Thursday, October 30, 2008

Waiting for "Above the School"

Will and I are escaping Halloween. We're leaving town for Nye Beach in Newport. My sister Marti and husband Chuck are coming for the weekend to take care of mom. Mom will be all ready for their visit, new haircut, Halloween t-shirt and orange socks with black cats all over them. She will have fun.

When we go to Nye Beach we stay at "Above the School," a cozy cottage like apartment, Mary Englebert style, above the Montessori School. The greyed ceder shake building with a well rusted gate through which you can see window boxes of red gernaniums is surrounded by purple hydrangeas, bright yellow margarites, iris. We climb the stairs on the side of the building and let ourselves in with the hidden key. No neighbors; the whole space to ourselves. The front room with its colorful chintz futon couch and wood stove welcomes us. Down two steps from the small kitchen area are two bedrooms. The one on the left has a bed carved into the wall with down mattress, just enough for one person to curl up into, like a squirrel in a nest. The bedroom we pick has a big feather bed with iron headboard. The pillows and comforters are all down. It's usually dark when we get there. It's a favorite thing for me to wake up as the morning light streams through the white organza curtains from windows which fill one and a half walls. I roll over and open my eyes in the room which is small enough that the bed seems nestled into the view, coastline, all the way around.

Will always laughs at me because wherever I go, I always completely unpack and put things away in drawers as if I'm moving in. I hide the suitcase from sight. In New York, the first thing I did even before unpacking was to pick up a bouquet of flowers for the room. Here on Nye Beach, I usually go to a specialty store the next morning and buy some handmade soap with lavender essential oil, and a bag of China Rose tea from the tea shop, and make myself a fresh pot of tea each day to go with a good book. There's a teapot there because I bought one at a Newport second hand store for a very good price and left it there last time for all of us who share "Above the School" as a special hideaway.

Will and I bring books. Will usually brings non-ficgtion. I usually pick something very Victorian English, a mystery or Jane Austin spin off. But this time I am taking Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min. It's a "true novel." Anchee Min fleshes out the characters with details of their feelings and lives so that the reader becomes lost in the characters. No objectivity. This "true novel" is a well researched story of Mao Tse Tung's third wife, known to us as Jiang Ching, former actress and known to the West as one of the infamous Gang of Four, responsible for the bloody Cultural Revolution. I am intrigued with the protagonist who is referred to in the beginning only as "the girl," fatherless, raised by a single mother. "The girl" rebels against having her feet bound and throws them off as her feet begin to fester and swell and rot. Eventually, the mother must leave the girl with her grandparents, and disappears from her life forever. The girl is taught opera by her grandfather who has no grandsons to pass his knowledge to and is given a name Yunhe. I have followed her through her Shanghai days as Lan Ping, Blue Apple, her men, her illusive brush with fame.

I like the device Anchee Min uses where the point of view changes continuously. It doesn't get in the way. It imitates human relationship, going from one layer to another and then back again. I will take with me to Nye Beach Mao's young third wife, named on her wedding night Jiang Ching, Green River, by her husband Mao Tse Tung. The wife of the most powerful, known man in China, Jiang Ching lives in a cave hidden from Chiang Kai Shek as well as the Japanese, washing dishes, sewing in the background as her husband and his chosen comrades meet for hours and at all hours of the night. In her words, "I am playing a strange role, a queen who is a maid."

Will has put up with me this past month playing along with my questions, "What do you think we'll do when we get there?"

We will walk on the beach,"

"We can go to the gallery, maybe a movie?"

I go on the internet to see if there is anything at the Performing Arts Center. It's the Red Octopus Theater presenting Chekov's "Cherry Orchard." We enjoy live performance and the Center is justa short walk down the road from "Above the School" toward the beach .

"Can we go for tea at the tea shop?"

"Of course. And Friday, we'll go to Arr Restaurant right next door."

I'm excited because the food is wonderfully cooked, always changing, organic and fresh. Soft classical music plays in the background but the host and her husband the cook carry on lively conversation with their steady stream of local and out of town customers, New York style. We know so much about them. I wonder, did they buy their daughter the car? Did they visit Monte Rey again? Are they voting for Obama since they had wanted to impeach Bush.

"There's that little cafe where the tables are outside and there's a big rock fire pit and musicians too," I say.


"And to the wharf to see the sea lions?"

Tonight is the night before the day we take off! We hear it'll rain. Luckily rain is one of my favored weather. Everything smells better in the rain. But if it doesn't rain, and stays blue skies, we will be just as happy! I imagine the ride through the Oregon Coast Range, the maple turning fall colors against the dense evergreen.

Linda Yapp who owns "Above the School" is the teacher of the Montesori school below. "Above the School" once was her apartment. She eventually bought it, and kept it for sentimental reasons even after she married and moved to a house. Because she is a teacher, she gives teachers, even retired ones, a 10 percent discount. Otherwise, for everyone, the first night is full price, but the following days are less. I am posting this because some of you might be on the Oregon Coast sometime, and now you will know how to access this homey place, the sweetest secret in Nye Beach.

WE'RE HOME!! The weather was perfect! Every walk on the beach was either calm weather or with those gusty breezes which refresh and plays with your hair. And we read with rain spattering against the window, cozy, drinking tea and looking out at the grey seascape with white curls for waves. We saw a community performance of Chekov. It was fun. You know how it is, the performers enjoy themselves, and one can't be picky about ages and costumes. So the actor playing the eldest daughter was the same age as her elderly mother, and Will got confused whether her suitor was in love with the mother instead. (He was just flattering her to sell her cherry orchard.) And the director came out in the dance scene in his 2008 clothes and haircut and I had a moment where I thought Chekov had included visitors who stepped out of a time machine and no one noticed. Perhaps he was doing an Alfred Hitchcock thing where the director walks through the movie. But while Hitchcock's walk through was so subtle, one couldn't help focusing on the director who just stood there, framed by the curtain, and I'm afraid I missed "the action" which went on downstage. Daylight savings time happened during our trip so it did seem like a time warp. It gets dark so early now. Before the trip, dark by 7-ish. Tonight dark at 5:30 pm.

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"from Outside the Belly" was also known as "TBAsian" from 2008-2010. Thank you for reading.

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Eugene, Oregon
I am a citizen of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. I am a Nikkei descendant sansei (third generation);retired teacher, involved in the Winnemem tribal responsibility to Water, Salmon, and our belief that the Sacred is our Teacher. Working locally for human rights and supporting youth leadership.