Archive for October, 2010

Weeks 5 and 6: Mushroom with a View

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

45 days, 4200 miles

Something Washington, Oregon and way-north California have in common is that funny fungus, the mushroom.  They’ve got it in spades– both dangerous and delectable.  Supposedly people are leaving this world all the time in these parts with  “Here Lies Hume. Ate a Bad ‘Shroom” on their tombstones.  Me, I love them, and I have to clamp down on my taste buds when I pass them in the forest.  And they’re everywhere–they’re the rabbits of the shady woodlands.  John shot some footage  in a wet mossy clearing with the sun blasting through, and you can honest-to-God SEE the spores flying off of the mushrooms.

I guess I’m thinking a lot about mushrooms because: 1) I can smell them now, here in the Humboldt dark,  2) I’m devoted to their earthy taste, how they make peace with the bite of garlic, salt and lemon,  3) I like their weirdness, all sluglike chewy, musky and dipped in dirt, and 4) I’m a sucker for symbols, and I can smell one coming like the mushrooms making amour here in the dark.

Here it comes…  I can’t control myself… Oh god, am I really going to compare the past two weeks to… a fungus?  To a pretty porcini, to a macho stiff morel, to a shy chanterelle… even to the cheap waxy white mushrooms you buy at the grocery store?  Yes, I am.  Weeks 5 and 6 were all of these sauteed in a nice northwestern autumn stew.

We were rooted in the Olympics of WA like its native Sitka Spruce.   Not ready to leave yet, we visited the Makah Reservation, whose museum taught us that the coastal Makah and Orvette tribes were tough whale and seal hunters.  They would sail out in groups of eight on boats carved out of entire tree trunks, and each man had a job, one of which was to dive in and sew the whale’s mouth shut so it wouldn’t sink.  (When sharks arrived, the hunters would toss rocks off the boat– a tactic that seemed to distract the sharks and send them chasing the rocks down.)  Everything they caught they’d eat or use:  seal bladders for bags, intestines for bow strings, sewed up seals for floats to tow whales back to land…. Fascinating stuff. 
Next, east to Crescent Lake, a big stunning puddle of glacial tears left for us to go all slack-jawed.  We treated ourselves to a great night at the classy, old school Crescent Lake Lodge.  Pretty white painted wood on the outside; rich birch beer colored on the inside; glass porches all lit up like a warm pumpkin.  In the morning, the girls and I kayaked on the lake.  I’ve gotta go back one day to dive into that greenblue perfection. 
Next, a bit deeper into the rainforest: Sol Duc Hot Springs.  The resort there has three hot natural mineral pools, approx 103F.  I’ve always wanted to sit in a hot spring, and my romantic fantasies were somewhat dashed.  Although these pools were natural and surrounded by rainforest, they were paved and highly populated.  Kind of a strange, intriguing ritual: sitting around in swimsuits in steaming, tightly packed circles, watching each other steep in hot lazy abandon.  At least half the bathers were whole families of Russians, from small children to their great-grandparents, and they spent the whole day hanging out in a red flushed social scene.  Hot soupy pools of strangers not being John’s scene, he skipped out. But the girls and I curiously indulged.  Once, a bald eagle flew over very low.  I was glad I wasn’t a seagull. (see week 4)

After almost 2 weeks in the Olympics, we took a twilight ferry to Whidbey Island, then drove all the way to the Cascade Mountains.  Impressive.  Vast.  True to their name, cascades of water bolted down the mountains in thin streaks.  We found a  high mountain campground to sleep for 12 bucks.  We had it all to ourselves, made a big fire and practically touched the stars.

