Vissi d'arte

from lullaby to requiem

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Memoir #10: Home?


I'm home. Sad, but true; like the age old cliche, all good things come to an end - so has my stay in New York.

Tita Monina and Lola dropped me off at the Newark Airport at around 9am; my flight was still at eleven, so I checked my bags in and waited at the gate for a few hours reading a Callas biography. Across me sat this adorable specimen of humanity - fiddling with his phone, laptop, and digicam. He saw me looking at him, and I just smiled and went back to my book. The good thing about Americans is that they're quite okay with people smiling at them and think nothing of it.

When they started boarding, he went ahead and got on the plane - the same one I was in. When they called the group number I was in (4 - they board by group number on the tickets), I got on the plane - and voila! There was cutie-plane-boy, sitting on the exit seat in front of mine. When an elderly couple was coming on our aisle, the woman sat next to me, and her husband went on the seat directly in front of me. I offered to switch seats with the husband so he could sit with his wife - they were okay with it, the woman even commented, "what a nice girl!" Haha! Ulterior motive!!! I wanted to sit next to cutie-plane-boy.

He saw me sitting on the aisle seat and smiled at me. When I'd settled down, he commented that we had so much space between us (the middle sit between us was still unoccupied) - SHUCKS!!! I actually felt my face turn red! He must have noticed, so he said that he might actually be able to get some sleep and tried to lift the handrest on his side. He laughed a bit, and I turned even redder. Ganito na lang - when he's looking at me, para nyang tinitignan ang buong pagkatao ko - pati na ang kaluluwa! Parang gusto kong kumuha ng pamaypay at takpan ang aking namumulang mukha... Hihi! He had baby-ish blonde hair (very thin hair, and sparse, with little curls - just like a cherub), and the most piercing blue eyes I'd ever seen in person. I wanted to speak to him and talk about silly stuff, but I became toooo self-conscious, I retreated into the in-flight magazine. My fantasies of having a conversation with this boy immediately disappeared, though, when a middle-aged man sat between us. At least my face started to lose its redness...

The two-hour flight to Chicago was unincidental, up until the time we landed and cutie-plane-boy asked me if we still had to get our bags out from the plane when if we had a connecting. I said no (I asked the woman who checked me in the same question), wondering why he asked me, and not the guy in between us... Uyyy... Kilig! Hihihi!

When I got off the plane, I checked to see which gate I had to go to for my flight to LA. Cutie-plane-boy was in front of me. Actually, I just followed him! Hihi! We were on the same flight, by pure co-incidence. I was hoping on sitting next to him again, but he'd updated himself to first class. WAAAA!!!

Anyway, I got to LAX at around 4 pm (LA time), my flight to Manila wasn't until 10 pm so I had a heavy lunch (Fajitas are heavy enough), hoping to run into someone cute... Alas... The plane to Manila (via Guam) was filled with only chaka people... Puñeta naman! I found it extremely irritating that everyone on my plane home looked like hampaslupas... I know! I'm evil, but they did look like people who sold stuff on the streets. *evil grin This completely brought me back to reality - I live in a country where cute boys are as rare a cold, winter days...

I got to Manila at around 5 am, but my damned luggage didn't come out on the conveyor until an hour late. I was picked up by booger, who drove me directly to our house at QC. They'd started renovating our house - sealing off the penthouse and putting in a larger bathroom and two extra rooms. The downstairs has been compltely stripped, and my room's been filled up with all the stuff that was in all the other rooms. So now, I can't find any of my stuff! My room's so crowded, I can't get any of my clothes! I can't even find my shoes!!! WAAAAA!!!

We've temporarily set-up camp at our QC house (where my aunts stay)... I've been living out of a trunk for the last month-and-a-half, now I find that I'm doing it again! This is so frustrating!!! At least I get a new room - a smaller one, with a smaller closet - but I get to repaint it! WEEE!!! I'm planning red with beige highlights for the cabinets... Hmm... Hihi!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Memoir #9: Anticipation, Part II

I'm going home tomorrow...

