One of my favorite episodes of Sesame Street was on today–the one where Andrea Bocelli sings a duet/lullaby to the tune of “Time to Say Goodbye.”
Annabelle and I loved it. I closed my eyes and said, “Annabelle, listen to how tender and loving his voice is, how raw. He sings in a style called opera, and do you see how his eyes are closed? That’s because he’s blind, which means he can’t see.”
I looked outside as I said this and imagined a life without seeing the rain falling in a fine mist through the trees outside.
I was reminded of visiting the Louvre with my friend, Eric. We were standing in front of the awe-inspiring “Winged Victory,” a sculpture of a woman’s body enfolded in draped fabric with magnificent wings, and I heard someone whispering quite loudly. I looked over and there was a woman speaking into the ear of a blind boy, explaining what the sculpture looked like. I looked around myself and saw a group of blind children, each being guided through these amazing works of art, each with someone to try to explain the beauty of the pieces surrounding them. It was such a powerful, staggering moment, I had to sit down.
This episode of Sesame Street also made me think of the time Andrea Bocelli was performing right up the street from my house at the Hollywood Bowl. I wanted to see him so badly it hurt, but I couldn’t afford a ticket. I told my friend Courtney to come over and get me, and we would call on the Goddess of Music to help us find a way to hear him. We packed a bag of snacks and wine and a blanket and headed off to find a back way to the Bowl. Apparently we weren’t the only ones who had thought of this ploy as the police were blocking the streets. We told them we lived there, they asked us our address, I made one up, and they let us through. After a series of checkpoints and obstacles and wrong turns and dead ends, we kept following the music. Bocelli’s heartrending voice led us to the highest trees behind the Bowl. We climbed over a little gate, not knowing where it would lead, and presto, we overlooked the entire Bowl. Bocelli looked like an ant on the stage, but his voice washed over us and we sat down, ecstatic, poured our wine into glasses, and heard our favorite songs.
I’ve actually had many experiences like this and I can honestly say I have never not gotten into a concert, show, or play I wanted to see. Even when they say they’re sold out, I find a way. The Music Goddess seems to help. I called on her once with my niece. I was taking her to see NSYNC of all things and they were sold out. I refused to be deterred of course and called on the Music Goddess on the way to the ticket place, and sure enough, they had released more tickets. Once I wanted to see my all-time favorite, Tom Waits, but I had spent my meager waitress earnings on too many shows right before Tom’s (like Bob Dylan) and I only had $10. I stood around outside the Wiltern Theater willing myself to find a way in. There were scalpers but their tickets were too expensive for me. I noticed a big group of people standing on teh side of the theater. I walked over and saw they were smokers who had stepped outside before returning to their seats and as luck would have it, their Tom Waits tickets looked EXACTLY like my Grateful Dead tickets from the night before! And I had them in my purse. I sat 8th row center to see my hero, Tom Waits. It was a perfect night.
The Grateful Dead had worked their magic yet again in my life! I had attended many Dead shows, and come to think of it, I never actually paid for a ticket to their shows either. I became friends with their Dancing Bear at an Oakland show (I was wearing a bear purse around my neck, he was dressed as a bear–we were connected) and he gave me tickets to every show I attended after that night. He was amazing! He would leave then under a rock in Vegas or behind a tree in San Francisco.
The Dancing Bear was a man named Rob Levitsky who had a thick beard and owned ten houses in Palo Alto–all named after Grateful Dead songs. He also owned a 60 acre-park, a coffee shop, and many other properties. Yet he slept in a sleeping bag on a table in the backyard of one of his houses, under the stars. I asked him what he did when it rained and he pointed to a little room with a tie-dyed curtain under the house. He had created a furry costume for himself with a dancing bear that lit up on the front, holding a flower, and a winking sun lit up on the back. He also carried a spinning ball of lights, a treat for all who might be tripping. You could see his dancing winking lights all the way across the auditoriums. He was so kind to me over the years–I adored him. We were crushed commiserators when Jerry died, but that’s a different blog entry altogether.
The next thing the Sesame Street-Bocelli lullaby reminded me of: my love of opera. I desperately love opera, but, once again, I could never afford a ticket. (This seems to be a theme in my life!) And so I decided in order to see my favorite opera of all time in LA, Pagliacci, I should audition for one of the non-singing parts. Just do I could see it for free. Well, I auditioned, and next thing I know, I’m meeting Franco Zeffirelli, the director, and watching Lawrence Foster, the Master conductor, and listening to Juan Pons sing and Placido Domingo sing my favorite aria–Vesti La Giubba– every night.
And getting paid to do it.
Talk about dreams coming true.
It turned out that Placido adored me. He brought his family to see me belly dance at a little persian nightclub in Westwood. He gave my family fabulous tickets to the opera, and gave me free tickets to every opera he sang in or conducted in Los Angeles, San Diego, and New York for years. Poor little me found myself sitting at the Met in NYC, weeping over La Traviata, sitting in seats I could never have afforded, and later the same evening, cheering over some other amazing opera I can’t remember the name of. I took my poor ass to New York every year and belly danced to make ends meet. I stayed with my friend Vin, and when I arrived, he’d say, “Why is Placido Domingo calling my house every ten minutes?” Vin had the audacity to ask him about some concert he did with Diana Ross in Czechoslavakia. “Vin!” I said. “I can’t believe you!” “Well, he’s calling my house! I want a copy of that concert!”
Vin is a huge Diana Ross fan. He’s always wanted to have two children, a boy and a girl, and name them Diana and Ross. He’s also crazy about Farrah Fawcett and Lucille Ball and comes home from work every day to have lunch with “Lu.” (Episodes of I Love Lucy.) But he says he’s not gay. Vin is hysterical and wonderful and we have spent many a night, broke and bummed. But lack of money has never gotten in the way of our adventures. And he has always encouraged me to be just the way I am. (“Marci, never apologize for being too sensitive.”) And he taught me how to take the high road in romantic fights with my boyfriends (“It doesn’t matter what they say or do. You are only responsible for yourself. It only matters what you say and do.”) And if Captain Jack (yes, as in the rum) wasn’t his best friend, I would be.
My goodness, I had a lot to say tonight. I suppose because I haven’t been able to write for a while. Henry has been very sick with a flu of some sort. I have been holding him for three days, his sweet head heavy on my shoulder, rubbing his pudgy little arms, washing the vomit out of his hair (and mine!). When I was little, my mother would always say when I was sick, “Oh Marci, if I could trade places with you I would. I wish I could take your pain away.” I would just smile and nod, but now I understand.
How I wish I could take his pain away.
Which brings me to why we were watching Sesame Street in the first place. We never turn on the tv during the day, but Mama needed a break for a minute. And look what happened. A mile-long blog.
And whoever said Sesame Street wasn’t stimulating?