Friday, April 27, 2012

La Jolla Cove

Mom and me at La Jolla Cove, which is an absolutely idyllic beach.  It's hard to see in the background, but there are tons of seals and pelicans and cormorants, caves to explore, hermit crabs, soft sand and a beautiful Pacific Ocean horizon.  I tried lying on the beach with a book, but the barking of the seals playing around was so distractingly awesome, I only got a few pages read.  We stayed just a couple of hours there with the kids, but we could have spent all day...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Earth Day

We spent Earth Day (Sunday April 22nd, also the 2-year anniversary of Totem's premiere) at the San Diego Earth Fair.  Billed as the "largest free annual environmental event in the world" - it was a decidedly mixed bag.

Held in Balboa Park (which was a bonus, getting to explore this area a bit), and drawing around 60,000 visitors, it was hard to cut through the clutter.  There were plenty of good, solid organizations represented (Peace Corps, Amnesty International, Greenpeace) but they were completely mixed in with Legalization petitioners, people selling handmade anything, religious groups, and ride-on-the-bandwagon marketers.  We were particularly shocked when we started down the path to the Children's Area, and were met with big signs: Protect Your Children From Gruesome Images Ahead.  The signs, posted by Earth Fair, notified us that the path ahead was filled with anti-abortion protesters displaying horrific imagery.  That they were not supported by Earth Fair, but that Earth Fair could do nothing about them.  And, though we did our best to steer clear of these areas, the truly awful photos and signage were glaring, and hard for the kids to completely miss.  Baz was terrified throughout the day of running into more of these areas, and we had to keep reassuring him, though we weren't entirely confident ourselves.  In comparison, the Jesus freaks holding huge FEAR GOD placards high above us seemed harmless.

We persevered and found some small but good experiences for the kids.  We took them around looking at the "green" cars on display, and explored the botanical gardens, and particularly liked this area full of sticks and giant leaves and pinecones where you could build your own structure.

We also got to see a display of capoeira, which was fascinating for all of us, and an outdoor organ concert.  In Balboa Park they have this massive outdoor organ, with free concerts every Sunday afternoon.  I don't think I'd ever heard organ music outside of a church, so it was pretty interesting.

As is often the case, these kinds of overwhelming events make me think that, instead of constantly exposing the kids to more stuff, it may be better to let them simply be, in a smaller universe, really exploring their immediate world.  And yet that type of let-it-be, homebody mentality seems impossible for me to attain.

The important thing was that we got outside on Earth Day.  The kids got to touch plants and animals and dirt and rocks, and we showed our support to some of the groups out there working to make our world a better place.

In the meantime, my homesickness, and yearning for less adventure & more connections, seems to be growing.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Greg and I took a drive up to L.A. yesterday, leaving the kids with a babysitter, to see the Cirque du Soleil show IRIS. It's a fairly new show - opened less than a year ago, in the Kodak Theatre, which is renowned for being the home of the Academy Awards. This show is a tribute to cinema. We both loved it.

From the very beginning, I felt like Cirque was giving us the very best of what modern circus has to offer with this show. The cinema theme that continued throughout, with the amazing circus artistry just enriching it, illustrating it in ways that wouldn't have been possible otherwise. An example - at the beginning of Act 2, we are on an old-time movie set. Crazy costumes, cranky directors and clumsy stagehands abound. A terrific amount of nervous energy is there, and it starts to manifest itself in visually delightful ways - ladders that aren't cooperating and acrobatic stunts needed to move them, ropes and lights that people end up dangling from.

And then, at times, the most spectacular acts are given their own moment - such as the straps duo at the beginning, which is exquisite. It is all show business, and it is all connected.

If I have any complaint about the show, it would be that the Icarian acrobats and the contortionists felt a bit forced upon the theme.  But everything else - swinging trapeze, hand-balancing, even the 95% excellent use of video technology - made for a seamless and enthralling performance.  I even loved the clown and character bits, which played off the movie industry wonderfully.

