Sunday, June 30, 2019

RIP Beach Reads

Not for the first time, I was reminded that I bloom at the beach.

Much as I appreciate the compliment, I'm not sure it's a trait worthy of praise. After all, who wouldn't thrive when they can see and hear the ocean day and night, gently unwinding the stresses accumulated since the last beach week in May? What's not to love about getting up and putting on a bathing suit as the official attire for the entire day?

And truly, who wouldn't be all aglow when she gets to shower outdoors every afternoon?

Although my favorite guest teased me daily about the focus on food - we were seldom more than an hour past the last meal when someone wanted to know when (and what) the next one would be - it's kind of nice to have nothing more to think about than what you feel like eating next. That all meals are taken on the screened-in porch with a side of ocean breezes doesn't hurt a girl's mood, either.

So when a guest looks over at you while you chew a Tootsie Roll on the beach half an hour after lunch and casually refers to you as "an eating machine," well, I guess I'll just have to live with that.

The weather all week was ideal for blooming: breezy, sunny (but never hotter than 89) and dropping down in the low '70s at night. Just as good was the ocean temperature which started the week at 70 degrees, took a brief nose-dive to 64, then rebounded with 75, 73, 71 and 72, ensuring that we spent time morning and afternoon bathing in the sea like some Victorian prescription for good health.

Wednesday afternoon, our water fun was interrupted when we saw dozens of people congregating further down the beach. Just in case they'd spotted something we hadn't, we dutifully trooped out of the water and made our way toward the onlookers, noticing thousands of tiny fish lying near death on the shore, some of them still twitching futilely yards from the surf. Not far out in the ocean was a feeding frenzy of epic proportions with larger fish jumping in and out of the water as they repeatedly dove for dinner, putting on a show for the entire beach.

I'm not smart enough to know why all the little fish wound up on shore dying, but surely there was a connection to the all-you-can-eat buffet we were witnessing.

In other tragic news, one thing that's become quite clear about my last five beach sojourns going back to May 2018 is that the days of me finishing 3 or 4 books in a week have ended. In fact, let's have a moment of silence for my love of beach reading, which apparently died a quiet death last year despite my resolve to still tote at least four more books than I have any realistic hope of reading.

The only thing that makes it bearable is that reading time has been replaced with conversation time, so I tell myself that's my consolation.

Maybe part of the reason I'm so happy at the beach is the steady diet of bubbly and seafood. Whether it was a dolphin boat with hushpuppies from John's Drive-in, rare tuna sashimi at Ocean Boulevard, local shrimp from Carawan Seafood savored on the porch or a crabcake rolled in coconut flakes and panko enjoyed at Art's Place while live music played, we definitely did our part to support the local fishing economy.

On my walk one morning after breakfast, I spotted a woman sitting on the beach with a bottle of bubbles and a large bubble wand. Without taking her eyes off the ocean, she'd periodically dip the wand in the jar and hold it up, allowing the breeze to push out scores of bubbles with zero effort on her part.

Meanwhile, kids in her vicinity were having a ball running around the sand with bubbles coming at them from one side and the surf pounding the shore on the other, both reasons to scream with delight.

When it comes to showing my happiness level, I'm past the screaming stage. Unlike the kids in the bubble clouds, it's enough for me to just revel in it all: every open window framing the blues and greens of ocean and sky, the constant sound of the surf crashing down onshore, and, best of all, every wave that slapped me full on, leaving behind a mouthful of salt water.

Why, it's enough to make even an eating machine bloom.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Island Girl

I stick with my original answer.

When friends started asking me if I was going to see "Rocketman," my answer was nope. I knew it was inevitable I wouldn't be able to buy into someone else's voice as Elton's. I felt the same way about the Queen biopic and instead watched a 15-minute clip of Queen at Live Aid that said more than any 21st century film could. I had a sense - having seen Elton in '77 or '78 and his music having been a thread through the soundtrack of my youth - I'd not be satisfied.

I wasn't.

I saw it at Cinebistro, although it wasn't even my first time there, to everyone's surprise. Lady G and I'd gone years ago. And sure, having a server take your order when you sit down and food delivered before the movie starts, it's a unique experience. Usually I'm just downing buttered popcorn. My arugula salad had enough interesting platemates, although my side of crispy Brussels sprouts was saltier than buttered popcorn. More like a salt lick. But the salad scored.

Random thoughts: The story fleshed out a lot of what I already knew just living through those years. Taron Egerton pulls off the mental Elton better than he does the physical. A little too 21st-century musical for my taste. Costumes never look like clothes really looked then. The lack of chronology in the songs was distracting. And mostly, since EJ was the executive producer, the presumption that there's some truth to the way things are shown as happening.

But I was right. Didn't need to see it and now I'll just have more rationale to decline when I'm asked to do the music biopic thing. Not being crotchety, just know well enough what I like.

Besides, the trip down Memory Lane was just prelude to an evening of musical memory talk on Pru's screened porch.

Looking at it that way, I saw "Rocketman" for the post-film discussion. Like I do.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

A Tempest in a Wine Glass

Summer has arrived and the Roundhouse has redeemed itself.

Or, more accurately, I now know the drill. So after dinner at Garnett's we knew enough to be at the Roundhouse before 7 p.m., arriving to find the band set up and having a relaxed chat about the set list. What makes me think others had not yet learned their lesson was how few people had their butts in seats when Quatro na Bossa started playing shortly thereafter.

And, honestly, why on earth wouldn't you be on time for Brazilian Bossa Nova music from the '50s, '60s and '70s? I mean, really?

The evening's performance was extra poignant because it was guitarist Bruno's last show with the band now that he's moving to South Carolina as a doctor of music theory. His exquisite guitar playing and lovely voice will be missed, at least until he realizes he wants to return to Richmond (like they all do).

During the first song, an instrumental, singer Laura Ann stood off to the side listening, eventually making the executive decision (like women do) that we didn't need no stinkin' overhead light and turning it off. She was right, with sun pouring through three windows (unfortunately not open, though, like last week) behind the band and the door wide open to light, we had all the early summer sunlight we needed.

Let's just that when she joined the band onstage, it the lighting was much more appropriate for Brazilian music.

Because the syncopated sounds Quatro na Bossa play are so danceable and because we were all sitting in folding chairs, there was a lot of toe-tapping and seat dancing going on as Laura Ann and/or Bruno's voices rose and fell with each samba or Tropicalia song.

Happily, people kept arriving to give the band the audience it deserved.

Once the sun finally got near setting, a firefly found its way into the Roundhouse, flying around and reminding us of its presence periodically with a green glow before then showing up on the far side of the room to dazzle someone new.

It says so much about the music that despite not being able to understand a word of the lyrics, everyone was rapt listening to the music.  All except the big galoot sitting in front of us, taking up three chairs by extending his arms across the two on either side of him and repeatedly staring at the ceiling, rubbing his face and looking bored out of his mind. Luckily, his date got the hint and they cut out early.

We stayed until the last note, reluctant to leave the magic of bossa nova and fireflies before retreating to J-Ward.

When it comes to Summer Solstice, that was celebrated outdoors by seeing Quill Theatre's production of "The Tempest" at Agecroft on a night when the weather could only be described as glorious. Breezy, low humidity and just warm enough, it was a night meant for being outdoors with just the right person, savoring the longest day of the year (also a bittersweet one now that days begin getting shorter).

We stopped at Goatocado to get dinner, bringing along birthday wine courtesy of my best friend in Texas (thanks, Buns!) and a slice of cake - my personal fave, chocolate with white icing - to celebrate multiple occasions. Spreading a quilt under a row of massive shade trees on Agecroft's back lawn, we had a view of the river, a breeze from multiple sides and live entertainment.

Four of Quill's costumed Young Players showed up, offering a song or a monologue for our pleasure. The first we chose was that of the melancholy Jacques from "As You Like It" and afterwards, they offered us another. The young man offering to do Puck in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" seemed especially animated and eager when he offered up his monologue, so I capitulated, telling him that it was obvious he was dying to dazzle us.

At several points, he was crouched on one knee or leaning forward looking about to spring onto us, so his antics were worth it.

Once inside, we chose seats in the third row center for best possible view. In the 20 past years of seeing Shakespeare at Agecroft, I have never tired of being close enough to see the actors spit, not to mention scale the nearby stone wall and deliver monologues. Translation: I like to be in the thick of things.

Sitting just behind us was a familiar acting face who now graces L.A. with his acting chops, but is back in town for a few. Last time I'd seen him at Agecroft, he'd been playing Sir Andrew Aguecheeck dressed in a brown suit. Hearing his guffaws throughout added a nice touch to tonight's show.

My standards for "The Tempest" are unusually high, only because back in the '90s, I saw Richmond Shakespeare (Quill's predecessor) do it on Fulton Hill with an approaching thunderstorm as backdrop and that's tough to beat.

This production got its points other ways, since the weather couldn't have been more un-tempest-like. The always-impressive Adam Turck made Ariel his own in gray-blue body paints, nervous tics and aim to please. Just watching him stand on the stone wall and react to what was happening onstage could have been a master class for a younger actor.

Jeff Clevenger has made a career of milking the humor in any character, making him the ideal person to play the jester Trinculo, besotted with wine and fearful of spirits. My fandom for Adam Valentine was born when I saw him in "Heathers" and tonight's turn as Alonso's butler "Stephano" showed that his take on humor is equal parts visual (that sad sack face he calls forth!) and gangly physicality. The scene of Trinculo and Stephano "hiding" in plain sight had the audience in stitches.

Sitting in the courtyard of a building that stood in Shakespeare's time, watching a time-honored play under a brilliant blue sky on the longest day of the year may take the cake in terms of exquisite ways to wile away the summer solstice a deux.

