Thursday, July 21, 2005

New York Stories...

I spent the last few days in New York City... after a long... make that LOOOOOOOOOOOONG plane ride. Let me emphasize, that I was on the plane for 9 fucking hours, but that our flying time was all of around 6. To spend an extra 3 hours on the plane without going anywhere is annoying to say the least. Needless to say, the natives were getting restless.

I woke up at 8:10 AM the day of my departure for New York (much to my husband's chagrin, I was leaving him for a week and a day... he couldn't come with me on this trip because of this thing he calls "work"... he has a normal job, so I guess that's the word to use), finished my packing and got ready. We arrived at LAX without incident because it was a Sunday, the best time to be on the freeways in LA (oh, you do NOT want to be driving on the 405 -- in either direction -- on the weekdays, particularly Friday... it's hell on earth, without exaggeration)... got checked-in and through security. I thought that the journey to NYC would go uneventfully. I was even able to catch the final moments of the British Open golf tournament (yes, Tiger Woods won) in the airport lounge before I made the decision to head downstairs, buy my Starbucks latte and get to my gate.

Part one of my trip goes without a hitch. I land at Dallas/Fort Worth airport, check which gate I'm leaving from, and wait for around an hour, texting my friends in Manila and calling my friend Victor to inform him of my arrival and confirm dinner plans with the girls. Finally, the boarding announcement is made... I settle into my seat, ready my noise cancelling headphones and my iPod, put my book away, and lean back.

This is when things get frustrating.

Once everyone's on board, the captain announces that "due to bad weather conditions in New York City, we cannot take off. Air traffic control is telling us that we will be delayed around 2 hours and 20 minutes" WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?!?!? At this point, some passengers make the decision to take their things and get off the plane to wait in the terminal. I thought to just stay on the plane, in case air traffic pushed up up in their flight sequence. Besides, I was too lazy, too sleepy and too tired to gather up my possessions and disembark. Never mind, I'll sit this out. How bad could this get, right?

I then lean my seat back, and strangely enough I'm able to get around an hour of shut eye. The captain's voice then awakens me with another announcement (I usually can sleep through just about anything... why was this an exception?): "Air traffic has advised us that unfortunately, things in La Guardia are such that our schedule has been pushed back. We've been hoping to get pushed forward, but we apologize for the delay, and will advise you if there are any changes." This... is... not... good. It was a minor consolation that the airline decided to show all the inflight movies and TV shows while we were on the ground to keep ennui from setting in, but after a few hours on that plane, you are bound to get stir crazy. And that captain expressed that to air traffic control, that everyone on the plane was getting restless. It must have reached God's ears, because a few minutes after that announcement, we got our salvation: "We'll be departing in 10 minutes." All the passengers hurriedly put their electronics away in preparation for the soon-to-happen takeoff. FINALLY!!!

The trip went quite smoothly once we were in the air, and the flight attendants started serving the food almost immediately after takeoff. After an hour or so, I decided to look out my window, and was stunned by the view outside: a more-than-half moon lighting our way, the black sky dotted with stars, and just below mists of clouds that made the scene look like something out of a Harry Potter novel. It was breathtaking. God was around somewhere, and if anyone else was looking out of their windows that night, would have been consoled by the beauty of the night sky. I wouldn't have traded that view for anything, and I felt fortunate to have seen it. It lasted all of a few minutes; I looked out again, and all I could see were grey clouds. I was blessed... for a few minutes, I felt blessed.

Landing in La Guardia was hectic, given that just about every delayed flight from different parts of the country landed at the same time ours did. Four flights per carousel (and there were a few carousels going round and round) were being serviced, and the ground staff was trying their best to get everyone's bags out as quickly as possible. My limo driver was also calling me, trying to find me amidst the crowd. We finally saw each other, and he met me at my spot. It didn't take too long for the suitcases to appear, and once they did, we were out of there.

I arrived at my hotel at around 2 AM (it was a pleasure getting into Manhattan today; no traffic from the airport!), checked in and brought my own bags upstairs in the hotel push cart, as there was only one person downstairs watching the lobby (and the mesmerizing fish tank). I navigated the narrow hallway (with the pushcart, which was at time unwieldy) to my little room, unloaded the luggage, parked the cart by the elevators, then began to settle in. The room was bathed in blue light when I entered, which I thought was cool. Then 5 minutes passed, and I had to turn them off. There was a plasma TV hanging on the wall (perfect for in-bed TV viewing), double window shades that were both drawn, a small bathroom, a desk with both broadband and dialup ports as well as electrical outlets and a really comfortable bed. As sparsely furnished as the place was, I was in a good place, and I'm glad the reservation was made.

