I completely forgot to mention the piglet races. They were alright, I felt like I was being duped. We entered the Livestock arena about 10 minutes early, corn-y dogs in tow. What followed was a what I would call a bad comedy show with pigs, not exactly a piglet race. There were two guys in big overalls and giant clown shoes jumping around like hill billies, talking about the piglets. The stadium was divided into 4 sections, and each section was given a pig to root for. I didn't appreciate having my democratic vote taken away from me, so I was wary from the beginning, and I certainly didn't cheer aloud for a pig that was forced upon me. They ran them in different "heats." First came the celebrity pig heat, the four pigs were Jean-Claude Van Ham, Arnold Schwartzenhogger, Sylvester Staloin, and our sections pig... Rush Limbhog. I was so disappointed. How could Rush Limbhog stand a chance against all these heavy hitting action heroes?? Jean-Claude Van Ham took home the gold. In the musician pig heat, we had N'Stink, Christina Hoguilera, Squeally Nelson and our sections Elvis Pigsley. I can and did stand behind Elvis. Unfortunately, N'Stink won. Those boy bands.
In any case, I felt that we'd been had. I've performed at State Fairs before, and I know how to work a crowd. We were being worked and I didn't like it. Furthermore, these were not piglets, as we were promised, but full-fledged pigs. I wanted piglets, like the one in the cart pictured above. We've been had.
The title line was overheard at the deep-fried latte stand at the fair last night.
I should say before I disclose the events of last night, that fairs in general make me anxious and usually I get depressed during/after the event. There are many reasons for this.
1. Carnies. They are a source of both anxiety and sadness for me. Anxiety because I always feel rude walking away when someone is talking to me and as you know, the barkers always talk to you as you pass in an attempt to lure you into giving them your money so that you can never succeed at whatever seemingly simple task they put before you. They're always deceptively simple, the tasks! All you have to do is fish this rubber-ducky out of the pond... all you have to do is hit one balloon with a dart.... Don't do it! And it always turns into some show of masculinity too. Whatever man is walking around with four large stuffed basketballs and a gigantic Homer Simpson fancies himself to be the most virile and eligible bachelor at the fair. But I digress... Carnies.
The anxiety is coupled with sadness because they are in such a joyful environs... and are usually very much over it and also are missing teeth. Last night the lady who took our tickets for the Texas Star (pictured above) was wearing white colored contacts. It terrified me but I couldn't look away. Now my imagination will have pupil-only sad-clowns dancing around, and I may never be able to go to the fair again.
2. The number of crying children that are always at the fair also depresses me. Parents are incapable of ever possessing enough tickets to satiate these children. No matter how many hundreds of dollars you spend on Funnel Cakes and foam hats and fun houses, they will never have enough. OK... on to the fair.....
For the first time EVER I woke up this morning full of remorse for my decision to stop eating when I was full. I showed a regrettable abundance of discretion last night and purchased only two deep fried items for consumption at the fair. After much deliberation I decided that I would have to get at Fletcher's Corn-y Dog and deep fried cookie dough. These were delicious in many ways:
Fletcher's Corn-y Dogs are so tasty! the cornbread is slightly sweet and so crispy on the outside. If ever a hot dog had the opportunity to cross-over into the realm of dessert, this is it. And, let's be honest, that's why I love it so much. I've discussed this with Drake extensively. In my mind, the only food worth cooking is dessert, because that's the only and most delicious food. Dinner is a big waste of time, because dessert is going to be soooo much better. We went to a restaurant with Josh and Erin (pictured above, with corn-y dogs) where the slogan was "Cake is Love". That is precisely how I feel.
Deep Fried Cookie Dough: I CANNOT overstress the amount of time devoted to obsessing over what this might taste like and how it's prepared. I have spent hours a day trying to imagine it. It was everything I'd hoped for. AND! It came in a flaming race car (as you can see). The standers-by at the fried cookie dough stand were a little bit taken aback by my enthusiasm (in general this seems to be the case in most dessert situations). A rather drunk gentleman asked if I needed to take his seat. I didn't. I had work to do. My car arrived with three hot balls of deep-fried dough. These are not breaded or dipped in any kind of coating. The dough is spooned into the oil basin and that's that. It is served with chocolate sauce and powdered sugar in a cardboard automobile. I think the car is just for flair, but it did manage to up my anticipation level and make me feel like I was about to eat something really special. Which I was. Crispy fried cookie outside. soft doughy dough inside. so. delicious.
I won't pretend that those two items were all that I ate. I had one non-deep-fried-item- skewered chocolate-dipped strawberries. Also, I did sample Danny's Frito Pie, which was pretty delicious, and Josh's funnel cake with strawberries, which was more delicious than any funnel cake I have ever had (call them fried dough, call them elephant ears--this was the best.) I also tried Drake's deep-fried latte, which was a series of deep fried pastry dough with coffee ice cream, whipped cream and espresso powder. Very nice! Like I said, I was very disappointed in the discretion I showed in not purchasing the red beans and rice and the Jack's French Fries. I guess I have to have a reason to go back some day. My other reason to return is that Big Tex doesn't talk at night!! He only talks during the day! He's also WAAAAY creepier than I thought. His chest is built for a man 3 times his size (which, at 75 feet, would be huge). He also holds his hands in a strange contorted way, leading one to think of a deranged puppet. It was difficult to capture at night, but I've done what I could. Come to think of it, it's probably best that Big Tex didn't talk last night. Between deranged puppet and white eyed carnies, I can't guarantee that I wouldn't have grabbed my fried dough balls and made a run for it.
I am getting ready for the State Fair of Texas this weekend. Preparations include: running every day, looking through the food options, selecting magicians, jugglers, acrobats, and rodeo clowns to view. Also I must choose the piglet that I will route for in Saturday's race.
To your left is "Big Tex". Some of you may not know him. Big Tex has greeted visitors as they enter the fairgrounds since 1952. The 52-foot tall talking cowboy wears size 70 boots, a 75-gallon hat, and is proof that everything's bigger in Texas.
