Sunday, October 24, 2010


People have things happen which render life a little more difficult. Perhaps an incorrect glasses prescription, being stuck on an elevator, or being a Detroit Lions fan. Nothing worth making a large fuss, just something that makes one sigh.
Mine occurred the day the luggage limits on airplanes were changed from number of checked pieces to weight.
I have several talents of which I am especially proud. Number one is the fact that I can literally stand/sit in deep water without moving a muscle or touching anything. Number two, I can whistle without moving my mouth (as long as I'm not smiling). Thirdly, I can pack more into a piece of baggage than their most strenuous tests ever imagined.
Some people advocate the rolling-of-the-clothes method, others the socks-within-shoes-within-shoes. I'm a reckless jammer. I MAKE it fit. My wardrobe is heavy on ironing-not-required articles, and my performance gowns are miracles of efficiency. No billowing ballgown of shimmering red satin with cascading raised roses of delicate silk drawing the eye toward my plunging neckline. When I finish a performance with orchestra, I often take off my impossible-to-wrinkle gown and throw it into my shoulder bag and head off for dinner. The next day I remove it upon arrival for the next performance and slip it on again. The secret is in interesting wraps and jewelry. One of my favorites is a lovely shawl of special silk from France that is actually a tablecloth. Yes, a tablecloth. So handy. I can sing a recital and then host a dinner party with the cutlery elegantly displayed against a stunning purple background. Best of all is the fact that it is a special permanently wrinkled silk. Price quickly became no object (and how expensive could a tablecloth be....oops). The snooty, slightly stunned French woman running the boutique was nonplussed when I began unwrapping her tres chic cloths and wrapping them around myself and trying out different lengths and arm positions.
Packing in general is a very difficult thing in my chosen profession. Often, I fly to Europe for months at a time. I try to limit myself to one large and one small suitcase. In addition to normal day-to-day clothes for rehearsal and general life, I must include workout clothes and shoes, a performance gown and heels, dressy clothes for parties and dinners, and piles of electronics and serious poundage of music to learn for future engagements. Additional problems arise when the time is longer and stretches across more than one season.
It is often that I peer into my suitcase and find myself staring into a black hole. Black doesn't show wrinkles, spills, and works in every situation. I often find myself on a gig buying a new article of clothing that is a shade I would never choose in the real world, but after two months of black-on-above-and-under-black, a tunic that looks like a bag of Skittles exploded all over it seems a welcome change.
Weight limits are 50 pounds before an exorbitant surcharge is applied. I am that person on my knees at the checkin counter moving things from one suitcase to another, moving things to my carryon, donning yet another layer and sweating all the way to my destination to avoid paying this extra fee. Often, my bags are 50.0 and 49.5 pounds.
I wish to take this moment to thank Mike at the Delta counter in Frankfurt, Germany. I heaved my massive bags onto the counter scales and resigned myself to charges around $300, for I had no defense and even I couldn't handle wearing 4 pairs of socks, 3 sweaters, and an extra coat to help cut the weight which had ballooned far beyond the limit. Mike looked at the bags, looked at me, and with a jaunty wink just moved them to the conveyor belt without a word. Mike...oh, Mike. How I love thee.
Therefore, you will understand my deep sigh when unpacking here in Houston. Hidden among the carefully chosen contents of my suitcase was a bag containing the bones from the chicken wings I ate in Milwaukee. I shudder to think what they weighed....

Friday, October 1, 2010

"Take money, tuck it away."

I'm home from rehearsal, and this evening we staged the section of "Grimes" when I have the most to sing/do. First of all, I'm in heels the entire time. I am of the belief that if a guy isn't interested in me at 5'7, making myself 5'9 isn't going to help my cause. Except when necessary, I am the person who enters her first costume fitting begging for flats or the lowest, chunkiest, most masculine heel they will allow.
These heels are not even 2 inches and compared to the Jimmy Choos and Blahniks of the world, they are the width of a linebacker. However, when I am raised above floor level, all balance bets are off.
As the head of the pub "The Boar" in our little fishing village, I carry pitchers up and down stairs, wipe off tables, and in this production, actually clean up "vomit" which today was the most disturbing deep pink color. Management assures us the color will eventually be a pea yellow. I don't see how this is any better for me as the tottering, unsteady mopper. The mop and bucket are old fashioned in the extreme, and we had a lovely time in rehearsal trying to teach me where to step on one side while pushing down the lever on the other side, while drawing the mop head through the wringer. This would be difficult for me at floor level. Add 2 inches, and I was tipping left.....right....forward..... The perpetrator of the puke is my friend Beau, and I've already told him that he needs to be prepared for me literally crashing into him. It's a sad, sad thing when the village drunk is my only chance of staying upright in my own bar.
Beau's character also hands me fake paper money as he advances on my whores. "Take money, tuck it away" is a common direction for characters in my career. I got home from rehearsal late this evening, and suddenly felt something and discovered my payment was still wedged quite securely.
I would like to think that the professional ease I have achieved with the money-in-boobage moments I come by genetically. Grandma Koop to this day likes to keep cash "safe and close at hand", and despite a bevy of lovely handbags of various materials/sizes/colors/functions, I can often be found with nothing in my hands and a subtle bulge where no gentleman would feel welcome to search. My $20 is just as widely accepted for being on the warm side.
Onstage, I have had paper money, coins, keys, letters, pictures, and even in one memorable scene, a flask, all down in the most convenient and easily accessible space available to women. It's when the direction calls for someone else to place the payment there him/herself that I feel like a personal loan officer.
I once had a famous tenor told to deposit his coins "deep in there." After chivalrously asking me if I was fine with this arrangement, he declared "I love my job!" and dove in.