Californication

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Good morning from Los Angeles! I’m sitting in Terminal A three hours early for my flight out to San Jose, sipping a giant earl grey (yay!) and reluctantly munching on a really bad bagel (boo). It’s been an eventful couple of days out here on the west coast!

Until this weekend I’d never been further west than Oklahoma City, unless you count South Korea, which is, of course, considered the far east. So this week, I decided to combine a competition in southern California, a visit to see my friend Abby and meet this beautiful baby:

and another competition in North Carolina into one airport-heavy vacation week.

My adventure started with a 4 am drive to the Philadelphia airport, which I have to thank my husband for. He’s a champ. The flight out was uneventful, but seemed very long. I’ve been on a number of double digit-hour international flights, and, while they are always long, this one seemed to drag on more than those. I can partially blame this on the lack of in flight food and entertainment to distract me. Delta apparently doesn’t offer its passengers with food beyond the obligatory bag of peanuts or cookies and half a can of soda. You can buy things like Pringles, or sandwiches or little cheese and fruit platters for an exorbitant amount, of course. Just as you can pay $6 to watch a movie in-flight. I opted to play on my phone and knit instead.
That, and an ongoing game of “your neighbor’s thigh/shoulder/arm are hot lava” with the dude sitting next to me, which got old pretty fast. At first, this stranger seemed like an eye-candy gift from the airplane gods, but his manner, the fact that he wore sunglasses the entire flight (even while watching movies) and that he spent a goodly amount of time digging in his ears and flipping the resulting ick to the floor did a lot to take the shine off his looks.

I will admit to being That Tourist, taking pictures out the airplane window as we flew. But honestly, Iowa from the air is so damned surreal that I just couldn’t help myself. An endless, perfect grid of farm lands as far as the eye could see, interrupted only by the meandering of rivers, and little snarls of town. Bless you, Iowans. Your state looks hypnotically boring.

I had also never really seen deserts in person before (and I guess I still haven’t, really) so the sight of all that orangey red dryness was amazing.

I really didn’t expect to like L.A. In fact, I thought I’d probably hate it. But when I imagined the city, I had always left out the mountains. They provide this sense of scale and beauty to the city. Honestly, even though it’s enormous, and crowded, and the traffic is horrible and the smog oppressive… Los Angeles really is a beautiful place. I can see why people gravitate here. I would never want to live in this city, but it’s  place that I would love to come back and really explore.

I made the drive out to San Bernardino, where I had Pricelined myself a hotel…and was a bit bemused to find that it was in the sketchiest part of town, and seemed to be home to a large transient population. On the way in, I witnessed a colorful altercation in the parking lot, and a dude staggering in to his room clutching a 40 in a paper bag, plus the belongings of some local homeless person stuffed behind a bush by the front door. Good times. I didn’t feel unsafe, though, and having lived in Old Louisville for awhile, this kind of population was not a strange sight to me.

After wandering forth to find my first meal of the day (it was 4:30 EST, and I was about to starve to death or fall asleep or both), I headed to Redlands to rehearse with my pianist. The campus is beautiful and tiny. My pianist was friendly and patient with my exhaustion-addled brain. After a fruitful rehearsal, I went back to the hotel and slept for 12 hours straight.


Since my body, though confused, was still basically on EST, I got up early Sunday morning, and, since I didn’t sing till 3:45, I decided to go on an adventure up into the mountains. I drove up a somewhat terrifying, though incredibly beautiful highway called the “Rim of the World.” I stopped on the way up, climbed a hill and took these pictures of the valley:


This is the kind of road they use in sports car commercials–curvy, narrow and clinging to the edge of a mountain. There had been a snow storm up there the night before, and the trees were still snowy and glorious. It was interesting to start out the morning among palm trees, and within 20 minutes be amid snow-covered pines. Lucy, my rented Nissan Versa, was a champ, and we got to the top without incident.

My destination was Arrowhead Lake Village, an extremely touristy little lakeside town that seemed to be mostly rental cabins and a very nice shopping plaza. It was basically deserted, though, on a Sunday morning between ski season and the summer boating folks. I had breakfast at a waffle place on the boardwalk, and enjoyed the view.


I tried to stop and get some good photos of the snowcaps on the way down, but since it was a little later in the morning, more folks were out and there were 4X4 trucks impatiently riding my tailpipe the whole way down. I got a few pictures, but none of the massive snowy mountains off to the sides.


I went back to the hotel, did my hair and makeup, then headed to campus to walk around and explore some more before my performance time. The campus is very sweet, with lots of big trees (palm and not) and big green lawns. I ran across a sizable
orange orchard next to the tennis courts…because of course. The smell was amazing, since most of the trees were still in bloom. The bees thought so, too, so I kept a respectful distance.

I performed pretty well, despite having some ensemble issues in my Bellini aria. There was a red-headed baritone from CCM who sang right before me, and who offered that damned Figaro aria. He sang it very well, and since its hart to beat something so familiar and humorous, I wasn’t sure I’d make the final round.

While waiting for the results, I went out for frozen yogurt–and shattered my phone when it fell from a bathroom sink. Blast. Amazingly, the touch screen still works, so I went and bought a roll of packing tape, and taped over the shattered glass. It only has to last till later today when I can get to an Apple store in San Jose. Bummer, but I’m lucky that it didn’t die completely, since I’ve been using it not only to keep in touch, but as a map to get around.

I bought some microwavable stuff for dinner, and headed back to the hotel, not expecting to make finals. To my happy surprise, I did, and my dinner was abandoned while I went back out to sing again. I had not been totally happy with my afternoon performance, so I was happy to get a second shot. I killed it the second time around, though I got cut off by the timer just as the story in the aria was getting really good. The red-headed baritone from CCM also made the finals, and sang extremely well, so I wasn’t sure which of us would prevail.

Fun fact about competitions with pianists: they all play the same damned piece. Sure, it’s by different composers, and different musical periods and all that, but every single one of them will play something bombastic with a million runs and acrobatic dexterity. Its amazing, sure, to hear all those very talented musicians at the top of their game. But look…9 people is a lot to hear the same kind of piece over and over again. Naturally, the ones the audience seemed to respond to best were those that chose something a little off the beaten path–the teenager who played Ginastera’s Cajun Dances, for instance, or the one who just went for the direct approach and played Debussy’s Fireworks. At any rate, it was midnight EST by the time everyone had performed, and I was sleepy enough to not care much who won. I just wanted to go back to bed.

I made friends with a pianist from Loma Linda at the reception waiting for results, and was dismayed to note that none of the vocalists seemed willing to speak to each other. C’mon people. I know that it’s not unusual for singers to act like this at competitions or at auditions, but an air of aloof superiority really isn’t very attractive. The results came in, finally, and I was thrilled to find that they had chosen two winners from the vocal category instead of one! Both the CCM baritone and I will be returning this summer for the festival concert. My pianist friend won too, and rushed over to share a big congratulatory hug. 🙂

So I’ll be spending my 30th birthday back out here in California at the 61st annual Redlands Bowl Summer Music Festival! I can’t wait. 🙂

Now, this blog entry is going to be quite long enough, and though I still have an hour and a half before my flight, I’m going to sign off here and go start the book I bought, Fenny on the Couch. More updates to come from San Jose/San Fransisco, and then from the Long Leaf Opera competition in NC!

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One response »

  1. I’m glad your trip is going well and I’m so proud of you for kicking butt in CA. Hug that baby and Abby for me. Have a safe trip to NC.

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