Saturday, 10 October 2009

Marathon hits Hartford

The city was alight with Marathon fever today. Thousands of locals and not-so locals took to the roads for the grueling 26 mile slog. At around 9 o'clock, when Sam (thank you for sleeping in boy!) and I took off for our new coffee local Jo-Jos we passed the relatively relaxed 5k finishees clearly relishing their breakfast bagels. On our way back after our lunch, and after some hard core park-age with his father, Sam and I witnessed the half marathonees sweating through satisfied smiles briskly walking back to reality on the pavements of downtown Hartford. It was not till the early afternoon, after a lengthy laundry adventure involving a quarter-eating non-cleaning machine or two, that we came across the hard core hobbling elite. The expressions on their faces, a moving mix of pain and joy made me want to run baths for them and touched the deep part of me that has been nurtured to be a compulsive feeder. Oh, if only our bimbo were plugged in, I would have rustled them up a plate or three of pasta. I don't think I have ever seen a city so awash with lean muscley running machines as I have done this past few days. Everywhere you went there were lithe beshorted folk in preparation for today. In the evenings our hotel was a carnival of clashing luminous printed T-Shirts with the runner's families showing up in force to support them and their chosen charities. Suddenly, the stiffness in my knee was no more, and, inspired by the numerous foil wrapped individuals crossing our path I too performed my own mini marathon. No, I don't mean a sprint to the cupboard for a chocloate fix, I mean a bona fide, power ballad theme tuned dance on the treadmill. It was in all intents and purpose more like a battle on the treadmill (will it successfully push me off, so abhorred with my lack of technique or mental prowess?) and when I say power ballad I actually mean an ipod shuffle of hip hop and Sondheim with a few Neil Diamond surprises thrown in. Leave it. But in the end I think I won; I am not limping, I am not scared to get back on. Yes, definately an une pointe score to me today. Well, I figure if the lot out there can manage 20+ miles, surely I can withstand 20 minutes. The past few days here have been under a dampish cloud of autumnal humidity. That sort of threatening to rain sort of atmosphere. As I took a walk down main street the church bells were ringing out a chopin waltz, with that slightly off the beat thing that bells tend to do, the sound floating up hill as if underwater. Despite the people hustled around the bus stops all along the strip and the commuters jostling down the sidewalks (Dunkin Donuts coffee firmly gripped) the juxtaposed effect of the music made me feel like I was in a scene from a movie. I half expected everyone to burst into Ally McBeal Fisher King routines. I wouldn't have been surprised if the woman outside the church half way up towards the library had done so however, she was already living partly in another world 25 bags of I-daren't-know-what in hand. We are definately starting to feel a world away from home. Mostly in a good way. Blessed be Skype is all I can say. I wonder at Sam who takes it all in his stride, so perfectly normal is it for him to have a chat with the grandfolks or hang out with my best mate and her fiance (aka second parents to the boy) on the computer screen. To me however, of the Atari generation, it is still so thrilling. Our friends and I hung out for almost two hours and were, almost, apart from some excitement induced antics (my friend pulled out every instrument in their home to entertain Sam. Who would have known they had a blowy piano thingy? Or a shakey metal wotsit?) we (almost) behaved like we were sat in the same room. We even ate muffins together. Well, we had carrot and raisin stuff and they had Cadbury's milk choc biscuits. That probably explains why the streamers came out. I mean I'm not saying our mates can't hold their sugar or anything. I am saying that I love the fact that the four of us, Sam watched on bemused, worked together and used up the entire final stock of their streamer supply (who has those in October?! Their story is that the last owners of the flat left them in the attic. You buy that? People will go to any lengths to make you believe they don't keep a regular stock of streamers.) trying to work out the best angle to shoot it from. On the first four attempts the streamers went right over the camera so that all we got was a bang and not much else. Ok, now I realise why Sam was so bemused. Anyway the point was, we got to play together which was very cool. Only down side was the good bye bit at the end. Felt happy sad tears at the pit of my stomach and decided to keep them there for another time. They don't know this, but we are just priming everyone up to do some Skype-sitting. Sammy is a pretty good listener at the mo, why not take advantage of the fact and give our friends some unadultered time with their boy without us in the way. I don't mean for days at a time or anything, and admittedly bath time might be somewhat tricky, just a half hour of books every now and again. When the rush of interest in being in a new city has begun to fade, you are saddened by so many Skype goodbyes and homesickness begins to rear its little head there is always a trip to the theatre to raise the spirits. In between shows today we joined the troupe for dinner at the theatre. Everyone sat at long tables scoffing delicious catered food and generally making a great fuss of their mascot. He in turn, relayed particulars of his day and at the end of dinner announced he was going to do his fathers make up. Not many boys his age could say the same I would suspect. Up we trekked round the back alleys of the theatre, passing a bass player bowing his instrument who graciously took the time to give our son a brief masterclass. Sam looked up at him and asked if he would show his friend how it worked. He meant Beth of course. The player kindly obliged. Up another floor through the bustle of the pre set, only a few of the crew didn't stop what they were doing to share a moment or two with Sam. He announced to all of them in turn also, that he was going to do his fathers make up and that he would be three on the 19th of November. Up then to Cory's cosy dressing room, which is nestled in the older part of the building. Half the dressing rooms are in the new extension - bright, roomy, luminous and the other half are in the original building and have that familiar old feel about them which I love; slightly tired plaster, original frosted metal framed windows, wooden lengths for the table with innumerable layers of paint, low ceilings and that warm glow from the lamps that always makes me feel overcome with a yearning for theatrical times past (I was regressed once, as an esoterically minded teenager and the "memories" involved a place not disimilar but thats another story) We camped out and Sam perched on the edge of the dressing table taking aim with the appropriate brushes under the guidance of his daddy. Its a good job that Igor's make up can be a little crooked here and there but trying desperately not to be biased I have to say the boy has a good eye. And quite a steady hand. I guess if the all-star baseball team, Michelin star chef, poet-musician thing doesn't work out he can always fall back on the make up. Who knows how our life in the wings is being processed in his little busy mind. All I know is that as we waited outside in the cool starlit Hartford night for our taxi and as we rode home with a rhinestone studded baseball capped driver who had spent many christmases in Manchester our son recited back to me, almost verbatim the notes that the dance captain had just given Cory as we passed him at stage door on our way out. I was a little freaked. But deeply proud. When we got back, half of Samuel Whiskers (I have brought Beatrix Poter with us - its is DEEPLY soporiphic especially when the readers can't work out how to pronounce half the words or read out the monetary references, very British, and supports our deeply Victorian way of parenting) sent him off dreaming whilst I looked, somewhat overwhelmed, at our suitcases to be repacked for Monday's trip to Cleveland Ohio. Let the theatre marathon commence!

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