The Blue Raccoon

Saturday, October 20, 2007

How I (Sort of) Met Mandy Moore at the Pollaks
and Pretty Girls Taking Pictures of Art

She didn't quite look this, um, luscious, but gosh durn close. I appropriated this
image from The Trouble With Spikol.

In fact, others were more excited by this chance encounter than me, because, with all deference for the wonderful young woman, I, being in the actuarial tables half-way to dead, reside just outside her demographic.

Though I knew of her musicological relationship with a member of Richmond's funkalicious Modern Groove Syndicate, via that group's keyboardist Daniel Clarke, and for certain viewed her on Entourage (which is more Amie's show than mine), I wouldn't have been able to distinguish her in a blind challenge out of the numerous quite attractive and well-dressed women at the 10th Annual Theresa Pollak Prize for Excellence in the Arts. Which is why I'm not writing for Well, that and other reasons -- like discretion and taste.

My partner-in-art provides an accounting and assessment of the Pollaks on her site, and in an example of Interwebs Logrolling In Our Time, I send you there and here.

So, yes, it was a splendid evening. Though we could use a good long rain, the soaking didn't occur yesterday evening. Preparing for the Pollaks involves the entire office which, for these few autumn days, turns into an events planning company while also trying to get out a magazine. Justin Vaughan, who put together the audio visual part of the program, was up to 3 a.m for press checks at Cadmus and had to be out late in the afternoon at Byrd Press and swooped in to the Singleton Center in time to do a cue-to-cue with me and the pictures.

In truth, I was buzzing about being a door hawk and shepherding people to the check-in. I was amused at getting a curtsy from the fantabulous Pam Reynolds, then V. Lee Aulick, a magazine artist and designer who created the program for the night, came up and with wide eyes asked me in a hoarse whisper, "Is that Mandy Moore?" Lee is quite a less further along her journey along the aforementioned actuarial flow chart and thus more attuned to names and faces of the famous more her age (I mean, I have a thang for Mimi Rogers and Ellen Barkin, both of whom are gifted with the sexiest crooked mouths. But that's just me.)

I shrugged and said something like, "Yuh, prolly, the keyboardist of Modern Groove played in her summer tour."

"Oh, wow!" exclaimed Lee, who has big eyes anyway, and they really got expansive then. I don't know why. She got a picture in the magazine of her right next to a grinning Elliot Yamin. Me, in a room full of cameras, didn't get an image for proof. I mean, geez, the woman is here to have a good time, not to get made much over. I just don't do that. Yet another reason I'm not working for TMZ.

During the reception she gave me hearty compliments and I bowed, and said something dumb like, "Well, I must go be a butterfly," which made her laugh large, and she was a great laugh, and for that reason, I figure she's a swell gal, and I curse myself yet again for my youth's lack of discipline, and not sticking with the piano lessons.

At any rate, I'll get to the Pollaks a wee bit later. I do want to say that the staff almost made me tear up because in the lobby there during the reception they presented me with a special honor Pollak of my own. Wow. 10 years.

The lobby of the Singleton Center has, I think, seldom hosted such a variety of artists gathered for the single purpose of camaraderie. The food was excellent, the spirit effusive, and several people asked if we could do this every Friday, minus the awards.


First, I want to say that after a bustling week of book stuff, art stuff and work stuff, and much going and doing , today was chillaxin' time. I performed an official function during the morning at this newcomer event that my editor Susan asked me to speak for at St. Giles Presbyterian Church. I didn't really know what this all was, including that women were the sole paticipants. Or, seemed to me. I also had a book to tout, which I did, at the very end of the talk. So I guess I did OK, but due to the Pollak kerfluffel, on Friday I just plain forgot to pick up any magazines to show off. I did manage to have a few business cards on me, though. I was given a name tag shaped like a moving box, with my name, and stencil-style warnings of FRAGILE and HANDLE WITH CARE.

Amie, despite battling the creeping head-throat crud all week, and venturing out to see the Pollaks last night, pulled a gallery sitting shift at 1708 today. Good thing. The place was busy with college coeds undertaking class assignments with earnest expressions, short skirts and boots, and mini-cameras. Amie sighed, "Pretty girls taking pictures of art, click click click," and she mimed the action. They even took images of the gallery's marquee. In her time as an undergrad, students actually like took notes and stuff. "It's a different day," she said.

The day was warm with breezes and quite autumnal. After piloting the art partner into her gallery chair, I needed to break a $10 for change to use in the reader-printer at the library, so I went to Lift and got a pumpkin latte and a hot green tea for her, though I forgot the honey.

Dropped off some of Amie's exhibition cards and admired the bountiful and layered billboard at Lift, which resembles a Flock of Seagulls haircut. But a coffee shop without a cluttered billboard isn't really a coffeeshop, or not a healthy one anyway, and I judge a community's activity, too, by those displays. The tactile quality and visual dynamism of a coffeeshop billboard is far more interactive than, say, a MySpace page.