Obviously, the most important part is the food. Does one select the deep fried peach cobbler on a stick? Corn-y Dogs (Yes, corn-y dogs, not corn dogs, and don't make a big deal about it either, it's a tender topic.)
Here are some of the top contenders: Texas Fried Cookie Dough. Fresh cookie dough, made from scratch with pecans, chocolate chips and coconut, lightly battered and deep-fried. Topped with chocolate syrup or whipped cream.
Deep Fried Latte. A delicately fried, light puff pastry, with a hint of coffee, is topped with cappuccino ice cream, sweet syrup, whipped cream and instant coffee sprinkles.
Fernie's Fried Chili Frito Burrito. A flour tortilla, dipped in chicken broth for extra flavor, loaded up with a heaping spoonful of spicy Texas chili & smashed Chili Cheese Fritos and deep fried until golden.
B.W.'s Original Fried Banana Pudding. Chilled, specially-made banana pudding is ladled into a grilled tortilla and fried to a crisp golden brown, dusted with powdered sugar while warm, then surrounded by a cloud of whipped topping.
Zesty Fried Guacamole Bites. Creamy avocado mixed with cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses and salsa is dipped in a zesty batter and fried to perfection.Served with ranch dressings or salsa.
Mama's Fried Sweet Potato Pie. A generous portion of third-generation-recipe sweet potato pie filling is spread on a soft flour tortilla and lightly fried to a crisp. Served plain or with a light sprinkle of cinnamon and powdered sugar.
I'm not sure if there are any non-deep-fried options. But who cares. If it hasn't been lightly breaded and deep fried, Big Tex ain't servin' it.
I feel like I should hold out on some of this information so that I have something to write about after the fair--SO I will not tell you about the piglet races until I can give you a first-hand account.
I would have traveled around in my happy little Saturn until the end of its days, had the brain surgeon not rear-ended me that fateful rainy day. People always say that everything is bigger in Texas, and it's kind of true. While the rest of the nation downsizes their cars in an attempt to fight rising fuel prices, and to attempt "environmental responsibility" Texas forges on with innumerable gigantic vehicles all over the place. I wasn't hit by a gigantic vehicle, I was hit by a Lexus. A Lexus with a license plate that says "BRAIN." I'd seen this car before, and I have seen it since. Turns out its driver is, not surprisingly, a brain surgeon. Turns out that he also "didn't expect me to turn right away" (into my driveway with my blinker on for a MORE than adequate time beforehand).
In the end, my car was totaled and I had to get another one. I ended up with a 1994 Isuzu Rodeo, which I've enjoyed because it is my first "big car." Also because it's called a Rodeo. Doesn't that sound like a rollicking good time? I sure had a good time at only rodeo I've attended (at the Angola Prison). This car has served me very well, even though I have suffered through a broken air conditioner for nearly two years. I've always thought that my Texas experience would be much better with air conditioning in the car. A friend of a friend at work (whose name is Lovemore which I think is wonderful! But once when we couldn't remember what it was I suggested "Lovegood?" which Drake promptly corrected "LoveWELL, Alta.") anyway, Lovemore fixed my AC! I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's ice-cold, but it is certainly pleasant.
So now I'm waiting in the Lobby of the Pear Tree Inn in San Antonio. Drake and I had to extend our weekend after the car overheated Saturday night. It went like this:
I was shopping, and it wouldn't start. I had noticed that the oil light went on on my way to the shopping center, so I thought I'd set out to find some oil. I looked around the parking lot and ascertained that there was no gas station in the vicinity. As I was glancing around the parking lot, I noticed two men sitting in a truck with sunglasses on. They were slightly conspicuous... windows down, both in shades, sitting facing forward absolutely silent. I walked slowly by the passenger side window, and peered in to see if they seemed friendly one glanced over after I lingered slightly over-long-- "Hi m'aam" and faced forward again. I noticed they were cops, so I asked "Excuse me, do either of you know where I might get a quart of oil?" they looked at each other quietly and I could tell they were communicating with their eyes as to whether or not to talk to me. Finally the driver (he had lots of tattoos) turned to me and said "You're in luck, m'aam because I happen to know a very nice irishman who can help you." This response was enough to encourage me. I felt assured that even if my car didn't start that night, I would at least come away with a good story.
By the way, I never saw these men. That's what I'm supposed to say. They were on some sort of stake out. I thought that seemed like a fun adventure, and I did feel like I was a part of it. They got out of the car to help me out, and to wait for the irishman who was coming over with the oil. I got to hear all kinds of cop-talk about "perps" and such. They were pretty fun, and though I felt like I was unfairly taking them from their stake-out, I was very glad for their help. The irishman was a security officer from Ireland, a great guy and we talked a bit about my irish heritage and about NYC, where he lived for 10 years as an actor. One of the cops bet him that my car would need 6 quarts of oil with the caveat that they would not be "betting in shillings and tuppence like last time."
So here we sit. Apparently, timing belts and thermostats and water pumps can't be found on Sundays, so we extended our trip. Fortunately, the car will be ready at 5pm, which will be just in time for horrible traffic all the way back to Dallas. We will be stopping in West for Kolaches, but other than that who knows what will happen. Drake saw a tumbleweed on the way down here. I'm hoping for a sighting.
I think Drake knows that I mean well. One time, he came home from work--REALLY tired. The kind of tired where you can barely keep your eyes open to brush your teeth. I wasn't tired, hadn't worked as long a day as he had, and I felt kind of guilty about it, frankly. Being the good and sweet wife that I am, I thought I'd try to cheer him. I am nothing if not a purveyor of good cheer! However....all I could see was that it was my perfect opportunity to pants him. I am constantly trying to accomplish this, the perfect pants-ing, and he knows it and thereby is always on guard. Before the perfect pants-ing, I was always trying to stick my finger in my mouth whenever he yawned, or to do the whole "oh! you spilled something on your shirt!" then hit his nose with my finger... OR the *point* "what's that?" and then when he looks steal a particularly crispy french fry or other such delectable morsel from his plate (I still do this one. He is a patient, patient man.)
