Thursday, September 28, 2006

Cease to resist, giving my goodbye

Drive my car into the ocean
You think I'm dead
But I sail away
On a wave of mutilation
Wave of mutilation
Wave of mutilation
Wave Wave...

So. About Portland. And The Oregon Coast. I swear that place is the home of Swamp Thing. Although currently in a drought, and somewhat "brown" according to locals, the vegetation encroaches upon the homes and man-made constructs, threatening, if not constantly cut back at to be kept at bay, to simply swallow buildings whole, turning them into so much wooden mulch.

I have never been in a city that felt like a forest before.

On Thursday night at 11 PM, Amber met me at the airport. Mind you I had just been in Albuquerque two days prior to that, the place Amber had only recently escaped from the sandy jaws of. "You look so pissed off!" she exclaimed. I guess I just had my traveling face on. Soon I was smiling expansively, being putted to her home in her little light blue VW Bug, almost, but not quite, as cute as Amber. After libations, she ushered me in to sleep in her princess bed, so named because of the giant gauzy white curtains that envelop it. Strange dreams, and an early awakening to go surprise Brandy, the birthday girl, at a little breakfast place on Mississippi Avenue, called Gravy.

Brandy was as surprised as a psychic Virgo girl can be.

After, what else, biscuits and the best gravy I have had, gravy that makes a grown woman want to weep, Brandy and James took me to see the city from above. It was bigger than I would have thought, patches of concrete and stands of trees. So much water, and bridges everywhere. And then we were off like a shot to part 2 of Brandy's surprise, a 2 night stay at a B&B on the coast of Oregon at a place called Sand Lake. We had the 2nd floor of this adorable cottagey place, that was partially made from logs that were hauled from the crash site of a pirate ship, back in the day. Since Brandy and I come from Sir Francis Drake's family and are therefore pyratical cousins somehow of some sort, we thought that was especially cool. Possibly haunted pirate logs? "Shiver me timbers," indeed!

We asked about the ocean- where was it and how could we get there as soon as possible? Our inn keeper said the closet beach was a playground for atv's and dirtbikes. Why I didn't put together the name "Sand Lake" and "Moto-Cross Maniacs" I do not know. No really, they were only a distant occasional buzzing, like metallic flies. So we went south down the coast instead, to Cape Kiwanda, and Haystack Rock. Nice. I mean nice. The beach was beautiful- people were everywhere, but no up your ass like on Cali beaches. We had lunch, and flew kites, or tried to, in my case and enjoyed the sun all afternoon.

Birthday surprise part 3 was a bottle of absinthe Sam got for Brandy in Moscow, that I brought up there for her. The front of the bottle said something hilarious and nonsensical- like, "The look grows warm...the color expands...and the hand is delicately taken by an angel." We got duh-runk that night, and looked at things with the telescope, things that might have been stars, if our eyes could have stopped crossing. Beautiful night on the patio. Unfortunately, one of our intrepid trio, who shall remain unnamed, said that their hand was indeed delicately taken by an angel. And angel that took them straight to the toilet, for many many hours. Good times.

The next morning we picked blackberries which grow wild everywhere, and it was one of the most sensual things I have ever experienced. Plump black berries, juices. Yeah. Anyway, we head off to the beach in blissful abandon. Many trucks have parked on the sand, and since the lot is full, we try to follow suit. Soon James is not sure this is a good idea. Just then, we are stuck. People help push us forward. We keep going forward, but then realize the further we go from the hard packed dirt, the further we will have to go on the way out, and we don't really want to be stuck after sundown, because we plan to relax all day. We will have to turn around where we are, near the water's edge, get back to the hard pack, and go park elsewhere.

Well now.

We got stuck trying to do that. Our back wheels were down to the hubcars in thick wet sand. The beach people who had said that it would be ok to back up into that sand then stepped back and said, "well, now you've got problems." Then the tide, which before this moment had been going out, turned around, looked at us, laughed, and started coming in. Panic ensued. It was the most intense 6 minutes ever. We tried to push it out, and I was covered in sand from head to toe by the spinning wheel. We begged for help. A man with a big truck and a little rope came and tried to pull us out, but the rope snapped and the water got deeper. Inexplicably, both Brandy and I retrieved our purses and put them on the sand lest the ocean take those too. Because the truck was probably a goner. "You've got about 2 minutes, two minutes, " a beach guy said. I was running up the beach, waving my arms in the air, like I really did care, - oh how I cared- begging for a tow rope. Someone produced one just when I though all was lost. 6 of us lifted that truck out of the ocean like motherlovin' superheroes as the big truck pulled us out to relative safety.

