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California, New Zealand. Two passports, two homelands. And detours.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Into the groove

So I know I should be really really excited to be flown back up to Wellington tomorrow for the Royal New Zealand Ballet production of Giselle. And I am excited, don't get me wrong here. What's not to adore about ditching a hospital advisory committee meeting and weather that's driving me nuts for an overnight in one of my favourite cities in the world (that's a big status for a city to get, but for beauty, people-coolness, memories and general magic it slides in just after Madrid).  And I'm really really grateful (little wave there to the RNZB PR person if you come across this blog) to do this twice in one year. I had an amazing two days in August for the opening of Cinderella, which was gorgeous, and fascinating to watch unfold from master class, to costume studio, to stage that night. I used to work at the bar across the street from the St James Theatre and serve people who had come from the evenings at the ballet. They were always buzzing and chatty - its kind of lovely to be on the other side of that now. 
One of the perks is that the ''official'' company hotel where the journalists covering the opening get chucked for the night is the Museum Hotel, a place I always loved wandering past when I was a poor scriptwriting student, with cloth bags and exactly six dollars in change to buy fruit and veges at the farmer's market on the waterfront on Sundays. After the August opening - also, you may have noticed, my tweeting debut, a painful birth -  I made sure I had a cocktail in the lounge upstairs  that looked over that waterfront and and after finishing my story, sat back in the plush, velvety cushions, sipped my drink and said a little prayer of graditude for the years when little adventures can come with a steady income trickling in (emphasis on trickle).
So the reason I'm not really really excited this time around:
I have to tie these trips to some kind of local angle to Southland. Last time - after a shake down of the company - it turned out there was a class pianist who had lived in Invercargill as a kid. This time there was no such luck.
It was then suggested by the chief reporter (with a wolfish grin) that I could be the local angle.
I could request to take part in the master class and do it as a first person piece.
I laughed, cringed at the thought, protested a little, then sent off the request to the company, thankful in advance for tight policy restrictions that would kill this idea fast. But last week, they got back to me in an email.
Everything was cleared. The director would be expecting me at the warmup class at 6.
Great. Awesome.
In the car in front of the gym the other night - a place I've been spending a lot of time since I got that email - I talked to my dad about the new story angle and he reminded me of the ballet, jazz and modern dance classes I used to take with Madame Christine in Santa Ynez until I was about 11.
Did I remember those classes?
Seriously? Every time I hear Get Into the Groove, I am mentally crossing a mirrored room, in a horizontal-striped turquoise leotard doing that skip, skip, arms out ''grapevine'' move. And unfortunately that song gets a lot of airplay on Southland radio (farmers love Madonna).
On Saturday, I bought new yoga pants at the Warehouse, and I've gone through every workout top I have that I wouldn't think twice running on an empty beach in. But alongside 32 bodies that are born to transcend normal limitations in front of floor to ceiling mirrors on all sides...there's no hope in hell of this being anything but Josie Grosie going back to high school.
I've had to abandon the idea of having any dignity in this situation. So while I'm dignity-less, in tribute to my inner 7-year-old dancing queen, I found a horizontal top, kind of a turquoisy green, that I think I look kind of nifty in.
I'm gonna rock this class.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

oh! you pretty things

I organised my own retreat this weekend to this place, my bed du jour, to have a think about life.
In the past the mattress and the view here have been a pretty scenic perch to work through big decisions. Which I seem to have a lot of right now.This is a studio in Curio Bay - about an hour from Invercargill - and besides having a bed made of driftwood, separated from the beach only by a sliding glass door, it has the best power shower in the world, a jar of coffee beans next to a grinder in the top cupboard, and a really great stereo system, with a stack of scratched-up CDs, the best of which - in my extensive research throughout Saturday evening, with a leftover birthday bottle of Pinot gris - was a '96 David Bowie greatest hits album.
I actually don't know Bowie that well. But the more I gazed out to the horizon and gave deep and reflective thought to the big questions in my life that seem to require an immediate decision from me, the more compelled I was to swan back over to the stereo and press repeat on track 4.

