm now devoted to

And this being 2016, the audience could collectively watch a YouTube video originally made by OSHA, with interviews with workers from Hopewell's Allied and Life Sciences Product Company who'd inhaled the dust - or even eaten it by inadvertently placing their lunch on kepone dust-covered tables - for so long and were then paying the price with their health.

Just as damning was footage of wives testifying at the Senate hearings about how even though they washed their husband's work clothing separately, the poison lingered in the washing machine and then contaminated the rest of the family's clothing, affecting them as well.

The best thing to have come out of all that, besides the obvious, closing the kepone plant, was that $8 million of the $13 million settlement went to the establishment of the Virginia Environmental Endowment to hopefully prevent such a debacle happening again.

Wilson was adamant that the kepone issue had been uncovered at exactly the right moment in time, namely the '70s, not long after the EPA had been created and the first Earth Day had brought together people to address environmental concerns. Had kepone come to the fore in the '50s, he thought it might have been swept under the carpet.

And while his talk was interesting for bringing me up to speed on local environmental history, I was probably even more fascinated to get a little Hopewell history.

Like that it had been developed in 1914 by Dupont Company to house dynamite and gunpowder factories for WW I. He even showed us a postcard image from 1914 boasting, "Hopewell, toughest town north of hell!"

This is a tourism slogan?

And that signs leading in and out of town used to read, "Chemical Capital of the South," as if it were a point of pride, at least until vandals scratched through chemical and wrote "kepone" and through South and wrote "world." Wilson assured us that those signs were subsequently removed.

Damn. You just never know what you don't know until you learn it.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Dixie is Dead and Trump is Terrifying

I've been violated.

At least that's how I felt when I was greeted by alarmist messages from my bank alerting me that someone was using my debit card all over New York City yesterday.

Not what I was expecting upon returning home from a pleasant day on the Northern Neck with my parents.

It was all the more abrupt because spending the day with them is akin to stepping through a magic looking glass to a different world. At least all the clocks in the house now read correctly, something that's not the case during the months of daylight saving time when they refuse to change their clocks (on principle, naturally).

Probably because it was a chilly 42 degrees when I drove through Tappahannock, our activities centered around the cozy: Mom wanted to put heavier comforters on some of the beds and Dad wanted help ordering new L.L. Bean flannel sheets (Mariner's blue, queen size) after spying a tiny hole in a sheet on their bed.

It was while I was on the big sleeping porch - especially inviting because of the morning sunlight streaming through the walls of windows - in search of their favorite white blanket that I spotted a stack of my parents' records from the '50s right on up through the '80s and dropped everything to investigate.

Finally having a turntable, receiver and Bose speakers - all used, mind you - changes what gets my attention these days.

Spotting me from the other end of the corridor that leads to the porch, Dad called out to his heathen daughter, chuckling, "What are you doing on your knees, praying?" As if.

Many of the albums I flipped through brought back immediate musical memories - some good, some painful - of hearing them played in the house where I grew up. My parents were deep into Neil Diamond, so there were at least ten of his records, along with a handful of Moody Blues and more late '50s instrumental music than I remembered.

Where I was most surprised was with his array of disco and R & B vinyl: Quincy Jones' 1972 double disco album "Ndeda," Larry Graham's "One in a Million You" from '80 (complete with TMI, as in, "You can write to Larry at P.O. Box 46035, LA, CA 90046) and a really early George Benson record called "Shape of Things to Come" from 1968.

Then there was the piece de resistance.

My father, a man who was nothing if not au courant as Dads went back then (hair past his collar, magnificent mutton chops), had a copy of Van McCoy's "The Hustle," I kid you not. I have no memory of this fact, but I was impressed enough to take the album, along with a dozen others.

When he sees that I've snatched up "The In Crowd" by the Ramsey Lewis Trio, recorded at D.C.'s Bohemian Caverns, he makes sure I know that, "I was into Ramsey Lewis way before they made it big with that album."

You see how cool he was?

By the time I left them mid-afternoon, the mercury had only risen four degrees, making me glad to get back to my more densely populated neighborhood and the attendant shared heat (not that my parents' house isn't kept at hothouse temperatures that have even a cold-blooded person like me shedding layers), even if I was met with the news of fraud and the ensuing inconveniences resulting from it.

Luckily, Mac and Secretly Y'All awaited me a few short blocks away at Gallery 5.

Tonight's theme was "Headlines," ("No, Joe Morrissey is not in the building," our host quipped) so we heard from a slew of local journalists riffing on the subject.

Harry brought props and shared how an article on the infamous Dirtwoman had inspired him to become a journalist, but only after his high school guidance counselor had advised him that, "There's a cheap journalism school up the street." That would be VCU.

The Library of Virginia's Errol brought us up to speed on Richmond's fighting editor and Jackson Ward resident, John Mitchell, with a tangent about a newsman friend working in Danville who got fired for the headline, "Dixie is Dead, Elvis is Dead and Danville is Dying."  Hilarious.

Katy's story of investigating an unreported woman's death was positively heartbreaking while Chris' story of Mayor Wilder trying to rearrange City Hall after midnight involved sheriffs, a lot of PBR, illegal Vespa Stella parking and, tangentially, the headline that had first inspired him to take up journalism: "Preacher Dies in Flaming Mobile Pulpit."

Where tonight's Secretly Y'All differed from so many of the ones I've attended over the years was that it took place in a post-2016 election world, which, as we're all still trying to grasp, feels like a horrific new world order.

Brad offered up a report on being LGBTQ in Trump's America, a terrifying proposition, to be sure, that included learning about the numbers of LGBTQ people who bought guns, both after Obama's election (talk about misguided) and Trump's so-called election. A pink camo assault weapon and Colonial Shooting Academy both figured prominantly into his story.

But the undisputed highlight of listening to tonight's storytellers was when the RTD's Michael Paul Williams took the stage, intent on making us see that the most important stories are ahead of us.

"We need a lot of anger now," he said passionately. "They're trying to push out information as the new normal and that's not right." Amen, brother.

We listened as he told a tale of two of his stories, one that helped the Armstrong choir raise $20,000 to go to a competition in NYC and another where he wanted to shadow three students - Hispanic, black and white - enrolled in Richmond Public Schools and chronicle their experiences and results, a story that died before it saw light because of lawyers and a necessity for endless releases.

But his real point in being there tonight was to use his self-professed "old guy" status to motivate the crowded room to action.

"Be subversive going forward in this new day. I'm pissed off and terrified. We should all be pissed off and terrified at this. We need to protest! I don't want a white supremacist a few steps from the Oval Office."

His was a very emotional call to arms not to go gently into this terrifying new Trump night and it moved me in a way Secretly Y'All doesn't usually. This wasn't about a person's personal anecdote, this was an entreaty not to stay silent about things that matter.

