Monday, July 3, 2017

Lady Marmalata's Bongos

Turns out stay-cationing is every bit as non-stop as vacationing.

1. Mick, I hardly knew ye
I finally got around to seeing "Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style" at the VMFA Friday evening, honestly surprised at the number of parents who'd dragged their kids to see a fashion exhibit. "Mom, there's just more clothes in this room, too!" one kid whined.

But what clothes! For me, it was the cultural history lesson that resonated most. The exhibit began back in the dark ages of afternoon dresses, short evening dresses and long evening gowns and moved through the swingin' '60s and '70s with leather maxi coats and sheer pantsuits to clothing that paid homage to art: the Mondrian mini, the Wesselman evening gown and the Georges Braque short evening dress.

Nothing surprised me as much as a black and white photo of Jerry Hall, Mick Jagger and YSL at an event. It wasn't Hall's ruffly swimsuit-like ensemble, it was seeing Jagger with a full beard that stopped me in my tracks.

Why would he ever have chosen to cover up his most famous feature? I'm guessing his vanity won out.

2. Bad luck
When I stopped into Don't Look Back for dinner after YSL, they were in full happy hour mode, meaning there wasn't a seat to be had, but a kind bartender was willing to take my order for shrimp and fish tacos while I waited for a chance to plant my backside.

Happily, my dinner arrived moments after I snagged a bar stool. Chowing down, I asked myself why I hadn't been there in so long when the tacos are so solid and came up with no good answer. Resolved: add more DLB to my life.

Goal thwarted when I woke up the next morning to read that DLB had suffered an early morning fire and is closed indefinitely. Was I the jinx?

3. Making faces, saving democracy
Beau Cribbs and the RVA Tonight crew were hosting a Bongo Beach Bash at the Byrd for those of of us in town and in need of a laugh.

The show involved beach balls, jokes about mayoral candidate Bobby Junes, a nefarious businessman buying up the ocean and a tribute to all the artists who died last year done by the duo of Tomato and Tomah-to.

Then there was local skull-a-day artist Noah Scalin entreating us to be creative (told to find a stranger, create a face out of what was in our purses and pockets and post it, the musician next to me and I crafted one of guitar picks, a nail clipper and a metal straw and then chose not to post it), the head of Virginia's ACLU sharing ways to resist and Mikrowaves as the musical guest (afterward I overheard a quartet's assessment of the band: "They were like Reek Big Fish but I couldn't understand what the words were. I liked it!").

I really don't know how I could have covered more bases in a two hour period.

4. Rocks and rawk
Saturday dawned cloudy and warm, so I led the only guy I know who owns an Ava Gardner Museum hat down to Belle Isle for the express purpose of staking a claim on a rock next to the equivalent of nature's foot bath.

The rolling cloud cover allowed us to linger without burning in the sun while a fierce jet of water pummeled our feet (and occasionally threatened to knock me from my perch, it was that strong) and provided a soundtrack just one step removed from crashing surf.

Later that day, I had Simon and Grafunckle's "Greatest Hits" blaring when my date came to collect me, causing my next door neighbors to comment on the volume. When I explained that a woman always needs a dressing soundtrack, they grinned like fools.

Well aware that half the town was going to Dogwood Dell to hear the music from "Hamilton," we devoted the evening to music at Gallery 5 instead where our audience presence was more needed and my companion got to experience the sublime pleasures of seeing Dave Watkins perform.

The show kicked off with Deer Eat Birds, a young (and satisfyingly diverse) group having a ball crafting their post rock aural landscape with occasional Curtis Mayfield-like vocals from the frontman, while Epiphany, with two 7-string guitars and a 6-string bass, had clearly studied their rock god posturing moves.

Dave Watkins played third for a change, fitting given his years of experience over the much younger bands on the bill. Half the room talked through the first few minutes of his set until, as is always the case, they became sucked in to the elaborate and multi-layered soundscapes he was creating. Ditto my companion who, like me, was awed by how Dave is able to construct his music.

Last up was Majjin Boo, the emo/math rock/experimental/prog group we'd seen play an acoustic set just the other night in the park. Their plugged in sound with a drummer was a far cry from our first time hearing them, so I'll be curious to hear how the sound develops with time.

Walking home after the show,  we marveled at how quiet Jackson Ward was. Almost no one on porches or walking down the street and, even odder, almost no sounds of traffic. In case we'd missed an apocalypse alert, we immediately retreated to my balcony for more music and a little night breeze.

5. Mountain Mist

The second day of a four day-weekend should be a no-brainer. Of course I want to plan something fun and why not with days left for goofing off?

Our happy motoring began by heading to Crozet - past a succession of cops pulling over speeders - for wine tasting, a picnic and polo match-watching from a prime spot under a large shade tree.

Not for us the canopies (labeled with affiliations such as Ole Miss, Alabama and, of course, UVA) lined up along the sidelines when we could see the polo matches just as well and keep our bottles of Crose' Rose' comfortably shaded. New since the last time I'd been, King Family Vineyards now has wine carts that drive around the perimeter so guests don't have to make the trek to the tasting room when their bottle gets low.

First world problems, I know.

I overheard a woman say they'd been staying in Staunton and decided to drive over for the match today and been pleasantly surprised that it was 10 degrees cooler here than it had been in Staunton. We'd definitely chosen the right direction to head today.

Midway through the first match, we spotted a mist rolling down the mountain and eventually a light rain arrived, but just enough to send us to the stable's porch for ten minutes before it moved on and we could return to our encampment.

Plenty of people left during the shower and others departed after the first match, but with a mountain-loving companion who'd never been to a polo match, we were there for the duration. Even once the second and final match ended, we lingered on until one of the wine cart drivers informed us that they had a wedding coming in so we'd need to move to the tasting room.

Somehow, four hours had passed in the blink of an eye.

6. Pie-eyed

The temperature in Crozet was 84 degrees when we left and we fully expected to return to a sauna in Richmond, but it was only 86 when we rolled in, despite fluctuations up to 88 as we drove east.

The neighborhood was just as deserted, but we took a chance and strolled over to Graffiato's for pizza, spotting a few tourists near Quirk and not much else in the way of liveliness, so we made our own.

The hostess made sure we knew it was still happy hour - please, imbibe cheaply! - and we paired discount drinking with an Untouchables pizza (spinach, mozzarella, smoked ricotta, chili-garlic oil and the best possible pizza sweet note, tomato marmalata) and a spicy Italian sausage pizzetta for the win.

Digestion was accompanied by Bryan Ferry, a little night air and endless conversation, as it should be on a fine stay-cation.

Life I love you, all is groovy.


  1. Zip a Dee Dah-

    You're got those bases covered again. May have mentioned before -- My sister had lunch with Mick Jagger. He was clean shaven then. It was the mid seventies...(people were more accessible then). Naturally she got a photo on them together, dining. Quite charming -- Times change though...she grew up, settled down, made a family. She became quite traditional in a quirky sort of way....if she was still alive she'd be having a picnic today. Can't take the 4th out of Summer.

    Feeling groovy? -- yeah that's an old one...charming though..

    Happy 4th to U...

    may the stay-cation march on!


  2. Happy 4th to you, C! My plans aren't as groovy as lunch with Mick, but I'll take what I can get!

  3. I'm sure you will're a real trooper, but Hell's Bells there goes my outdoor picnic weather. Rain, rain go away.