After the show, we met up with a bunch of our Totem friends, and took a quick visit to the backstage. This is what it looks like underneath the Kodak Theatre. It was cool, by the way, to be sitting in seats watching this show that were probably occupied by Brangelina or Meryl Streep pretty recently. (we were right down front in the orchestra section - prime award-winner seats). Greg couldn't care less about this sort of thing so I had to just marvel at it privately.

It was a fantastic evening. We made sure to check out the Hollywood sign and the Walk of Fame, and mingle with all the other hordes of tourists out on Hollywood Boulevard. (my first time doing this, as far as I can remember). But the best part was experiencing the beautiful creation of IRIS.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

La Jolla


We've arrived in our new place - La Jolla (pronounced "la hoya"), California. It's technically part of San Diego, but we are 12 miles north of downtown. I have a feeling this isn't going to be my favorite city on tour.

There's nothing all that wrong with it - it's similar to San Jose in that way. And, like San Jose, it is simply too neat and tidy. Every visible area is landscaped, corporate-centered, apartment-villaged. The senses are calmed and dulled by every imaginable shade of beige: Almond, Antique, Desert Sand, Ecru, Eggshell, Khaki, Linen, Pearl, Sand, Tan, Tumbleweed, Vanilla, Wheat...

And Greg and I have had to laugh at the weirdness of showing up at our new apartment and seeing all of the amenities identical to our last apartment. The same dishes. The same towels hung with a particular decorative fold. The same ugly fake tree-plants and tableware. We've had this housing provider for a number of apartments, including San Jose. The sameness of everything is honestly creepy.

But I cannot ignore the obvious pros of this new place we're living. The shopping is unbelievably good - 5 minutes walk to a mid-sized grocery store filled with organic produce and yuppie products. Also just around the corner, a post office, Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, a massage studio, and a big upscale shopping mall. Slightly further away, but only 5 minutes by car, is a mega grocery store which carries everything imaginable. Other good things - there are other families in reasonably close proximity, and sidewalks and bike lanes seem prevalent.

And of course, the real reason everyone comes to La Jolla - the beach. We are living about 3 miles from the Pacific Ocean, and a long stretch of free public beach that is populated by surfers, seals, and sea anemones. We brought the kids out today - and although the weather wasn't hot, they weren't fazed at all, splashing in the waves, running and laughing. The sand and the sun felt great to all of us, and I think we'll pack beach towels and food and make a longer day of it next time.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Totem profiles - Esi Acquaah-Harrison

Esi Acquaah-Harrison is a vocalist with Totem. I recently had the chance to sit down for coffee with her and hear about the extraordinary evolution (no pun intended) of her career.

Esi spent most of her growing-up years in Ghana. Though she had a knack for singing from a very young age, she didn't begin to take it seriously until she joined the school choir, and a school band. In highschool, these successful groups provided her first experiences with television, recording studios and interviews.

After highschool, Esi moved to London to live with her sister and go to accounting school. She immediately followed this with an accounting job, and music took a backseat for awhile. She did gradually begin attending church and joining gospel choirs, and these choirs would began to shape her musical training. The London Community Gospel Choir was the most significant of these - as a large, long-standing choir, it gave her opportunities for travel and bigger gigs.

It wasn't until 2006 that Esi really took the leap into singing full-time. She auditioned for the role of Rafiki in The Lion King, and, after some stiff competition, she was awarded the role. She performed at Disneyland Resort Paris from 2007-2009, and it was her first real experience with acting. For 21 months she did 12-13 shows per week.

Between the end of The Lion King and the beginning of Totem, there were 6 months of uncertainty - but once the casting agents at Cirque du Soleil found her, they were quickly hooked on her unique style. She was in London at the time, and had never seen a Cirque show. Videos went back and forth, and within days Cirque flew her over to Montreal to meet in person.

Esi is enjoying traveling with Totem. She says she appreciates being able to do a job where she can sing different styles, and use her range. She likes being able to make sounds [that aren't really a language] into a language. She also appreciates the great cast she works with - mature professionals, who are encouraging and supportive of one another; it's a very healthy atmosphere to work in.

Esi sings throughout the show, but I will always associate her with my favorite song (and act) in Totem, the double trapeze, and Qué Viyéra. You can play it here, Track 8.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Philadelphia whirlwind

I've just returned to California after a really busy and wonderful few days in Philly.

