Wednesday, 25 November 2009

When the circus came to town....

"The Son always shines here". I'm not talking about ours, newly three by the way much more of that in a mo, no I'm just passing on the Message from the sanctuary of divine mercy which we passed on our two hour drive back into the city after picking up mum and cousin from the airport. Yay! Many other sights were passed on our slow drag in (Thanksgiving is busy business here it would seem) including a subway train's tracks running the length of the highway (imagine the tube going down the middle of the M1) double decker trains on tracks beyond that (much joy to boy) and a whole host of glorious holiday traffic. We didn't get bored though, trying to convince a three year old that he can hold his pee just one more mile because there is traffic on both lanes either side of us and we can't stop, keeps even the most laid back of adult (which is not how I would identify myself by the way) on their toes. Some time later family off load into the underground city which is our block's car park and Sammy is the proud creator of a five minute mile long projectile pee. I would have taken a picture to embarrass him in later years but my hands were full of jacket, dungaree and Thomas the Tank Engine Y-fronts at the time. So house is full of holidaying family which is fabulous. The place is starting to feel like a home. We have been maintaining our cup cake high (inspired moment in cake decisions involved ordering 50 cup cakes from local bakery laid out in a number 3 for the Birthday) since the impromtu party. It was a great success. A subdued cast and crew arrived at the crack of their dawns (midday) to a dimly lit billiard area of the pinky ponk tinkle tank arcade. Nibbled demurely at party food (perhaps chicken wings was not their idea of breakfast fayre) and then sang the boy a beautiful harmonised version of happy birthday and inhaled cupcakes. Our guests came to life when they proudly presented the fella with his presents. A family of Magi had been called to the second coming. We're talking serious adoration here. Cory and I were completely overwhelmed by their generosity which included: a bike (yes you read correctly), a toy shop worth of Thomas trains and tracks and two tickets for he and I to see the Ringling Bros circus which is in town. This is but to name a few, not to mention the books, the cuddly toys, the DVDs the the the the. We have promised him oranges for his next birthday. The crew also kindly informed us (perhaps they could tell from our faces that the idea of finding space for all the treasures was going to test our already logically challenged little minds) that whatever the crew had given, the crew would find space for in the trucks. Give in an inch. Next I'll have them stuffing the Bimbo in a back corner to make eyes at Bones, the skeleton who gives consistently solid performances in Dr. Frankenstein's get the audience to love-him wordy jaw cracking opening number. After the gifts were gifted and gawked at (by everyone) we handed out game cards to our guests and together we swarmed to the floor. Some Guitar Hero-ing others Millionaire-making others yet shooting hundreds dead. Horses for courses. Oh there were those too. We raced one another and screamed into the early afternoon. Machines tinged and tanged and rang and buzzed and proffered around 14,000 tickets which were pooled, and, when we had as a group set our eyes upon an executive game set the crew returned to the floor and in a last 5 minute push won another 2000 so that we could take the baby home. All 36lb of chess, backgammon and, most importantly poker, in one pleatherette cube of goodyness. Poker game has been arranged for next week. House better always win, thats all I say. So yesterday, Sam and I took our trip to the circus. Somebody fell asleep in the cab ride over and bemused glances were shot in my direction as I scrambled him in, flopping around my leopard coat as I fumbled for the tickets. What a sight we must have been as I hobbled down to the most expensive seats in the house with a half awake child. I was thankful he woke up before the start of the show though. Nothing says spoilt like a sleeping child in break the bank ticketed seats. The ladies from the troupe had informed us that our seats were "Celebrity Passes". This meant moving onto the ring at a certain point so we could feel very much part of the show. Wonderful. Until boy needed to pee. What a show. Or I should say 9 shows. Because at any given moment there were three different set ups twirling about our eyes. Our heads ping ponged from opposite ends. Where should we look first? The horses? The zebras? The chinese swinging couple? The clowns? The dress wearing puffy doggy things doing sautes across the floor? The uptight barrel Russian guy? Or the two women shooting across the arena from the canon and headed straight for us? It was like circus on drugs. I wondered why the lemonade had cost me $10. When the twelve elephants paraded out to dance together followed by ten tigers and their endorphine overdosed trainer I thought the show had reached its natural climax. Not so. In the final number everybody and everything came parading back on and trumpet sounded (live) and the drums bellowed and the crowd roared. No wonder that in the lobby after the adults twitched and the children screamed, and those good old sellers, they just kept up their bellows, right up until the pavement. Inside they had been hawking overpriced popcorn (worth it for these English tourists. It was packaged in a cereal sized box with a brightly kitsch coloured picture of an elephant on it) lemonade and E-number ectasy on ice. Outside we were offered spinny LED thingamawhatsits and colouring books. And finally, out in the rain, a last desperate call for buyers of five foot long lollipops. Last lot got the raw deal I think. I hope they rotate the team. Inside the arena there was a sign that read WELCOME TO THE MAD HOUSE. Never was a truer word written in public. Some tears later, and one frantic stop for pee in the November down pour we were ensconced in bed with the memory of the circus but a dream. The effects of the late night psychadelia drifted into my son's morning. I know this because his first conversation with me today went like this:
"I want one boob like when I was a baby. Just ONE boob."