I woke up this morning with this horrid feeling - the same one I had when I was doing my thesis. I felt, for the first time in about a year - that if only I just stayed in bed, everyone would be okay. Alas... all good things must come to an end... (insert ahime with a top D at the end)

Good things though: I got to see Tosca last Tuesday; the singers were okay, Aprile Millo (Tosca) was a little on the round side and couldn't act very well, the Scarpia was in excellent form, but the tenor was a little off sometimes though. I can't wait to write my review... Weee!!!

Last Wednesday I had dinner with the ENTIRE family. Well, okay, my Uncle Cesar's widow (Aunt Barbara) and her family wasn't there, but all the immediate ones were there: John and Stacy and Chloe (still inside Stacy); Dave and Jill and Gia; Tita Monina, Lola, and me!

We went to Mt. Fuji, this really great Japanese restaurant that's on top of a hill (hence, the name). The food was excellent, and they cook it in front of you. I have Lobster and Steak - loved (loved, loved, loved, loved, loved) the steak -cooked medium rare with all the fat - but the lobster was a little too salty, though. The service was pretty bad though. They forgot my Tita's order, and Lola's drink was tasteless.

Today, I'm here at my aunt's office, so I can't really type too long. We're just waiting for my cousin and Gia so we can go to the mall and watch The Da Vinci Code... WEEE!!! I'm gonna be going home tomorrow, and when I come back to Manila, it'll be Monday already. I'll be flying alone, with absolutely nothing to do (but read Callas: Portrait of a Prima Donna) while I stay 6 (or 8) hours in LA waiting for my plane... insert final ahime (sigh).... end with a soaring E-flat. ^_^

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Memoir # 8: The Other Met

>After a weekend of kinda boring garage sales, I needed a break from the monotony of suburban life - watching TV and waiting for re-runs of Naturally Sadie & Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide. I know - they're both kinda juvenile, but I love the chemistry between Sadie and the new kid, Ben (who, by the way, is adorable!), and I'm in love with Ned... Nothing much came from the garage sale, but we did manage to sell off lola's couch and ancient sewing machine for $150. It was good that Jill lent me her portable DVD player; I was able to watch La mala educacion, a fabulous movie with the fabulous Gael Garcia Bernal - naked... and in drag! Hihihi! ^_^

Moving on... Yesterday I went into Manhattan again (read: spent wayyyy too much commuting there) to go to some museums. My first stop was The Cloisters. The guidebook that I had picked up (literally) from a park bench in Bowling Green told me that the Cloisters were south of the 125th st subway station - it was, of course, wrong. Several blocks wrong! (Or I had read it wrong... I don't really know! hihi!) I asked the nice subway guy at the station how to get there, and he called me 'honey'... awww, shucks!

After getting off the subway on 190th, I walked for like 20 minutes to get to the actual Cloisters. It's a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art that specializes in medieval achitecture. On the walk towards the museum, it was so serene and peaceful, I wasn't sure if I were still in New York!

The Cloisters is an old Medieval style castle-ish building, complete with a turret and a fabulous view of the Hudson River. Entrance is normally $15, but I told the guy (cute, gay - gaydar hasn't failed me yet) I was a student, so I only paid $10. It was sooooo beautiful and serene inside - except for all the people there. I could have gotten on one of the tours, but I was afraid it would take up too much of the time - so I decided to explore the relatively tiny Cloisters on my own.

It was a great place, and the architecture is exquisite! They also had a lot of statues of the Madonna and Child, and several Unicorn Tapestries depicting rennaisance people killing the mythical beast - I have no idea why. Naturally, I took lots of pictures. I also tried to get to the Cabrini Shrine where mother Cabrini's relics are on display, but the chapel was closed, so I decided to go directly to the Met near Central Park.

After getting off on 86th street, I walked through the Bridle Path to get to the Met. BIG MISTAKE! I'd gotten a pretzel for lunch at a stand, and while I was walking through the path, I realized that it was the same path that horses and carriages take - translation: while I was eating my yummy pizza pretzel, there was horse doodie all around the path... ewww...