It's no secret, ya'll, we're being violated. Anger and action must follow.

It Sounds Terrible Because It Will Be

Luddites, billiards and a Brooklyn band, oh, my.

The Bijou was showing Werner Herzog's new documentary about the Internet, "Lo and Behold: Reveries of a Connected World," a subject that would have seduced me - still very much a 20th century woman in many respects - even if I wasn't a devoted documentary dork, which I certainly am.

From the photographs of the long-haired scientists who came up with the Internet concept in 1969 to artificial intelligence concepts beyond my imagination like soccer playing robot cubes that one scientist expects to beat the Brazilian team by 2050 (and also creepily admits, "We love Robot 8," as he cradles the cube as if it were real), Herzog trotted out the obscure and nerdy.

That kind of thing - pure Herzog oddities- carried through the history of the Internet to hackers, Internet addicts trying to be cured and mad scientists working on self-driving cars, assuring us every time a car has an accident, all cars will learn from it and never repeat that mistake.

Really? can I be the only one who doubts this?

On the other hand, gamers helped research scientists solve molecule and helix problems they hadn't been able to, an extraordinary accomplishment only possible thanks to the Internet.

One of the weirdest, by far, was a family whose daughter had been killed in a car crash where a first responder photographed the head of the decapitated girl and made it public online.

Herzog gives us the family posed in a surreal setting with the family's other three daughters sitting catatonic-looking and overly made up in front of their parents (Mom's clearly had lots of plastic surgery and Botox, but also spouts things like, "The Internet is the manifestation of the anti-Christ"), while on the table sit three plates of baked goods, a homey reminder perhaps of this wholesome family's "before" story.

Wait, what?

We see a group of monks, all staring intently at their cell phones and completely un-involved with the world around them. The likelihood of a solar flare knocking out the Internet is a "when" not an "if" and talking heads mull over what might happen to the food supply when the Internet goes down.

Herzog's film posits that it's no longer people that matter, it's the message and we may eventually not even need humans for companionship because we'll be able to get that from A.I. "It sounds terrible, but maybe it's not," one says with little conviction.

So this is what it's come to, he seems to be telling us. Can't live with the Internet, can't live without it.

All I can say is praise be to the Bijou for landing this thought-provoking documentary by a master observer and commentator about a subject that is changing the course of human behavior.

I have little doubt that I am the sole viewer of it who still operates in the 21st century world without a cell phone, but perhaps that only makes the entire subject more relevant for me. I am the constant in a world of sea change.

Dinner followed at Greenleaf's Pool Room, unexpectedly lively with far more games of pool being played than you might expect for a Sunday evening, although it certainly wasn't a night for outdoor activities.

In short order, we plowed through two kinds of deviled eggs, Bumpkins of country ham with pimento cheese and fried chicken skin which were stellar and Spouter Inn with fried oysters, horseradish and smoked tomato that definitely did not fit easily in my mouth while pomegranate lemonade went down easily.

A thick tomato soup followed because this change of weather today has chilled me to the bone and finally, chicken skewers with a piquant slaw with enough heat for my mouth to take notice. I was taking my warmth any way I could get it tonight.

Walking into Gallery 5 moments before a last-minute show was to begin, we had timed it perfectly to catch the lovely ringing guitars and synths of California Death, the post-punk muscularity of Big Bliss from Brooklyn and the pop exuberance of Young Scum, where the drummer put on a headband before their set began because, apparently, he knew there would be sweat.

Did he have to go online to know this or did he figure it out on his own, I had to wonder? Because I'm in complete agreement with Herzog that the Internet was the beginning of the end for deep critical thinking.

And could it be that our President-elect along with the Internet is the manifestation of the anti-Christ? Post-Herzog, I see the jury as still out on that one.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Digging My Scene

What do the simple folk do on a Saturday night?

They plan to eat and partake of some death-related culture, but they also leave the ending open...just in case.

Pru and Beau picked me up not long after the sun set and our long-established banter began the moment I slammed the car door shut to escape the blustery wind that had replaced afternoon sun and warmth.

As our trio drove the short distance to the fake "town center" at Libbie Mill, we assumed our usual roles mocking and teasing each other in greeting.

"This is a dysfunctional relationship," Beau observed to neither of us in particular. "And yet we all stay," I reminded him.

Our obscenely early dinner reservation at Shagbark was required given that we had an 8:00 curtain, but it also ensured that we'd sit down in a lightly populated dining room that morphed to completely full by the time we walked out two plus hours later.

My first challenge was convincing my couple date that we wanted to drink Gavi, but doing so took both informational and anecdotal evidence.

Our server made a fine case for Gavi's strengths, but I think I finally won Beau over on the "persistent finish" (he seems to like his women the same way) and Pru when I shared that a favorite Brazilian chef drinks only red wine or Gavi (she's prone to taking a red wine drinker's opinion about a white) and a bottle soon appeared.

I got a kick seeing Morattico Creek oysters on the menu (my parents have lived in Morattico for three decades), so I told our server I had to represent with a plate of them, Tangiers and Seaside Salts to start. The Seasides were so large I almost couldn't fit one in my mouth, while the Tangiers had such a deep cup it was like they arrived in bowls.

Brown-butter basted jumbo sea scallops followed while Beau lapped up duck breast he dubbed the best duck he'd ever eaten and Pru swooned over grilled Outer Banks swordfish (set on a plate that resembled nothing so much as "The Flying Nun's" hat), mentioning to our server that it reminded her of fish she ate during summers at her family house in Rodanthe.

"We like when a table represents our food," our server joked approvingly of our waterside connections. Carrot cake of sorts (their moniker, not mine) delivered spice cake, carrot curd, rum raisins, salted caramel, cheesecake puree and praline for one of my rare non-chocolate finishes.

Tonight's play was Quill's "Assassins," a Stephen Sondheim musical I'd never even heard of, but which the director found eerily relevant when a certain major party candidate suggested to his deplorable audience that they take matters in their own hands should the other candidate win.

Some of the evening's funniest moments came courtesy of Matt Shofner's portrayal of Charles Guiteau (James' Garfield's assassin) with wild eyes, an over-the-top French accent and a dapper yellow-piped suit jacket as he spewed his character's unbridled enthusiasm.

Another laugh out loud moment arrived during intermission when a guy in the lobby caught the eye of Kenneth Putnam (playing Samuel Byck - the nut case who tried to run a plane into the Nixon White House - in a Santa Claus suit with a protest sign) and gave him the peace sign and shook his jowls side to side.

