Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Naked Traveler - Opera in Chicago

People have a hard time explaining the little events in life, like why watermelon or the smell of rain are so good.  In the grand scheme of things, these are the things that define how we see the world.  The large events like weddings, birthdays, and vacations are only markers in time.

For months I had known that I would be leaving for Chicago to sing at Sugar Creek Opera.  The weeks leading to it were more indefinite.  I practiced and memorized my music, not truly knowing any expectations that they would have of me.  The days before my trip were intended to be relaxing, as I was making myself more confident in my work with many hours of practice under my belt.  Then a little event changed things.  My wife’s car broke down.

Many have gone through the dilemma before, but we needed a car soon.  We only have two, and I was planning on driving to Chicago.  Her car was great: it had air conditioning (mine does not), it was small and had great gas mileage, and it had a sunroof.  On the other hand, was the fact that we spent about $2,000 on it within the last year, and it was getting up there in car years, and miles.

We decided to get a new one.  And after going to several dealerships, we found the one that we wanted.  It perfectly fits our little family – the Nissan Cube.   Of course it is funny looking, but we think it is beautiful. What we didn’t know was that it would be so difficult for us to get a loan.  We have always lived within our means, and credit was never a good thing in our eyes, especially being on the generational hind end of the stock market crash.  Who could ever have trust in the one thing that has set our generation back so far.  Nevertheless, this unfaithfulness in risk kept us from getting a decent loan.

Hours turned into days and we only had a few left to get a car before I was to leave.  An offer at 18%, an offer at 9.9%, and then the weekend.  On our last effort, we were able to get a miraculous rate of 3.9% and then turned to the dealer and completed the process.  This was all encompassing for several days ranging from great excitement to incredible humiliation that we lived a respectable and financially responsible life, which is evidently a bad thing.

our new car model
But, this meant that I would be driving to Chicago in my car - the car without air conditioning.

"Diane" - my car
It is the middle of summer and it is hot.  One of the hottest times that I can remember.  I left Kansas City at noon, with a half gallon of Gatorade.  All the windows are down in my car, and I have most everything packed in the trunk to keep it from melting or bursting into flames.  Going on the interstate with the sun beating down on the opposite side of the car wasn't too bad for the first few hours.  However, as I went further east, it became muggier and the heat index became horrifically bad - probably the highest that I've ever experienced in my life - 117 degrees.  

Well, what should a person do?  I was sweating through the Gatorade quick, and grabbed a bottle of water and drank it.  The heat was too much, yet I needed to get to Chicago.  So, I did what any man would do.  I drove in my underwear.  I'm not sure if that is indecent, but I had to do it.



I stopped a couple of times to take some allergy medicine since the blowing wind and pollen made my nose run - particularly not enjoyable when it feels like you're at the gates of hell.  Stopping in Hannibal, MO - home of Mark Twain - I threw some shorts on and ran into a gas station.  I bought another half gallon of Gatorade and my brain, with its quirky desires, talked to my stomach and beautifully conjured an idea.  I would buy frozen Pizza Pockets to eat for lunch.

I jumped back in to the car, perfectly timing my mid-driving undressing to happen while I was directly over the Mississippi River, opened the box of Pizza Pockets, took out the plastic bag containing the frozen tears of heaven, and set it on the floor mat of the passenger side directly in the sun.



I downed the half gallon of Gatorade and within 30 minutes or so, the Pizza Pockets were nice and warm - just as I was.  Of  course a gallon of anything will make you naturally take some needed breaks at least a few times, but upon the horizon my savior awaited, growing as I approached and whose canopy blocked out the sun right at dinner time.  My savior, the shade of a single thunderstorm, significantly cooled my trip, taking the inside of my car from a 70 mph blast furnace into a more comfortable 70 mph blast furnace.

I passed along the south side of it, and rounded it around to the east.  Beyond that storm lay the prettiest country you can imagine.  I took US highways to my destination, a small farm south of Chicago.  The ditches were filled with purple and yellow wildflowers, miles and miles of corn fields that smelled strongly of sweet corn as I rushed by (I was nearly crying from the pollen, but it was beautiful).  The land is nearly flat, like the Kansas farms I saw growing up, however they were so green - not the golden landscape of my home.  Perfectly white and grey farm houses and barns top the small hills in the middle of a sea of corn - no trees.  The grey-bellied, white-capped thunderstorm stood behind them to my west in the otherwise clear blue sky.  The base having a roll of clouds encircling the storm like a hula hoop with a backdrop of red and yellow rain shafts as the sun set.  And as I approached the farm, hundreds of gigantic wind turbines stood amid the farmland.  It was beautiful.  Beautifully perfect colors, everything so clean.

It was a great way to end the trip.  My host family is very gracious as well.  I immediately took a shower upon arriving.  The storm cooled the air enough to dry all my sweat, which unfortunately makes a person feel really sticky - especially the pit on the opposite side of my elbow oddly enough.  Notwithstanding any of my problems, my new home should be a peaceful place.

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Today, after a drive into town, I have my first day of coachings and have been able to meet all the people who I will work with for the next week.  I am somewhat nervous but generally excited to find new friends and to hopefully have an unforgettable experience.  My hopes are high.  I am so thankful, even after 1 gallon of Gatorade and another half gallon of water and the obviously uncomfortable near nude 8 hour journey, that I am able to do what I love.

More to come...My second coaching went really well and I have been asked to perform the agony duet with another tenor in a small concert tomorrow evening...


SCHEDULE

July 20-August 7 - Sugar Creek Opera - Daughter of the Regiment - August 4, 5, 7 - Watseka, IL (near Chicago)
August 8 - Audition - Kansas City Symphony Chorus

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