But then, anyone as stupidly happy as I am would think that. Just ignore me...

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Victim of Circumstance

You know it takes a lot to lure me to the suburbs.

But that's exactly what I did when I headed to Chesterfield County in rush hour, during a thunderstorm and why? Because Modern Richmond was opening up a 1978 house originally designed by NOVA architect Joseph Boggs. And while Northern Virginia in general makes my skin crawl, I admit I was curious to see the house.

Besides being honored by the American Institute of Architects not once but twice - in 1978 and again in 2012 after a renovation - I was intrigued at seeing the state of modern architecture at a time when my top priority was college and clubs and not necessarily in that order.

Translation: I wasn't paying attention to residential architecture being built at that point and now I am.

Just as I was overcoming my distaste for the entitled-feeling neighborhood and the lackluster houses in general, I came to the one in question. Situated into a one acre lot that rose much higher in the back, it at least had character that I hadn't seen in other houses I'd passed.

Right away, I gave it points for the fish pond in an island in the driveway and the fact that the concrete walkway had been poured with an opening for a large, existing tree. Inside the house, I was struck by the large expanses of glass, the abundance of skylights, vaulted ceilings and clerestory windows (so Frank Lloyd Wright, but what did I expect?).

Standing near the kitchen, I overheard a woman tell her husband, "I don't know about those windows," referring to the rectangular windows located between the counters and the kitchen cabinets. "I'm good with them," her husband opined and kept walking.

Looking through one of the large expanses of glass - the windows were a mixture of the opening kind and not -  several of us spotted a Mama deer and two babies just behind the plastic playhouse in the elevated backyard. I guess they have lots of nature in the county.

A narrow, carpeted spiral staircase seemed dated, but I gave it a few points for how it reminded me of climbing a lighthouse because of the extremely tight fit making my way up and down. At the top was what seemed to be a playroom with toys on shelves, although a full box of rolled up blueprints indicated otherwise. Bookshelves contained books on Gaudi, Impressionism and Frank Lloyd Wright, the latter no surprise.

After having been through a lot of Modern Richmond houses old and new over the years, this one fell somewhere in between the distinctive mid-century styles and the lackluster creativity of newer modern construction we've seen. Vintage details like cypress tongue and groove paneling on walls and ceiling certainly elevated this one.

I couldn't stay to hear the current owners talk, but on the way out, I ran into a gallerist I know coming up the driveway and we immediately bonded over the schlep from the city (she's in Church Hill), agreeing that the suburbs are not for us.

Happy to be headed back to my natural habitat, I made a bee-line for the Byrd to meet Mac for another pre-code movie from 1933, just like last week. This time, it was "Baby Face" with a young Barbara Stanwyck. In the introduction, Byrd manager Todd told us that this was a very salacious film for the time in that it showed a woman taking control of her own life. "nowadays, we call it reality TV," he joked.

Granted, she did it by sleeping her way to the top long before Madonna was a gleam in her Daddy's eye, but, come on, it was the Depression and a woman's options were limited. Except that the story used a kindly cobbler character to introduce our heroine to Nietzsche and his theory that all life is exploitation. He tells her to exploit herself by using men to get what she wants.

You never saw an Erie, Pennsylvania girl get the hang of using men so fast, resulting in fur coats, an expensive apartment and lots of bling. Along the way, one of her ex-lovers kills her present lover and then himself, so that gets a bit messy, but our girls keeps going anyway, landing a job in Paris and, ultimately, the grandson of the bank's founder. He's smitten and sends her a note at work: "Pick you up at 8. We are dining and dancing." A bit blunt, but a solid plan, if you ask me.

But it's still 1933, so ultimately, she tells him all she really wants is for it to say "Mrs." on her tombstone (aim higher, honey!), so he marries our little go-getter.

This pat Hollywood plot twist is how the studio placated the New York board of censors before it was allowed to screen there. Even so, he winds up shooting himself (this girl was rough on men's hearts), but he lives so there can be a happy ending.

You want to know how happy? He told her he wanted to buy her a house in New York City and one in Paris, which means she'd never have to live in the suburbs.

Now, that's true love, Nietzsche-style.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Real Man

When a man promises you you're going to get a boatload of him, he'd better come through.

And, no surprise, Todd Rundgren did. It's not like I hadn't seen him before cause I had, once in the mid-aughts at the Canal Club with probably fewer than 50 people - an amazing show I know I'll never top for sheer intimacy - and then in 2015 at the National. The problem with the latter show had been that it involved a flashy, LED-lit performance with Todd, a DJ and two wig and costume-changing female dancers/back-up singers and almost none of the classic Todd I craved.

In what was either a nod to the aging crowd or perhaps Todd's preference (he is, after all, turning 71 Saturday), this was a seated show, although that was news to me upon arrival. When I'd bought my ticket at the box office back in mid-April, I'd not been given a choice of being seated, so perhaps I was late to the game.

As part of steerage class, I was herded into one of three cordoned-off areas to stand, not a problem since I've stood at every show I've ever been to there except for my first (Lou Reed) because I didn't know any better, the seated shows (Henry Rollins, Joanna Newsome) and the couple of times I'd been in the VIP section.

With me in the corral was a woman who was as jazzed to see Todd as me, as evidenced by the fact that she'd been to both the shows I'd been to (and the odds of meeting another human who'd been at that Canal Club show was tiny) plus one at the Birchmere. Together we staked our claim at the front railing right behind the sound booth, not far from my usual spot directly in front of it.

Promptly at 7:30, Todd and his five-piece band came out to show us what his Individualist Tour would look like, with a giant video screen behind them. Explaining that the set was based on his recent book detailing his life and music from the '60s to the mid-'90s, he proclaimed, "You're going to get a boatload of me tonight."

Looking around at the decidedly middle-aged crowd dressed up and out on a rare Tuesday night, I didn't think anyone would have a problem with an overdose of Todd.

And just to make sure he had us eating out of his hand, he started at the beginning when we'd first fell hard for his sound with "Open My Eyes" from his Nazz days. The collective excitement/moans of pleasure/elation of those first few notes of "Hello, It's Me" were electrifying, and that's not even counting how good his voice  and the song still sounds.

I could have done without him exhorting the crowd to sing along (I hadn't come to hear them) but I also know people couldn't help themselves.

After thunderous applause, he shared that it was the first song he'd ever written, a sign if ever there was one of musical genius. After struggling for an idea (and stealing the chord changes from an older song), he'd settled on that most reliable of inspirations: breaking up with his girlfriend from senior year of high school. "Her Dad turned the hose on me," he said.

Next came "We Gotta Get You a Woman," a joy to hear since it was a well-played part of my collection of 45s in 1970. Even better, while the band played it, the video screen showed images of women from the '60s and '70s dancing in that distinctive way that could never be mistaken for any other era.

And, yes, there were white go-go boots and girls in fringed bikinis dancing, if that tells you anything. It was almost too good to be true.

It just kept getting better. Next they did "I Saw the Light in Your Eyes" and I was just one of the many dancing in place and absolutely in musical heaven. These songs were my youth and hearing them live was incomparable.

Saying that his guitar - a seafoam green Stratocaster - was sad about being ignored during all those piano ballads, he picked it up to introduce a guitar-based song. He reminisced about playing the blues "in the corners of the subway as only a white man can do" before making his guitar very happy with some screaming guitar work.

Talking about his future as a highway of black vinyl, he quipped, "It's amazing what you can accomplish without children around!" What made it even cooler was that as he played, the screen showed images of not only his albums, but albums he'd produced: Grand Funk Railroad's "We're An American band, " Badfinger's "Straight Up," the New York Doll's eponymous album, Meat Loaf's "Bat Out of Hell" and that's just what I recall.

And, if I'm honest, I had no clue he produced any of those, though I knew he produced his own stuff.

He talked about getting stuck artistically, so he remedied that by buying a round the world ticket "where as long as you keep going in the same direction, you're good" as a way of having new experiences. As he sang, images of old Pan Am tickets, itineraries (Kabul, Calcutta, Madras, Tehran, Bangkok, San Francisco, NYC) and postcards showed onscreen.

Throughout the evening, the once-young crowd didn't hesitate to sing and dance along, although those in the front seated row had to be repeatedly told to sit down by Security.

The 1978 song "Can We Still Be Friends" was accompanied by old photos of Todd with everyone who mattered in the '70s and '80s: Ringo, Alice Cooper, Elvira, Little Richard and Bowie.

Although Todd made sure neither of his guitars got ignored for too long, he sang many songs like "Real Man" either with microphone in hand stalking the stage or standing in front of it on the stand and pantomiming gestures as he sang. His hands went to his eyes, ears, heart and outstretched to convey lyrics winningly, even when old photos of him performing in enormous bell bottoms, spandex, sequins, shorts, plaid shirts with the sleeves cut off, a suit, satin pants and a whole lot more were screening overhead.

And because Todd's a huge fashionista, we also got photos of his wardrobe highlights: a pumpkin orange velvet suit, red satin pants, a brocade suit with a big polka dot shirt and small polka dot tie, a fringed jacket, a spandex catsuit, a space suit, a fat suit, as a woman and lots and lots of glam. I'm guessing that the point of those photos was to show us Todd's wardrobe obsession and it was as good a look at fashion history as a fan could hope for.

His fashion advice was simple, though. "Get a guitar and wear it. Doesn't matter if you can play it, you'll look sharp."

And while tonight's ensembles (yes, there were two) were less flashy, the man's still a snazzy dresser and proud of it. I can say that because the view from the cheap seats, um, cheap floor was stellar. Even so, during the 20-minute intermission during which the Todd nerds compared notes, I took the opportunity to slide into an empty seat to take a load off and get a tad closer.