Just as hilarious a moment came when the two guys sitting next to me tried to return to their seats during intermission. I stood leaning against my raised seat to let them come through, but between my velvet pants and the velveteen covering on the seat itself, I slipped down into the seat completely unintentionally with a thud.

Pru and Beau, busy standing themselves and looking away from me, saw nothing.

But as the duo came by me, one grinned and whispered, "Real graceful!" about my unceremonious sit down. I immediately looked at him with new respect. In no time, he brought up similar problems with satin sheets (apparently the sliding factor is high) and shiny pajamas.

I don't start these oddball conversations, I just jump headfirst when invited.

When the disjointed play ended, the three of us headed east with no clue where we wanted to go to discuss what we'd just seen. The happy couple wanted caffeine, so we paused at Saison Market long enough for them to score coffee and then headed to my house to listen to music.

Knowing my audience, we started with the "Camelot" soundtrack, but not the lame movie version, but the Broadway dream cast with the dreamy 35-year old Richard Burton (how did I ever think he was an old king?), 25-year old Julie Andrews and an impossibly young-looking (27) and devastatingly handsome Robert Goulet.

I don't want to say I know my audience, but there was something for everyone: I adore the young man bravado of Lancelot's "C'est Moi," while Pru excels at the kind of female manipulation Guenevere sings of in "Take Me to the Fair" and I have no doubt that Beau subscribes to Arthur's advice on "How to Handle a Woman" sung in Burton's gravely voice of experience.

A couple of hours in - after we'd listened to the Blow Monkeys but before Art of Noise resulted in Beau's pithy comments about their distinctive sound - Beau went all serious on us, bringing up the possibility that we're watching a Facist come to power and questioning what one individual might be able to do about it.

Our mellows were harshed, but not inappropriately given the strange times we're living in, and we were back to cracking each other up before long.

When they finally stood up to leave, it hit us. In three hours of listening to music while discussing relationships, middle age and past life gaffes (how is it neither Pru nor I have ever dated a Jewish man?), we'd yet to touch on the play we'd seen, ostensibly the reason for our post-theater get-together.

It was 1:30 and we were a solid nine hours into our date, but everyone sat back down, I put on some soothing Jackson Browne and we re-opened the conversation to dissect the play in depth. That we got off on a tangent about tufted walls and put Beau through a complementary colors learning session was gravy.

And that's what simple folk do. So I'm told.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Old Dreams and New Dreams

I know you well enough that I'm certain you spent as much time as you could outside enjoying the beautiful November afternoon.

You'd better believe I did. The Barrister knew of whom he spoke.

In fact, I'd gotten up around 10:15 and been out the door, fed and ready to walk, by 11:15, which worked out nicely since I had plans to meet a friend at the VMFA at noon and it was a glorious morning to cover the distance on foot.

Yes, I'm shallow enough to be thrilled that we're the only U.S. destination for the "Jasper Johns and Edvard Munch: Love, Loss and the Cycle of Life" show and no, I didn't know nearly enough about either artist before today's most instructive and larger than expected exhibition.

Even so, it wasn't difficult to recognize the same walkway from Munch's "The Scream" in his "Despair" painting (there was also "Angst," surprising neither of us), although I was amazed to read that there had been a major Munch retrospective at the National Gallery in 1979 and I have no memory of such a thing or why I wouldn't have gone to it.

The show, tying together Munch's incalculable influence on Johns both directly and indirectly, read like a who's who of the creative set of the era.

One of John's 1965 pieces had a Frank O'Hara poem written on it - Sputnik is only the word for travel companion here on earth - and he was friends with composer John Cage and dancer Merce Cunningham.

His 1963 "Hatteras," with an arm print at the top, referenced the Hart Crane poem "Hatteras" and the writer's untimely death when he jumped off a ship, his arm sticking up briefly before drowning.

There was so much good high artistic drama back in those days, none of this namby-pamby Instagramming and tweeting by celebrities instead of doing something that better demonstrates their tortured souls than showing off or whining. That said, there were also several "selfies" taken by Munch that surprised us both.

My artist friend and I were far from the only attendees discussing everything we saw, although occasionally we got off topic.

Her: So he got that out of his system.
Me: Yep, worked through it and moved on.
Her: Like any good relationship...

Everything comes back to relationships. Follow me around for a day and I'll prove it.

Easily one of the most unlikely pieces in the exhibit was Johns' summer bedspread from the early 20th century, notable for its cross-hatched pattern, seen in so many of the show's paintings. Where it got eerie was seeing Munch's 1940 "Self Portrait Between Clock and Bed," because the bedspread in the picture was identical to Johns' real one.

Utility imitating art.

When we finally reached the last gallery, my friend inquired, "Are they going to have a nihilistic gift shop when we leave here?"

Nope, but by then it was lunch time, so who cared?

Amuse was almost completely full at mid-afternoon, but welcomed us to its bar for the soda of the day (strawberry vanilla), mussels and ham in butter, garlic, Parmesan and white wine broth and a special of salmon over pink-eyed peas for my friend while we compared notes on the past few weeks.

In no particular order, we covered upcoming road trips (her husband's and ours), relationships based on sex, post-election online baiting and the work of gray hallways, eventually choosing the wrong chocolate dessert even if it had a magnificent lemon curd to recommend it.

Because she's the best kind of friend, before we parted ways, she gave me a jar full of seashells she'd collected for me in September at the Outer Banks knowing they were just my style, so I walked the nearly three miles home reveling in this incredible weather and shaking a Mason jar of small purple shells.

I'd have recited the words to Crane's "Hatteras" as I walked if I'd known them, but, alas.

By the time Barr came to collect me, I'd used every scrap of sunshine and warm air available, fulfilling his prediction while leaving me resigned to a cooler evening that began at Sabai with Moo Sam Chan (because somebody was unable to resist the siren song of crispy pork belly) and Pad Broccoli (so our arteries didn't close up mid-meal or music) and managed to be in and out in just over an hour.

The parking lots near UR's Modlin Center were mobbed with cars in a way I hadn't seen since Chuck D. came to speak at the Alumni Center and we both knew it couldn't be solely because of the Steep Canyon Rangers show we were attending (although it was sold out). Turns out the problem was simultaneous shows tonight.

I'll admit, Steep Canyon Rangers was only a name I'd heard but knew nothing about beyond that they were a young North Carolina bluegrass band before Barr's invitation. So when they came out - upright bass, acoustic guitar, fiddle, mandolin, banjo and, yes, drums - we were both a bit surprised.

There's no percussion in bluegrass, right?

Except there is when you're talking about a group of musicians who use bluegrass instrumentation but allow the music to encompass whatever they like, whether rock, folk, jazz, Americana or a sample of the "Jeopardy" theme, among other snippets sampled by the fabulous fiddle player.

