Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Sprinkler Season in Full Bloom

I can already feel July melting away like a cherry popsicle on a summer day.

Holmes and Beloved were kind enough to invite me over for dinner Sunday evening to close out the long Fourth of July holiday weekend. Even better, rather than going mainstream with the traditional hamburgers and hot dogs, they were serving up Champagne, lobster tails and North Carolina steamed shrimp.

Needless to say, I was there ten minutes early and stayed for a solid five and a half hours.

After gorging on dinner, we moved the bottle and the party downstairs to the Man Cave where I requested that Holmes play nothing but bands from the Laurel Canyon era as I regaled them with tidbits from the film I'd recently seen.

That meant starting with 1967's "Buffalo Springfield Again" which opened with the Neil Young-penned and sung "Mr. Soul," a fitting way to kick off a listening party that went on to include (duh) the Byrds, Joni Mitchell (notably absent from the documentary despite her "Ladies of the Canyon" album a few years later) and Tom Petty.

Oh, and chocolate mousse.

The only reason I left before midnight was because it was a school night and even I had Monday responsibilities, beginning with a walk with Mac who had just returned from ten days in Scotland. I was particularly impressed with the news that her group's private guide had worn a kilt - it was his family's tartan, Mac made sure to ask, though she didn't ask what was underneath it - except the day they went hiking when he wore jeans.

As we walked to the river, she described the magical sights they'd taken in: moors, castles and almost no precipitation. She liked both haggis (we agreed it's nothing but Scottish Scrapple) and blood sausage, but was less fond of the potatoes in fish and chips, a dish they naturally ate more than once.

It was good to have my waking buddy with me on the Pipeline after weeks of us being in different places. That said, I couldn't convince her to join me in my now-daily (and thoroughly enjoyable) walk through the sprinklers on Brown's Island before getting on the walkway, a fact she attributed to the phone in her pocket.

One more way that technology saps the fun out of life.

After catching up, she was headed to work and I was headed to the Northern Neck, also for work - I had an interview in Kilmarnock and another in Warsaw - but at least with better scenery than Short Pump where Mac works.

When I left the Front Porch Coffeehouse after the first interview, I was greeted by a roiling black sky in the exact direction I was headed.

Sure enough, I got barely a few miles before a fierce rainstorm slowed traffic to a crawl and visibility to nonexistent.  Since no one on the Northern Neck is in a hurry anyway, I just took it in stride, tried to avoid hydroplaning and just when I thought the sky had cleared, drove right into another squall.

Nerve-wracking as the driving was, I kept reminding myself that my Mom had just told me that they've been so long without rain that the grass crunches underfoot, so at least I was suffering for the greater good.

Back in Richmond, everything looked bone-dry, making it even more of a surprise when I saw photos from the morning storm in D.C., where cars were half submerged at 15th and Constitution Avenue, a crazy sight to behold. The Post said they got a month's worth of rain in one morning.

After a full day of road tripping, all I wanted was a comfortable seat, some vintage Hitchcock and buttered popcorn. Walking into the Byrd to see "Vertigo," manager Todd said to me, "It wouldn't be a Hitchcock movie without you."

I didn't mention it, but it will have to be since I have plans the nights he's showing the other Hitchcocks this month.

The Byrd had a great crowd for a Monday night - far more people than I'd expected, although the parking lot had been full, so I should have been suspicious - and when Todd was introducing the film, he asked who was seeing it for the first time. I was gobsmacked when fully a third of the people raised their hands.

Never seen "Vertigo?" The film that replaced "Citizen Kane" as the greatest film ever made according to the British Film Institute? Say it isn't so.

It was clear that the audience was full of newbies because when Kim Novak's Madeline character throws herself to her death from the mission bell tower, there were gasps of "Whoa!" and "Omygod!"

Guess they didn't see that coming.

Because I've seen "Vertigo" plenty of times, I could sit back and enjoy the film as a 1958 travelogue of San Francisco. Obviously, the city was far more uncrowded in 1958 than when I went there, but that only made it easier to recognize places I'd seen in real life like Lombard Street, Coit Tower (shown repeatedly by Hitch as a phallic symbol), Mission Dolores and Grace Cathedral.

Other signs of the times included a diagnosis of acute melancholia at a sanitarium and Kim Novak's character Judy asking him, "Is this some kind of Gallup Poll?"

Because this was a 21st century audience watching it, many of them for the first time, there were frequent moments when the audience had issues with things James Stewart's character said. I mean, let's face it, when a stranger knocks on your hotel door and wants to not only start seeing you but change how you dress, the style of your hair and your make-up, it's not going to sit well with modern audiences.

When Stewart told Novak he wanted her to change her hair color, he rationalized his request by saying, "It can't matter to you!" I don't know which was louder, the laughter or the sounds of female indignation. Seriously?

In the immortal words of Megan Rapinoe, "I think to be a woman in the world, in general, is frustrating. And I feel we spend so much time fighting against things."

Even in 1958, I'd be willing to bet that women wanted to be the ones who decided what color their hair was. Still do, but now we have bigger fish to fry.

Equal pay would be a fine start. Stick that in your Gallup poll, Hitch.

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