Friday, August 14, 2009

In the meantime

I know- I've got updating to do. In the meantime, enjoy these fun videos- scenes from the life of a real-life married couple, translated into those cute animated shorts. This is the most recent, they have many more vids:

BTW- these have language that is not safe for work, although the videos themselves are harmless.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Si pone in lista: Italia 2009

Gentile clienti,

Okay, enough of that. I'm not even sure if what I wrote makes complete sense, but none of y'all would know any different anyway. Here's the list of stuff that's happened to me since I arrived in Italy two days ago:

1. "Sei fidanzata?" I'm on the train from Rome to Arezzo, where I'm staying. Two ladie sit in the seats facing mine, as I was finishing up some last minute translating. I'm not scared to ask for help translating, especially because it's a very easy way to break the ice with Italians, who can be somewhat formal and distant if you're a stranger to them. Throw some Conditional mood at them and ask for their opinion, and you're in like Turin.

So these two ladies happened to be teachers of the Italian language, which meant we got to shooting the shit and next thing you know, one of them asks me,

"Sei fidanzata?"

"Are you engaged/wife-ied?"

Nightmares of being kidnapped and held hostage in the basement of a Tuscan farmhouse danced in my head, but I escaped the train without matrimonial incident, luckily.

2. I've had good food wherever I go. Not always amazing food, but always very good, and that's more than most places can say. They are really serious abiut food here: pride is taken in the quality of whatever product you're using, and the less done to it, the better. Tuscan food is veru much this way, compared with the food of Emilia Romagna which is apparently amazing, but more complicated. (Another big thing in this part of Italy is wine, and tonight I had my first glass and it was bangin. Not a bad way to spend fifteen bucks.)

3. Sunstroke/death: The thing about Italy is that nothing happens precisely as you plan it, and from the outset of any trip here, accepting that will make your life easier. Even the Americans running the program here take a more lackadaisical Italian attitude- I'm not sure if being here gives them permission to be unorganized, or if their dependence on Italians leads to disorganization by default.

Anyway, I was told that a representative from the program would meet everyone arriving at the train station, and get us to our lodgings.Perfect, because after travling over the ocean on a sleepless flight in a tight seat, I couldn't imagine dealing with luggage in a new city and a sweaty ass.
Of course, the guide was never there. Instead, I walked around the hilly city in the brash Italian sun, dodging the antiquing crowds, going to various program offices trying to locate anyone with information- all to no avail. I was sweating like crazy, heart pounding a mile a minute, feeling like Beyonce after doing a three hour show in Dereon heels. After a couple or three hours of no luck, I finally found my new landlord, who thought it would be great to make me roll my seventy pounds of luggage up the hill to his house which is perched at the top. Suffice it to say, I was scared that my first day in Italy was about to be my last on earth- apparently my body doesn't do well without oxygen. Weird, right?

Anyway- I'm glad I pulled on through, because this house is cool as far as Italian lodgings are concerned. Hundreds of years old, no neighbors, on top of a hill, with thick stone walls that would make A/C redundant.

4. I sang my first audition in the longest time yesterday, and boy was it quite the event. While this program is a college pay-to-sing, there were a few people in that room who have some pull, and there are also a few really kick ass singers in the program as well. The audition went well, thank Il Signore. Today was my first lesson and coaching, both of which were awesome and reaffirming. In fact, during my coaching, I was given a Come to Jesus speech, but in the most positive of senses.

It's still hard to know what to make of this: just a week ago I was working a regular job with benefits and the happiness of a constistent check, and a week later I'm being told that people want to help get me back on track in the opera world because they believe in me.

And yes...I'm believing again, too, but that still doesn't fully answer whether or not I'm willing to give all it takes.

In the meantime, I'm soaking up these musical experiences like so many gelati, and really figuring out how to sing and be in the moment without expectation of what might or could happen outside of making a nice sound.

That plus Italy makes me a happy boy.

Monday, March 30, 2009

All G(r)eeks Click Here

Actually, click here.

Things like this are why I can't quit the internet.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Più duro, meglio, più presto, più forte

Is my title messed up? Is there a way to say, "better" in Italian using the word "più"? I guess I'll have to wait a couple of months to find out, because I'm going to Italy. Yes, all of you have read this already on my Facebook status. Now for the backstory and details:

Not too long ago, I was daydreaming frequently about two things in particular: going back to Italy this summer, even if it meant doing a program where I'd be earning no money, and; finding a way to study with this teacher from Oberlin College who is a really nice guy and whose technical ideas seemed to work with me during our one and only lesson last summer. This state of day-dreamery lasted about a week or so. Typically, I'd have gone longer, but the daydreaming got cut short when I received an email from said teacher at Oberlin College. It said:

"Dear Poundpapi,

Oberlin has a program in Italy. We need a tenor for one of our shows. Wanna come if we cover the program expenses?"

