Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Wiz

Seriously. How does my hair know I’m on my way to Seattle? It has been fluffy enough for weeks, and today it is hanging in flat, greasy hanks even though I washed it two hours ago.

Z reports that he is sick with a sore throat, so this might not be the twelve-day lovefest I’d been imagining. Oh well. I bought him fleecey pajama bottoms and a robe for his belated birthday, so maybe this will be the visit of loungewear and medicinal cocktails.

I’m at the airport, looking at the Indianapolis skyline, popping its collective head up like a tenacious prairie dog. It’s funny how the size of Indy shifts depending on where I’ve been. If I haven’t been anywhere for awhile, it seems like the big city. But in the last month I’ve been to St. Paul, New York City, and Chicago, so it sort of looks like a miniature golf course today.

To celebrate her birthday, my mother and I went to New York a couple of weeks ago. Other than rain and blistered feet, it was a near perfect trip. She hadn’t been since 1979, so it was like visiting a completely different place. Clean, for instance. Mary Poppins and Spamalot tickets on sale in Times Square instead of cocaine and sex. iPods thrumming quietly thru earphones instead of ghetto blasters the size of VW Beetles hoisted on the shoulders of passersby. A lot has been written about the Disneyfication of New York, both good and bad, and I was ever so briefly nostalgic for the sense that the City could eat a person whole and not even bother to belch up the bones yet here was I, fearlessly leading my mother around like a pro. But there’s a lot to be said for clean and safe and not hostile to tourists when you are a hayseed from Indiana who wants to feel like a native. Within our first hour there we were meandering thru the park on our way to meet a former colleague of mine for lunch just like we do that sort of thing all the time. Except the Cannon Elph getting whipped out every ten paces to take photos of Alice in Wonderland and Hans Christian Andersen and the horse drawn carriages and the skyline probably blew our cover.

What I’ve discovered about going to New York is that no matter what you saw or what you did, when you get back the only thing anybody will ask you is what shows you saw. Nobody cares that we strolled around the market at Union Square munching on the best apples ever grown or that we watched dogs frolic at two different dog parks or that I tricked Mom into going to Ground Zero though she had made me promise not to drag her there simply because I felt the need to see the space before it is filled in and up or that in a weak moment we decided it would be “fun” to go to the Sex Museum on Fifth Avenue. No sir. All people want to know is if we saw Jersey Boys or Clueless. And when you say, “No, I don’t really like theatre,” there’s this look you see flicker across the eyes that indicates your stock as a sophisticated person has just plummeted.

The only thing I hate worse than theatre is musical theatre, but given the negative response to not having taken advantage of Broadway, I agreed to go see Wicked in Chicago last week with my oldest friend, the Annie Leibovitz of Eastern Indiana. I was optimistic going in. People love the show. I like The Wizard of Oz. Also, they were selling necklaces that said “Oz” but the “Z” was the prominent thing, and I was sure when the show was over, I’d be more than willing to plunk down whatever ridiculous price they were charging for it in honor of my non-emerald Z.

Five minutes in, I was in agony from all the projecting and enunciating. The costumes and lights and what I’ve come to think of as “arm acting” distracted me from the story. The theatre was hot and the woman sitting next to me was a leg jiggler and the girl behind me sang all the songs with gusto, not at all embarrassed. It seemed a complete impossibility to me that Leibovitz wasn’t as miserable as I was, so at half-time, er, intermission, I looked at her expectantly, assuming we would be blowing the place in lieu of a couple of hours browsing thru books and sipping cocoa in the Borders overlooking the Water Tower. Instead, she nodded her head happily and said, “It’s goooood, isn’t it?” So I escaped to the restroom, called Z, and begged him to call in a threat of some sort, but even he let me down and said he was afraid such an action would have a negative impact on his visa. So I suffered thru. I dozed. I pretended to care about the plight of the anti-hero, all the while wondering if there was some sort of Clinque product that could reduce her green pallor, and when the house lights came up, I nearly wept with relief. Thank goodness no precious New York minutes were wasted on Broadway.

(And no, I did not buy the commemorative Oz necklace.)

Plane is boarding. I’m off to see the sore-throated but otherwise Great and Powerful Z.

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