Tuesday, July 18, 2006
A Kiddie Scoop of Culture
When I go to museums and concerts and stuff, I'm always really impressed with parents who bring their kids along. They are usually such cool parents, and so mellow about the whole thing, and will probably have kids who are the same way: interested in cool stuff, mellow and easygoing. My kind of people.
This weekend those cool and easygoing parents were my sister and brother-in-law. He got tickets for a 6-seater box at the Hollywood Bowl, and they kindly rounded up the whole posse (slightly more than 6 of us with our parents in tow, but who's counting?) for the perfect Los Angeles summer night activity. Granted 2 kids plus 1 infant plus 2 hours of classical music never actually equals perfect, but by the end of the night, there was something for everyone -- even a nice nap under the stars for my dad.
The prep for the event started long before the night itself. My sister and I have been discussing the menu at length for a week. Baa or moo? Or perhaps bak bak? Cake or cupcakes (we were celebrating my sister's birthday)? Don't forget goldfish and juice boxes! We sort of became kids ourselves putting it all together. Of course, the adult side kicked in too -- detailed task lists were emailed, status reports were given every step of the way.
The first part of the night, once we squeezed ourselves in, was easy. For the grownups, we started off with cheese and grapes and lots of wine. Slightly less stinky cheese for the kids -- turns out they're not that impressed by the fact that morbier consists of cheese made from the morning milking separated by a layer of ash from cheese made from the evening milking. Snobs. For dinner, we had salad with tomatoes and cucumber and feta, 2 choices of dressing. Baa and bak bak -- Torreh cooked up garlicky chicken and lamb to serve atop the salad. Everything was yummy. Kids were doing great.
Cool-as-a-cucumber sister had brought these fascinating drawing sheets for them on which, as you drew over them with a special marker, images from their beloved Thomas the Tank Engine magically appeared. They were set. Then the show began. The amphitheater went dark. No more Thomas. So, they weren't that impressed when John Mauceri, the conductor, made an eloquent speech about the historical significance of the Mediterranean, the theme of the evening's program, poignantly recalling the current situation in those parts (by the way, who knew he was so charming and endearing?). Nor did they care that much when they brought out the original piano from Rick's Bar to play "As Time Goes By" in an arrangement of the music from Casablanca (although I thought it was pretty cool).
But they made it through to intermission. Intermission was birthday time. A box filled with cupcakes in every variation on the chocolate theme from Joan's (the chocolate marshmallow is *amazing*), as well as a few of her much-touted chocolate bouchons. All while our whole section sang to the birthday girl. Good respite for the monkeys. They loved the cupcakes almost as much as they loved not being shushed (staying quiet is quite a challenge for 3-year-old Ethan).
The second half was better than the first for them as well as for me. The cultural significance of deeply tragic fado was probably lost on them, as was the adorable flirting between the singer, Mariza, and the conductor -- it was as if the chore of conducting the orchestra was distracting him from gazing into her eyes over his shoulder as she sang to him (and, secondarily, to us). But Julia certainly appreciated her gracefully lilting across the stage in her ball gown (it even had some pink in it!), and even Ethan seemed to be calmed by her soothing voice. And even though the loudness of the fireworks kind of freaked them out, everyone was impressed with the beautifully lit-up sky, and the kids even starting dancing around in their seats.
I must say, from an adult standpoint (as adult as I get), in spite of the little quirks introduced by the little twerps, it was a pretty dreamy night. Seeing everyone with their bottles of wine, picnicking outside, enjoying the natural setting -- the vibe is great. And while the performances at the Bowl can be hit or miss, this night's was really a hit. Of course I was stoked about the Mediterranean theme, and this Mariza was a strong performer with a beautiful voice and a unique look, and by dancing about and making eyes with the conductor, she really just romanced the audience.
Having said that, I don't think we'll be embarking on this type of experiment again anytime soon. If you don't cut kiddie-culture into bite-sized pieces, you're liable to choke on it.