For the section labeled "Digressions, Dreams and Dissertations," Todd took pre-recorded video questions from audience members lucky enough to have approached the tablet that recorded them.

Asked about his favorite song to play in concert, he denied having one, saying what he didn't want to play was a far shorter list (and includes "Bang the Drum All Day," which made some in the crowd moan in sadness). When he mentioned that he wasn't popular anymore, a drunk woman yelled out, "You're still popular!" to which Todd responded, "Shut up! I'm not soliciting answers from you."

Asked about his other guitar, he said it was a belated birthday gift from a restaurateur who also granted him oysters for life after he did a short set at his restaurant.

If only I had a skill set that could get me raw oysters for life.

After he finished answering dumb questions from middle-aged men, the band went on to play deeper cuts from all his bands and solo work, causing much whispering between Todd nerds as they marveled at hearing things they'd never heard in years of going to Todd's shows.

I only recognized a few (1973's "I Don't Want to Tie You Down"), but I could listen to Todd sing the phone book and be happy. And ending with 1978's "Fade Away" was practically perfect, even when it means putting up with seeing assorted exes dating back to the '90s.

"This is your love life" aside, when a man like Todd promises a boatload and delivers at least twice that, a girl can't ask for much more.

Except maybe a seated ticket next time he comes through town. And, if not, you can be sure I'll stand for Todd any day.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Strike a Pose

The best thing the Byrd Theater ever did - besides installing new seats - was going thematic.

I used to be such an occasional Byrd-goer. I mean, other than "It's a Wonderful Life" every Christmas Eve, I mostly went to the Byrd for film festivals - French, Environmental, whatever. But all that changed once they started doing a different theme every month.

Hello, variety, we Geminis love to mix things up.

You better believe I got on board with that. I saw my first Miyazaki film, "My Neighbor Totoro," as part of Miyazaki Mondays, also discovering how many Miyazaki film fans there are in Richmond. I did a month of Hitchcock movies because you can never see too much Hitchcock on the big screen. Currently, I'm going to see their "Pre-Code" series showing films made before the Hays Office came up with their Puritanical production code and began dictating morals to moviegoers.

Hell, I even put up with kids and a 10 a.m. screening to attend one of their Family Classics, though it's not likely I'll do that again.

So when I saw the Byrd was doing Mon-Gays, a month of films about LGBTQ lives, I naturally wanted to go. The director of the Afrikanna Film Fest always said that she screened films made by blacks "for blacks and black-minded people." I like to think that Mon-Gays are intended for gays and gay-minded people.

And I'm one of them.

Tonight's offering was a queer fairy tale, unexpectedly done musical-style and complete with scenes of young people dancing and vogueing to bass-heavy music and you know I loved that. The sensitively-told story of Ulysses, a black 14-year old boy trying to figure out his sexuality and identity, was all the more engrossing for the many trans actors used in the film and it's not often you see that.

Some of the early scenes were especially painful to watch because they involved Ulysses being bullied at school by the jocks, who mock him, call him faggot and deposit his gym suit in a toilet full of urine. His salvation arrives in the form of Saturday Church, a once-a-week community program for queer young people and where for the first time he sees LGBTQ people able to be themselves.

It's life-changing. It's enough to make a boy start vogueing as he walks down the street and eventually buy himself a pair of studded stilettos to catwalk in.

This means that later on, when the same jocks who've been ridiculing him for ages do it again, he's in a different head space. Rather than feel intimidated by them, Ulysses blows them off with a vogue-style kiss as he glides past them down the hall at school. Yaaas, queen.

Appropriately, the audience at the Byrd erupted in cheers and applause.

Not all of the story was so life-affirming, particularly several scenes after he ran away from home because his crazy Christian aunt was beating and berating him for who he was. But the overall tome was sweet, making for a strong film with low key charm and a major message: just let everybody be who they want to be.

For me, that's a black-minded, gay-minded independent film lover who's a familiar face to the concession staff.

No shame in being a Byrd regular.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Roxanne, Meet Karma Chameleon

With musical opinions to spare, I admit I was curious.

What could a Facebook algorithm tell me about what kind of high school stereotype I was, based solely on my choices of '80s music? So I took the quiz and got my grade.

The way you've covered every '80s genre makes us think that you were the studious type in high school. You may not have appreciated the label when you were young, but being a nerd paid off. You are intelligent, well-rounded and all the awkwardness has disappeared. Though you were a nerd back then, you're a nerd no more.

Hold it right there. I am still very much a nerd and no wanna-be judgement calculator is going to tell me otherwise. But if you're going to fit me into a high school box, I'll be the first to admit that nerd is where I belong.

Straight As? Check. National Honor Society? Check. Graduated a year early? Check. No question, I was a nerd, even if we didn't have that word back then.

The way I see it is, apparently if you're a nerd in high school, you're smart enough to listen to a broad range of music. If you're smart enough to have teachers asking what they can do to challenge you, it seems you're open to the Police and Culture Club. it's that simple.

Of course, this wasn't news to anyone at my parents' house, where I'd gone today to celebrate Father's Day with the man who produced this nerd. Also in attendance was Sister #2, along with her two sons, both of whom are teachers. The one who teaches high school had brought along the school's yearbook and offered me a look-see.

"I still have mine from Parkdale," my sister noted as I opened the surprisingly hefty book. I still have mine, too, but it's nothing like what I was holding now. Besides being in full color, every senior not only had a senior portrait but right next to it was each one's baby picture, too.

Seemed a bit much to me.

But what gave the yearbook so much more heft than my own wasn't the baby pictures, it was page after page of candid shots of kids at school. Now mind you, my high school had close to 3,000 students, exactly the same number as the school where he teaches. But no one was documenting our every move on a daily basis, much less combining them into photo-montages that seemed to go on for dozens of pages at a time.

The other thing taking up untold pages was documentation of the sheer number of clubs and groups at the school and I'm talking everything imaginable and then a bunch that never would have occurred to me. Like the Dr. Who Society, a group that watches their favorite episodes and eats snacks. A Millionaire's Club (don't ask). An Environmental Defense Club to teach the importance of up-cycling. And don't get me started on the Do Something Club.

Maybe all this struck me as a bit much because I didn't belong to any clubs in high school because I was too busy being a nerd doing homework, studying, reading and wondering if my life was ever going to start.

You know, like nerds do.

Meanwhile, my Mom mentioned that the mother of my childhood best friend had died and insisted on pulling up the obituary on her tablet to show me. The picture I saw looked nothing like the woman I remember from childhood, although my Mom insists that only her hair is different in the picture.

Well, that and she's 50 years older than the last time I saw her.

Far more interesting than a photo of a woman I didn't recognize was the listing of survivors, which included my childhood best friend, Cindy. She'd applied for the job by showing up at the side door of our new house on moving day, inquiring of my Mom, "Do you have any little girls I can play with?"

At the time, she only had four to choose from: a 4-year old, a 3-year old, a 2-year old and a 3 1/2 month old (two more were yet to come). Guess who she offered up?

But what caught my eye scanning the obit was that Cindy now spells her name Cyndi, which she most definitely did not do when we were children.

Now that I think about it, Cindy and I parted ways even before we were out of elementary school as it became painfully clear that she liked boys and breaking rules while I was perfectly happy being teacher's pet and helping with bulletin boards.

Which leads me to believe that her taste in '80s music could never be anywhere near as broad as mine. Spoken like a true nerd.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Music and Its Hapless Victims

"You don't seem like the kind of person who'd care, but it's a whole fish including the head and tail."

So what kind of person do I seem like?

It was our server at Stables on Belmont who'd offered the information when I'd ordered the grilled rainbow trout with mustard greens, blistered tomatoes and lemon poppy basmati rice. I assured her I'd have no problem with the entire fish and I didn't. In fact, when she returned later, there wasn't much left besides the head and the tail.

One hand outstretched for the plate, she paused. "Unless you're going to eat the cheeks," she observed, mentioning her fondness for fish cheeks and collar, an affinity I share. Let's just say that she held off on clearing the plate until there was nothing left in the fish's head except eyeballs.

And I have before, but I didn't tonight.

And that was after my theater posse- Pru, Beau and Queen B - started the meal with country pate and its sidekicks: pickled red onion, grainy mustard, oiled bread and cornichons, accompanied by a lovely Sancerre.

Although we'd gotten there early so we could make a play, it wasn't long before other groups started coming in, too, including a young couple that could have been poster children for the West End, or, better yet, UR. I can make derogatory generalizations about UR to Pru because that's where she graduated from and always considered herself an outlier.

She caught what I was kicking, brilliantly noting, "The white entitlement is blinding," and shielding her eyes while I cracked up.

A couple Pru and I knew also came in and stopped by the table to chat. They've been married something like 24 years, so when he dropped one of his stock jokes, his wife rolled her eyes, saying she'd heard that old chestnut dozens of times (Bumper sticker: "I don't mind if you're straight as long as you act gay in public").

"It's Joke #23," he said defensively.

While I opted for bourbon chocolate mousse and a glass of Penfolds Grandfather 20-Year Tawny Port (an especially civil ending to a meal, I thought) and Queen B had butter cookies with lemon curd (so veddy British), the happy couple ordered coffee and a cheese plate. We'd nearly finished our desserts and Pru and Beau were sipping their coffees and still there was no sign of their fromage.

When our server stopped by, Beau was succinct. "Cheese?" he inquired, raising an eyebrow. Leaning down to answer him, she announced, "I think he's cutting it now." Everyone cracked up like we were in middle school and, voila, it soon showed up.

Talking about what had been going on in our lives lately, the subject of several of Beau' recent nincompoop moments came up, apparently after a good long while with none. "Nincompoopery builds up," Pru explained of the recent spate.

"It's like bile," Beau posited, ever the savant, setting Pru and I off again.

