Do I stink?

July 29, 2011

The following story is completely true. Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.

I am at the grocery store looking through the dairy case for my beloved quark and whipping cream when my nose is accosted by an overwhelming stench of body odor. I mean, I’m talking serious B.O. The kind that knocks you over. The kind that you know has been on that particular piece of clothing for at least a week. The kind, that if were found in my closet would be walking on its own. Wait. I take that back. My clothes would never get to that level of stench. Anyway, I look down to my right and see a shorter woman in a black t-shirt. As I look down, she lifts her arm, smells her pit, shrugs and continues on in conversation about beer for the party later tonight.

Y’all, I have no idea how she lived through that. I was 3 feet away, and it just about bowled me over.

I was craving pizza. I don’t have an oven, so I can’t make it myself. But I have this little wheat allergy, so eating pizza is a little tough when I can’t make it myself. Well, the angels smiled on me the other day and showed me a little pizza joint that said “gluten-free”. I was stoked! So I grabbed a couple of friends and dragged them to the pizza joint.

Now, before I continue, I must make the following disclaimer. The Austrians are really wonderful people. They are extremely nice, friendly and warm – well, in comparison to the Germans anyway. Sorry, my German friends. I lived there long enough to make an educated judgement:). The attitude is much more mediterranean here.

That said, we headed to this pizza joint. We sat down and the waiter came out to ask what we wanted. Stupid me, I asked him the simple question of how big the pizzas were. Bad move on my part. He looked at me like I was an imbecile, waved his hands around like a maniac and said, “Normal size.” With a dumbfounded expression on my face, I asked exactly what “normal” meant. Waving his hands around again like a maniac, he said, “you know, normal.” He threw in a bit of disgust for good measure. At this point, Alan, my teacher, looks at the guys and says, “There are many sizes of normal. How big is your normal?” I was like, are we in kindergarten here? The guy finally made some movement of his hands that indicated it could feed two people. Whew. We got through that. So I went on to the normally easy part of ordering. I asked for this certain pizza and asked if it could be gluten free. He wrote it down, looked at me again and said, “Oh gluten free?” And replied with a smile, “Yes.” And he retorted, “Gluten free pizza. Hmmmm, well that’s something completely different.” I was like, “Uhhhh…that’s what I said. How is that different?” But I kept my mouth shut for fear he’d spit on my food. The ordering continued and when it came to Alan he ordered a salad. Wrong move. The waiter looked at him with “x’s” for eyes and said, “We don’t have salad.” Alan looked at the menu, pointed at it on the menu and asked again. The guy responded by saying, “There’s no price next to it so of course we don’t have salads. What do you think? We are a full service restaurant?” Um…yeah. Actually…

At this point, we should’ve left, but we were hungry and I had a hankering for pizza. So Alan ordered nothing, another guy and I shared the pizza that was not nearly enough for 2 people and we left without tipping.

Which left me pondering again this idea of customer service and capitalism. This guy had no idea that we were connected with over 100 other Americans looking for tasty, cheap food. Had he been nice, he could’ve had some great business, but instead, we’ve told everyone we know not to go there. So what’s so hard about being nice to people giving you money for the service you provide them? Why would you be pissed that we came in, even spoke German, and gave you money for your food?

Hmmmm…sometimes the Europeans don’t make sense to me. But then again, they wonder why we come in and drink tap water…

Rain. High of 65. That’s been the past couple of days. But, honestly, I can’t really complain considering most of the US is sweltering in above 100 degree heat.

This past week was absolutely amazing. I sang on the orchestral concert in the Rigoletto quartet, and had an absolute blast. The conductor was amazing. It’s very rare that you work with a conductor who so cares about the singers. I congratulated him and thanked him afterwards, and he responded with, “Oh no! Thank you! It is so fun working with you singers.” And he actually meant it! Normally the conductor wants to kill us! But he was really fantastic. I’d work with him any day.

