Monday, April 24, 2006

Not quite a wash-out

Fri Kerry & Hugh invited us to join them at the movie cafe to see "Benchwarmers". I'd seen a quick preview and thought this appeared to be one of those mind-numbing films that I'd wished I'd only paid $3.79 to rent, rather than $18.-19. for me and Joe to see. Fortunately, I was wrong. One of the lead roles was played by John Heder of 'Napoleon Dynamite' fame, playing and equally geeky teenager role. He doesn't play Napoleon, but dorky and awkward teen who is bullied.

The movie cafe is like a conference room with a movie screen in it. Instead of typical rows of stationary seats, it has tables and office chairs. A waiter takes your order and then brings you food once the movie starts.

At Kerry & Hughs' recommendation, Joe & I got the "I Can't Make Up My Mind" combo, which consisted of a bucket of popcorn, a pitcher of soda, a personal-size pizza, an order of nachos, and a basket of french fries, 2 chicken fingers, 2 mozzarella sticks, and 2 jalapeno poppers. Perfect!

The movie was much funnier than I expected, causing eruptions of laughter from everyone, and the food was tasty and exactly what I was expecting it to be. Probably not so great for dieters or people with cholesterol problems, but great for the occasional splurge. We had a great time.

Afterward we went back to Kerry & Hugh's house to visit, see their photos and DVD, and hear their stories of their recent visit to the Gulf Coast. They spent a week helping in the rebuilding effort after hurricane Katrina.

Then Sat we picked up Joe's mom and my aunt Mary and drove out to Browntown for the Redbud Festival. Browntown is a tiny little itty bitty hamlet about 9 miles outside of Front Royal. The narrow and winding road leading from Front Royal to Browntown has lots and lots of redbud trees, which were doing their best to show off their exquisite beauty despite the intermittent rain and gloomy skies. The "redbud festival" should probably be renamed something less formal and more appropriate like "redbud day", because the term "festival" just implies too much. Afterward we went to lunch in Front Royal and then stopped at Big Lots for a few essentials. After dropping the ladies at their respective homes, Joe & I stayed in the rest of the evening.

Sun we slept in late. It was raining and we didn't have anything planned for the day. We finally got ourselves out of the house around 11:30 and went to breakfast at the Charlie Horse Grill. We ran into a couple we knew from church, Tom & Travis. We chatted with them for a few minutes, until our food arrived. Then we decided to go to SteinMart. We'd heard commercials about it and since we really had nothing better to do on a rainy Sun, we drove out to Leesburg to check it out. (You'd never guess that gas is $3. a gallon by all the driving we did this weekend.) Just as we were arriving, the skies began to clear, the clouds broke up and the sun came out. So after giving Stein Mart a cursory walk-thru, we drove back home and dawned tennis shoes and shorts and began cleaning up our front yard. Our beds got no attention at all last summer so we are trying to do a better job this year. We pulled weeds and bagged leaves for a while until our neighbor Suzanne came over. Then we sat on the front porch chatting with her for a while.

We both showered and went to dinner at the Taco House. Despite the dismal start to the day, the afternoon/evening was lovely. We sat outside and enjoyed a lovely spring evening as we ate our fajitas. I also enjoyed a tasty frozen marquerita that went down so smooth, I could have easily had another! Then we picked up a Bavarian cream cake and headed over to the Newlyweds. We had dessert on their top floor balcony, catching up on each others' careers and basking in the breeze. Then we came home and watched 'Sopranos' and 'Big Love'.

So, despite the wet weather, the weekend wasn't a wash-out.

The Audition

A few weeks ago I really got in the mood to sing again. I’ve been in different choirs, choruses, quartets, and other assorted singing groups on and off for years. Not that my interest keeps waning, but rather, I’ve just not been able to find a group that felt like the right fit.

So I looked on Craigslist and saw an ad for a cappella singers. Well, now that’s getting close I thought. So I responded to the ad and began an email exchange with the musical director of a local group looking for singers. The group is all male and sings all styles of music, mostly arranged by group members. Not exactly what I was hoping for. My ideal group would be male/female and would sing nothing but a cappella jazz. But since I didn’t see anything like that, I decided to investigate this group further.

