Ever since coming home from school, I’ve returned to taking voice lessons. My teacher wanted me to be in the music-school’s end-of-year concert, which is how I found myself roped into singing the lead in Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” as well as doing backing vocals for half a dozen other songs.
The other girls singing with me are of various ages between eleven and eighteen. I’m the oldest by three years, having recently turned twenty-one. Let me tell you, nothing makes a twenty-one year old feel her years like spending hours with girls six years her junior and realizing that they’re actually not as interesting to her as the eleven-year old. What is it about the middle teenage years that seems to erase half their brain-cells? One of the other singers, an incredibly talented girl who’s also very sweet, polite and bubbly, actually takes Justin Bieber seriously and thinks that he’s the bee’s knees.
Then there’s the issue of the guy who used to be my guitar teacher when I was a freshman and sophomore in high school. I hadn’t seen him for ages, until tonight when I found out that he was leading the rehearsal we were having. Since seeing each other he’s become more clean-cut and I’ve had time to go wild and come back down a little again. It was strange seeing him and realizing that six years had passed since spending weekly hours together with our guitars. Knowing that I’m now at an age where he looks at me like an equal, an adult, is frightening in some ways, exhilarating in others.
Growing older is strange, but so far it’s not actually displeasing.
It was Halloween night, and fourteen people sat around one long surface made up of tables pushed together. They were a loud bunch, all talking and laughing animatedly, despite the fact that it was past two in the morning. They were elated. They’d just finished what felt like the greatest, best, most amazing and spectacular experience of their lives, and they weren’t likely to forget that night for the rest of their lives.
They were a variety – all shapes and sizes, both young men and young women – but what they all had in common was the sweaty, running make-up that none of them had bothered to remove. In loud voices, they yelled up and down the table to each other, congratulating a night well done and feasting on everything from pancakes to onion rings to spaghetti-and-meatballs. They were ravenous, having completed a feat to which they’d devoted countless hours over the last two months.
Anyone nearing their table would have been able to feel the warmth, friendship and fierce-if-fleeting love they held for each other in that hour. Even the tired waitress, decked out in forced-Halloween-uniform and looking tired beyond measure, smiled at the bunch, allowing herself to be patient with them and trusting that, distracted as they were with each other, they wouldn’t complain about the slow service.
It isn’t surprising that this group wasn’t the only one sitting at a diner at two in the morning after Halloween night. The booths were filled with pirates and princesses, butterflies and Peter-Pans, all of them young people on their way back from various parties. The surprising element was that of men and women well into their middle ages, decked out in elegant finery fit for an extravagant office party or dignified family event – and there were many of these at the diner that night as well, looking happy and content, conversing just as loudly and merrily as the young folk.
If the diner could have felt the happiness and excitement that was filling its tables and chairs that night, it would have sprouted wings and begun to float above the ground.
A toss of the hair, a gesture with the chin, a purse of the lips – these will suffice to change a person utterly from one thing to the other. From a shy, timid, slightly awkward person will emerge an attitude, a style, a replica of the actor onscreen. Confidence has nothing to do with it at that point – once someone changes, they’re in the moment and no matter what happens, the attitude will remain, the stance will stay upright and the chin raised.
Such small things, such subtle mind-shifts and twists – on such things hangs the balance of a show. But once a person is out of self, succumbing to that infamous of Greek gods, Dionysus, and loses the identity of the self, then there is no pause, no doubt, no fear. Nonexistent wine gives the head its buzz and the body its confidence; nonexistent masks take over the face and expression; nonexistent muses come and spark drama or comedy at the needed times.
Being other is liberating. The fear before succumbing to that loss of self is overwhelming, almost paralyzing. The moment the threshold is crossed, however, the fear evaporates like a magician’s rabbit – instantly, utterly, although still biding its time somewhere hidden where the audience can’t see it.
Being other is mastering fear. Being other is being free.
For those who know me personally, you know I listen to lots of rock music [from old rock, to new, more pop-like bands], cabaret-punk, and undefined indie music like Tori Amos and the like. Another part of my broad musical taste is my love, my deepest and most obsessive love, of musicals. I have a friend who shares my love for them – or perhaps, thinking back, she’s the one who actually got me into them. Apart from the fact that I love the music, the stories and the dancing, I am always simply in awe of musicals.
For one, musical casts are made up of actors who are dancers and singers. They roll three separate talents into their person. There can’t be a mediocre one in the bunch, or it simply won’t work. Singing while dancing, they whirl around the stage – and when they stop singing and dancing long enough to speak, they’re as convincing as any other stage actor.
Next, we have the writers and creators of musicals. They compose, they write lyrics, they make up a story that manages to center around it all and somehow fit dancing in without looking ridiculous. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that it takes years to write a good musical.
Lastly, there’s the performance as a whole. Watching a musical on stage is simply a staggering experience. The grandness of it all, the lighting, the costumes, the sheer talent of the actors/dancers/singers! The notes they can hit and the emotion they manage to put in their voices and movements – it is magic, pure magic.
Every city has its wonders. Every city has its own unique little areas, places that are hip, places that are dangerous but still frequented, places that are historical or monumental or just plain beautiful. As societies have developed and more and more cities emerged, they’ve gotten their own kind of charm, and no two are completely alike.
Los Angeles is a strange city. You have to drive almost everywhere – there is public transportation but it’s not the best and most people seem to own cars. The city is more like a cluster of suburbs surrounding a few small major areas. Many people hate it for that exact reason – it’s not easily accessible to everyone, and you can never just walk out of your house and walk a block to buy milk for your morning coffee.
However, as I’ve mentioned here before, Los Angeles is also a wonderful city, and I love it. One of my favorite areas is Santa Monica, which is technically its own city, but I can’t help but just include it in LA. It’s a wonderful little area – right on the ocean, buildings ranging from beautiful to ugly as sin, lots of shops and restaurants and theaters.
The best part of Santa Monica is The Promenade. It’s about four or five blocks of closed road – no cars allowed – and it’s like an outdoor mall, only no mall could ever feel like this. There are street performers, good ones, up and down the whole street. Today, for instance, in the space of half an hour I got to see three teenaged boys perform some of the best dancing I’ve seen, a violinist playing with extreme gusto and smiling as an oddly dressed man danced with him, and a few men giving salsa lessons to random women in the street if they wanted them. There are shops of every type everywhere, and about twelve different types of food you can eat. It’s a wonderful place, and the atmosphere is simply charming, lively and fun.