In any case, I saw my moment and I approached. "Oh, my poor Drake, you had such a long day" I say... then promptly and TOTALLY unexpectedly making my move. Naturally, being the victor in this situation I was filled with glee! What a perfect pants-ing! He never saw it coming! Drake was not as gleeful. Actually, he didn't even laugh. He turned to face me toothbrush hanging from his mouth agog. stone cold. He waited while I (writhing in mirth) calmed myself and said "I just came home from a 12 hour day and I'm exhausted. What could possibly make you think that I would think it was appropriate or funny to pants me."
This is the fundamental difference between us. It serves no reasonable purpose to ask why I think things are funny or appropriate. This is not a matter of reason. This is a matter of the heart. Of my romantic, butcher-florist loving, perfect-opportunity-for-pantsing-seeking heart.
We are beginning to understand one another, my Drake and I. He understands to look the other way when I point at something over his shoulder, but that if he eats one of MY fries, I'll probably cry. And he understands that sometimes, I've got to pants him at inappropriate moments because they are the perfect moments. Never in public though. girl-scouts honor (I was never a girl-scout, but I am honorable) Also never wet willies. never wet.
My Drake came home yesterday from far-away North Dakota! I stopped at the Tom Thumb (I still find it funny that there is a very respectable grocery store named "Tom Thumb." What is it with these Southerners and their "Piggly-Wigglies" and "Tom Thumbs?" Where I'm from we have the Price Chopper. Now that's a grocery store. The Price SLAYER!! the Price DESTROYER!! that's what I'm talkin about. We don't buy our groceries from friendly little fairy-tale characters and wood nymphs! We buy them from vicious murderers of prices.... ARGH!!)
So anyway I stopped on the way to the airport at the "Thumbellina" for to get my love a red red rose. It was late-ish, so they called some guy over from the Meat Department to help me in the floral department. I was apprehensive until I met him and, of course, immediately perceived his fabulousness. His fabulousness in spite of his blood-smeared smock. We first determined whether I wanted it tight or loose, which I only found hilarious in retrospect, though he seemed immediately aware of having mis-spoken and quickly pointed out a tight rose versus a loose one. I am, in fact, blissfully unaware of most sexual innuendo unless it is followed by a nudging elbow to the ribs accompanied by raised eye-brows and a sly "ehh? ehhhh.....?" That or a "that's what she said."
We went on to choose a "ribbon treatment" even though I thought it wasn't necessary. He showed me his method for tissue wrapping single flowers and bunches (still blood-smeared, mind you) and pushed me towards a complimentary accent ribbon in a varying color or width. I politely protested, feeling like the sweet, simple gesture of a single red rose might, perhaps, be lost in the tissue and tulle and ribbon treatment. He insisted, though, and who am I to argue? I am certainly NOT one to argue with a butcher/florist.
I was 20 minutes late at the airport. I had anticipated waiting in the bustling baggage carousel area with my single red rose (which, incidentally, matched my new red patent leather flats). I never end up able to recreate the perfect lovely scenarios which I create in my imagination.... instead I found Drake at the baggage carousel and snuck up behind him, worked my way around his right side, pretended to be a stranger and then played the slow-invasion-of personal-space game. I'm quite romantic in my head. In practice, it doesn't come out *exactly* how I planned, but I always mean well.
How many times do normal people move within a ten year period? Not military people, just normal people my age. Today, ladies and gentleman, at the Dantzler circus I shall attempt to count the number of times and places I've have moved since I left home 10 years ago.
1. (1996) To Skidmore. Howe Rounds- moved in with Michelle in our palacial freshman dorm room. ***I won't count moving back home for the summer. We'll be here all day.****
2. (1997) To my sophmore year dorm-the Tower! What a great move that was. So happy because there was an elevator, and because I was an LS1 tutor I didn't have to move to Moore downtown. What a lucky girl I was.
3. (1998) To Paris! that was a heck of a move, and I remember that I didn't pack until the night before. Ah, to be young again.
4. (1998) To my Junior year dorm. Palamountain? what the heck was the name of that place? Ashley, you lived there. Do you remember?
5. (1999) To the Cabaret Troupe house
6. (1999) Back to Palamountain the next day. I was a big chicken. Ash- yet again, saving the day by helping me move there and back again... ha ha
7. (1999) To Brooklyn for the summer. Spent some time at the twin towers, since that's where Scott (who I was helping move and get organized etc.) worked. I remember looking up until I got dizzy cause I couldn't see the top. I get dizzy in general. Life is overwhelming.
8. (1999) To our senior year apartment. That was such a great place. A carriage house in good old Saratoga Springs. I left my foil ball in the loft of that place. It disappeared between when I left and when Ashley moved in the next fall. I can't imagine that it went to such a lofty place as the previous foil ball which, when it disappeared from my childhood home one day showed up at the Easter pageant as the rock in front of Jesus' tomb.
9. (2000) To Rochester! with Amy. I had no furniture and drove everything I had across the state in my 87 Civic hatchback. (a.k.a. Adobe the Clay Car).
10. (2002) Upstairs in Rochester! This was my first (and only) apartment all by myself (but upstairs from Ali and Kevin). The people who were there over the summer left all sorts of wonderful surprises, including several large tomato plants.
11. (2002, 03, 04, 05) to Ohio Light Opera. I'll only count this once, since usually I had an apartment that I maintained during the summer... usually....