When I got to the Met, I was weirded-out by the sheer number of people there - even outside, on this cloudy/windy day, people were sitting on the great steps - there was even a monk in full get-up reciting chants near stairs.

My first stop inside the Met was the Egyptian exhibit; great big place with lots of coffins and coochi-coochies of the old Egyptian dynasties - no mummy though. I also got to see the great Temple of Dendur, but it was closed off the public for renovation.

I kept walking all around the gallery, eventually ending up in an atrium with a small garden and statues around it. That lead me to the Medieval Art gallery (Great! More gothic stuff! ^_^). I also found the European statues gallery, and took pictures of The Elements, Perseus, and his cute litle bubble-butt. Hihi!

Eventually, I found my way to the Hatshepsut exhibit on the second floor; fabulous, but no pictures allowed (just like the Evolution of British Fashion exhibit, which I regret going into). I then went into the European Paintings - full of great works of the greatest artists. I especially loved the Monet and Manet galleries - a little confusing, but very elegant; and Renoir and Matisse also... But my favorite was the Van Gogh exhibit... they just look so... indescribable. I guess you had to be there... I was looking for Starry Night though, but I couldn't find it. I think it's in London, or the Louvre. But above all other works of art, I'm completely in love with the Demidoff table. It's a marble sculpture with three boys on top - two sleeping, and one telling people 'Shhh!' I think they're supposed to represent either phases of love or three geniuses.

My last stop for the day was - surprise! - Tower Records in Lincoln Center. I just found out that they're having a sale on their classical Cds... WEEE!!! I can buy Callas' 1952 live London recording of Norma now! It has a great cast - Mirto Picchi (Pollione; I have him as Giasone in Medea), Ebe Stigniani (Adalgisa, again), and Dame Joan Sutherland as Clotilde - a minor role; this is one of only two times Callas shared the stage with her bel canto heiress, the other time was in Verdi's Aida, where Sutherland sang the short, but elegant role of the Priestess. ^_^

Monday, May 08, 2006

Memoir # 7: The Dowager

Every trip that lasts for longer than a month requires a fabulous back-story. Here's mine:

My dowager Grandmother is living proof of Storm's quote: "Sometimes Anger can help you survive." She's an expert in fashioning herself as a victim, making dramatic scenes, being self-righteous, and puting a brand on EVERYONE - regardless of race, social status, educational background, religion, or physical appearance. For example: Haitians - Magnanakaw; Mexicans - mga kastilang ignorante; Jews - cheapskates; Muslims - terrorist; and her tongue-whip - bakla kasi. It seems that she's always angry about someone, or about something. Well, not literally angry as in cranky, but you can definitely feel some issues...

According to her, her vicious mother had never loved her, or treated her fairly, or at the very least, as a daughter. She's the eldest of 5 siblings, and the only girl - two of her brothers became priests, one became a doctor, and... I don't exactly know what Lolo Piping did - all I know is he got rich, somehow. She and my aunt (tita Monia - real name Ophelia - have no idea how she got her nickname) moved here to New York in in 1970's, along with one of her brothers, Lolo Cesar (of whom I am quite fond - he was this big burly man, very jovial, with a thick moustache - he sorta reminded me of Father Christmas - except he had black hair). Her mother (who is a legend in our family in her own right - dying at 98, with feet so big, when you put them together, you could use them as a fan - eww...) never sent her any money when she was here - striving to make a living in a new country. But she did give Lolo Cesar money - even though he didn't need it - he was a doctor (need I say more?).

