Tuesday, May 16, 2006

war and peace

I've never been to the Imperial War Museum before and at first I didn't really like it. You walk in the foyer, and it's just a bunch of old planes and some WWII bombs. Kind of boring. And I've never really been much of a G.I. Joe, so I didn't think the museum was going to do much for me. I mean, I'm not much of a military strategist. If I got drafted I would be the guy with the nerdy glasses yelling 'Tora Tora Tora!' over the PA back at the barracks. I love my country, but I don't love putting on fatigues and shooting things.

So, after wandering through all the bi-planes and tri-planes and submarine doo-hickeys I finally found my way into a little wing off to the side that was home to an exhibition called The Children's War. You walk into this little room, and they are playing this simple Schumann piano tune and projecting images of children in 1940, waving flags and marching in parades, being packed onto trains for the safety of the country, some crying as the air raids go off and the German bombs drop on their homes. You could read firsthand accounts of some of the kids as well. They drew simple pictures and wrote stories of the bombings. Some of them wrote about losing parents in the Blitz, taking ships to Canada, or being in a movie theatre watching The Wizard of Oz when the sirens first went off. It was a beautiful little exhibit, because it reminded me that, while wars are started and managed by those with patrician power, the ones who pay in the end are the weakest and most helpless. It was really a touching experience for me. I sort of misjudged the War museum, I think. Because on the outside it looks pretty rah-rah war, but on the inside it's a grim and poignant reminder of what war really costs. And it was also a little sensitive, colorful, and sweet. I liked it a lot.

But after that experience I needed a little safety and security, and what better place to turn to then 17 Cherry Tree Lane? You remember that address. It's the home of Jane and Michael Banks. We saw Mary Poppins the musical tonight, and golly if I didn't, of my own free volition, give it a standing ovation. And I hardly ever give standing ovations. I guess I was feeling really chim-chiminee and spit-spot and all that. The best part of the play was Bert, who was about the rubberiest person I have ever seen onstage. He was all bends and squeegees and his dancing was so effortless and tight. After the play I wanted to take dancing lessons to be a little bit more like Bert. Bert was the kind of guy who leaps from chimney to chimney, and then he walks up the walls and upside down across the ceiling and then down the other side, and then does a big tap dance. And he smiles the whole time and never seems out of breath!

The thing about Mary Poppins is that she's a bit too perfect. You know? The whole time I was waiting for her to trip on something or slip up and swear or do a dry-heave. Because the whole idea is that she's supposed to be 'practically perfect in every way' and I missed the sense of 'practically.' This Mary Poppins is like a robot of perfection, and she can fly over the audience and make statues dance and middle-aged men cry and sing in front of their bosses at the bank. At one point, near the end, the musical actually intimates that Mary Poppins controls the cosmos. But....oh, well. You go with it. I remember my friend Eric telling me that on the evening of 9/11, he felt so despondent that the only thing that made him feel better was watching Mary Poppins on DVD. After the Imperial War Museum, I know how he feels. Because it's sort of like a little homecoming onstage, and it's easy to forget the cares of the world when people are sliding up banisters and dancing with chimney sweeps. It's a jolly holiday of a musical.