During my retreat, no cell phone, no internet,  I listened to the ocean, watched half of Midnight in Paris, slept for ten hours, became a big Bowie fan, and I don't know at exactly what point the switch finally flipped, but driving back home on Sunday I felt a lot of hope about whatever is on that big fat beautiful horizon.

So no epiphanies for me this weekend. Just rest. Which was maybe what I really needed.

Anyway, track 4, going out to all you overthinkers...


Thursday, June 21, 2012

I just want to see some palm trees

My evening routine for the last five weeks has gone a bit like this (except tonight; still at work at 1am, trying write about neuromodulation and phantom pain at a fifth grade reading level. The below is waiting for me out there): 
Lean into the rain, wind, sleet coming at me head on, all the way to my car; drive home in the dark, which has been dark since about 5 pm, put on merino wool socks in the dark. Crank up the heat in the dark. Maybe punch on a light, finally. Turn on the evening news, drag my duvet to the lounge, heat up chicken soup in the kitchen, put the kettle on, stir soup, then organise myself on the couch - soup, socks, duvets, polka-dot covered hot water bottle, and open my laptop and cruise expedia.co. nz for the kind of hotel room in Los Angeles that I can wake up in on Monday morning in sunlit sheets, eyelids fluttering then opening to see palm trees and a pool, maybe hear a fountain somewhere, and I will think ah shoot its light outside, I'm late for work.
And then it will wash over me and everything in me will just exhale, unravel.
 Hello holiday.
And I will roll over, curl up, and go back to sleep, sun in hair, on shoulders, music from about a million different radio stations on the streets.

I'm loving the idea of spending just one night in the city I'm always only just passing through, even though I know I'm supposed to be sleeping off jet lag before getting on a flight overseas the next afternoon.
Cristi Silva, my best friend from high school, is driving down from Santa Barbara for the night. I'm so excited.
She said we can go anywhere I want in LA Sunday night. The town is ours.
You know where I want to go? About five metres away to the hotel pool. I want to eat baked Doritos, drink diet root beer, flip through a stack of really bad, pointless magazines, maybe even bridal magazines and hold up the pictures and do the Psycho theme and then you know where I want to go to dinner?
International House of Pancakes.
Maybe Carrows. Is there a Baker's Square in L.A.? I want waffles and streaky bacon for dinner. I want to be my 15-year-old self again. Eat cool whip on toast with strawberry jam.
And then crawl back to bed.
I've been planning on waking up in L.A. for about six weeks now. I don't know why it represents everything I feel I need right now. There is a lovely, very mature, international itinerary that unfolds in the days after.
This is also one of my first holidays as an adult that isn't an actual life move.
Its just a holiday and I love that I do want to come back to where I am now in a month.
I want to come back to post offices with 'please remove muddy boots' signs, and quiz nights at the pub, mulled wine, dessert nights, mid-winter dinners, snow on the mountains, Jamie Oliver cooking shows, freezing cold winds at Oreti beach, long baths on winter mornings listening to Beth Orton, opening up the bathroom window to see the frost covering everything outside. Persimmons and pears and grated nutmeg in porridge.
I love that this holiday is supposed to be just that, a month to just relax a little bit and think about what's next. And be thankful.
(And eat baked doritos and wear big sunglasses by a pool and sleep till noon like a rock star).

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

memorials in small towns

Last March I went running on a back road near Kurow, a farming town in the middle of the South Island, where I was spending a lot of time then. It was autumn, like now, and the light on the hills in the early evening was changing. There aren't many trees in the area; it was dusk on this road  and so I made it my aim to run to the one big oak tree in the distance, before turning back. It was planted by an old farmhouse on a long straight road.

