Monday, April 14, 2014

Birds, jazz, and entomophagy

Two weeks into my Californian idyll. There've been outrageously hot days with skies eyeball-scorching blue, and translucent days with sea-mist surging and ebbing indescisive as a wilful child. And though this landscape is now familiar I notice new details every day: craggy avenues of peeling eucalyptus, golden poppies by the highway, pelicans gliding and plummeting into the waves, redtail hawks circling the cedars, hummingbirds in the garden (I'm inordinately proud of this snap, first time I've caught the 50mph beat-blur looking wing-shaped.)
As well as supplementing stints of writing with daily explorations along the coast and foothills, I’ve been plundering my host’s bookshelves, enjoying Sebastian Foulke’s passion for PG Wodehouse and Bill Bryson’s for American history,  though failing with the much-hyped Stoner ~ whoever said it was ‘the perfect novel’ maybe meant it as disparagement of that form. The rhythm of life here tends to quiet evenings but Friday was Cyprus Meadows monthly folk night and we went along to hear guests John Lester  and Paul Tiernan, on tour with personal ballads played jazz style.

And on Sunday we drove inland to San Jose, which has been so upgraded in the last few years that Anja, who used to live here, didn't recognise most of it. It's now spacious and sunlit with fountains and flowers and street sculpture like a city in southern Spain. We were here primarily to see Game On, a new play by young San Franciscan writer Dan Hoyle, and a model for anyone wondering if it's possible to use drama for propeganda.  Dan Hoyle's big message is environmental awareness and the need for Western producers to consider insects as a future food source, but because we're laughing at the baseball gags (well, I was bemused but others were howling) and because we care about the two main characters, there's no sense of a 'worthy' drama, though I did emerge better informed on comparative costs & protein provision of insect farming over beef. Alvin the entrepreneur and Vinnie his temperamental sidekick remain throughout confined in the same room (impressively convincing, more like a show-house than a stage set), as they wait and plan their big pitch ~ a classic situation of dramatic claustrophobia successfully exploited by playwrights from Pinter to Rob Grant & Doug Nailer in their Red Dwarf scripts. Result: rising tension, exploding tempers and a wild food fight with grasshopper rolls and impro baseball bat... also unexpected twists and my personal highlight, the whale-song rap from Glen (Cassidy Brown). San Jose Rep Theatre is a great venue, too.

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