Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Happy Happy Birthday To Me!

It has been a very memorable birthday weekend. Kickstarted with a delightful afternoon at Paradise Cove - never a more apt description written - Malibu. About half an hour away from the main hub bub of Los Angeles is the oceanic haven that is Malibu. All glass fronted uber homes and infinity pooled residences. To get there you begin on the freeway eventually turning off to cut through Malibu canyon, otherwise known as journey through mountainous splendour. The road, eventually narrowing down to a one lane snake job from a five lane motorway twists and turns through the rocky valley, peaks overlapping in the near distance and rising up about us like a breathtaking watercolour. In and out we turned through the "june gloom" (yes I know its August but thats what the locals say) clouds hovering over us hiding alternate peaks in their mists. Eventually we make a final right turn and the infinity of the blue grey ocean splays into view on the horizon. I don't know who is more excited, me or the two love birds in the seat behind me currently teetering on the brink of an early morning spat. Plans had been changed at the last minute and we have now been invited along on a beach morning on account of our friend having the sole responsibility of keeping hr other friend out of the house in preparation for her surprise 40th that evening. I took my duty of posing as a Californian beach chick incredibly seriously clearly.

We arrived at the cove after a five mile cruise alongside the water, mama gawping at the homes with their huge terraces and jaw dropping views. On arrival we find the car park chock-a-block with vintage corvettes, each lovingly restored within an inch of their lives to utter retro perfection. they sparkled even in the over cast morning. I photographed almost every single one. One chap, most likely a very proud owner took a snap of me. Posing unashamedly. The corvette car club meets once a year for breakfast. On we ran to the white sandy beach, waves undulating into a surfers paradise. Behind us the cliffs jutt up to the sky creating a sheltered haven from reality. At that time in the morning there was room enough for the tykes to flip to their hearts content. And they did. Eventually the ssshhhhhhh birthday gal arrived with her little surfer dude son, all sun bleached hair and sparkly blue eyes. For the rest of the morning the three children took it in turns to play and bicker, most especially towards the imminent hunger for lunch at which point each lad displayed serious possession issues over the young lady, who was blithely unfazed by their screeching dramas and insistence that she stay exactly where they wanted her. Hot dog or two later and the three were back to their joyous bolting up and down from the shore's edge running into and out of the shallow surf squealing with the kind of joy only three yea olds and adults who remember how to be three understand. Tragic tears when it was time to leave. Ssssshhhhh there was a party to keep her away from.

Sam and I make our way back home accompanied by another lady friend who had joined us. Rose quartz pendant hanging form her rear view mirror, legs crossed in a half lotus as we cruised down the free way. We drop into effortless familiar chat. The whole morning I have been surrounded by gorgeous, talented, insightful, earthy women who have made me feel like I have known them for quite sometime so inclusive and warm are they in their relating to me. Over picnic lunch we had shared a bottle of Sofia Coppola's sparkling wine and laughed at each other's tales. Best saturday morning in ages.

Mum and boy settled into an early night, giving the surprise party a miss in view of it being 50 miles away from the theatre and ma does not have wheels, but also because we all needed our rest before hosting Sam's Bagel Brunch III the following morning. I will not pretend that I have felt the frayed edges of melancholy in the run up to the first leg of the show reaching its closing night. I have dealt better with closings of my own shows, often not feeling the loss till sometime later. As a sending off we decided to buy a hundred or so bagels and muffins for our troupe and all the local crew to feast on. Cory's dressing room, turned deli, was filled with a little bit of everyone for the hours leading up to the final matinee. Mood buoyant and filled with expectation, energy frizzling with last-day-of-school excitement. Mr. Fred pulls me aside and asks to have a word in private. He introduces me to a lady who dresses in between her casting jobs and who goes on to explain that a reading of Cold Comfort Farm the musical is scheduled to take place in New York in October and it may be possible that there are a few character parts which I might be able to do should the other casting team agree to give me a shot. I bristle with grateful thanks and excitement, thank her and Fred for taking me into consideration and in my mind start planning a week in New York though a voice in my head tells me to not jump to conclusions. There's no fun without a little creative visualisation surely?

