Saturday, 20 March 2010

Country Roads, Take Me Home...

I am writing from our country retreat. Our family idyll. Our escape from reality. Truly, since our 8 hour drive from not-so-sunny Detroit I have been kicking back with the fam and getting accustomed to driving the country roads in my father-in-law's boat. I mean car. Anything bigger than our fiat seicento back at home always feels like a Cadillac.

My lasting memory of Detroit will be leaving my Broadway debut behind me in the damp distance. 1515 Broadway to be accurate. The aptly named black box commune across from the opera house saw Mariela's much anticipated half length show in its first, trueset, most terrified form. I think I have discovered a new angle on fear. Nothing can quite prepare you for the nerves and adrenalin that preceeds your first foray into solo performing. I turned to share my feelings with collegaues, but there weren't any. Cory feeding the cast and crew in the foyer. I jumped around, waltzed with ghosts to the Sardinian music pumping into the house and generally noticed the tightening of my throat and any other muscle in its viscinity. Then the crowd entered, quietended and we opened with the screening of a short movie I had made of her some 4 years ago. After the first few shots there were belly laughs. It made me happy and terrified in equal measures. Then, out I came, all be-tached and grinning like a stocky Sardinian street cat and offered Mariela's bawdy obsevations and wise tales of her beloved farm land. And her husbands genital peculiarities. There were a lot of laughs. At least that's what I remembered. We managed to get it all on tape so at least this time I will actually have a record of the madness. my producer has already gt me planning my San Francisco full length version. Talk about cracking the whip. Gheesh. BAck at the theatre the 45 strong audience all gave me their ideas for how I should continue to develop her into a full show. Their support was a beautiful thihng So too was the bear hug Theo, the tecchie gave me just after the end of the show, humming the last song out loud. Hard to imagine a tecchie in a pub theatre in London doing the same thing after having known me for all of, what, one hour?

What a wonderful way to leave the desolate metropolis that is Detroit. Slightly marred perhaps by the fact that an hour or two before the show, Cory lost his wallet yards from the theatre and the nice person who found it chalked up small sums at the local McDonals curtesy of American Express. What this meant was that our first few days upstate New York when Cory had planned to put his feet up and put the worlds to rights with his brothers on the sofa was taken up with driving all over town getting a new drivers license and sorting out grubby credit card details. These things always take more time than you expect. Our drive home was long, but smooth. Sammy-man was in good spirits, if somewhat bemused by his mother's alter ego. We left the industrial landscape of Michigan behind us and drove through Pennsylvania and on to upstate New York. As night fell we scoffed on fried goods and later at around 1 in the morning we drank coffee for the last leg from Buffalo to Rochester. Sam, woke, somewhat delirious, had a doghnut ball and drifted back into chocolate fuelled sleep. At last the rolling moonlit country hills of Walworth welcomed us home. Grandma was up for a quick 2 in the morning chat, Sam delighted with the conversation and eventually the family relaxed into a much needed slumber.

So now, with Daddy, recovering from strep throat, up in Toronto with our other family the boy and I are organising our days into some semblance of normality. With the help of our friends and family we have found a lovely little pre school which the boy will be given some freedom at a couple of mornings a week. As we arrived, Mrs Bonnie, a smiling kind but firm lady introduced herself to Sam. Quickly, one young Nevin took Sam's hand and introduced him to the rest of the children. It was hard to leave. We have been counting the sleeps till Tuesday ever since. The weather has been glorious and beyond Cory's parents home are some inviting woods. Boyo and I trekked through the corn field to reach them, and tip toeing through the brambles found ourselves a log to have our picnic on. He picked up a stick and declared it to be his violin. I was handed a "bass drum" and requested to play every song from the show. I was corrected on my tuning several times. Some people are so hard to please. Then we listened to the woodpeckers. Peeked for deer and peeled the bark of a disintegrating stump. I watched him run back to the house through the corn and imagined his dad having done the same thing through most of his childhood. These woods were Cory's playground. He and his three brothers were allowed to roam free. Magic. I hope that the place will become a treasured space for our boy. You can give a child nothing better than freedom. This is such a fiercely strong feeling from my memories of my summers in Sardinia. The adults always seemed on the periphery of our world. People to visit at food times and in times of, rare, trouble. Otherwise we were all happy to let each other get on with our own work. I came to know the cobbled back streets of my mother's home town very well as well as the children who ran them. I would wish the same liberties for Sam. Here. There.