One of the restaurant's staffers had commented on several of our ensembles, prompting Pru to tell him that she'd had a hand in them all: choosing Beau's shirt, gifting me with the orange Italian shrug and giving Queen B the fantastical necklace she was wearing. I shared that we were en route to Richmond Triangle Players for "Grey Gardens," causing his face to light up. "You all look perfect than!" he crowed. "Take me with you!"

We didn't, of course - who's got an extra ticket to "Grey Gardens," after all - but the compliments were nice.

The play laid out the weird lives of Edie Bouvier Beale (both mother and daughter have the same name, necessitating "Big Edie" and "Little Edie" monikers) through song and occasional dance, detailing how they went from rich to ruins living with dozens of cats and raccoons, lots of poop and no running water in the Hamptons (referred to as a "mean, nasty Republican town").

I mean, Little Edie was engaged to Joseph Kennedy, Jr., at least until her crazy mother Big Edie told him stories about her nudity and promiscuity that scared him off ("It was my sobriquet, Beautiful Body Beale!"). After all, had he not been killed in WW II, he was the Kennedy who was supposed to end up President, remember?

All the songs allowed Big and Little Edie to show off their singing chops (and goodness knows, Susan Sanford and Grey Garret have them), but Pru and I agreed there was something deeply disturbing (as I'm sure was intended by the playwrights) about hearing Big Edie sing a racist ode like "Hominy Grits."

Next to watermelon
There ain't no tellin'
Dem's da bestest vittles
Us colored folks gits!

When the scene ended with the keys cover being slammed on the pianist's fingers to stop it, some guy in the audience called out, "Dah-licious!" for the scene's high camp. At least that's what I'm hoping he meant.

There was also an awful lot of humor like, "He lost both legs at Iwo Jima. Romance was inevitable," not to mention a gospel choir singing and testifying all over the stage. A Norman Vincent Peale  character singing "Choose To Be Happy." And, of course, the tragedy of Little Edie being called back from NYC once she does finally escape, only to resign herself to spending the rest of her life doing her demanding mother's bidding.

Because real life often doesn't end neatly or happily.

Afterward in the ladies' room, one woman announced that she now needed to see the cinema verite documentary to better understand these weird characters. Pru, Beau and Queen B had watched it again just last week in preparation, Beau for the first time.

Her friend shot back, "I saw it when I was eight. My mother showed it to me on VHS or something." I looked at her askance. Why on earth would your mother have shown you something so disturbing at such a young age, I had to ask.

"To mess me up?" she guessed, not exactly smiling at having to dig that deep.

Hominy grits aside, that's the Grey Gardens legacy for you.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Barely Legal Bona Fide Human Beings

Okay, Byrd Park Roundhouse, get your act together.

When I attended my first show there a few weeks ago, I showed up at 7 because that was the time on the Facebook event page. But upon arriving, a sandwich board announced that the doors actually opened at 7:30 and music wasn't until 8. The change was an excuse to walk around the lake on a beautiful evening, so no big deal.

But needless to say, when I made plans to go hear the Hot Seats at the Roundhouse tonight, I knew enough to arrive just before 8:00. Stopped at a  traffic light on the way over, I saw a plane fly directly under the bottom of the nearly full moon, leaving a vapor trail that looked like it provided a ledge for the moon to sit on.

I took it as a good omen for the evening.

Walking from where I parked toward the Roundhouse, I saw young families scattered around the lawn outside the Roundhouse's open door, kids scampering as parents listed to the music.

All of a sudden, I could hear that the band had started, a bit of a surprise since it wasn't yet 8.

Walking in, money in hand, the guy at the door looks apologetic. "I think they're about to finish up their set," he explained. "But maybe if you let them see you putting money in, they'll play a little longer."

Glancing over at bandleader Josh, whom I've known for years, I made an exaggerated motion with my arm, bringing it up and over my head to deposit the cash, which, incidentally, all goes to the band, and smiled broadly.

"You just got us a few more songs, I think," the door guy whispered with a grin before I found a seat in the back row. It wasn't a big crowd, but they were mighty and clearly fans of bluegrass and new grass and everything the talented Hot Seats - guitar, upright bass, fiddle, mandolin and occasionally banjo played by a woman otherwise seated in the front row - were serving up.

I'm sure if I'd been there when the show began, I'd know who she was.

The first full song I heard was "Compliance," an original song Josh said was about "someone having their foot on your throat and asking if you mind if they kick you." Who doesn't like fast-pickin' with major attitude in the lyrics?

"We're the Hot Seats, in case I didn't mention it and we've been around a while," Josh said to laughter. "It's our eighteenth birthday as a band, which makes us barely legal."

There was another original song, during which a Dad came in with his two young girls and headed toward the bathrooms, the kids never even turning to look at the four men vigorously making music as they passed by. It made me a little sad considering the volume and the energy and their complete indifference to both.

After a song about "being bona fide human beings," Josh promised, tongue firmly in cheek, that they would "keep the uplifting songs going." Then they launched into another of his songs, this one called "When You Were Young," which he says he wrote to remind himself not to be so crotchety.

When you were young
Things were fun
You used to like things
It was exciting

After reminding his bandmates they were moving into songs in the key of A, the did a nice little murder ballad called "Willow Garden." When you're listening to a good murder ballad, it's hard not to appreciate a setting as lovely as tonight's: windows open to the park, the sunset sliding behind the trees, humidity so low as to be imperceptible (which means I had to wear leggings so I wouldn't be cold).

Practically perfect except for the absence of company.

Even Josh couldn't help but commenting on our surroundings, announcing that he'd been married in the Roundhouse, "Thirteen years ago? Fourteen? I should know, shouldn't I?" All I'm saying about that is, I'd bet his wife knows how many years it's been.

Part of the beauty of the Hot Seats is hearing multiple voices harmonizing, but also hearing an occasional plaintive lead vocal by the fiddle player.

They were doing a song about a rattletrap van not known for starting with certainty or frequency when two women arrived and sat down in the row in front of me. I wondered if they'd gotten the same warning that I had, that the show was about to wind down.

When that song ended, that was it and people began heading out after a reminder from Josh about future Roundhouse shows. Curious about why the show had started so early, I stopped to ask the table guy and he explained that all the shows there are supposed to start at 7 sharp. Since I'd only been to one previously and it had started at 8, I'd made an erroneous assumption, I told him

Standing nearby was a couple who joined our conversation to say that they'd done the same thing after the Luray show. "We'd have been much earlier if we'd known it was really starting at 7," she said. Finally, witnesses to back up my story.

Finally fully armed with the correct information about future shows, I headed out, only to run into Josh, who gestured at the moon and observed that it was nearly full. When I told him about seeing the plane appearing to shave off the bottom of it earlier, he joked, "Oh, that's why it's missing that little part at the bottom." Who doesn't appreciate a clever musician?

Making my way to my car, I heard the distinctive strains of "Downtown," a song I love, so I stood by my car to finish listening to it. I couldn't tell where it was coming from because it was starting to get dark and the trees obliterated the source of the sound. Probably just somebody's boombox.

If I'd had any sense, I would have followed the music because as soon as I got home, I saw that a friend was at opening night of Dogwood Dell and the English Beat - purveyors of Brit pop, rock and prog from the '60s and '70s - were playing the night away.

I'd been within spitting distance of the amphitheater and not had a clue. So if they played my Petula Clark favorite, "Don't Sleep in the Subway, Darling," I'd rather not know about it.

I don't want to sound crotchety, but I hate missing out on double fun.

Friday, June 14, 2019

High Noon at the Crabcake Corral

I didn't drive an hour and a half to have lunch by myself, but that's the way the cookie crumbles.

Or so I thought. Back on my birthday, my aunt had suggested we meet for lunch to celebrate. Because she's got great genes (and by that I mean she plays doubles tennis three times a week, looks like she's in her early '60s and, oh, by the way, she's 75), the soonest we could schedule a lunch date was today. The when and where is a constant - noon at the Confident Rabbit, formerly Bistro Bethem, in Fredericksburg - so once we had the date, everything was set.

It's not like either of us feel the need to confirm with the other the day of because we're grown-ass women who can be relied upon to show up once we commit.

I had a brief moment driving up Route 301 under roiling clouds and occasional spitting rain when I wondered if I should have confirmed our plans, but then thought, nah. Except when I got to the restaurant promptly at noon, she wasn't there and she always beats me to our usual window table. Her drive from Warrenton is shorter than my drive from Richmond, so she's reliably in place ready to greet me when I roll in.

Except she wasn't today, so I had to settle for a big hello from a charming member of the rainbow army.

For the first ten minutes, I figured she was just running late. For the next ten, I beat myself up for not having confirmed our date before wasting the time driving to Fredericksburg for a solo lunch. Then I got a grip, ordered a glass of Cremant de Loire and a crabcake on brioche with a house salad and felt much better.

Since I'd screwed up, I might as well get a nice lunch out of it and make the best of it.

Moments after ordering, I spotted my aunt coming down the sidewalk, looking tall and impeccably dressed, her spiky white hair proclaiming that she wasn't your typical 75-year old. In a flash, I motioned to our server, telling him to keep my lunch in the kitchen until she'd ordered and hers was ready, too.

"Of course, love," he said, winking at our conspiracy.

My aunt arrived apologetic but an 18-wheeler had lost control and was laying across Route 17 East, her usual route to Fredericksburg, necessitating a U-turn and alternate route. All told, the delay took her an extra half an hour and she hadn't wanted to pull over and call the restaurant to alert me for fear of being even tardier.

Meanwhile, I'm explaining to her that I'd been beating myself up all this time, convinced that we'd changed the time and I'd screwed up. "No, no, it's always high noon!" she reminded me.