Eventually the crowd thins out to get wigs on and such. Just odour de bagel left whafting in the still, dressing table light heat. Sam and I watch dad get ready, he weaving in and out of his father and his lovely dresser John "helping" in every which way he knows. Then he sits next to his dad and the two put on their make up side by side. The younger somewhat heavy handed with the old pancake. With each stroke he is looking more and more like the ladies we see all botoxed down the high street. Whilst the show begins, the troupe take it in turns to stop in and compliment him profusely on his make up work. Compliments he receives readily. With a big fat, black penciled grin from powdered ear to powdered ear.

Towards the end of the first act boy and I scurry up the stairs where my niece watched her last show. Our eyes darting in the shadows of the wings. Boy and ma soaking up the crew beavering behind the scenes and the excitable whoops of mania from the onstage performers. I never tire of the wings. The smell of backstage. When it ceases to be enchanting I will know it is time to leave the business.

In between shows we all scatter for dinner. Our family opting for a fancy schmancy sushi place across the street where Cory's friend had taken him the other day. The maitre d's greet us on impossibly high shoes apparently as impossible to walk in from the looks of things. We shasay past the uber chic bar area with white metal knives in cased in clear perspex cubes atop of cubic columns and pout on to the main dining area where all five sushi rollers look up and greet us loudly in Japanese. The ritual repeats with every new customer accompanied in by the ladies wobbling on the heels. Boy does his best Astaire impersonation yet in between edamame and mum and dad inhale black salt cod, seared tuna and a roll or three. Pretentious but extremely delicious and almost worth the cost.

We let dad have a quick kip and get ready to watch the final show at The Pantages. I hover around the coffee pot back stage, flitting in and out of conversation with the crew, boy jumping from foot to foot with anticipation. Around 6ish we collect Schuler's daughter, who is also watching and the three of us bundle into the busy Hollywood Boulevard. Above us helicopters hover. We find out later that snipers were on top of the theatre aimed at the W hotel across the street as a man was on the rooftop seemingly strapped with bombs and threatening to jump off the edge. In the end, all possible tragedy was brought to a peaceful end. Certainly added a certain je ne sais pas to the folk backstage anyhows. In we go through the silver and gold art deco glamour to the main doors, boy incapable of moving without dancing waving his fedora in and out of hat tricks like one half of a wind up monkey and organ act. The usher asks me how old he is. I consider lying but there is no way she will believe he is 5. I tell the truth. She asks me to stand aside. Her supervisor comes out, asks me the same questions, explains their policy on letting under 5s into the theatre. I stand my ground, as politely as I can whilst the lights are flashing on and off to signal for the herds of people to get to their seats fast. She tells me to wait for the house manager. I explain to Sam that once we convince them to let us in he is under a severe oath of silence except for laughter and applause, what with it being a comedy an' all. He promises, from under the rim of his fedora that he won't make a peep. I put on my extremely serious mum face, eyebrows unifying with severity. His big brown eyes promise me he will not make a peep, and should he need to leave he will ask so in whispered tones. When the house manager comes over to us Sam blurts out all of the above, without breathing for commas. The manager looks up at me and I provide the translation. It takes a little convincing but in the end manager relents. We settle in. From the overture to the bows both children are rapt. I love to glance over at him, the reflection of the troupe dancing in his eyes, wide with admiration. I hope the night will be committed to a memory that might last his lifetime.

We reach back stage afterwards, with some negotiations with the security guards to let us through to stage door and find the cast milling about, more reluctant to flee the building than I had expected. We pack up the odds and ends, say our goodbyes and fill the car. Sam is beginning to droop, but manages to stay awake another half hour whilst we head on down to the dressing rooms beneath the stage where an impromtu farewell party is taking place in Anne's room. There are hugs, promises, numbers and happy-sad smiles. Few more hugs and hopes and we headed out into the chilly Los Angeles night zooming up route 101 to a new chapter.

