For the past six years I have lived with 400 plastic tomatoes that came all the way from China. On occasion, I’ve had to transport them, or at least part of them, most notably on an airplane trip from London to Dublin to Boston, then across Boston by bus to another bus headed to N.Y.C. You wouldn’t believe what a giant suitcase filled with plastic tomatoes weighs.
They first arrived at my job in the city in four large cardboard boxes from China. They took up a lot of room in the lobby and I asked my then boss Glenn if I could store them in the shop for a few days until the lovely Danusia could come and pick them up.
“What’s in those boxes?” He asked
“What do you want with plastic tomatoes?”
“They’re not mine, they’re for my wife.” Like the cat, the tomatoes belong to my wife. But also like the cat, sometimes I have to take care of the tomatoes.
Danusia wrote and performed in a one-woman show called Wonder Bread; it was originally to be called Tomatoes, for obvious reasons, but was changed. For good reason, arriving in a new and different country can fill one with wonder.
Her show was about a girl from then Communist Poland, the daughter of a tomato farmer immigrates to America and finds herself. In the show she tears down a wall of tomatoes, a good metaphor for tearing down the bindings of Communism and the subtler binds of family. (Tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbochev!)
The wall of tomatoes was an effective part of the set and the knocking down of it a dramatic and impressive scene in her funny but poignant story of discovery. But dealing with those tomatoes was a real pain in the ass for me.
Before each show I had to help construct the wall, which we did by building Lucite boxes to hold six tomatoes each. Believe me, it’s a lot of Lucite boxes, and they are even heavier than the tomatoes. Then after each show, I had to help pick up the tomatoes, and put them back in the boxes that had survived the crash. There are broken pieces of Lucite in theaters here in New York and in Edinburgh, Scotland. I’m sure there is a plastic tomato or two hidden in the corner of some stage as well; we haven’t counted them since they arrived from China. There were also 400 red plastic balls, but most of those stayed in London.
After the Fringe Festival three years ago we spent twelve days in London, it was supposed to be only a week, but courtesy of hurricane Irene and the control freak Mike Bloomberg who closed the airport, we were there an extra week. We had to fly back separately and divided up the tomatoes, and decided the red balls had to stay.
Danusia had taken a whole crew, her director, Aleksey, and a couple of other people from her theatre group to help, but there were only two of us stuck with the tomatoes on the way back. The Lucite stayed as well, thank god. You can buy Lucite anywhere, but these tomatoes can only come from China.
She was lucky enough to get a direct flight to New York; I had to fly to Boston, hence my harrowing trip through Boston with a big bag of plastic tomatoes; not to mention lugging them up and down the four flights of stairs in our building countless times. The things you do for love.
She stopped doing the show last year, started working on a new project, not so labor intensive. There was talk of letting go of the tomatoes, too, good news since they take up a lot of room in our apartment. And the Lucite boxes, of course.
Danusia decided to video the knocking down of the wall, than if she ever wanted to do Wonder Bread again she could simply project that scene onto a wall or screen.
“Good idea!” I said, seeing the end of the uninvited guests in sight.
Last week a guy came over with his video camera and they built and knocked down the wall over and over again, scaring the hell out of the cat, who just wanted to chase rolling plastic tomatoes.