Thursday, 15 October 2009

Leave Your Guns at the Door

I woke up this morning - sorry did I say woke up? I think I meant I shuffled into the living room behind bouncing almost 3 year old, judging by the light that it must be just before dawn (it was infact 8.30. That'll be the official start of winter then). In my haze I took a second peturbed look as I spied a small plane zooming by flying a banner behind which read "Chocolate Covered Bacon @ Milley's". It had the effect if shaking me into wide eyed awakeness if still a little confused. Was this a nasty trick from Milley's competitors to disparage their menu? A slight on their somewhat unconventional and, dare I say it, unappetizing preparation of pork? Or, more troubling had we arrived in Cleveland's choco-porko festival time of year when people try to out cocoa their swine friends. Either way it was a wonderfully absurd way to wake up, and to my delight (and relief) it past by several times in the afternoon also so my husband knew I was not making up quirky anecdotes for the sake of the blog. I knew he was thinking that because he gave me that half-lip wry smirk and his eyebrows did a little dance. Dancing also was the skinny elderly man we past by the Greyhound station who was swinging his bones to a musak tune coming from what I supposed to be a getoblaster (but hey could have been an ipod I don't mean to be ageist here) in his blue hold all. I wondered if he was one of the crew (I haven't memorised all their faces or names yet. Pub visits need to be organised for that to happen in earnest) because of the blue bag thing but there were no big yellow Young Frankenstein letters to be seen. Only a "Have a good day ma'am" as he passed by me and then when my back was turned some recitation of a poem most likely created on the spot and delivered without commas or full stops. Or periods. We braved the ice cold rain only as far as the taxi rank and took a cab to Cleveland's children's museum. $30 for the three of us bought us a couple of hours into 3 year old heaven. At least the temper tantrum on leaving told me it had ranked high amongst most amazing places on the planet. That and the shrieks of excitement as Sam approached every new activity and child. Shrieks of excitement that turned into flashes of surly territorialism when, usually younger, more unbridled tykes would crash into a very carefully planned out little game of his creation. When we reached the shopping section I felt like I had arrived in munchkin land having swallowed five of Alice's bottles. Tiny people were rushing about with great purpose filling their mini trolleys to overflowing, manically unloading their goods (gourmet clams alongside apple jacks. It was a clientele with eclectic tastes) onto cashier's belts lobbing wads of pretend cash into the (very young) cashiers faces and then rushing back around again to stock up for more. They have Lidl here too I see. As I followed the boys I caught sight of various signs which looked like they were for the kids but were actually little nuggets for the parents to ponder on. You know, explanations on why it is children play make believe (I never stopped but am lucky enough to get paid for it now) and my personal favourite - the importance of sleep. Now, admittedly, Sam has naturally seemed to have found himself on a more conventional schedule (early nights is what I am really getting to) since we have been over here, which for the purposes of blogging and having a few hours to myself are very accomodating. It is new territory for us though, who, usually are very much on a Mediterranean rhythm. Eating later, sleeping later, loud meals, fat siestas. You know the sort of thing. But hey! All change for the following year so no complaints from me. The only thing of home that we are sticking with is the core three musketeers or Keatons as I may now refer to us in future having come across the image of them during my search of Vaudeville info on the net after our visit to Cory's theatre. More of that later. Back to the "museum". After a request to the bus driver (4 yrs) to get us to London airport Sam sported a pilots hat and checked us in at the mini airport. Ran up the stairs to rock a doll asleep (and fight with a tiny boy who kept snatching his chosen toy) sprinted to the water tray, sprinkled in the loo, climbed up and over some hanging plywood painted to look like waves and encirlcled with wire mesh (keep the anxious parents out and the tykes in) dashed about the indoor slide, flicked the ball on the air-vent-keeps-the-ball-floating-thingy. All of which concluded in an inevitable blood sugar dip and a text book three year old not wanting to leave or get dressed or listen to anything or anyone or I'll scream and scream until I'm sick kind of scenario. Time, without a doubt for food. Where does one go when one is uptown Cleveland in search of refreshment? Why, hit the 125th street and stroll (or power walk, its still raining and its still cold) up Mayfield to Little Italy. Yes, it has become my mission to visit every Little Italy in all the cities on our route (no complaints from husband, he married one for goodness sake). And so it was that on this cold afternoon, Cory, Sammy my leopard skin coat and I strutted past the mural depicting the history of the "Italo-Americano Popolo" and into Mamma Santa's. Could you get a more typically Italian male's nick name for their mother? Mamma