"Oh." I reply, wondering if he is having a glimpse of his past in which nursing was infinately easier on the one side and I had sent the other side to hell and back several times till we FINALLY learnt to do it right. I wait for another moment of past life illumination, and then he adds, "No. TEN boobs. And then we go to the bra shop and try one on and... it fits!"
Cinderella meets Priscilla. Not a surprise considering.
The day was memorable not only because of this visual overload. It was marked by an important day in my green card story. The final form has been Fed-Exed. It is waiting on the desk of a Californian lawyer in Valencia (don't you just love the sound of Spain meets US? I take it as a good omen what with my Medittarranean history and all) to get to a kindly immigration person who will give me the once over and then give me freedom to contribute taxes in this country also. I mean, let me become part of society. Ingratiate with what talents I can offer; strange Sardinian character comedy? Bit of honky tonk piano? A turn or two on some boards? Who knows what this world might offer? Or what I will end up offering it? On the way to the Kinko's place (thats Fed Ex for photocopy) I passed Panda Express - a gourmet chinese food take away place (what meat would you like with that sir?) and Rom, an Italian inspired coffee shop with some mean looking java I have to get my lips around one of these days. There is a place for everyone here I suppose. Like the they say. Bit like our flat. The tempo is slowing up here as everyone drifts off into sleep to get some rest before we give Thanks tomorrow. It will be a memorable day. My mother in-law's family, traced when she was in her late thirties after her adopted mother had passed, have taken us all in as if our histories had been intertwined since forever and before. A reservation has been made for twenty. What better way to celebrate? And so, from memories of one circus to another yet to be.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Oh My! How They Grow Up Fast

ACTORCASH. These are the words emblazoned across the top of the debit card Cory has handed me so I can withdraw money without him and pretend I am not a kept woman. Actually its more to do with not being able to get any card of my own, not having a social security number and all. As with any good actor, if there is a significant amount of belief in the playing of a part the audience will usually go along with the illusion, so too then with this card. If I just believe we have bottomless funds it will be true. Just as well seeing as over the past few days I have gone from laissez faire attitude towards our sons birthday to a host of a full on shindig for the troupe and family in a loud Trocadero style game haunt, the sort of which you will rarely find me in. More disappointing than that, is the fact that when we went to check it out I suddenly was craving chicken wings and coins to squander on the machines. What a difference a day makes. We also have abandoned the idea of buying a very modest wooden puzzle to remember his third birthday by to the new one of investing in a tiny miniature wooden toy piano. It sounds like the kind a monkey would have ground back in the day. Its red. I love it. I justify the purchase because I miss our piano and being able to hear Sammy boy tinkle on it. Also there is a part of me that expects him to suddenly come out with a bar or two from the overture of the show, seeing as we have started seriously committing it to memory. I am waiting for the day he starts giving his father notes. As long as he learns to do it with more gentleness and panache than I usually do, all will be well. So there we have it, my free couple of hours this morning whilst Cory and Sammy went to the commune, sorry playgroup, (more on this anon) which I filled with short sharp arrangements of venues, balloons, cupcakes and a tear or two whilst I picked out a card. The nostalgia of the C-section overcame me its true. Especially the tender memory of the (male) nurse who, having met me in for the first time in my last crazed minutes before the epidural took hold for the surgery and who missed my heroic calm and endurance of the previous 30 hours turned to me and told me (without some attitude as I recall) that I had to "just calm down!" Closest I ever got to committing murder. Cory held me down. He still has the bruises. I have been somewhat slack with the blog over the past few days. I put this down to the highly social life we have been enjoying. Over the past few days we have: had my brother and sister-in-law and our nephew over to stay for a long weekend, seen the show with them and the Chicago family, watched said nephew twist and turn in the skate park, drunk in art at the art institute, eaten a Chicago filled pizza (did I say pizza I meant 6ft deep quiche disguised as a pizza. If you struggle with that image, howsabout 3 pizzas cooked one on top of the other? Still not working? Hows about calorie intake for the month? Knew that would get you) partied in the suburbs at one of the producers of the show's home and found Frank Sinatra's favourite haunt in the