Sunday, April 12, 2009

Vegetable connoisseurs may be fascinated to know this region boasts the title 'artichoke capital of the world'. Duartes restaurant, at nearby Pescadero, has made a sturdy reputation by supplying an enterprising range of artichoke-based dishes to hungry or curious visitors. I was both, as we'd been walking the cliffs to watch basking seals and soaring cormorants, and the artichoke ratatouille was delicious. Deep twilight as we drove home, a rim of mystical pink separating silvering sea from darkening sky.

After ten days' nomadic exploration, I've become a connoisseur of cafe coffee. Discounting Starbucks, obviously, I've sampled Peet's (the gold standard, according to "zealous customers known as Peetniks"), Sam's (plentiful & free with breakfast), Raman's, New Leaf, and I can tell you with confidence that Mezzaluna down by the harbour wins by a Half Moon Mile. For one thing, it's served in a real cup, and actually served too, so you don't feel like a mere middleman on the disposable beaker's journey to the bin. And they make the best Americano in the Bay. I reported my findings to Mo and he said "Well they would, they're Italian."
Other discoveries:
- Blackbirds here sport scarlet epaulettes.
- PAM means jack of clubs. 'Tis in the Scrabble dictionary, so 'tmust be so.
- Huge full moon, Rain Moon, blazing like a magic lantern above the chicken shack outside my window.

Two open-mic events - my favourite was Cameron's English Pub - and a visit to the theatre.

The Coastal Repertory Theatre is a pleasant purpose-built venue - it’s where I saw Godot last year (in fact Mo was recognised and hailed for his ‘phenominal’ Pozzo) - with a very long stage. For their production of Sam Shepard’s True West the director’s decision to use the length worked against the sense of intrusion and family claustrophobia in this story of a screenwriter challenged by the arrival of his drifter brother. This play has been hailed as a masterpiece, simultaneously "clear, funny, naturalistic, opaque, terrifying, surrealistic", as a metaphor for "the two sides of the American present: one sophisticated, cultured, ambitious, and successful; the other alienated and outcast, raw, wild, violent... each is the double of the other, emphasizing that despite the American belief in starting anew, the past is never over but continues to intrude into the present." (Or as the review in the local paper put it: "Bottom line: As tough as things are, we can still laugh. And, after all, there’s always someone worse off.")
It's a strong theme, however you interpret it, and whether or not it's significant that the dramatist's intelligent screenplay is trounced by the more commercial pitch of his degenerate sibling, but for me the real drama is in the interaction of the brothers and the play didn’t need appearances from either the producer or the mother. Sam Shepard himself says it's not intended as "symbolic or metaphorical or any of that stuff. I just wanted to give a taste of what it feels like to be two-sided. It's a real thing, double nature. I think we're split in a much more devastating way than psychology can ever reveal."

Still on the subject of theatre: "I want to be genuinely shocked. I want plays that shine a light into the darkest recesses of the human soul, that lead the audience on a journey that leaves us breathless and invigorated even if we've been terrified and deeply shaken by what we've seen. And while I'm not asking our current playwrights to be as great as Shakespeare or Euripides, I am asking them to remember that those are the heroes of the tradition in which they work."
Louise Kennedy reviews for Boston, but I found her rant at the current state of theatre in THE WEEK over my breakfast coffee, picked out as a Best Column. Playwrights, she says, shouldn't attempt to compete with the 'heightened version of reality' of films and television. "In moving away from the essence of drama - that is, the subtle and expert use of language and carefully developed action to illuminate human life - toward thrill-seeking and adrenaline jolts, playwrights give up their own most precious gifts.
And the audience? Jaded by the unnatural shocks of electronic entertainment, we remain unmoved by its awkward imitators, and hungry for the real, visceral, cathartic thrills that true theater can provide."

On Saturday I varied my coastal path route by walking along the beach, which for most of its two-and-a-half miles was disconcertingly deserted for a holiday weekend apart from clusters of birds, possibly having a Hitchcock conference. I started thinking about all the warning signs: HAZARDOUS WAVE CONDITIONS EXIST EVEN ON CALM DAYS - WAVES CAN SWEEP PEOPLE INTO THE OCEAN before eventually reaching civilisation in the form of windsurfers, a scramble-up-able cliff, and a cafe.
And now it's Easter Sunday, the chocolate bunnies are risen, and I am unbelievably nearly halfway through my stay in paradise... must find a wicked apple before I go.

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