Santa literally means my mother the saint. I'm not by any means suggesting that the picture of the woman that greets you as you are led - through a gated indoor arch to the dining room - with the thick glasses and the don't mess with me brow would have been anything but santa. I'm just saying. So pass her we did, invited in by a waitress of a certain age with a short black skirt, olive skin coloured tights, white socks and polished white trainers. She zipped around the room keeping everyone in check and checked and fed including an anaemic looking older fellow behind us with a flat cap and thick glasses (must have gone to the same place as the santa) and the little hoop earring in his left ear sat opposite his date? Daughter? Niece? Accomplice? Not sure which but she more than made up for what he appeared to lack in masculinity inspite of the pink baseball cap. The two of them polished off soups, salads and meatballs and sausage and pasta in the time it took for us to finish our one course (we're cutting back). Not that I was staring or anything. We sat in the mahogonay coloured ply veneer 3/4 pannelling with the uplighting hidden behind casting a sort of greyish light about all of us like we were background artists in an episode of The Sopranos. Tony was in fact sat at the back table, red wine in hand and Carmela walked by me a few moments later. After we polished off our spaghetti with clam sauce and veal parmigiana (creatures of habit) we made a dash for the cafe across the street for some dissappointing coffee (how could they do that?!) and luscious canoli. After reading the sign on the door " Leave the Gun Take the Canoli" we knew we must try. The canoli I mean. I managed to get most of the homemade filling over my hand but had great pleasure licking it off. They were fresh. They were good. Not sure if they were good enough to relinquish my gun for though. Should be used to these suffocating Ohio laws by now. At the Stage Door yesterday when we went to the theatre to unload our hamper (how much stuff does an under 5ft 5" group of family need exactly?!) there was a red sticker of a gun on the door with a line through it. Darn Federal law. Good job I had left mine at home that day huh? In we go to the front desk and back we go into time. The Palace Theatre is like a 360 degree quantum leap into 1920s splendour. I don't know what I fell in love with first. The sweeping stone stair case? The double door elevator with panelling? The 3/4 original (no ply in site baby) pannelling? The original white tiled bathrooms with marble finishes? The tasteful palette used to resurrect this once derelict venue (the four theatres in this district ran into disrepair in the sixties after the mass migration to suburbia in the 1950s and the arrival of the malls sapped this city of its cultural economic life force. Huge $30 million investment in 1988 saved them) back to its good old two-a-day vaudeville days when it was a prime venue on the Keith circuit and one of the places Bob Hope (Eltham born, Cleveland raised) began to hone his craft. You can smell the history here. Cory took us under the stage to the orchestra pit (it took some convincing to get Sam back out again) and through the crackling warrens that lead under the audience and through a curved panelled door (to match the line of the wall in the foyer) to the front lobby that is bejewelled in lavish chandeliers and vast amounts of dark pink and red upholstered walls and carpets. It is all pomp and plush. A perfect example of those roaring times' predisposition to excess and I love it. Back in Cory's dressing room (207 New York. Each room is named after a state) the boys take a pee in the marble bathroom and wonder at the small dimensions of the bath. I am too busy trying to commit the wooden panels, the door with a frosted window over head that opens by way of an intricate metal pulley old fashioned lever thingy, to memory to take enough notice of them. I feel so nostalgic I could cry. Somebody almost falls directly onto the marble step that leads into the bathroom after some convoluting move in his father's empty laundry basket (it was a ship apparently) which quickly snaps me out of my fanciful reverie. Cory is anxious for me to meet his dresser Maura after giving me a blow by blow account of his first meeting with her. I think it went a little like this:
"Nice to meet you Maura."
"Its Mora. You know, like Laura."
"Oh sorry, I thought you being Italian an'all. That's the pronunciation in Italian right? Mahuura?"
"I hate my name."
"Right. My wife's half Italian."
"Big brown eyes, brown hair?"
"All my cousins got that. I hate them. I take after my Irish dad."
Later on she told him that she would be able to judge if he was a good dad or not by the bond evident or not between he and Sammy (is she kidding?! They are like Yogi Bear and the little one. They even dress the same. Really. I am the gooseberry here). Started well then. She may well think she looks more Irish than Italian but her approach feels more Sicily than Dublin. Hey. There's room enough for everyone right? On the subject of Italy you will be delighted to know that the bimbo is in full swing (that's where she was bought). The transformer has transformed, we didn't blow up the apartment and chicken soup was made. In 20 minutes. Gotta love those Germans. Amazing how far an Amish bird will go.

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