12. (2004) to NYC. I remember driving the truck away from Rochester and crying and crying. You see, this is a year after Drake entered the picture and ruined all of my wonderful plans of living in NYC with Ashley forever. I was still psyched about moving, but it got so complicated! Falling in love with a southern boy would prove to expand this list almost exponentially. I think it may have ended here if it weren't for him. At least until Ashley kicked me out ;)
13. (2004) Moving Drake out. I include this because it was such a horrible freak show, and hands down remains the worst moving experience of my life. We were both in Ohio (which I will only count once, even though I was there 4 times) he couldn't get away to move so I, being the lovely girlfriend that I was volunteered to do it for him. When I arrived, I found that his subletter was using his framed Rigoletto reprint to prop up the window, in addition to having strewn leg wax and kitty litter all over the 20 square feet that was his studio apartment. I will go no further with this story. This is one of the *very* few instances in my life where I became physically angry. I called this girl, found her parents numbers and called them, then called everyone on every bill that she left in the house until I tracked her down. I said relatively nasty things.
14. (2004) To Shreveport. I drove from NYC to Shreveport, stopping only in Memphis to see Graceland. I ended up on a tour group with about 25 Japanese ladies. I think that might be the only way to see Graceland.... When I got out of the car in Shreveport, I literally cried. The air was so hot and heavy that I cried.
15. (2005) To Austin. After another summer in Ohio, I moved in with Drake to finish my DMA at UT. We lived on Jollyville Road, which still cracks me up. Doesn't it make it seem like we're in Santa Land or something? The apartment was great, but snug for 2 and we got married and decided to move in to a new place that was "ours"...
16. (2006) Down the street. This has been a great place, we live on the Greenbelt, so often there several deer outside our patio in the morning. We really enjoyed living here in the fall right after we got married, but Drake got the job in Iowa and it hasn't been a whole lot of fun being here by myself. It's supposed to be "our" house! so I'm packing up and leaving a little early- moving everything into storage until we figure out what comes next.
While Ms. Amy was in town visiting, we decided to do some distinctly "Austin" things. We ate lots of Mexican food and we ate lots of BBQ and we went and saw the Texas Roller Girls Roller Derby!!! it was sweet! I think that if I hadn't already knocked out my front tooth once, I would TOTALLY want to try it out. Just FYI-- I would be "trying it out" in an amateur league. These girls are all-pro, and I definitely could not hang.
Rollerderbies are fun and dangerous. This is on a flat track, people. Which means that when these girls body check each other, one could come flying right into your lap. We sat in the back row because Amy's friend Wendy is pregnant, and we didn't want a rollergirl to accidentally crush her unborn son. There were lots of children there! I think I would have loved this as a child. Though I think I would have been scared when the crowd shouted "Faster Faster Kill Kill Kill."
Everyone in front of us were Special Ops fans and were wearing shirts that said "Don't thump our muff." After some research in the program, I deduced that they were supporting Muff-Thumper (they all have names like this--like cracked-out Bond girls). The t-shirts referred to a website-- helpmichelle.org I thought I'd check it out later--I knew that I'd remember it since her name was Michelle. Like my roomate! This girl can skate! She was wrongfully arrested for public intoxication when handing out fliers for their rollerderby and was a victim of horrible police brutality. This is a very upsetting story, and I hope you check it out. There are some links at the bottom of the page where you can send complaints and help her case.
I never really was one for "school spirit" in the traditional sense. Those faithful readers who attended Worcester Academy with me--you know what I'm talking about. We had mandatory pep-rallies. It was hard to get behind teams made up of relative strangers. Because we were a prep school, we offered a post-graduate year. These basically consisted of really good athletes who already graduated high-school, but who didn't get into their first choice college, or weren't recruited as well as they wanted to be, so they went to prep school to get into a better/more competitive college. This meant our teams were really good! But we didn't know anyone very well. I had school spirit--I loved WA, I'm still their biggest cheerleader AND I know our alma mater and fight song-- "Oskee-wow-wow." Hey. that's what you get when you go to an old-boys' school.
Skidmore, having been an all women's school was also not huge on athletics. A rich alumna endowed the school on the sole premise that when it went co-ed it would never have a football team or a Greek system. Our biggest most winning team was Equestrian. 'nuff said.
Eastman was also difficult to stand behind, athletically.
Texas, on the other hand..... As many of you know and, even more shockingly, more of you probably don't know, a young man by the name of Vince Young (I LOVE YOU VINCE!) was the Quarterback for the Texas Longhorns the year that I elected to become one myself (a Longhorn, not a quarterback.) That great and shining year ('05) we won the National Championship, and I finally understood school spirit.
***Flashback!*** My first visit to Austin....
me: "Wow, there are a lot of cow faces everywhere." drake: "You can't be serious. Those are called 'Longhorns'--only the single most recognizable mascot in college football history." me: "Well, I just thought they meant Texas." drake: "They do. That's what the University is called." me: "That's a little presumptuous, isn't it?" drake: "This is Texas."
There were other exchanges that I won't organize in the "me: drake:" style. Like when I asked about why all the statues were giving the "hard rock" hand sign, and why the school song was "I've been working on the railroad."
These are things that come with "the cattle worship" (as my mother called it) of being a Longhorn because, after all: (to the tune of I've Been Working on the Railroad)
The eyes of Texas are upon you, all the live long day! The eyes of Texas are upon you, you cannot get away! (and now it gets creepier.....) Do not think you can escape them At night or early in the morn! The eyes of Texas are upon you TILL GABRIEL BLOWS HIS HORN!!! (This part is in bold, cause everyone yells it and goes crazy and there's an arm motion too (see below) not because it's creepy how Texas will be watching you until the end of time, even when you sleep.)
I've been MIA for a while now. Here's what I've been up to:
1. Graduating! I am officially a Doctor now. I have received two pieces of mail addressed to Dr. Alta Dantzler, and I have one new student who calls me Dr. Dantzler, even though I asked him not to. These Texans. They're so respectful.