We wound our way through the mountains a few days until we spilled out into Oregon again.  The Columbia River gorge is really beautiful.  Craggy cliffs, waterfalls blasted mid-plunge by bombs of hooligan winds….  We went to Portland, and we all loved it!  After finding a place to park Harvey in the Pearl District, we got to see our lovey, Amanda Demanda from NYC.  Crazy timing!  She’s in Portland, we’re in Portland…. We had a big love fest (and lunch).  Then I got to reconnect with a pal from my college days at Tulane: Pete!  Pete was this cool grad student in the drama dept (directing) when I was an undergrad, and he was an influential part of my early acting days.  He’s also a great musician.  It’s funny how, years later, you can be a parent and 20 years older, and yet you slip right back into how you felt when you were 18 or so…. (Maybe I still act like an 18 yr old?)

Ok, moving on to McMinnville, Oregon and the McPhillips farm!  Ramsey McPhillips is a friend we know through our brother-in-law, Duke.  He’s got a house in the Beaverkill, NY, as do we.  Ramsey is a dashing character– tall, debonair in a farmer-meets-Fred Astaire kind of way, and sporting a formidable forest of a mustache.  He lives on his family’s 1850 farm with his beau, Fred, who makes crazy good jam.  The farm is a beaut, and the girls wanted “to stay forever.”  They also wanted to steal Penny, the dog who jumped high as John’s head, and Betty, the horse that’s never been broken and has the personality to show it.  We couldn’t miss the chance to pepper our film with a one-of-a-kind like Ramsey, so we reworked a funny scene from the script and begged him to be in it.  A pretty sunset dinner scene on the farm.  He was great, the kids were great, the scenery magnifico…. Watch out, Bertolini!  (This was our first dialogue scene outside, and with 4 people, and John did great.)

Next, we hit the Oregon Coast, which is, like, high drama in the vein of Dracula.  Jagged fangs of rock jut out into an angry ocean, while cold fog sweeps in.  Off Heceta Point we peered down at hundreds of sea lions in action.  It appears they’ve smartly claimed a sliver of coast that is blocked off by nature to human nuisance, and here they rush the waves in loud barking throngs, ride the surf and float in dark gossipy pods. 

WA is a heavyweight, but OR is still a contender.  And lo and behold, northern Cali is throwing punches, too!  Two cool towns: Trinidad and Arcata, which has the most amazing French patisserie, Cafe Brio… Mon dieu.  (Thank god for flour.. And the luxury of casting your own soft self in your movie.)  We’ve spent the last 2 nights in Humboldt county. In Patrick’s Point we camped at Agate Beach, with its black sand and Dalmation-like driftwood.  The girls could search these kinds of beaches for hours, there’s such a treasure of sealife, rocks and ocean-claimed bric-a-brac, and their pockets are never big enough.  Now we are in Humboldt Redwoods Nat’l Park, inland some, where the trees boast up to 360 ft.  It’s raining.  Must be sweet music, like Marvin Gaye, to the mushrooms.  “Let’s get it onnnnnn….”.   

 Oh.  The mushroom metaphor.  Uh, that was yesterday, and I musta been catching a whiff of that famous Humboldt hoo-haw when I let that one hit the page, ’cause I have no idea….  I will say this, though:  this week, the film really started to take shape –not unlike, um, a mushroom cloud, yeah!  What once was a shy spore turned into a fertile poof that now has begun to balloon, and it’s hanging over our every move.  It’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty, folks.  John and I are making a film, after all, and there are only so many beauty shots a film (or blog) can take.  So from here on out, I hope to see this blog shift gears and start shelling out our story as a 2-man movie crew.  (The kids hang out in their trailer like superstars, awaiting their call to places.  Prod. assistant isn’t in their contract.)   Several good things happened this week:  all of the pre-production work I’ve put into the film (Union contracts, insurance, Payroll accounts, security deposits, minors work permits, workers comp… ) — all that was once Greek to me and not an actor’s 2-cents now makes sense and has come to fruition, and we have a green light to roll! John, too, has come a long way, as he’s gotten more quick with the camera and tackled the sound equipment and is teaching himself Final Cut.  I’ve come to realize, not easily, that scripts change and often for the better, and that a lunatic ax-man like John is a good mix with a methodical mental-motor like me.  We have actual production meetings where scenes are hashed out, details honed.  John asks all the hard questions, and sometimes I want to bury my head in the sand or whack my partner with a wok ; usually I wanna kiss the sand he walks on and whack myself for “not thinking of that!”   Sleep sucks.  Dialogue, story holes, spelling lessons, state capitals…. my head is so revved up at night, it leaves a skid mark on my pillow.  