Once we'd finished playing the take-the-blame game, we got on to the pleasures of eating, drinking and dishing about the family. She's a great person for me to vent to about my sisters because she knows all the characters, even sharing opinions about them. "They resent you for making choices that made you happy when they didn't do the same," she posited.

Let's just say that the satisfaction of telling her some of my sister-trip stories from April brought about a (very satisfying) dropped jaw reaction similar to what I'd felt.

That alone made me glad I'd come.

But then, so did the flourless chocolate torte that our gregarious server delivered as we chatted away until every other table finished and left. We didn't intend to be the last of the ladies who lunched at the Rabbit today, but our delayed start made it that way. Not to mention a prolonged discussion with our talkative server who hopes to wind up living in Norway sooner rather than later ("No more Virginia summers!" he emoted dramatically).

When my aunt shared that the State Department, her long-time employer, had offered her a post in Oslo that she'd turned down for one in war-torn Beirut, he was agog. "No, I like cold weather!" he insisted, although with his freshly shaved bald head (and, yes, he offered to let us rub it), he'd be wearing hats almost all the time.

Now that I think about it, he probably would have loved that, all those stylish chapeaux.

Walking down Fredericksburg's refurbished restaurant row, my aunt pointed out how garish a new rooftop restaurant looked. When I explained that it was meant to appeal to Millennials, her response was, "Yea, well, all I can say is, Millennials better vote in 2020 or we're doomed!"

Is it any wonder I drive an hour and a half in the rain to have lunch with this woman?

It's the exact same drive (and, in fact, the same restaurant, albeit under a different name) I used to make when my friend L. lived in Maryland and we'd meet there for dinner once a month. So it was an unlikely coincidence when I got home to find an email from him with the subject line, "Is nothing scared?"

He'd included an article about the Fredericksburg City Council voting to remove the slave auction block that sits on the corner near the restaurant that I'd just come from. His message was succinct: "How will we know where to meet for lunch?"

Now, mind you, he's been living in Key West for close to a decade, but I understood his point. We'd walked by that historical auction block together countless times and now city council was removing it, despite its value in sparking important conversations and its educational role in reminding us of a painful period in history.

And lest we forget, despite its prominent place in our friendship's history.

Jeez Louis, I guess nothing is sacred.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

A Firefly Never Forgets

I had a new recruit today, but not in the war between Freedonia and Sylvania.

Okay, not so much a recruit, per se, but a friend who'd been trying to schedule a walk with me for months, maybe even over a year by now. Problem was she broke her foot and that took a while to mend and then the fellowship that spawned a video filmed at the Bay of Fundy opened at the ICA and then another film project debuted at the get the picture.

It was beginning to feel like it was never going to happen and then she reached out and we had compatible mornings free and we finally walked together. And on a gloriously cool June morning, too.

Naturally, I led her right down to the river, knowing full well that our chances of getting on the pipeline were nil. Two days ago, the only way I'd been able to get on it from the Brown's Island side had been by scrambling over a boulder and then propelling myself forward onto the pipeline and we'd had even more rain since then. It was much worse today with the entire western end under rushing water, but I wanted her to see it anyway.

We compensated by backtracking, taking the canal walk and picking up the pipeline walkway from the eastern end. I knew she "got" it when she marveled, "It's like walking on water."

Yes, indeed, that's exactly what it's like.

Since she'd already taken a yoga class before she met me, by the time we came off the pipeline, she admitted that her legs were feeling the walk. I've no doubt they felt it even more on the next part, which is a series of hills back up to Broad Street. Rest assured, since this was our first shared walk, I made sure to point out interesting things urban, historical, artistic and natural (she was thrilled that we saw two great blue herons) along the way as a distraction.

"You're part trainer, part field guide," she marveled. I'd call that one of my more unique compliments.

And if I was cheating on Mac walking with another woman, I made it up by meeting her at the Byrd to watch four Jews trying to get a laugh. And lest you think I said that, I can assure you that was Groucho Marx's response to those who questioned the political significance of "Duck Soup."

And while he denied it, Mussolini banned the film from showing in Italy because he thought it was an attack on him. I have to say, the anti-Fascist message came across as pretty timely in 2019 as well. Sadly.

Waiting outside for Mac to arrive, I saw guy after guy approach the box office to get a single ticket. One guy cracked wise, requesting, "One for the soup du jour, please." Clearly the Marx Brothers are big with the Y-chromosome set.

Mac and I had barely settled into our seats when a very tall man sat down in front of us, scrunched waaay down in his eat and turned to ask us if he was blocking our views. We politely said no, all the while wondering why he didn't sit somewhere he didn't have to scrunch. I mean, his legs were almost under his chin. When Mac returned with popcorn and Milk Duds, he began making crazy motions with his hand, then got up and left, never to be seen again.

You can always count on a little weirdness at the Byrd.

Manager Todd began the evening by asking if seeing "Duck Soup" tonight would be anyone's first Marx Brothers movie and, amazingly, about a dozen people raised their hands.  When he asked who was a Marx Brothers fan, easily half the large crowd roared back in affirmation.

One fun fact he shared was that "duck soup" used to be slang for something easy to do, news to me.

The movie began with a screen reading, "NRA Member. We do our part," followed by the Paramount logo. Kind of disturbing, but maybe not so much in 1933.

I've got no idea when I last saw "Duck Soup" but my best guess would be in college. Back then, my boyfriend and I were very into Woody Allen and it was common knowledge what a huge Marx Brothers fan he was. So I had no memory of what the film was about, although it came back to me as the film progressed.

Interestingly, one of the seminal scenes, which Todd had mentioned, was the mirror scene where Groucho and Harpo mime each other as if they're looking in a mirror. Long before I ever saw "Duck Soup," I'd seen the "I Love Lucy" episode where Lucy does the same thing with Harpo even though it took until college to understand the reference.

Okay, so Lucy and Harpo weren't the first to do it.

One of the most charming parts of watching the movie unfold was the reaction of the children in the audience, who laughed uproariously at so much of it. The scenes of Chico and Harpo taunting the lemonade stand guy - setting his hats on fire, putting their feet in his vat of lemonade - sent them into fits of giggles you could hear throughout the theater.

As a trainer and field guide, it was the puns and word nerd humor that set me off.

Mrs. T: Notables from every country are gathered here in your honor. This is a gala day for you.
Groucho: Well, a gal a day is enough for me. I don't think I could handle any more.

Let's face it, laughing at the Marx Brothers is duck soup.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Will You Ride Shotgun?

I recall when a friend facetiously suggested a t-shirt for the Chamber to give out:
Welcome to Richmond
We talk at shows

And unfortunately, we don't just talk at big shows at the National with 1500 other people, we talk at house shows and small venue shows. Hell, we even talk at intimate Sundown at Scuffletown shows, where the musicians are barely amplified and we're practically in strangers' backyards.

We're just rude that way.

And by "we," I hope you know I mean "they." Whether I pay for a music show or not, I am there to listen not talk. I'm considerate enough to know that I can chat before it starts and once it ends.

Not everybody seems to be so civil.

I'd wrangled Mac into joining me and my hired mouth at lunch today and during the course of the meal, she'd shared with our young server that we were going to hear music at Scuffletown Park tonight. She even explained that it was a word of mouth event not shared on social media, which he thought was very cool (and perhaps strange).

Translation: we were looking forward to it.

I met her there an hour before sundown and, as promised, she'd brought two cans of Lambrusco, a fitting red wine for a 70 degree evening. She'd also staked out a bench for us, so we were pretty much set for the evening. It was a big crowd, easily twice what it was two weeks ago when I was last there, and while I don't care about crowd size, I do resent people talking and laughing so loudly that I can't hear the music.

The crowd continued to grow and you could get a feel for who they were by their t-shirts: "Give Richmond the Byrd," "You Da Wild, Naughty Pines, CA," "Ice Cream for Strength" and more common sightings such as "WRIR" and "Bon Iver." Me, I was wearing my feelings, too, with my newest shirt: "My book smells better than your tablet."

Because it does.

Saying that we were witnessing history tonight because it was the first Scuffletown show featuring pedal steel, our emcee introduced Trey Hall and Friends, consisting of Trey on acoustic guitar and a guy whose name we couldn't hear on pedal steel. Before their set was over, two singers joined them.

"I have torn vocal chords," Trey explained. "So I thought I'd play songs that are very sad." Trey plays with Dharma Bombs, meaning I'd seen him before, just not without the rest of the Bombs.

"Say hi to Charley," Trey said about the young woman who came to the microphone after the first couple songs. "The best part of having torn vocal chords is having friends to help me out, like Charley." And while Mac and I would have loved to have heard Charley singing along, the gaggles of giggling girls directly across from us ensured that it wasn't easy.

Introducing "Canadian Tuxedo," Trey announced, "Charley's gonna sing it better than I can," a true statement.

The coolish weather was ideal for an outdoor show, never more so than when fireflies began flitting around and there was a break in the screaming children playing tag. The sound of the pedal steel in the dusky evening air was nothing short of beautiful...and historic, as it turns out.

For that matter, I recall the time they brought a piano in for a show at Scuffletown, so they don't mess around. But pedal steel is a distinct pleasure.

If I sound like the angry guy on his front lawn shaking his fist at the kids on his grass, it's because I've been a Scuffletown regular for the past five years and each year it seems like fewer people come for the music. They come to eat (although why anyone would bring sub-par pizza from PBR when a glorious pie from 8 1/2 is available next door escapes Mac and me) and see their friends, have some beer or wine, probably even see and be seen, but an annoyingly large percentage clearly don't care about the music or they wouldn't face away from it and chatter, right?

