Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Epic Evening FAILS

Plural? Yes, plural.

Let's start with the first evening, which was two nights ago. This fail was made all the more poignant by the gloriousness which preceded it.

I had a whole lovely Sunday off. After teaching voice lessons I met up with (new!) friends to see RENT, which is possibly the best musical written ever. It was an epic afternoon. I cried, I laughed, I clapped along, I jumped to my feet at the end in gratitude. The afternoon was made even more glorious when I learned that I was standing next to...wait for it...Bobby McFerrin! Yukes says I should have tried to take one of his dreads as a souvenir. He's right. But at the time I was paralyzed, so I did nothing. It's better this way, no? Now I can still say truthfully that I am currently under no restraining orders.

Warm with creative fulfillment and Bobby McFerrin vicinitudeness, I proceeded to my next destination; the liquor store, to pick up some wine for Yukes and my romantic lobster dinner.

It was while in the store that I heard my phone beep. I had a message. I put the phone up to my ear, and what I heard made my blood run cold.

"Emily, this is the manager here at Moosewood, it's 5:15 and you were supposed to be here at 4:30. Call me as soon as you get this."

Ohnoohnoohnoohno....I sped home wine-less, checked the schedule, and realized with relief that they were wrong. I wasn't on the schedule! Huzzah! My evening could proceed as planned! And then...I saw, in teeny-tiny letters that I could barely make out, my name. Crammed with another name into the 4:30 slot.

Let's make this long story short. I was there in ten minutes and inconsolably cranky. I got reamed out by the manager, who first asked me what had happened and then, when I told her, informed me that my answer was no excuse and that I had better not let it happen again.

It got to me, even though it shouldn't have. I'm sure I'm not the first human working at this restaurant to make this mistake (especially when things are written so freaking small). I got over it, of course, but you know...

It sucked.

Fast-forward to tonight and our second evening fail. Strangely enough, this evening's fail took place at this very selfsame restaurant! What are the chances?!

It was a quiet evening on the patio at Moosewood. Suddenly the hostess turned to me and said she had just given me a nine-top.

And what a nine-top it was.

(For those of you who are not familiar with the restaurant lingo, a nine-top means that this particular table has nine people sitting at it. And if you don't know this, than I can only sneer and say "Well, I guess they never taught you that at college!")

It was two mean, mean families. The first thing that happened was that one of the women asked me to bring bread right away for her baby, otherwise she would "start to go crazy." As I ambled off to get the bread, said baby threw her pacifier at her father, who said to her "good throw!"

Warning bells jingle-jangled in my little head.

They barked orders at me two-at-a-time, willy-nilly, and were impatient when I asked them to give me a second so they could write it down. The teenage girl sneered at me. The parents ordered for their ten-year-old, who then quietly said to me "I didn't get to order what I wanted," and, while his parents continued yelling "he wants butter and cheese" said "I want tomato sauce." I listened to him.

The chimpanzee father on the end was the worst of them. He refused to look at me as he demanded more onions and more dressing on the side. I was just a gnat to him, a bacteria that was created to bring him exactly what he wanted. His little wifey covered his tracks very nicely, joking with him for being so impossible and apologizing to me.

Now I know why waiters spit in the food. But to be honest, I would have preferred whacking him in the head.

At the end of the meal their kids were getting antsy, so they asked for the check. I gave it to them and checked on my other tables. The next thing I know, neanderthal dad hits me on my arm with the little check-book thingey. Yes, hits me. He informed me that they needed to pay now.

I looked at the check, and felt a cold sweat break out across my forehead.

I realized I had forgotten to add the 20% gratuity.

I knew this jerk would not be happy about it. But I had no choice. So I turned around and told him.

It did not go well.

That little man made quite the scene in the middle of the tranquil Moosewood night. Of course, in the end it just solidified his place in the the heierarchy of the Universe as pond-scum. But my mistake burned through me as the rest of the restaurant-goers watched.

Oh well. Every job has its days. The manager (a different one) was sympathetic and let me off early. I drank a glass of wine and fantasized about being fired from the restaurant, finding that man (it wouldn't be hard), and killing him.

Probably that won't happen.

At least not the second part.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Partying with Mozart

Last night I had a dream that I was partying with Mozart in his apartment in some foreign city on New Year's Eve. He was wearing the wig and everything. I was disappointed by the apartment-I thought surely someone so famous could afford something bigger and more glamorous, but it turned out he was going to move in with his girlfriend soon and was just waiting the lease out.

The only music Mozart had in his apartment was classical LPs.

And I didn't actually have any fun at the party because Mozart didn't have any alcohol there, which I found surprising. There was plenty of breakfast food, though.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Weddings, Weddings, Weddings

Whew! I am in up to my elbows people, and sort of loving it!

This Friday was the wedding of afore-mentioned-friend Nicole. It was a gorgeous affair. Not only is this woman one of the smartest people I know, she is also hands-down one of the most beautiful. Check her out!

