Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Punctuality Violations

To be punctual or not to be punctual, that is the question.

After dinner in service of my hired mouth, Mac and I headed to Northside for House Story, a chance to tour Hollybrook, a Gordon Van-Tine kit house from 1912, and hear from its owners about the stately home.

Because Mac and I like to snoop around strangers' homes.

Despite arriving moments after 6:00 when the event began, there were already lots of cars parked out front. Approaching the deep front porch - complete with living and dining areas on either side - we stopped to be checked in and wound up lingering to admire the magnificent porch. It was if there were two entire additional rooms on the front of that house, albeit with only one wall, a sheer curtain for another and open on the other two sides.

Once ushered inside the house, we made our way from room to room to admire the details of house kit life. The idea that we were inside a home that had originally arrived in Richmond on a box car in 12,000 pieces was hard to wrap our heads around. This was no CLH (a technical term we heard for "crummy little house") but a very stately, obviously highly customized kit house.

Having been built in 1912, it boasted one of my favorite qualities in a home: cross ventilation, thanks to scores of generously-sized windows - including on either side of the front door - that opened. Even bathroom windows were as wide as doors, not like those stingy little windows that became all the rage once air conditioning was standard issue.

This kit house had three floors with an artist's studio on the top floor, accessed by a curved staircase. Even with my limited knowledge of kit houses, I'm pretty sure that wasn't part of the original plan. In fact, there were so many stylish upgrades - a winding staircase, ornate tiled fireplace and wooden detailing - that it was clear that this was more of a launching pad for a kit house than anything ever seen in a catalog.

Here's where our punctuality got questionable. We'd toured the entire house twice, but it still wasn't time for the speakers, so we looked for ways to kill time, eventually settling into the living portion of the front porch to chat. "Yea, next time we don't need to be so punctual," Mac noted.

Her point was valid.

Eventually, the current owners took to the steps to regale us with what they knew about the house, which they'd bought in 1998 while expecting their third child. The real estate agent had been a half hour late, leaving the husband to cool his heels on the porch, but by the time she arrived, he was completely sold on the porch and told her he knew he'd have to buy the house to get it.

The couple apologized for the state of the large yard because, unlike the original owners, they aren't devoted gardeners. "Actually, we're in clear violation of Virginia state policy because we have only one azalea," the wife joked.

Kit house expert Rosemary Thornton spoke next, getting a laugh when she said, "For an architectural historian, I get an awful lot of hate mail." She went on to explain that the kits were dropped off at railroad stations within a mile or two of their destination and the purchasers had 48 hours to move the 12,000 pieces home. Her pronouncement? "This is a very grand kit house."

What she said.

After the talk, we headed out into what was a perfectly gorgeous evening, still sunny and 70 degrees, but Mac had been at work since 7 a.m. and was finished. I thought I was too, at least until I got home and couldn't think of a single reason not to walk over to Black Iris for music courtesy of their Tiny Bar series. The Scott Clark 4-tet was playing and I've been a fan of his for a decade.

Walking into the gallery, I was greeted by Scott and the man behind the Tiny Bar series, who cocked an eyebrow and said, "Karen, it's been a minute. How are you?"

Seems I can't go anywhere these days without my recent absences being noted, but despite that, the three of us fell into conversation about doom jazz (new to me), Scott's upcoming record release and art show (I own one of his paintings) and, most importantly of all, when was tonight's show going to start? Since it's common knowledge, my preference for punctual shows came up, leading to the inevitable point: why punish the punctual and reward the latecomers?

Because that's the way the music world works in Richmond, Karen, that's why.

But an executive decision was reached that the show would go on at 8:15 and I was invited to walk upstairs through the studios and admire my host's woodworking skills by checking out some furniture he'd made to kill some time until then.

Afterward, I headed to the tiny bar and ran into several familiar musician faces. For a change, there were no candles illuminating the tiny bar, but the lights were soon dimmed for the Scott Clark 4-tet's performance, but not before we were reminded of the rules: respect the performers and please, no flash photography.

Playing a combination of original material ("Quiet" featured a magnificent bass part set to hushed drumming) and covers, including the second movement of Sibileus' Second Symphony, which Scott had heard on a classical radio station (only because he couldn't find any baseball on the radio) and decided to arrange for the quartet, the band dazzled the crowd.

I especially liked when the trumpet player went up on his toes when blowing a particularly high note.

When they finished, I chatted with the sax player who'd recently read "The Gig Economy," a subject he and I know well. He was curious if I ever got work as a result of my blog (yep), but I explained that I also get work because of the work I've already done. We agreed no one works a job for life anymore, so it's all about figuring out how many different ways you can earn money.

Then it was back to music with New York City's Signal Problems, a four piece who'd come to play one longer piece called "Love Letter" in an intimate setting. That involved the musicians doing spoken word ("Regrettable," "Please pick up," "Heart," "Say I'm sorry") between and sometimes over the music part of the piece. They even made the room work for them when the trumpeter would move side to side keeping time, causing the century old floor to creak rhythmically under his feet.

At one point, a latecomer pulled out his phone and took a flash photo of the band playing and almost immediately another guy leaned over to him and whispered something. My guess would be, "No flash photography, you idiot!"

And you know what? If he'd been punctual, he'd have known that. Just an observation.

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