| Arrival in Washington - 2/24/08
Went to bed at 1:10 and got up at 4:45 to make an 8 a.m. flight to Washington. If you fly TED airlines,
you might want to consider taking a sandwich. * * *
I was met in Washington by Timor, a handsome, fortyish Afghan expatriot, trained at university as an
economist, who came to the US with his family in 1992. He was a child in Afghanistan during the Soviet
occupations. He remembers shading his eyes to prevent glass from blinding him when the house next door
was blown up. He remembers his father hiding Timor in the attic when the Soviets did 2 a.m. house searches,
so that they would not force Timor into the military. He recalls a stretch (they counted) of 18 days without
Timor’s father had some diplomatic connections and decided to give up everything (“You can’t sell your property
– who would buy it? It’s like trying to sell imagine what the real estate market is like in Iraq, nowadays.”)
and try coming to the U.S. The waited six months in Pakistan and were given a choice of locations. Timor’s
family chose Portland, because it was on the west coast of the USA, and they were hoping to end up
in California. The didn’t realize the ME at the end of the city name meant Maine.
In Portland, Maine, Timor – who had never learned English because the Soviets had looked with suspicion
on anybody who wanted to study English, even privately – could get a job only in the Tyson chicken factory.
He worked to learn our language. And the New Englanders respected his privacy, his differences, and opened
their homes and hearts to him. At one point, Timor’s son (whose birthday was in late December) suggested that
their (Muslim) family do a week of celebration around December 25th, so they would fall in perfect synch
with the community. Timor wouldn’t hear of it. He knew the Portlanders liked him for who he was.
In 1995 Timor was ready to face a big city and joined some relatives in Washington, DC, got a job with
a rental car company, then learned about the limousine business and launched his own company three years
Timor’s now got an impressive client list ranging from Derek Jacobi to Michael Jordan and (Timor’s favorite)
Shaq O’Neill, who embraced Timor as a Muslim brother. Timor’s a total pro, reserved and efficient,
or amiable and full of stories, depending on what kind of client you show yourself to be. I like stories.
I asked if he missed Afghanistan. “No matter how rough the conditions are, home is still home,” he said.
But he’s living the American Dream. And he thinks he might be pretty fond of his decadent Western comforts.
The hotel in Washington is glorious. Two-bedroom suite with hardwood floors, deep bathtubs, and full kitchen,
nicely stocked (thanks to the Folger) with apples, potatoes, chicken breasts, herbal teas, pancake fixin’s,
and all the usual Teller stuff. I arrived to find my own comforter on the bed (courtesy of Andrew at 2 River).
I can say without hesitation, I’m very glad I’m not in Afghanistan.
I love Washington. Yes, I know it’s the seat of hateful bureaucrats blowing my tax dollars for chewing gum.
But it’s got great bookstores and great food, the gorgeous subway system (the Metro) the Smithsonian,
the Archives, the Washington Monument, and all that other stuff that I own part of. Since I paid for
it at the point of a gun, I might as well enjoy it.
* * *
At 8, I attended the run-through.
The Folger. Oh, my. Our big show in that intimate space. I think it will rip people’s faces off.
Every drop of blood is practically in your lap.
The rehearsal went well, especially in view of how much the cast has to remember in new blocking.
But in spite of these stresses...
At the end of act I, from the beginning of the Banquo’s ghost scene to the end of the act, it was clear
that Ian “Macbeth” Peakes was in the midst of one of the most breathtaking performances I’ve ever witnessed.
It was funny, sad, mentally ill, and electrifying. If all I accomplished on this trip was to see Ian act
in this one rehearsal, the trip was worth it. I am not even slightly exaggerating.
I woke up weirdly wired after 6 hours of sleep. I showered, dressed, warned Matt that I was on the way.
I took the Metro (my favorite subway system in the world) up to Capitol South and rendezvoused with Matt
for breakfast. He took me for a heart-healthy brunch of deep fried scrapple on toast at The Tune Inn, a
local joint that features the stuffed hindquarters of deer on the walls.
Then we walked through the bright, warmish day to the Folger. With some dandy new equipment
that Nate Santucci loaned us, we’ve just made a huge step up in phantom blood. We spent two
hours finding the right mix of blood to make this gimmick work without glazing the stage with
gore for swordfighting Scots to slip on. (Our method, for the record, involves pipe fittings
and a woman’s black evening glove.) We tested the gimmick as well as we could without actors
(the cast gets a day off, lazy bastards) and absolutely drenched the men’s shower stall with
blood to a height of six feet on every wall. Matt’s rather tall. When he was cleaning up,
he looked like Norman Bates.
We then put another two hours into creating a startling touch for the post-cauldron Weird Sisters vanish.
I think it could be really startling, as long as Aaron doesn’t deem it too cheesy or distracting.
We were done for the day. Guided by friendly Folgerians and cops, Matt and I walked to the National
Gallery and lunched underground where the water from the fountain above forms a rippling wall against
sealed glass. Panini. Gelato. More health food.
Then upstairs to see the Rembrandts. Sad fat face with bad skin under a big furry hat, mourning Saskia.
Old Pole in a silly hat with a pearl for an earring. Across the hall to see the Italian stuff.
Everybody is either Jesus or has a long nose and looks like a Mecidi.
I had the evening off. Bookstore. Dinner at the Daily Grill (soup and salad). A visit to
the Lincoln Memorial at night (the only time to go), and home to whip up the pancakes for
tomorrow’s breakfast and write this for you.
It’s almost midnight now. Really, Teller, when Macbeth says “Sleep no more,” that wasn’t intended for you.
Go to bed.