city. Catch a breath. Yes, life in Chicago is rough let me tell ya. That last outing was a personal favourite. We listen to the rat pack so much its beginning to feel like the boys are one of the family (I remind you again, who we named the tykey after. No pressure kid). On the corner of a tree lined street is a little place called Twin Anchors, a somewhat nautical name for very much a neighbourhood place. I passed two neighbourhooders as we walked in past the awning, in deep Russian mafia type conversation and was surprised to see them in the same positions when we left and with the same level of suppressed urgency and air of conspiracy. Either that or the zesty sauce on the ribs (fall off the bone utterly delicious) had gone to my head. I knew Cory was a little giddy. He even bought a bowling shirt with the name of the place on the back. Two pints of the local ale - day off - and ribilicious dinner turned him into a happy camper. At first we wondered whether Sam would make the meal, he seemed quite upset when we told him we had to wait for a table (the place only sits about 50 and hasn't changed a bit since maybe the late 50s early 60s) but once we sat him at the dimly lit bar and he had dunked a couple of fingers into his dad's beer he mellowed out and made friends with the people who perched next to us. One by the name of Jack who had lived in London for 3 years and had moved to this part of Old Town just because the architecture had reminded him of London (he lived in Kensington and had many friends in Hampstead). My favourite memory of the place is a sign hung overhead that read "Positively no dancing!" Call me a rebel......
Yes the days here have been punctuated by a string of foody delights. After the matinee last Saturday the family headed to Berghoff's, est 1890something and the first place to have its license reinstated after the lifting of prohibition. It is a large wood pannelled schnitzel house with a host of beers on tap, high ceilings separate bar and lounge area and despite the decor being recent the lighting and the atmosphere does induce Victoriana. Sausages and schnitzels filled our table and happiness abounded. Sammy has learnt to take pictures with our phones and snapped the waitress many times, proudly interrupting her at other tables to show her his portraits. Hugs were exchanged. Thats hug with an "s". You've got to hand it to the kid. He has style. She was quite a looker too. Enough already, I'm doing that thing I have started to do, you know, talk in his voice and stuff. I couldn't help myself this morning either when we wrote (yes "we" I dictated letters he punched them in. It took a LOOOONG time) the invitation for the party to be put up on the call board at the theatre. I tried my hand at witty three year old speak. It will either make people smile or send them running Hey ho. Its been great to socialise with the crew and actrines too this week out at the producer's home. A coach arrived to ship everyone over (we drove because insurance does not cover Sam and I) and a feast was generously laid on by our hosts in their welcoming home. David, their 11 year old son, took it upon himself to befriend Sammy and they enjoyed each others company. I will not pretend that I was somewhat alarmed when the older loudly invited Sammy to play on his trampoline downstairs (cue memories of horror stories of children bashing themselves into oblivion on said contraption) I did my best to deliver my "May I see too?" in the most non-panic way I could but got flack from the others later on who had all enjoyed catching my worst acting performance ever. I gave the boys some space and enjoyed mixing with the folk but listening to my antenna I followed the signal downstairs a little while later just in time to extricate Sammy from the eliptical machine which David was riding whilst Guitar Hero-ing with some passion this was after he had been leaping from the trampoline landing on a bean bag stradling my son's head. It was I admit all most nimbly performed and I had all confidence in the young man of the house, its just that mother preserving child thing prevents me from watching our son working out on excersise equipment unaccompanied. Call me old fashioned. Actually Sammy had already been saved by Nicole, one of the stage managers who had been keeping a very close eye on the mascot. He is accruing new mums and dads each day. Its a good feeling. So now, with grandma and grandpa on the road from Rochester prepraring for the big day and with the toy piano wrapped and stashed in the cupboard it only remains for me to watch Letterman, stock up on sauce for the guests, order the cupcakes and dry off the tear stained You're Three! card, and a few hours left of the evening to think about my favourite moment with our son today. He, sat finishing up a number two on the loo, fiddling with his nipple that is making him laugh and looking up at me with two puppy dog brown eyes and asking me, in between giggles what his nipples are called and whether I too have these nickles? Its in the memory bank. Or as the tyke shouts out after anything kooky happens along our travels, "Its in the blog!!!!!"

