Monday, April 28, 2014

Hello Seattle (take two)

This time, ladies and gentlemen, we are making a purposeful and quick drive up to the Emerald City, for Round 2 of Passport Acquisition.  We are now carrying, on our persons, every possible valuable document we own - original birth certificates, marriage certificates, notarized letters, photos, applications, social security numbers, etc. - and none of these items are leaving our sight.  The children have asked if it's possible to bulletproof our car, and we had to pause before telling them probably not.  For now, the Dodge Grand Caravan is the Kennedy Family Armored Vehicle.  Don't mess with us.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Portland circus schools

There are a number of great circus studios here in Portland, I've tried to visit as many of them as possible!

The first place I went was Night Flight.  Night Flight is owned by Gemma Adams and Stephanie Lopes, and they teach adult recreational aerial classes, as well as putting on performances.  Oyuna and I dropped in for one of their Open Gym times, and really appreciated their bright, beautiful studio.  I had great conversations with them about business management and circus communities; they came to see Totem, and took me out to lunch one day.

Gemma and Stephanie manage all aspects of Night Flight's administration themselves.  As a result they're fairly exhausted, and are not looking to grow the school any larger than it currently is.  They have a strong reputation in Portland and they have as many students as they can handle.  If anything, they are seeking ways to carve out more time for their own training and creation.

After that, I met Jen Livengood of Aerial Without Limits (AWOL).  AWOL is housed in one of the most unusual and interesting spaces I've seen among circus schools.  It's a truly industrial facility, sharing a building with warehouse-type businesses and lots of power-tools noise.  Jen says it's a difficult space to work in, particular because of the problems heating it.  It's also the first space I've been in where, as you enter, you're in the backstage of a proper theater set-up!  Looking out at the audience.  AWOL prides themselves on the pursuit of artistic work, both with their students and their professional company members.  They put on regular shows, and always teach with an eye towards performance.

Jen, too, finds the business-management side of things exhausting.  AWOL is a non-profit, which presents a different set of opportunities and challenges.

Next I visited Pendulum Aerial Arts.  Pendulum is the longest-running circus arts studio in the Portland area.  Suzanne Kenney is the organization's Artistic Director.  She has been operating Pendulum in the beautiful gymnasium of the French International School here, for 15 years.  In exchange for the space during the evenings and weekends, she provides artist-in-residence programs for the school's students.

When I visited on a Saturday, I was able to observe some of Pendulum's "pre-professional" students training, and then to watch some of the company's rehearsal.  One of the ways in which Pendulum is unique is the professional performance company.  They are currently rehearsing a show called "High Art", which will be presented in May.

Today I visited The Circus Project.  TCP has been around for 7 years, founded by Artistic Director Jenn Cohen.  Jenn is currently on a 6-month sabbatical, and they've taken the opportunity to re-organize the administrative team a bit.  Currently Jacki Ward is Programs Manager and Interim Artistic Director, and Reyna Schlichter is Executive Director.

TCP is truly a social-circus nonprofit.  While they do run a handful of recreational adult programs, and they do have a "pre-professional" Training Company of intensive teen / adults students, their primary mission is to connect disadvantaged youth with circus arts.  They work in a small gym in a community center, which they rent by the hour - Jacki told me that finding a new space is on their agenda for the coming years.  (AWOL has the same goal).  The Circus Project also does a good amount of work off-site.

The studios here all seem to have a healthy respect for one another and to communicate more often than some other cities I've visited.  I will chalk this up to the general character of Portland - friendly, generous, and accepting.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Our luck turns for the worse

We were having a lovely day in Seattle - visiting circus schools, exploring Pike Place Market, enjoying a blue-sky spring afternoon - when the universe decided we'd had more than our share of good fortune this week.  We returned to our car to find the side window smashed, and two backpacks missing - Greg's, and Baz's.

Baz's losses amount to a handful of library books, some Mad Libs, a yo-yo, and a bag of jellybeans.

Greg, on the other hand, was carrying our 5 passports (3 brand-new, issued the previous day), the children's original embossed birth certificates, their social security numbers, and various supporting documents.  Plus a Cirque jacket and an iPad.

The loss of the passports is hitting us the hardest.  We had driven to Seattle specifically because we are short on time - we have to be in Vancouver in two weeks.  Now we have much bigger hurdles to overcome - trying to get kids' birth certificates replaced, paying record-finding fees and additional rush fees and notarization fees, etc. etc. - we'll have to make another trip to Seattle (after we replace the car glass).  I have to file stolen passport forms, and hunt down my marriage license, and get more passport photos taken.  It's going to cost a lot of money, time, and stress.

The children all cried - I think they feel scared, touched suddenly by crime, and worried about all the problems this is causing me and Greg.

In the middle of our frustration this afternoon, we had one moment that was a gift.  We pulled into the Elephant Car Wash (pictured in my last post), where we'd heard they had big vacuums, to attempt to clean all of the glass fragments out of the car.  We told the attendant we'd had our window smashed, and immediately he said "right over there, we'll vacuum it all out for you, free of charge."  Three guys set to work, vacuuming out every inch of the car's interior, and telling us they were sorry for the incident.  They located some plastic and duct tape for the window for us, and sent us on our way in much better shape - and feeling much renewed in our faith in humanity.