Unfortunately, I woke up the day before covered in mucus. On the inside. Eeww. Yes, I had contracted a summer cold the day before one of the most intense, potentially-funnest days of the summer. Put bluntly, it sucked. I felt like ass. I couldn't imbibe, which everyone knows is one of the greatest features of the wedding. All I wanted to do was lay down on one of the benches overlooking the sunset at the country club. But there was hair and makeup to be done, a bride to take care of, a dress to wear, singing to be done at the ceremony, copious pictures to be taken, a hot summer day to be contended with, and dancing duties to be performed at the reception.

Oh well. We can't win them all.

I also mentioned earlier the awesome girls in the bridal party. Again, though I couldn't fully appreciate their fantasticness due to my gross state, they were fabulous. Here's a picture of us doing a "wedding-vogue," which is what the photographer called it (P.S. she is TOTALLY my next character-work person!)(P.P.S. I'm the third one from the left, the pale one holding her flowers up, surrounded by awesomeness)

After the wedding was over, I slept for two days straight.

Now it turns out that my sister is also getting married in October! OMG I'm so excited! Then I have another wedding for one of my best friends in November that I'm in, and the duties are starting soon. Weddings weddings weddings! If you need me for the next few months...well, don't. Cause I'll be busy.

Now I'm feeling better and realizing that I haven't done any work on my own singing career for quite a while, due to illness, weddings, and waitressing. Time to buckle down and get back in there! So today I'll be at my computer working on financial proposals and finding venues.

P.S. I apologize for the poor grammar and valley-girl nature of this post. I'm not sure my brain is totally working yet.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Tennis and Toni Morrison

I'm going through a phase. It's one of those transition times that are extremely uncomfortable but necessary, when you know that if you just go through the discomfort you'll come out the other side better than before (Caveat: the next paragraph or two is/are about the mechanics of singing, so if that sort of thing interests you then by all means read ahead. If it doesn't feel free to scroll down).

The ability to trust has always been an issue in my singing. I am unable to trust that my breath and support will truly carry the tone, and so I manipulate a bunch of other stuff that would really work better if left alone. Onstage I am unable to trust that the work I have done will pay off better if I let it take over, and so I monitor what I'm doing every second and end up suffocating it. In general, I am unable to trust my very self, the self that I need most when I am alone onstage and need to produce this powerful and compelling sound.

As a result, my sound is very often less than powerful and compelling. I'm afraid to let it go without monitoring it, and I kill it before I even start. The body can tell when your brain doesn't trust it, even if you think you're doing a pretty good job of tricking it!

(Mechanics done, powerful wisdom and armchair philosophy to commence. Stop scrolling if you know what's good for you)

So about a month ago I was bitch-slapped across the face twice by two nuggets of wisdom about trust that fell from the sky one after the other. The first was while watching Wimbledon with the hubs. The men's finals ended up being Roger Federer (natch) against Andy Roddick, (not so natch, making him the underdog). Now, I don't watch sports all that often unless forced to, but when I am forced to do so, tennis is the least painful option. So here I am one month ago, quasi-enjoying what could only be called one hell of a match. Andy Roddick is on fire. Apparently he wasn't doing so well a year or so ago, and as a result he stepped up his training regimen and worked like a dog for the past year. His comeback is amazing. He is fighting like a bulldog for his first Wimbledon victory, and it is truly thrilling. Then one of the commentators says something like this:

"This match is so beautiful and amazing because Andy is really able to trust all the the training that he's put in for the past year."

I'm paraphrasing, because it was a month ago and I can barely remember what I had for breakfast, but it went something like that.

Well, that sentence, whatever it was, really struck me, because of course that's exactly what I need to be doing. I need to be working hard day-by-day, but when it comes time to perform in front of that piano, I need to drop it all and trust in the work and my own self. I need to trust that I've been working hard enough and that my body knows what its doing. And then I need to leave the rest behind.

The second slap came while reading an article in Oprah Magazine (don't hate. It kicks ass). The article contained several writers' perspectives on writing, and it included an interview with Toni Morrison. In it, she talks about following something as simple and intuitive as an image or sentence to discover characters and scenes. She says: "I go forward...starting out with an image, even if I don't know yet how to squeeze it, how to use it. It is trusting that picture that keeps me going." Later, on this same topic, she says;

"What I feel most is that because I am open and available, the universe-the idea-comes to me...It's that being open-not scratching for it, not digging for it, not constructing something but being open to the situation and trusting that what you don't know will be available to you. It is bigger than your overt consciousness or your intelligence or even your gifts; it is out there somewhere and you have to let it in."

This echoes that Pablo Neruda poem I wrote about earlier. You can claw your way desperately to your goal because you're terrified or what will happen if you don't, if you stop scratching and working. Or you can relax while you do your work in a spirit of play, and trust that whatever you're meant for is out there waiting for you to be open to its call.

I'm learning how to do the latter. It doesn't come naturally to me. I'm much more of the desperately clawing type. But thanks to the wisdom of three voice teachers at once, I'm finally learning how to trust my breath and my body's natural ability to make sound. While I do this I feel out-of-control and childish, like a baby re-learning how to walk (or something). But I think I can trust that I'll come out the other side a more compelling, relaxed, and soulful singer.