Monday, 9 November 2009

My son, the Croup-ier

As I walked back to the apartment last night returning from a last minute dash to the local corner drug store (think pharmacy with food and toys and pushchairs and coffee and and and) taking in the balmy air, more late summer than early autumn, the sound of a solo saxophonist playing to a small but attentive crowd outside our block serenaded me on my way. Something about the musician's admirers summed up the feeling of the Chicagoans. They have soul. Not a rampaging, get-outta-my-way kind of soul but a very attractive warmth. When people say have a nice day here you tend to feel they mean it. Its not saccharin. Just sweet. I am loaded with Nature's anti viral bits and pieces when I get in, (my aunt in Sardinia phoned through a cinnamon garlic remedy) I think I have succeeded in running my travelling family into the ground dragging them around the city in a flurry of tourist excitement. Last night, Cory, Sammy and I visited the ER, not really what I had intended when I joked about meeting Clooney on the streets (careful what you wish for I guess). After our feverish tyke fell to sleep and I had sat him upright with a mountain of pillows about him to help the airways, he began to breathe a bit like a 90 year old after a 5k dash. A worried mum and dad skyped cousins (doctors) in Washington state for a second opinion. Half an hour later we were in Chicago's north western hospital with a chatty if somewhat delirious almost 3 year old charming the nurses and doctors with his usual patter of surreal observations of his and our world. I thought we had taken a step too far when dad insisted we take a snap on the iphone of us waiting with our anti swine masks on. This was our main concern you see, what with all the pigs in the Potter stories someone has been obsessively learning by heart over the past few days. I feared the woman who was in some serious pain across from us might swipe us one. We left several hours later, somewhat more relaxed with a hyper steroid-fed croup diagnosed lad skipping down the street stopping every now and then to cough like a dog who has been barking for two days straight. Suffice it to say we finally had a good night's sleep. No wonder the boy are coughing and such we have been zipping about this city and it's "burbs" putting our immune systems under pressure. I have a sneaky suspicion that the less than glorious reviews of the show have not helped. Turns out Chicago audiences have the steely quality of the New Yorkers, and the show was not received well there when it played Broadway to say the least. Cory came back from the show with long faces for the first three days. I think I did not play the supportive role too well when he ran new ad libs by me. After the first 10 suggestions they all sounded funny to me you see. Took four nights and now the smiley chappy I used to live with is back. No one likes to live with an unhappy funny man. Chicago is the kind of place you want to be out in. All the time. Luckily for me, our little fella decided to sleep through dinner the other evening and woke up raring to go around 8.30ish. Never one to miss an opportunity I got ourselves dressed up and he and I took to the night streets of the windy city. Greeting our friendly troupe with a surprise (late) visit as they all came dashing off from their curtain call, Sammy relishing the chance to catch up with all his adoring fans. I also took the chance to don my new bargain find (TK MAXX here too!) to pretend like we had plans for evening parties, thankful for our new found energy despite having spent the day with our relatives, eating and visiting. A very tired husband (two shows + virus) agreed to a quick midnight snack at Petterino's an upmarket Italian joint with black wooden venetians, dim lights, red velvet upholstery and good martinis and calamari and interesting array of moreishly warmed bread. From the way I tucked in you would never have guessed I had already enjoyed a fish dinner at Vincetore's out in the suburbs but a few hours before. The owner there came to greet my relatives and I with the kind of husky bellowy voice of a true made man. A packed restaurant full of happy customers and their babies kept a lilt in his step. A man sang Sinatra favourites by the bar. Sam slept by us, parked out (there is a fantastic playground next to the family's home) and sound asleep whilst we slurpt chianti and polished off the meal. I sat next to great grandma Ellie whom we had picked up earlier from her nursing home. We had tip toed through to her room, past a church service going on in the main open area, occupied wheelchairs around the priest performing communion to the recorded music on the CD player next to him. A quick stop to check Sam's temperature (vigilant nurses enjoying their new young friend) before we headed on through past a group of ladies colouring in pictures of turkeys (its Thanksgiving soon). One looked up at me as we passed like she knew me but didn't remember my name. Her and her friend's demeanor not dissimilar to the border line confusion I read in some of Sammy's contemporaries. I admit I struggled not to succumb to tears at this point, and when Sammy greeted his great grandma and quickly offered to help her up from bed. Later, when we were making our way out, he held on tight to her walker and insisted on steering. Then I struggled to not panic, picturing him pulling her off balance. Once again, Great grandma proved the perfect companion to our son and the two of them put the world to rights in the back of the car on our way to her daughter's house. Cory was pleased to hear updates of our day until I told him his son was glued to the last 20 minutes of Yentil, whilst his aunt and I drank pumpkin spice coffee and scoffed buttery popcorn, Streisand bellowing across the water and such seemed to fill him with dread for some reason. I figured another dose of musical theatre couldn't harm? It seems to be there are a few double standards going on I proffer. After all, he was the one who ushered him into a 4 year olds dance class this morning. We saw the kids going in and thought we were late. Turns out it was the earlier class. A quick "This is Sammy" and the door was shut with us left outside squinting through it's small window, alternately reaching over one another and getting to know two of the mums whose children attend the British school in the city, proudly telling us about the large ex-pat community here. We catch the tyke twisting and turning and running about the place smile permanently stretching from ear to ear. It was in this same joyful state of mind that we descended on Petrillo's later on for lunch (you picking up a theme here?!). A noisy joint run by 50 or more kitchen staff clanging and banging and announcing orders over different mics to more kitchen staff. Think old school McDonalds with a ton more character and people and you're sort of there. One line, to order, one line to pick up, one long line of different types of hot dogs to choose from. I went Polish (roots run deep), Sammy went Yankee, family somewhere in between. Distracted for a moment. Husband watching that wrestling thing. You know the ones with the wannabe actors with triceps doing their pretend fighting thing to screaming crowds (Who said Vaudeville was dead?). Oh no, channel hopping now, antiques road show has caught his imagination. Whilst I am on the strain of food (seems my record is permanently broken) it gives me great pleasure to announce that I have made friends with our new coffee machine and found our local coffee roasters. It has a slightly disappointing name "Intelligentsia" which makes me feel slightly embarrassed about walking in. I don't like to wear my coffee snobbery on my arm, its reserved for people who know me well and, hopefully, won't judge me too badly on it. Also, I don't condone the assumption that someone who knows good coffee is necessarily cleverer. I can be as immodest as the next person but that would be taking it a step too far even for me. Still, embarrassment is fleeting when there is good coffee about. The staff are the usual skinny, thick rimmed Hoxton set, all assymetrical hair and that slightly translucent I-have-been-talking-about-Nietzche-all-night skin. Still, I recognise skilled coffee making set when I see them. Blessed be the patience of the skinniest staff member painstakingly pouring almost boiling water in slow motion from a metal tea pot over a never ending line of drip filter coffees. I wonder if he has extra medical insurance to cover elbow tendonitis? (I will have more views to share on the medical bills no doubt when we receive ours for Sam's visit last night). We are now coming to the end of our two day hibernating recovery and I notice a lack of restlessness on my part (chicken soup nursing does that to me it would seem) which is not a feeling I knew in New York, the only other big city I have stayed in for some time in the states. It strikes me that this is the major difference between the two places and one that makes me daydream about considering living here. When I stay in for an entire day in New York I had that insidious feeling the city sneered at me, jeering that I was missing out on something special. There is something about the saturated excitement and frenetic energy of that city does that to me. Here, the water, the abundance of good theatre (jobs?), music, impro groups, good food, good folk, an elevated train like the ones in the black and white movies all make it, on paper, the sort of place I could get on well with. I think I am still in the romantic love stage of my relationship with the place, granted, but for now, that's a great place to be. Croup or no croup.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

The windy city is mighty pretty...

