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Thursday, February 7, 2002

Night started falling as soon as day broke this morning. At least, that's the way it seemed. At first it was just the same overcast sky we had yesterday, but as time passed, it got darker instead of lighter. At mid morning a light rain began to fall. Some time in the afternoon, as the rain got heavier, the wind started blowing, a breeze later whipping into a gale. The bare trees came to life, their branches wagging up and down while their trunks jerked back and forth.

By the time I walked out to the end of the drive to pick up the mail, I had no way to avoid getting soaked through, and chilled to the bone. I took a plastic bag out with me, so the mail wouldn't get any wetter. I also took the phone out. The cordless phone doesn't work all the way to the street, but I feel more comfortable if I have it with me. About halfway out, I can hear it ring and I can sprint toward the house to answer it.

Today the phone didn't ring while I was outside with it. I did drop it in the mud, however, and then when I reached down to pick it up all the mail fell out of the plastic bag. So when I got back to the house, I was not only wet and cold, but also furious with myself, the fates, and Bill Martin, the channel 2 weather guy, who said last night that the rain wouldn't get any farther south than Sonoma County, so it was nothing to worry about. Thanks, Billy.

Timing being everything, this was the night Mom and I had tickets to see "How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents," this month's play by the Santa Rosa JC Theatre Art Department. If there was ever a time to bail, this would have been it. As I was getting ready to go, I could see the wild grasses waving wildly in the stiff breeze, and the rain dripping steadily off the eaves.

When I left the house, though, it had stopped raining and turned into one of those magical nights that seem like day, only a lot darker. No moon or stars were visible, but I could tell from the mottled sky that the clouds were starting to clear. If it hadn't been for the cars in front of me on the wet roads, I wouldn't have needed the windshield wipers at all.

And the play was wonderful! Two chapters from the novel by Julia Alvarez were presented, and they were performed "word for word," with all the he-saids and she-saids left in. It's a little disconcerting at first, but only for a moment, and then it becomes part of the fun to see the narration bounce back and forth among the characters. The supporting actors each performed several parts, and even the set and props took on multiple functions as the two playlets took shape.

It was all great fun and highly entertaining, beginning with the actors who play the four Garcia girls, who were dancing freely on stage as the audience filed in. Freely and, I should add, ceaselessly. The energy was contagious, and I left the theater feeling miles better than I had when I walked in.

The stories are about the slow and sometimes painful process of assimilation, as a doctor's family flees political turmoil in the Dominican Republic and discovers how they must remake their lives in the United States. Because of the word-for-word nature of this production, they describe their own actions and express their thoughts aloud.

This lets the audience into a character's mind in a way different from most drama. Even the peripheral characters, an elevator operator, a taxi driver, waiters and flamenco dancers, have a chance to show what they're thinking about what's happening. You know, for example, how badly Sandi wants to tell her sisters what happened when she went to the restroom.

It's a concept that allows the essence of the novel to be explored in three dimensions. Mostly, it was a lot of fun to see something so different, done with such obvious affection. I really enjoyed the experience.


The trees and fields beyond my yard, on a drier day.

It was over too soon, though, barely an hour after it had begun. I'm not sure Mom felt she got her money's worth, but I know I did. And, amazingly, I was home by 9:30 and the stars were out, twinkling brilliantly in a black sky.

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I'm blowing the day to talk a walk in the sun,
And fall on my face in somebody's new-mowed lawn.