The musical director of the group, Hugh, said the group was open to doing jazz, but didn’t currently have anything in their repertoire that was arranged in a jazz style. Well I could fix that, I thought to myself. I was upfront with him about my ‘dream’ group, but also thought this might be a fun something to do in the meantime; a way to satisfy my desire to sing and perform again. It might also give me exposure to people who want to do jazz.

Hugh suggested I come to one of their rehearsals, to meet the guys, hear their sound, sing with them a little, and see how the personalities matched and such. It sounded very easy, breezy, and laid back, so I said yes. We arranged for me to join them the following Tues.

That’s when I got that terrible sinus infection. So I emailed Hugh and told him I’d gotten sick and could not make it. He was very gracious and told me to rest and get well; that they’d be there when I got better. So two weeks later when I’d finally gotten most of my congestion relieved, I emailed him and told him I was ready to meet everyone. Great – it was set.

When I showed up I met Hugh first, and was briefly introduced to the other 3 guys. Hugh asked me to fill out a little questionnaire, and then when I finished he asked me “So, are you ready for your audition?” Of course I said ‘yes’ even though the truthful answer would have been ‘no’. I mean, I’d warmed up before arriving and had picked two songs to sing, just in case they wanted to hear me solo, but I really didn’t think I’d be “auditioning” that night. I tried not to let on.

The audition started by Hugh asking me to sing something. I’d chosen my favorite audition piece “It Might As Well Be Spring”, a rendition I’d copied from an old Ella Fitzgerald album. Hugh shook his head and simply said “Nice. Very nice.” Then he asked me to sing another piece so I sang “Misty”, my own rendition of the Johnny Mathis classic. Hugh liked that as well. Then he had me sing scales, to get an idea of my range. He seemed quite pleased, which didn’t surprise me. I do have a pretty wide range, especially in the upper register. Then he had me take a deep breathe and sing a sustained note for as long as I could, to test my ability to hold notes for extended periods. He reported to me that among the singers in the room, I was #3 out of 5 for holding the note the longest. That seemed about right. Then we all stood to sing some pieces together. I was handed a notebook with music in it, and I followed along while they sang the first verse of each song. Then I sang along with them the 2nd time through, and then I was asked to sing the solo parts the 3rd time through. Fortunately I was familiar with 3 out the 4 songs, so I really just needed to get the pitches right, since I knew the rhythm and note values. It went pretty well, although I got really lost on one of the pieces and stopped singing completely. But that’s sight-reading. Most people don’t like doing it, and once you’re in the group, you really don’t have to do it often. Once you get your music, you learn it at home. We ended the audition by just talking a bit about ourselves: what we’ve done musically, what we like, etc. Hugh came outside the apartment door with me as I was leaving, thanked me for coming, and said that after they finished talking about me, he’d give me a call in a few days.

As I walked to my car I felt a sense of accomplishment. I’d done it. I’d gone to an audition that I didn’t even realize was going to be an audition, I’d managed not to let my nerves get the better of me, and I’d done a good job. I felt proud of my performance. But oddly, I almost didn’t care. I thought that if they liked my singing, liked my personality, and wanted me in the group, that would be great. But if they didn’t select me – because I was too ‘jazzy’ or too old or too anything – I wouldn’t take it personally, and I probably wouldn’t even be disappointed. (In fact, I thought it might be a relief NOT to be selected, because I found Hugh to be very attractive, and almost a distraction while I sang my solos.) It was an unusual feeling for me to almost not care, because most of the time I’m very one way or the other. I wasn’t familiar with this feeling of ambivalence. I figured it must have been because it really wasn’t my ideal group. I wasn’t nearly as vested in the outcome of this, as I’d have been if the group were a male/female jazz group.

So, of course because I didn’t really care, I got the position. Well, sorta. Actually, when Hugh called me on Thurs he offered me the position as a substitute. See, they want the group to have a duplicate or substitute singer for every voice part so that the group never has to turn down a gig due to somebody’s schedule. The voice part that I sing is already ‘cast’, so they offered me the substitute position.

At first I felt a little funny about it. I mean, its not like I was dying to be in the group to begin with, but then to be offered a substitute position – made me feel a little ‘less than’. When I sang and competed in high school, I was used to being 1st chair, not 2nd chair. Once when I competed for a place in the All-state choir, I scored 299 out of a possible 300 points, tying a statewide record. However, my good friend Kerry’s response to this story put it all in perspective for me. She said it was perfect: I’d be able to satisfy my desire to sing by going to rehearsal once a week and occasionally performing at gigs, but wouldn’t be obliged to go to rehearsal twice a week or to be available for all of the gigs. She was right! Now I’m happier about my ‘substitute’ status.