Why, yes I do. <------ That was my answer.

I'm not exactly sure how my answer could have been any different, honestly. I've been patiently waiting for some type of sign of what I could do with my life, and even my oblivious self couldn't ignore how amazing the timing of these events was.

So, from early June through the middle of July, I'll be living in Arezzo which is a non-touristy city in Tuscany. I'll be singing a role in a never-done opera (La Rondine) but studying with a lovely teacher and his bitchin (in both ways) partner who is a vocal coach. Score. I'll also take Italian lessons, hopefully from my future Italian husband. I ain't scurred to be scandalous, no I ain't.

Okay, so while I was daydreaming of summer trips and voice lessons, I was also daydreaming about what it would be like to go live in Bologna for a year. I've never been there, but according to all reports, it's a liberal city with great food, a big gay scene, and not too many tourists mucking things up. I'm for all of those things. So, in between heart-wrenching sessions of online job hunting, I'd occasionally look for jobs and apartments in Bologna. Now, this was truly, truly daydreaming, because getting a job and a new life in Italy seems so far beyond the realm of what I want to deal with right now- at least logistically. Still, it never hurts to spend a little time pretending. The other issue with running away to Italy for a year is that job permits for foreigners are notoriously hard to get. So, I put the thought out of my head, Fred.

So fast forward again- I get the news that I'm going to Italy, so immediately, I Facebook Giulia- my Milanese hookup- to let her know that I'm coming her way, and would love to see her and her kick-ass family. (In particular, I want to see her great-aunt Zia Piera- that woman is about ninety years old, sharp as a knife, cute, and willing to give lessons in Milanese, which is a completely separate language from Italian. What's not to love about Zia Piera?)

So I write Giulia: "I'm coming your way- yadda, yadda, yadda- this is so funny, because I was just daydreaming about running away to Italy for a year to get a job, and then I remembered how hard it is for foreigners to get work permits, yadda, yadda, yadda."

Giulia (in nicer words): "Poundpapi, you are an idiot. You've known me for years, and still forget that my job's whole purpose is to help foreigners get work permits in Italy."

Is this a sign?


So that's that. Going to Arezzo. After the program finishes, I want to go to Milan, see the Orianis, maybe take a quick trip up near the Swiss border- Giulia has homies there, and it would be nice to get away from Milano. Then a few days in Rome- during my last trip, I got nowhere near enough time in that amazing city- and then back home. Or maybe not. I'm not really planning on any touristy stuff. Just food and men. If any of you have friends living in Roma, please holla- it would be nice to have a homie there to guide my restaurant choices.

Last but not least- there are reasonable non-stop tickets (about $700- not bad for the tourist season) from Toronto to Roma on AirCanada. Anyone want to join me?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Lists Within Lists

So much to report on since my last writing:

A. Lerla (of riceandbeansandcollardgreens) is living in Chile for six months beginning a week or so ago. I'm so excited and jealous. In her honor, let us discuss a peculiar construction in the Spanish language, one I like to call:

¡¡¡Unnecessary Combat!!! (BAM! POW!)

Unnecessary Combat makes perfect sense to me. In my family, people are always trying to tell others how to do everything and how to experience everything. The result is an underlying aroma of defensiveness in interpersonal interactions, lol. One reaction to the defensiveness would be to back off, but that would be too Scandinavian. Latinos? We just up the ante. I bring this up because Unnecessary Combat goes something like this:

1. The Setup: there is no setup. The point of UC is that it generally comes out of the blue. The casual observer would assume that a conflict is already in motion, judging by the tone of the utterance, but the casual observer would be wrong.

2. The Exclamation: ¡get your upside down exlamation marks ready (option-1 on Macs)- UC is muy sabroso!

3. The Contradiction: now is when you contradict whatever was said in #1, namely, nothing. It goes something like this: 
  "¡Ay, pero...!"

In English- "Oh, but....!"

4. The Roundoff: get to your point. This coffee is soooooo rich. The pernil is suuuuuper flavorful. You sing veeeeeeerrrrry well. You look gooooood in your new dress. Etc. It is perfectly acceptable, and in fact expected, that you will utter the entire UC in an incredulous and grunty voice. Otherwise- how will anyone believe you? (Bioletta is legendary at this voice. I hope she reads this entry. In fact, Maven should send her a link. If I were to send it to her myself, it would just be tacky, lolz.)

5. Victory: you've left no choice but for everyone to agree with you.

That's all there is to Unnecessary Combat. In real time, it goes like this:

Lerla and Dom sit at her kitchen table and take their first sip of amazing Hawaiian coffee.

