Our quick trip to Richmond was good times, with good weather for January, and what I need to think about today instead of the Supreme Court continuing its long and sordid record of perfidy, from pro-slavery "decisions" through the 1886 bit of trickery which established corporations as persons with extraordinary rights (but few concomitant responsibilities), to their recent gifting of us and our country to said corporations. Some things are rotten and stay that way, but...
Some things are good and as they age, get better (like all of us!).
This is the inside of Philip's Continental Lounge which Cliff took us to twice, on Grove Avenue in the Westhampton area. It's been there since 1938, getting funkier and sweeter with each decade. Although it's a University of Richmond hang-out, and I don't think I'd ever been there before. In the next block is the corner site of the fondly remembered Tempo Room, now unrecognizable as a chic framing shop -- it too had inexpensive suds and food and a friendly-sleezy vibe. It was one of the few places that served 3.2% beer to the 18-to-21 group, when that was the law, and the juke box was stuffed with soul favorites and oddities like "98 Tears," whatever type of music that was. "Mustang Sally" and the Four Tops and mass quantities of the thin brew -- and our youthful enthusiasm -- well, we can afford better beer now, and except for the departed Bogart's, T-Room, and Grace St. hangouts (especially the old Village), these worn but lovable retreats let us love life again in an insane world.
Cliff and I stumbled through the new gubernator's inaugural parade downtown (attended by about a dozen people) to get to and spend several pleasant hours in the Penny Lane Pub, run by the delightful Jerry since 1978. There's so little left to what was once a fine downtown that we three went back there for dinner before the Thompson Band reunion concert because there was only one other place open and it had a line. Cliff wondered about the residents of all those roomy apartments above the uniformly closed first floor retail sites -- it's too dangerous to go out at night and there are no groceries, markets or drug stores, so you still need a car and have to brave the distance to get to it. One hotel is left operating and there is nowhere for their guests to go either. Memphis has the same problem trying to make its similarly compact and once vibrant downtown work.
The older residential neighborhoods are where the warm favorite places were and still are; the housing is too expensive and parking is tight, but they work while downtown has as much hope as a refrigerated body in the morgue.
The National Theater is the one exception. Old and just the right size, with a couple of bars to keep the crowd happy and pay the bills, it hosts a full calendar of world-quality talent. The perfect place for the five members of the Robbin Thompson to reunite after 27 years and play as well as they ever did. We got to talk to Rico briefly at the end, but our planned get-together on Sunday had to be postponed as he was going to see Dave Segal in northern VA who was suddenly confronted by a very serious health issue.
They had the crowd from the beginning -- everyone knew the words and loved the original songs. The two covers were a delight: a Beatles song given a roadhouse country band treatment, and the Jeffersons TV theme as a gospel rave. A night, as they say, to remember.