Come now, what could possibly tear me away from what the bench down the road quotes as "The Greatest City in America." I am still on the fence on this one (or bench?), but then I haven't been here for even a week yet. Other quotes of note that punctuated our journey into the woods this morning included a billboard telling me "Married people earn more. Marriage Works." And if, as a married, I should let this go to my head and use all my new found earning for crime I need but drive by the prison on Freeway 83 headed north because a banner hung by the inmates tiny windows will remind me to "Drop the gun or pick a room." Also good to know. And, just for good measure, health campaigners here are eager to tell young Baltimoreans that Virgin is "not a bad word." in graffiti font for cutting edge city urban d'ya ge me yeah?
Up a winding forest lined road we went and at the top we reached Baltimore's Waldorf school. Mention of these establishments have dotted my blog so far, because, for a few months before we came over we had taken Sam to several sessions. Even if the pastel pink and hippy silk scarfness of it brings a wry smile to my face both the little chap and I enjoy the tranquility of the spaces and the general good feel about the playgroups. Also, most of the places we will be stopping in have such schools and in a few hours I am able to connect with local parents and Sam can mop with little friends to his hearts content (they have a home area with mini mops and wooden cooking stuff). Barbara, our teacher here, has long greying hair that reaches down to the bottom of her back, turquoise and coral silver dangly earrings and hair clip to match and big been-to-Woodstock blue eyes. Her mother was a Waldorf home schooler and her sister is teaching at such a school in Hawaii. She led us in bread making and songs at the end which we all mimed building a Snow woman. Whenever I need a dose of Liberal america I always know where to come. I'm sure it will be a tonic when we reach Texas in June...
So. Played out, and Dad all happily lied in, and then mum all P90x'd (shoulders, biceps and triceps workout number 3 people, come on keep up) we were all ready for a jaunt about town. I had googled coffee roasters earlier in an effort to sniff out another bohemian corner of the city. Noticing a theme here? We had cut it fine regarding time so we hopped in a cab whose driver told us about his by-pass his break of a 3 packet a day smoking and over drinking and his trip to the Punjab tomorrow. Yes, we had the time, I forgot to ask the phone how far the place was, and $20 later we stepped out into Greektown. A sea of white and blue flags flapped on the wind dotted with little Greek delis and Kafeinon with men drinking small cups of tar and playing cards. We walked along taking in the antique manequin dressed in Greek folk dress outside a heavily curtained restaurant with stickers on the door boasting its rating from 1962 and the music centre shop next door with plaster statues of gods and goddesses still covered with their cellophane and flanked by plastic red roses. Onward we went trying to find my haunt. It was about ten minutes later when Cory turned to me with that face coinciding with the realisation I had sent us on the hunt for a coffee roasters, that, well, just roasted coffee, somewhere.... We never even found it in the end. We got as far as an abandoned factory and some glass littered rail road tracks before we called off the search. There was nothing about the street by the dilapidated warehouse that said, "hey, come and hang and have a coffee friends!" Nothing against highway 83 or anything but its not really our idea of a pleasant wintry Baltimorean walk. Still, it led us onto South America. Suddenly, after the rumbling overpass all the shops and restaurants were emblazoned with colombian colours, mexican flags, the inviting smell of pungent barbecue. The air heavy with roasted chicken and cakes. We were, however really pushing time now and weary of getting caught in rush hour traffic. I just had time to take in the bridal shop with green sequined puff ball shoulderless bridesmaid dresses (must let Gabby know) and black and white lace layered bride gowns before Cory scrambled all of us into cab number two. It took us only a split second to realise we were being asphixiated by the smell of patchouli and curdled cheese. Nobody spoke. We just put our tongues to the wind from the hurriedly rolled down window like thirsty dogs till we were back home. Turns out tea at in room 3403 was the best bit of our little trek today....Perhaps we should have just gone up the road to Red Emma's an"anachist" joint that offers propaganda and coffee to, mostly impressionable students from what I can gather. A worker-owner collective it is both a bookstore and drinking hole.
Now I am about to whip around the room and hurricane like make it presentable for my cousins who are visitng from New Jersey tomorrow and before you get any fanciful ideas, they are not those sort of New Jerseyans. They were born and raised in Niagara Falls on the New York side, turns out only a few hours from Cory's home town. Our grandmothers were sisters, on my mother's side, from Sardinia. My grandfather had been tempted to follow suit and search for a new life here in the states but at the last moment got cold feet. I like to think the clan made to America in the end though, and it is special to be in contact with my lovely cousins especially since their grandmother and mine were so close. They wrote to each other regularly, I'm sure each were a source of great strength to one another, especially when small town living must have made it hard to confide in people wholeheartedly. It was forty years before she made it back for a visit, with my aunt Pat, who had become a nun. I remember meeting over here for the first time at the convent's beach house in Long Island. I had packed the most high necked wear I could find, not knowing what the protocol for beach and nuns was exactly. I remember ringing the bell of the cottage and the door swinging open with my white haired aunt Pat bear hugging me with all her tiny frame her face in a broad warm grin and then her offering me a cold beer from the fridge. "Happy fourth of July indeed I thought to myself." That was the beginning of the rekindling of our connection. Since then she and her brother, my cousins father, and the cousins have visited Sardinia and London and we swap allotment anecdotes and tips. Cultivation is in the blood there's no denying that.
At this moment though, my head is still jangling from our son's last surreal ramblings before his mind and he agree to relinquish to sleep. Today's comma-less patter (takes after his mum obviously) went something along the lines of this:
"And then my tree has happy faces on it and and and thumbs and it walks like this and theeen Blue Ian and Silver Ian and Green Ian come in and a dog not a bitey dog a nice boy dog its a boy and a dog come in and then in my show there is a door and it goes down and up and then up up up up up up and I crash into it and so does Bo Bo and Maggie and aaaaaaalllll my actors in my show because I have to do a show.............read mum. Read."
Ah, I though he'd never ask.
I suppose even a son of mine can't dream up a story for twenty minutes without a breath. Try as we both might. It would seem that whilst his parents tour Sam has been developing work of his own. He's not going to be a kept man. No. He is going to be Mr. Gee. He asked me to make a top hat the other day for his show. He pushed the cardboard creation (didn't do 9 months on CBeebies for nothing you know!) down hard onto his head, stripped naked, put on his sunglasses and jumped into a frozen pose yelling "Abraham Lincoln!" I, of course, have accepted responsibility for the lasting effects of mixing american travels with theatre. It is after all a heady mix for even the most laid back three or thirty three year old.