Our time in LA, for the time being has come to its inevitable end. Not to say that we used up our time in an uncharacteristically laid back manner. Far from it. That last week was jam packed with as many lovely people as we could squeeze in, who in turn involved us in their excursions. The starry night of Norah Jone's concert at the open air Greek Theatre under a golden almost full summer moon being towards the top of my favourite Los Angelesian memories list. Or that dreamy sunset drive down the winding Mullholland Drive dotted with jaw dropping homes and hills. Closely followed by jumping up and down to a Journey tribute band in a Santa Clarita park with ten others and their children. Who went on to run around the fields till the rangers finally switched off the floodlights. We also got to babysit two wonderful young ladies - of the psychedelic rocks - delighting in observing Sam being commanded to attention in their complicated enactments, he, bewildered and bewitched in equal measures. His final appearance in Act 8, with a red and white spiky wig and a mock Roman soldier's tunic topping the twenty other costumes he was changed into. Today he has shared his idea for Acts 9 & 10.
Whilst Dad was filming a commercial for Farmer's insurance, enjoying watermelon & feta salad and saute shrimp for afternoon snacks, shots of B12 (camera operator told him he had to cut back as the vitamin overdose was giving him a buzzzzz man), espresso and altoids served after the five course lunch (how he'll ever work for the BBC after becoming accustomed to that I don't know!) Sam and I were figuring out the LA subway. Or Metro. Or train that hardly anybody uses. We used this on several occasions to reach our friend's house off Sunset Boulevard. Ooh just typing that makes me go all funny. Who'd have thunk it? Me with boy and stroller and a bag full of incases, strutting down the boulevard like it was Kilburn High Road of a tuesday afternoon. On our penultimate ride, we exited just in time to catch lady sticking bra tape to the inside of her vest barely covering her ample bosom. Onward we went, past Creative Asylum, an office of sorts above the Cat & Fiddle pub, catching sight of a garish array of wintery Christmas cards in the window of Borders twinkling in their snowy glitteriness under the bright afternoon summer sun. Past the movie school with isometric hairdos shuffling around the main doors smoking, past the turning which would take us to the beloved Zumba class at the YMCA and hang a left to the bustling bungalow what is mate's pad. On one evening, when dinner plans fell through with a friend I was left downtown wondering what to do with myself. Boy unexpectedly conked out which I always take as a signal to grab a coffee and loose myself in a book. This is what I did, finding myself all of a sudden in an unexpected harrowing part of the story. What a sight we must have been. Me, iced coffee and book in hand, dark shades, tears trickling down from underneath, boy drooling. When Dad calls to say he is done with work I take it as a queue to jump back on the train to North Hollywood and, finding a hungry husband, we decide to do a quick about turn at Universal City.
Uphill we drove till we came to Universal Studios that stretches out to a "main street" electrified in neon, back to back shops and restaurants for the over stimulated tourist. After humming and haring over where to eat we ended up in an Italian chain, where Sammy chatted up the lady that takes free pictures of you for $15. After dinner we rolled back out onto the street to watch two grown men being blown up with mega jets of air towards the sky enclosed in a see through plastic tube. They were wearing skydiver's suits. Goggles. Helmets. They flip, high five, smile through the g-force agony. If I hadn't eaten so much chicken parm I too might have joined them. We stroll on just in time to catch the maniacal samba ladies jiggling into oblivion around the tables at the Brazialian steak house dressed in a handful of rhinestones and the entire plumage of a luminous ostrich. Their bosoms defying gravity. And reality, Cory suggests. I fold his tongue back into his mouth and walk on, catching a glimpse of the almost empty restaurant, the few customers there utterly unaware of the feathery action in their peripheral. The dancers jiggle carry on unfased. I recognise a couple moves from DanzMundo. Never pictured the samba as a background dance somehow. Towards the end of the strip I take a look in It'Sugar (not my typo) and indulge the boys and myself in a few candy trips down memory lane. Boy, open mouthed at mum saying yes to a little of everything. It has the desired effect, after two gummy bears, a yoghurt covered pretzel and a pretend strawberry he has had his fill and is more interested in the busker from New Orleans who is trumpeting, tapping and crooning his way through the forties, his Ma, all beaming proud smiles, sat at the Starbucks next to him sipping one of those multi-syllable drinks. I wonder at those skilled servers; by the time a customer ahead of me has finished their paragraph of order I can hardly remember what day it is.
Our time in LA was trickling away, and, as is usual, we left the filming of my moustached Sardinian character-lady to the absolute last minute. With literally, one hour to spare, we sprinted our way around Hollywood Boulevard. Me, moustache sprouted with the miracle of eyeshadow (I didn't have the patience or lack of vanity to grow out my own), boy, sweaty with summer humming loudly under his fedora, and dad, camera in hand. We found us a busker for me to dance behind, I hung out with the yoot by the subway, frolicked in the fountain and strutted down Rodeo Drive. I even got her name put on a star with the help of photoshop. All the while, noticing the wary stares from the american public alternately avoiding eye contact and directly staring at Cory and fedora Sam wondering what they saw in the orthodox muslim tag-along. With a wool cardigan in August. It's good to wear a mask. Least until your sweat starts to melt your facial disguise...
