Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Cult of Personality

The day has nowhere to go but up when breakfast involves watching a stranger vomit.

For the record, the guy was a passenger in the back seat of a car stopped at a traffic light across from where my friend and I sat eating and looking out a big plate glass window. He opened the door, barfed and closed it, re-opened it, barfed again and closed it.

At that moment the guy in the front passenger seat locked eyes with me and I gave him the thumbs up. He cracked up and returned the gesture as the driver pulled away.

Must have been a helluva Sunday night is all I can say.

Tonight was all about fighting fascism, so a friend and I were among the 100 or so people who gathered at Babe's of Carytown for a reading sponsored by Chop Suey Books. It was a diverse crowd of anarchists, middle aged people, crazies ranting about the monument removal, millennials and more than a few people taking notes.

A good representation of Richmond, in other words.

In the spotlight was Mark Bray, author of "Antifa: The Anti-fascist Handbook," which came out shortly before the Charlottesville debacle, making him a hot commodity these days.

He read from the book, but the bulk of the evening was devoted to taking questions and although everyone played shy at first, eventually the questions came hard and fast and he shared what he'd learned from talking to 60 anti-fascists from 17 countries.

"Fascism is colonialism and imperialism come home to roost," he told the room and surely I wasn't the only person marveling at the astuteness of the statement.

He emphasized that the goal of antifa (and let's face it, almost everyone I know is anti-fascist) is simply preventing fascists (neo-nazis, white supremacists, KKK) from having a platform to spew their venom.

Come on, who's not on board with that?

But his greatest passion was discussing the history of fascism and anti-fascism because, well, he's a history professor at Dartmouth. But he was also part of the Occupy Wall Street protest, so he had plenty of street cred as well.

Plenty of the discussion centered around freedom of speech and whether it's a slippery slope to deny fascists a platform, but for crying out loud, we're talking about fascism here. Did we learn nothing watching Hitler, Mussolini and Franco take over after being given platforms?

What I thought was especially notable about tonight - besides the interior of Babe's with its disco ball, aquarium, paneled walls and Jell-o shots - was that over 100 people came out on a Monday evening for a book reading (unheard of and I would know since I'm usually one of 6 or 10 people at readings) about an unlikely subject like anti-fascism.

Richmond, just let me say that your coolness goes far beyond new restaurants and trendy breweries.

There were so many questions and such passionate discussion that it was close to 9 by the time we strolled down Cary Street and settled on the patio at Can Can for dinner. Lucky us, there was only one other couple out there enjoying the warm night air and they were just finishing up.

I don't know which impressed our server more, the choice of Henri Bourgeois Sancerre La Porte du Caillou or that I travel with my own metal straw. She took it for environmental savvy but I also pointed out that it keeps my lipstick off the glass and dishwashers appreciate that.

"You're so considerate!" she marveled. Too many restaurant friends not to at least try.

My crabcake was thick with lump crabmeat and the accompanying baby kale, arugula and mango salad provided a nice counterpoint to the crab's richness, while my companion's plat du jour - half a grilled chicken with obscene garlic mashed potatoes and toothsome haricots vert - was equally over the top for such simple components.

Nothing like a brasserie to overfeed us while we savored the breeze and watched the street theater of Carytown unfolding a few feet away.

And while we were bound to see a few obviously drunk people (one woman, leading her friend out of Can Can, slurring, "Did you have a good time? See? Monday's as good as Friday for having fun!") given that we were across the street from Weezie's, at no point did anyone pull up, open the car door and barf in front of us.

Sunday night, Monday night, Tuesday night...the way I see it, any one of them can be just as good as Friday night.

Considerate types know it just depends on what you're doing. And sometimes, who you're with.

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