The highlights of my stay were: seeing to the plans for the renovation of my New York apartment, the setting up of my website, meeting with the director of a concert I'll be doing in November at Carnegie Hall, and seeing two shows: DOUBT and SPAMALOT. Also, having rounds of blowjobs with my friends, and having dinner with my friend Yvette and her husband Marc. It was so good to just sit, drink, and catch up with everyone.

Doubt just won the Tony Award for Best Play, and it did not disappoint. I had never seen Cherry Jones in anything, so I had no idea what to expect. I was rivetted by her resolve as Sister Aloysius to determine the truth. Unfortunately Brian O'Byrne didn't play Father Flynn at that performance, but his standby Chris McGarry was quite good. The play ran at 90 minutes, and went by so quickly... I now need to read the play, in order to get a handle on whatever I might have missed. There were moments of laugh-out loud humor, and you-can-hear-a-pin-drop drama. No overacting, no hamming it up, just honesty. It was incredible to watch.

Spamalot was a trip!!! After hearing the soundtrack (and hearing of the passion for this show from friends in Manila), I was incredibly excited. Upon going inside, before I headed to my seat I made a beeline to the concessions stand to gather merchandise for the Spamalot Fan Club, Manila Chapter (you know who you are, peoples!), then went to the ladies room and finally found my seat, with the mountain of souvenir brochures and t-shirts at my feet. After hearing the creative "turn your cellphone off" message (I won't ruin it for those who haven't yet seen the show), the orchestra started to play... and from the first notes of that overture, I knew I was going to be in for a really great ride. I will not write about the show here, except to say that the entire cast was excellent and the show itself a riotous load of fun. My face was exhausted from laughing and smiling for over 2 hours. I didn't think having a good time would be so draining! After the show I headed backstage to visit my friend from the ensemble of the show, and was pleasantly surprised to see two former colleagues from the Manila production of Miss Saigon. We all exchanged hugs and how-are-you's. It was so great to see them. I then headed off to the car rental company to pick up my car... I had a long drive to DC ahead of me.

The drive was gorgeous, very different from driving on the freeways of Los Angeles. On my right were rows of tall trees, which made my imagination run wild with the thought of how beautiful this drive must be in the fall, when the foliage is a colorful display of reds, siennas, browns, yellows and oranges. I've never made an east coast road trip in the fall before, and it's something I wanna definitely do in my life before I die. If I do another New York show, that will definitely be on my to-do list. It's a sight I want to share as well with those I love and whose company I enjoy.

So... I have a concert on Saturday, and I think I'll be just fine. These are songs that I've done in concert before, so I'm not as stressed as I was in Munich. My New York friends are also making the drive down to watch the show, so I'm excited that they'll be here.

Signing off... this is one long ass blog!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Blame it on 'Day!!!

Haaaaaaaaaay... I saw this last entry in another blog ('Day, I blame this one on you!!!), and felt compelled to fill it in, too! You might be surprised by the answers!

Last cigarette: Not that long ago, I'm afraid... was stressing out over a few things, so I had a smoke. Doesn't happen often, and never when I'm working. I still wonder how there are people that smoke regularly and still churn out fantastic performances.

Last car ride: Last night, driving from a restaurant called Mastro's in Beverly Hills. I was kept company by wonderful texts from my good friends in Meralco.

Last good cry: Listening to WICKED in my car... singing along... and then feeling the tears well up. I must have looked like an idiot on the freeway!

Last Library book checked out: Library? What's a library? I kid, I kid! Seriously, it must have been something I checked out for school in either Fordham or Ateneo. A long, long time ago.

Last movie seen: Batman Begins. Oye! I loved this backstory far more than the other Batman films. Christian Bale shirtless is HOT. I gasped. Thank goodness I have an understanding husband.

Last book read: In progress: One Hundred Years of Solitude. Completed: the entire Griffin & Sabine series. Well, Parts 4-6 anyway... I heard there are more.

Last food consumed: our Mastro's leftovers. Yummy!

Last crush: Jett Pangan (after seeing his transformation in BATB, I was hooked and screaming)... Brad Pitt... Piolo Pascual (another hot man when not wearing a shirt!)... Ewan McGregor (in Moulin Rouge!)

Last phone call: with Bobby, Karel and KC.