On the way home, we reflected on how much worse it could have been.  My laptop - which holds the entirety of my work and personal life (thousands of photos and videos of the children), and is not adequately backed-up - was left untouched.  We still have our cell phones and wallets, and the car is not permanently damaged.  That's the biggest thing I realized - that we will have, ahead of us, a couple of weeks of stress and difficulty and expense.  But we are all OK.  All 5 of us are still healthy and well and can do all of the things we need to do.  This is just a bump in the road.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Hello Seattle

I just spent a half-hour trying to embed an audio file onto this blog, with no luck.  Blogger will not let it happen.  So if you want to hear the soundtrack for our day, you'll have to go to one of these cheesy YouTube lyrics links.

We had to drive up to Seattle today to get the kids new passports.  Theirs expired, two weeks before we have to go to Canada, and in Portland we couldn't get expedited-enough service.  The Seattle Passport Agency was awesome - easy to make an appointment, no long waits, and they were able to turn around the passports for us in just a couple of hours.  We are $600 poorer (after having the kids' birth certificates overnighted from Philadelphia, and getting new photos taken) - but we have three shiny new passports to show for it.

I figured we should make a little family trip out of it, so I booked a hotel and we have been doing some sightseeing.  Things learned today about Seattle:

- downtown is hilly!  Like, San-Francisco hilly!

- ooh, aah, Seattle library.  (pictured)

- Seattle seems way bigger than Portland.  I am struggling to find actual data on this - but it just seems a lot bigger.  Maybe it's the skyscrapers, or the fact that there are streets like 105th Street.  

- the Chihuly Garden & Glass is hard not to enjoy, no matter how you feel about Dale Chihuly as an artist.  

- the Space Needle is hard not to enjoy, even if, like my kids, you are determined to be grouchy about it because it's nowhere near as tall as the CN Tower, or even the Stratosphere in Las Vegas. 

- Lower Queen Anne, the neighborhood we're staying in, has scads of Thai restaurants.  We dragged the kids to one this evening.

- This place actually exists!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Tour life

We've been on tour for so long now (nearly 4 years) that I take a lot of ridiculous things for granted.  Like the fact that the kids never have any idea where things in our current apartment can be located - like trash cans, band-aids, drinking cups.  And often neither do I.  Today I was momentarily exasperated when I told Isa to go put her clothes by the washing machine, and she couldn't even guess what floor of the house the washing machine was on.  We've been here for a month.

I thought it might amuse some blog readers to know that your taxes have got to be less complicated than ours (pictured).  Greg has to file taxes, including state taxes, in every state and country that he works in.  Thankfully, Cirque handles most of this for us.  This year there were only 8 different returns that we had to sign and mail, not too bad.

Next week, on our double-dark, we're making a sudden trip to Seattle, because the children's passports have all expired.  We just found out about this today (again, thank goodness for Tour Services, who notified us) - and we have to be in Canada in 19 days.  Not enough time for even expedited passport services, so we have to make a trip to a special agency.  I am trying to get the kids excited about going to Seattle by looking at pictures of the Space Needle, but a little online research showed us that the Space Needle is TINY compared to the CN Tower, or even compared to the Stratosphere in Las Vegas.  Oh well.

Other snippets of our life here in Portland …. all of the families are living together in a townhouse complex.  The kids love to play together.  We live next-door to the Macks, so we frequently hear the thump-thump of a little djembe.  The older kids love to run around outside together, and I've allowed them unusually wide boundaries, having to be inside before dark and not cross any streets.  But most of the kids are still on much later sleep-schedules than mine - my kids go to bed between 9:30 and 10:00, and many of the others are up until midnight.  So last night I had to call one of the other kids' babysitters and ask her to please stop her kids from playing so loudly outside my kids' windows at 9:30pm.  I wonder what the rest of the neighborhood thinks of us.

More on our Portland experiences to come.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Cast transitions, beginning

Lots of cast transitions are taking place this spring, as we expected.  While Totem has had a number of artist changes over the years, the pace is accelerating as we approach Vancouver (our last stop on the North American tour).  Here's a photo of our two new Pippos.  Roch (on the right) came in on a temporary contract, and has spent three months playing the Valentino character.  This week, he's handed over the reins to Jon.  On Friday, Jon did the first show and Roch did the second show, so they were both in makeup.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Bookworms on trains

When we travel on public transit, people frequently comment on my kids' reading.  They seem somewhat amazed, and charmed.  Today, a man commented, "It's so nice to see well-behaved children for a change!" and various other passengers happily agreed, "yes, you don't see that too often!"  I remember in Atlanta one time, a woman was so taken with Isa's absorption in a novel, she gave Isa a dollar.  I didn't even know how to explain this to Isa afterwards.

While I'm flattered, I don't really understand the sentiment.  First of all, reading does not equal good behavior.  Reading is a hobby, a lovely and quiet one, but it is not the same as being respectful, generous, obedient, etc.  Second of all, when did children reading become such a rarity?  Is it just the milieu (the public-transit-riding community) or is this a universal phenomenon?  I hardly go anywhere without a book.  My kids have been raised the same way.  We don't do it because we are trying to be virtuous.  We do it because we like to read, and we get restless without something to focus our minds on.  We are way better at immersing ourselves in text, than we are at letting our minds wander, or just being in the present moment.

I have a feeling that when we get back to Philadelphia, they will find more like-minded peers.  For now, they are weird (but in a crowd-pleasing sort of way).  I'll accept the attention (and get back to my book).