When they first walked out, banjo player Graham - he of the unexpectedly deep voice - had to bow his knees to lower himself to the microphone before raising it as he sang, saying, "It's our first show here," and smiling sheepishly. The mic immediately slid back down and he tightened it yet again.

As they began their energetic set, I couldn't help but secretly hope that these guys in narrow-legged suits were as nerdy as they appeared.

Mike shredded his mandolin like nothing I'd ever seen, each musician had lengthy solos like jazz (and the annoying attendant applause) and they about wiped up the stage when they did the title song from their new album, "Radio."

Doing what they referred to as "an old tune," they broke it down to four-part harmony with occasional additions of guitar, mandolin and banjo, a gorgeous thing to hear.

It was especially satisfying when, say the fiddle and mandolin would get into a pissing match trying to outdo each other, then the banjo would jump in and before long it resembled nothing so much as a big grass-tinged post-rock soundscape, absent vocals and soaring through Booker Hall in a completely un-bluegrass like way.

"Thanks you for having us, Richmond," they said. "We could be persuaded to come back."

I'm willing to bet that no one in the room wouldn't be willing to do the same after experiencing a band forged by bluegrass yet completely open to every genre and interpretation performed by guys with solid musical chops and unbridled youthful enthusiasm.

Despite barely over a month of friendship, the Barrister had done himself proud by choosing a stellar night of unexpected music for us to wind down Friday with.

Except, of course, you don't end a superior sunny November day with just music, you end it with conversation at Rapp Session with wine (a killer Chateau du Coing Chardonnay) and smoked bluefish dip studded with red onion and celery, smeared on Saltines.

I have been eating bluefish practically since birth and I expect I'll go out eating it.

That way, there's time to discuss violin versus fiddle, possible hiking destinations (as usual, I made a case for local trails), where to find the best selection of East Coast oysters and how our mothers managed to mangle most of the foods they cooked when we were children.

As tends to be the way when we get together, we covered the important topics: love, loss and the cycle of life, minus the Sputnik references.

The only way to know someone well enough to predict their behavior is to spend a satisfying amount of each evening together exchanging pertinent opinions and back stories.

Or figure out early on they're a sucker for sunshine and roll with it. I can be so obvious about some things...

Friday, November 18, 2016

Ginger Ale for Two

Some people I know have a "dressing drink" but I'm of the opinion that the "dressing soundtrack" is even more essential...and occasionally educational, too.

Tonight's began with hearing the Carpenters do a husky-voiced cover of "Masquerade," a song I'd always associated with George Benson, at least up until I read those Leon Russell obituaries last week and discovered it's his song, which only means now I need to hear his version.

And so the tangents began...

Listening to Karen Carpenter had me recalling a Chrissie Hynde interview from the 90s(?) where she was saying how much she idolized Karen's breath control and singing ability and tried to imitate it, a musical homage that made sense to me the moment I read it.

And sensibly is how you make your pre-theater dinner plans to ensure making an 8:00 curtain.

I never tire of taking first-timers to My Noodle and watching the look of delight on their faces when they experience the semi-privacy of the multi-level tiki booths. That they can also dish up a green curry to he who swears that he's never had a decent green curry in this town speaks volumes.

The schizophrenic soundtrack - Benny Goodman to the XX - won points with the music obsessive, while the fake fireplace just looked silly, but there's no question, I made another convert.

Of course, some would call me an idiot for turning so many people on to my fave neighborhood Chinese joint, but to share is divine, no?

My date was surprised to hear that Heritage Ensemble Theatre Company's production of "Ceremonies in Dark Old Men" was happening at Pine Camp because his only memory of it was 20 years ago and all he recalled were sports fields.

And now? Galleries, classrooms, an auditorium. Just goes to show some people don't get out quite often enough.

We got there early enough to have a good blather first, although we didn't get to the really juicy subjects until three minutes before curtain, leaving an unknown ending for the listener when a key anecdote had to be curtailed abruptly.

Cards on the table, please.

Given the small Thursday crowd, we had our pick of seats for the Pulitzer Prize-nominated 1969 play, a classic from the Harlem Renaissance according to the program. Set in 1958, it reminded me of "A Raisin in the Sun" with the same sort of characters and issues of striving and surviving.

That's how you won her. Kept her laughing.

It was all about a black family after the mother (who supports all of them) dies, telling the story of what happens once the sole employed family member, the daughter, tells her unemployed father and two brothers they have to find work or move out of the house where she pays the rent.

You can't just go around killing people and getting away with it. Who does he think he is, white?

Watching the tragicomedy unfold, I couldn't help but wonder how I'd never even heard of this important play before. Just as perplexing was seeing talent onstage that I'd never seen before, despite being a regular theater goer.

It was impossible to take your eyes off of Foree Shalom as deeply damaged and ultimate bad guy Blue Haven (in blue suits, naturally), while Toney Q. Cobb ( know, best name ever, right?) effortlessly inhabited the lazy father content to play checkers and relive his glory days on Vaudeville instead of attracting customers to his empty barber shop.

Ain't nothing meaner than an American-born cracker.

Watching a play like this, I couldn't help but be grateful to Heritage Ensemble for satisfyingly producing a classic piece of black theater that deserves to be seen by audiences of all colors still dealing with the same racial issues 47 years later.

Who the hell ever told every black woman she was some kind of goddam savior?

For that matter, who the hell doesn't have an "undressing soundtrack" when possible? "And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out" winds up being Yo la Tengo's extended goodnight. Fitting.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Well in the Present

No doubt about it, we're in the home stretch for November.

Walking by the front of Kroger yesterday - it's 63 degrees, sunny and I'm wearing shorts, mind you - I see employees untying Christmas trees. When I make a comment about it being a tad early, the manager-looking one cracks, "Yea, they're Thanksgiving trees!"


Tonight I drive out to the boondocks Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen for the On the Air Radio Players' "Turkeys on the Radio" live radio show.

Walking in, the receptionist looks at my outfit and says, "You look like you're from the '80s. I like it!" As I pass by, she calls out, "Rock on!" which is always my intent anyway.

The audience was scattered all throughout the November Theatre (yes, there are November Theatres in every nook and cranny of this town), but I was surprised that as many times as I've been there for these radio shows over the years, this was the first time I'd ever seen someone I know there.

Unfortunately, it was also the first time anyone was foolish enough to bring a toddler who squawked throughout or that someone forgot to turn their cell phone off, meaning the live recording now includes an anachronistic ring tone midway through (something the director usually warns against but he was a first-timer and forgot).

As is only right, both tonight's radio plays had Thanksgiving themes.

1950's "Our Miss Brooks: Thanksgiving Turkey" was about how Miss Brooks tried to plot to get her favorite single man to invite her to turkey dinner (even if she had to pay the $1.50 for her own meal), a dilemma that involved buying a live turkey to save money and then catching it once it got loose in the house.