Last TV show watched: British Open golf. Tiger Woods is leading, but there's a whole leaderboard at his heels. It should make for an interesting final round tomorrow.

Last time showered: 1 AM, after getting home.

Last shoes worn: my favorite Dansko clogs.

Last CD played: Daniel Rodriguez (I sing on two songs for his newest album), Wicked (on the iPod)

Last item bought: Gas. I ran out last night.

Last downloaded: Photos from Bobby!

Last annoyance: Yesterday's rehearsals... call time 4 PM... actual rehearsal time 9 PM. Thank goodness for good company that kept me entertained for many hours. Oh, and Piolo shirtless.

Last disappointment: Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!!! Hearing about friend's disappointments with rehearsal times and lack of respect for them.

Last soda drank: Diet Coke.

Last thing written: This!!!

Last key used: Car keys

Last words spoken: "I'll talk to you tomorrow! I miss you!" -- to Bobby

Last sleep: Last night, after some Sudafed.

Last IM: with 'Day and Bobby, on different IM clients! I was multitasking!

Last sexual fantasy: I'm keeping this one to myself... but it involves creative uses for fruit and plenty of tongue. Figure it out!!!

Last weird encounter: Nothing strikes me as weird anymore... oh wait... trying to avoid a certain former friend... I was desperate to get into Chari's room that evening!

Last ice cream eaten: Two days ago... vanilla, after a sumptuous Japanese noodle meal.

Last time amused: Yesterday at rehearsals, hearing Zsa Zsa Padilla ask for her camera.

Last time wanting to die: I don't remember, and I probably wouldn't want to.

Last time in love: NOW!!! I still am, oye!

Last time hugged: This morning... got a nice long one.

Last chair sat in: Dining room chair... like, right now!

Last time you went dancing: A long, long time ago, with friends and family. Was it Hawaii? Okay troops, we gotta go dancing again!!! And soon!

Last web page visited: 'Day's blog.

Last fruity photo taken: Yesterday, with Zsa Zsa, Piolo and Amir. I must remind myself to get a copy.

Sunday, July 3, 2005

Stress... it can be good for you...

Munich... July 2... 11:03 am. I'm stressed. 3 hours and 45 minutes to our soundcheck and final general rehearsal at the Odeonsplatz... 11 hours to go before we head to the stage... and I'm stressed. I'm at my desk listening to different songs from my music library... 80's rock... musical theater... hard rock... jazz... classical... in an effort to take my brain off of whatever this is I'm feeling. Hmmm... maybe I shouldn't have had that third cup of coffee.

Stress is something I've learned to live with, expect, and even enjoy as part of my job. It's that extra adrenaline push in my bloodstream... the extra espresso shot... that intangible thing that makes my pulse race. It's something that I associate with a challenge. In this case, the challenge is singing a high soprano part... with an excellent singing partner... accompanied a fantastic orchestra led by a Grammy award-winning conductor. Translation: I'm in deep shit.

I have found myself in situations like this before, where I'm at the point of near desperation, filling my mind with negativity ("What the hell am I thinking??? I can't fucking do this!!!"), trying to scurry about in my head for solutions. John Barrowman (my partner for tonight) said at our first rehearsal: "There that face that I haven't seen in years... that STRESS face... the one where you're pretending that you're in control, but you're stressing out inside." How well he knows, even after not having worked together for 15 years.

So... the minute I got back to the hotel, I sat in my room, my music in front of me... piece by piece I went through each song, marking specific points where syllables need to be separated for easier singing... I find starting something with either a hard "g" or "k," or a "t" to be the easiest. Singing the "eh" or "ey" sound is never easy... to be honest, I actually loathe it. I have to think harder to figure out how to produce the sound.

Yes, believe it or not, for one night, I am a soprano. I'm billed as such in the programme too.

Today, I'm in my bathrobe, going through all my technical mumbo-jumbo once more, trying to be as specific and detailed as possible... and then tonight, I'm just going to forget about it all, and enjoy the emotional roller coaster of music.

1:28 PM... and I'm writing in my blog to help clear my head. Seems to be working...

I've also made prayer requests from my friends (the BATB cast included me in their pre-show prayer, which was sweet) to help calm me down, and I think the knowledge that my nearest and dearest are rooting for me is helpful.

5:03 PM... I'm back from rehearsals (was for around an hour actually...) and I'm happy. The sound check at Odeonsplatz went very well... if all things go as they did in rehearsal, we will have a great night. The weather is cooperating, thankfully... it'll be a nice, clear evening. Perfect for a concert.