On my way to Lift, I kept hearing what I thought was some kind of announcements going on a megaphone or speaker system, in the distance. Is there a political gathering at Capitol Square? I realized, no, it was recorded commentary coming over a speaker at the ada gallery. From what I heard, there was some kind of horse race being called, but with artists instead of steeds. The experience was one of a perfect Richmond disorientation. Here I am on Broad Street, on Saturday afternoon, with this absurd horse race going on and just me listening.

One aspect I enjoyed of my walk, and noted throughout the day, was the variety of people I'm seeing these days in Richmond's public places and along the sidewalks: different hues, nationalities, couples of differing heritages. I get a little hopeful about the place seeing this. A little. Then I think about the current mishigas in City Hall, and I get tired.

Nike on a bike

So coffee and honeyless tea delivered--I would've gone back for the honey, but the Partner said, nah, don't--I ambled over to the library. Pleasing stroll. Gorgeous light. My pumpkin latte was satisfying but I couldn't take it into the library and so had to sit in front of Michael Morchower's bear and drink. There was a guy on the porch next door sitting there with his white poodle, and we were all taking in the day. This is a shady row of historic buildings that make me happy just being around them.

I sipped my pumpkin latte observing a young woman on a bike sleek and sure and swift streak past like a Nike on two wheels. That's how Lea Marshall of Ground Zero looks. Zoom! I here to proclaim victory! If I were making a film in Richmond, and using some mythological paradigm, that's how I'd cast her. Nike on a bike. Then came some unshaven, sunglassed guys in a VW bug convertible rocking out and singing in unison. A man in shirtsleeves walking slow along the herringbone pattern sidewalk, hands in pockets, in no rush.

Done with the coffee, I proceeded into the library, where I'd a few days earlier--while researching the 1918 flu, left my Waiting For The Bus/Read In Spare Moments book, Morris Ecksteins' Rites of Spring. Which I've mentioned in a post some while ago. In a really good section now, as Ecksteins is explaining the underpinnings of the "Christmas Truce" that occurred at sporadic places along the line in France that first year of the war, but afterwards such open fraternization became unthinkable. Amie and I caught a well-made film, Joyeux Noel, about this on one of our indie film channels, and she'd asked me if this really happened, and I thought that it had, and Ecksteins confirmed that the film compressed several discrete events that occurred at disparate locations -- in some sections lasting through January.

Dance of the Reader-Printer

So I picked up the book at the reference desk and shared with the librarians my mention of their assistance to me in preparing the columns the comprise The Slender Volume. They appreciated the mention, and gave me the name and number of the person who acquires titles for the library. Then, upstairs to ferret out more fluenza. Now, here's a complaint to the city, to which I pay taxes and pledge my fidelity. Harrumph.

There are two reader-printers, and only one working, and it's been months. I love libraries but I am also on a limited time budget. People who undertake research in such places like the equipment that allows them to do such an activity to operate and not require waiting. Yes, the Library of Virginia--a few blocks more distant--has several of these machines, but, I was closer to the gallery and there was a woman there, doing her own research, and I didn't want to interrupt her. I thought for sure there was another machine in the building, but there wasn't. The jaunty capped librarian was a bit anxious, I think, because there were two uniformed officers of the peace giving a talking to a ruddy-faced, burly fellow who probably wasn't there to look up back issues of Psychology Today.

Death and more death

The lady on the machine graciously yielded, to take a break and I picked up with the News Leader in the dreary days of October 1918. Death and more death. Death in Flanders fields from bullets and shells and dysentery, death on West Main Street from the Spanish flu, and a curious funeral at Riverview Cemetery where airplanes dropped roses both on the house prior to the service, and afterward, at the grave site. "First Airplane Funeral," the headline crowed. The guy was a lieutenant in the air corps, and stationed in Michigan, but I couldn't figure out whether he was taken by the flu or something else. I didn't find his obit.

The papers of the autumn 1918 are chocked of unrelieved anxiety and dying. Yet, too, here are the diverting antics of Mutt and Jeff and the Katzenjammer Kids and The Toonerville Trolley. No television, or radio even, then the entire realm of public gathering places were closed for a month -- no movies, plays, lectures -- even the Virginia State Fair, held then near where the Science Museum is, was canceled.

Lauren Kendall's Gellman Room sessions

So then a gentleman came up and he had three rolls of film he needed to look through, but he didn't want to kick me off, and I said, no, no, I need to be here longer than you'll want to be, and so I relinquished my time, and he said he'd be about 35 minutes.

About then, a singer's voice was wafting up from the below the mezzanine, a plaintive full tone, and I realized that Lauren Kendall was in the Gellman Room. I'm not acquainted with her in a personal way, knowing her in that Richmond manner of "around" because I travel in concentric circles, theatre/music/performance, and her circle sort of revolves within those. Anyway, the moment was right, and I sat in the back, and watched her and listened and drifted. Her sonorous keyboards and cello, her voice, somewhat sad, soulful, moody, and I thought of approaching Richmond through mists curling over the James. I wondered who Mr. Gellman was, I suppose much as the guy last Saturday wondered why I didn't know who Mr. Brown of Brown's Island was (Elijah Brown, as it turns out, who purchased the land in 1826. But I digress).

