Tuesday, December 18, 2018

In Daylights, In Midnights

When a David Byrne song starts feeling holiday-like, it's probably time to step away from the gift wrap and cookie sheets.

Cruising along Route 360 this morning with the sky a pale blue, the odd angle of the December sunlight in my eyes and the unnatural warmth of the car baking my brain, I unexpectedly heard holiday thankfulness in the music.

Everyday is a miracle
Every day is an unpaid bill
You've got to sing for your super
Love one another

The mind is a soft-boiled potato
A jewel in a chocolate shell
I staple my love to your heart, dear
With memories and beautiful smells

You can kind of hear it, right?

It was my final pre-Christmas visit to help Mom and Dad prepare for the onslaught of family that will descend like locusts on the Northern Neck over the next ten days, a whirlwind of wrapping presents, baking cookies and deleting photographs (don't ask) for them.

During a brief break, I showed them the SNL cold open from Saturday, the one where the cast redid "It's a Wonderful Life" into "It's a Wonderful Trump," showing that idiot what the world would have been like if he'd never been put in office by the Russians.

My uber-liberal parents loved it, though I suspect it may have been their first episode of SNL. At least they got all the political humor.

By noon, I had eaten my weight in raw eggs.

That's because  I can't resist nibbling on cookie dough and today I made something like ten dozen cookies, so there was a lot of dough around. Mom and I mocked the recipe warning not to eat raw dough (because of the eggs), given that we've been doing so our entire lives and aren't likely to stop any time soon, no matter how much the medical science community tries to scare us.

As Hall and Oates once said, you've got to know that old habits die hard.

Frankly, as solidly as my days have been packed lately, I could justify dough-eating as fuel for the duration. Even for heathens like me, holiday season is a marathon, not a sprint.

It already seems like eons ago that Mr. Wright and I slipped over to the VMFA to see "Congo Masks: Masterpieces from Central Africa," but I think it might have been just last Friday. With the snowball that is my life rolling steadily downhill and getting bigger all the time, I thought it only prudent to get over there while I had a free moment.

The masks were a unique kind of artifact, but for me, it was the film of Congolese people wearing them and dancing in them that provided the best insight into why masks are so central to aspects of the culture. The films were also a fascinating timeline, since the ones from the '50s showed everyone in native dress, while the 1990 footage showed that Western clothing had reached the Congo.

I'm sorry, but it's disconcerting to see a man in a wooden mask with raffia hair wearing cargo shorts. Is there no point too remote on earth for these baggy bloomers to appear and degenerate native dress? Asking for a friend.

Most surprising was learning that masks are still being created and several newer ones are included in the show. There's one of Jesus from the second quarter of the 20th century and another of Elvis from the third quarter of the 20th century.

As to how either one wards off  evil spirits, well, the signage wasn't specific about that.

Also unexpected was a gallery full of musical instruments, the kind used to create the sounds that men in masks danced to. Favorite? The wooden trapezoid slit drum which could produce a half dozen tones because of the varying thickness of its sides.

Almost as long ago was a cozy dinner at Max's, tucked away at the far end of the long bar behind the enormous coffee machine, where we were out of view of absolutely everyone else in the place. Even the bartender had trouble even seeing us to pour Blanc de Blanc or serve us dinner, but the allure of being out of sight was too good to pass up.

Equally as good was an entree that could have been the poster child for vegetarian comfort food: grilled asparagus with sauteed mushrooms and Brussels sprouts leaves over pommes aligot, aka obscene cheesy mashed potatoes.

And before you go thinking we've become some kind of healthy vegetarians, know that two courses had meat and one had chocolate, so we still have our heads about us.

By 11 we were walking over to the Ghost Light After Party at the Basement, the latest incarnation of a piano bar in J-Ward. We found a table with a view, scored glasses of Rose and watched as local theater types took turns singing whatever the hell they wanted to, even when that included "My Heart Will Go On."

As I told the evening's host when he came over to chat, Mr. Wright had scored major points early on in our acquaintance when he'd copped to a love of show tunes while straight.

Let's just say he looked positively beatific when "Seasons of Love" began, but that's always a show-stopper because everyone in the theater community apparently knows every word, so it's inevitably a group singalong.

525,600 minutes
525,600 moments so dear
525,600 minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunset?
In midnights? In cups of coffee?
In inches, in miles?
In laughter, in strife?

In 525,600 minutes,
How do you measure a year in a life?

Well, if you're asking Mr. Wright, he would say it's measured in something to do, someone to love and something to look forward to. He's not wrong, either.

We didn't intend to stay until last call, but the songs kept coming - I'm not sure there's ever been a GLAP where "A Whole New World" isn't sung - and it was too much fun to tear ourselves away, so we got more Rose and stayed the course, walking home at 2 a.m. through deserted J-Ward streets.

Sunday, we started at the Byrd for that perennial mash-up of love stories, "Love Actually," which I've been informed is now actually considered a Christmas movie. Whether of not that's a fact is still up for grabs, but why wouldn't I want to see a romantic comedy with Alan Rickman, Liam Neeson and Bill Nighy?

That's some pretty appealing man meat right there, and of multiple varieties, too.

Afterwards, just to prove our range, we wound up in the front row at Gallery 5 for Silent Music Revival's holiday screening of director Jean Renoir's surrealistic 1928 film, "The Little Matchgirl." Spoiler alert: all her matches can't keep her warm and she freezes to death.

That Hans Christian Anderson was dark, I'm telling you.

Disco punk band Toxic Moxie provided an improvised soundtrack that I would put up against any SMR soundtrack I've heard and I've been going to the event practically since it began 11 years ago. Their ability to react aurally to what was happening visually onscreen was spot on and evocative in that way that synths are so good at conveying sadness.

The only problem with being non-stop busy all weekend was that Monday arrived with a to-do list for the week that encompasses all the holiday prep I've been doing for Mom but needed to do for myself plus six interviews, seven deadlines and the need to get my hired mouth to a new place multiple times, all by New Year's Eve.

And don't even get me started on the travel prep that jumps into high gear once the work obligations have been met.

Sign seen on an insurance office sign in Tappahannock this morning: "Say yes to new adventures."

Don't mind if I do. This heathen is ready to dive into the holidays solely so she can come out on the other side and get back to real life.

It may mean a lot less raw egg, but a whole lot more to look forward to. Just one question, though. How did those 525,600 minutes pass so quickly this year?

Ah, yes, the biggest adventure of them all. Talk about your whole new world...

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