Riding the bus with my mother

There are three lots on my block which recently have had their houses demolished.

Two of the lots are nearing the end of construction on their new houses, and the third has, so far, sat empty for a while.

Just about every morning, around 7:30, workers arrive and get to making noise on this, that, or the other part of construction for the two houses.

I have noticed a certain inattention to caution regarding trash and scraps, and so have been quite careful not ever to walk over by either of the houses, as there is an ever-changing blanket of glass, nails, wood pieces, and other sharp objects on the ground by them both.

Today, in an effort to dodge some potholes, my mother drove directly in front of these two houses…

A few hours, a free concert, and almost five hundred dollars later, she had two new rear tires on her car, out of necessity, not desire.

You see, she was picking me up to go to an opera performance, thus her being on my street in the first place.

She had dropped me off to allow me to go use the bathroom and to pick up our tickets at will-call, and gone to park her car, only to discover that the tire pressure, whose warning light had signaled on our way to the performance, was decreasing at an alarming pace, and so needed to be handled immediately.

She told me to leave her ticket at will-call for her, and that she would join me when she could, and then took her car to the one place she found open on a Sunday to handle such issues as her current tire predicament (which, fortunately, was only about a mile away from where we were).

At intermission, she joined me at our seats, her having sat at the back for the first part, due to her having arrived late.

She informed me that she had made it to the performance by asking a woman to drop her off, since it was only about a mile away from where she had had to bring her car.

We laughed at the slight absurdity of it all, and discussed how to get back to the car after the performance ended.

Yes, it was close, but the place would close only half an hour after the performance ended, and my mom wasn’t in running shoes (nor was I).

So, I offered the idea of my spare bus card.

At first, she aimed to find someone we knew after the performance ended, so as to ask for a ride.

Then, she considered Uber (but I was opposed for the cost of it, and the fact that my account isn’t set up properly anymore for here [remember how I lived in Japan]), before reconsidering just asking someone else from the performance whom we didn’t know.

We were running short on time, and I didn’t feel comfortable asking for help, when I had means to handle the situation myself – I’m always rather like that… if I can do it myself, even if it is more difficult, I typically still will handle it myself, so that I only ask for help when I truly need it.

So, I looked up the bus route options, and started walking to the bus stop, which was enough encouragement for my mom to give up her idea and go with mine.

I knew her main opposition was simply the same as most people’s in Houston – most people do not use the busses here, unless they financially have no other means of getting around, making the bulk of bus patronage poor laborers, cleaners, minimum wage people in rough situations, and homeless people…, and that can be an uncomfortable, and almost dangerous-feeling experience for those who do not belong to those groups of individuals…, and it can somewhat easily create a feeling of being somewhere dirty, at times…, so no one wants to ride the busses in Houston…, not really, anyway.

I, myself, struggle with it, despite the fact that I use the busses here… I want to promote public transit as much as possible, but I also prefer feeling safe and clean than the opposite, you know?

Nonetheless, it was our most logical option today (in my head, anyway), so we went for the bus.

Another lady coming from a similar downtown performance also joined us in waiting for the bus, and it was quite cool to me to see another ‘normal’ person, so to speak, taking the bus.

My mom, while waiting, mentioned how she had never ridden the bus here, and that she was a bit excited for it.

I smiled and was glad, and told her how it all worked, and that it was mostly just like any other public transit she had ridden elsewhere (except in Vienna, which has one of the best public transit systems ever, and in all aspects of it).

While riding, she asked about how to signal for our stop, and I explained her two options, however, another woman clicked for our stop first.

I told my mom that she could push the tape anyway, just to have the experience and to know what it’s like, pushing the tape on our busses, and she replied coolly and smiling, “I’m touching enough.”

We had seen a whole range of riders come aboard, including all of the stereotypes, smells and all, but also a few other ‘normal’-esque individuals.

Nonetheless, I understood entirely why she had no interest in touching anything more than was necessary at this point.

When we exited the bus, I rushed off in one direction on my predetermined path to the car place, while covering my gaze to the right hand side, and ignoring my mom’s questioning as to why I was going that particular direction, knowing that she would follow me because of my quick pace.

When we were walking into the driveway of the car place, I slowed and dropped my hand, turning toward my mom and informing her of how I had been avoiding any sort of interaction with the man who had been urinating in the trash can that was next to the bus stop.