I arrived late Friday night, and Saturday morning headed to PSCA to observe classes. Just being in the space again, with all of the energy of the students and parents, was a thrill! (photo is Marc and me, giving feedback to students rehearsing their showcase routines later that weekend). At first I was nervous at all the things that have changed in the last 9 months - new equipment, new kids, new teachers, new curriculum. But the more I was there, the more I saw that my personal mark still exists ... the school is full of items that I bought, or made, the books are mine, and even the structure of the classes still resembles the original classes I began teaching 12 years ago. And most wonderfully, it is a place I am still loved and valued... all weekend I was greeted with hugs, with appreciation, and with happy memories.

The rest of Saturday was Kitsie's wedding! I went with her to the hair salon, we had champagne in a limousine and photos in a park, and then the bells-and-whistles ceremony and reception at the circus school. Pride in being a bridesmaid, and having a huge number of personal friends and colleagues at the event, made it one of the most fun weddings I've ever attended. And I'm so happy that Kitsie and Chris are finally married! They are going to have a wonderful future together.

Sunday and Monday were meetings, meetings, meetings. Having met my new Managing Director, Marc, in person for the first time at the wedding (here is a picture of me, with Marc [middle] and outgoing Managing Director Robin on the right), we spent pretty much all day together on Sunday and Monday, meeting on a whole variety of subjects. We strategized for our children's programs, and hashed through the details of our in-house performance agency, Air Play Entertainment, put together a marketing plan, ran a teachers' meeting, and toured our current daydream future space, the old church. It was enough to overload both of our brains, but we kept it together and got a lot done. Marc has a tremendous amount on his plate in the upcoming weeks, but he is ready for it.

So, sleep-deprived, exhausted, but emotionally energized, I caught a 6am flight back to California this morning. The circus school is a living, breathing entity, full of people and things that I love. And, while I wish I could be there every day, for now I will cherish their support of my touring life. It is all good, and the future is bright.

Friday, April 6, 2012

I'm in Philadelphia!

I've just arrived in Philly! I am crashing at an airport hotel tonight, and then heading out to Germantown in the morning.

The trip here involved weeks of preparation - lining up babysitters, scheduling meetings, booking travel - and now it just feels a bit surreal. Am I really here? What am I doing here?

My trip has two primary purposes - to be part of Kitsie's wedding, and to meet my new Managing Director and have a bunch of business meetings. The wedding is tomorrow! So I'd better get some sleep...

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Trekking around

I'm exhausted this evening, from spending 6 hours doing 2 errands with the kids. The main reason for this length of time is the car-less-ness. Although public transit does exist here, it seems like everyone owns a car, and shopping destinations are usually a distance from trains and buses.

Our first destination was a great children's bookstore called Hicklebee's. I found out about this place thanks to Brett, who commented on my blog. He noticed the earlier photo of the bike rack adorned with knitting, and told me about Hicklebee's, which features a tree out front covered with all kinds of colorful stitches. I did some Googling to find out about this phenomenon, which is known as yarnbombing. And although this is the first time I've seen it, apparently yarnbombing is not unique to California - you can see this type of public decoration / art throughout Europe and the U.S. There is even a holiday - June 11 last year they celebrated the first International Yarnbombing Day.

If this wasn't a good enough reason to venture to Willow Glen in south San Jose, the bookstore itself is also a gem. It is a small, high-quality, independent children's bookstore, which opened in 1979. The store is covered with autographs, props from famous stories, and book posters. My kids and I love bookstores under any circumstance, so we were thrilled to spend an hour here, reading and shopping.

The trip went less smoothly after that... we waited for our bus for a full hour. I finally gave up, taking the kids across the street to the Starbucks to use the restroom - and watched the bus drive by. I called a taxi. Wallet somewhat lightened after that, I finished the rest of our shopping at Target, then dragged the bags on a 20-minute walk to the train station, and caught the train home. On the way home I kept thinking, how frustrating this is, being in a place where getting to a couple of stores has to take the whole day. It's going to be hard if a lot of our future cities are like this, and unfortunately in the U.S., a lot of them are. I've got to get better at shopping online.