"Jesus." "Jesus Christ." We kept saying. That truck got stuck about 4 more times on the way up to the parking lot. We could not believe it when we finally parked on the beautiful, beautiful asphalt. We apologized to the truck for being such imbeciles and then changed our clothes so as not to be recognized as the idiots from New Mexico who drove their truck onto the beach without 4 wheel drive. A thick fog rolled in and stayed all day, covering Haystack Rock. Amber and Sarah and the boys came to meet us on the beach, unaware of our gigantic truck eating ocean ordeal. They commiserated with us and then everyone spent time exploring the caves and rocks along the beach, or building sand castles, or in my case, exploring the inner world while lazing on a blanky. We also had lavender creme brulee made by James with a blowtorch and drinks mixed up from Amber's amazing vintage bar-in-a-small-suitcase.

That night I returned with Amber so Brandy and James could have a night alone on the coast and I could hang out with my old friend John, which was grand. Unfortunately, Amber lost her grandmother that day which she found out that night, and we had to see her off back to ABQ in the morning. It was pretty awful but she has been strong. After that, Sarah and Sampson and Alex graciously showed me around Saturday Market downtown, and it was a nice time. Brandy collected me once she and James returned home, and we had a nice night out with John again, back on Mississippi Avenue, at The Crow Bar.

Next day I had to go home. I did not really want to, except for seeing my husband and going to Europe and all. Brandy and James took me to a cool place called The Kennedy School which is run by these guys, the McMenamin brothers, that have all kinds of properties up there that they convert into these hotel/bar/movie theatre/restaurant places. Really original stuff. The Kennedy School is an old school that now has a nice restaurant and patio and several classroom bars (like the seedier Detention Room or the Non Smoking Honor Society room). You can rent out the gym and have an adult prom there. You can get a room. You can see a movie or get into the soaking pool. It is full of beautiful artwork, and murals. I loved it.

Incidentally, getting back to the encroaching vegetation idea, at another of their properties, called Edgefield, whilst hacking away the wild blackberries that had grown everywhere, they found an entire house they did not even know was on the land there. Amazing.

So after that, I read Brandy's cards in a beautiful rose garden in a beautiful park, and we talked of plays and love and plans and life and then I had to go. But I'll be back, most definitely. Next time I'll know to stay a bit further back from the waves.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


