Leonard Cohen, movies, and a busy life.

May 20, 2009

Last Monday night Lyssa and I took to the DC Beltway in the middle of rush hour, cast caution to the wind, and set course for the Meriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland to attend one of the rarest of events: the first Leonard Cohen concert in fifteen years. Yes, the man, the myth, the legend himself is on the road once again with a top notch band and a soulful voice and double entendes that'll turn your knees to jelly. From Cohen's rich as whisky basso voice to Javier Mas' talented hands dancing across most every stringed instrument known to the western world, Sharon Robinson and the Webb sisters' backing vocals that carried even without the benefit of amplification and Dino Soldo's amazing coterie of saxophones, clarinet, and harmonica, the entire evening was a veritable feast of music which lasted three hours. Lyssa and I met up with the Wrong Hands shortly after arrival at the Pavilion and after a quick stop to pick up what passed for food from the concession stands we picked our way through the crowd (we were almost but not quite the youngest people in attendence) to our seats at the back of the stadium seating. Unfortunately, Laurelinde wasn't able to join us that night so we gifted our spare ticket to TWH, who was most appreciative of not having to sit in the grass on a chilly spring evening with the threat (later, the promise) of rain. There was no introductory act, no warmup, only the main attraction hitting the ground running and pausing once an hour to regroup backstage. At the age of 77, Cohen still has the energy to put on an amazing show, even going so far as to skip off stage at the end of each act. The ensemble took the stage dressed in pinstripes and old-fashioned fedoras; Cohen stood out at center stage with the microphone cable coiled in his left hand next to his face, his fedora in his right, and that amazing voice issuing from vocal cords touched by the Host. They played the songs that everybody remembers like Everybody Knows, Dance Me To the End of Love, Tower of Song, and Democracy.

Unfortunately I took no pictures because I didn't know if we'd be allowed to bring cameras to the concert and decided not to risk it. I rather regret that, but a few other people did.

Cohen is an unusually gracious performer: he introduced everyone in the band twice (once per act), and everyone had solos long enough to really show off their skills. It's plain to see that they have a lot of respect for each other, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if they've worked together for years. Back at the souvenier stand, I discovered that practically everyone in Cohen's band has recorded their own albums, which were all on sale along with the usual t-shirts, posters, compact disks, signet rings (!), and guitar picks. I'll have to see about picking a few of them up to listen to one of these days. After the concert was over we were supposed to meet up at Plato's in College Park for a late dinner because all of us had dashed out the door in haste to make it on time. For some odd reason my GPS took Lyssa and I a strange back way through the outskirts of the University of Maryland to get there, which lead me to believe that we had gotten there late. After placing our orders and settling in, we sat back to wait.. about half an hour later Lyssa received a phone call: there was an automobile accident somewhere along the way and the Wrong Hands was the first responder on the scene (as it turns out, she'd had EMT training some time in the past). The car had flipped over and the (very drunken) young woman had pulled herself out of the car and was still six sheets to the wind.

I've done a little looking around, but I haven't found any reports or news articles that conclusively tell which car crash it was, so I don't know how the girl's doing.

Later that week Lyssa and I went out with a couple of people to catch X-Men Origins: Wolverine while it was still in the theatre. After the horror that was X-Men III I think it's safe to say that all of us went into the theatre wondering if we were going to crawl out of there demanding our three hours back. Much to my relief it's actually a pretty decent movie. FX heavy, to be sure, but it's a comic book movie so you kind of need that to pull it off. However, if you like comic book movies this will be right up your alley - it stays pretty true to canon as far as I can tell with only minor digressions (of course, someone's probably going to stand up and let me have it for saying that), Hugh Jackman does an excellent job in the role of Logan, and cameos by other mutants on either side of the fence advance but don't overwhem the rest of the plot. Some old favorite characters put in their two cents, such as Gambit, Blob, and Deadpool. We even catch a brief glimpse of Quicksilver near the end of the movie. They briefly show the back story of Wolverine and Sabretooth, which stretches from 1845 through two world wars, Vietnam, and then Stryker's Weapon X project in which Wolverine is implanted with his trademark adamantium skeleton. Unfortunately there is no Stan Lee cameo in the movie due to scheduling conflicts while filming, but there is an extra scene at the end (two, actually, though there's no telling which you'll get) that you might want to stay after for.