2. Saying goodbye (and hello and goodbye) to my husband again. This has been a very difficult year! Do most newlyweds spend more than half of the first year of the marriage apart? What is it about this profession that makes us say "Thank you sir, may I have another" when we are handed jobs that take us to the middle of nowhere to work for pennies? It is good work though. I now understand those people who through the course of our musical education offered the advice--"If there is anything else in the world that you could do that would make you feel happy and fulfilled you should do that instead." But I think that by this point, if there was anything else, I would be doing it by now.
3. Packing and selling off all of our non-essentials. Drake packed up many things before we left, (including the grill, of course) and moved them into storage. I continue to do the same, and to list things on Craigslist and wait while "seriously interested" parties stand me up.
4. Preparing to jump into the Abyss... I have never in my life been without "a plan". Having attained my Doctorate has left me in just such a fearful predicament. I've been encouraged to think about it as "exciting!" instead of "fearful." My preparations have included:
practicing! This is a new one! (oddly enough) I am SHOCKED that I have managed towork exercise into my daily routine, and not practicing. It is offensive.
reading hippy self-help-ish books like "The Secret" and actually believing in them. I am a powerful magnet and I attract things to myself. I shall draw all good things to me. These things will include: a sweet puppy, a job, a car with air-conditioning, and an opera role that is young and fabulous rather than old and frumpy (Carmen! glamour! Maddelena! sexy! Dalilah! drama!)
5. Teething The final corner of my final wisdom tooth has finally pushed itself through! It must've gotten the memo that I have recently become a Doctor, and thereby am entirely wise....
Do you see those sweet little blobs next to this cute dog (and the little one in front buried in the neck?) One of them may soon be an addition to the Dantzler family.
One of my wonderful students brought her Shih-tzu to school one day and I fell in love. I know that it is totally cliche to be a voice teacher with a shih-tzu, but I can't help it. We'd better start accumulating turbans, bangles, large sunglasses and the other necessary accoutrements. She left Romeo (the father of these sweet puppies) with me for the afternoon, and I held him and every time someone sang a high note he would pop his head up and look over the piano. I was gleeful. When she came back to pick him up at the end of school, she said "maybe if our dogs have puppies again you can have one!"
I didn't think about it too much (and by that I mean that I read all I could about Shih-tzu's online and re-watched Best in Show for the thousandth time, and visit Shih-tzu puppies often at pet stores.) But then! While I was still in Charlotte, Drake came back to Austin and ran into her at school, and she told me that they were having puppies and were saving me one to have of my very own!!! Drake responded with slightly less glee than I did. I think he said, and I quote, "A Shih-tzu isn't very much of a dog... what do they even eat?" We have since found that they eat dog food, like normal dogs, but that it is best to give them spring water, since they are very sensitive.
So now the eternal question. Am I allowed to have a dog? I've been able to care for plants, and that's worked out well, but a dog is something else entirely. Drake and I are both a little clumsy.... what if we crush it accidentally?? Drake says that you don't accidentally crush dogs that you love, that you always are subconsciously aware of where they are. I asked him the same would apply to humans, since he proportedly loves me, and is constantly stepping on me and crushing me. He said that if I were a puppy that I would yelp and then he wouldn't step on me. I do yelp, but he says I "don't really mean it."
But accidental death aside. We don't even know where we're going to live as of July 1st. Are you allowed to have a dog if you don't know where you're going to live? What if we end up in NYC, or what if we both get singing jobs that take us away at the same time? I have to say that I am looking forward to getting a little carrier purse for it....
Should Drake and Alta get a sweet little dog of their very own to love?
It is now May 8th and I have been home in Texas for nearly a week, but was so busy at the end of the tour that I didn't have a chance to talk about all the fun things that happened in my last week in North Carolina.
Our tour took us to some fun and interesting places, including the Smoky Mountains. Beautiful! and there was lots of gambling as well as Indian gift stores. I didn't buy any gifts. But my friend bought four knives. Sorry everyone, no gift knives from me.
I went to Roswell and Atlanta GA with Amy and we had such fun! Her parents took us out to eat for every meal and it was awesome. We also saw a laser light show on Stone Mountain which, as it turns out, is like a little miniature confederate Mount Rushmore. The show lasts about 40 minutes and the song list includes many country faves, and patriotic medleys. Amy knew all of the words to all of these songs, which made me feel very un-American. She was appalled that I'd never heard the song "Rockytop." I tried to think of regional songs pertinent to the New England Area that she wouldn't know.... Rock Lobster? no..... I guess that old "Spirit of Massachusetts" song that the tourism board used in the 80's doesn't count...
Come to think of it, the South has a TON of regional ballads! How come we don't? Let's get on that!
While we were there eating dinner one night, there just happened to be a huge bicycle race that went right by our table! It was such fun!
We just got to sit there and eat fried chicken while a slew of international cyclists circled our dinner for 80 minutes. It's very gratifying to eat fried chicken whilst others exert themselves. It makes you feel like part of the action, except that you are the part of the action that's eating fried chicken. We all have to play our parts.
I've been working on this blanket since I learned to knit. This was back in June of 2003. Those of you who have ever done a show with me since then may remember the squares that I was knitting whenever we were backstage. I was always reticent to say that I was knitting anything other than squares in case I lost patience and gave up. Well I didn't! look at that!
Some changes to the pattern--I've decided that it needs to be square, so I'm adding three more rows, then I have to knit the border and line the back, so it's not finished yet, but it's close. I've also decided that I am going to embroider something on the "khaki" squares. I find them bland and generally unpleasant, so I've got to sass them up a bit. Not sure what I'll do yet. I'd love suggestions. Maybe a skull and crossbones--that or flowers. Yeah, flowers..... or maybe a longhorn....
Actually maybe I'll sew funny patches on there! The possibilities are endless.
Last night, Amy and I watched the World's Ugliest Dog Contest on Animal Planet, expecting to see some ugly-cute dogs, maybe some droolers, you know. What we saw will haunt my thoughts and dreams for the rest of time.
Ladies and Gentlemen, meet SAM!!!
