Saturday, October 21, 2017

Duck and Cover

Tell a man to preach and he'll tell you where the bomb shelters are.

Coming back from the river through Jackson Ward, I overheard one man telling another, "We all got to get out and vote on November seventh," which was more than enough of a statement for me to stop, put my hand over my heart and entreat a perfect stranger to preach.

It's positively life-affirming to know that other people feel as strongly as I do on this subject.

As I engaged with these two men about our problematic leader and the urgency of getting the vote out next month, passersby greeted them and moved on, but I stayed put because the conversation was so engaging. Especially once the gregarious one started sharing neighborhood history with me.

The blue building I pass almost daily that now houses King's Seafood? Apparently a cabinetmaker for 30+ years and the shyer of the two men I was talking to had worked there for 17 of them. Now it just reeks of last week's fish.

The other guy tried to tell me about the Richmond Dairy building, but, pshaw, my grandfather worked there, so that wasn't news. His childhood memories of stealing a glass bottle of milk off the truck, though, that was sweet in a Norman Rockwell kind of way.

"It was summer and my brother and I were thirsty," he recalled. "And that milk was cold!"

What was news was all the bomb shelters in the neighborhood he listed out under nearby buildings and schools, although it made sense given the drills of the Cold War era. He joked about going down in one now and discovering rusty old cans of pork and beans.

His buddy said it was a damn shame nobody knew about them for history's sake. Just when I think I know Jackson Ward, I meet a native who makes my head spin with new information.

As far as earning my keep, I had one deadline to make and two interviews to do today - one about wine, another about music - and just enough time to get ready to go to dinner, which these days means putting on something cute and then covering it up with a jean jacket for once the sun goes down.

I dread the impending time change. Come on, spring, you can't come back soon enough.

Walking into Dinamo, I was immediately greeted by a favorite wine rep, newly shorn and looking pretty handsome despite his claim that his hair was an oily mess (and they say women are vain). After a bit of chit chatting, he told me to give his best to the wife and kids (his idea of humor) and I moved on to the bar, serendipitously sitting down next to an old friend and her new squeeze, who was busy tearing into the chocolate espresso torte of which I'm so fond.

How lovely to go to one of my favorite restaurants and run into so many favorite people.

They'd just finished a fabulous meal including the roasted half chicken with maitake special, the same one our server said John Waters had ordered the last time he was in, a comment that led to a discussion of him coming back in December for a show.

You know, because nothing says Merry Christmas like a transvestite eating feces.

Me, I'm a sucker for my old favorites, though, and before I'd even walked in, I knew I wanted the fish soup - thick with rockfish, mussels, calamari and octopus in a hefty tomato broth laden with fregola  - and a white pizza layered with red onion. I only wish I could have eaten all the pizza but the hearty soup and glass of house white wine ensured that didn't happen.

Sadly, dessert was out of the question because I had a radio show to make and you can't be late when you're talking about live radio.

All the other times I'd see the On the Air Radio Players perform, it had been at the Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen and while it's a lovely facility, it's on the other side of nowhere, whereas tonight's show was at Pine Camp Center, less than four miles from home. Much more my speed.

Billed as "A Night of Suspense," tonight's bill included "Inner Sanctum Mysteries: Death of a Doll," originally aired on October 18, 1948, about a newspaperman falling in love with a corpse (undoubtedly more disturbing 70 years ago) clutching a doll and "Goodbye, Miss Lizzie Borden," first aired on October 4, 1955, about a newspaperwoman investigating Ma and Pa Borden's deaths.

Every time I go to one of these radio shows, I tell myself I'll close my eyes and pretend I'm listening to the radio, but inevitably I'm too curious not to watch how they do all the sound effects onstage.

It's not as simple as you might think. It took four grown women being given hand signals when to stop and start to create the sound of one possessed doll baby. And how do you make the sound of a morgue drawer opening? By dragging a dolly across a piece of metal, of course.

Oh, and in between plays, there was a singing commercial for Tuck Toothpaste, especially relevant during this high tooth decay Halloween candy season.

And since it'll probably be another 70 years before either play gets produced again, I'll go ahead and satisfy any curiosity about how they ended: he doesn't get the girl and the doll stops talking once the devil is dead, and Lizzie's sister, the real murderer, gets away with it.

But back to my latest J-Ward discovery. Would it have been wrong to stock a bomb shelter with wine and cured meats? Asking for a friend.

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