Last and certainly not least, Lyssa and I caught the new Star Trek movie a couple of days later. Rather than trying to continue the story past The Next Generation, director J.J. Abrams opted to take the story in the opposite direction - it's a prequel to the original television series rather than a sequel. The new Star Trek movie follows the origins and fills in some of the backstories of James T. Kirk, Spock, Dr. McCoy, and even engineering god Scotty; how they met, how they first reacted to one another, and what events made them into a cohesive team. The movie opens with the birth of Kirk shortly before his father is killed in action and follows the character through a rambunctuous adolescence stealing cars and trying to outrun the police up to an older and shiftless Kirk picking fights with Starfleet cadets in podunk bars. At times the movie alternates between hilarious and suspenseful as it sets up all the classic tropes - everything from Kirk's reputation as a womanizer, to the hot green-skinned alien women (come on, you knew that had to be in there somewhere), from McCoy's gruff personality and dislike of space travel to Starfleet's time-honored tradition of taking cadets fresh out of the Academy and throwing them into the line of fire because there isn't anyone else who can get there on time. Abrams really captured the feel of the original series with an interesting and mentally engaging storyline and special effects which back up the plot rather than replace it, a problem with the later movies in the franchise. On the whole, I think Star Trek is a worthy successor predecessor to the original television series, it's a lot of fun, and it's well worth the money spent to watch it in the theatre.

Addendum: One thing that people have pointed out about the movie is that it doesn't have any particularly strong female characters, and aside from a single scene (and only that) with Uhura they are correct. While I'm not saying that this is right or politically correct, I'd like to point out that the original Star Trek series didn't either, so that bit was captured faithfully as well.

Last Saturday Lyssa and I picked up two dozen cupcakes from Cake Love by way of lunch at Tyson's Corner Mall because Fuscia was in town for a meeting which unfortunately kept her on the road the day before her birthday. So we put out the call to the usual suspects (we haven't spent a night on the town in far too long), made plans to meet at our place around 2100 EST5EDT, and got together that night for cupcakes and dancing at Spellbound.. unfortunately Fuscia got out of work later than expected, which pushed our schedule back a couple of hours. Hasufin brought over homemade ice cream and caramel sauce and we took turns partaking of cupcakes that probably have more butter than flour in them and getting dressed. As it turned out we got there around midnight, just in time for the music to start getting good. We ran into a couple of people that we knew from the club who haven't seen us in months and spent much of the evening on the dancefloor enjoying ourselves. I don't remember exactly when we got home, or even when we dropped Fuscia off at her hotel because I fell asleep in the back seat of Laurelinde's car not long after we pulled out of the parking garage. I recall collapsing into bed around 0400 on Sunday morning and sleeping well past noon local time, when Lyssa and Laurelinde woke me up to get dressed so we could meet Hasufin and Mika for lunch at Amphora.

We had a brush with greatness that afternoon over eggs and bacon. Not the sort of greatness that one expect to run into at a diner but certainly an encounter which will be remembered for all time. I think everyone at our table encountered the platonic mullet. The One True Mullet which looks good on only one person on the universe, and which unfortunately makes everyone else think that they'd look good with one. No one and no thing in existence now or ever could make that hairstyle look good - no 80's hair metal rocker, not Jaromir Jagr in the 90's, not even MacGyver - but this guy did. Somehow, and I'll probably go to my grave pondering this, a god among carbon-based lifeforms wearing a green hockey jersey and sporting perfect wavy brown hair in the perfect configuration ate at Amphora. Like writing your first exploit, having your first kiss, and causing your first international incident, it was both breathtaking and awe-inspiring.