Sunday, June 24, 2018

A Wise Man Knows

I feel incapable of slowing June down, much as I'd love to.

So often lately, I find myself coming up for air and being startled that it's been four days and countless adventures since I last had time to catch my breath, much less blog. It's already a summer on steroids.

Thursday, the official first day of the best season, Mac and I walked over to East Leigh Street for House Story's peek into a "before" property, arriving just as the owner thanked the crowd for listening. We lucked out, though, because the contractor took his place on the rotting second story landing, explaining the many hoops they'd be jumping through to ensure their historic tax credits.

A more punctual guest informed us that the new owner planned to live on one floor, while his son's family would live on another and they'd rent out the first floor. Ditto the building in the backyard, where Mac and I were admonished not to climb the open staircase because, as the owner claimed, "I'm in good shape and it's tough for me."

Naturally, as soon as he walked away, both Mac and I climbed the ladder to test his pronouncement. All I can say is, these two women who frequently climb the vertical ladder at the east end of the pipeline found no challenge whatsoever.

And what's with telling us he's in "good shape?" I mean, wouldn't we be able to tell that if it were true?

The opening of "Coloratura at 35: A Retrospective" Thursday at the Branch was technically my second viewing of the exhibition in four days and I was already primed to go back.

Husband/wife artistic duo Catherine Roseberry and Rob Womack create the most exquisite works of painterly art using old furniture as their canvas. I'd seen a chest she'd done at the former Ghostprint Gallery, but this Branch show is 50 pieces of their work spanning 35 years of art-making and marriage.

Catherine's themes revolve around motherhood and womanhood while Rob creates imaginary, fantastical landscapes on pieces of furniture that somehow seem to suggest they'd be right at home in that landscape. Both showed extraordinary referencing to art history, a real talent with realism (and tromp l'oeil) as well as incorporating the lines and details of the furniture piece, almost as if they were elements the painter had envisioned.

To sweeten the pot even further, there was the bonus of seeing pages of preparatory drawings and sketches hung over finished pieces to allow a window into the artist's process. Compositions were rearranged, figures deleted and details added in the final piece.

Editing, I get it.

While it would be impossible to choose favorite pieces, there's no question that "The Boy who Loved Ketchup," a reverse-painted glass table designed for Dinamo gets the award for cleverest and most heartfelt. The story had originally been told to Rob as a child repeatedly by his grandfather. Rob signed and dated the table on the anniversary of his grandfather's 100th birthday.

Sniff. Anybody got a tissue?

The best statement award had to go to Catherine's 1999 cube, where each side depicted a woman (black, brown, yellow, white) visibly constrained by society's limitations on her and represented by the edges of the cube. It was based on a cube she'd done back in the '80s, which is to say she could probably paint about women's role in our culture every decade because so little has improved.

But enough of that rant.

My articulate architect made a comment about how satisfying it was to actually be surprised by art - can't say either of us have seen a lot of furniture painted with references to everything from the Renaissance to Edward Hopper - while also acknowledging he was left feeling inspired. Me, I was just leaving in my usual art junkie mode, feeling a little buzz after ingesting so much beautiful art.

Friday found me at the Criterion to see "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" the new documentary about Fred Rogers, a 6:00 show so sold out that a couple sat in metal folding chairs in the back to see it. After near universally good reviews, my inner documentary dork kicked in and here I was learning about this rich, formerly fat and sickly kid who grew up to be a Presbyterian minister and essentially ministered by doing a revolutionary (read: low production values and technology) public children's TV show in the '60s.

Absolutely fascinating. The scene where he's testifying in front of Congress about cutting the PBS budget by $20 million, it's unreal to watch this heartless Congressman about-face and restore funding based on Mr. Rogers' simple and straight from the heart explanation about why children matter.

His wife came across like a delightful women who'd fallen for a sweet man who eventually became bigger than life, albeit for a good cause and in pursuit of his ministering. Her love for him was there in everything she said about him and even how she looked when talking or chuckling about him.

Here was a man who had a black cast member who played the neighborhood cop and invited him to take off his shoes and soak his feet with Mr. Rogers in his kiddie pool. The kicker is that Fred wrote that scene to address a recent disturbance at a segregated pool when blacks had had the audacity to get in the pool.

That Mr. Rogers was ballsy. He used his dime store puppets to teach kids not just about tolerance, but about assassinations (MLK, RFK), divorce and why it's okay to feel sad sometimes. Deep stuff.

But what tickled me more than anything was Fred's devotion to swimming, part of his determination to never waver from 143 pounds. Scenes of him swimming in a pool show a man who is neither going for speed or technical prowess, but something more like underwater zen. You can tell he's in his element.

Turns out 143 was a significant number to him because the word "I" has one letter, the word "love" four and the word "you" three, making 143 shorthand for I love you. You have to admire a man who creates a world where his weight becomes a weighty statement.

I got home from Mr. Rogers' neighborhood to find an invitation to Pru's porch, but not until "Westworld" ended at 10. Mac had just been telling me about the show's new season on our breakfast/walk the day before, assuring me that it was far too bloody and violent for me.

No, give me something chatty and occasionally hilarious on a screened porch while it rains cats and dogs all around us if you want to hold my interest.

I'd come to hear the scuttlebutt from Pru's annual foray with her three UR buds to the Northern Neck, from which she'd returned a couple days earlier. There were tales of drunkenness, although not hers since she was a bit compromised with a nasty case of galloping consumption that still had her coughing, lots of seafood meals in and out and a general acknowledgement that women of every age find Sam Elliott swoon-worthy.

As she, Beau and I can do, we went down a word nerd rabbit hole while discussing the metal sign he'd had made of her "house rules." One involves never boring the host.

The use of host over hostess spawned a conversation about why Beau had opted for host. He said he'd considered it, but felt like host was the more appropriate word choice, a sentiment both Pru and I agreed with. Likewise, I can't think of any women who prefer to be labeled an actress over an actor.

I know I don't want to be called a blogess, for crying out loud.  Of course, if my life doesn't slow down a bit, it'll be a moot point. Try as I may, daily posting seems to be a relic of another lifetime. And it can't hold a candle to this new one.

Take my word for it. I'm in good shape and it's the least tough thing I've ever done. But it sure is making June fly by.

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