Favorite line: "Live well in the present. The future ain't never done nothin' for nobody!"

1942's "The Great Gildersleeve: Thanksgiving" was obviously a wartime story with references to gas applications, food shortages and the Ration Board. In it, ten-year old Leroy worried about looking like a sissy in his Pilgrim costume for the school production of "The Courtship of Miles Standish" and cracked  a Longfellow joke.

They sure don't make 10-year olds like they used to.

Along the way, the cast did singing commercials for Colgate, Luster Cream shampoo and Parkay margarine, touting it as "a nourishing energy food with Vitamin A, wholesome and economical." They left out the awful tasting part, but in wartime, I guess you take what you can get.

Maybe most interesting to me were the frequent references to having ham for Thanksgiving instead of turkey, a tradition I've never even heard of. Ham for Christmas or Easter, both ham and turkey for those holidays, but just ham on Thanksgiving? Not in my lifetime.

I've long been a fan of OTARP's shows for the glimpse they offer into a time I didn't know - as well as for watching the machinations of a radio play - not to mention the appealing corniness of the commercials. Although tonight's cast had more than their share of muffed lines and lost places in the script, it was still more than worth the price of admission.

But after an hour in the county, I was ready to return to the city for another November tradition: the Cru Beaujolais tasting followed by the post-midnight unveiling of the Beaujolais Nouveau at Amour.

Except, unlike my friend Holmes, I'm not much of a fan of the young, fruity wine, so it was enough to join the regulars at the bar, enjoy a warming bowl of French onion soup and marvel at my first white Beaujolais, Domaine des Nugues Blanc, a lovely acidic wine with a distinct honey taste.

"This would be wonderful with lobster," one of the regulars commented. "Perfect for New Year's Eve. Except we'll probably be here." The owner smiled. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see lobster with this wine on his menu come December 31st.

A woman came in to, as she put it, "drink her dessert" while her son finished up a game of Dungeons and Dragons nearby, so of course we invited her to join our conversation. A New Jersey transplant, she was already madly in love with Richmond after only two years.

When she left to collect her son, it was with regret about leaving our lively political discussion, but she also assured us she'd be back next Wednesday, should we want to further it.

As the hour got later, but still pre-midnight, the many bottles of Cru Beaujolais clustered at the end of the bar were opened as more people arrived looking for their November fix.

After pouring wine in several glasses, the owner stood by the bar, holding the neck of the bottle, whether guarding it or ready to pour more, I can't say for sure.

A female guest looked at his stance and joked, "I work out and I could just grab that bottle from you and run!"

"Grab a wine bottle? Not from a Frenchman!" he responded. Acknowledging the French lock on wine, she didn't bother trying. Meanwhile, I discussed piano moving with an expert - a man who'd moved his three pianos six times - amazed at how many ways there are to move such large objects.

For the first time in years, I didn't stay for the uncorking of the Nouveau (it was a short night last night), instead abdicating my bar stool to a later arrival once I heard there were a dozen reservations on the books for midnight, which was minutes away.

And so November rocks on.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

I Feel the Earth Move

Do not be alarmed if you find yourself struggling to fall asleep tonight, for there could be a perfectly scientific reason for your insomnia. ~ The Telegraph

Although I've never had insomnia, the Supermoon did a royal number on me.

Oh, I went to bed last night at a perfectly reasonable time - midnight - but that moon had no intention of letting me ignore it. I fell asleep immediately, slept for exactly 45 minutes and woke up like someone was calling my name.

According to astrologers, a Supermoon is simply an intensified new moon or full moon - a time to focus on new beginnings. 
~ The Telegraph

As I lay there awake for the next three plus hours, it gradually occurred to me that the moon was cutting me no slack. When better to mull over the state of everything - my life, the new world order, the possibilities of the future - than wide awake at 4 a.m.?

Some even see them as omens of impending disaster, or a warning of something momentous coming. ~ The Telegraph

Once I accepted that I wasn't the least bit sleepy and, clearly, I wasn't going to fall back to sleep easily, I gave in to it. I briefly considered turning on the light and returning to my book - Jacqueline Susann's 1966 bestseller, "Valley of the Dolls" where characters with insomnia dealt with it by downing green or yellow "dolls" - but decided that wasn't the point of the Supermoon.

Any full moon - never mind a Supermoon as big as this - has long been seen as having the ability to trigger emotional reactions and extreme behavior. ~ The Telegraph

Today's lingering effects of the Supermoon colored everything that happened to me, from an unexpected purchase to a gallant offer from a stranger to being called fascinating by a person who credited our meeting to that very moon. Extreme, indeed.

But when a Supermoon is involved, these new starts can take on an even more dramatic turn. ~ The Telegraph

Looking at a photograph of the Supermoon rising on Hatteras only confirmed that it was calling my name. Who needs sleep with a moon like that sprinkling its magic over me?

Monday, November 14, 2016

Don't Laugh, It Could Happen

And in further post-election news, Film Roasters came through like a champ.

Given that it was Monday and still pouring down rain, I could've stayed in. Except why would I do that when I could walk half a mile, snag a sandwich, see a John Carpenter film and listen to Film Roasters mock it mercilessly?

Apparently not everyone was willing to trudge through all-day puddles for the same, meaning I had little competition for bar stools when I got to Strange Matter in time to overhear the bartender ask the one guy at the bar how he was.

"As well as can be expected for this week," he sighed, signaling his willingness to engage in political talk once I'd ordered my BLAT on wheat with slaw. Turns out he went to school in Arlington with Mike Pence's kids, although he assured me they were pretty normal people.

From there, we took off on a 20-minute analysis of the campaign and election, with a new arrival joining the fray when she sat down. All three of us looked up when the smell of burning began singeing our nose hairs, only to learn from the bartender that she'd just turned on the venue's heat for the fist time this Fall.

"Just burning off the Summer dust," one of the owners said nonchalantly and I couldn't complain since I'd finally broken down and turned mine on today, too. There's definitely a smell to first time use.

I managed to finish my sandwich moments before the screening of John Carpenter's "They Live" got started. As is usually the case with these events, I'd not only never seen the movie, but I hadn't even heard of it.

Still, I have a musician friend who worships at the altar of John Carpenter, as much for his quirky films as for the fact that he writes his own music for them, so I felt sure I could count on a good time and a fine A/V experience.

The pre-show trivia question was about Roddy Piper's real name (Roderick), which was my first clue that the wrestler was in the film, much less that he'd acted in a legit movie back in '88.

Just another gaping hole in my cultural literacy filled tonight.