That's German for "cheers"! But you have to look the your toastmate in the eye as you clink glasses. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The rest of London was a dream. Tuesday we went to Sam's elementary school, a charming single brick building with one classroom for each grade. The headmaster was the same as when Sam was there, and he greeted him with a hearty, "Sammy Gendler!" He led us around the school, where the little boys are as polite as the Dickens, and two of Sam's old teachers tried to enumerate Sam's shenanigans. They call former students "Old Boys" and the "Little Boys" look at them like heroes. Cutetasticness. Then we shopped for Docs in Camden and it was great fun. I got a pair of more sophisticated boots there, no eyelets, just lots of straps and buckles and zippers. When my mother in law saw my new boots, she nearly stole them from my feet, so we ordered her a pair. Birthday gift resolved! That night we had dinner at the flat with some family friends and stayed up talking quite late. So we never went out for local music, but we were content. The English have a hot chocolate pudding dessert called Gu that is pretty decadent. We got our first night of almost normal sleep. Heaven.
Wednesday we helped move large furniture around in the flat and clean out the basement. They discovered a set of kitchen curtains down there that they wanted to re-hang, circa 1984. They looked like Lionel Ritchie's pants, so we had to put our collective foot down hard on that. We met the caretakers of the building who were delightful and talked about when they used to watch Sam and sometimes call into his highschool pretending he was sick so he could play hooky. Funny. Then we collected a cake from the patisserie up the street, and a card for Sandy's birthday.
We then hustled into town for dinner and Brecht at the National Theatre, which is just a mind blowing facility. Multiple stages, live music playing, a formal restaurant, several cafes, art exhibitions, just grand. The Theatre Olivier must seat a few thousand people, it is a gorgeous stage with enough lighting positions to boggle the mind. The production was fantastic, though not what I was expecting. I did not notice that the adaptation was by David Hare, who I love as a modern dramatist. But I felt he took a lot of the Brecht out of Brecht, turning it into a sort of contemporary, easily digestible play, with only a taste of the cabaret numbers and hugely theatrical moments Brecht is known for. So although it was brilliant, my favorite part was the single cabaret scene he chose to include and expand, which was truly dark and outrageous and showmanlike and enveloping. But it didn't fit with the rest of his adaptation in any way. Ah well... the play was so timely it was shocking, the church's refusal of Gallileo's theories mirroring our current administration's refusal of global warming and other issues almost exactly. Uncanny, rich stuff. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world to be there.
Thursday late morning we left for for Munich, arriving early evening and immediately consuming schnitzel. If you don't know what that is, you may not want to. The we met up with 3 of Sam's Russian engineers and his partner in crime, Chris. We had many beers at the Haufbrauhaus, which is an absolute trip. The next day we got up and I put on my dirndl. We went to Sam's office, where about 40 people were putting on rented German costumes, watching a cheezy corporate slideshow, and learning key German drinking songs. Yes, ladies, I do have pictures of Sam in lederhosen. He was very appealing in them. We proceeded to the Oktoberfest at high noon, which is kind of like a giant state fair with rides and beer tents. Our tent was called Hippodrom, though I am not sure why. It was big and yellow and filled with picnic tables, of which we filled four. I had many many very large beers over the course of the next 5 hours, and some traditional German food. Then we all stumbled out to ride rides. Oh, it was great fun. Drunk bumper cars were especially good. Sam got hit on constantly all day, and I was approached a few times until I realized I had my apron strings tied on the incorrect side, indicating I was available. After I switched it, all was well. But a side note is that German men actually do "catcall", making little kitty gathering kissy sounds at women as they pass. Disconcerting. Anyway, Sam won me several cute toys at German shooting games and we were at our hotel, passed out before midnight. Crazy.
Some of the company then went on a 4 hour hike at 7 am the next day, but we were not among them. On our single day alone together of the whole vacation, we spent much of it in bed, which was so lovely. Then we shopped at a place called Marianplatz, and ate ice cream and good things like that. That night we had Mexican food (HA!) with the Russians, and explained things like taco shells and other English words for lady's breasts. The waitress felt Sam up on the way out (I'm telling you, I needed a stick) and we found our way home. I had to get up three hours later to go to the airport, and had a 20 hour long traveling day on Sunday. Yes, I am home. It is strange and good, and I feel replenished. Next time, I promise to talk about the Portland trip, which was full of strange and sometimes wonderful things, too.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

More theatre, vicar?

Hi. Where were we? I am losing count of the things already. The end of last week is a bit blurry. We went to Future City, an exhibit at the Barbican, a looming monstrosity of a museum. This show was about architects and designers as far back as the 20's trying to create futuristic home and building styles for the utopia to come. It was pretty funny. There were designs from the LSD days that really took the cake- one was called "Instant City", which consisted of a blimp, which would hover over a city dropping down components to modernize the place, like a giant stage for a disco/discussion room, and other hippy notions. Most of the other places just looked wickedly uncomfortable. That night we went back to our favorite pub in Highgate, which was quite the party.

I think that was Thursday. Yes. Friday we slept in and had a long lunch, then Sam's mom came in from Arizona and we talked and had dinner and a walk. Somehow this took the whole day.

Saturday was marathon shopping with Sam's parents. Sam opted out of this somehow. Sam's mom is fantastic, but exhausting to shop with. We scoured every major department store on Oxford Street for bed linens, towels, cutlery, dishes, et all. By the time we were done, we barely fit into the taxi with out haul. Of course, it was any girl's wet shopping dream come true, except with housewares instead of frocks. Saturday night we went to see A Moon For The Misbegotten by O'Neill, at the Old Vic, starring Kevin Spacey, who is AD there, and Colm Meaney, who were brilliant. Eve Best was a fantastic Josie, if a bit too thin for the role, and other that the fact that the theatre was boiling hot, it was an exemplary evening of theatre. But seriously, Kevin needs to talk to his board about getting some AC up in that Mofo. I had to remove my leather boots to keep from fainting. Afterwards we roamed West End Lane, gathering chocolates and other late night treats. Very good, indeed.