Our departure from Colombus and arrival in the fabulousness that is Chicago was dominated by a string of Larry Davidesque toilet episodes. Suffice it to say that in two days Cory and I have had several embarrassing toilet moments. The first was when my usually wiser other half took himself to the lav just as hotel staff were knocking at the door (they were delivering a fold out table for us to use that evening when friends were coming back to ours after the show). Table rolls in, cue son opening the toilet door nice and wide. Cue polite salutations from staff to red faced husband. Actually I think I felt the most embarassed of the two on behalf of them. Not 5 minutes later, when mama was taking her turn did the staff reappear with chairs. Replay scene one. Very almost, but with a swift Indiana Jones last minute save sort of thing. A mere 36 hours or so later are we settling into our Chicago home (16th floor, 2 bed with a view that makes you feel like you are hovering between skyscrapers) when Uncle Paul comes to call. I let him in leaving son finishing an epic journey in one bathroom whilst husband finishes off in the other. Both doors are wide open. Luckily the short flight here didn't fuzz my brain up too much and this time I manage to shut Cory's door. Actually whilst I am in the drains, I'd like to take a moment ot ponder the barn doors that are american toilets. Why is it necessary to see everybody's shoes while they pee? Why is it necessary to be in a loo wrangling with children who think escaping might be too difficult to resist. It takes me back to our trip over last winter. Big loo. Closed (to the floor!!!) door, EASILY opened. One of those handle unlocks the lock sort of thing. Two year old. Desperate to pee mum. Curious two year old moves near door. White panic. Door is opened. Choice made: make a lunge for door. Nearly decapitate myself, jeans round ankles, manage to stop said two year old. Make small lake on floor. Again, thin walls. Either way this bathroom thing is going to follow me around this place I just know it. If they can't see you they will hear you. What happened to privacy? And this is coming from a shoe lover! On the tack of privacy: note to self, high rise apartment does not mean invisible apartment or, people on other side of the street same level can't see into apartment. I learnt this the hard way after I pulled up my jeans in the loo with the door open. Lights on high. Brain most sadly on low. Agh, what's another loo episode between friends? Chicago has injected a buzz into the household. Sammy shouted CHICAAAAGO down the street with some reference to intoning so that it may have been construed as a song, all the way home from the theatre. One Chicagoan shouted back "I love that! I want to have one just like that!" I assume he meant Sammy and not my coat or the stroller. We invested on some wheels for the boy because his dad is starting to grow a real hump (shoulders were the preferred travel method for a few days now). We had been offered comps for Jersey Boys, and there was quite a number from the cast of Young Frankenstein there. Everyone was in good spirits, a few bars of Frankie Valli had me swaying in my seat much to the dismay of my fellow audiencee behind. Sammy delighted in hearing a number of the cities we have visited being mentioned by the actors on stage. He turned to me in delight wriggling in his seat making silent happy noises. Actually it seems we haven't stopped since we hit Chicagoan soil. Uncle Paul, from Cory's side of the family, (will explain the complex family tree at length another time) gave us a warm welcome, arriving ladened with foody gifts and whisking us off to lunch and then to the suburbs to do a big grocery shop and have dinner with the rest of the family. Sammy met his great grandma Ellie for the first time. The two got on very well. She has plenty of time to listen to Sammy's high energy lectures and he delights in the attention. A 90 year age gap between the two is but a number. After taking Sam to a pizza making playgroup we took a moment to a get the beginnings of a sense of the lay of the land whilst we kept warm clambering around a playground that backed on to the deep tuequiose waters of Lake Michigan. I find it rather intoxicating to be living in the heart of downtown Chicago, with the elevated subway rumbling a few blocks away in easy view of our window (happy 3 year old) and just around the block the expanse of beautiful blueness that is this vast lake. One side bustling metropolis, other side watery calm. What a great combination. Just in my first few hours here, it feels to me like the soul of the city is like New York's older, more chilled out brother. Deeply proud but without quite the same push and shove of the Big Apple. The few people I have had a chance to talk to seem, on first glance, to have a little more time, a little less push past you. To me there seems to be a great sense of creativity about the place (Institue of Art around the corner). I look forward to trawling the food and drink spots over the next few weeks and generally pretending I live here, rather than sniffing the air for a week and then moving on. Walking down State Street (Sammy Davis Junior ringing in our ears, Chicago, Chicago, its a hellova town) we spied mini ballerinas pirouetting on the nth floor of a glass fronted building. The Joffrey Ballet. Renowned