Tag Archives: age

A Reelin’ and A Rockin’

25 Feb

Now all of the sudden, she started to knockin’
And down in a dips, she started to rockin’
I looked in the mirror, a red light was blinkin’
The cops was after my Hot Rod Lincoln. . .

In my quest for some high octane fun this weekend, snowy weather created an on the fly change of venue. However, a quick search led me to Fridays at The Ellington right down the block and a chance at danceable fun: the Bopcats, a rockabilly group from Richmond. Rockabilly is one of those musical forms that I began to love in college with the Stray Cats and then revisited this past summer in listening to Imelda May and JD McPherson. It’s revived itself as a genre among the vintage~tattoo~pinup crowd, and sparked my re-interest as well. So I was all kinds of excited to get dolled up starlet style and go boogie daddy-o.

About 5:50pm, I strolled into the Ellington, beaded, neck scarved, and carmine lipsticked ready to go. Almost immediately, I realized the atmosphere was not going to be the 40’s/50’s greaser~pin up gal crowd I had anticipated. First, upon a quick survey of the audience seated at their tables, clearly the youngest hepcat in the room was me. But I revved up my “let ‘er rip tater chip” determination and swore to have fun no matter what.




The atmosphere of the Ellington is actually quite open and laid back. The bar in the foyer is small, but offers beer, wine and mixed drinks at a fair price.The black and white parquet dance floor is huge and the stage, centrally located. This place is made for music and dance. Lights are lowered, but not so much people fall over each other and sound levels are kept at a tolerable decibel so that one’s ears don’t ring for days after a concert. Wait…that doesn’t make me old, does it?

The Bopcats began to play about 6:05 and the boogie- woogie beat was instantaneous. Dancing was desperately needed and not being shy, I have no problem wiggling with the band all by myself. Dying to get out there, I waited through the first song; however, the smattering of half claps from the audience induced a sudden dread. Uh oh, this is not going to be pretty.The music was fan-freakin’-tastic, but the audience was dead…stone dead…maybe even sleeping upright needing a large dose of Geritol dead. I felt so sorry for the band. Suddenly, they had been plunked down into Cocoon with no watery recourse. After song three, I couldn’t take it any longer and launched onto the dance floor, thinking to myself, “Dammit, someone has to get this party started . . . may as well be me”. So, I danced by myself on the totally empty dance floor for several songs and became quite possibly the ridiculous entertainment for nearly the whole first set. I’d had a little liquid courage and I figured “go big or go home”.

The Bopcats repertorie is standard rockabilly: Elvis, Johnny Cash, Stray Cats, Ricky Nelson, Chuck Berry. . . anything with swingin’, rockin’, and rollin’. It’s hard NOT to dance to Rock Around the Clock, You Never Can Tell, and a hot rendition of Little Sister (Don’t You Do What Your Big Sister Done). Praying all the while for Blue Suede Shoes, wiggling away having a grand time, I suddenly see everyone stand up and start to move toward the dance floor. “Hallelujah! I’ve started a general trend to merriment! The night is saved!”, I rejoice.

Wrong Mary Lou…good-bye heart.

Ever had a sixty something year old almost knock you down for chicken parmesan appetizers while you were dancing to rockabilly? It was like coupon day at the K&W cafeteria. I had known there were appetizers included with admission and thought it was a nice touch until the herd almost ran this little hot rod Lincoln off the road on the way to the drive-in.

During the first set break, I sat for a bit and tried to gather my thoughts. For a moment, I almost lost heart. “My god, these folks have already died. What happens to people?”, I thought. And I do realize that I’m making judgments here, but all apologies aside, it just seemed at that moment that the room had given up. Despite one older couple that I always see at festivals and such who are quite active, fun, and love to dance together, most of the couples I met seemed complacent to sit and watch, settled into their coupledom, content to listen…not even move a foot or tap a toe. Just sit. Why come only to sit and stare? For the first time I saw what I never ever want to be….old.