Film Roasters had chosen the perfect post-election movie because this one was all about dismantling the sleeping middle class, except with an epic 5 1/2 minute alley fight scene I closed my eyes for most of.

So far as I could tell, the film followed a drifter who finds out that humans are being controlled by wearing special sunglasses that not only reveal which people are aliens and which still human, but also give them messages to obey (prompting cracks about Shepard Fairey), spend, consume and, worst of all, marry and procreate when they have them on.

On the way to figuring this out, Roddy takes a job working construction ("Look, they're building a Trump hotel!"), which requires being shirtless like the other guys, causing the Film Roasters guys to comment, "Hey, this is a construction site, not a Playgirl shoot," a particularly apt remark given the film's era.

That was far from the only Trump commentary the guys made ("Meanwhile, on Trump TV...") or even political snark  because when we see "They live, we sleep" written on a wall, one guy quips, "That was Hillary's campaign slogan".

Wrestling jokes also abounded (when a guy starts playing the harmonica, Film Roasters joked, "Come and listen to my story 'bout a guy named Hulk Hogan") because they could.

As our hero searches through boxes for the transformative sunglasses, "We'll find that plot around here somewhere!" and when the vaguely familiar face of an extra appeared onscreen, "Hey, is that the kid from "Dawson's Creek?"

Don't ask me. What's "Dawson's Creek?"

As funny and apt as the two Film Roasters guy were, nothing could top John Carpenter's original dialog when our hero stated his mission.

"I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass and I'm all out of bubblegum," Roddy says, shotgun and pistol in hand.

As I already knew from past Film Roasters events, these guys have very limited tolerance for the pacing of pre-21st century movies, whining, "They do everything in this movie too slow!" and any time a character had more than two sentences to say, they'd respond with a yawn and, "Is there a part two to this story?"

When the film referenced the "human power elite," they translated it to, "Republicans!" like it was a dirty word. Wait...

"They Live" ended with Roddy's partner being killed by the pretty girl, so he kills her and shoots out the broadcasting dish that's been brainwashing the masses only moments before the aliens hovering in a helicopter shoot him.

And you know what our hero does as a final gesture? He gives the aliens the finger, that's what, because he knows he's destroyed their means of communication and now humans can see the aliens in their midst without the evil sunglasses.

Success and final satisfaction!

You'd think that would be enough for Carpenter, but, oh, no, there's one more scene, this one with a naked girl having sex cowgirl-style with...an alien, whom she can now see for who he actually is. Film over.

"That's really how it ends!" one of the Film Roasters guys said in amazement.

As the small crowd gathered up their stuff to leave and tonight's metal/punk/crust band began bringing in their instruments for the later show, the other Film Roaster called out merrily.

"Happy post-election, everyone!" Funny, not funny.

Life Baked in a Beautiful Pie

Good vibrations must be emanating from the Supermoon.

To help beat the post-election funk some of us are experiencing, No BS Brass Band had scheduled an early show at Plan 9 Records. I made sure to arrive early enough to look for a CD I wanted and before most of the crowd wedged itself into the store.

"Hi, y'all," trombonist Reggie Pace said after the first rousing number. "We want the world to be a great place and this is how we do it."

The crowd steadily grew both inside and along the sidewalk outside as the band played through their set - Aha's "Take On Me" and the requisite "RVA All Day" - and people danced in place.

In between grooving, I wound up sharing my clementine with the toddler being held by her mother next to me. Once she saw what I had, she'd hold out a fat little hand so I could deposit a segment into it (and once in the pocket of her smock, much to her delight) until my fruit was no more.

Her Mom thanked me profusely, but if you can't share your citrus with a babe-in-arms, you're not really trying to make the world a great place, now are you?

The exuberant show ended with Reggie and a lot of us holding up peace signs in the air and hugging each other. Outside on the sidewalk, I paused to talk to friends, hearing the same refrain repeatedly: "I needed that. We needed that."

I was far from the only one at Plan 9 who was then headed down the block to the Byrd to see Jim Jarmusch's new documentary about Iggy Pop and the Stooges, "Gimme Danger" at its sole Richmond screening.

As I'd anticipated, there were scads of friends in the near-capacity crowd and, by some miracle, a favorite couple ended up right next to me shortly before Mike of the James River Film Society spoke.

He said that they'd been trying to get Jarmusch to speak at the James River Film Festival for years, first sending him Virginia peanuts and another year, Virginia bourbon. always with an invitation to come. So far he's only sent thank you postcards, but hope springs eternal.

"No luck yet, but we'll keep working on it," he shared.

I'm a sucker for a good documentary (much less one screened in Surround Sound with a roomful of music lovers) and tonight's delivered with fun facts, rare performance footage and lots of Iggy aka Jim talking about his memories of the past 50 years.

Fact: he was originally inspired by Clarabelle on "Howdy Doody" and Soupy Sales because both characters did anything they wanted to do and that appealed to him.

After starting his musical life as a drummer, he got tired of looking at butts and took over front man duties. When the band added a sax player, he told him he wanted him to sound like Maceo Parker on acid.

I learned we share a similarity when he mentioned his attraction to people who "are in their adulthood who haven't lost their childhood." The kind of person who invented the stage dive when they were opening for Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention ("The best band, in my opinion, we'd opened for at that point").

He spoke about their "big brother band," MC5 and how he remembers when they were just a cover band. There was a show poster with the Stooges and Bob Seeger on the same bill, a seemingly unlikely pairing except for their shared hometown.

What was truly amazing to see was the evolution of his stage performance, which is to say that somehow, he's still performing the acrobatic and contortionist moves he was at 20, still bare-chested (although not bleeding) and nimble as few 70-year olds could even imagine being.

Mostly, the fascinating documentary made a case for Iggy's statement to Dinah Shore on her '70s talk show when she asked about his main accomplishment.

"I helped wipe out the '60s," he said without irony and Jarmusch's film assembled all the vintage footage and interviews to prove it.

Leaving the Byrd, I couldn't help but thank the organizer who'd made sure this film came to Richmond, making for a stellar way to cap off this tumultuous week.

Things were even higher pitched when I arrived at intermission at the Firehouse Theater for the Glapcocks (hilarious anti-awards the theatrical community hands itself) and was greeted by the recent winner of  the "most animalistic" award, her glowing green trophy in hand.

More crazy awards followed and after "Most Ghost," co-host Matt (along with leggy co-host Maggie) acknowledged, "We really should sell tickets to the night we come up with all these crazy categories. It's an open bar event." That much was easy to believe and would undoubtedly be well worth the price of admission.

Once awards had been given out, we moved on to a theater kid's favorite event: the theater mannequin challenge. The entire room was instructed to form tableaux with others so that a 360-degree video could be shot of all of us frozen into a mid-action pose.