What better way to open it than a slap up birthday? It began with mum tip toeing around the boys blushering and tustling herself into some semblance of celebratory garb. With twenty minutes to spare I stir the boys, rustle up coffee, pack Sam's breakfast and overnight bag with but a few minutes to spare before his favourite babysitter rings the bell to say she is downstairs. He, beaming from ear to ear settles into her car with a "have a great party ma!" and the two pull away to begin a day of frivolity in Hollywood that will involve some serious soccer time, make believe and anything that takes their fancy. So generous is she and her husband, that they even offer for Sam to stay over with them. I suggest she sleeps with Sam, unaccustomed as he is to sleeping alone and without the folks. Just when I thought the boy couldn't smile any wider he cracks into an even bigger grin at the prospect of snuggling up to a gorgeous 6ft blonde who adores him as much as he does her. It warms my heart.

Back to the task in hand and dad and I are dashing about the apartment locking up and trying to appear functioning. When the bell signals the arrival of our friend (ma of Sammy's favourite little girl here) we dash out to find her beside a friend of hers, all Hollywood sunglasses, in a top down of a convertible. Mama is a happy camper. Cory and I gladly squeeze into the backseat and prepare to be windswept down the freeway. The fella driving tells us that he had believed that money couldn't buy happiness until this particular purchase. He goes on to explain that it was in part the product of recovering from a particularly disastrous relationship. He then launches into what can only be called a stand up routine and continues to make us laugh the entire day, right up until 2.30am when we finally get home.

After about half and hour we find ourselves at the sssshhhhh forty year old birthday gal's pad that looks every inch the mansion out of a magazine. Thick white walls, dark jutting wood in the Spanish style. An entire wall is glass and looks out onto the enormous garden with an ancient oak at its centre, comfy chairs beneath, table laden with morning treats. On the chairs sit the prettiest group of people I have seen in a long time. Over the day we are welcomed into the clan by some very attractive personalities unified in their great sense of humour, fun, creativity and maturity. We bundle into a stretch limo and hit the road. I am grinning from ear to ear and am handed a mimosa thank you very much happy birthday to me indeedy!

In truth Cory has made me swear that I would not steal the birthday girl's thunder, seeing as the day is about her outing. I am totally in agreement. Especially knowing myself. Half way through our journey north to Santa Ynez valley however, someone starts asking about birthdays. I couldn't very well lie could I? The group squeal with delight. More mimosas all round. Trouble with mimosas is that they make you pee. More fool me for not getting out at a pee stop after the first hour and a half. Little did I know, that 20 minutes later we would be cruising down the motorway with my bladder about to combust into 25 million sodden pieces. I whisper to Cory that I absolutely must go now and absolutely now and please you'd better stop the car or it ain't gonna be pretty. We screech into the hard shoulder. I thank the stars I am wearing a skirt. the group jeer at me as I head out of the limo, me trying not to laugh so hard because then I really will have an accident. For discretion purposes I choose to walk away from the car, to be, as I see it, out of view from my new friends. Not the way I thought I would engratiate myself to new Los Angelesian folks. As I relieve myself I hear my husband a few feet away taking pictures and cackling loudly at his wife. I am a sight. This much is true. Especially when I realise that in moving away from the car I have become easier to view both from the limo and from the hundreds of people driving up the freeway beside me. I hope I have not killed the succulents I just watered as I step back into the limo to raucous applause. Husband does not stop laughing till he falls asleep many many hours later. No one ever called me classy for nothin.

The first winery we get to is hidden beyond the winding roads that somewhere nestled between parched yellow grassed hills, cork trees jutting out at irregular angles like the sun scorched country side of Sardinia. Eventually we arrive at what looks like a tin shak with bamboo veranda, cactus laden with prickly pears. As we stepped in, bubbly with bubbly, we are plyed with delicious bio-dynamically grown wine. Rich, full, luscious liquids scurry over our palettes. Everyone buys a bottle or two and then we are back out on the road trying to keep up with our itinerary. Quick pit stop to a delectable road side grocery filled with fresh salads and breads. Most of which make it back into the limo. We all eat like we are 14 year old pubescent boys. Next we arrive at our second stop only to find it closed proceeding to turn back the way we arrived, pleading with our final winery to accept our visit seeing as we are almost 2 hours late. This is, in some part, to blame on the driver, whose navigation system fails half and hour into our journey and who is mapless, and to be a little cruel somewhat gawmless in the face of orientation. His expression remains a constant neutral throughout the day. Frozen perhaps in numb fear.