Do not misunderstand me here, I am not one of those gals who will have surgery after surgery to escape the effects of aging. I want to grow older…to mature, to become wise. I think though there is a huge difference in being old and being aged. Aged means seasoned, shaped by oak or salt or sugar, left to develop, to grow from the inside outward, to become better over time. Aging is the waiting, the keeping till the peak of ripeness and of fruitfulness and then the long enjoyment. Even after harvest, the fruit keeps and ripens further, becomes useful and creative before disintegration, before returning to the dust. This oldness I saw was a belief…not a reality. In the past was the best, now gone over, maybe ever a little soured, embittered.

The band members were all older than I and loving every second of the music, winding it up and lettin‘er loose. They reminded me of the great rock and rollers still alive and kicking it: Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Robert Plant. Yoko Ono even turned 80 last week…80. There is no reason to accept the complacency of a boring existence, to not try and learn or grab life with both hands and squeeze it for all its worth. I understand about health, about being tired. Rest is necessary and the body does slow down even in the most prime athletes. But, I think it’s the mind that determines the attitude of doing EXACTLY what makes one happy no matter what anyone thinks. It’s as if there is this role that one has to play at a certain age…a way to be in one’s 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and beyond. Not in my world.

So during the second set, I boogied my little vintagey butt off, wiggling around in a half twist-pony-New Wave dive fusion and my new friend Mary, with whom I had talked in the lobby came out on the floor to dance too. Mary volunteers for the Ellington and she’s right about the change that will need to happen. The Ellington is maintained through community support and right now, all the supporters are older. A younger crowd will need to come to keep it going, ones that are willing to take a few more chances on music that’s a little different. That’s the only way it will survive.

As I danced more, people did make their way to the floor. The gift of the evening came when I felt a light touch on my shoulder. A gentleman, probably in his late 60’s in a vintage car shirt, asked me to dance. “Oh no”, I thought. “I can’t follow and he wants to dance old school. Sigh…do I really have to dance with someone, especially someone my mom’s age?” Something interesting happened, though. As we began to dance, he just let me do my thing at first, and watched me. Then, ever so slowly, he started to direct my movements. He only said one thing, very casually, “Watch me”. That’s it and somehow, I don’t know how, but somehow, I learned to follow. Within two songs, we were turning and twisting and I began to laugh. He was a crafty ole devil, a gleam in his eye as he laughed at me. I had denied his request at first, especially to a slow blues tune. But he taught me a lot about allowing and about what age can give a person. He wasn’t old…aged…not old. And still had those moves…like Jagger. That gleam said, “I haven’t lost it baby…don’t ever underestimate a coolcat”. He was the coolest cat and schooled me in more ways than one about dancing. As the night wore on, I twisted till I was aching and out of breath, but felt amazingly alive, and I have needed that for a long while now. The floor was never packed, but there were a few who had decided that the night and especially we were still young.

A Little Dream

7 Feb


At least one night per week I go to one of my “home” restaurants to write. As I have said before, I’ll not review either of them, for they’re my safe havens, my creative spaces. These places allow me the right atmosphere to create, to dream, and to explore the world of words. Just being there and being attended helps me when I am lonely. So many of us feel separated, lonely by ourselves….lonely in a crowded room. Disconnection is at its heart, the sense of isolation that comes from the lack of communication, nurturing. Even simple touch. It drives our search for meaning as well as underpinning our addictions. Humans are social creatures. We weren’t meant to be in perpetual solitude.

As I was writing Tuesday evening, dining on roasted vegetables and enjoying a glass of Orvieto, I heard a piano begin in the left corner of the room. In the softened candlelight reflecting from an antique buffet mirror, I saw an elderly gentleman at the piano, playing a dramatic tango. Suddenly my imagination was transported backward one hundred years to a small cafe in Paris, well trodden floors gleaming in anticipation for the dance. His notes were staccato, sharp and brisk….brilliant. His hands were the only animation on his body. But as I continued to observe, I saw a thin line of saliva drop from his mouth onto his lapel. Then, in a few minutes, another. He was quite old and I wondered instantly how to attend to him. The bartender could see the concern on my face, I’m sure. He told me that the piano player was an 87 year old Romanian. He had played cabaret all over Europe professionally, and now lives with his daughter here in Lynchburg. He speaks no English, so to ease his sense of isolation and loneliness, his daughter brings him to the restaurant every Tuesday. He plays song after song, all from memory for nearly three hours. They pay him $30 and feed him dinner.