Don't ask me why. I'm not and never was a theater kid.

"This side of the room looks kind of dead," Annie, the videographer announced, pointing at my side of the room, so, with no shame at all, I turned around and engaged the guy behind me.

I'm here to tell you it was challenging for this non-actor to stare into someone's eyes for the minute-plus it takes to shoot a roomful of people and finally get to me.

The rest of the evening was devoted to singing, at least in the style of the Ghostlight After Parties of old, when actors get up and sing a favorite show tune to a pianist sight-reading the music.

Turns out Ian, whose eyes I'd stared into, had a fabulous voice, while co-host Matt proclaimed another Matt "dreamy" (and simulated oral sex with his microphone to demonstrate just how dreamy) while he sang "I'd Rather Be Sailing."

Kelsey accompanied herself on ukulele to "She Used to Be Mine" from "Waitress, the Musical," crushing the room with her talent.

She is messy, but she's kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone but she used to be mine

A few people attempted a group version of "One Day More," but there were a lot of forgotten lyrics and tepid singing (except for the impressive Ian behind me, who asked rhetorically, "How does no one know these words?") when our host Matt walked back in, saying, "What happened? I leave for five minutes!"

For the traditional singalong finale, we tried Toto's "Africa," but that didn't go so well (and why should millennials know a 40-year old pop song word for word?), so the evening closed out with the always reliable "Season of Love" instead.

525,600 minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles
In laughter, in strife
In 525,600 minutes
How do you measure a year in the life?

Gorgeous voices knew every nuance of this tune and they were singing in the aisle before it ended with a sustained note. There was no way not to feel the love at the Glapcocks tonight.

As far as this whole Sunday night went, I needed that. We needed that.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

I Wanna Be On Your Mind

The man in the preacher hat summed up my evening. "Lydia Loveless is up next. I love getting to say that. What a Saturday night!"

It was indeed a Saturday night I won't soon forget.

Back during the halcyon days of summer, I'd bought a $12 ticket to see Lydia at the Southern in Charlottesville and tonight a favorite couple came by to scoop me up and ferry me there.

Our first stop was Public Fish & Oyster, where we encountered a full house and no availability until 9:30 unless we were willing to sit on the patio.

I had only one question and the answer was yes, they had heaters out there, so we joined a growing group of poor planners like ourselves to eat dinner outside on the coldest evening in months.

Cozying up to a heater and with a borrowed blanket from the restaurant that shared the patio (honestly, we thought the blankets were Public's), we managed quite nicely, thank you.

Food-wise, we were in high cotton. From the blackboard offerings of East coast oysters, we had the two saltiest bivalves: PEI's Canada Cups and Rhode Island's Beaver Tails, the former the briniest and thus my fave.

When our affable server Cameron warned us that there were only two orders left of tonight's special, I immediately reserved one because how often does a person get offered wolf fish cheeks with remoulade, vinegary cucumber slices, jalapeno hush puppies and corn on the cob, all on the same plate?

Just to be sure, I also got fried brussels sprouts with a stellar apple slaw (even though brussels had a superfluous apostrophe on the menu and menu mistakes like that grate on this reader's eye), tasted a damn fine clam chowder and politely declined rockfish because I was full (room was found for chocolate torte, but that's a different story).

Over dinner, my hatted friend shared that she'd heard from long-time friends - a couple in Madison County also en route to tonight's show - who'd started today by making a fire, laying in bed and listening to Lydia's new album on vinyl.

If there could be a finer start to a day...well, I'm listening.

By the time we rolled out, the patio was completely full and the temperature had dropped ten degrees. November, you can be unpleasant.

But the Southern was as warm and toasty as the name suggests and we arrived early enough that the doors hadn't yet opened, so when they did, we bolted to claim spaces on the raised seating that surrounds the poles in the room.

It's not my first Southern rodeo by any stretch and I know those structures make fine places to stand once things get crowded.

The musician in our group immediately commented on the '70s-era drum kit onstage (the bass drum had a picture of Paul Lynde on it), the abundance of guitars (Fenders, Gibsons and a Silvertone) and had an epiphany when he spotted the Fender amps ("That's why the guitar tones sound so good on the record!").

We were amazed that the show wasn't sold out or even close to it, although it was at least diverse with everything from UVA students to plenty of Baby Boomers and skewing heavily male. Our collective opinion was that it would've sold out in Richmond.

Opener Aaron Lee Tasjan came out looking like a 21st century Hazel Moates - or at least that was our take after seeing "Wise Blood" last night - in a cream-colored "preacher's hat" over long, straight hair, a dried blood-colored jacket, a black shirt buttoned all the way up and tight pants, accompanied by Brian from Waco, a superb guitar player.

They give you loose gravel and call it rock steady

Explaining that in Omaha, someone had given him a napkin full of acid, he said he'd gone home, taken it and written four folk rock songs, including one called "Little Movies," which didn't have a particularly folk-like bent, but was a solid song anyway. Ditto "Memphis Rain"

One of these days I'm gonna lose my mind
Can't wait to see what that helps me find

His songs were smart and literate (how often do you hear a reference to poet laureate Phillip Levine?) and sometimes just plain clever, like "Twelve Bar Blues" about 12 different bars, comparing their strengths and weaknesses.

When an annoying woman right up front began trying to get his attention, he told her, "Don't start with me. It's been a long week and I smell terrible and you don't want what I got."

Always believe a man in a preacher hat.

Aaron and Brian closed out by rocking hard to "Success" before Aaron rhapsodized about how fortunate we were to be spending Saturday night with Lydia Loveless.

Duly noted.

The stage was reset for the headliners, PBRs were placed at each station and the band came out. Lydia's look said it all: a coonskin hat, a red plaid sweater, fur-lined boots and silvery blue eye shadow and her first words - "Illustrious intro here. Hello!" - said the rest.

"It's hard to feel rock and roll in a sweater, so I opted not to wear pants, just tights because I live in a van." I'm guessing that despite that, she didn't smell as terrible as Aaron claimed he did, but I have no proof of that.

Besides, odor issues aside, her leather guitar strap with her name burned into it was totally badass. And the woman has a voice that rivals Neko Case's for purity, nuance and my willingness to listen to absolutely anything she's singing.

After beginning with the provocative "European," they moved on to the bruised emotions of "To Love Somebody" as the smell of weed permeated the air, making us wonder how that even happens in a public place.

With "Real," she mined the authenticity of her past and the honesty of that hardest of goals - successful relationships - and by that point, there were enough tall people in front of us that it was time to stand on our seats. From that perch, we had a terrific view of Lydia and the four musicians with her, all of whom looked markedly older.