Her mother (my great granny Marciana) never sent her to school too. So, when my grandmother married my grandfather (whom she said was dead: BIG SURPRISE when he showed up at my dad's wake!), she immersed herself in her studies. She went to several vocasional courses - cooking, baking, sewing, etc., and she mastered all of them. Eventually, she became a columnist here (I think, I vaguely remember seeing a newspaper clipping with by: Nancy Inton on it), and even went into teaching. At one point, she was giving soprano Fides Cuyugan private lessons in sewing and embroidery - she remembers that she had the most beautiful voice she'd heard (until Charlotte Church came...) and she was also very kind. But I doubt that her taste for music (or her ear for it) is still reliable - I was listening to Anna Moffo's Musetta's Waltz from La Boheme and she said that she (Anna) sounded like Charlotte Church. In reality, they're worlds apart - Charlotte is a soprano soubrette, Anna is a lyric soprano. ^_^

Anyway, on to my extremely kind aunt. She married her husband - Tito Larry - here, and they had two girls. Now, they're divorced, but my aunt still lets him stay here at home; hence the reason we're moving! My grandmother has labelled my tito a snake, Hudas, a lazy-ass, patay-gutom, hampaslupa (so that's where I got this!), walang hiya, makapal ang balat, and my personal favorites - stupid idiot & sociopath/psychopath.

In all fairness to my lola, the man is a real piece of work - or the lack thereof. He stays locked in his stinky room, not bathing, not coming out for air, the entire day - except when he wants to eat or has to go have his dialysis (oh yeah, he has diabetes too, and heart disease - but that doesn't make him any more pathetic and deserving of god-given mercy - will explain later). He looks soooo thin, I swear - it's Calista Flockhart meets Mary Kate Olsen! It's like seeing a corpse walking around - I bet some corpses even smell better. He does nothing at home! And (according to my grandmother) he's been like this the entire 30 plus years they've been in New York. We're moving next week, and he hasn't even begun packing his bags.

He's not weak from his illness, if that's what you're thinking. In fact, I think he's faking it. He's actually better than my grandmother at making pa-awa. He even has my uncle (uncle nga ba? well, yes, he's adorable, but he's my dad's cousin - Lolo Cesar's only unmarried son - he has 9 kids) Erik thinking that he's too weak to work. Erik's offered to take care of him when we move out, but I know he wouldn't if only he knew the entire story. Speaking of Erik - he's gorgeous! hihi! He's not the most good looking man I've seen, but he has a very boyish appeal, plus his smile just lights up the room. He's not that old, either, 30something, I think. He asked me to go to the opera with him. GOSH! I have a date for the opera! How Moonstruck is that?! Pero I declined, I feel a little ilang with him, and I know he's busy too... sooo... Where was I?

Oh yeah, my good-for-nothing tito. He's no where near weak - his doctors say he needs a pace-maker, but we know the doctors only want more money. As proof positive of what a creep he is - on the eve of my mom's birthday this year (April 23), he orchestrated a real riot in the house. While my brother and I were at Great Adventure, my aunt tried to talk to him about moving - and the guy erupts into a full-scale fit! He starts cursing everyone in the room - my aunt, my cousin Jill, my grandmother. And he wasn't even ashamed that my mom and my 3-year old niece were there! My mom told me about everything - you know when your mom is telling you something grave when she takes on that tone - I remember that tone from that fateful April Saturday four years ago when she told me that my father had other, older children from a previous marriage. As it turns out, I have a kuya Francis and an (adobted) ate Tina... weird.

Anyway, the next night, he picked another fight again. It all began in the kitchen, we'd just finished eating and discovered that someone had poured salt all over the pancit that my mom and lola made for her birthday. At first we all thought my lola had just put too much salt - she's 84, give her a break if her taste buds are a little off. But it tasted like someone had cooked the noodles in seawater - blech! Then my mom took the caserole where they'd put the pancit and saw salt crystals all over the handle. I looked in the cabinet and found that someone had wreked the salt bottle's cap thingy... hmmm...something fishy... Lola checked the rest of the pancit which she set had aside and put in the fridge, and it tasted quite good. Seeing all those CSI episodes had paid off...

When Tito Larry came out of his room, all hell broke loose. Jill was soooooo in his face. Of course, I don't like family confrontations (I remember, my exact words, as I slipped out of the kitchen into my niece's room to keep her from seeing her raging mom, were 'Mommy!'). I stayed in the room until the fight was right outside the door - then Mommy came in and took Gia (my niece) downstairs - I kept her company (I was feeling a little weepy at that time - that or I was feeling the uncontrollable urge to slap the good-for-nothing-pancit-wrecker - which I couldn't do - too diva-ish) until everything was okay.

