Well my moustache and I survived and, if I do say so myself, the slightly shocked laughter was most encouraging punctuated as it was by the screamer near the front of the platform whose soprano belly laughs almost made me crack out of character. I left a supportive husband and slightly bemused son ("dad's the one who leaves for shows, and what is with the big sardinian flag this time of night ma?") ensconced in bedtime stories and fled into the washingtonian night. I arrived after a somewhat bleak taxi ride through no-mans land at the Palace of Wonders. To be fair, I didn't visit the museum of oddities upstairs but the downstairs was more camden damp than wondrous washington. Perfect for Mariela. I signed up as Chaplin to the wry smiles from the two male comedians organizing the pot and dashed to the loo for a final facial fix up and eyebrow ruffle. A vietnamese lady had ripped so much of them away last week I did what I had to paint them in somewhat - something thought I would never do. Look at any of my groucho marx pictures from puberty up. I knew it was time to face the hairy music when the producer of my first tv series, gave me the address of a red door spa in town for me to doctor the hair up there because on screen they were reading, in her words, "more like a marker pen line than an eyebrow." She tried to soften the blow by quickly adding, "You are so very expressive you see." Many expressions ran through my head at that point. I have to say their hairiness did the trick. The crowd, mostly aspiring male stand ups + two women: silent laugher and loud howler, especially liked the bit about her giving birth to a sheep, who sadly soon died, but tasted good. It's a carnivore's world out here. A cackle came from down left when I mentioned Mariela's boob-cheese pie. Get your filthy brains out of the gutter - its not what you think. There is a delicious cheese hung in farm yards all over sardinia that is called panedda (give those d's some wellie when you pronounce it) and they look remarkably like a boob. Sort of. Least that's what Cory and I came to the conclusion one visit. Usually I pull one out of my bra during the act and cut a hunk off for a hunk. It doesn't travel well though. I had been using one for the past few years pulling it out of and returning it to, the freezer. The smell made it more difficult for me to leave the sort of impression I would have hoped for with my contemporaries backstage. Vanity winning out once again.
The next day, high from my little dalliance into NE Washington and still pumping with adrenaline from having survived a short cab ride with quasi-sleeping driver coupled with successful escape into cheeky chappy taxi which got me home in one piece all added to the excitement and fuelled the family filming trip around the sights the following morning. We must have looked quite a sight. One yankee stuffed into posh kennedy centre evening coat with his young Frankenstein hoody's hood hanging out, a mini me bundled so much he could hardly walk and a loud sardinian woman in a head scarf waving her flag under the spangled banner by the monument screaming some shoutiness into the air looking every hair the passionate female muslim extremist the BBC pulls footage out of the archives for stories covering the middle east. After the enth mistrustful glare from the police and convincing a couple of americans to partake in a few bars of sardinian folk dance with me for the camera, we took our leave. Certainly wouldn't look good on the old green card app being arrested and all. Besides we had our rental car parked and Loaded and ready for Baltimore. Ehem, that's Baw-mor to you.
The hype surrounding our new home from within the troupe was somewhat less than sunny. One actor asked Cory why he was subjecting his family to the place on the monday when sound check wasn't till the tuesday. The whole walking in pairs to the theatre thing, The Wire thing, yes, the future appeared bleak. And yet, as is always the case, when you are clouded by, well, clouds, the outcome is usually surprising. Don't get me wrong, the entrance to the city is littered with historical baseball and football grounds (Camden Yards for all you Oriole fans out there) and music bars, but also an expanse of abandoned buildings, neighbourhoods that appear tired and its inhabitants teetering the line of a poverty. Once arrived in downtown the atmosphere changes, but not so completely that you feel its a rich at one end poor at the other kind of place. Or maybe I'm still in my honeymoon phase with the place, it has only been 48 hours or so. Picture Kilburn circa 1987, not the one we know today littered with young professionals who can't quite afford Queen's Park homes. I have missed this feeling the past few months. Its what spurred me on to negotiate local bus routes to get us to a church hall playgroup I found for the Sam man in an effort to delight in a city's cloak of anonymity. Fat chance. Between the accent, the p's and q's, the fidgeting trying to figure out the correct change I was most definately sporting my spot-the-tourist-badge. There are worse things. Our number 3 took us uphill (haven't seen one of them in a while either) past a monument, greens, narrow georgian streets, wider avenues lined with chocolate box Victorian homes with colours to match and larger blocks a.k.a Wimbledon or Richmond circa 1932. Churches, as in most of the places we have been, abound, from Unitarian to New Reformed past Methodist and Seventh Day adventists. Faith is fervently alive and well over here.
Playgrouped out we hit Little Italy. For old times sake. A cluster of narrow streets, bench lined for afternoon gossip and dotted with restaurants greets us. Darkened windows de rigeur. No-one needs everyone to know where they are dining and with who right? I notice a plack to John Pente - a proud supporter of little Italy. Nice way of putting it I spose. His pot laden porch was certainly impressive. I imagined an immaculate house behind the front door with polished linoleum floors, the furniture in pristine condition from the wedding in 56 and a well stocked and organised basement full of last year's crops in jars and bottles. We had a simple salady inexpensive lunch at Chiaparelli's and gluttony for desert at Vaccaro's across the street after. I had the best espresso of the year. It was so smooth and tasted so of elevensies in Sardinia that I cried. Now that's a coffeholic for you. Its a dangerous place for me to be in, the sentimental fray, because that's when I do silly things. Like book in for a hair appointment across the street. At that sweet little place opposite the corner shop, sorry I mean corner bank, literally the size of your friendly newsagents. Seen a lot of notes there I bet. Tomorrow I am going to be a mafioso wife for real. I am chancing a bit of colour and a hefty cut in a cash only "tax included" joint in Little Italy. Unheard of. Tax - 8%ish - is always added after at the till. That's why you run around with 2 kilos of, sorry, 5 lbs of change in your wallet all the time and why, on my first ever trip I had pointless discussions about being incorrectly charged with long suffering cashiers at tourist traps. Call me reckless. Aw, heck, just call me Carmela Soprano. I will have the highlights to match Signori!
All in all our first two days here are a refreshing change to the politico mood down in the dignified DC. We were ready for change as were most of the troupe. And learning to feed our family with only the bimbo, a microwave and a tiny fridge will teach me a. how to live in a camper van, the idea of which we toyed with for the tour and b. the art of organisation like nothing else could. I wanted to relinquish some attachment to the material on this trip and hotel room (ok make that suite - they have cut us a great deal, but still) living is bringing it home. Either that, or I'll feed my inner hoard with electric gadget clutter for the time and space craving domestic goddess. A mini George Foreman grill can't hurt can it? Apparently my arteries will thank me for it later.
Yes, the hotel manual reminds me to keep my door locked at all times. To keep cash in the hotel's safety deposit box. The sirens have swung by a couple of times tonight. But, as Brad Oscar says, when playing the role of Officer Kemp in the show, around about half way through act one when the villagers are hungry to stampede the Frankenstein castle, "Let's not rush to judgement." I would add, lets rush to put on the kettle and brew us a nice cup of Sainsbury's own cuppa cha.