Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Seasons in the Sun

No one wants to start the day hearing that someone you know has died.

Not someone young, not someone unfailingly kind to you, not someone with a good attitude and quick sense of humor. But especially not someone young.

Although I hadn't seen her in three weeks, her last email to me was about getting together. "My love, we shall hang," she'd written after offering some relationship advice. As recently as Thursday, I'd messaged a mutual friend about making a date for the three of us to do just that. Saturday, she was gone.

I know life's not fair, but that's a hell of a reminder of it.

The rest of Sunday - the filling of the Labor Day sandwich - stretched out in front of me without a single commitment beyond a phone call.

First up was a walk to Scott's Addition along Broad Street, where I was treated to doughnut samples on a stick from an affable employee of a new doughnut shop poised to open. When I couldn't decide between chocolate with caramel and chocolate with jimmies, he insisted I take both. Done.

I was nothing short of amazed once I got to Scott's Addition because the streets were abuzz with people despite it being noonish on a Sunday during a holiday weekend.  Apparently if you were still in town, you were there.

In a related note, when I overheard a young couple whining about there being an hour and a half wait at Supper, I wanted to shake them and point out that any open place in Richmond with a patio was bound to be mobbed on a gloriously sunny day smack dab in the middle of a holiday weekend.

Walking past a 4-unit apartment building, a guy came out and calls, "Where have you been?" as if he knows me.

Turns out we'd met years ago when I used to walk Grace Street and he'd been rehabbing an apartment building over there. Now he's elbows deep in the rehab of two buildings across the street from Supper that are bound to be snapped up the moment they're listed. I admire the business acumen of the decision, but no thanks.

Seems I'm one of the few for whom Scott's Addition holds no allure.

But back to the man in front of me with a clear recollection of our conversations circa 2011, it never ceases to amaze me that people recall a random walking woman when she's completely out of context. And I thought I had a good memory.

Blue Bee Cider was already crowded when I walked in to score lunch from the Nate's Bagels pop-up. Nate was impressed when I told him I'd walked 2.2 miles for one of his bagels, but it didn't help me score an everything bagel because they'd already sold out half an hour into the pop-up, if that tells you the power of the everything.

All I can say is, come on 2018, which is when his shop is expected to open and hopefully the supply of everything bagels will be endless.

My afternoon was given over to talking to my best friend in San Antonio for 2 1/4 hours, an almost sufficient period to cover all the relevant topics after months without a phone call. Still, no matter how much time passes between calls, we pick up where we left off, as if we'd spoken yesterday.

I may not have met the love of my life and married him when I was a 20-something like my parents did and preach (I'd heard that talk again from Dad just the other day), but instead I met the best friend of my life when I was not even 20 and that's just as big a gift.

My evening's plans didn't even start until 9 when my presence was requested for an extended record listening party - including my introduction to session guitarist extraordinaire Chris Spedding - with the windows, doors and a bottle of Chateau d'Esclans Whispering Angel Rose open, all enjoyed with friends just returned from a weekend in Annapolis.

Driving home just after 1 a.m., I spotted a fair number of students still milling about on the sidewalks and arrived home to a raging party with a fire pit going at the house next door. It was certainly the perfect night for it.

Monday dawned just as gorgeous, a good thing since post-walk, my day revolved around an all day/night party celebrating the one year anniversary of Laura Lee's in the sylvan-like backyard of my walking companion.

He'd staged a collection of benches, gliders and chairs in a huge circle around a fire pit, while various tables and chairs had been set up under trees, along walkways and in every grassy corner. First-timers understandably got enthused about the treehouse, but personally, I think the yard's greatest strength is the recently-added outdoor shower.

When someone asked what had inspired him to build it, I don't want to brag but he admitted it that it had its roots in two trips to the beach this summer at cottages boasting the same. Hey, I can lead a man to my favorite outdoor shower, but what he does with that knowledge is up to him.

The party was a rambling affair with people I mostly knew arriving from 2 until 7 and lingering until nearly midnight.

There was the friend who'd brought her "pool carafe," neatly labeled "California Cabernet," and so called because it was plastic and allowed at the "criminal pool" she frequents. Only now do I know where said pool is located.

One of my favorite girl crushes arrived and proceeded to get back at me for all the times I've razzed her about when she first met her husband by teasing me about my date's solicitous behavior, although she was quick to shut up when he returned.

I used the superior fire-making skills my Dad installed in me and my five sisters by collecting tinder around the yard and stoking the fire as dusk settled in.

Then I got comfortable on the glider and chatted with the neighbor/reporter who'd just arrived. When I had to go inside to use the facilities, I asked him to save my seat and I returned to find that he'd put his hat on it to reserve it. Such a gentleman.

The UR prof showed up late and sat down next to me to ask for recommendations of where to breakfast around town, while I wanted to hear how his move was going.

Eventually, one of the guests asked to borrow a guitar from the extensive collection in the music room and sat down in a nearby chair to play. Almost at once, a young woman looking like she wandered out of Woodstock - cropped top, long skirt, flowing straight blond hair - took the chair beside him to provide harmonies.

They started with Jacques Briel's "Le Moribond," immediately recognized by my date as "Seasons in the Sun," a trite 1974 song with English lyrics by Rod McKuen. Needless to say, I liked it much better sung in French.

Also winningly covered was Nilsson's "Everybody's Talking at Me," and that's a song you could go your whole life without hearing live, so I gave major props to the duo for reaching way back.

His was a wide range of songs - the Beatles to Air to the Cranberries - and when someone suggested a Steely Dan song in honor of Walter Becker's death, he tried to oblige with lyrics but couldn't quite recall all the chords so my date called them out for him.

Now that's what you call community music-making.

The moon came out so big and bright that the tiki torches were superfluous (except for neo-Nazi jokes) and the twinkle lights mere ornamentation. Eventually, Ubers and Lyfts were called and people began to drift out into the night.

Driving home at 2 a.m. was like driving through a movie set with almost no one on the street. With Labor Day officially over (and the first day of school looming for many), Richmond was tucked in tight.

It's funny, before I'd left for the party, I'd spotted a 3" wide pile of sand on my kitchen rug. I hadn't noticed it before, but it had to be from the eclipse day beach trip two weeks ago. Shaking out the sand over the balcony felt like a metaphor.

It's symbolic, right? Labor Day means the technical end of summer fun and refocusing on real life. Balderdash. As long as the weather stays nice, I'll milk it for as long as I can.

Oh, my life is changing every day
In every possible way
And, oh, my dreams, it's never quite as it seems
Never quite as it seems

It's been a pretty swell 90 days, if I do say so myself. Summer is my season.

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