Rude people's noise made it tough to hear lyrics, but Mac and I cracked up when we thought we heard the lines:
She's an addict
But she's got toys in the attic

But for all we know, we're mishearing lyrics and he really sang something completely different. We'll never know.

Eventually Charley was replaced with Mackenzie from the band Pistol Sister and she sang on "Black Rose Tattoo," her big voice piercing the hum of random conversations.

The set closer was by far the most raucous song, as if Trey was willing to push past his torn vocal chords for the sake of the liveliness of the guitar and pedal steel parts on their swan song.

And here's the kicker: when the emcee got up to insist on another round of applause for the band and ask if there were any community announcements, everyone got respectfully quiet and listened.

No, no, no, kids, we stop talking for the music, not for the end of the music. It's enough to give a person have toys in the attic, if you know what I'm saying.

Gimme some ice cream for strength.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Like the Lark at Break of Day

It was a night for not letting truth get in the way of a good story.

A rainy night at that, for, what, the third or fourth night in a row? That's not a complaint, mind you, because I've been really enjoying these wet, beachy days. Today's was followed by a fine soggy night to spend in Stratford-on-Avon watching Shakespeare's final three years unfold at the Criterion in "All is True."

Which, for the uninformed (which was me before seeing this), was the original title of "Henry VIII," the play that was being performed when the Globe Theater burned down. That's also the point at which this particular film begins, with Will, his theater gone, vowing never to write a word again.

Directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Kenneth Branagh as Will, which made it catnip to someone like me (I thought his "Much Ado About Nothing" was a masterpiece and saw it twice), the film also boasted Judy Dench as his wife, Anne Hathaway, a non-too happy wife given her husband's prolonged absences in London over the past 20 years.

Safe to say that Will wasn't getting an invitation into the marriage bed (which is the second best bed because, of course, the best bed is in the guest Puritan) anytime soon.

Although he may not have  minded given that the film posits that Will's true love was the Early of Southampton, for whom he wrote all those sonnets and dedicated them to "the fair youth." Magnificently played by Ian McKellen, the conversation between the two men in front of the fireplace was a master class in poetry as they recited Sonnet 29 to each other, the difference in their ages and stations in life making for completely different interpretations.

I'm not too proud to admit that I would have sat there and listened to those two actors read sonnets for two hours. I love hearing poetry read aloud.

The film was a gorgeous escape, the soft-focus scenes of rural England's meadows, ponds and fields making them look almost magical in a Monet-in-England kind of a way. Just as dazzling in a different way were the many interior scenes lit solely by candlelight and fire's glow, although all I could think about was how limited your reading time must have been when flame provided the only illumination.

Even if the story hadn't captured my imagination, and it definitely did, it was beautifully shot that it could be appreciated solely as eye candy.

For me, one of the most thought-provoking scenes occurs while Will is gardening and a fan approaches. What he asks of the great playwright and poet is, "How did you know? to which Will asks, "Know what?"

The fan's answer? "Everything."

It was a light bulb moment. How did this man who'd never traveled and had limited life experience - he couldn't have known that many complex, compelling people on which to base characters - dream up the fantastical plots and myriad people and locales that went into his plays?

Let's face it, most of us don't know a King Lear or even an Ophelia type. Or perhaps 21st century denizens are just less complex than Jacobeans, who knows?

Nobody knows, just like nobody knows what Shakespeare did in his final three years besides spend them with his family. Maybe his imagination gave out or his brain just needed a rest from all that writing.

I'm telling you, it could happen.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Howdy, Pride

Let me be perfectly queer, both us girls had forgotten that today was the Capital Pride Parade when we set off for D.C.

En route, Lady G gave me my birthday present, a fabulously patterned bag she'd quilted in my favorite colors: purples, greens, hot pinks and yellows. I've known this woman for 20 years as an illustrator and painter and now that she's turned her discerning eye to quilting, she has a new art form with which to share her talent.

And I have the most gorgeous beach bag ever.

As usual, she gave me some updates from her psychic friend, who's been assuring her for a while now that something big is about to happen to our orange leader health-wise. Or, as Lady G put it, "She told me not to worry. She said she's "seeing a Joe Kennedy kind of a stroke" in his imminent future."

All that fast food has to catch up with his heart at some point, right? Please, right?

She told me about her widowed friend who'd screwed up her nerve to contact her first boyfriend from when she was 15 years old. Fifty six years later, they had a date and are now an item. The power of the Internet (and loneliness) is mighty.

And speaking of junky food, once in D.C., there were an inordinate number of food vendor trucks parked everywhere and, even for the nation's capital on a weekend, a crazy amount of people already parked and milling about considering it wasn't even 11 a.m. yet. Despite a steady rain, we'd made it to D.C. in an hour and a half and as is our luck when we do our regular art runs, we had no problem finding a parking space two blocks from the Mall.

Along the way, we saw that the line for the Natural History Museum was around the block, no doubt due the opening just days ago of the newly renovated fossil hall, aka the dinosaur bone exhibit.

Still, we were clueless.

It was only when we cut through the Air and Space Museum to use the bathroom en route to the National Gallery of Art that the mystery was solved. Going through airport-level security, one of the guards mentioned that all this rain might cancel the Pride parade.

So that's what all this mass of humanity was about.

At the Air & Space Museum, we also ran into two women in Pride shirts from Rhode Island looking for recommendations for which galleries are must-sees for first-timers. I haven't been to that museum since the '90s, so I let G take the lead on answering those questions.

Meanwhile, I was checking out the crowds and I have to say, it was as completely different a group of people from the ones we see at the National Gallery as to be two different species. We escaped as quickly as we could.

Crossing the Mall, we saw a couple taking the iconic picture of each other in front of the capital, which made G extend a helping hand by asking the German-sounding couple if they wanted her to take their photo together. Once they understood her offer (their initial reaction was to shake their heads no and begin walking away), they were thrilled to get their photo taken, arms around each other.

"Already, we're doing so much for others!" G said proudly as we made our way toward the reason for the road trip, hearing the sounds of the Pride parade as we walked.

Inside, the security checkpoint was far simpler than at Air and Space. All we had to do was open our bags. When I greeted my guard with, "Howdy!" he grinned and asked where I was from. This city, D.C., I informed him and asked his provenance. "Houston," he said with hometown pride. "And you don't hear "howdy" much around these parts."

I don't want to brag, but I think I made his morning.

Moments after the museum opened, G and I were walking into "Tintoretto; Artist of Renaissance Venice," part of the 500th anniversary of Tintoretto's birth and the first retrospective of his work in North America.

Sigh. This is what art history nerds like G and I live for.

You can imagine my delight looking at "The Contest of Apollo and Marsyas" and learning that it had been done for a critic and art promoter named Pietro, whose published letters functioned as a kind of 16th century blog. A blog, people.

So you see, I'm just carrying on a long-standing tradition of informing the world of my interests.

Although G had said she knew very little about Tintoretto, I recalled my art history professors emphasizing his significant role in art history and in unseating Titian. Turns out Tintoretto, in his day, was doing avant garde paintings designed to shock, using Michelangelo's anatomy and Titian's colors. Meanwhile, his fellow artists were outraged and probably not a little mortified by how aggressively he marketed his work.

His mastery of foreshortening was startling and G pointed out time and again where he was showing off, having a realistically depicted foot or hand - sometimes an entire princess - seeming to extend out of the picture plane and into our world.

Strolling into another gallery - mind you, it was a large show with many enormous works, including many designed for ceilings - G got a look, grinned and observed, "Well, that's an interesting place to put a dragon." She was referring to "Saint George, Saint Louis and the Princess" and we weren't surprised to learn that the critics of the day agreed with her that m'lady's position astride a dragon was hardly lady-like.

Not that I think for a moment that Tintoretto was going for ladylike. If anything came across in his work, it was his confidence and brashness as he set out to change the direction of painting. Witness "Venus and Mars Surprised by Vulcan," showing Vulcan, convinced his wife is cheating on him, pulling back Venus' drape for signs of lovemaking on her thighs. Meanwhile Mars is crouched under a table hiding, helmet still on.

Presumably, he'd taken it off for the lovemaking. At least I hope he had.

No doubt about it, this was a once in a lifetime chance to see most of these works which have never touched down in the U.S. before. And because there were so many enormous pieces, the ever-practical artist G couldn't help but note, "I can't imagine how much it cost to ship all of these here."

After two plus hours in the thrall of Tintoretto, we were starved and made our way to the NGA's Cafe for lunch. While it was nice to get off our feet for a bit, we treated it mainly as a filling station so we could get back to looking at art, this time in the NGA's East Building.

Although we hadn't come planning to see "The Life of Animals in Japanese Art," G's eye had been caught by the  signage we saw for it. As it turned out, it was just as big a show as Tintoretto had been - hell, it covered 17 centuries and a wide variety of mediums - requiring another couple hours to see it all.

I especially loved a forest green robe called "Uchi Kake with Phoenix and Birds," a gorgeous 19th century garment covered in 99 birds. The hundredth bird, a white crane flying against the sun, was put inside the collar of the robe so only the wearer could see it. Brilliant.

Very different was Okamoto Taro's 1948 work "Dawn," which depicts a shrieking monster dominating the center of the large, chaotic painting full of color and energy done just after world War II ended and expressing the demons still haunting the Japanese in the aftermath of being bombed.

In contrast, some pieces were pure whimsy, like "Dragonfly," a 19th century large format ink on paper of a dragonfly with such a hangdog look that he was almost cartoon-like. It wouldn't have looked out of place on a children's book cover.

Ditto the six-panel screen, "Fox's Wedding Procession," in which the artist had substituted foxes for men by putting Samurai costumes on the foxes and making them part of a traditional wedding party as they carry the bride-to-be aloft on a palanquin.

