"Up, Up and Away"
GRACE AT ALL COSTS
20 October 2005
It probably didn't help my credibility as a reporter to be sitting there with cheese dribbling down my face, while at the same time still attached to the eggs on my plate.
I had a meeting with the UC Davis Granada Artist in Residence, Mark Ravenhill, this week. Ravenhill is a well-respected playwright/director in England. He is an associate at London's Royal National Theatre, the winner of the Evening Standard award for Most Promising Playwright. His plays have been produced in London, New York, and Australia. He was invited to be one of the writers on The L Word. He is about ready to go into production with a new play starring Sir Ian McKellen.
And I had cheese on my face.
I usually do these interviews in the office of the person I'm interviewing, but Ravenhill suggested meeting him at the Delta of Venus for breakfast.
The Delta of Venus is a quaint sort of cafe, which some have described as a "hippie coffee shop."
The atmosphere is laid back, the decor is...uh...rustic, with creaky wooden floors, and multi-colored walls.. It displays artwork by local artists, there is a good selection of vegan or vegetarian things on the menu (handwritten on blackboards), and there is live music a couple of nights a week. It has also been said that this is the town's gay hang-out, though the clientele certainly seems mixed.
I'm not sure if all that qualifies it as a "hippie coffee shop," but...whatever.
I checked out Ravenhill's picture on the Internet and, by e-mail, I told him that I would be the "oldest, fattest person there." He has a fairly distinctive look, as do I, so it was surprising that when we passed each other on the stairs (he was going in, I was going out), we didn't stop to check if the other was the person we were expecting.
I sat at a table outside, figuring it was a bit quieter than the music-filled inside. He sat inside waiting for me. Nobody else that looked like his photo came up, so I finally left my coffee sitting on the table and went in to ask if he was, indeed, Mark Ravenhill. He was and joined me outside.
It was at about that time that my breakfast, "mushroom scramble," (eggs with onions and mushrooms and topped with a generous amount of melted jack cheese) arrived, along with Mark's granola and fresh fruit. (Bev kicks herself for not ordering something more healthy.)
I started asking him questions about his upcoming production at the university, "Nursery / School," and realized that it was impossible to eat my eggs without dripping cheese all over the place.
So much for attempting to look professional!
However, he was an absolutely delightful, somewhat self-effacing, obviously talented man and I enjoyed our time together, though I very quickly ran out of relevant questions.
I never know how these interviews are going to go. I try to read up on the subject and have good questions to ask. I lucked out that the first couple of people I interviewed were quite loquacious and so I pretty much only had to say "tell me all about yourself" and "thank you for a lovely interview" and all that was left to do was the transcription.
Others have counted on me to lead the interview, and then we are in trouble if I can't find something to hang onto and use as a springboard for additional questions.
That's the point at which I step outside myself and become an observer of the pit into which I am descending. I start interjecting examples from my own life to fill the empty space, all the while kicking myself for focusing on me and not on my subject, and at the same time mentally frantically groping around my brain for some sort of question to ask that won't make me sound like an idiot.
Generally speaking the subjects have all been very courteous and nobody has looked irritated or seemed to wonder what this obvious incompetent is doing pretending to conduct an interview.
This particular interview was embarrassingly brief, but we did go on to discuss other subjects of mutual interest and so I was able to finish my breakfast, for the most part without dribbling additional cheese down my front.
The weird thing about these interviews is that somehow, miraculously, when I go back to transcribe the interview and put it all in an article format, it doesn't usually sound quite as dumb as it did at the time.
I just hope that this time will prove to be no different, that the traffic noise and Mark's soft-spoken voice don't make the tape impossible to transcribe.
And that Mark forgets that I sat there in front of him with cheese
running down my chin.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Remembrance of things past