Sunday Sam and I did a bit of shopping, which actually was a wash as the entire street I wanted to shop was closed, so we ended up going for a quick peek at St. Paul's Cathedral (they are not kidding around with this church. It is right monumental) and then on to the Tate Modern (just across the Milennium Bridge) to see the Kandinsky exhibit, who we both love alot. It was interesting- mostly his early work leading up to his work in abstraction. It also happened to be the Thames Festival, so we walked around the public dancing, trapeze acts, great smelling foods, vendors, and everything else set up along the river. It was pretty grand. We walked by The Globe Theatre, but did not have a tour as it was during intermission for a show. I do want to go there, but don't relish the idea of standing up for a whole performance of something like Antony and Cleopatra or Troilus & Cressida, even if it does have Patrick Stuart in it. Lazy American, perhaps, but I'm not up for it yet. And after all that, we went to see The Queen, the movie with Helen Mirren. Sam found it to be Labour Party propaganda, but since I'm not too versed in UK politics, I thought it was pretty great.

Yesterday was Monday. Sam miraculously took me to Harrods. Oh, ladies. This is where all good ladies should go when they die. At least for those of us who like to shop. You name the designer, they are there. You name the item, it is there, but only the very highest quality example of it. Rooms of pianos, guitars, old maps, art, furniture, clothing, jewels, candy, scarves. Missoni hosiery, That's all I am saying. Missoni hosiery. Apparently you can buy exotic animals there somehow, to donate to zoos and such. Outrageous and fabulous, lots of Egyptian stylings, since it is owned by the Fayed family (I think Dodi's dad), and there is the most hilarious statue I have ever seen of Dodi and Di done up in bronze, hands outstretched holding a dove, the words "Innocent Victims" emblazoned at their feet. Oh, the tremendously rich... After Harrods, (where Sam lucked out as all I bought were some soaps for gifts) we went to a few more places and came home to meet the folks before going to the Hampstead Theatre. There we saw a great production of Everything is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer, one of our favorite writers. It was adapted by SImon Block, pretty successfully, and the guy playing Alex was spot-on. A great theatre, very nearby, very modernised and somehow supported by local government. Can you even imagine?

Ok, Sam is clamoring for the computer, and then we are off to find his mom a birthday present, and some Doc Martin's for Sam. Tonight we may try to take in some local music. Tomorrow is our last full London day, during which we will see Brecht at the National Theatre, which makes me shiver with delight, then on to Oktoberfest. Do I really have to ever come home? You all need to start making plans to come out here in the next year or so. Seriously.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Can I get a wot, wot?

I am in London, in ye olde in-law's flat, sipping 16 year old Lagavulin, luxuriating after a fine Italian dinner during which my husband nearly set the table on fire. Ah, it was raining lightly as we walked home, just glorious. I think we just may have to move here. The flat is a bit run down, so I have been polishing brass and helping Alan to clean a bit, but mostly Sam and I have been exploring the city. Let's see... first we went to Camden Market, simply the most amazing amalgamation of humanity I have ever seen. Punk rockers and grandmas, tattoos and antiques. Much fun was had, and a bit o' shopping, too. The sweaters! The socks! The scarves! Oh, my! Then we saw the city from Primrose Hill, London's only truly elevated point. Lovely. Unseasonably warm. Sunday we went to the Tower of London, which was the coolest site I have been to, for sure. Plus I just read a book about Elizabeth I and am quite obsessed with her reign, her imprisonment, the Earl of Essex, et all. And, unlike American parks and museums, you can just sit around on the grounds for as long as you want. And I got to see the crown jewels, which satisfies my inner magpie.

Yesterday we went to seedy Kilburn and had the best Schwerma ever, and last night we went our friends' new pub in Highgate, full of beautiful old homes and curving streets. The cobbles! The pub is called The Princess Alexandria, and we got to sit at a table of locals and close the place down, talking of politics, and traveling, and the wonders of the world. We took a cab home in the rain- which is disconcerting being on the wrong side of the street the whole time- you don't notice it as much on buses, and we have spent most of our journeying time on the Tube, of course, so- whoa. Today we went to see Wicked, which sucks the royal arsehole, for sure. Do not go see this pap. I heard the book was pretty good, and it seemed like a fun concept, but lord, have mercy, did it ever bite the wax tadpoe. Oh, yes, it did. All Andrew Lloyd Webberfied, as Sam likes to put it, and saccharine and predictable, and sentimental, and trite. Blech. But tomorrow is another day, and I think we will go to the Barbican to see Future City, which I will tell you all about. And maybe a 900 year old pub.

And so much more is in store. I just had to pop in to log a bit of the trip, before there is too much to say. And I know I have not even mentioned the amazing things that happened up in Portland, and I will. Soon. But first, I must move forward through this particular adventure, and the Munich Madness...