A print that could have been straight out of a contemporary children's book, "Daikon and Mice" showed two little gray mice climbing atop a white daikon with a brilliant orange carrot behind it. With the rich, green leaves of both vegetables framing the mice, the clean-lined print had a very modern graphic look to it.

When we finally finished with the animals, we were soul-satisfied as only art nerds can be after so much new to see. G didn't admit to the blister on her foot from so much walking and standing until we were sitting in traffic on I-395, that's how good a time we were having.

Admittedly, it probably couldn't match the post-parade elation of the Pride participants, but it was a pretty spectacular day for a couple of straight women.

And you know if we'd only had time, we'd have done the parade, too.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Future is Now

Three women of a certain age (and their male consort) walk into a Basque restaurant.

Before the evening is over, they will drink from the western Loire, consume an array of the sea's bounty (squid, softshell crab, skate and shrimp) and plant life (chilled almond soup, warm chicories, roasted artichoke hearts with anchovy aioli and heirloom white cucumber salad with Spanish ham, oh, my!) and see a play about mature southern women. In that order.

For what it's worth, all three of the women involved in our party had been born south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Like every other time I'd eaten at Adarra, every dish was spot-on, dazzling us with nuance and flavor marriages made in heaven. The sherry vinegar-laced chilled almond soup was unlike anything I've ever had (rich, addicting and thickened with bread) and the artichoke hearts were simple perfection.

After hearing the dessert offerings, there was an order placed for three housemade strawberry ice creams and while it seemed like too much for three people, I'm here to tell you that every last drop was consumed. The credit for that goes to the fact that the chef's strawberry ice cream recipe came across a lot like my own very basic recipe: nothing but heavy cream, fresh strawberries, a little lemon juice and a pinch of salt.

As I learned long ago, it's hard to go wrong with a generous bowl of strawberries and cream. And don't get me started on my peaches and cream ice cream (at least until July).

After rolling out of Adarra, we headed south for a play espousing a philosophy of living single and drinking doubles. "Savannah Sipping Society" was written by the same trio who'd concocted "Dixie Swim Club" (which included Jamie Wooten, who'd written for "The Golden Girls"), so director Tom Width promised us a good time and plenty of familiar characters.

You know that feeling you get when you're all tingly and feeling just wonderful when you fall in love? That's common sense leaving your body.

The story followed four women, three of whom meet after escaping a hot yoga class, all of them going through changes. They begin gathering on one woman's veranda for deep discussions and alcohol of every kind.  One's husband recently died, another's spouse had left her for a 23-year old chippie and the one with the veranda where all the drinking goes on has been fired from the architecture firm where she has worked for decades.

So none of them are in a great place. And that doesn't even include the Grandmother character, whose only scene requires her come onstage and die.

Enough butter and love can fix anything

The last of the group has aspirations of being a life coach, so she takes the reins to get the women out of their ruts and into the next stages of their lives. For fuel along the way, they drink Mojitos, bourbon, Madeira, hot chocolate with Kahlua, wine and probably more that I can't even remember.

Mostly, the women support each other as they move their midlife baggage from an unhappy place to a more satisfying place for their next chapter. I'm proof that it can happen.

It's not flirting. I call it chatting with intent.

And, of course, because they're women, they support each other in everything: salsa dancing, going out with a date for Valentine's Day, getting tattoos and role playing, to name a few. So they can't help but learn to love each other and rely on each other for advice, commiseration and laughs.

The play was fun, plain and simple, for many reason: relatable characters, quick dialog, physical humor and sheer familiarity. Southern accents came on strong and dropped off and it was sometimes hard to see the stage right monologues from our vantage point, but the four actresses' chemistry was so strong that you couldn't look away from their fast-moving conversations for fear of missing someone's pithy observation.

It's a concern I know well. When I'm with my five sisters, the cardinal rule is you don't exit the room unless you're willing to be talked about. I like to say I'm not escaping, I'm leaving with intent.

Fact is, you worry a lot less about that sort of thing once common sense leaves your body.

Which it did for one simple reason. Not gonna lie, I chatted with intent.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Double Lives

How many words are too many words? Turns out that depends on the ears hearing them.

When Pru and I set out to have a mini-French Film Festival, it was purely for the sake of two things, namely popcorn for lunch and the usual French movie tropes: attractive people talking about intellectual things while smoking, drinking wine and bedding lovers. The only thing missing in this one was a woman in a dress on a bicycle, so we had to make do with a couple on a Vespa headed to the beach.

Good enough.

The problem was we'd chosen the first screening of the day and the woman running things at Criterion Cinemas wasn't quite ready to be open for business. Oh, she took our money for tickets and popcorn with no problem, but was the butter machine turned on? To my dismay, it was not. And to Pru's horror, she hadn't even set out the shakers of popcorn salt, so she had to go digging for those.

When it's your lunch, you want it just the way you like it.

Hardly surprisingly for a subtitled movie on a weekday at noon, we turned out to be the sole occupants of the theater. Our only complaint was that while generally the previews are geared to the type of film the audience has come to see, instead we suffered through previews for action-packed shoot-em-ups like "Dark Phoenix" and blockbusters like the upcoming "Star Wars" flick, neither of which held the least bit of interest for me.

Beau will undoubtedly drag Pru to the latter, but that's her problem. Tant pis, babe.

After all, we were there to see "Non-Fiction," a French serio-comic look at the state of the publishing industry, a subject near and dear to my heart. It didn't hurt that the film starred Juliette Bincohe because Pru and I are both big fans. The eye candy of Guillaume Canet - whether getting into his boxer briefs after a tryst or wearing a scarf with just the right touch of je ne sais quois - didn't hurt, either.

The film's French title was "Double Lives," which turned out to be a far better descriptor than the dumbed-down American title. Because, of course, these being Parisians, everyone had a lover on the side. When the couples weren't trysting, they were having dinner at each other's houses and discussing the state of the digital versus print worlds while sipping wine and eating pastries from the local patisserie.

Honestly, it doesn't sound like such a bad life.

But we were about halfway through the film when Pru observed in a loud voice (not a big deal since no one else was present), "Is it just me or are these people boring the shit out of you?" Honestly, they weren't, but obviously I also have a bit more of a stake in the discussion than she does, given what I do for a living.

Affairs aside, the movie was a pretty relentless critique of how technology is changing everything from literature to art and human interaction to the political scene and of course I'm going to eat that up in a way that most (cell phone-using, tablet-carrying) people wouldn't.

Let's put it this way, when a character refers to Twitter as the "new form of haiku," I'm the one who cringed. And frankly, a world without libraries isn't one I want to inhabit, despite a Millennial character assuring the Boomers that every book would be online. No, thanks.

Fortunately, not long after her comment, things got juicy when people began ditching their lovers toute suite. One got a necklace as a farewell gift, while another asked for the promise that their affair wouldn't become fodder for his next book (as he was known to do). Seems that the French liked to end their affairs in a tidy manner.

The last scene took place at a beautiful seaside house with waves crashing on the shore, whole grilled fishes for lunch and Canet's publishing house not being sold to a digital conglomerate after all (whew!), satisfying our desire for one final scenic French locale and a reassurance that all is not lost yet in the battle against technological domination. A laugh out loud-worthy inside joke about Juliette Binoche only made it better.

"We must choose the change, not suffer it," one character says of the techno revolution affecting modern life, becoming my hero.

Safe to say that Pru and I prefer a French take on the state of contemporary life to an American one, especially when it comes from attractive and articulate people.

As for me, I'm continuing  to choose the Luddite life. It saves me the suffering of Twitter as haiku.

Friday, June 7, 2019

I Got the Night on My Side

Just call me a curiosity. Strangers do.

With every day that passes, I become more of a person of interest when I let slide that I don't have a cell phone. Scoring a single chair between two tables under the big canopy at the Valentine to await the start of Music in the Garden, a woman nearby says to no one in particular, "Oh! We all need to turn off our cell phones before the music starts."

Well, unless you don't have a cell phone, I say. When she immediately assumes I left mine in the car, I regret to inform her I simply don't have one. Never had one. She is dumbstruck. "But how do you live?" she wonders.

So it's going to be one of those conversations.

To her, it's inconceivable that I am not able to immediately Google anything that piques my interest. "How do you get directions?" she asks, incredulous that I have enough foresight to get them before leaving home. "But what if you see something interesting and want to look it up?" she wonders. Um, I delay gratification and remember to look it up later?

For the rest of the evening, she would periodically look over at me and shake her head, like she was viewing a two-headed giraffe at the zoo or something. It helped when an older couple asked if they could join her table, providing a distraction from my weirdness.

Bill Martin, the Valentine's director, came out to start the show, pointing out that there are so few opportunities to hear free music anymore, making this series all the more unique. I know I appreciate it for that reason.

Then he introduced Deau Eyes, aka Ali Thibodeau, mentioning that tomorrow is her birthday.

Wearing a short red skirt and cowboy boots, you know, like an indie singer songwriter does for a June garden show, Ali slung her guitar strap over her shoulder and got down to business singing "Some Do." Then she called up Justin Golden, the evening's second act, to sing harmony with her on the next song before launching into the very appropriate-for-a-summer-evening "Lightening Bugs."

It was still a tad early for them, but another couple hours and they'd be putting on their mating show.

I've been to Music in the Garden events where the heat and humidity settled over the garden unpleasantly, but tonight's weather was fine. A light breeze wafted down the scent of the magnolia blossoms in the old garden and the large cast iron fountain in the center of the tent provided a lovely burbling accompaniment to the music.

Next came a story about going to Barnes & Noble with her niece, who proceeded to begin directing a play, telling people where to stand and what to do, even that no photographs were allowed. When someone tried to taker her picture, she admonished them that she wasn't being cute and she was serious about what she was doing. "That feeling resonated with me," Ali explained. "So I wrote this song, 'Paper Stickers.'"

