Soprano Grounded

Sadly, I won’t be going to Eugene next week to visit N at the Oregon Bach Festival. I’ve been looking forward to this trip all year — to reliving my two years singing there, to the music and the fresh berries and the gorgeous sunny weather and the plenteous meals in the cafeteria and to seeing all the friends who are also singing there this summer.

In January I hurt my back lugging a case of wine around the Phoenix airport, and I spent the first six months of this year pushing through my gigs and travels, ignoring how bad it was. I’m finally in physical therapy and doing better all the time, but flying cross-country wasn’t in the cards this soon.

It feels a little like cancelling on a gig. I’ve been very lucky in my career, and have only had to cancel once, which was last summer when I had pneumonia (really couldn’t sing through that one!). Cancelling is the thing singers fear most. It’s terrible to miss out on the music-making, seeing old and meeting new colleagues, and of course also taking home the paycheck. The fear is always there, but still we soldier, er, sing on.

I will not be boarding any airplanes for a few more weeks, but I did make a trip to RDU last week for a photo shoot to update my profile photo on the blog. Did you notice it? Thanks to N for his artistic fashion photography, and to my branding expert sister-in-law for coming up with the great idea. Here are a few of the shots:

Profile photo shoot collage

The 15 minutes in those gorgeous heels probably set me back two days in repairing my back, but it just might have been worth it. Do you agree?

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Red-Eyes Are for Losers

Taking an international overnight flight is exciting. You’re on a huge plane full of eager travelers, you get served an actual hot meal on board, and you wake up in another country, bleary-eyed but ready for new adventures.

Taking a domestic red-eye is not at all the same. There aren’t that many late-night flights leaving from any given airport each night. In my experience, there are only a few, and maybe even only one, leaving from each terminal. It’s a surreal experience being in an empty airport late at night. When you check in for your flight, your body is telling you it’s time for pajamas and tooth-brushing, and you’re greeted by this:

closed coffee shot

The concourse is dark and quiet, and shops and restaurants everywhere are closed up. When I arrived at Phoenix’s United terminal at 8:00 p.m. a couple weeks ago on my way home from recording with Tucson Chamber Artists, even Wendy’s was shutting it down.

Wendy's PHX

In the moment it just seems pathetic. Taking a red-eye does not make me feel like a jet setter.  That night I even got a little panicked because I knew I’d arrive at PHX a couple hours early and I planned to get a nice late dinner there before boarding. Luckily, there was exactly one business open — the sports bar next to my gate — and they had exactly one vegetarian option on the menu:

PHX veggie burger

You know how I hate disposable plates and utensils, but desperate times…

I arrived in Newark four hours later after having slept not a wink. Never have I been so happy to see this airport posted at a gate:

RDU bound gate

Usually I fantasize about jumping aboard a different plane but on that morning, even Pike Place Market and the Space Needle could not tear me from my intended path. I arrived in Raleigh, exhausted and grumpy but gloriously happy to be home. Of course, then I had to teach a couple lessons because of my brilliant planning (“It’ll be fine; I’ll sleep on the plane and this way I don’t have to reschedule my Tuesday students!”).

Once or twice a year I lose touch with reality and become convinced that a red-eye flight is the perfect solution to my travel needs. It is true that they’re often cheap, and you don’t lose a whole day to cross-country travel, except that you do, given the quality of life on the day you arrive. I have one more red-eye on my calendar ahead, the trip back from my visit to the Oregon Bach Festival this summer. Maybe it will be my last. What do you think — can I avoid future red-eye temptation? I know one thing: if I do it again, at least I’ll bring my dinner.