I turned back to watch him and to listen. To say that I was moved would be an understatement. My heart was captured in connection and in empathy. If it wouldn’t have disturbed him while playing, I would have sat next to him on the bench, simply to give him sheer physical closeness. How dear he was. How express and trenchant the notes fluttered about the room. Songs moved in circular rhythms from tango, to jazz, to classical. All seamless, all from an arrangement entirely in his mind.

And I wondered.

Does he dream while in the notes? Is he somewhere in Prague, in Berlin, in Paris playing for a small group gathered in a similar softly lit bistro, worn mirrors on the walls?

Does the scent of food and wine hanging in waves throughout the room transport him to another set of ivory keys while seated upon another bench decades ago?

Does he dream of a beautiful woman, cocktail in hand and pressed waves in her hair? Does the smile upon her carmine lips as she glances toward him, let him know the music connects to her passion?

Does he play with thought of loss? Of a country and time now gone, of the departure of friends and family and the slow dimming of memories of both war and love, pain and joy?

After an hour or so, I walked over and sat down beside him. I kissed my finger tips and opened them in a gesture of perfection.

“Brava”, I said. “Your music is so beautiful”.  And I smiled.

He had no English, but made motion for me to perhaps write? And so in motion, we communicated.

Would I like a song?

Yes, I nodded. I sang….

Stars shining bright above you
Night breezes seem to whisper, “I love you”
Birds singing in the sycamore tree
Dream a little dream of me….

No…he smiled and shook his head. He did not know it.

Chopin? he said.

I nodded, smiling. Yes, please.

For the next hour, I was witness to my own private concerto.

Before leaving, I needed to say thank you,to let him know how grateful I am for his gift of music and of connection. I wrote him a note, translated into Romanian, one of the pluses of Google technology.

Vă mulțumesc pentru seara asta muzica frumoasa. Am fost onorat să-l audă.

Thank you for the beautiful music tonight. I was honored to hear it.

For tonight, music created a connection and I wasn’t lonely….and I dare say, neither was he.

Taste and Time

5 Feb

One should never trust a woman who tells one her real age. A woman who would tell one that, would tell one anything. — Oscar Wilde

Recently I have been thinking about age.

Aging, age differences…all of it.

It’s been quite dismaying to me to become the age I am. I certainly don’t think of myself in terms of a number. My mind is clearer now than it’s ever been. Awake is the only way to describe the contrast between my cognitive and behavioral functions now as opposed to fifteen years ago. I feel wise and open, not afraid to be my most authentic self with others. Many of my friends see me as “balls to the wall” brave,with a huge side of quirk. I’ve learned how to be kind and yet completely honest at the same time. I’ve lost the urge to become overly concerned with life happenings, letting life go much more easily than in the past. Is that a sign of maturation? Perhaps. I’ve lived long enough to know both that I’ll live through difficulties and yet in less years than imagined, I will die. That places me in the center of a road and quite conscious of every step, every gift.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how age affects my ability to be socially romantic. There aren’t many men my age who are also solo and of the same mind intellectually, artistically, and spiritually. This limits socializing quite a bit. And there’s something I’ve noticed more now than ever and that is the preference of many men of my peer group for much younger women, much younger than me anyway. Not that I wouldn’t be romantically inclined to men a many years my junior, so I don’t blame them. Almost all of the men in my life have been younger, but that has taught me a lot about the road and where one walks upon it. How comforting it can be to have a companion who understands and can negotiate the soul. The power of negotiation that age preference gives men, though, has frustrated me, a lot. I’ll live longer statistically; it makes sense to me that my partner should be the same age or younger. Not the other way around. However, my choice in the matter is severely limited through enormous cultural and social conditioning. I’m still trying to wrap my understanding around that.

