Friday, August 25, 2017

Feed Your Head

The math was off.

Three hours (of conversation) plus 20 minutes (intermission) divided by seven weeks (since we last saw each other) does not add up to nearly enough time to go deep with one of my oldest friends.

The nearly two months wasn't entirely my fault, though certainly my frequent gallivanting this summer played a part. Without divulging too much, sorry/not sorry.

But she'd also been busy, having just returned from a trip to New England where she was so eager for fall that she began needlessly wearing sweaters because she could. Even when they made her uncomfortably hot. Even when her friend mocked her.

So with one thing and another, tonight was out first chance to hang.

We began on my balcony, hydrating and watching twin moonflowers unfurl while trying to cover some of our recent trips. We'd both noticed how much the light has changed as September nears. Only I am sad about it.

From there, we moved on to Secco and tonight's cooler, drier weather meant that there were no seats on the patio, although once established at the end of the bar, the outdoors were forgotten anyway. Or maybe that was the German Rose.

We'd hit Secco during their happy hour, which attempts to aid customers in re-connecting with humanity by providing boxes in which to put your cell phone. That's right, if you box your phone, everything you eat and drink costs less, not to mention the thrill of real time conversation.

And while my friend did lock hers up, the owner pointed out that I was already ahead of the game by having no phone to lock up. Whether that should get me an even bigger deal or looks of scorn is up to the individual.

While dishing on family, friends and lovers, we also chowed down. A killer baba ganouch was taken over the top with the addition of sweet tomato relish and cotija, while the warm grilled flatbread more than did its part. I'd eat it again tomorrow.

It was an evening to discover (and correct) that my friend had never had fried squash blossoms, these arriving with crispy fried lemon, green beans and Romesco to seduce her. And what Rose drinker could be less than thrilled with a Spanish octopus and mussel escabeche with the thinnest of cucumber slices, basil and Thai chilis?

Certainly not this one.

We eavesdropped on a woman who claimed to look 28 (not even close), talked about the pleasures of a green Chartreuse party (not since the '90s for me) and questioned how some people define friendship. She asked for a beach replenishment update and I obliged.

And then we hightailed it to the Basement for TheatreLAB and Firehouse Theatre's production of "Alice."

You know, as in Wonderland and through the looking glass. Also as in, so full of youthful singing and acting talent that the effect was dazzling.

We were seated next to an older couple from Montross on the Northern Neck and it didn't take much prodding to get them talking. Big theater fans, both of them, they shared that they often went to Fredericksburg to see plays.

"In September, we're going to see 'Six Brides for Six Brothers," the woman told me excitedly. "It's seven brides and seven brothers," her husband informed her. "You're making up a play!"

When they asked if I was a native Richmonder, we found out that both the husband and I were Washingtonians and born in the same hospital. Small world.

I would have left it there, but then the husband starts quizzing me. What was the name of the bakery on Pennsylvania Avenue near 16th? What radio commercial went like this (and he began singing)?  I explained I had been gone 30 years and clearly didn't have the same memories he did.

The wife tells me she had 5 children, all at the same hospital, but by two different husbands. Then she giggles and said, "And none with him" and points to Mr. D.C.

Oh, they were colorful, alright. Things only went south when the subject of renaming his Arlington alma mater (coincidentally, also that of my companion) came up and we began to see that he couldn't understand why Confederate statues must come down.

But other than that, they were sweet and obviously dedicated theater fans to have driven an hour and 20 minutes for this play, so we had to like them.

They'd picked one worth the drive. The fresh-faced cast was all in, the amount of energy expended impressive and the story charmingly told with all the anticipated lack of logic expected of a tale written while on drugs.

For that matter, they'd also executed a play with as perfect a sound quality as I've heard at a play in Richmond. Granted, the Basement is small, but that's not always been a guarantee of fabulous sound and tonight every syllable and moan came across loud and clear (all the better to appreciate the cast's stellar voices) as they belted out songs (which did occasionally drift into Disney territory).

Can I just say that it is positively life-affirming to sit in a theater and see a play with an all-female cast? Casting women in all the roles - the Caterpillar, Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum, the Mad Hatter - ensured that every strong voice, every funny line, every dramatic moment was delivered with a healthy dose of estrogen.

Hallelujah and pass the chocolate. It's enough to make a woman giddy with the rarity of it.

And let me just say that Maggie Bavolack (in a blue bobbed haircut, sunglasses and smoking  a hookah) was so over-the-top hilarious as the caterpillar that some people couldn't take their eyes off of her. Charisma and attitude oozed from every blue pore on her body.

But she was only one of a strong ensemble cast who could toss off simple yet well-written lines ("Those muddy stockings, so joie de vivre!") and crack up the audience.

At intermission, a woman in line was all but swooning about the gorgeous harmonies we'd been hearing and although I agreed, I was just as taken with the clever dialog and its delivery. Someone had done a magnificent job of casting.

Of course, we all strive to cast our own lives just as ably. You find a good person like my friend and you offer them the role for life. You fit in a new person around the original cast.  You ensure the estrogen level stays up for sanity's sake.

And that hot pink bandana I had on tonight? So joie de vivre.

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