For one song, Ali entreated the crowd to do a singalong, which was as simple as saying "Shhh!" at the end of certain lines in the chorus. Even we non-singing types could manage that.

I got a dose of my youth when she decided to do a cover, which she introduced by saying, "I recently went roller skating and it's the most under-rate adult activity. It's great! You get a workout and no one's up in your business." I couldn't have been more surprised when she launched into Melanie's 1971 hit, "Brand New Key" about getting a new pair of roller skates (back when they had keys, for that matter).

After taking a long pull on her water bottle and reminding everyone to hydrate, she closed with "Autonomy," noting that all of us are trying to make it on our own. Truth.

During the break, I chatted with the older gentleman at the next table who was on date, asking why he'd come. Turns out he's as music-obsessed as I am and a regular at Music at Maymont and the concerts at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. He humble-bragged that he'd seen the Punch Brothers twice in the past year. My kind of guy.

You just can't tell by someone's age who's willing to make the effort to see live music. I probably don't look like the type, either.

After asking a woman to save my seat, I went into the Valentine to see "Developing Richmond: Photographs from the Cook Studio," a look back at post-Civil War Richmond. Granted, I'm a photography geek, but what a fabulous exhibit it was.

From 1912, there were construction workers sitting stop the uppermost girders of the First National Bank building at 8th and Main, high up in the sky. A shot of flower vendors at the Sixth Street Market - a place I walk by regularly on Marshall Street - was taken in the early 20th century and showed how vibrant the market had been.

One of the Richmond Dairy from 1914 didn't look all that different than the building looks today and I should know since it's three blocks from my apartment (not to mention where my grandfather worked his entire career).

Probably my favorite was the photograph of the Hotel Richmond Rooftop Restaurant from 1904, partly because my walk to the river takes me past that building (which is now state offices) daily, but also because I hadn't known that Richmond had a rooftop restaurant before the current crop of rooftop bars. It looked wonderfully sophisticated, especially for the turn of the century.

The most startling image in terms of change had to be the photo of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart seen from Monroe Park which was obliterated completely by trees. Not so much as a bench or path visible. Another of the Executive Mansion was notable for the men on tall bikes tooling around in front of the governor's digs.

Eventually I made it back outside to reclaim my seat to hear Justin Golden's easy listening neo-blues (he credits the Black Keys and John Mayer as influences) and guitar playing, a nice way to close out the evening. I was amazed to see that the woman who'd been reading a book when I'd first arrived was still reading her book, as if live music wasn't happening a few feet from her table.

And people think I'm strange? Why would you not watch two singers give it their all since you're there anyway?

Before the night was over, I ran into a favorite couple who were arriving late. She wanted to know if the fried chicken at Maple Bourbon was truly as life-changing as I'd said it was in my review, here, and I assured her it was. I like to think I know a little about fried chicken. I barely got two steps before running into the former dean and his wife, who scored major points by telling me they read everything I write and sharing their favorite places in Spain.

Truth be told, I didn't bother saying goodbye to the woman who'd been gobsmacked by my lack of technology, figuring it would only get her agitated again.

I thought it wise not to mention my lack of TV, much less my choice not to use air-conditioning. Two heads seemed to be about all she could handle.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

The Good Life

It pays to fall for a soul man early in his career.

From the very first time I'd heard Devon Gilfillian, I was in love with this voice and musicianship. The song "High" was as close to 21st century R&B perfection as I've yet to hear and, believe me, that's a sound I go looking for. But too often, I'm disappointed by overly graphic lyrics that spell out what I'd prefer to hear suggested subtly.

I'm looking at you, Miguel. Love your songs, but not the trashy lyrics.

Then I heard Devon's second single, "Get Out and Get It" and it was full of '70s musical references, showing that young Devon had been well-schooled in the music of my youth. Turns out his Dad is a musician who'd made sure his son listened to lots of Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire and, perhaps most interestingly, Jimi Hendrix.

So when I saw that Devon was playing the Southern in Charlottesville, I bought tickets without even caring if I had plans that night. Nothing could top hearing that man live in that tiny room. Mac didn't hesitate to jump on board, and a plan was hatched.

After the massive thunderstorm that blew threw today, darkening the sky so that I had to turn on lights to work at 3:00 in the afternoon, the drive to the show was dry and uneventful (if you don't count Mac's penchant for speeding). After she grabbed a slice at Christian's Pizza, we made it to the Southern minutes before opener Carl Anderson took the stage, his leather guitar strap embossed with his name: CARL.

I'd seen Carl before when he opened for Sons of Bill at Capital Alehouse and like that time, his low-key sad songs reminded me of Richmond's own Jonathan Vassar, the Americana master of morose melodies and haunting songwriting. After Carl sang his first song, he took off his glasses, flung them to the stage's carpeted floor and asked of the crowd, "How the hell are you?"

For a Wednesday night crowd - most of which was wearing flip-flops and definitely not a Richmond-looking  crowd - which spanned all ages and genders, we were loud and excited to be there listening to his heartfelt Americana, accompanied only by acoustic guitar.

Don't come 'round with the devil on your breath.

He talked abut how happy he was to be playing some dates with Devon since his last tour had been, "just me in the Corolla, getting a little stoned and spending too much time in my head." Heads nodded in understanding.

"I don't know why I took my glasses off," Carl later lamented. "I can't see my set list now. I'm always making things hard on myself." Between his self-deprecation, humor ("I'm going to slow things down here, but looking at my set list, it's amazing I'm still alive. I gotta write some happy songs") and singing songs in character, he was the epitome of a Nashville troubadour.

His song "Pills," sung with a sickeningly sweet fake smile, was not, however, a happy song. And no surprise, he closed with a sad song, but we would have expected nothing less.

You could feel the excitement building during the break.

The stage was already set for Devon's band, three extremely talented (white) Nashville musicians with seriously long hair, jaw-droppingly good back-up singer voices (their harmonies with Devon were nothing short of swoon-worthy) and lots of energy, the better to support Devon's soulful voice, on display from the very first notes.

From the slow jam sound accompanied by Hendrix-like guitar parts (he switched between three different guitars) of "Full Disclosure" to the booty-shaking sound of "Dangerous," Devon had the crowd in the palm of his handsome hand from start to finish. For a musician who's only put out an EP (his full-length album is due to drop soonish), the man oozed confidence.

At one point, Mac and I looked at each other amazed that we were lucky enough to be seeing him in this tiny venue before he blows up, which he inevitably will (Capitol Records wouldn't have signed him so blindingly fast otherwise).

Things got serious when he shared a story of he and his band driving somewhere when a car hit them head-on. The experience had understandably affected him greatly and, like any good songwriter, it had shifted his attitude about life ("You gotta think about what's important in life") and he'd written a song about it called "Stranger."

"Whether someone drives into you at 80 mph or you meet someone and fall in love with them, I'm telling you that one person can completely change your life." Don't I know it. The haunting song was accompanied only by the keys.

Besides the immense talent we were witnessing, it was his (and his bandmates') genuine pleasure in performing that truly made the show. They were clearly having as much fun as we were, except they also got to show off their talent.

That's what's known as a win/win.

Telling the crowd that the band had just completed their first full-length record, Devon asked to play some of the new songs for us before he introduced "The Good Life," as a song about embracing diversity of all kinds.

I just want everyone to love one another
Do you hear what I'm sayin', sisters and brothers?

Yet another great thing about the music was that it encompassed not only plenty of slow jams but just as much hard rockin' thank to Devon's years studying Hendrix (and maybe Buddy Guy?) to shape his guitar stylings. It was never more apparent than during "Troublemaker" when he and the bass player leaned back to back to execute screaming solos together.

Everyone went crazy for his new single, "Get Out and Get It" with its Afro-beat influences. Seems he toured South Africa last year and fell hard for the Afro-beat sound.

Stop asking who's gonna light the fire
Stop asking who's gonna take you higher

I swear, between the socially conscious message and solid funk groove, it could have been the '70s all over again. Mac and I just kept grinning at each other, thrilled to witness it all. At one point, she noted, "He reminds me of Sam Cooke," referring to his heart-melting voice. Uh huh.

After introducing his bandmates, complete with mini bios and effusive compliments, the band went back to playing and Devon took his guitar-playing into the crowd, crouching low as he moved, until he was three feet in front of us. To top that, he then laid down on his back while continuing to play, smiling all the while like he was having the time of his life.

I know we were.

As if we couldn't be any more enamored of this man, when he mentioned that he'd be at the merch table after the show, he promised that he had t-shirts with his cat's picture on them. I'm not even a cat person and I found that charming.

After an hour and a half whipping the crowd into a frenzy, Devon said goodnight before returning, grinning with happiness, for the encore we demanded loudly. More, we wanted so much more.

"Think of the slow dancing days back in the '90s," he instructed. "Then find someone you want to squeeze and let's take it back!" He called his band back onstage to harmonize with him and using only a keyboard accompaniment, began something very '90s sounding that got plenty of people in the room singing along.

All my life, I prayed for someone like you
And I hope that you do love me, too
And I hope you feel the same way, too

Mac's guesses were Boyz 2 Men or New Kids on the Block and I admit I hadn't a clue. Actually, I couldn't have cared less, since anytime this man was singing, I was all ears, whether I recognized it or not. My only (teeny, tiny) regret was that he didn't sing "High," the song that introduced me to him.

Driving home through patches of light fog, I had en epiphany. The good news was we'd just seen a rising star in a room the size of my apartment. The bad news is we know with absolute certainty we'll never get to see him in such a small venue again. And you know what they say: you gotta take the good with the bad.

Do you hear what I'm sayin', sisters and brothers?