Friday, November 24, 2017

Time to Fly

How about the 12:10? I can also do the 9:50 one, but I think it's too early for you.

Definitely too early. Even so, the only problem with meeting a girlfriend for a movie at 12:10 is that it's hard to have an appetite for buttered popcorn less than an hour and a half after finishing breakfast.

Meeting at 11:45 meant that I didn't get my walk in first, but it was worth it to hear about her trip this week to Pittsburgh: multiple record stores, killer Detroit-style pizza and the contemporary art museum known as the Mattress Factory, which she assured me I'd love.

Best of all, she and her cute husband took the jaunt for no reason other than to escape family turkey day.

When we'd run into each other at the Waxahatchee show on Sunday, we got on the subject of how much we both love movies and how eagerly we both were anticipating Greta Gerwig's directorial debut, "Lady Bird." Naturally when I saw it was at Movieland, I notified her so we could make a date, only to find out she was in Steel City. But only till Thursday, so we made a date for Friday.

She was expecting the theaters to be mobbed and I was expecting them to be dead and the reality was something in between. It was a good-sized crowd heavy on women of all ages for a film that began with a Joan Didion quote: "Anyone who talks about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento."

I've no doubt Joan would know.

From there, it was a coming-of-age story focusing on the non-stop battles between a strong-willed high school senior and her strong-willed Mom who undoubtedly loves her, but never really shows that she likes her. Just what every teen-aged girl doesn't need.

It's also a love letter to Sacramento, which Lady Bird (her chosen name, not her given name) refers to as "the mid-west of California" and can't wait to escape its cloying confines by applying to east coast colleges. Her senior year involves eating communion wafers with her best friend, losing her virginity and waiting for the opportunity to live through something.

Only a 17-year old wishes for the inevitable.

Walking out, my girlfriend's first words were, "I love you, Karen, but I should have brought my Mom to see this with me. I could relate to all that. It was our story." I took no offense and told her that for me, it had no relevance at all to my relationship with my Mom, who had five younger daughters to focus on by the time I got to my last year of high school.

The film was stellar and will undoubtedly get all kinds of deserved Oscar nods, but its greatest strength in my eyes was how true the characters and story rang, a fact I attribute to a woman screenwriter and director. We never felt like we were seeing these women through a man's gaze and that's far too rare in filmmaking.

Meanwhile, today's lunch was pitch-perfect: a leftover turkey sandwich so good it left me wanting another. Fortunately, I didn't have another because I know from experience that's a slippery slope.

Because I got two last minute assignments on Thanksgiving Eve, I briefly considered staying in tonight, but gave into my baser instincts and went to the VMFA where I could hear the Reginald Cyntie Group onstage in the atrium practically the moment I walked in. A big crowd was seated in front of the Maryland quintet (tenor sax, trombone, bass, keys, drums) as they filled that high-ceilinged space with protest songs, African and Caribbean-influenced songs and original jazz.

I only heard a couple of songs before they went on break, giving me a chance to check out the brand new Eakins oil sketch in the American galleries, although it took asking four people before anyone could tell me its location.

Call me persnickety, but if you're going to notify members of a new acquisition, shouldn't you also be able to direct them to it?

And then, because the museum wasn't all that busy - certainly not as crazy as it is on a typical Friday night - I got a ticket and went downstairs to see "Terracotta Army: Legacy of the First Emperor of China" with a small, well-mannered crowd.

I was completely unprepared for learning that when Ying Zheng had been buried, it was with an army of almost 8,000 life-size clay soldiers, chariots and cavalry horses. This guy got his crew started on his burial entourage almost as soon as he became emperor, for heavens' sake.

It was also fascinating to learn that all this had only been discovered in 1974 and by farmers, accidentally at that. And by "all this," I'm referring to the mere 20% that's been excavated. That's a crazy amount left to uncover.

When I finished gawking at death souveniers, I returned to the atrium for music in time to hear Reginald introducing one of their protest songs, "Blues of the People."

"We have a lot going on that's not good in this country right now," he said. "We've got someone in office who's a bobblehead and that's a problem, so I wrote a song about how anyone can be a deplorable."

Preach it, son.

They followed that with a Fela Kuti-sounding song called, "Piece of Resistance" that inspired a couple to get up and dance. Soon another woman joined them and a man with a walker/seat on wheels made his way to the dance floor, too, leaning on it as he danced and twirled.

Acknowledging the upcoming season, the band went into the jazziest, most improv-filled "O Tannenbaum" you ever heard and all of a sudden, there were a couple dozen people up there shaking their groove things to a Christmas standard complete with far-ranging solos.

He dedicated "Ballad for the Masses" to all the people who sit at home while others attend protests and marches before doing another funked up and almost unrecognizable holiday gem, "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town."

The band closed out with "Daybreak," which he said he'd written as a 20-year old while watching a sunset on the beach. I like to think he meant sunrise, but who's going to correct the man orchestrating the entertainment?

For that matter, daybreak is in the bleary eyes of the beholder. Around here, daybreak is whenever I get up.

And that's never in time to catch a 9:50 movie, I can assure you.

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