Tuesday, October 24, 2017

I'd Rather Have Flowers

It's a cryin' shame when the day begins with trying to explain the sorry state of your country to a couple of Canucks.

Mac and I were headed down Second Street to Belle Isle when we saw that our assistance was needed: a couple standing on the corner holding a map. We crossed at the corner to offer our services, only to meet a charming couple from Vancouver trying to find Tredegar.

Come with us, we told them, with Mac taking the husband and me in charge of the wife. They'd been vacationing in Washington - where they'd visited the Senate and heard Bernie Sanders and Marc Rubio speaking and which they'd thought a beautiful city - and had been told to make a detour to Richmond and here they were.

It didn't take long for her to address the elephant in the non-existent room, namely our narcissist-in-chief, and how in the world had he been elected. "Who voted for him?" she mused. "We haven't talked to a single person who did!"

I reminded her that he hadn't won the popular vote and that what votes he had gotten tended to come from the heartland, not the coasts. "He's reckless," she said, stating the obvious. "We're all afraid of his foreign policy!" Join the club, ma'am.

Trying to change the subject, I asked how, of all Richmond's attractions, they'd decided to visit Tredegar. She said the hotel had told them that it was the center of the slave trade. I explained that that wasn't true. When she asked where we were headed, I said Belle Isle. "They told us Belle Isle was sketchy and to avoid it," she said, confused.

Where are you staying, I wanted to know. The Graduate, it turns out. What the hell is wrong with the staff at the Graduate that they'd be passing out so much misinformation?

When we parted ways, it was with sincere best wishes for a fabulous (and truthful) stay in Richmond for them as we made our way across the pedestrian bridge to sit on rocks and put our our feet in the (bracing, but not cold) river before that becomes impossible.

After last night's rain, today wasn't quite as warm as it's been, but the air felt scrubbed clean and it seemed like a fine evening for a picnic, so I stopped at 8 1/2 for a hero - passing a sign board that read, "Autumn is a second spring with every leaf a flower" and resenting its positive take on impending cold weather - and took it to a bench at Scuffletown Park to enjoy.

There, with my mouth full of one of the best rolls in Richmond, I chatted with a succession of friends who sat down on the bench with me for a visit.

The activist told me about being on a Greenpeace boat (a boat that used to be used for hunting seals) with scores of ruggedly handsome activists. The silent music master told me about his upcoming Halloween show and how he didn't want it to be quite as disturbing as last year's.

And the star of the evening, the puppet master, thanked me for the article I'd done about her upcoming Halloween parade and hugged me for making sense of our long-winded conversation.

By that time, a good-sized crowd had formed and with the ringing of a cowbell, the show began under dusky skies. Not long into it, the event's organizer for the past five years made the seat next to me his own.

The over-sized puppet show was downright magical, full of fascinating creatures like a fire rooster and a chicken god (aka the phoenix), along with animals - an owl, donkey, raccoon - against racist humans, set to the sounds of an accordion and drums, one played by a fox and the other by puppet master Lilly.

There was a coterie of beautifully colored butterflies who danced, the Bones of Resistance, a group elatedly celebrating that the Confederacy is dead and a group of black-clad women leading a line of song as they moved through the crowd and added onlookers to their ranks.

By then, the sun was down and another performance in the park nothing but a memory.

The evening was closed out with a reminder that the final show will be in two weeks and will feature reprise performances by some of this season's musicians. "But you're not allowed to come if you didn't vote that day!" Patrick said, to great applause. "Party at my house afterwards!"

If for no other reason, do it so the tourists will have fewer reasons to pity us.

From there, I took my car home and walked over to the Grace Street Theater for VCU Cinematheque for some nice Danish modern.

The film professor introducing "Teddy Bear" explained that the director intended the 2012 film as comedic in a gallows humor kind of way (a concept he had to explain to the students), although, he pointed out, it's tough to pull off comedy in a story about Thailand's sex tourism industry.

He was also adamant that there's nothing funny about an adult child being bullied by a parent, as if it was a subject he knew well.

Meanwhile, all around me, film students looked at their phones or talked to their friends while he explained Freudian theories. If there's one thing I can always count on at these Cinematheque screenings, it's being reminded that youth is wasted on the young.

Just after the lights went down, a French guy I know unexpectedly dropped into the seat next to me, forcing me to share the arm rest.  His saving grace was that he didn't titter at any scene related to sex like the 19 year olds around us did throughout.

The film's story could only be described as sweet: 38-year old Danish bodybuilder find love, or, more specifically, has no personal life and lives with his domineering mother. When his uncle returns from Thailand with a beautiful Thai bride, our boy decides to try the same, only he has to lie to Mom about where's going because she's so controlling. While he can't get interested in prostitutes, he meets a widow who runs a gym and finally feels something for the first time. Naturally, Mom wants him to forget her.

During the scene where he tells her about the woman he's fallen for, she asks, "When is she leaving?" and her emboldened son says, "She's not. I'm moving out." Immediately, the students began snapping their fingers loudly to show their approval of this massive 308 pound man finally standing up to his tiny, overbearing mother.

Once the post-film discussion began, the Frenchman looked at me and shook his head. "They don't get it," he said and he was right. They were confused about why he didn't want to have sex with prostitutes, why it was important to him to talk to women to make a connection and why he felt any obligation to his aging Mom when she was so controlling.

Sigh. And these are the future filmmakers of tomorrow? Heaven help us.

But first, heaven help us with this shambles of a government. It's so bad that innocent Canucks are worried they're witnessing the end of the democratic experiment.

That's bad.

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