Friday, September 29, 2017

Collar, Meet Skirts

We might have been willing to trespass, but not to use the walkie talkie.

Mac and I started the day walking at the river and as we came back up toward Capital Hill, we spotted a bus marked "C-SPAN Bus 50 Capitals Tour," whatever that was. With nothing better to do, we climbed aboard and found ourselves in a tricked out multi-media explosion of touch screens and eager guides.

After taking a quiz about democracy (9/10, so not bad), a guide explained that the bus was visiting every state capital (Alaska and Hawaii will require a barge) over the next year.

We were offered the opportunity to be filmed for 30 seconds about our greatest concern for the country (hello, race relations), but opted out (me: too hot and sweaty, Mac: too nervous).

The illustrious L. Doug Wilder had already said his piece before we arrived, although I'd bet they didn't limit him to any 30 seconds.

Back in Jackson Ward, we stopped in our tracks when we saw a trio of tourists in town for the Aglow convention (some kind of ministry begun by women) looking perplexed at the map in their hands.

Turns out they were from Washington state (when I mentioned Virginia wine, they assured me their state made wine, too), staying at the Air BnB over Lucy's (points for choosing such a central location) and looking for some guidance on walkable markets and restaurants (when I asked if they liked oysters, one told me she couldn't eat them because they went right through her whole).

In other words, they'd hit the jackpot.

A tourist really couldn't luck into anyone better than Mac and me to guide them through their first visit, mark up their map with restaurant suggestions or direct them to a market for coffee and assorted necessities.

Let's put it this way: it wasn't enough to introduce themselves, they also needed to hug us in gratitude. Also I'm guessing they won't make it to Rapp Session.

Our evening began at the Library of Virginia for a panel discussion, "Virginia Vice: Legislating Morality" focusing on moonshine, marijuana and film and how the commonwealth tried to save us from them all.

I immediately recognized one of the panelists, Max Watman, who'd written a book about moonshine because in 2010 I'd gone to a reading at Chop Suey where he'd passed around a Ball jar of moonshine for us to sip as he read.

And, yes, that's as illegal as it sounds.

The other three panelists - Adam Rathge, Melissa Ooten and Kevin Kosar - were new to me but full of obscure informtaion about their areas of expertise: weed, film and whiskey.

Fun facts gleaned from the discussion: New Zealand is one of the rare places where it's legal for people to distill hard liquor at home. Most films banned by Virginia's film censorship board were made by black filmmakers. Philly is the biggest moonshine market in the country. Pot only became an issue once people began worrying that white kids would use it and not just black jazz musicians.

It always comes back to race, doesn't it?

Best quote about Bristol, Virginia: "Tennessee gets the revenue and Virginia gets the drunks." That's what you get when the government's in the alcohol business, kids.

We sneaked out toward the end of the Q & A because we needed to eat before going to a play and it was getting late. It was all fun and games until we realized we were locked in the library's parking garage.

Mac was at least smart enough to go into the guard's booth and hit the button that lifted the arm to let us out of the garage, but then we realized that both the gates were down that led to the street. Back to the booth we both went, but with no clue what to do to raise the gates.

Fearlessly, we pushed buttons to no effect, tried both phones (neither worked) and gave up on trying the walkie talkie because we had no idea how it worked. Mac headed upstairs to find a savior while I guarded the car and eventually, with a guard's assistance, we escaped.

With less than half an hour to eat, we settled on Monroe Ward fast food, aka Tarrant's back door, to score a fish sandwich for Mac and a slice of pizza the size of my head for me.

It wasn't anybody's first choice, but neither was starving through a play.

We got lost getting to Pine Camp Theater (because I'm navigationally challenged despite having been there plenty of times), but arrived in time to hear a most excellent pre-show soundtrack (because what could be better than hearing the Delfonics' "Didn't I Blow Your Mind?" after so many years?).

Heritage Theater Ensemble's "Wine in the Wilderness" was set during the Harlem race riots of 1964 - caused, it should be noted in 2017, by the wrongful death of a 15-year old by a cop - and set up a compelling metaphor inside a Harlem apartment while the riots raged on outside.

An educated black painter who thinks he knows what men want (a loaf of bread, a jug of wine and an ideal woman) is introduced to a woman less educated and refined ("You're too brash, too used to looking out for yourself") but more intuitive about human nature and sparks fly, but not immediately the good kind.

As the old timer puts it, "A man's collar and a woman's skirts, may they never meet." At least until they do and she's smiling and wearing his dashiki the next morning.

The standout in the cast was actress Dorothy Miller who nailed the insecurity of a woman in a bad wig and dowdy clothing accustomed to being pushed around by life and just as ably conveyed the epitome of a strong and beautiful black woman ready to fight back when she's wronged and take down those who think they're above her.

Best of all, it ended with even more Delfonics - "La La Means I Love You" - which should tell you everything ended happily, aside from police continuing to kill unarmed citizens.

I know, I know, too brash. I'm working on that. No, really.

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