I don't write too many traditional "this is what our family is up to!" kind of posts (do I?) but I can't resist with this one.
David had to give one of his mysterious "presentations" up in LA (I ask so few questions, just hope they have nothing to do with strippers or Ponzi schemes) and had to be there at 9:00 a.m. on a Saturday. Did I mention we live 2.5 hours from LA? But he was determined (or obligated, or some such nonsense) so he made a suggestion: did Jarrah and I want to meet him afterwards? We could take the train, and we've been wanting to see the latest Troubadours show, and the theater is right down the block from where he'd be.
My automatic response was "Are you on crack?" I had a hard time visualizing anything fun about spending more than two hours on the train with Jarrah--by MYSELF--and then spending a long day dragging a napless crankster behind us when we were already exhausted.
Well, Readers, we went anyway. And it really was mostly delightful. Emboldened by our recent upgrade on the Catalina ferry, I booked Business Class seats on the Amtrak. Oooh, naughty! And nice. I chalked it up to sound planning: I was going to be alone with an unpredictable small person, and Saturdays on the train are crowded and crazy. I spent about an hour (I've noticed a strange, new obsessive side to myself since parenthood, in which I fixate on small, meaningless tasks for long periods of time) gathering "printables" (who knew this was a whole genre?) from the internet from Nick Jr. and PBS. I packed a bag with books, markers, crayons, Scotch tape, glue sticks, collage paper, construction paper, coloring pages and lollipops (reading that over, I really do sound crazy) and tested the weight of my bag in advance.
I needn't have bothered. We got in the car later than I'd planned and had to park about three miles from the depot. I had to wait in a long line to print out my tickets (feeling like my head was going to explode from trying to read, think, bat Jarrah's fingers away from the buttons, answer her questions, and ignore the frantic queries of the lady behind me) and then had to run to the train because we were on the wrong platform for Business Class. By the time we got upstairs, sweating, there were no more forward-facing seats, but oh well.
If at all possible, Business Class will be my new lifestyle. The seats have X-treme leg room, with electricity and overhead storage. They set out a breakfast buffet with unlimited coffee and pastries, in addition to newspapers for everyone. Later, they brought us beverages and an entire sack of lunch goodies that put plane travel to shame. Best of all: the quiet and privacy. Not that I enjoyed it immediately. In the first hour, I was a total freak, snapping at Jarrah not to drop her crayons and to use her inside voice. All my printing was scorned after she'd made one artful mark on a single page, which will show me (or not.)
But after that, I was sort of a genius, if you want to know the truth. I'd packed her collection of Pixar figurines (where did they come from?) and casually mentioned that the tray table was a "tent" and the footrest a "stage." She leaped under the seat immediately, while I went to the buffet and returned with napkins, sugar packets, a coffee cup and lid, and a stir stick. Improvising as I went along, I announced with authority that the announcer could stand on a pedestal to introduce the show, while audience members (like Buzz and Woody) watched from sleeping bags and later took a row boat around the lagoon. She bought it instantly, and I didn't hear from her again for about 90 minutes. I read magazines and watched the scenery, marveling at my brilliance. And if my child had to wallow on the carpet for my convenience, so be it--I scored nothing less than a bloodless coup with that stage idea.
David met us at Burbank Airport station, and we were both cheerful and rested. I had gathered some info about restaurants near the theater, and we ended up at Bob's Big Boy across the street. That might sound odd, but this Bob's Big Boy is original to 1949, and a Point of Historical Interest for the state of CA. It's also an architectural artifact of "Googie" style, once frequented by Bob Hope and The Beatles. Who knew? Anyway, the place was packed with eyebrow-ringed hipsters, and the food was yummy.
I had printed out directions to a park so Jarrah could stretch her legs before the show, but it turned out to be an empty patch of grass near a freeway on-ramp more suitable for drug transactions than frolic. After some meandering, we ended up in the "Burbank Village District," a designation more hopeful than accurate. Still, it had some sweet, tree-lined streets of cafes and shops, and after a brisk walk and coffee at "Romancing the Bean" I was feeling much more alert. Jarrah was happy to learn it was finally time to go to the "movie theater."
The Troubadours, or "Troubies," as they're affectionately known, are a troupe characterized by circus stunts, physical comedy, a full band and Shakespeare adapted to include pop songs. We've seen such shows as Fleetwood MacBeth and A Midsummer Saturday Night Fever Dream but now they've added a "family show" - Alice in One-Hit Wonderland. The Falcon Theatre, small and cozy with a huge stage and great access to the audience (Troubies love to pick on people in the first row) was new to us, and very nice.
I don't know how to convince you that you have to see The Troubies before you die, but if you live in the vicinity of LA, you really have no excuse. They simply rock. Our show included dozens of One-Hit Wonders ("Double-Dutch Bus," "My Sharona," "Relax"), wondrous feats of jump-roping, a song performed while bouncing on inner tubes, a singing Humpty Dumpty who becomes a pool of yellow slime, and a 12-foot red puppet monster who ends up in bed with Mike Brady, smoking a cigarette the size of a telescope. During the course of the show, I got hugged by Tweedle Dum, leaned on by Alice Brady, and Jarrah got a shout-out from the Head Troubie, who ad-libbed, "We've got to keep up the pace here. That little girl probably has to go pee-pee. See, she's reading her program to see when this thing ends." (It's true, Jarrah clutched her program the whole time, but she didn't even know someone was talking about her because she was too mesmerized.) Unlike the other children, who were laughing and clapping along, Jarrah spent the whole time staring with her mouth open. Afterwards, she announced that we'd be staying for the second show, and I had to explain we didn't have tickets. That child is serious about drama--it's no laughing matter. She did speak at length about the "Jaggerrocket" on the way home, concerned about who was in there.
Because it was still early, we decided to break up the trip with a dinner stop in Orange County, but it didn't stay early because we hit massive traffic on the way back (L.A.'s a nice place to visit, but...) and David is GPS-happy and put me over the edge with his blind faith in that idiot box, to the extent that we were driving all over the place trying to get back to the freeway. I wanted to try a place in Irvine called The Counter, so we plugged in the coordinates and, traffic clear, headed south. Jarrah fell asleep with a lolly in her mouth--the next day her hair looked like it was styled with molding mud.
The GPS took us a lovely open field and announced "You have arrived." We drove around for a while while David tried to reprogram it, until I announced quietly, "Turn that thing off before I have a cow." There was some driving, arguing, calling, retracing, searching. Once there, we waited to be seated, and they brought us clipboards (their gimmick) with a million tiny boxes to check, with choices like 16 different sauces and eight different kinds of cheese. You could have toppings like curled carrots and dried cranberries and dill pickle chips, and the whole thing was micromanaged right down to the style of bun. We also ordered a 1/2 and 1/2 of sweet potato fries and onion strings, which might have been delicious if they weren't lukewarm when they arrived. The burgers (we both got chicken, actually) were beautiful and tasty and colorful with our 3 million toppings, but cool, almost cold. Our waitress zoomed by, "How is everything?" and as I opened my mouth to respond, she disappeared. Harumph. Afterwards, I told David is was patently absurd to call a place "The Counter" but only offer table service, and really slow table service at that. It's even more absurd to let people create the burger of their dreams down to the last molecule, then refuse to hand it over until it's cold.
We weren't home until 10 p.m., Jarrah snoozing in her seat, tired but exhilarated. The show was awesome, and we were proud of ourselves for attempting such a daring day trip with our 3-year-old. And she was awesome, too.