Tuesday, July 20, 2004

jumpin’ julia

Yesterday was the day the Powers let us take off, probably because it was Monday and union actors don’t work Mondays, so there was no show for us to see. We scattered from the dorm like the seeds of a blown dandelion; I don’t think anyone stuck around, except possibly openmouthguy, who is becoming increasingly angry at various things going on around him. But I digress. Most of the actors decamped for New York last night, in a great rushing flood of ringing cell phones and kisses. We critics took it a little easier, leaving at a leisurely hour this morning for the ferries and train.

One group went over to Block Island, where they rented bicycles and rode around getting sunburnt and having, by all accounts, a lovely time. Quiche and I went into town to eat lunch, and then took Amtrak to Mystic.

I have to talk about lunch for a minute. Quiche recently left the Bay Area to work for a St. Louis paper, where she writes about interior design. She says that while she’s not married to a particular design style, she’s definitely not in the wooden-ducks-with-ribbons camp, if you know what I mean. Clean and contemporary is what I’m getting from her. So imagine her discomfort, sitting in Anastacia’s, completely inundated with doilies, little blue and white ceramic cats, vases, and candy dishes, soft-focus photos of little girls clutching buckets of shells, and fake flowering vines twining through the whole mess. Did I mention the shells? Did I mention the things made out of shells?

I thought she was going to plotz. Her breathing did get a little funny, but I made her talk about work and she seemed to calm down. And lunch was delish, even if calling a single half-slice of orange "fruit" on the menu is a little rich.

As for Mystic, which I have now seen as many times as I shall ever need to: there is some great ice cream there. Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream came through for us, and featured an enthusiastically-painted mural of the town of Mystic, as populated by cows. Mostly black-and-white cows, although there were a few brown ones (which looked suspiciously like horses; they were kind of tall for cows) and one black one hanging out in a barn. Cows eating ice cream, which seemed wrong to both of us. It’s like eating a treat made from your own frozen sweat, I said to Quiche, but I don’t think she heard me. Correction: I hope she didn’t. I barely know her, and that was exactly the sort of smartass comment I tend to make before I’ve gauged whether the other participant can handle my occasional crudeness, and then I’m sure they think I’m sort of creepy or a dweeb or whatever, and you just can’t spend all your time worrying about that sort of thing. The night before I’d managed to keep myself from asking if anyone at the dinner table ever wondered what human flesh tastes like, so I thought I was doing pretty well. But then I busted out the frozen sweat thing. Sigh. At least I have a fairly soft little voice; I probably say all sorts of dreadful things nobody hears.

Anyway. She recommends the Mango Tango and Black Raspberry sorbets; I had the Mystic Mud, which is chocolate ice cream with chocolate chunks and brownie pieces and fudge and M&M’s, also very tasty. If you should find yourself in Mystic.

Yes, that Mystic, the one in the Julia Roberts pizza movie. We’d been warned not to eat at the real Mystic Pizza, but we did look in the windows to ascertain whether there were pictures of Julia inside (yes). Then we clambered back down the hill, past the shops and galleries and places to buy fudge (what is it with tourist traps and fudge? Is fudge the bait?) and set out north, hoping to see Mystic Seaport and Olde Mistick Village.

One word. Don’t. The former sports a seventeen-clam entry fee, just to look at some boats and a little museum, and the latter is a retail hell on earth for snotty San Franciscans. Even the import shop, for which I had such high hopes, couldn’t do better than little toy cats made from rabbit fur and a few stuffed bullfrogs hand-carried, the sign said, from Honduras.

Hold this image in your head for a minute. You’re on a plane from, oh, Miami to Seattle. You’ve made your connection with seconds to spare, sprinting through the endless expanses of that insane airport. You have a green salad in a sealed plastic bowl and an eight-dollar bottle of water to last you the whole trip. You’re cranky. Plane’s still on the tarmac; a skinny girl in the aisle is vainly trying to mash a too-large rollaboard into the overhead compartment and there’s a flight attendant on the PA demanding that everyone get their asses into seats right now so the plane can take off. You’re excited because the seat next to you is empty; maybe you’ll be able to lie down once the flight takes off. And then a man in leather sandals is stumbling and bumbling down the aisle. He’s got bags. He’s got boxes. He’s got things on straps that bump people’s heads as he walks past.

And he’s heading for that empty seat. He drops one bag onto it, a sack, a burlap sack maybe. It’s lumpy. It smells odd. He’s opening the overhead compartment: no space! He’s looking in the others: no space! Finally he manages to stow all of his bags and boxes and things on straps but one.

The bag in the seat next to you. The lumpy sack. Are those itty bitty claws sticking through the loose weave? He’s apologetic as he lifts the bag, slides into the seat, buckles up. Guess I’ll just need to hold these through the flight, he says, they’re fragile. The bag shifts in his hands and you hear things clacking against each other. D’ya like frogs?

Quiche couldn’t even stay in the store with me; she had to go outside and sit in the shade and call someone, probably her KA (Kitsch Anonymous) mentor, on her cell phone. I lasted long enough to learn that my Egyptian astrological sign is Osiris (great, I’m a guy who gets killed repeatedly by Seth and then revived by my sister/wife so I can get killed again. Oh, and my testicles get involved in some bad way) and my African sign is ‘a harvest in the granary’, whatever the hell that means (apparently my skin and bones are very sensitive, and I have a dual nature.) Then I waved goodbye to the frogs and got out.