Simultaneously: "¡¡¡Ay, pero que rico!!!"

The best part of this example is that it really happened, and the UC was rendered even more unnecessary because we were both experiencing the coffee together. It's not like I needed to talk Lerla into trying the coffee. In fact, since it was her coffee, she already knew how rich it was- why should I try to convince her? I guess this example should be called Super-Unnecessary Combat. SUC.

Bioletta also knows about UC, because of her Spanish heritage, and I bet Madness could go to battle too. While I've yet to meet the Californian homegirl, for sure Bioletta and Lerla and I have derived hours of entertainment from UC-ing and SUC-ing each other. (BCSM- don't be dirty!)

B. In my quest to be happier, I've finally joined a gym. Actually I've flirted with working out consistently several times before, but never found the right approach to making it stick. Typically, I was motivated by achieving physical gains quickly, but this time, priority #1 is to elevate myself from the emotional funk/fallout that has been part of my life lately. 

In short, a few weeks ago, I thought it was time for me to really sit down and excavate some of the feelings surrounding the life-changing events of the last 18 months. During treatment, exploring these emotional nooks and crannies didn't seem prudent. I was very much focused on having cancer be a short detour as opposed to a complete new mode of transportation, so I didn't feel there was too much about which to get worked up (lolz). Experiencing the emotions surrounding loss well after the fact is kind of my M.O. anyway, and this situation proved no different. Honestly, I'm grateful for that, because in this case, I think the crisis warranted as cool a head as possible.

Anyway, when I decided it was time to excavate, I kind of wasn't prepared for how much it would hurt. Fine- let me go see a therapist. Did it, and derived no pleasure from it. In fact, I left her office feeling worse than when I arrived, which I'm sure is common. God bless her, but homegirl didn't seem terribly experienced- she was a tender young thing. I guess the hospital figured that the big guns were better saved for cases of schizophrenia and the like. Fair enough. Our session was one painful hour of her going through the little therapy manual in her head. Listen. Mirror patient's concerns. Express some sympathy while maintaining objectivity. Awkward silence. Of course, I already knew going into therapy that therapists are not there to provide answers as much as they are there to provide an outlet/avenue. Still, I'm not seeing her anymore.

So I'm thinking that I'll just use the gym and my friends for therapy for now. Seems to be working, too. As for the gym thing, I'm actually feeling good about this go-round, as opposed to my previous encounters, and the reason is very simple: I'm eating before and after workouts. Yes, I'm so sincerrrre.

A couple of years ago, my brother The Hulk and SIL lost a bunch of weight doing Body-for-Life, and were nice enough to send my a copy of the book when I expressed interest. Cool. Except that it was too much, too soon, and in some cases, just plain wrong for me. The diet portion was boot camp-ish and unpleasant (too much protein, not enough cheese, lots of no-nos, nothing truly delicious, etc.) and what killed me most was that the author recommended working out first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. No wonder I was walking around like a zombie for the few weeks I stayed on that program. I'd leave the gym feeling like I had just spent the previous two weeks on a non-stop weed binge- tired and spaced out just as I was ready to start what were thirteen and fourteen-hour days at that point. Silly me- I kind of thought maybe this was the rush of endorphins I kept hearing about. No- this was low-blood sugar with a hint of anemia, lol.

So now that I'm over losing a bunch of weight in a short time, the whole gym thing is way better. Cardio still does me in a little bit, but not like before. Lifting weights is a whole new world when I'm properly fed. Finally, I know what endorphins feel like! Most importantly, I'm not going to even attempt an overhaul of my diet concurrently with the new workout regimen. One thing at a time, as far as I'm concerned.

C. Saturday (Valentyme's Day) was my one-year birthday. At least, it's my blood and immune system's birthday. Spent the morning with my big sister in tha 'Lo, and then made it back to Rochacha in time for a disco nap. "Disco nap?" you may ask? Yes. I had plans to go out with a guy and a few of his friends, all of whom I met at the Cluuuuhhhhhb a couple of weeks ago. We'll call the guy Blow Out. (Don't be dirty, Bill. Lerla, take a guess at why this is funny, and you'll be correct.) The reason for the nickname is that on the first night we spent any significant amount of time chatting, his hair had been did. Blowed Out. Interesting choice, for sure, but his saving grace is that he has a really good sense of humor about it, on top of a great personality, plus he look gooder than a mug. (Chay-Funk, remind me to tell you about what you'd surely find to be his most attractive quality.) A good time was had again, on Valentyme's.