Back home I hammered out my first column. Yes, my submissions have been accepted by The Times. Of Wayne County. I said to Cory I ought not mention my editor in the blog lest she misinterpret something and become offended. He told me that she is not Sardinian and I absolutely must. Every week I will be offering a 400-600 word piece inspired by weekly events. I typed into the evening and read it out to the husband, who, brow scrunched suggested I make it more of a travel piece. I tell him cramming a short paragraph or three with our exploits reads like pure gloat. Then I give it a go. It reads like pure gloat. He reads my initial article again and says he likes it. I send it with fingers crossed, dreading the email from the editor saying thank you very much but no thank you very much (ah, how the acting profession prepares you for rejection) but instead get a very pleasant email and what would my subtitle be please? A few days later I am pirouetting around the flat delighting unashamedly in seeing my first few words in print so to speak. Cory looks at me and asks if we will have to weather this emotional up and down and up again every week of a sunday night. I say probably. Till I get better at it. He sighs off into the kitchen for a beer.
The mountain that is packing was surmounted, relatively painlessly, though I am utterly out of practice, and before you could say route 405 we were headed down the Pacific Coast Highway to Costa Mesa. Just before our exit a hummer past us plastered with advertisement for some film or other, all hip hop cool. As it overtook us I caught sight of the driver and recognised him as the actor/musician plastered on the side of his vehicle. Hollywood baby. Onwards along the beachfront we past Salon Shag and several number 6 buses from North London. Their roofs, cut off to absorb the Californian rays. Retirees to the sun, the overcast workdays of Queens Park and Oxford Circus in their rusty pasts, hiring out to parties in their sunny winter of their years.
Till I get the hang of feeding a family out of a tiny fridge again we have taken advantage of the lobby's happy hour, scoffing great food despite the signs under the bar stating that food and beverages served may contain chemicals that cause cancer. I come to the conclusion that there may have been law suit situations in their past. Not the most comforting read in your peripheral over roast lamb. During dinner we nodded our hellos to the Bulgarian/Utahan couple we had met in the hot tub earlier. He all tan and blue eyed salesman, she, answering my unabashed nosey questions with eastern european guard. Obviously I decide she is a spy. I am a product of my 80s education after all. Cory explains that a real spy never arouses suspicion. My imagination and I arch our eyebrows up at him.
Now with Dad in 12 hour technical rehearsals for the next ten days, boy and I are left to our own devices to explore our new town. Festival of Children was in full swing at the mall across the road so we decided to take a peek. Half an hour into a queue for free face paint, boy stoic throughout with determination to become a lion, Sam is finally painted. Everyone we pass congratulates him on his tiger face. I don't have the heart to explain that the lady only knew how to do tigers not lions. He roars through the afternoon except when we sit to watch the Children's theatre performance in the atrium of Aladdin. All the leads are 16 or under and the boy is spellbound. Up until the sultan comes on when he shrivels back to my lap from the front row. Later he has a similar effect on a tiny asian boy. "Wait!" he says, "It's not real, it's just paint." This endears the dad to him right away and we fall into effortless chit chat, as is always the way when Sam is in tow and there are friendly americans around. His wife comes to join us, a very glamourous, trim young asian lady and they probe me with questions about my experience in America. They ask me where have the friendliest people been? Has life been ok here? Do I intend to live here? It's like my green card interview all over again. I pray I am answering correctly this time. I suddenly have a realisation of what it is like to have a conversation with me - usually I am the one doing the prodding, and it is, in effect, a little unnerving. After the man saves Sam from a near fall off a short wall where he is showing off his climbing skills (Sam not the dad) he tells us his father was an actor who appeared on Star Trek numerous times and here is his card should we need help again. Turns out he is a sergeant with the LAPD. Vice squad. Handy. When it is time to go we pass a young couple with a slightly unusual looking stroller. On closer inspection I see it is made for dogs. Pet logo on the side and everything. Fluffy white pooch sitting under the gauze canopy. I wonder if they cover it with those cheesecloth things when it is time for its nap. Whatever happened to using your handbag? At the second atrium we catch the tail end of a performance from a deaf/learning disability community group passionately signing Land of the Free. An enormous American flag suspended over their heads. The tinkle of the carousel clashing with the swelling chorus. One lady is signing the action for freedom so passionately she narrowly misses decapitating her colleague. People watch intently. It is moving despite the overstimulation of a mall on a saturday afternoon humming around them.
And so to bed. Cory has just returned from the theatre across the street, Orange County's impressive arts centre surrounded by manicured gardens. In the rehearsal room next to Young Frankenstein's space the Bolshoi Ballet are rehearsing. This means lobby meals have been punctuated with the occasional pause to gawp at the sultry lithe ballerinas and the muscular balladeers all russian drama about them, leaving their table mid course to smoke yet another cigarette, feet permanently in a loose first position. One of Cory's colleagues has bagged a free massage from their touring masseur. I can bet half the cast will be trying the same tomorrow. I wonder fi we might squeeze in another impromptu breakfast trip to the beach again tomorrow, where, dive bombing sugar levels after coffee we eventually found a surfer's shack from which we purchased breakfast sandwiches and huddled over an outdoor table under the morning mists of Newport beach. Um, not sure. Cory looks like he has worked for his money today. I'm staring at a mound of belongings that need urgent organisation. Boy dreaming of act 9 and peanut butter crackers perhaps.
We're back on the road.
Overcome somewhat with gratitude for these privileged touring travails....