Saturday afternoon found me up the road to Charlottesville with Clar in tow. My visit to Tastings was planned for several weeks after checking out their website. Along with retail wine sales, they feature a restaurant, wine club and newsletter. Prompted by traveling, knowing more about wine has become a personal goal. I know just enough to make a fool of myself in front of someone truly experienced and that needs amending. The day was bitterly cold, and sprinkled with snow showers and truth be told, I was lonely. A caught feeling, like feeling beautiful and at my personal best and yet somehow alone was wearing on my mind. I’ll admit in these moments, the “what’s wrong with me” tends to pop up. In my case, the age factor was playing an eight track and I unfortunately began singing along.

Exiting a sudden heavy snow shower, I entered the “old world” ambiance of Tastings. Walls were lined from floor to ceiling with bottle upon bottle. Wooden boxes, stacked by racks, presented green glass flagons with colorful labels and elegant script. When Bill Curtis, the owner, asked how he could help me, I suddenly realized my complete status as a novitiate oenophile. My clever answer?

“I don’t know…I suppose I’d like to know more about French wine?”

That’s like a bride-to-be telling a florist, “I’d like the white bridal bouquet.”

Bill’s expertise is impeccable, and his fluency with a large variety of wines is intriguing to witness. He helps a wide clientele as well as serving gourmet lunch and dinner in the restaurant. As we began to chat more though, I suddenly realized the power that comes with knowledge born of experience, the ability to guide and to share. And I thought, that must be the thing for men, an innate sense of fixing things, of being the guide, the leader. I understand, but it doesn’t make the sense of having missed the love boat go away. While we discussed a variety of wines, I began to notice the price range was a bit higher than I have been accustomed to unless at a vineyard, but then quite quickly I realized the reason. Bill has great wine. He tastes everything, knows it all well and is able to recommend according to a customer’s preferences and plans.

Carafes and containers, flasks and phials, the green glass glows. That’s something I think I love most about wine. Just the way each is different, beautiful in it’s own way and the esoteric value of the label’s paper and ornamentation. Cork and ritual, it’s a fancy that doesn’t take much future commitment unless one cellars. I sat at the bar as the snow intensified, and had a flight of French reds. Bill chose for me at my request and he began to discuss really fine wines, those that were $350 to $400 a bottle. He told me a story about judging a wine that was over one hundred years old and how they kept it in a large barrel and then bottled it on order. I began to think in metaphor once again.

“Bill, how do you know that a wine will age well… that it will be better as time passes?”

He smiled, “Most likely…it’s a red.” He winked.

I smiled, and actually blushed a little.

He continued, “Well, one easy way, is that at first, it doesn’t open up immediately. It improves with being open.

Then, when you taste it, your mouth neutralizes the tannins quickly and there won’t be many in its young stage. It will be fruity. With time it will develop and deepen in complexity.

Secondly, it shouldn’t have any bitterness and then lastly, it’s got to be unfiltered.”

At that point, I almost laughed out loud.

“The organic particles in the wine have to be there for the wine to stay alive, to change and grow.”

That’s about as simple an explanation as he could give me. It was all I needed to understand not only about wine, but about me.

It’s something I think applies to everyone, not just women. Wines that last, that are precious are also rare. They demand a high price because they can. They have all the right elements from the beginning; they are kept well and appreciated for their complexity and the surprises they can bring to a discerning palate. Their rarity makes them special and therefore coveted, but only among those who know what makes a wine really good. One can drink young wine all day, every day and be quite happy. But the special vintages are old and they come around only once in a while. Once experienced, the differences are obvious. They outlive others through good planning, good keeping, and luck. One could say that to pay $400 for a bottle of Bordeaux is insane.

But if he has the knowledge to know its rarity and can understand and anticipate the promise of what it will deliver, the investment is worth it.

That’s a lesson for me, too.

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