The Blue Raccoon

Friday, December 28, 2007

Slouching Toward 2008: A Miscellany

The yoga-dacious, cheer-riffic Kendra is a cover girl for
Art and Style Weekly's year-end Score. Scott Elmquist

Billion-eyed audience, I'm taking a pause from the present shuddering of the world to catch up on some of this and that.

Direct your attention to the year-end issue of Style Weekly and a few familiar faces and mentions of favorite things. First on the cover, the Art Cheerleaders. Frequent glommers here may remember the cheerleaders from the appearance of Kendra and Rebecca in the video shot for the collaboration between Amie and me, "Dictation," for her just-closed "Walk The Walk" exhibition. You can see the cheerleaders in motion, and more, down at the December 5 post. Great to see Rebecca Oliver, Robbie Kinter, Mary Burruss captured in full flight. And Jocelyn Bandas and Rebecca Buhrman, too. Jocelyn looks quite excited by the prospect of 2008.

I can't tell you how wonderful their presence felt...cheerleaders jumping and shaking their pom poms for history and art! What a great cultural pradigm shift. Made me feel good, that's for sure. Yeahhhhh art!

David Timberline gave the Firehouse Theatre a mention, "The year ended on a hopeful note, though. Firehouse Theatre Project’s brilliant rumination on race, “Spinning Into Butter,” underscored theater’s unique ability to address serious social issues in ways that are both entertaining and engaging." Dave also has a theater blog of his own, here.


Last night I was walking past Black Swan Books and Nick and Ellen invited me in to sign their remaining stock of books, about 10 or so, to which also I added hand-made editorial ammendations that are getting changed in the second printing. I've received some quite wonderful reports back from people who've given the slender volume as a gift. I thank all those 1,800 or so people who have made TRS the earliest book among its first releases ever to go into an encore printing.

During the next few days, I'm sorting out through piles of stuff to get my desk and office ready to begin making progress on research for the second book.


During the Christmas holiday, we had up from Mississippi Amie's mom Sue and her nephew Justin. This allowed us to show off the town a little. I introduced Justin to the New York Deli, and during the moderate temperatures, walked him up Monument Avenue giving discourse on the histories of the monuments.

Being more of an outdoorsman than his uncle-by-marriage, he could identify the types of fish carved into Maury's pedestal. Also pointed out to him that the swirling mass of humanity wround the globe presented Monument Avenue's only woman, and she's quite a hottie, I think. (The figure next to the akilter boat, left. You can click on the image to make her more discernible.)

I became one of those tourist types I wrote about in "24 Hours With General Lee" -- taking pictures of my relative in front of each statue. Well, he wanted them. I wasn't tugging him kicking and screaming, he's a bit of a Civil War buff.

Then we went down to the Lee Houseon East Franklin. Because of the holiday, I couldn't get him in to the back porch where Mathew Brady took the famous photograph of him with the Cross-and-Bible door providing a background for him, just-so posed by the photographer to give the impression that Lee was both a main of great faith, and the commander of many martyrs. I also explained that Lee didn't really reside in the house for long; the place was where he came to after the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered at Appomattox.

I also had opportunity to give him a tour of Hollywood Cemetery and show him some of the more prominent among those in their eternal rest there, and of couse, the Pyramid.

My Grande Louvre, however, has been suffering from her second bad head cold of the season and had to deal with not feeling well, relatives in town and Christmas. This past Monday when the weather was dreadful, she shepherded them to the American Civil War Center at Tredegar, where Amie was distracted because people we knew were in the films, including our pal Raynor Scheine, who now lives here after more than 30 years in New York. Then they the Museum and White House of the Confederacy and the Virginia Historical Society's Lee and Grant exhibit.

Amie said, despite her depleted physical condition, she enjoyed playing tourist, going to places she's never been here. Good that Justin saw the Museum of the Confederacy before its collection is broken up and sent to three different locations throughout the state.


My father's birthday is Christmas Eve. That morning, Amie and me, with her mother, and Justin driving his rental car, aided by Mapquest directions, journeyed to a Cracker Barrel restaurant somewhere off Hull Street Road deep in the whorls of Chesterfield County's cul-de-sac archipelago. This is what Dad wanted, and it was his birthday, his 69th.

I'd not seen my sister Sharon and her husband Kevin in months, and had missed my niece Mya . Amie gave them a portrait painted of Mya.

The place was packed and with a waiting line. So many people who looked as though they perhaps had breakfast there more than once-a-year. I couldn't eat that much food on a regular basis and my Dad shouldn't, either.

But perhaps a present to him came later, on Christmas Day, when he dropped by to deliver some presents Mom forgot to haul to the Cracker Barrel. In conversation about family, I was reminded that Dad's two older brothers were both dead--of heart problems. And he'd had little dealings with them during the past decades. To call them estranged is euphemistic. He has a younger brother, whom he's not seen in 30 years, and didn't even know whether he was alive, and if so, where.

Well. I put the Interwebs to work. Using, upon Amie's suggestion, and Google, we found someone with his brother's name and that of his wife living in Arizona. No phone number, but an address, and a chance to communicate. Further, with his 50th high school reunion coming up in October, Dad was curious to see if he could find a classmate to whom--for some weird reason--he'd given letters written to Dad from Wernher von Braun! Dad in those days was interested in cars and rockets and aerodynamics. "They used to call me Rocket," Dad told me, and not in a kind way, I gathered. I think we found him and his phone number--the person had the right age and an unusual name--living in Minnesota.

Hope he's able to connect with these folks after all this time.


I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the recent death of retired Virginia Museum of Fine Arts éminence grice Fred Brandt. His memorial service was quite High Church Episcopal, according to a friend of ours who was there, which surprised him. He'd known Brandt many years, "And I couldn't remember a time when he ever mentioned the word God." Perhaps he enjoyed the aspects of ritual and ceremony.

He's one of those people who can make an impact on a city like Richmond that needed people like him to help mold the culture, yet few are as well aware of his handiwork as they should be. Writer Ed Slipek Jr. gave him an appropriate farewell in Style. Another one of Richmond's cultural lights has gone out as those of Brandt's generation fade into the mystic. Pax.

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