When I got there the lights had been turned on in the front of the house. I didn't want to hang around too long; I worry about dogs. But then I saw that under tree, near the roots, there was a plaque that had been placed in the ground. Weeds were growing up around it.  I stopped and crouched down to look and pushed the weeds back, and on the plaque,  mossy and faded so you could hardly read it were the names of two boys who died, one killed in Italy and one in Africa, in WWI. The surname of the brothers was still the same one the mailbox almost ninety years later. You look at that one mailbox, one farm, in the middle of the  mountains and two losses for a mailbox out here seems pretty unbearable.

Memorials  - sometimes trees with plaques, but more often in stone or concrete - are usually in the centre of towns, I've found, but not always down here. When I started writing this, I remembered this photo I took two years ago. You have to look hard, but there is a war memorial for WWI in the paddock below the house. That was what I first saw when I stopped the car, this structure in the middle of nowhere. When I hopped over the fence and climbed up towards it, I saw this house, with open windows, curtains blowing, vacant for years.

Down the road, in a nursing home on the coast, this woman I interviewed about Anzac Day, Lorraine, who is 92, said there were always dances going on in those years, for men coming home and the farmboys leaving during WWII at the town halls. They were boys you had known from birth, who were like brothers, and boys you had crushes on, and maybe that one boy who drove you crazy, that you couldn't get off your mind. She said they would dance all night until that last slow song Wish Me Luck, a song that she still hated, because it was always the song that ended the night. You wouldn't want to let them go. But you could never let that show in your eyes.

I don't know if Memorial Days are more haunting to me now because I am older, or because I live in a rural area with an ageing demographic who weren't raised to give grief a lot of room, and you see how many names are engraved on these plaques and memorials, how many trees are planted for a soldier who didn't come home, and you wonder who was left in these towns to love.

Yesterday was Memorial Day in the U.S. It just made me think about this...

Sunday, March 25, 2012


This last Saturday, walking through rain, hood up and rapidly blinking water off my eyelashes, I listened to a man walking a few feet in front of me talk over his shoulder about a play that ran at the Fortune Theatre in Dunedin called Belong.
We weren't talking about theatre in general, but he began talking - or shouting; it was raining and we could barely hear each other - about it after I joked that I still get my feelings hurt a little bit if someone mimics the way I speak.
It was just an aside comment and I didn't give it much thought when I said that. It's not a big deal when someone does it, but it gets tiring that there is still a place in my head that recoils to hear how different I sound to people and suddenly the way I pronounce herbal and scone becomes yet another quiet, cold assurance - face to the wind - that no matter where I go in the world, I will always be an interloper.
He told me the play was about people coming to New Zealand and trying to make a home here and be accepted by the communities they had moved into. He described a whole story line that I don't remember. But I understood why he mentioned the play. That what he heard in my voice was a desire to belong, and that it was not unusual for here, and some playwright recently had been able to capture that in a three-act play.
Milford was as stunning as it has been for a thousand years; I have pictures.
But the part I loved the most about walking for four days through glacial valleys, under icy peaks, passing waterfalls you can't even see the top of and pools of water that reflect all this, after years of just hanging out around Milford's boundaries, was having a woman named Judith come find me in the lobby of Pompolona Lodge after I had taken off my pack, sit down next to me and ask if I was Gwyneth Hyndman - and tell me her mother was a Hyndman, and she always looked for my byline in the newspaper, which always came a few days late with the supplies, because apparently I am a lost, but now returning member of the Southland Hyndmans. They know I am here, she told me. And I thought, weird, but I was kind of thrilled by this.
I have this picture I took of it as my screensaver. Every time I see it I am reminded that someone saw my name down on the dinner list and she came out and found me in a group of strangers and drew three generations of Hyndmans from memory (then the rain got into my pack and soaked the paper, but I put it together a bit and took a picture of it).
But there was something about walking out of the mountains with a piece of paper like this, that I can draw a line to and say - if I am mimic-ed - this me, right here, and these are my people.