No, I had not been certain of that being his task, but it looked to be enough so, and I had no interest in discovering anything further on the matter, and so I blocked it from my view, and headed off with the intention of getting away as soon as was possible.

It is funny to me a bit – perhaps ironic – that my mom has told me so much since I’ve moved back to Houston (from Japan) that I need to be careful here, and that it is not like Japan, and yet she does not herself seem to understand how to be careful when in Houston.

She asked why I hadn’t gone the other way around the block, and I, at first, didn’t understand why she was asking – was it not obvious?

And, of course, it wasn’t obvious, I realized… she had no idea the type of hangout that the area was, nor that more people tended to hang out over by that underpass all along its length, and that it was a better idea for us to avoid it altogether, always.

So, while being a bit nervous at my mother’s lack of understanding as to how to be safe in Downtown Houston, I also was consoled in my own ability to be safe here – without realizing it, I had developed my own appropriate way to keep myself safe here in Houston – that’s part of why I tend not to go out at night.

I typically ride my bicycle or scooter, or even take the bus or walk for getting around anywhere near me, and none of those is a very good idea at night…., so I usually just don’t go.

I had begun to think it was merely because of my anti-social emotional side lately, and my dislike for drunk people, but this had me recall that it is more than just an aversion for stupid people that keeps me in most nights. 😛

Anyway, my mom picked up her car and was bummed about having to spend the money, as was I, but we were grateful for the bit of time we had been able to spend letting my mom experience a Houston Metro bus, and that, at the very least, the concert itself had been free.

But this did remind me of that time we drove way up north to a special spring to get some free, natural spring sulfurous water straight from the source – the city had it posted that anyone could come have water from it, so long as the sun is up – and then drive back home an hour and a half, during which time my mom commented, “Well, that was the most expensive free water I’ve ever gotten,” referring to the gasoline cost and the tolls crossed for the journey. 😛

It’s been a bit of a joke of ours ever since then.

And so, today’s performance, one could say, was the most expensive free concert we’ve ever attended. 😛

(Actually, my mom did say that… haha… I’d forgotten that it wasn’t just something I’d thought, but that seems actually said aloud. 😂)

Post-a-day 2019

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Opera…

… so dramatic…(!)

But I totally love it, and largely for its actually absurd level of drama – the characters in shows are just plain nuts… and, if you don’t think they are, just pay a bit closer attention to their words, and they’ll wind up nuts soon enough.

Seriously, though…. almost all the characters… in almost every show… 😛

It’s kind of great. 😀

Whenever my mom and I attend a Mozart opera, at some point in the performance – and it sometimes happens more than once, if the music makes it really too hard to resist the secret explosion – my mother leans over to me and whispers through slightly pursed lips, “Too many notes…”

She doesn’t mean it, of course – she is merely commenting on how clearly she can hear the amazing number of notes that happen in a matter of seconds in Mozart’s compositions.

And, of course, she does so by quoting Signore Salieri from the spectacular film “Amadeus”.

(If you haven’t seen it, watch it… if you have, feel invited to watch it again soon.) 😉

It always gives me a bit of crack up, while simultaneously bringing a sense of awe into the space: Mozart’s compositions truly are magical.

And the ‘too many notes’ thing really is magical, too, because, upon first listening, I never notice the hundreds of notes…, but, when I think of Salieri’s comment, I suddenly hear them all, flying about, going this way and that, like butterflies of all different colors, going in all directions, but somehow all painting a beautiful picture in front of you with their combined colors en masse… it’s like a Seurat with notes…

And I love it.

Post-a-day 2019

The Opera

Opera is ridiculous.  One night, I have a constant close-up of an incredibly-endowed woman’s exposed nipples, and another is packed with the gag-inducing stupidity and lovey-dovey total BS drama whose only competitor is telemundo’s telenovelas.  Actually, they are almost all packed with that last bit.  Most nights, eye rolls abound, and we occasionally have to restrain intense laughter at the nonsense of people’s declarations of what their love must mean and be able to do, or else what their rage and fury must now cause.  Tonight was one of those nights.

And yet, it is such spectacular music, it is what I long to hear most evenings, as I am settling in at home for the evening.  I feel as though most of the dramatic operas are best when the words are not understood.  Otherwise, they are all just idiots, and you really don’t seem to mind at their dying (slash you kind of want them to hurry up and just die already).

