Saturday, August 19, 2017

Both Sides Now

Sometimes I let my enthusiasm get the best of me and I may come across as a bit odd.

With plans for dinner and a play, my date and I had just sat down at the bar at Amuse when I realized that next to us was a Jackson Ward neighbor. She immediately launched into praise for our alleys recently being cleared of all the leftover student debris and trash that had made our usually fine neighborhood look a little rundown at the heels lately.

Just as we were mulling who might've been responsible for the clean-up, I looked up to see Pru and company being led to a table nearby, so I went over to say hello. Everyone was in full-on Friday celebratory mode.

And since the trio was seated at a four-top, we saw no reason why a fifth couldn't be accommodated, so I was voted the one to take it up with the host.

Excitedly explaining to him that I was certain another chair could be added to the table, he asked which table my date and I wanted to glom on to. I pointed and continued to insist that one more chair wouldn't matter and how the table could easily fit five.

Looking at me with incredulity, the host asked, "Do they know you?"

Well, duh. Do I look like the kind of person who insinuates herself into the lives of strangers? Okay, of course I do, I am exactly that person, but in this case, I assured him, yes, I knew these people very well.

All of a sudden, our cozy dinner a deux was a round table dinner party for five (they were on the way to see the YSL exhibit), with views of the shades rolling up, down and up again as the photo-sensitive system tried to adjust for the rapidly-changing stormy skies outside.

A bottle of J. Mourat Rose was delivered and not long after, a second (Beau: Do we need another bottle? Me: Uh, yes Pru: Next time, don't ask, just order) as the conversation was derailed with a discussion of pigeon toes, knock knees and the problems of trying to vamp when you have both.

Not a good look and especially for a femme fatale.

Unable to narrow our preferences, my date and I shared two entrees - an earthy vegetable tajine and a special of exquisitely grilled New England cod with green beans and snap peas - so that we could taste both our food crushes. Beau was kind enough to share tastes of his shakshuka, even while wishing that there were more than two eggs on top of the eggplant and tomato stew.

"Or even just a few more yolks," he pined, not satisfied with the speed at which his arteries were closing. We helped that along with dessert, my choice of the salted chocolate bar being based on our server saying it was the darker of the two chocolate offerings but any fool knows I'd have eaten either one.

The skies opened up and torrent of rain began just as we asked for the check so we could make our curtain. Our server, who'd greeted me by name when we'd arrived, returned with two checks, her assumption being that I was alone as usual and not on a date.

Surprise! Sometimes I can dig up a date, especially these past few months. Now that everyone is firmly accustomed to me being solo all the time, I'm showing up as a couple all over the place. Who saw that coming?

We left our friends still finishing their desserts and dashed through the rain to the car, only to make it to Richmond Triangle Players' theater just as the pre-play announcements were being made.

Just this morning as I was out walking, I'd randomly run into the artistic director of a local theater company and in the course of chatting, told him which play I was seeing tonight. I could tell by his face that he had an opinion so I asked for it.

He thought the play, "The View Upstairs," had been unduly harsh on millennials and that while the acting and directing were strong, the story itself was not. He was also a millennial himself.

Naturally we two Baby Boomers wanted to decide for ourselves.

The premise was decidedly millennial, not a surprise given that the playwright was, too. A young Instagram-famous fashion designer buys an old building in New Orleans for a shop, only to go inside and encounter the occupants of the 1973-era gay club that once occupied the space.

And even if the program hadn't stated it was the early '70s, actor John Mincks' hairstyle, mustache and large-lensed glasses clearly stated the period. Ditto Luke Newsome's fitted, high-waisted jeans and Andrew Etheridge's fit and flare polyester bell bottoms.

The script was incredibly au courant - "Donald Trump is president, so anything is possible!" - even if the actors speaking it had to compete with the rolling thunder and pelting of rain on the theater's roof to be heard over it.

Where the script was brilliant, especially so for having been written by a guy born in 1988, was in its attempts at explaining the present reality to denizens of 1973.

You know, back when you'd judge if someone was cool or not with a few simple questions. Oscar Wilde or Arthur Miller? Sonny or Cher?


It's tough to make dating apps and virtual reality sound appealing - because of course you'd want to see a picture of someone before you met them in real life, the better to decide if they were worth wasting your real life time on - to some of us (okay, me) today, so there's really no way to describe it to people with no frame of reference for our ceaseless connectivity married to a greater sense of unconnected humanity.

The two of us laughed a lot about the contrasts of a time we vaguely recall with the "improved" present, rife with loneliness, isolation and, too often, an absence of social and interaction skills. How must it feel when your self-esteem is based on "likes" from people you may or may not know?

We weren't the ones to ask.

But we were the ones to leave the theater and head directly to my balcony for an in-depth discussion of the play's themes set to alternate periods of hard rain and warm breezes while listening to Joni Mitchell's chronicle of a relationship, her 2000 album "Both Sides Now." Then, going down a rabbit hole about the album's arrangements and that certain kind of early '60s movie soundtracks.

Doing so didn't get us a single like from anyone, except each other.


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