So tomorrow night I go for my first official rehearsal.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Catching up

Whew! It has been a very busy couple of weeks. I can't believe how time can slip by when you're really involved. Here's what we've been up to:

Fri 3/24: We met Bugsy and Roger for dinner at the Taco House. They are such nice guys, and we really had a good time eating and visiting with them. We also made tentative plans for them to come with us to the beach some weekend soon. Then, we met up with the Newlyweds and went to Ziegfelds. It was the next-to-the-last weekend Ziegfelds was to be open, so I invited some local friends to join us for a 'night of illusion'! The Newlyweds said yes, and my friend Michael also met us there. We had a really fun night! The drag show was fun, as always, and so was dancing. Ziegfelds is one of 5 clubs forced to close due to the DC Government's taking of the land they sit on by imminent domain in order to build yet another sports stadium. Some of the clubs are supposed to re-open in another location, but its unknown where or when. I've always had fond memories of Ziegfelds because that is where Joe & I met. More on that another time.

Sat 3/25: After sleeping in late, Joe, Jordan and I packed a bag and headed down to Kerry & Hugh's cabin in the Northen Neck of VA. A few years back they built a house in the woods from a log cabin kit! It is beautiful and cozy. It was still kind of chilly so they had a fire going in the wood stove. It was wonderful to just sit around and talk and laugh and goof off. Very relaxing! We came home on Sun afternoon.

Tues 3/28: We met Liz & Rob for dinner at the Taco House. They are both working full time and going to school, so their evenings and weekends are packed with reading, studying, homework, and papers. However, they were off that week for spring break and were able to have dinner with us and catch up. Rob was my roommate in the late 80s and Liz has been a friend of mine since the mid-80s. They're crazy about Napoleon Dynamite like me.

Fri 3/31: We went with the Newlyweds to a tiny local theatre to see a play called "Whole Against the Sky". Its the story of a gay man whose mother tries a little too late to be the mother she never was for him when he was young. It was neat to be in such a small theatre and to be so close to the actors. The play was alright, if not a tad over-acted. But we all agreed it was fun to do something different like that and to support local cultural arts.

Sat 4/1: Sat was painting day at Kathryn's. For several months I have been talking and emailing with my friend Kathryn about painting her living and dining areas. We finally got all the supplies and a few extra hands together and did it. Fortunately Kathryn and Karen had done all of the prep work like taping off the trim and repairing dings in the drywall. It went quickly, so we decided to go ahead and paint the stairway too. It was a really fun day, and her place looked beautiful when we were done. After a shower and little rest, Joe & I headed to Leesburg to have dinner at my colleague and friend Steve's house. He and his wife Amy invited us for a small dinner party. On the way there I started feeling a little congested, but dismissed it to 'seasonal allergies'. We had a great time and stayed until almost midnight.

Sun 4/2: Sun I woke up very congested and had a sore throat. I took some OTC sinus/allergy medication and just took it easy that day, watching TV, doing some laundry, tidying up the kitchen. In the late afternoon Joe & I took a drive on the parkway with the top down because it was unusually warm and sunny. That night I had a terrible time trying to sleep. I was so congested that I had to try to sleep propped up against the headboard to allow my sinuses to drain. I had to keep clearing my throat so I wouldn't choke on my own mucus. It seemed like everytime I dozed off, I woke up coughing or choking. I barely got any sleep.

Mon 4/3: Mon morning I felt so bad that I decided to stay home from work. It was the first time since I've worked here (3 1/2 years) that I called in sick. The pressure in my sinuses and face was incredible. I felt like I'd been run over by a truck... several times! I called my doctor's office and got an appointment. I had a sinus infection, so my doctor prescribed an antibiotic, nasal spray, and told me to continue taking the OTC sinus/allergy medication (antihistimine) and aspirin. I stayed home Tues and Wed too. I did manage to help Joe by creating a simple website for his new practice, along with a listing in the therapist directory on the Psychology Today website.

Fri 4/7: We went to the beach after work.