And while we're at it, it would be great if I could trust that my first shift on my own, a busy Friday night, won't be a complete disaster. I'm terrified but...serenity now...om...wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Woah, Nellie!

I have been a waitress now for two days. And I am exhausted. This morning I was supposed to get up at 8 and spend the first half of my day working on my singing stuff and doing yoga. So far, I've gotten up at 10, read some Twilight (no judging!), and caught up on the blogs I follow.

The day is not going as planned.

Crikey, this work thing that you all do sucks! Where's the time for reading poetry? Where's the time for working on your short story? Or doing the dishes? Or singing?

But actually, I sort of like being a waitress. I know, I'm totally shocked, too! I like the fast pace, the fact that the time goes quickly, the many varied responsibilities. The free food at the end is not bad, either. If I could only learn how to carry those damned trays, I'd be golden!

But I do have to figure out how to work for money and work on my singing career at the same time. I'm going to try to boost myself off of the futon after I write this rambling little ditty, but no promises.

Is there anybody out there who has managed to figure out how to juggle (hah, I wrote jubble the first time, which is now a word that I will try to find many opportunities to use) money-making and singing? Any words of advice?

Until then, I'll be dropping dishes and making the kitchen staff mad at Moosewood restaurant. Come see!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ode to Laziness

In the true fashion of How the World Works, I opened up Pablo Neruda this morning and came across his "Ode to Laziness." After yesterday's post I feel it's appropriate to recreate the poem here in all its glory. I'm going to re-write it in prose form because it'll save space and I'm curious as to how it will go. Perhaps Neruda will roll in his grave, but then again, maybe he'll like the exercise.

Ode to Laziness

Yesterday I felt that my ode wouldn't get up off the ground. It was time, it should at least show a green leaf. I scratched the earth: "Get up, sister ode"-I said to her-"I promised to produce you, don't be scared of me, I'm not going to step on you, ode with four leaves, ode for four hands, you'll have tea with me. Get up, I will crown you among the odes, we'll go out to the seashore on our bicycles." Nothing doing.

Then, high up in the pines, laziness appeared naked, she led me off dazzled and sleepy, she showed me on the sand little broken pieces of material from the ocean, wood, seaweed, stones, feathers of seabirds. I looked for yellow agates but didn't find any. The sea filled all spaces, crumbling towers, invading the coasts of my country, pushing forward successive catastrophes of foam. Alone on the sand a ray opened a ring of fire. I saw the silvered petrels cruise and like black crosses the cormorants nailed to the rocks. I set free a bee writhing in a spiderweb, I put a little stone in my pocket, it was smooth, very smooth like a bird's breast, meanwhile on the coast, all afternoon, sun and fog wrestled. Sometimes the fog was pregnant with light like a topaz, at other times a moist ray of sun fell, and yellow drops fell after it.

At night, thinking about the duties of my fugitive ode, I took off my shoes by the fire, sand spilled from them and right away I was falling asleep.


This is a beautiful illustration of what can happen when you allow life to take you along on its current, instead of hammering away at it, trying to get it to open for you. Creativity and beauty are natural outcomes of relaxation and ease and delight. This is definitely something to remember as we pursue our careers, whether they be opera singing or medical writing, or anything else. It's an idea that I'm going to try to hold on to, at least for the next few days.

And I think tomorrow will finally be the right time for that blog about trust. Until then, live with ease and joy!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

On relaxing

This morning I woke up at 10:45. Yesterday I woke up at 11:45 because I was partying hard the night before with good people (I still only got about four or five hours of sleep, because the first five were just pass-out sleep, which doesn't count). Yesterday I was supposed to do some work, but instead I read Fahrenheit 451, did some Ballet (sort of-does the old NYC ballet tape count?), watched Frida, talked with my husband, listened to This American Life, actually ate dinner with my husband, meditated, and rounded out the night with some Pablo Neruda.

I still feel vaguely guilty about not doing work, and about not doing work right now while I'm writing this blog. After all, guilty is my default. But really, should I feel guilty about finally getting good amounts of sleep, spending quality time with new friends (some of whom will be going back to college soon and I'll have to find some way to live without them), reading good literature and poetry, spending time and actually having conversations with my husband, and learning about Frida Kahlo's paintings? Nope.

(P.S. The movie is not good, but the images are beautiful. Watch it with the sound turned down)

Nope, nope, nope, I shouldn't. I've spend the last two years busting my ass for a Masters degree. I deserve a little R&R. Plus, it's not like I'm not working, I am, just not as hard as I did for those two years. And isn't that what summer's about? Taking life a little easier, allowing yourself time for reading, pursuing your creative instincts, writing? I suspect most people in America tout this summer ease but don't really follow it. But I am. It's been wonderful and healing.

If only I could get rid of this vague guilt! Plus, I now am fully realizing the importance of actually making money. But the new job starts on Monday, so that's taken care of. Until then, I'm going to cram in all the Pablo Neruda I can!

And here's my favorite quote of the day, taken from Fahrenheit 451:

"Ask no guarantees, ask for no security, there never was such an animal. And if there were, it would be related to the great sloth which hangs upside down in a tree all day every day, sleeping its life away. To hell with that."

Happy beautiful weekend!