Jill was really scary though. She's a big girl - way taller than my brother, and pretty well-built. Considering the shape my uncle was in, she could have killed him quite easily! She can be pretty intimidating sometimes, but she's nice to people who are nice to her. Gia, on the otherhand can be quite a handful.

Sooo... the past two days we've been having a moving-out sale in the garage. We've sold a lot of stuff, and raised at least $250. Bad side is, we sold the couch in lola's den - so there's almost no sitting space in there... hihi! We'll be moving on Saturday, but before that, I'd like to go back into the city. Probably tomorrow (if I can wake up early) or on Tuesday. This time, I'm headed to Central Park - and Lincoln Center again - I want to see more of David Blaine (yey! I know how to spell his name now!).

Anywho... that's all for now. My grandmother is definitely quite a character. I love her; you just gotta love her. If you don't take what she says to seriously, it's actually quite endearing. ^_^

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Memoir # 6: Have you MET the Cinder-girl?

Hmm... what to say...

Mom ang booger left for Manila last Wednesday - they've arrived already - and, yes, Bailey is fine... I'm alone with my Dowager Grandmother who has a brand almost everyone, my aunt who's way too nice to her useless (not to mention creepy) ex-husband, my cousin Jill and her daughter Gia. Since mom and booger left, I've found myself doing more housework - not that I mind or anything (the least I can do for them letting me stay here is to work my fanny off cleaning dishes, doing laundry, packing stuff, etc). La Cenerentola ang drama ko ngayon! oh.. diba - non piu mesta... lalalala!

Today - all alone - I went to the city again. I've been planning to go back alone since before my mom left (she left me specific instructions to stay at home and not go anywhere alone - you gotta love your mom...), and today... I went... ALONE!

At first I thought I'd made a mistake because really, I'm a shy person, and I don't like talking to people I don't know - if I were to survive Manhattan, I would need to talk to people. As it turns out - I can...

My first stop was the subway on 42nd street (where the bus from Rockland dropped me). I got confused about the instructions on the vending machine - I was feeding it $20 but it said "$6 maximum change" and I was only getting the day trip - $7. So I asked the woman at the window for change... See... talking to people is good...

My next stop was Lincoln Center - so I got off on 66th st and walked a few feet to the Center. The usual square was there, with the fountain, and a small crowd gathering in front of a HUGE snow globe... Took pictures of everything - and then went inside The Metropolitan Opera House (fondly called The Met - not to be mistaken for the Metropolitan Museum of Art - also fondly called The Met)... WAAAA!!! I LOVE IT HERE!!! It has such an aura...

I walked with my mouth open (literally - my nose was clogged up coz it was kinda cold and windy outside), and took pictures of everything. I went into the Opera Store - MY GOD!!! Pictures of great singers (autographed and framed with the playbills) were everywhere ranging from the cheapest ($75) to the most expensive - an autographed photo of Enrico Caruso (the GREATEST tenor in History) at around $1,200+. No pictures of Callas though - but I did find her 1952 London Norma (which I have been looking for since forever - can't buy it though - no more money... /sob). There were pictures of Renata Scotto, Astrid Varnay, Shirley Verrett, Regina Resnik, Montserrat Caballe, Victoria delos Angeles - and that's only the women!

Anyway, I had to get out some time - so I headed to the ticket booth and got the cheapest tickets to Tosca on May 16th, with April Millo as Tosca. $26 for a seat on Balcony Box 13 - Seat 4... Oh well... And then I saw a sign - Metropolitan Opera Backstage Tours... WAAA!!! I WANT TO GO!!!

I asked the person who sold me the ticket - and he said that I should call a certain number. I did, and after wasting 4 quarters - I got my ticket. Lucky me - someone backed out of the tour, and so they gave me that ticket (for $12).