ballet school and company, right in the middle of what we might think of as Piccadilly circus or Oxford Street. We watched for a while and then popped up to see whether they might let the tykey strut his stuff whilst we are here. Saturday morning will see us trek up there for a trial. I had to stop Sammy following the boys and girls inside. He finally settled on being the bell boy for everyone using the lift, asking their direction of travel and so on. No tips I noticed. Halloween has come and gone eh. Belly still full from our lunch in Italian Village we then headed back dodging commuters to our flat for a rest before Cory leaves for work. What an experience that place was. Three restaurants in one. The maitre d' without some heavy this-is-not-really-for-children subtext told us Gourmet was on ground, Cantina on lower and Village on upper. We have started at the top and will work our way down over the weeks methinks. We were greeted after the short trek upwards by a warren of little inglenooks and boothes huddled under fairylights and surrounded by a whole scenery storeroom's worth of choice painted backdrops and props. We were ushered into a dimly lit little hut labelled Stalla (stable, roof and everything) and took a few moments to acclimatise to the pink light. Sam told us it reminded him of a mouse's parlour (thank you Ms Potter) and his Dad and I shared a chianti. Pasta and seafoody things were passed around and boyo charmed the Romanian waitress. After he had explained many of his daily points of concentration the two exchanged and unhurried embrace. Can't imagine that happening at home. As we bundled out for the Jersey Boys matinee I caught sight of the other end of the upstairs area. Another theatrical representation of Italian terrace at twilight with accompanying gargantuan statues, pink and green lights and a sweeping curved bar to match. I make a mental note to find out how much or how little it has changed since it opened in 1927. Will come back for cocktails anon perchance. Squinting in the bright wintry sun outside compared to the cave we have been nestled in for an hour, we hustle to the show, giving thanks for another wonderful day in the windy city. Time to pause blogging for a mo to savour the yankees clinching their 27th world series championship. Husband is a-quiver with happiness. I almost feel moved hearing Posada's (a yankee team player for 15 years) voice break talking about the road to the team's success. It is unlikely I will ever become a bonafide fan. Wearing the cap is one thing. Screaming at the TV is quite another. Still, I am happy to have witnessed this jumpy huggy screamy wild crowd moment. A victorious close to a victorious day.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

The Devil is in the Details

Trick. Or treat. Now I am from Italian descent and this age old threat of halloween has always seemed to me to be a way of training up young minds into the world of protection racketeering. Call me a cynic. Didn't stop me getting carried away with half a ton of orange slap and a run away khol pencil leaving my son looking like a demonic pumpkin, and, might I add, smiling from carved ear to ear. I must admit I was rather impressed with the result and after he had shed a few tears over a minor knee bang causing the make up to run slightly he took on the faded pathos of a charlie chaplinesque urchin. Worked a treat though, he managed to "treat" me a crate of "candy" and money - one lady stopped to give him a dollar because she had not come out armed with sugar, and three of the crew gave him a dollar each. If we carry on like this I'll be able to buy that fancy hair product I spied in the hairdressers the other day. I knew I was not going to be able to resist an appointment because when I went in to enquire a lady with an inspector clusoe trench coat, fedora and tie gave me all the info (and a hefty discount). Nuff said. I am a sucker for a trench coat and hat, obviously. The friendly Sarah chopped and painted, and after a free sensory experience (quick massage in of conditioner to you and me) I was ready for the world. Or, for lunch at least. This was a feast of the tall kind as my slightly vertically challenged family perched upon high stools in Betty's, a skinny half shop homecooking joint run by someone with an obsession with 50s pin ups and a fat appetite, in the appropriately named, Short North. They have one of those height things at the start of the strip to make sure you are the sort that has to always look slightly up at people. Ok now I'm being silly. Can you blame me? I am still high on sugar from our, sorry, Sammy's collection. Yes whilst Cory strutted the afternoon boards for the matinee crowd Sam and I popped up north once again and trawled all the shops with the orange balloon flying outside. A section of the street was pedestrianised and the shops who flew the balloon were treater friendly. You see, Halloween is a deeply organised affair here in Colombus. I wanted to do my usual annual witch dance atop a hill somewhere intoning and swaying by the light of the moon but Cory refused. His friendly dresser Scott, kindly printed out a list of the trick or treating schedule. Don't get me wrong, I am a sucker for lists and things of order but a schedule? All around us the air is hot with debate about the role of government in this country with focus on its role