The bassist was a hair flipper, constantly whipping his long, curly hair to and fro and the guitarist on the right was a major showboater with his low-slung guitar and trucker's hat, constantly seeking the spotlight, while the drummer just did his job and other guitarist wowed on 12 string and pedal steel.

"Enough of the rock and roll shenanigans. It gets a little out of control," Lydia announced, stating the obvious. "Let's just play some nice peaceful songs." That's how we got to hear the more low key "Midwestern Guys."

The band exited so we could experience just Lydia and her guitar and, in many ways, it was the truest and most captivating way to hear songs such as "Out on Love" and "Verlaine Shot Rimbaud." Apparently being home-schooled makes you capable of such literary lyric-writing.

When she did "More Like Them," my thoughts naturally went to the couple whose day had started with a roaring fire and vinyl. In Lydia's words, why can't I be more like them?

She wasn't a big talker between songs, but late in the set, she shared that two months in a van with four guys and too much testosterone was wearing on her, along with "electing a misogynist this week so there's a black cloud around us all..." and then some idiot yelled out a song request and she finished by saying, "...and people telling you what song to sing in the middle of a sentence."

The band returned and she sarcastically said they were going to do "the hit single from our smash record," to which the less annoying guitarist asked, "Which one?"

"The one that bought your house, your second house," she said, launching into the melancholy "Longer," in which her voice may or may not sound like vintage Shelby Lynne (a reference only Baby Boomers will get), bending almost to the point of breaking before soaring again.

The brief encore was just Lydia and her guitar and our dream evening bubble popped.

I scrambled onstage and snagged the set list as a souvenir. All three of us walked out of there enthralled with what we'd just heard, amazed at what $12 had bought us and sorry that Lydia hadn't gotten the full house she deserved.

We, on the other hand, got the best Saturday night imaginable. Amen, preacher man.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

A Woman Following the Moon

My evening mirrored the week, both absurd and with a reminder that what is good abides.

After taking care of my hired mouth with dinner, Mac and I battled I-95 Friday evening traffic and VCU basketball traffic jams to get to the Bijou to see John Huston's "Wise Blood."

As one of the Bijou's co-founders said when I admitted I'd never seen the film, "This is a movie for people like you," meaning people who are still trying to fill in gaps in their film viewing history and people willing to wait for a chance to see them on the big screen.

And, yes, I'd read the story, both in college and again 10 years ago, and here was this film geek telling me that the film lived up to the source material. I was there to discover that for myself.

Ditto for the guy in the row behind us from Raleigh, in town for tomorrow's marathon, who'd googled things to do in Richmond tonight and shown up to join us locals for a couple of hours of southern Gothic through a late '70s filter, courtesy of a directorial master like Huston.

Talk about your killer off-kilter movies.

And oh-so politically incorrect. The "n-word" was used as liberally as salt at my parents' dinner table, in a way that seemed shocking for 1979. Quaintly dated, too, like when the Hazel Moates character kept telling people, "I'm obliged" as a way of saying thank you.

Flannery O'Conner's dialog sounded as southern and descriptive as her books. I mean, when's the last time you heard someone's hair described as "so thin it looked like ham gravy trickling down her skull"?

First off, you've got to know what ham gravy is and looks like to even get a laugh out of that. Coincidentally, Mac and I had just been discussing sausage gravy on the way to dinner (and how Anthony Bourdain's recipe for it is an affront to southerners everywhere). But I digress.

Ned Beatty's lavender leisure suit was bad enough, but when you add in the red and pink floral tie, red and white striped shirt, white Stetson and white shoes, it was like the costume designer threw up on him and called it a day.

Add in the requisite '70s details - S & H Green Stamp stores, women in public in pink sponge curlers and a kid wearing a knit cap with the words, "Can you dig it?" - to the fully-formed and totally bizarre characters and I felt more like I was watching an early long-lost David Lynch or Tarantino movie, full of odd moments and even weirder people saying totally unexpected things.

Which is all a roundabout way of saying that James was absolutely correct and that it was most definitely a movie for people like me. And Mac...and the guy from Raleigh. No one shows up for a film like "Wise Blood" accidentally.

Once we left there, we made the inevitable trek westward ho to become part of the mass of humanity in Scott's Addition with all the usual Friday night brewery crowds piled on top of this year's InLight extravaganza.

I've only missed one year of the annual event (best excuse ever: I was in Italy for two weeks) because the combination of artistic endeavor combined with the inevitability of stumbling over (hey, with no street lights on, it was dark) scores of familiar faces make InLight feel like a big community shindig and who doesn't need one of those this week?

Along the way, we met up with Bruno awaiting us on a corner and Foto Boy - camera, lens and tripod in hand, whom Mac summoned via the magic of texting after I provided her his phone number - in the middle of a darkened street.

The good news is how much more spread out the installations were than they've been in some past years and the bad news was the north wind which seemed to sweep down the streets unabated, knocking over signage and destroying elements (one installation began with 54 balloons for the 54 corners in Scott's Addition and by the time we saw it, there were seven left - balloons, not corners, that is).

As in the past few years of InLight, I felt there were a few too many straight-forward projections for my taste (as was a particularly video game-like piece).

Far more interesting to me were installations such as  Bob Kaputo's "Cold and Overcast Day 2016," a sepia-toned rectangular light box with images inside projected out and the sound of kinetic energy emanating from it. The artist likened the sound to that of brain synapses, a notion that made sense watching it.

Looking at Leigh Suggs' phosphorescent map of Richmond, Bruno said he better understood Church Hill by seeing it laid out without street names.

As I stood there admiring it and trying to locate my street and neighborhood, from behind me I heard  Foto Boy knowingly saying, "Karen loves her maps." She sure does, as he's learned from nearly 8 years of friendship.

I stopped in my tracks when I spotted Rob Carter's "Sun City," Mac's favorite, the black and white images of a Spanish city changing over time, a visual feat accomplished with time lapse images of architecture, history and possibility. So much more than just a projection.

Art on Wheels DIY take on Lite Brite (soda bottles full of colored water you could arrange in a grid to form images) seemed to most delight the generation that grew up on the game, but all of us found it to be an exceptionally clever idea.

Walking through the garage of a lofts building, we encountered a series of framed "clouds" captured in glass, visible on both sides and Foto Boy wasted no time in positioning me, telling me where to look and shooting away. I appreciate that he makes me look good and he appreciates that I give him photo credit if I post his work. Win-win.

"Somebody's got some powerful projectors," a musician friend jokingly observed as we paused to look up at a magnificent tableaux in the sky: the nearly full moon on one side of the glowing red WTVR tower and a huge crescent of cirro-cumulus clouds on the other.

I'm obliged for a Friday evening with such lovely distractions after a week that has worn on even the most optimistic of us.