Look away if you can, but you will continue to come back to this picture and to send it to your friends until it becomes a part of your subconscious, and that's when Sam will begin to take over your life.
You'll be enjoying a cup of coffee tomorrow morning and you'll have to look "just one more time." You'll find yourself plunging the depths of his one cloudy eye searching in vain for its pupil. You will wonder whether the discolorations are freckles or warts. You'll ask yourself if perhaps his owners filed his teeth down in order to prepare them for more attractive porcelain veneers.
Then you'll do some research. You'll find out that Sam is a purebred. That's right, a purebred. He looks like that on purpose. You'll think to yourself what is the purpose of the Chinese Crested Hairless??? Lap dog? Guard Dog? Further research will uncover that "The ancient Aztecs kept them as bedwarmers and, believe it or not, did eat them. The Chinese trading ships stopped along Africa on their routes, and it was there that they picked up these dogs because they were excellent ratters for aboard their ships. The stripper, Gypsy Rose Lee, used to breed them."
So, there you have it. These dogs are good for "ratting," bedwarming, and eating. Good luck EVER sleeping again.
We have just commenced a tour of Pirates which will last two weeks and take us to remote small towns in the far reaches of North Carolina. I fondly recall my tour of rural Louisiana... My favorite part of touring is finding local restaurants and unusual tourist attractions and, of course, the requisite roadkill watch. Some of you may remember accounts of the prison rodeo in Angola,LA and eating fried Alligator in Crowley, LA "the rice capitol of the world." I can't wait to see what we'll discover on this tour!
Amy and Keith and I tried to go to "The Strangest House in the World" in Kernersville, NC. Unfortunately, it was nowhere near us, but it sure had an interesting brochure, and the concept of a 7 level 22-room home built by a "dapper gentleman interior designer who became famous as a painter of bulls across the south" and who intended the house to be "a combination bachelor’s quarters, artist’s studio, office, billiard and ballroom, carriage house and stables" was intriguing. Keith suggested that in addition to the portraiture of bulls we might find a series of interesting nudes above the "15 fireplaces of differing designs of American Encaustic Tiles." A missed opportunity indeed.
This Easter has been wonderful. Amy and I made the Southern Living Carrot Cake with Buttermilk glaze and Deluxe Cream Cheese Frosting.... sooooo tasty. Also, it has 42 grams of fat and 750 calories per 1/18th of a 9 inch cake.
Amy made a ham, and we had a potluck. We ate blue cheese mashed potatoes, and green beans with almonds and lots of shrimp and yeast rolls (not to worry, they're just rolls--they sound gross because of the word yeast. As I understood it, the presence of yeast in bread was understood, and I don't know why they feel the need to put it in the title of the food, which makes it sound gross. But in any case they were tasty.)
This picture is with some of the cast from Pirates, we all put on Easter Pirate tattoos! They were out of the 12 disciple tattoos at the grocery store, apparently. Tatts!!!
I went to spinning again today, but this time we had a new instructor. She is, apparently, the "Director of Group Exercise." She totally phoned it in. My Spanish instructor was sweating and spitting and yelling in two languages. This lady stood by her bike and talked us through a series of hills and intervals. I don't want talk! I want action!
Understanding her was also strangely challenging. The words "heels" and "hills" are used often in spinning classes and it was impossible to discern one from the other. There were only 2 of us in the class, and one was an instructor in training. Under such circumstances I, rightly, took every instruction and correction to pertain specifically to me. It was mentioned that I needed to push through my heel, so I'm pushing--my foot in a perfect flex.
It wasn't until the third or fourth time that she said "Now really focus on your heel" that I realized that she was trying to get me to visualize the terrain of the country we were traversing on our imaginary bike ride. I think that I shall soon have the most viciously sore calf muscles in the world.
Also, she seemed like a mean popular girl from the 80's. I'll give her a second chance. She said she had a migraine.
I've been going to gym every day, in an attempt to get ready for this year's Danskin Triathlon. I am determined to beat the swimmers who are using pool noodles this year.
To that end, I decided to go to spinning class this week. I was 5 minutes late (which I HATE. I really don't like showing up late--I don't like people noticing me in any athletic situation.) The instructor wasn't wearing a microphone, and I thought at first that I just couldn't hear her, but as it turns out she was speaking Spanish. In fact, everyone in the class seemed to speak Spanish except for me. So there we are in the dark, with our towels and lint glowing purple from the black light, and a crazy rainbow discoball, AND she was playing really bad techno, and screaming in Spanish. I would catch the occasional "andar le" (is that how you spell it? Senora MacKenzie, my spanish teacher, would be so disappointed.)
Fortunately now and then she would point at me and scream "FASTER!" Her mouth was open so wide I could see all her bridges. She was vicious and wonderful. Nothing motivates you to really push up those "hills" like screaming Mexican ladies at a disco.
When the class concluded, everyone gathered around her and they were all talking very fast and rolling their r's and slapping their own butts with an appreciative body-weariness. I would like to learn some Spanish and return again next Wednesday.
Tonight at rehearsal we spent the whole time going through the "With Cat Like Tread" encore--which uses Chorus Line choreography including gold shiny hats. I can't tell you how hilarious it's going to be, though I'm sure you can imagine it. If you can't I've created this image here to give you an idea. (Please note the tiny parrot.)
Know this, however. We are SERIOUSLY dancing. It's still funny, but mainly because we're Pirates and men (except me.) But as for the dancing, there's nothing funny about it. We are dancing it out here, people.
We all look pretty much like these young people here. We all have svelt dancer's bodies. But we add to it a Pir-attitude which is unprecedented. We put the "Argh" in "Chorus Line." And how.
Well, I thought I'd try to find this "Tim" to let him know about the Saints we talked about, and to ask him on their behalf not to propagate the idea that they were demoted. So I typed "Tim" and "Climate Change" into Google. Turns out that his book The Weathermakers is on the New York Times Bestseller List, and he was just named the 2007 Australian of the Year. Now I feel like I should have thought of something more important to say, or at least thought of some sort of question of great significance to ask him. Guess you never know who you might sit next to on a plane.