Sat 4/8: The cable company offered us a free upgrade to digital cable for a year, so on Sat we swapped out the cable box and I programmed the remote with my favorites. It was cold and rainy. We went to the Art House theatre to see "Cache", which is the French word for Hidden. It was an Indy film, in French with English subtitles. I enjoyed it, but Joe didn't like it very much. Here's a synopsis:
Georges (Daniel Auteil), a television talk show host, and his wife Anne (Juliette Binoche), are living the perfect life of modern comfort and security. One day, their idyll is disrupted in the form of a mysterious videotape that appears on their doorstep. The tape reveals they are being filmed by a hidden camera from across the street with no clues as to who shot it, or why. As more tapes arrive containing images that are disturbingly intimate and increasingly personal, Georges launches into an investigation of his own as to who is behind this. As he does so, secrets from his past are revealed, and the walls of security he and Anne have built around themselves begin to crumble.

Wed 4/12: I saw the Mullet Man again! This makes the 3rd or 4th time I've seen him while out at lunch, but at different places. We must like to eat at the same places. This day I was sitting in Quiznos, eating my turkey/bacon/guacamole sub when I saw this glossy black Pontiac Firebird/Trans Am pull up, and out jumped the Mullet Man. Once again, he was wearing a suit and had a friend with him. It just struck me as odd that I have seem him so many times!

Thurs 4/13: I left work at 2:00, threw some things in a bag, and Joe & I headed up to the beach. It was warm and sunny, but the forecast for the next day was cooler and overcast so we didn't go in the convertible. We went for a walk on the beach, went to the grocery store and video store, then had dinner. We watched "Memoirs of a Geisha", which we both enjoyed a lot.

Fri 4/14: My company gave us 'Good Friday' off of work, which is why we were able to go to the beach on Thurs. It was warm but overcast so we ran a few errands (Dollar Store, K-Mart, etc) and then had lunch at Grotto Pizza in downtown Rehoboth. We went for a walk on the boardwalk, which was cool and breezy. We went to see "scary Movie 4", which was fun - very much like the others in the "scary Movie" trilogy. Then we went to dinner at Adriattico, an Italian restaurant. During the night we were awakened by a terrific storm! Very loud claps of thunder, torrential rain, and so much lightening you'd have thought you were in a disco with strobe lighting! Jordan wasn't scared, but the lightening was so bright she put her head under the bedskirt.

Sat 4/15: It was very warm and sunny! We both put on shorts and went for a long walk on the boardwalk in Rehoboth. There were lots and lots of people at the beach. There was some sort of Easter egg activity happening, with a man barking instructions over a very loud speaker. There were tons of people in bathing suits, getting started on their tans. It was a spectacular day. On the way back to the house we saw a thermometer that read 84 degrees - on the day before Easter! We got home from the beach shortly after 6:00 and made plans to meet the Newlyweds for dinner. We picked them up in the convertible and went to Shirlington to eat outside at one of the many restaurants there with outdoor seating. But all of them had waits for tables, so we went to the Taco House. We got a table outside and only had to wait for them to clear it from the last patrons. We had a spectacular evening, dining under the stars on the patio. Michael was telling us about his new job, and the used convertible he and Jamie had just test-driven. After dinner we went for a lovely drive down the parkway to Mount Vernon and back. We dropped them off shortly before 11:00.

Sun 4/16: Easter Sunday! I got up first and took a shower and shaved while Joe enjoyed some additional slumber time. Then I went to the Safeway to pick up some ingredients. I made two pear upside down cakes (my own doctored-up box cake recipe) to take to Louis & Karen's for Easter. We picked up my aunt Mary and arrived at Louis & Karen's at 2:00. We had a really fun time eating, talking, laughing, etc. It was another pretty day; not quite as warm or sunny as Sat, but still very pleasant. The kids and a few adults walked over to the field for a game of softball, a family Easter tradition. Then, as folks began to leave, we just continued talking on the back deck until 7:30. It was a really nice day. We took some left over honey baked ham, macaroni salad, baked beans, and Mary's famous jello sherbet home for later. We ended our Easter Sun by eating left overs and watching 'The Sopranos' and 'Big Love'.

Friday, April 07, 2006

I'm not dead

I know, I know - its been two weeks since my last post. I'm not dead. I've just been super-busy and sick. I'll catch you up on the details on Sun. For now, its off to the beach.