Film, homeschool, looking out the window and seizing the time to step into the view…. I don’t think we’ve ever been busier.  Good thing we have time — we need it!  And good thing it’s raining along the Mendocino coast, because nothing clears your head like a walk in the rain and the sight of a raging ocean in fierce motion.  




Week 4

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

In this corner…. Weighing in at 50 billion pounds of sand, sea and wilderness….!  Undefeated….!  Unstoppable…!  Ladies and gentlemen, Mother Nature’s reigning heavyweight champiiiooooonnnn…. WASHINGTON!!!
And in this corner……….. …….  …. Wait.  Sorry, there is no contender in this corner.  I know, I know, what about all that “Cali’s so dreamy… and Oregon’s the Fonz” talk…? Well, call me Crosby Stills Nash n Toby, because I am LOVIN’ the ONE I’M WITH!  Oh yeah, I am having a big, gushing, feels-like-the-first-time love affair with Washington state– the Olympic Peninsula, in particular.  And John’s not even jealous, because he’s in on it, too.  Yep, we’re having an old-fashioned ménage-a-tree with the Olympics….. Get it?  Lots of trees…?…?

See, love makes you silly, don’t it?  That’s what Week 4 has done to us– it’s made us giddy and glad and happy,too.  But before I bore you (or beat you) to death with my Oh Joy! schtick, you should know that this week had its fair dose of horror and mortality,too.  Oh yes, indeed…

But first, the week in a flash!

Seattle was a fleeting bit of fun, as John took us around his old college town.  We saw Univ. of WA’s pretty campus — I enjoy imagining John as a religion major, with that young hot bod, sitting in his furniture-less pod, ruminating over the meaning of God…  (Ahem, I digress…) We went to cool Fremont and colorful Pike Market, where I confess I smugly smiled at the rockfish gazing out from its bed of ice.  (see week 2) And we visited some friends (John Moore from DC ; and Lars, John’s college room mate and partner in crime, and his sweet family).

Next, we hit the Olympic Peninsula, a place I’ve been aching to see.  And like I said, it has really hit the spot.  I mean, everywhere we go it scratches a new itch… Oh yeah, that’s right… Just a little to the left… Ah yes…  Now over a bit… Ahhhh, you’re the best, Olympics– Thanks…. 
(Perhaps this is a good moment to talk about a married couple’s sex life while living in an RV with  their TWO CHILDREN….!!!  Two very precocious children…!!!  In the SAME SPACE as their parents…!!! ….. Oh never mind.)

Ok.  The first place we stayed was in the wonderful tiny coastal town of Pacific Beach.  We loved this place so much, we kept adding on days there, never quite ready to leave its sleepy, friendly ways.  The RV park is perched along an eye-stabbing display of coastal grandeur: waves break in rolling tiers of white water from at least a quarter of a mile out into the Pacific, and the beach is another 1/4 mile of flat mocha-fudge crusted sand.  The girls can ride their bikes on it, while above kites and seagulls fight over who’s more ecstatic….  Every morning we would walk to town (the girls always bike) to deplete the local bakery of its mini croissants.  Sometimes we’d return in the afternoon and stick around to play Scrabble and share a whole triple chocolate cream pie.  One local asked if we were the “gypsies” — I nearly melted at the reference as my heart answered “yes, yes we are zee gypsies…!”
This week found us feeling better (John was over the flu;  Lulu fInally kicked that poison oak to the curb, but not before breaking out in an all-over rash from the medicine she was on for her sinus infection, poor kid), so we really took the time this week to just…chill.  At this risk of sounding cheesy, self-righteous or downright dull, this week was one big ball of happy…..