I LOVED THE TOUR!!! If I were to live here - I want to work at the Met!!! Kahit muchacha lang ni Renee Flemming carry na!!! Hahaha! Or starring in one opera (Cherubini's Medea, please...) - that could be good too! The tour lets people go into the goings on behind the huge velvet curtains. I actually got to see (AND TOUCH!) Tosca's gown! Worn by half-a-dozen Toscas already, but what the hey!? Our guide took us to one of the dressing rooms for the stars - it was sooooo small! I have no idea how Pavarotti would fit in it! I swear! It's as small as my room at home! hihihi! Our guide says it's a way of controlling the egos of the singers... I think that would work... But where would they put all the flowers I'll be receiving?? ^_^

I also saw a lot of sets - some being built, others being assembled for tonight's performance - Rigoletto. There was some debate over the remains of an angel with a sword - some of my tour-mates were insisting that it was for Parsifal (Richard Wagner; read: Reek-hart Vog-ner) - POSERS!!! As if I could mistake that angel!?!? It was for the final act of Tosca - the big, stone angel atop Castel Sant'Angelo.

One of the memorable parts of the tour was in the wardrobe - although we couldn't get into the room - we just peeked through the doors - they were doing dresses - probably for Rodelida - the posters had Renee Flemming in a purple dress - the dress I saw being made was purple - with ruffles... Anyway - it turns out that the Met produces everything you see on stage - wigs, costumes, make-up, all the props - sometimes even singers (some of the leads used to work in the Chorus). They keep everything too - which is why I was able to touch Tosca's older dresses - they were soooo heavy!

We also looked in on some rehearsals - Parsifal in particular - one was with the three leads - but only the baritone was singing. In another room, they had Parsifal doing some stuff with one of the musical directors. I was peeping the entire time through a window on the door - I could swear, the tenor winked at me when he saw I was peeping at his rehearsal. hihi! ^_^

Then we went into the actual theatre! OH MY GOD!!!! Velvet seats - personal enunciators which translate the opera for each patron! ANG TARAY!!! As we were being shown the orchestra pit, I looked behind and faced the empty auditorium... I could do this... I'm ready for my close-up! hihihi!

Throughout the tour, I kept asking the guide about certain aspects about the singers - NO, they do not wear microphones, they have to be able to project their voices throughout the house (although they say that the theatre has the best acoustics in the country); NO, there are no prompters for the libretto - they have to memorize what they're singing (even Wagner's made-up German); and Yes/No, some singers are bound by contract (which means they can't sing anywhere else throughout the seaon), but some are allowed to sing for charity events and stuff.

The tour went longer than its usual 1.5 hours, and it was worth it! I wish they would let people take pictures! On our way out there was a gallery of artists - they had thus life-sized portrait of Callas dressed in a gown (can't tell whether it was a costume or a gown - in those days, it was always hard to tell!) - she looked like she had just come off a performance - Poliuto if I'm guessing correctly. There were also photos of Joan Sutherland and Kirsten Flagstad (I think - the guide was sort of in a hurry by this point). Plus, they give you $5 discounts for the opera store - so I bought Callas' Carmen.

The day was fabulous! I got to go backstage the Met - and outside the opera house, David Blane (is that how you spell his name?) was doing one of his outrageous tricks - he had locked himself up in the huge snow globe filled with water. Half-naked... hot! Hihihi! I also went to China Town (just to get one of those I *heart NY bags), and to St. Patrick's Cathedral. I saw Constantine Maroulis walking outside Rockefellar Center, too! He's so tall! And cute! Hihihi! Maybe I should look for Kevin Covais too! I like him; he's adorable! Speaking of Chicken Little, Jill's Nemo car-antenna thingy got stolen, so Lola and I bought another one - Chiken Little this time. ^_^

*Sigh... That's all for now, really. I'm not looking forward to anything right now (meaning I don't have any plans for the next two weeks), except for that Tosca performance on the 16th - they say my seats are so high, I would need oxygen to get through the first act... Here's hoping my nose doesn't bleed - at least not during Vissi d'arte! ^_^