Wind buffeted the trees out the window and I thought of Carlisle Montgomery, playing the room, not well known then, and a sudden storm slashing at the windows and how people, rain splattered and damp, wandered into the room as though her high, strong voice had summoned them there out of the weather. And they were surprised to see her, this stropping red head, playing a fierce sound out of her guitar, like a fight.

Sickness and strikes

But I enjoyed this opportunity to hear Lauren while not in a bar and I didn't have to pay anybody, just let the experience enfold me, there with about 15 or so folks. She had a percussionist there with her, and I can't remember his name just now. I didn't stay to hear her last song, as I had flu to do, but I should've. Her song followed me upstairs, and the fellow at the printer wasn't quite done, so I read a piece in Archaeology Today about the body of a boy found in a church in...France, I think, whose death may yield ways to manufacture better AIDs medicine.

Back at the printer, looking for some mention of the railroad strike that The Great Dabney tells of in his Richmond book, in his two paragraph summation of the flu story. He cites a private manuscript that describes the ghoulish sight of coffins piling up at Main Street Station. The lack of trains kept body transportation from occurring, but also prevented the shipment of firewood to keep people warm, and medicine. I saw one article mentioning how a strike was avoided, but nothing about one that occurred. I saw another-- related maybe-- about lumber piling up on the sides of railways.

An editorialist one day in early October says that this flu isn't a disaster, that if people keep their wits they'll live, but the very next day officials meeting in Petersburg say that "drastic action" was required to prevent the spread of the ailment. There was quite a bit of that; one day, the flu was decreasing, the next worsening, as Richmond became one huge metaphorical patient with a critical and fluctuating condition. The only thing I can do is track down Dabney's source, which is at the Virginia Historical Society, and see if there's any more specifics.


Then it was about 4 p.m, hunger was now an issue, and I needed to see what was up at 1708. A lovely day, just lovely. Row of school buses lined up in front of Theatre IV for their children's matinee; a group of well-dressed people at Popkin Tavern and at least two men in Confederate military uniforms; two Sunday best girls giggling in a car parked on Foushee and a notable and admirable assortment of high heels click clocking on the sidewalk. Young women were in the gallery -- downtown on this quiet Saturday was experiencing a veritable fall blossoming of bare-shouldered pulchritude.

I conferred with the Partner about what to do about eats and walked back to Tarrant's to get the specials on their sidewalk chalkboard. Glanced at the window menus. Amie went for the reuben with horse radish on the side; me, the portabello sandwich. I had mine there with a Yuengling, read Ecksteins and chatted with the amiable host and showed off the Slender Volume. An attractive couple at one point entered, somewhat confused, looking for the place with pool table; nope, Popkin, down the street. A guy who seated at the end of the bar was waiting to meet a friend, whom he glimpsed through the window and using his cell phone, guided the friend into Tarrant's much like an air traffic controller coaching to the tarmac a passenger jet in the hands of a well-intentioned civilian: "No, turn left. No, your other left. I can see you standing right there."

Mr. Able

Heading back to 1708, I spied Amie going into Quirk and I huffed up to catch her. She'd gone in for a minute, but she was further inside and didn't see me. I caught the eye of man there, who let me in, "I'm Amie's husband," which was the woman now realizing there was some reception planned here. Long tables with place settings and people's names written on paper coverings. Looked like it would be fun.

We skeedaddled back to 1708 where the Partner now had to start closing the shop. Joseph Johnson of Corporate & Museum Frame saw us and invited us in; he's exhibiting his large format black and white photographs, really glorious work. He and Amie talked frames and photo techniques. He brought out two grand pictures he'd purchased of weddings, taken probably just under a century ago. Their clarity and precision and the way their border frames matched the tone of the pictures was impressive, and that kind of care taken today is rare.

I enjoy speaking with Joseph, he makes me feel like I'm in a Southern Chelsea, as though the "A" ran from Inwood into Main Street Station. [I'd like to see how a New York Metro overnight car would look...] Amie couldn't tarry. I was quite taken with a dusk-time image of Broad Street with a brilliant cloudhead, glowing a like a promise of redemption, taken from Joseph's third floor...a cap of one of the Milk Bottle building's eponymous features, the ghost signs and street lights coming on, and Mr. Able, the propane heat advertisement figure, who has, if you look at him, um, a rather fiery crotch.

Joseph showed me a big image he'd framed some time ago for a client, a picture familiar to me but I'd not seen it so large, of the Virginia capitol rising out of the Evacuation Fire wreckage. Joseph pointed out the now-gone fan lights, and the bare flag poles.

The women come and go

At 1708, people kept coming. Another gaggle of young women, and they took pictures of art, and themselves; then yet another bunch--of high school girls, with their mothers, and now its past 5 going on 5:30 and she gives them her exhibition cards and explains that at Plant Zero, at this time of day, people will be going in and out of the hall, and her e-mail address is on the back of the card, and she'd answer any questions.

So I'd not intended to spend the entire afternoon downtown, but it just happened, and I was quite happy with the outcome. A fine way to have spent the day, and I wanted for nothing.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home