…..Until Zelda’a hamster, Big Jr, King of balls, met with a sad ending.  I like to think these guys have a good life, as far as pet hamsters go, because they get lots of fresh air and exercise… But  this sweet guy had an unfortunate habit of hanging out under feet.  And while they were getting some exercise on the beach, well…. RIP, Big Jr.   We buried him with some flowers and Lucky Charms.  It was pretty sad, and Zelda took it hard.  

And then the day turned all National Geographic on us!  One minute we were playing soccer on the beach, and the next this bald eagle sets its sights on a seagull and… well, good night, Irene!  It was wild: the gull made one last effort to escape by diving into the water, but the eagle was waiting there for it to surface and immediately grabbed the gull in its talons and flew off with it to the sand.  With a look of disdain it started plucking feathers off,  while the gull’s brethren circled and shrieked above in a sad sort of death dance.  Then the eagle grabbed the carcass and flew to the top of an old pylon for more private chowing; then finally high up to a tree.  
When we got back to our site, it was dark, and something wasn’t right.  The hamster cage, which was still outside, had been knocked down and torn apart– and where was Lulu’s hamster, Jesus?  Gone!  We searched with dread for the small dark hamster– not an easy task when you’re blinded by the night– and John yells. “I got him!” And just in the nick of time –a big black cat was seconds away from pouncing on Jesus!  Jesus’ heart was racing, but he was ok.  John is a hamster hero!!  And Nature is a brute.  Zelda cried, “So much death… I can’t take it!”

So we moved, somewhat hesitantly, beyond Pacific Beach, only to be pleasantly surprised by the plush, posh stillness of Lake Quinault.  We stopped for lunch at the lovely old Lodge there, and it didn’t take more than an ant-size arm twist for the kids to convince us to stay the night.  This place is stunning; the bright green backyard slopes down to the lake like a slice of Merchant Ivory prettiness.  Folks sit silently there, sipping wine and drinking in the blurs of lake and mountain views…. As we walked by, Lulu says, “They’re all sitting there drinking wine and… all that Beethoven stuff…”  (I wonder what WE are…?  The Monkees?) 
We took our first hike into the Olympic rainforest here.  Mmmmm…. Gorgeous, magical, blah blah blah…!

 Kalaloch: another insanely beautiful, primitive camp spot dangling above the ocean.  We are still here, after 2 days enjoying this beach (easily saw 60 starfish) and  Second Beach near La Push.  I don’t even know how to describe La Push without sounding like the biggest braggart/jerky girl in the world. It’s simply… high inducing.
Nearby Forks is where the Twilight stories take place, and that presence is heavy there.  The girls go gaga for this, but for John and me, it’s all about the succulent,  fern-covered forests with their mossy evergreens (like a bayou’s brother), the rivers spilling onto low-lying splayed beaches (some with chunks of tree-covered mountain coughed out into the ocean), and the overall awe-filled Ohmmm of the place.   
They get an average of 15ft of rain a year here.  Meanwhile, pockets of the Olympic land belong to various local tribes (Quileute, Quinault, Hoh, Orvette, Makah….), who are good-looking, mysterious-to-me people.  I wanna hold my breath while we drive by in Harvey, as if that would lighten my step.  I want to explode in thanks for being here.

Lulu and I are sleeping in the tent tonight.  She’s not stealing the covers, which is good: it’s cold.  She smells like a campfire. The sound shooting up from the ocean is loud as a lion, and never stops roaring.  Sometimes i can hear the crash of what must be whole trees en route to becoming the giant pale boney driftwood that lines these beaches.  When I go outside the tent to take a hope-it-gets-me-through-the-night pee, I’ll look up at the stars and see shapes of constellations I can actually outline.  John and Z are asleep in the RV.  We’ve been on the road for 29 days.  Soon, we’ll have to really delve into the meat of the moviemaking.  But this week, we fell in love……