A lady who always makes our stays here specail is Sandy. She is probably the reason why Cory ventured into the business of show in the first place. I ought to thank her for our tour. It was she, who spotted Cory at a choir rehearsal at the age of 12 and suggested to his parents that he dance. The rest, as they say is history. Think of the teacher in Billy Elliot and you get an inkling of this lady's perseverance, fierce loyalty to her students and unswerving attention to detail and technique with which she raises outstanding dancers every year. Without her steel Cory would have been eaten alive in New York. Nowadays she is my creative mentor, inviting me to join class at every opportunity and every trip we make time for at least one session of brainstorming of ideas. Last year she even let me choreograph her show's opening number and write the dialogue for the piece which gave me a huge amount of pleasure. This morning I took the floor barre class and tried my best to keep up with the limber 16 year olds in front of me. Turns out my P90X work has not been in vain. Well, as usual what I lacked in fitness or technique I made up for in ham. Give me a space, some music and a few moves and I think I'm Matthew Borne or Isadora Duncan. I take off into my little world and feel alive with expression. Total, unadultered indulgence. Food for the soul. My body willl thank me for it later.

Whilst mum made like she was god's gift to Martha Graham boyo was a jumping bean next door, and in the final across the floor jetes of mum's class he was escorted back by Sandy's grandaughter Nicole and sat watching the young ladies and me sweat into the closing bars of the class. It was followed by a sumptous brunch cooked by my sister in law Sid. Blueberry goodness drizzled over waffle wonderfulness. Much coffee. Chat. General at home feeling.

Just before I get too comfy cosy though do we receive an excitement announcement. Ladies and gentlemen (drum roll please Stan) I am now the proud owner of workng papers! Yessir! I am all bone fide almost green carded legit working gal. Now all I need is a job. Details details. Point is I can charge tickets for Mariela now. Ok, lets not get ahead of myself. But hey, perhaps I can find a little somethin somethin on our travels. Ride the rodeo in Texas? Play the joanna in San Fransisco? Who knows? Point is I can! Now the little detail of our imminent Green Card Interview.

It is scheduled for April 13th in Baltimore. Back we will go, to one of our home stops to persuade smiley Imigration officer to let me have free leave of the joint. Sam is probably going to come for the ride too. He is a little peturbed at this fact, but reconciles himself to it by the fact that Blue Ian and Silver Ian have to collect their "pink card" there too. At the same time. How very convenient. Fingers crossed that they are willing to give it to me there and then. It would make life much easier. Will keep you updated.

So for now, its back to a real proper Saturday afternoon with the family. There is talk of movies, dinner, of which I have been doing much of. Last night we went out for a Friday fish fry. Yellow Mills, somewhat of an institution amongst the locals was packed with fishy folk tucking into sea-friends. Amongst which were my in laws close friends Jan and Tom (eating not being eaten) who invited us back to their place after dinner. Sam hit it off with them immediately (they have many grandchildren) and we giggled into the night. Mum practiced her night driving keeping a watchful eye out for renegade deer making suicidal dashes across the road, which, by the way was littered with squashed Easter bunnies, racoons and skunks. Not a good time of year for the wildfolk I guess. The other night we drove back from Orbakers, a burger joint that has been there since the twenties and which I have to visit at least once when we are back. Its bright red bar is manned by a cluster of willing young high school folks and the fare is delicious. I never knew I liked malted milkshakes till I came there. No better way to pass a thursday night. As we hit the road home a fireball sun was dipping into the horizon and the indigo orange sky silhouetting the pine and firs on the wide sweeping curves downhill to the homestead were simply breathtaking.

Hubby may have become a commuter boy, staking it out in his hostel up north but life is still sweet. Perhaps it was time after all for these restless folk to take the time to smell the flowers. At least until monday when we hit the road again to Buffalo to meet my aunt Pat and uncle John. The former is a nun, whose mother was my grandmother's sister. She is quite a special lady full of curiosity and affection for the wolrd and its people. She is also a fantastic cook. Every time we have visited she has laid on a feast that brings tears of joy to the eyes. Dad will meet us there and then come on home for the night just enough time to take his boy to his first day of American pre school. Kleenex at the ready no doubt.

In the words of John Denver, country roads have, if only for a short time, taken us home....

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