Saturday, June 17, 2006
“I wish I had a river I could skate away on.” – Joni Mitchell
Those words have been ringing in my ipod lately, as I have been riding the U-Bahn to rehearsals. I also just finished reading Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. One of the main themes in Kavalier & Clay was the idea of escape – the main comic book character that Joe Kavalier and Sammy Clay create and become famous for is called the Escapist, one of the main characters is actually a trained escape artist, the first chunk of the book is devoted to the telling of an escape from Nazi occupied Prague, Houdini is mentioned dozens of times, another main character is gay and marries a woman in order to set his life “straight” (so to speak), to name a few examples. Between the book and Joni, I have been noticing how prominent the idea of escape is in our lives. I hadn’t noticed its universal presence, our communal desire for it before.
One thing that I’ve noticed is how I get to escape reality daily as part of my job. Everyday that I go to work, I am required to take off my clothes, put on a rehearsal costume, and pretend to be someone else for six hours. There are some days where I marvel that I get to make a living doing this. I am paid to step out of my life and into someone else’s on a daily basis.
Even more than this, I never work at home, so I have to travel around the world (escape) in order to be employed. It is a different way of life, and I find that I have to explain it at great length to most people I know who live “normal” lives. They never seem to understand why I am away so much and never really at home. They have this look in their eye that says, “I wonder if he’ll ever settle down.”
While this all seems very exciting, jet-setting, and yes, “unsettled”, the fact is that my life is in actuality a rather banal existence the majority of the time. There is a short film that you can download on itunes called Our Time is Up. The film begins with a shot of a Sony alarm clock buzzing at 7:00 (that white, boxy one with the black face and glowing, alien-green numbers that almost everyone you know owns). A person swings his feet over the side of the bed, puts on the slippers waiting there for his feet. Then there is a shot of him reaching for a starched white shirt that is hanging on a rack of other starched white shirts. Then a shot of him reaching for a red tie on a rack of other red ties. Every shot has a sterility, rhythm and order about it. My life is rather like that, for the most part. I try to get up at the same time every day, write my morning pages, work out, eat the same thing for breakfast everyday (one whole egg and two egg whites – scrambled, a piece of some grainy toast, fruit), check email, read the news online, shower, and then do the same 15 minutes of vocal exercises to warm up, and head to rehearsal. I do this everyday that I have to work (normally six days a week), and I follow this routine religiously. Without this routine, this rhythm, I stress and am quite unfocused and irritable. My mind feels like peach fuzz, and I am prone to snap at anyone who stands in my way.
In order to achieve the “escape” my profession requires of me properly, I have to submit to the predictability of routine – an odd paradox. Shouldn’t escape be full of adventure, the unpredictable, the unexpected, variety? On the other hand, the fact that “escape” is required of me so regularly makes it not a vacation, but a vocation. If that’s the case, I imagine a little regularity is a good thing in order to provide me with some grounding, stability, and a little bit of the predictable. It helps keep life in good flow. Sort of like making sure I eat enough fiber daily.
Friday, June 16, 2006
The Self Banished (an excerpt)
It is not that I love you less
Than when before your feet I lay,
But to prevent the sad increase
Of hopeless love, I keep away.
In vain (alas!) for everything
Which I have known belong to you,
Your form does to my fancy bring,
And makes my old wounds bleed anew.
-Edmund Waller (1606 – 1687)
Photo by Nadine Balbeisi
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
"We followed his weakness. His incompleteness. Failure's open. Look at water, Esi. It finds weak places in the rock, the openings, the hollows, the absences. Following water we come where we belong."
-Old Music and the Slave Women, Ursula K. Le Guin
An interesting thought, no? It gives a new dimension to the phrase, "Go with the flow". I found it really quite comforting to read today.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
The area around the Dom in
It was a pleasant scene in the plaza today: children ran around playing tag, tourists wandered around aimlessly, a man was playing his trumpet next to the fountain, there were many more flags than usual flapping in the wind today (most of them having to do with World Cup), the sun was out, and there was good music on my ipod as it shuffled through it's collection – my ipod is my best friend when I am on the road. I often like to let her wander through her library at random, following whatever musical journey she takes me on.
They say that smell is the strongest trigger of memory. While this may be true, oftentimes, music is also a strong trigger for my memory. I often will become obsessed with some album that I have fallen in love with, and - like a teenager who would loop a song over and over again on a cassette - I will listen to a new CD ad nauseum and then permanently associate it with some period in my life.
Sarah McLachlan started to sing in my ipod this morning, and I was immediately distracted from Joe Kavalier's dilemma about what to do with his million dollars by a surge that I realized was my body being physically overwhelmed with emotions from a long time ago. It was as if I had been transported emotionally back in time. It felt strangely like a tingling, exciting rush and a heaviness descending upon me at the same time.
Back in 1999, I was driving on my way to the Aspen Music Festival for the first time. I had decided to ride out with my friend Kindra, another singer from the
The nine months leading up to that road trip to
Sitting there and looking up at the Dom with my cheap, white headphones in my ears, I was lucky enough to have a moment of reflection. My ipod had unwittingly jerked me out of drowning in the present and allowed me to get my head above water to have a little perspective. So much has changed in the last seven years – perhaps more in my head and my heart than anywhere else in my life. I count a lot of blessings in my life, including my parents, my boyfriend, my friends, my job, my opportunities among them. It was nice to look up into the sun, smile as I felt its warmth on my face, and have an adventure with my ipod today.
Saturday, June 03, 2006
“The morning arrived with applause and they made toast”
That sentence is sheer brilliance, I think. It’s from the book that I am reading right now---a collection of short stories called How We Are Hungry, by Dave Eggers---the man who wrote A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius a few years back. His use of language is virtuosic. They way he uses adjectives at times almost redefines them. It’s mind-blowing. His perspectives on the situations he describes, on his characters, on their surroundings, and even on the words themselves are so incredibly original, surprising, creative, and fresh! I feel like I am writing an advertisement for Glade or a Massengill douche here, but it really is a fresh way of looking at the world. And what is truly amazing is that he seems to do it with almost no effort at all. He is truly a master of the English language. There are so few people who truly master anything ever in a lifetime---I admire those people who manage to do it.
I think about mastery a lot, actually. I often stress about whether or not I will ever achieve it myself, although I am, it seems at the very least, undaunted in my efforts to do so. My daily (almost) devotion to practicing making strange noises with my voice are, I guess, a testament of sorts to my own effort to achieve mastery in my own medium.
Believe it or not, it really is little things like that sentence above that get me through the day at times. A little inspiration, if you will. Without little things like that, our world becomes so mundane---why do we take all that is around us so much for granted?
I am on my way to visit my friend Nadine. Nadine moved here five years ago to continue her studies after we graduated from college. She started at the musikhochschule in
This last March was the first time I had seen Nadine in two years. I hadn’t seen her since I was in
It’s hard to be away from people I know well. Perhaps one of the blessings of being on the road so much is that I get to visit some of those people once in a while, even though we are scattered across the planet. Maybe, in the end, I am not as alone as I have been feeling recently.
As the train pulls into the station in