This week is the next orchestral concert, on which I’ll be singing “Assisa a pie d’un salice” from Rossini’s Otello. I’m excited to be working with Met conductor Joseph Colaneri. I’ll keep you updated on how it’s goes.

Other than that, I’m singing on a master class tomorrow with Kathleen Kelly, the Studienleiter (head coach) for the Vienna State Opera and will be auditioning for more agents in the next weeks and preparing for the Meistersinger Competition.

I am very pleased with how this summer has gone. I’ve gained more experience and had more fun that I had ever expected!

Graz Update

July 18, 2011

I have been remiss in my Graz updates (well, except for the drivers) so you’re going to get it all here.

I’ve been here 2 weeks, and they have absolutely flown by. Here’s the 30 second highlight reel:

1) First week I sang a hearing (aka – audition) for the faculty from which master classes and concert were cast.

2) I was one of a few to work with the fantastic Wagnerian Soprano, Linda Watson privately and in a master class setting. For my non-opera folks, this was quite an honor.

3) I have been in cast in both operatic orchestral concerts, for which I am very, very happy. I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to sing both the Rigoletto quartet and Desdemona’s Aria from Rossini’s Otello (not Verdi:)). I’ll be singing under the baton of Alexander Kalajdzic and Joseph Colaneri, respectively.

4) The AIMS Festival Orchestra held their first concert last night with Alexander Klajdzic conducting, and they were fantastic! I am very excited to be able to sing with such a talented group.

I’ve made a lot of new friends and colleagues and can’t wait for what comes next!

More tongue and cheek posts on the way!

4)

Organic Irony

July 7, 2011

A bit of irony for the day:

The organic grocery store across the street is the only place in Graz where I’ve found with air conditioning.

Germans and Gas

July 6, 2011


Nooooo…not THAT kind of gas. The other kind. Sheesh.

There are 2 things that never cease to amaze me in Germany (and really all of Europe)

1) The price of gas which currently is $7.14 a gallon in Austria.
2) The fact they drive as if oblivious to the fact that they are giving their kidney away every time they fill up! (They have more than 2 kidneys over here, by the way. They have to in order to drive.)

For countries who have an intense PR campaign that depicts them to be environmentally friendly, the people don’t seem to pay attention when they stomp the gas in their BMW’s, Audi’s and Mercedes like there’s no tomorrow! It’s not like they are driving cars that get 100 miles to the gallon. Their cars are just like ours…granted, more of them diesel, so their gas mileage is better. But come on, when you’re doing 0-60 at Mach 3, it doesn’t matter what kind of gas your car uses.

And, see, this type of behavior is aided by the government. Let me explain. The government is in charge of road construction, signs, lights etc…Well, they have this handy little red light system that not only gives you yellow when it’s time to stop, but gives you yellow when it’s about to turn green. It’s actually quite handy. All the drivers sit with bated breath for that wonderful yellow light to appear that indicates for them to “start your engines!” and when that light turns green, you’d think it was the Indy 500! Screeching tires! Smoke rising from the asphalt! Rouring engines (or high buzzing from the poor Fiats and Chevys). But, alas, it is not. The next light is a mere 100 feet ahead and that yellow light that just brought them so much pleasure is now ending their few moments of joy by lighting up and heading in the wrong direction to red.

TSA Story #2

July 1, 2011

I’m on the road again which means…more fun stories!!! Yay!!! Well, that’s a good thing for you all. For me, it requires work, but since this is fun, is it really work?

Forgive me as I write this. I’m seriously jetlagged and my head still doesn’t feel quite right. I think jetlag actually messes with my equilibrium, because I’m literally dizzy. But none of that matters. You don’t come here to read about my troubles. You come for entertainment!!!

Well, I went through TSA again. Yes, folks. I have managed to avoid flying since my last TSA entry 3 months ago. I have been one with the road. I’m actually sticking with my threat to not fly unless I absolutely have to. It’s kind of impossible to drive to Germany. But I did actually look into taking a boat. Though it would’ve cost the same, it would’ve taken 7 days, and I would’ve still had to get to NYC and then get from London down to Germany. Both of which are driveable, but would’ve added another few days to the trip. So I had to opt for the not-so-friendly skies.