Let us be clear here: I love opera.  It is just painfully dramatic and ridiculous at times, that I just want to punch people and hit a fast-forward button, so that the stupidity will end already.  I get enough of that in real life.  Let’s not dwell on it so dumbly in our entertainment.

Post-a-day 2018

Opera Snobs

We went to an opera showcase tonight, and, as we commented on the style of box seats in the hall (or was it when I was listening to the host say something about Mozart?), I recalled the night I first saw “Die Zauberflöte” (“The Magic Flute”).

You see, it was a regular night in my life in Vienna, and I thought it would be nice to go see a show – that was kind of an incredibly easy thing to do while living there.  I arrived to the theatre and purchased my ticket for the show using the fabulous discount that Austria offers to young adults and students, and headed toward the coat check.  At this point, I recognized a friend of mine ahead of me, and called out his name.  Apparently, we had both spontaneously decided to come to the show that night, and, with my having bought my ticket directly after he’d bought his, our seats were together.  It was my first – and possibly only, actually – time in a box seat.  The show was truly spectacular, and it was wonderful having someone to share the experience with me.  When I later relayed the tale to my mom, we were utterly tickled by how crazy the whole thing was, especially with how snobby it could come across.  ‘Oh, yes.  I had spontaneously decided to attend an opera one night, ran into a friend upon arrival, and we enjoyed the wonderful show together from our box seats.’  😛

Post-a-day 2018

Opera, Veterans, and Travel

I have two things on my mind right now: opera and emotions.

Tonight, due to the gracious encouragement of a new acquaintance, I found myself attending a unique performance, called “Glory Denied” and put on by Houston Grand Opera and HGOco.  The main character is a man in the Vietnam War, who becomes a prisoner of war for nine years, and then eventually returns to the USA.  The story, essentially, is how his life falls apart throughout it all.  It is sad and tragic, and the music only makes it more so.  The setting of the performance being an old airplane hangar that has turned into a museum added to the show itself.  The comedic and especially unique bit of the night was the fact that directions to the bathrooms included going “around the helicopter tail.”

Now, this opera was sad.  Period.  And I knew it was sad beforehand, so I made an effort to stay detached from it.  I have a history of becoming too engulfed by something to be able to separate myself from it fully.  When I read books, it is so easy for me to fall into the narrator’s experiences, that I find myself being agitated in life, if the narrator was agitated wherever I left off in my reading, or giddy and joyful, if that was his/her mood.  I even take on phrases and mannerisms of the characters, and ask myself questions that I am accustomed to reading (or hearing, if it is an audiobook) from them.  I’m not sure that I’ve been ever as on-edge, frown-y, tense, and distrusting as I was while listening to the Hunger Games audiobooks.  Life was intense during that one.  That is why I wanted to keep my distance tonight, because I know people have very intense experiences when it comes to war.

As I watched the opera, I found myself wondering if these people, the performers, ever have to deal with such a thing as I do.  Do they have repercussions in their daily lives, due to the effect playing that particular character had on their mental state?  Do they find themselves questioning their sanity, when they have been playing a character whose scale leans too far toward the insane?  I wonder.

And I almost succeeded in staying separate from the emotions of the characters.  I made it through most of the show safely, but then a surprising part hit me hard.  As the main character begins pouring out the shattering sorrows of adjusting to a changed world, back in the USA after nine years of imprisonment, I was dragged into his experience.  Tears rolled slowly down my face, unbidden.  No, I have never been a POW nor even been in a war, but I have been in my own version of that same homecoming.  No parades, no parties, no photos nor celebrations.  Life around me is unchanged by my silent arrival to the country I call home.  Did they even notice my return?  The characters sang of the expectations a returning veteran might have of his family and friends, – that they be as loving and excited about him as they were when he left, and that they were missing and thinking of him as much as he was of them during his absence – and of the unstable feeling of returning to a physical world – one in which he had always felt stability – that has altered dramatically, and even unrecognizably in places.

