Cory has just come back to our pad and nonchalantly told me that we have a taxi booked for a 7.45 pick up. AM. Turned my laissez faire attitude to packing into a turbo blasted frenzie of clothes and what-nots. That'll teach me for letting myself get distracted by Hava Naghila on ice, brought to me by the Israeli champions. The ice skating olympians accompanied me through the drafty evening with various shades of surreality. I watched Russians pretend to be aboriginals (I use both terms loosely) and Americans give their best Bollywood turn. This is my parting memory of our last night here in Kansas City.
We have made the most of the latter part of our week. We played - and lost - poker in our living room with a handful of crew, ice skated, ate at a diner that delivered extremely fast fast food to our tables via overhead miniature trains (we placed our order via table top telephone and wore train driver hats) and took ourselves on a date to hear some bone fide city Jazz. After a few deserted streets we hit upon the Phoenix, a red brick, fairy lit corner venue. A laid back bassist, enthusisatic drummer and head swinging pianist were blasting some Ray Charles as we walked in. Tempted as we were by the bar that encircled the trio we opted instead to sit a little further back where we might be able to hear one another speak. Too loud, too old, yes I know. A few business men from Nebraska were giving it some whoops from atop their whiskey glasses whilst a couple in the corner swayed in each other's arms. Cory, ravenous from the show polished off three baskets of tortilla chips. Kitchen had closed whilst we were chinwagging with Brad back at the hotel who had agreed to babysit. When I was reminding Sam that Brad would be in the living room should he need anything whilst mum and dad were out, he turned to me, all earnest puppy dog eyes and announced that, should he indeed wake, it would be a nice idea perhaps to take uncle Brad to the restaurant downstairs. I half expected to see the two of them propping up the bar when we returned. In the end tykey didn't wake at all, much to the disappointment of our friend. So there we were, mid g&t's when in walks John Mark, one of the props team. A quiet, retiring keeps-himself-to-himself sort of fella, but away from crowds of loud actrines and crew he happily joined us for a cider. Over the following hour he educated me on the history of Kansas City and its inability to fully recover after the depression, especially after the stockyards closed, the overall conservative nature of the folk round these parts (he grew up not far from here) and life as number 7 of 7 brought up in Parson, a little known pit stop for mafia bosses who would smuggle prohibited alcohol and dead bodies from Chicago. He, particularly drawn to the occult, then came back with us to feel out our haunted hallways. We left the dimly lit Phoenix behind us in the night mists, under the heady aroma of roasted coffee embedded in the wet air from the Folger's factory around the corner, passing a handful of ghostly 1920s hotels and a curio store of hardware displaying a plethora of antique tools in the shadows of its original windows. Probably a favourite with the godfather's of old no doubt.
Now a little weary from two socials in a row (I have got to build up endurance people!) Sam and I opted to spend the following afternoon at the theatre, more, in truth, for mum's sake. Tiredness shared is tiredness halved right? The boys left me to my X-ing and ran riot around the back alleys of the theatre on Sam's bike. I caught up with them at the half hour call and ensconced myself in Cory's sweltering concrete dressing room and received a few hours worth of friendly visits from his colleagues who took it in turns to chat with Sam and mama. The weekends are when homesickness sweeps by me in general and company was much needed and enjoyed. His room is very close to the wings and whilst the show played overhead on the tannoy it seeped up and into the room from the wings also. Sounds ringing about us as if floating in from a past. Boy had fun calling out the names of who was speaking. Most of the afternoon he had that far away look of concentration. By the time we left for dinner, he looked rather exhausted by it all, compounded by the fact that dad's room was next to Schuler's, who plays the monster. Much energy was consumed repeatedly asking me whether he would suddenly run into daddy's room. I wondered whether I had made the right decision to bring him in. The fear passed as quickly as it descended especially however, when Sammy was introduced to a real, bone fide, Maggie.
