Miami Part Two

Okay, so you’re back for more I guess… The adventure continues…

Tuesday morning, I’m sitting at the Starbucks on Miracle Mile. My friend Reggie the countertenor (aka The Great Black Hope) works at a Bucks chain, so he’s always good for free latte’s… and we all know about the hotspot if you’re a T-Mobile customer, which I am. So anyways, I’m sipping my latte, checking my e-mail, answering facebook and myspace requests, when I remembered that I wasn’t fronted my travel voucher. Upon arriving in Miami on previous Seraphic Fire gigs I was handed a check for my voucher, which I usually cashed in two large 100’s and the other chunk in twenties and fifties…. But this time I was told that my voucher would be included with my concert fee, one big check at the end of the week. In other words, I was on my own for food. Ok, not cool, but doable….

So to Bank of America’s webpage I went. I needed to know how much I could play with, and wanted to make sure certain bills had gone through, my direct deposit had hit, etc. What greeted me on my webpage was eighty-dollars in mp3 charges. I apparently am the last person on the planet to download Limewire, a bit-torrent friendly, file-sharing community in which you can request songs at whim, and download to your little heart’s content… One particularly lonely evening in New Haven, I had a real hankering for George Michael’s (technically Wham!, but come on, we all know GM and those shorts MADE that group) Wake me up…before you go, go… yeah, judge me, I care not…

So to Limewire’s page I went, and was asked if I agreed to terms, etc. Yes, I agreed wholeheartedly and double clicked away. Next I was brought to a page that asked me if I wished to download Frostwire….hmmmm. Frostwire is not Limewire…yet, they have the same root… I clicked back on my browser. Yep, I was on Limewire, this was the only option. Frostwire must be Limewire’s new and improved and definitely cooler, hence the Frost, cousin. I accepted and double clicked away. It asked for my credit card info, .99 a month for the first 12 months. Sounded reasonable, so I gave it, and within minutes my apartment was filled with the sounds of Wham!

Eighty-nine tracks later, and here I am, staring in dismay at my laptop in Miami. Hating myself for the evening I download everything Rufus Wainright ever sang, why, oh why?!? I called Matt because he had been the one encouraging me to download Limewire. I had no memory of him ever mentioning that it cost anything, especially with the way he would reach over, grab his laptop on a whim and download six Billy Joel songs at a whack. (Whim, Whack! Wham!…..completely unintentional, I promise, but go me.)

Matt told me that Limewire was free, and that I had been part of a scam, and I should never give out my credit card info, blah blah blah. He was right, I was an idiot. My next step was to cancel my debit card, since my credit card info was floating around in cyberspace, but being without your debit card when you’re traveling is impossible. I decided that I should go to a local BofA and write a check to myself for a couple hundred dollars, and then cancel my debit card. