Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dear Econolodge:

Exhibit A:

My wrinkly clothes.

Exhibit B:

Iron tethered to ironing board by a cord of insufficient length to allow actual ironing to occur.
Exhibit C:

Plastic cap/plug designed to prevent water from pouring indiscriminately over garments is missing.
Identical situation experienced at Days Inn.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Have you ever had one of those epiphanic moments in which you realize the absurdity of the thing you're doing? A thing that, until five seconds ago, you thought was totally normal?

My parents never have those moments.
I sing in the chorus of one of those orchestras that you can't take pictures of or look at or have prolonged reveries about, or else there will be Paperwork and something about Dues and Property and This Many Minutes of Break Time.

Here we are at a venue I'll call "Flarnegie Hall."
It's a lot of fun, actually, getting to sing great music under world-class conductors. It's challenging and fulfilling -- an incredible experience.

Then there are the bats.

You see, we're not always playing Flarnegie Hall or Flymphony Hall. In the summer, we play outside, in a green, picturesque, probably hypo-allergenic setting, replete with large, tidy trees and velvety lawns.

"You! Third oak on the right! Leaf color may be tawny or ochre only! No amber until after Labor Day!"
Now, I like bats. I do. You know why? Because I hate mosquitoes. And because bats are so fuzzy and wacky and hang-upside-downy, like my own personal army of kooky sidekicks.

No, it's what the bats represent. Nature. Don't get me wrong; I like nature, too.

See? I have a cat.

But singing classical music in a snow-white, floor-length dress for people who have paid more for their tickets than I will spend on Ramen over my entire lifetime tends to put me in what I think of as a Civilization Bubble. It's therapeutic. Here we all are onstage, uniform, performing some of the best examples of human creation with precision and (respectable) passion. No one is fidgeting. No one has to cough. No one has guts or stomachs or sinuses. We're caught in an ethereal plane, vessels of art and purity.

But then nature starts happening.

At our last performance, everything was going well. We sounded good. We looked good. The audience was sophisticated and appreciative. We were Civilized.

Artist's rendition.
Then a mosquito bit me, and suddenly, my butt itched. That was not Civilized. And then came the bats. Just a couple of them, silently swooping amidst the scaffolding. And it dawned on me: Everyone's ignoring them. Of course they were. That's what you do. You are a servant of the music. Bats don't exist. Itchy butts don't exist. Only the music exists.

It was kind of cool, actually.

But I had broken free of the Civilization Bubble; I was only observing it now. I became imbued with a heightened awareness of everything else that was going on, unrelated to Berlioz. Itches started popping up everywhere. My nose noticed the pollen in the air. I felt a bug slowly crawling across the top of my head, under my hair. All this as the audience drank their champagne and the reviewers took snarky little notes and the musicians floated along as if we were perched in the Emperor's pristine parlor instead of outside with bugs crawling on our heads.

Even so, it was only when the giant -- I mean giant -- moth immolated itself on one of the lights and plummeted into the altos that I began to feel crazy self-conscious. What was I doing here? What were any of us doing here, a bunch of squishy, fidgety, smelly, hairy creatures trying to inhabit this ethereal domain?

Not what Berlioz had in mind.
There is no moral to this story. I didn't learn anything. I just sort of got over it, eventually. It was kind of like when you pick a word and say it over and over until it sounds like totally weird.


Maybe it's okay that we're all itchy, squirmy bags of nasty liquid who perform art music. Maybe that's kinda cool, even.