Before I even got to the airport, I had a plan of attack. If I wore as few items of clothing as possible, then they wouldn’t have to touch every part of my body, right? So I donned a skimpy tank and short shorts.I had another outfit in my carryon for flying. I got in the security line at Nashville airport. Like the observent person I am, I looked around to see which lines are being forced to go through the backscatter and then tried to get in them. Sadly, TSA is smart enough to know there are people like me who hate the backscatters…well, actually, a majority of Americans find them invasive, but I digress… so they now just randomly pull people to go through them. Alas, I was one of the unlucky few. I almost got into a line that had a backscatter that was out of order, but I missed it my 2 people! Dang!

So I got up to the TSA agent who was deciding who would be allowed to just go through the metal detector and who had the awesome choice of being exposed to unknown amounts of radiation or being touched all over my some stranger. One look at me and he sent me to the backscatter line. With as much puppy dog in my eyes as I could muster, I asked if I could go through the other line…and he actually stumbled a little over his words, and I could see he was actually feeling sorry for me!!! The battled raged in his mind over whether or not to let this poor young woman decide her own security fate! But, alas, in the end, he replied, “Er…well…I’ve selected you for this line so you have to go through.” And I replied with my only 3 words of somewhat individual power, “I opt out.” But still, it’s no victory since the result of my decision is a person touching my stuff.

So he pulled me to the side, and I waited for a female agent. Fortunately, the wait was maybe only 30 seconds, and I must say, this lady was much nicer than the other lady who got to know me intimately. I didn’t feel as though she had already considered me guilty of trying to harm other passengers, which is always nice. As she explained what was about to happen, she said, “And I will have to pat down only the clothed areas of your body…” to which I responded in my mind, “Woohoo!!! Part of my plan worked! Now if there was some way to have my special areas unclothed without actually having them unclothed…hmmmm…must consult with an expert.”

She began the pat down. Because I was scantily clad, it didn’t take so long, but I gotta tell ya…she was rather forceful. Her hand went up the inside of my leg to my crotch and had I been a victim of assault or abuse, I would’ve gone ballistic. I was actually caught off guard by it. She checked between my legs 4 times. Twice from the back and twice from the front. Really? Seems a bit like overkill. But my one saving grace is she forgot to check the front of my chest. Whew. One area of my body remained my own!!! Yes!

She ran the bomb dust test, and I was free to go.

Now, for those of you new to reading my blog and are curious as to why I am vocal about my TSA experienced, make sure read my first entry about it.

Since writing that entry, there have been a few more articles that have come out about how Homeland Security really hasn’t been all that forthcoming about the radiation studies done on the backscatter. Apparently, DHS’s claim that the National Institute of Standards and Technology had fully tested the equipment and deemed it safe is, well, false. Apparently the NIST didn’t actually test the equipment. Oops. radiation_NIST_USAToday

There has been a spike in cancer among TSA screeners at Logan in Boston. Now whether or not their work there is the reason or because it has allowed otherwise unemployed people the chance to have benefits so they are actually going to the doctor and this stuff is being found is debatable. But documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the Electronic Privacy Information Center show that when heads of the union at Logan asked for testing to be done after they found these clusters of cancer, the TSA refused. In fact, the TSA refused to do any dosimeter testing on any worker. TSA workers are told that the radiation coming off the machines is less than a cell phone. Really? Have you seen how small a cell phone is? Have you seen how big those backscatters are? I feel bad for them. I’m pretty sure they are being lied to by their employer. Doctors and nurses who do x-rays have very strict guidelines as to how much they are around the equipment, they are in different rooms when the machine is used and are given regular tests to detect radiation levels in their bodies. While the backscatter may not give off as much radiation as an x-ray machine, it’s doing a similar job, and I actually do feel concern for those workers. I don’t like anyone being lied to.

So the saga continues.