We arrive at the Demetria estate and explain our apologies through the intercom. Reluctantly they invite us up. We drive up hill for sometime weaving along a narrow lane between rows upon rows of vines till we reach intercom number two. They tell us the code and eventually we make it to the villa perched on the hill the sun's rays splayed around the terracotta tiles roof, cypress trees line the drive. Around the side we find the terrace surrounded by a low stone wall dotted with tables and metal chairs with a breathtaking view of more vines undulating down into nowhere. The sun is beginning its descent towards dusk casting its warm nostalgic glow over the party huddled, still laughing, around a long rustic wooden table. Out comes Adonis, all black curls and wide grin and begins to ply us with tastefullness. We swirl, sniff, ooh and ahh in equal parts for the wine and him. After a couple of sips, all reluctance has visibly faded away and he and his olive skin bask in the warm attentions of the beautiful party. It is unhurried to say the least. Suffice it to say we leave the winery two hours after our dinner reservation at the restaurant which shhhhhh birthday girl had made. She invites Adonis along. A couple of the beautiful ladies are newly single. He accepts. Laden with bottles of beauty we ramble reluctantly away from the Greek terrace towards the Californian dusk. By the time we reach the restaurant it is dusk but the host welcomes us warmly. No matter we are more than two hours late and that he is staying open just for us. We sit outside, eating buttermilk chicken, lamb chops and the like. There is more wine (Adonis has even brought along a few from the vineyard!) but my body sends distinct stop light signals to my mouth and it listens. Flambe banana later, with a candle each for sssshhhhh birthday, myself and Cory (who has his big day on thursday) we sing into never after and laugh into the night. On the journey home, most of us sleep at one time or another until, just over two hours later, having put the world to rights, danced a bit, laughed a but more we arrive at the gate fo the house where we started. The black still night dotted with a cascade of stars. I wonder if my cousins have been spotting any falling ones in Sardinia. Around the 9th and 10th we would always lay out on the grass and watch the skies. I shudder with a pang of nostalgia, homesickness and deep gratefulness for one of the best birthday days I have ever had. I wish more of my family were here to share it with me, I wish my best friends could have enjoyed these amazing people. Next time. There must definitely be a time in my lifetime to make another next time for this trip.

Cory and I arrive back, heads beginning to throb ominously. We curl up in our bed, bigger and quieter without the boy. I send him a kiss on the air and hope he is enjoying his snuggles with our lovely friend. Sleep comes fast and leaves just as quickly.

It is just before 11 when the party arrive glowing with happiness and eagerness to tell of their day. Dad and I in contrast look like we have just been in a convertible for the whole night, the wrong side of wine tasting. Boy waddles proudly up the stairs after hugging his babysitters. We hug them too and plan on seeing each other when the tour hits upstate new york in the fall. He, bag strapped on his back, wheely suitcase clutched in the hand proceeds to tell us every detail of his sleepover. As he unpacks his bag sharing stories for every piece of clothing, Dad and I marvel at him, glowing in his new found independence. He looks at least a year older than yesterday. He tells us he woke in the night and did not like not being able to see Krista straight away but then she cosied with him. By the way he describes his mini break you'd think we had been away from each other for a month. Or a year. He appears all growed up. Utterly adorable. We have all we can not to squeeze him mid sentence and disturb his story.

He asks me if we had a nine candle for my birthday (don't I wish?!) and whether dad will have a twelve one. He asks what the wine party was like. I give him as graphic a description as I can muster before he begins turning a cardboard box into a little shop haranguing us to buy this and that and everything.

No shock then that I have been in pyjamas most of today trying to pretend I am not a little exhausted and dehydrated. What a marvellous marvellous way to start my 34th year. I am so very grateful for the adventures so far. I am full of love for those who have facilitated the journey. I want to say thank you ma for loaning me your belly and for my folks for devoting 34 years of their lives to encouraging me on my path. I hope I can do the sam for Sammy boy.

Happy happy birthday indeedy. Got me a couple of wet eyes.

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