I sat next to a very interesting man named Tim on my way to North Carolina. He was an Australian biologist on a book tour, and he writes about climate change and global warming. He was reading a book about cave paintings and I was reading the latest issue of Glamour, so to all appearances, he was definitely the most interesting of our row. We started talking about Texas, and about the most interesting Doctor's names that we've encountered- for me Dr. Teabaggy (who I worked for at the Department of Digestive Disease) Dr. Will Harm (my dentist) Dr. Thrasher (my physical therapist). For him- Dr. Bugger (his dentist whose office overlooked a cemetery and who was found bludgeoned to death by a man he took home with him one night).
We started to talk about Saints (we were both Catholic) and he informed me that many of my favorite old standbys were "sacked." He told me that his mother had statues of many patron saints and he remembers when they went under review and many of them got "the boot" as it were. He said that she piled up the statues by the rubbish bin, but couldn't bring herself to actually throw them away. I found myself doubting my saint knowledge--which, as it turns out, is pretty strong due in a large part to the card game Saints Alive!-- the only game that I could convince my dad to play on a regular basis.
Tim, I hope that your mother didn't throw the statues away, because I've done a little research and have found that most of the saints we discussed are still in the game, as it turns out. They would probably appreciate some kind of a formal apology.
Some of the saints we discussed:
Saint Christopher: "The Christ Bearer" who was not as turns out "sacked" (decanonized) but rather was downgraded in 1969. I was glad to find out that he is still a saint. Having grown up in an Italian Catholic school, I didn't want to be the one to have to tell all the Italians to get a new patron saint.
Saint Aloysius: "The Patron Saint of Youth" who I came to know as the patron saint of parking places. My mom still invokes him whenever we park anywhere. Which is often. Also not sacked.
We talked a lot about our mothers, and I mentioned that mine called one day to tell me that she sent a very long and heated e-mail to the Pope and was waiting to see whether or not he would actually read it. She said if he did, she'd probably get a letter soon excommunicating her. It is true! You can e-mail the Pope!
The website: www.vatican.va His e-mail: email@example.com
Incidentally, in case you're interested, today's Saint is Margaret Clitherow, a convert from the Church of England and a Martyr. She is the patron saint of businesswomen.
So I have arrived in Charlotte North Carolina for a production of Pirates of Penzance. It should be great fun, my colleagues are quite excellent and the schedule is wonderful. We get free memberships to Bally's while we're here, and our day doesn't usually start till 1pm, so I have no excuse not to go.
The chorus members at Opera Carolina have been wonderful so far. I've gotten very many restaurant recommendations, including a sushi place which has named a roll after one of the chorus members. Of course, I will have to go and try eat his namesake, no matter how raw and fish-y. When in Rome after all...
I am enjoying learning another southern dialect. Carolina is different from the strains of the Texas accents I've learned so far.
So after the great "blizzard of 07" last week, I finally emerged from my apartment on Thursday (this was after 4 days of the city being shut down.) What I saw in the parking lot was a number of Texans banging at the ice on their cars with a number of kitchen utensils, the most popular of which was a spatula, but which also included a potato masher.
I calmly walked to my Rodeo. (I drive an Isuzu Rodeo, I figured heck- if you're not gonna ride a horse in Texas, you better be driving a Rodeo.) You know the music that plays when there's a showdown in a Western Movie? you know... "oo-oo-oo-oo-ooooooo" while the tumbleweed goes by, and the citizens crouch and hide and the camera comes in at a low angle zoom on the hero? Well that was playing. After hip checking my front door a few times I broke through the 2 inches of ice and forced the door the rest of the way with my brute strength (they breed 'em tough where I'm from.) The Texans all stopped in their tracks as I unveiled what would soon be the envy of the whole neighborhood.... a gigantic ice scraper the likes of which these parts ain't never seen. You know the kind I'm talking about. 3 feet long with 2 scrapers on one end (one side with teeth and one side flat) and a brush. You could hear the whispers all around... "what's that she got there? is that a horse groomer? I ain't never seen a groomer like that afore." They all marveled as I hacked at the ice on my car like a yankee ninja. I shouted the occasional "KEE-YA!" just for effect. Just to let them know what they were dealing with. It occurred to me that I might chip the paint on my car by hacking like this, but I couldn't be bothered with details. They were watching me like hawks, I was there Sensei.
I smiled upon my people-- "Would you like to use my ice scraper?" I asked? they were quick to shake the stars from their eyes and resume their tiresome chipping with vegetable peelers and garlic mincers. "No, no m'am. we're doing just fine."
One gentleman had the good sense to approach me with a question only I could answer. "I hear that salt works to melt this stuff... is that true?" "Yes" I answer. He tells me that he has some upstairs and returns minutes later with some Mortons. He proceeds to sprinkle table salt on our steps. Now let me pause for a moment and insert some commentary here.... this actually happened. he actually sprinkled table salt on our steps, and I nearly died. I crawled slowly back into my apartment shook out my shoes and when I finally stopped laughing I thought. "Go Alta, go and tell your story..."
Many of you may already know that my husband is currently in Iowa singing in Don Pasquale and The Three Billy Goats Gruff with Opera Iowa. This is a wonderful thing. We are both on the verge of finishing our Doctoral Degrees and we both want to be performers, so we are thrilled that we both have some performing gigs coming up this year, to usher us into this next phase of life. Unfortunately, this means that we will spend more than half of our first year of marriage in different states. This is less than ideal.
