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Posted by Cindy Sadler on Tuesday October 30, 2007 at 15:21
Posted by Cindy Sadler on Tuesday October 30, 2007 at 15:21
Welcome to the musings and mutterings of a traveling singer. For many years now I’ve filed reports from various exotic locations to which my career has sent me --- Des Moines, Fort Lauderdale, San Jose, Tucson and Phoenix, Chicago, Santa Barbara, and beyond. These quirky little rants/newsletters/travelogues have hitherto been reserved for an exclusive group of friends and relatives, but they’ve urged me to inflict them on the world at large, and so here we are. This blog is currently not set up for commenting, but feel free to do so --- drop me a line at email@example.com with BLOG in the subject title.
My current adventure finds me in New Orleans. Eric and I drove down on Thursday. It’s an uneventful drive, except when one is attempting to navigate the snarl of Houston highways, with their exciting instant lane changes. Even with the reassuring guiding voice of the GPS, attention must be paid, lest you be shunted off to some distant and undesireable suburb unawares. We haven’t had the GPS long, but it’s a fun and useful toy. However, I am convinced that it gets pissed off when we don’t obey it. At first the Star Trek-y mechanical female voice sounds cool and professional: “Recalculating. Please drive to highlighted route.” The third or fourth time you disobey (because you’re busy making an illegal U-turn to reach the first Starbucks’ you’ve seen in 250 miles; or because there’s the rest stop THERE THERE THERE oh crap it’s just picnic tables, no restroom), the thing begins to sound distinctly annoyed. I kind of like pissing it off. I admit it.
To those of you just meeting us, Eric and I are just ever so slightly Food Fascists. We like to cook, and when we do, we like to cook fancy. Not only are we kinda snobby about food, but we’re really careful about what we eat. This is because both of us are engaged in a lifelong battle of the bulge, and also because the reading and research we’ve done has convinced us that organic and natural is the way to go. Being refugees from the Fast Food Nation, there is no pulling off at the sign of the big yellow M, unless it’s time to recycle. So we took a picnic (smoked trout and salmon, a tiny piece of REALLY good bleu cheese, an olive oil and salt ciabatta roll, some crudite, and pomegranate seeds, if you must know) and then suffered the indignity of NO RESTSTOPS between Houston and Beaumont. We finally found a windy little patch of ground just off the highway where there were picnic tables but no toilets (what is the POINT, I ask you?) and then, just a few miles down the road in Beaumont, was the biggest, purtiest, most high-falutin’ visitor’s center you ever did see and it was named after somebody named Ben J. Rogers, or something like that. It had a little theater and everything. The ladies’ room was well-lit, all tiled in natural stone and there were little pots of succulents artfully placed on the marble counter. You could hold a wedding reception in there, it was so purty. I don’t know who Ben J. Rogers was, but he was either mighty hospitable or he really liked a well-appointed necessary.
As we rolled over the many causeways on the way into New Orleans, I was reminded of the trips we used to take when we were kids, to visit Uncle Tom and Aunt Dorothy and our cousins Bill, Ann Marie, and Catherine. We had this gigantic blue Pontiac station wagon with three back seats, and the dog and I always got the very back seat. I loved that. When we hit those causeways, my nose would be pressed to the window, looking for alligators. Never did see a blessed one, this time included. I couldn’t exactly press my nose to the window because I was driving, but I was looking, friends, I was looking. Eric said, “Throw a fat kid in there and you’ll see ‘em soon enough.” Yeah, my husband has a sick sense of humor.
My new temporary home is located in an ugly patch of urban sprawl just off the highway. The hotel itself is nice enough, but the fact that it is built like a little fortress, complete with decorative-and-highly-functional iron gates all around and lots of security cameras does tend to make one a little … shall we say, alert? The locale is full of low-rent apartments and shabby storefronts, although a few streets over there’s a big drag with everything a lily white suburban yuppie such as myself could dream of, up to and including a big, beautiful Whole Foods.
The very best thing about the hotel is the people at the front desk. They could not be more gracious and friendly, which actually goes for everyone I’ve met so far. I’m from Texas, and we are friendly people, but in a bluff, hearty sort of way. These folks are real Southerners, and one of the best things about the South is the genuine hospitality. If you are a stranger people just go out of their way to make you feel at home. If you are a New Yorker, or if you are Yurpeen (as my formerly French husband is) you might regard this behavior with a little bit of suspicion. You might find it a little creepy. Relax. Nobody’s going after your wallet. It’s just the way things are done here.
The very worst thing about the hotel is the fact that, although it advertises itself as a business extended stay hotel with free wireless internet, as it turns out that wireless is available only on a mysterious and arcane basis, and only if you are in the rooms right above the office (which I am not). In order to partake of the free wireless, I must balance my laptop on a wobby iron table in the chilly courtyard, cross myself, spit, turn three times counterclockwise, sacrifice a live chicken to the spirit of Marie Laveau, and wait until someone else gets offline so I can get on. Because apparently the hotel has limited the number of people who can be on the network at one time, and that number appears to be about five. The hotel room itself has its quirks. It's mainly comfortable, with a tiny but functional kitchen and bathroom, an oddly shaped living room which features two large armchairs, a desk, and a TV stand but nothing resembling a table where one might eat; a walkin closet which also serves as storage for the full-sized water heater; and a large bedroom with a lot of wasted space. There are very few surfaces or drawers upon and in which to store things. The AC sounds forth in such volume and intensity that Eric is given to remarking, "Landing gear engaged!" whenever it comes on. The picturesque plantation shutters do not quite shut out the light. But it's reasonably attractive and comfy.
There's a beautiful little French Quarter-style courtyard with a pool and a tiny exercise room, into which is jammed a weight bench, a treadmill, and some sort of off-brand Stairmaster-type torture device. If the person on the treadmill should fart, he'd asphyxiate the weightlifter, whose nose would be practically up his ass. That's how small that room is.
I had my first rehearsal on Friday. Getting there was an adventure. New Orleans streets are like a big bowl of spaghetti. They make absolutely no sense. As Eric said, "I think the French came here, founded it, and then screwed it up so badly that they said, 'What the hell, let's sell it.'" Were it not for the GPS, you would never hear from me again. I'd be driving around the labyrinth, trying to find a way to get on the highway without making an illegal left turn. (They are not fans of left turns in New Orleans. They would rather you make a right and then do a U-turn. I am not clear on the logic, but Eric says it's just like back home in France).
Rehearsals are taking place at the Lion’s Club, which lies a few hundred yards from one of the infamous levees but apparently survived the flooding no worse for the wear. It’s a dreary sort of hall with a long, red leatherette bar on one side and a tiny chandelier hanging from the center of the acoustical tile ceiling. They rent it out a lot for various functions. More on that later.
Our first rehearsal went swimmingly. It was for Suor Angelica, which is all women (on account of it takes place in a convent). We mostly listened to the director explain his concept and the costumes and the different types of nuns; sang through part of it, and did a tiny bit of staging. Then we had to clear out, because the Lion’s Club had a quinceñera coming in. More on that later.
And that was the first day.