Let me explain. As part of the intricate web which is Sammy's Mr. Gee show is a character by the name of Maggie who is good friends with one Bo-Bo and is, I quote, a "summersaulting kind of girl". According to the creator she looks like a girl on the tide detergent bottle - a cute little brown haired twinkly eyed little thing. So when the real version, a brown haired twinkly eyed little thing showed up, boyo was beside himself with a dream realised. He called out to Maggie from Cory's mezzanine to come look at his bike, daddy's dressing room, his hump, his helmet, his bike, his bag, daddy's dressing room, his bike, his bike, daddy's dressing room. She played a little hard to get but by the time we had finished dinner at the hibachi grill round the corner they were playing all over the place, including a brief stint of boy being chaffuered around the space in his pushchair with M piloting. Between the new friend and the theatrical fire-loving chef flicking his knives and spices about in between throwing food into our mouths boyo was hovering ever so slightly off the ground. The three others who sat at our grill, a red faced man, his prim wife and what I presumed to be their adult son fell under a cloud of dour silence induced most likely by the mottley crew about them including a man in Igor make up and two beautiful dancers plastered with stage hues. Needless to say bedtime was a little like taming a crazed baby orangutan after a pint of M&M ice cream. Praise be the lie-in this morning then. Any parent will vouch for the joys of their child waking them with a kiss and exclaiming "It's nine-oh-three mum!" Aaaaaaaaaah. Now if he could just get the coffee making thing under his belt we would have the whole ritual sorted.
We were all rested then, for our sunday matinnee outing preceeded by Sammy's Sunday Bagel Brunch. We suggested (decided) that he spend some of his winnings with those who had helped him become a rich three year old. You may recall some weeks back he had won $100 on dollar Friday. Its a sweepstake tradition where players put in a dollar with their names on and the one pulled out wins the pot. Dad had come back with a fat wad much to the bemusement of our son. Anyhows, a few splatters of paint and we made ourselves a poster invitation of which Sam was infinitely proud. Bagels were delivered around 11 and we had ourselves a party by noon. After scoffing was done the boy and I sprinted through the underbelly of the pit and out into the most magnificent 1930s theatre I have ever been in. What struck me most was the preserved state it was in, every detail was beautifully intact, from the chrome backlit signs to the gorgeous geometric light fixtures and over-size murals. In all its concrete splendour it seemed to have lost nothing of the uber modernity of its day. We dashed to the ticket office, mum open mouthed at the refined style of it all enjoying the stark difference to the older houses we have visited so far, narrowly avoiding the temptation to pull down on eof the signs for our bathroom at home. Even Sam squealed with delight at the diminutive doors of the bathrooms, so low that even I could just about look over the top (turns out people used to be my height) and at the circular mirrors illuminated from inside over the sinks. It was a 1930s collector's paradise. I felt utterly underdressed without my white gloves and hat. Sam enjoyed the show, especially whispering to the friendly folks behind us that his daddy had just come on stage. Time will tell how this Brooks exposure will shape the memories of our little boy. His questions (interrogations) about the show are becoming more specific, drawing on certain lines, usually throw-aways that intimate to something crucial to the plot. I haven't broached the dead back to life issue, but perhaps, in his little head, he has already filed this for another day, waiting for when he intuits his mum and dad know how to explain it.
And yet again, another goodbye. I won't lie to you. My bones are happy to leave the 20th floor in the near distance. Tonight the old sash windows have been rattling with the whistling wind snaking through the cracks and the stairwell next to us has been clanging with activity like a horror movie soundtrack. Perhaps I ought to have taken a leaf out of our neighbour's book of tour survival (Cory's colleagues) and brought our own light bulbs with us in the bottomless hamper, to change a hotel's unforgiving blue flourescence for a flattering warm glow. For those of you out there who are keenly aware about my own obsession with lighting and getting it just so in our home (much to the desperation of all around me) you will be pleased to know that not even I will go to these lengths. Turns out I am a failed lighting designer after all. I have heard stories about vaudevillians taking their own set of gels for the lighting operator to use for their acts. Things haven't changed so much after all I spose.
And so, with the obsessive compulsive bejewelled cleaners - sorry olympic curling contestants - in my peripheral and a pile of dirty clothes to be smuggled into our luggage I make my way reluctantly back to the task at hand. On the news there are weather warnings on snow and people persuading folk to stay off the roads. I spare a thought for the truck drivers trekking up through the night on the highways to the Michigan straits hauling the heavy sets to Detroit's opera house.
A two flight, 30 mile drive travel day is on our own horizon.
Better pack me some Patience pills and a double dose of good humour.