My notes are there now, and I'm getting a bit of rest in preparation for the evening. I don't have to be there until 9:30 tonight, so we're going to grab some dinner at around 6:30 to keep us going through the show.

Back to the stress. I guess the only real way to combat it is an awareness that there is much preparation required to get the job done... to be vigilant in practice... to realize what my limitations are, and try to go beyond them.

5:30 PM... Time to lie down for a bit, then head off for something to eat. Will write again once the show is over.

July 3, 2:32 AM... Well, as you can guess, the concert is finished, and it went very very well. My friends' prayers got me through (I truly believe in its power), not just for my voice but for the weather... everything went as I had hoped, if not better. You might say that I had nothing to stress out about, but you know what? It's because I worried and took the time to prepare that this night turned out the way it did... and I wouldn't have done it any other way.

"When angels travel, the sun shines." -- German proverb

Friday, July 1, 2005

Not so lovely thoughts from lovely Munich...

I was not having a great day on June 28... this was the day I was scheduled to leave for Munich, but as of that morning, I hadn't heard about the status of my Schengen Visa application. I made it a point to wake up at 8 AM, just to start calling. It's never too early in the day to get obnoxious with the German Embassy. So, while waiting for the news, I started packing -- halfheartedly, due to the possibility that I wasn't going to fly that evening -- and texting my friends to de-stress myself. After finally getting the news from the Visa department that my passport would be released at noon that day and be ready for pick up anytime after 2 PM, immediately the relaxation went through my body like a gentle wave. I was incredibly relieved, so my packing task went much more quickly, and even pleasantly. All this of course, while texting my friends, one of whom was confident that I would depart that evening. She was, of course, right.

Fast forward to sitting in the Frankfurt airport waiting to board the short flight to Munich. Rob and I are sitting in the airport's business class lounge when I start getting the news (via text and the internet) that Susan Sonora Poe (aka Susan Roces) is on the warpath. Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had, the night before, admitted on national television that it was indeed her voice on the "Hello, Garci" wiretap recording. It is alleged that this phone call with an election official was to guarantee that she would win the election by a margin of 1,000,000 (I haven't heard the recording, so I have no comment as to what was said and by whom). In her public apology, Pres. Arroyo asked the country to forgive her, and hopes that she can get back to the business of governing the country. Headlines two days later scream that Mrs. Poe does not accept Pres. Arroyo's apology, and accuses her of stealing the presidency not once, but twice (from her late husband Ronnie Poe and former president Joseph Estrada).

Political instability seems to be the only stable thing in the Philippines.

As a Filipino living abroad, I am frustrated with the Philippines. I am frustrated that we seem so "trigger happy" to have another uprising like People Power and EDSA II. I am frustrated that the rest of the world seems to have overtaken us. I am frustrated that cooler heads aren't prevailing. I am frustrated that we make it so much harder for ourselves to stabilize the country, thereby stabilizing our economy. I am frustrated that the value of the peso has gone down. I am frustrated that no one seems to give a fuck (another uprising... so what else is new?).

So what are we supposed to do? Cory Aquino asks us to pray. Well, you know what? Jesus Christ isn't going to all of a sudden come down from heaven and fix everything for us. I hear these words at mass during the Prayers of the Faithful: "we pray for political stability... we pray for a stable economy... we pray you come down here and fix everything." Okay, maybe not that last one, but you get the idea.

The impression I'm getting is that we as a people are passive, passing on all the responsibility on our government, and very quick to place the blame on said government when things screw up. Whatever happened to personal culpability and responsibility? Whatever happened to taking charge, grabbing the bull by the horns and fixing what we can to the best of our ability? I'm not saying we have to go out there and change the entire world; rather, I ask to change our own little corners of the world, in the hope that these little changes add up to something that truly makes a difference. Each of us was placed on this good earth for a specific reason: some of us are artists... some are doctors... lawyers... economists... businessmen... gardeners... street sweepers... drivers (personal, taxi, jeep or bus)... bellhops... waiters... pilots... policemen... computer programmers... housewives. Each of us has the ability to change our own little corner of the world. We have the power and the knowledge to effect change.

If there's something we can pray for, it's for the strength and the proverbial kick in the ass to stop blaming others for what's happening, and do something for ourselves and one another. In turn, we'll be doing our country a huge favor. Perhaps then we'll then catch up with the rest of the world. It may take a while, but we can do it.