in healthcare. More than once I have heard an overall feeling of reluctance to hand over control to the government. Pastor Ken and I talked briefly about the country's general obsession with the term "freedom". I shot from the hip a little, under educated as I am in the intricacies of most things I spout about (doesn't seem to put me off I notice) and he listened graciously. These conversations rung in my ears as I skimmed the sheet of carefully planned halloween time slots. Maybe its my inner teenager but there was some part of me who wanted to run around the houses off schedule just to shake it up some. Green card pending, best not rock the boat I spose. They tell me its something about keeping the children off the streets when the adults go wild on Halloween night. Yup, come 9 pm ish some lucky couple won $1000 for dressing up as mount rushmore in the evening competition up Short North way (if I'd balance on their shoulders I could have done my witchy dance and earned us an extra $100 I bet). Call me a traditionalist, but there was a significant lack of witchy things going on on the streets when it came to dressing up (we sat behind the table of a 6 year old arabian princess and her something-out-of-a-science-fiction-type-baddy-dad. I am hoping he actually took off his enormous headpiece to eat.) We walked by Colonel Saunders (ok fair enough) a few bloody beings and so on, but the general feel here is more of a carnival than ode to all hallows eve. A time to play dress up. This, I understand. We had prepared for the afternoon with a trip to a couple of farms, generously accompanied by Pastor Ken's wife Helen. The first, the fantastically named Hickory Creek came with a characterful woman in the shop vehemently refusing to take us on a hayride because of the rain and likely damage to the tractor, namely getting stuck in the mud. I didn't dare suggest that that might be part of the fun, and great fodder for a new bloggist. Instead we browse the crate load of squashes, big, small, green, orange and all in between, tiny, huge, and the peanut variety (think pumpkin with monkey nuts stuck on it and you're almost there) and ultimately settled on buying some indian corn. It's dried kernels are alternately blue, jewely red as pomegranate, marbled yellow and generally beautiful and not in the least bit practical especially for a family on the road. The brusque farmer's wife had her sales method down pat. Either that or we are slightly too excited about the little things in true tourist form. After a run around Freemans Farm's pumpkin patch we invested in lunch, some loose tea and almost a bottle of health remedy. The ingredients read like a herbally list of "goodness" that would not be out of place in one of my godfather's concoctions. The ones that he brews over months in his cobwebby cantina and taste like the bottom of a wood on a rainy day but with loads more alcohol. Exhale eau de twig for hours. Perfect antidote to garlicy pasta I guess. No wonder then, after this full of a day the little chappy was not too keen on bed. He was still high from the paparazzi. We came across a minnie mouse on the trick or treat rounds who had organised a children's costume parade and Sam told me he wanted to be with the children. I obliged, and a medal later (2nd prize for most funny) we strutted back to the theatre. He told everyone he got a medal for trick or treating, I was quite proud of myself for completely by passing any possible conversations on competition (he has already shown a powerful need to win at all costs) and not so proud of myself when I watched him, somewhat uneasily, readily stop to pose for the paparazzi snapping at the time and later when Cory's collegaues took it in turn to whoop and wow at the boy (I suspect, with some sadness, he has learnt to do this from me) He, unflinchingly gave detailed accounts of our travels up the north way with great emphasis on the balloons and chocolate. He also reassured all that he was not in fact scarey but a bouncy pumpkin. I didn't tell him the orange face and pumpkin stalk cut from our little pumpkin on our hotel's window sill and worn as a hat on his spikey orange (painted) hair kind of gave it away. I would not rob a trick or treater's thunder like that. I am distracted for a moment because the television is telling us that "the devil is in the details!" I am quite sure Halloween was yesterday. Hold on, this is a propaganda commercial against the opening of casinos in the state. A cartoon devil just popped up all evil red smoke. Cory and I looked at each other bemused. Maybe its a thematic bit of PR for this time of year but it will always seem to me that there is no room for the devil in debates on policy. The moment passes. Yankees back on trying to conquer the world against the Phillies. Meanwhile the pumpkin outfit has been packed (my leopard coat and I went as a mobsters wife in case you're wondering) and a moment of reflection before we begin the move to Chicago tomorrow. The lure of the big city is upon us. The anticipation in the whole troupe is palpable. I am hoping our weekly in house poker game will start up (aka party in pjs) as well as daring myself into a few open mic nights, just to test my adrenaline pump is still working. Can't possibly go too long without doing something that absolutely terrifies me can I? I wonder if the devil is in those details? Word.