Can I just marvel, once more, at how poppin the Cluuuuuuhhhhhhb was here? In Rochahca? I spent a good portion of the night trying to convince a possible tranny to do some dips on the dancefloor, but I guess that club wasn't that poppin : (

D. I feel like I'm zeroing in on what an appropriate career might be for me, aside from the music thing, and thank Jeebus, because it calms my anxiety. I'm thinking that I'd like to get involved either with grant writing, or grant making for non-profits. I know- I have more mental whittling to do on the topic, but I'm feeling good about this. I know I could be a good grant writer. When I bother to proofread, I'm a good to great writer, and I really do flourish at jobs in which explicit instructions are de riguer. Furthermore, grant writing/making skills are useful in both the arts and community service- the fields closest to my heart. Finally, the jobs outlook for grant writers is better than average, and apparently, one can make a decent living out of it. In a sign that the universe may be opening itself up to my eventual employment in this field, I keep meeting people involved in grant writing/making here in Rochester. Most recently, on VD, Blow Out introduced me to a friend who is currently a grant writer, and who will be transitioning to grant making at the state level later this month. He's going to hook me up with some ideas about how to get involved in this area, which is nice as I have little to no experience.

In short, things are trending up here in Rochacha.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Best Thing About Jazz

The best thing about jazz is that sometimes it's impossible to tell where the changes are taking you. Then you end up in a new place and it seems obvious that that's where you were going all along.

I swear to Bejeezus, that thought came to me tonight while at a concert and was not intended to be some Oprah quote of the day.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Orale, ese!!!

Yesterday must have been Hate on Oppressed People's Day at Wegman's- the local grocery haven. This is why:

1. I was strolling around Wegman's doing some shopping for SIL, and also picking up some items for myself. Typical bougie fare adorned my shopping cart: organic cage-free eggs, Pecorino Romano, brussels sprouts, whatever whatever, blasé blah. I'd even stopped by the tea bar to pick up a cup of perfectly brewed super-grassy Japanese green tea, so I was feeling good, reveling in the food Elysium that is Wegman's. I made my way over to the yoghurt section to pick up some lovelies, and as I was leaving, I stopped for a millisecond to consider getting some goat's milk for the hell of it. Just as I stopped, the guy stocking the refrigerated foods section walked near me, and when we made eye contact, he asked, "Are you looking for tortillas?" with a genuine Let-Me-Offer-Your-Mexican-Ass-Some-Great-Customer-Service Smile. After politely declining his tortilla-finding services, I cracked the hell up and called BCSM. He loves racist humor. I'm still laughing.

2. As I was picking up paper towels, a little hunched lady asked me to read her the prices on the sponges she was eyeing. So I did, to which Ol' Girl replied:

"They want I should pay $3.49 for sponges?!?! I can't believe it!!!"

Why did my prejudiced ass immediately assume this lady was Jewish? I mean, I do live in the midst of many Jews. A & A would feel right at home here in Brighton, NY. Still...was I lashing out because someone called me a Messican?

Actually, I reserved my lashing out for one of the developmentally disabled people they hire to be "Helping Hands" in the parking lot. Ol' Boy almost got plowed into when he tried to weave around my shopping cart. I guess there's a recession on tolerance, too :  (

In unrelated news, can I just mention that the first couple of weeks of 2009 have already destroyed all of 2008 as far as goodness goes? Considering my 2008, that's not very hard to do, but it seems as though 2008 was pretty much a difficult year for everyone. Anyway, within the past few weeks I:

- had a great date with Mister, and will have another one on Saturday when we go to hear some Zydeco together.

- had a great trip to Buffalo where I saw Lerla, met her best friend HowYouDern and saw Ban Bornelius- one of my favorite people ever.

-'Bout to get a new President.

- yesterday I got a call (two months late) letting me know that I won a small grant that I'd applied for in September. Since the application stated that the awards would be made in November, I'd already assumed that my application was denied. In fact, I was relieved, because I originally applied for the grant to help pay for this past audition season, which was cut short but my busted voice; so in the event that I won the grant, I thought I would have to decline it anyway. So it turns out that there were way more applicants for the grant than they'd ever had before, which accounts for the delay. Furthermore, since these grants are for young adult cancer survivors, their raison d'être is to help grantees with whatever transitions are happening in their lives. In short, they're encouraging me to accept the funds and put themto use toward something else, like getting an apartment. (I'm only too happy to do so- I'm ready to not live at home anymore.) According to the young woman who runs the organization granting these awards, my application was unanimously approved by the board because my essay was so damn good. (high fives self)

- BCSM sent me a link to a job notice for which I am qualified and interested. Of course, I've sent out tons of resumes lately all with no luck, but I've got my fingers, toes and dick crossed for this one.