At first it was kind of fun in some ways, I got to watch makeover shows all I wanted, and eat when I wanted and be crazy about food and have no one see it. But I think that I wasn't meant to live by myself. I don't clean up. There are still burnt toast crumbs in the sink that I scraped off of my grilled cheese on Tuesday. I've broken a pair of earrings and a necklace because I keep them in my pockets and random places. There are balled up tissues surrounding every trash can (since I've had a cold and my aim has worsened since middle school basketball). Last but not least, on more than one occasion I have spent the evenings marking off hours until my Orange Jello has set. (I usually pass these hours watching What Not to Wear--ironic since I'm usually wearing a gigantic red union suit for bedtime)
Does this mean that when Drake finally comes back I will welcome the hours of PTI? (Pardon the Interruption for all those who are not forced to watch ESPN.) Probably not. But there are some things about "our" life that have grown on me. I now happily watch Longhorn football, as well as any Tennessee Titans games, since our boy Vince plays for them now. I also enjoy outdoor man-ish adventure shows like Man vs. Wild and will even indulge the occasional Myth Busters.
The house is oddly silent without Drake here taking 2 hour showers while singing every high run he's ever had to sing. It smells distinctly less of smoke and BBQ, and more of lotions and perfumes. I have taken over the whole bathroom counter and have spread out my makeup (which has for years been confined to a silverware organizer in a drawer to keep things in "order"... bah!) It will be strange 5 months from now to cohabit again. Will our whole lives be spent like this? Half together and half on our own? Half full of burnt-toast-crumbs-sink and half full of organized makeup drawers?
Well, I have officially passed my Doctoral Comprehensive exams, and that leaves only a few short steps before I get my degree in May.
First up is a recital on Tuesday February 13 at 8pm in Bates Recital Hall at UT. I am currently in the process of completely rearranging the program. I thought I had it all figured out, but as usual I don't. Ah! the delicacies of recital programming!
Barbarians got great reviews in the NY Times and the LA Times! This is good! Of course there was no mention of the pathos in the voice of the alto soloist (that's me)... This is a sarcastic remark. I joke about it because my solo consisted of 4 notes repeated twice. Hey, you take work where you can get it.
Speaking of pimping out one's voice... Do you all know that I did a Macaroni Grill ad? It was really fun! It's national, so when you hear it, you can tell your friends that you know one of the "yum yum yum yum" singers. I did a demo for the lead, but they said I sounded "too operatic" which I took as a complement. I tried hard to sound commercially operatic "the kind of opera that you would gear towards your average WalMart shopper" but alas.
This was done for a studio called Tequila Mockingbird, which is an awesome place in Austin to record. The people I worked with there are great, and if you're ever looking for sound technicians in Austin, let me know. But if you are ever looking for sound technicians in Austin, I hope you'll let me know that you've been living here, because I'll be really mad if I just run into you on the street only to find out that we've been living in the same town all this time...
So Texas has been covered in ice for three days now, and I have been sitting in my apartment wasting away. And by wasting away I mean watching hours upon hours of television and movies while knitting and trying not to bake anything.
The completion of the blanket that I've been knitting for three years is nigh upon me. It's hard to believe. I purposefully chose an interminable project to teach me patience. My worry is that when I finish the actual knitting of it that I won't have the fortitude to put it together. We shall see if my three years of knitting has taught me any patience.
Things that I have watched in the past three days: The Family Stone The Break Up (hated it) Mojambo (Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly. cheap ending) Stepmom (only 20 minutes of it) America's Funniest Videos (I LOVE this show and I don't care who knows it. kids say the darndest things...) Top Chef Marathon American Idol (I'm so glad it's back! Audition week is my favorite... ) Season One of Weeds (thanks Katie and Matthew, it is awesome)
Today I am DVR-ing "Lucas" which I thought was the movie about the retarded football player. Drake told me that I was mistaking it with "Rudy" and that he's not retarded, he's just on the small side. I wonder what Lucas is about.....
One amusing thing about the weather has been the "emergency" posts that scroll across the bottom of the screen on network TV. They say things like "Driving on the ice is not only dangerous... it's DEADLY...." "Be sure when you leave the house to tell someone where you're going, and to pack many extra blankets and water." I think it's kind of funny to imagine being stuck in your car for a long enough while that extra water is required. I mean, I think I'd just leave the car and "rough it" to the nearest strip mall (which is never that far away.... even in Austin)
Well if anyone reading this (namely, Cam, Kate or Drake, the only three that know of its existance thus far) finds anything interesting on the internet, or can offer any other variation of solitaire, please send a note. I appreciate any kind of human contact in these days of icy solitude....
So I'm in the American premiere of a new Phillip Glass Opera Waiting for the Barbarians which opens this Friday January 19th. It is an unbelievably cool production to be a part of. The music reminds me of a cross between Radiohead and Wagner.
Our director is Swiss and has a fabulous French accent. He speaks English wonderfully, of course but, as always, there are things that don't translate. Last night he asked if he was "going on someone's nerves" It's the little things.... When I was in France I told someone that I liked their chicken (poule) instead of their sweater (pull). Not to mention the very slight difference between the word "baiser" as a verb and the word "baiser" as a noun. One is a kiss and one is, as Ralphie says in a Christmas Story "The queen mother of all swear words."
But that's neither hear nor there. Come and see this production, all Austin dwellers. It is very gritty and violent, and definitely not a kids show. You will leave feeling like you were a part of something very big. ALO has definitely got a good thing going. More production photos from the German premiere in Erfurt.
I think this is step one in the Texification process. I can't help myself anymore. It is a useful word. For a while I lied to myself and others of my yankee friends who noticed that it had slipped into my common usage. "I didn't say 'y'all' I said 'you-all' which is totally different." I say y'all, and I'll keep saying it no matter what you do. But does this mean that I'm like Madonna when she married someone from the UK and then adopted a British accent? What if I promise to never say "yee-haw"? Will that satisfy y'all??
My husband and I are both opera singers, and in the fall we moved from NYC to Michigan, where he is now a professor of voice and opera at Oakland University. In January we bought our first house-- an 1895 Victorian, and we're expecting our first child (a boy) in April.