I know this experience.  Again, not the whole war and POW stuff.  Certainly not that.  Living abroad several times, I have been in my own version of this veteran’s experience after the war.  I have learned and improved each time, and I have done my best in more recent years to prepare myself for how people will have changed by the time I return to Houston.  No matter what I do, though, there is always a sort of anticipation, a hopeful expectation of how they will be.  They will be the best versions of themselves with me, and their love will fill me constantly.  They will be patient with me, and gentle.  They will be interested in my experience since I have been gone.  All of this, because they have missed me and thought longingly of me as I have of them, throughout all of my new struggles in this new life I was living temporarily.  And then, when I arrive, finding that this is not the case, they are not as I had unconsciously expected, it is confusing.  I recognize the place and the people, but they are both different from what I left, and I cannot quite see how or why.  They have not been through what I have.  They have not had my struggles.  So why do they not comfort me and love me as I have so needed during my absence, as I so need now?  They are different from how I remember them, from how they have existed in my mind while we have been apart.  But so am I, and I see that they have mistaken who I am now, for an image they have built of me inside their own minds.  They can see that I have changed, and I can see that they have changed, but we don’t understand one another’s change, and it is difficult to cope, to fathom, even.  And there is always that extra edge of my experiences having been good reason for me to have changed, but theirs were not.

I have not been in the military nor in a war, but I know this small, unsettling, and somewhat worldview-shattering experience of coming home to a now-foreign home.  As the lead character raged about his home being so not like the home he once knew, I was dragged into the pain, feeling my own current struggles of readjustment coming forth from deep inside.  I am still living in his pain today, though I have been back for a few months.  And it hurt even more still, as I saw that my own experience of struggle has lasted so long, although I was only gone for a year this time.  How terribly long this period of struggle must have been for this man, must still be for veterans returning today.  I went from peaceful times to peaceful times, and my pain still lingers.  They likely did not and still do not have such peace on both ends.

I am forever grateful that veterans have made that sacrifice of ease, in order to do what they believed best to help the world at large.  I am concerned that we do not do enough to help them with the latter end of their tours, with their returns and readjustments.  It is difficult enough altering a regular lifestyle in one culture to a regular one in another culture, like what I have done so often.  It is practically unfathomable to go from comfort to a war zone lifestyle, and then back to a house in a safe, city life lifestyle – is the brain ever ready to cope with a change so drastic and so quick?  I found myself wanting to hug and hold the characters in the show all tightly to my chest, and to fill them all with love and acceptance of whoever they are and in whatever place they are mentally/emotionally/psychologically.  ‘You are safe here, you are important here, and you are perfect as you are.’  I know it was only a show, but it exists only because the story itself is real, and all too common, I believe.

Post-a-day 2017

 

 

La Traviata and the World Series

Tonight, I celebrated the Astros’ World Series win with a small group of people that included, but was not limited to, doctors, homosexuals, teachers, Romanians, and a temporary Houstonian, who is a godsend in the opera.  I didn’t really know any of them – we all just love music, and opera specifically.  At each intermission at the opera tonight, the screen typically reserved for the supertitles and announcements about Houston Grand Opera, displayed the score of the Astros-Dodgers game.  During the curtain call, one of the leads showed the latest score on his hands, to relieve us all the worry.  And, when a small group of us gathered for a ‘behind the music’ miniature interview with one of the performers, the game was discussed.  The performer has only been in Houston a couple months, but he was as excited about the game as anyone else.  And, when the official interview had ended, and we were all chatting, and the game ended, we all celebrated together like friends.  And, in Houston, that is normal enough.  And, I found the company to be so truly a representation of our town, that it made the win that much better.  In Houston, just about anyone can talk to just about anyone.  You look at groups of kids, and even people my age and up, and they’re often from all over the world, either directly so or by heritage.  In Houston, we are diverse and we are loving.  (This is person-to-person, not car-to-car, you see – people tend to forget that a car contains a person, so cars get treated way differently than people who are face-to-face.)

Anyway, I began to wonder if any of the players on the Astros team were actually from Houston.  I’m not so sure any of them are from Houston. And, while that is a bit odd, seeing as Houston is celebrating their victory, it also is rather fitting.  Houston is packed with people who are originally from it.  People regularly come to Texas, and find themselves never wanting to leave (though, I know that this is my always the case).  We are the most diverse city in the USA, and that can be observed not just walking the streets, but in looking at our baseball team.  Those guys are from all over, just like the population of our city.  I find it kind of cool, really.

Anyway, yay, Astros, and yay, for the fabulous operatic baritone that is George Petean!

Post-a-day 2017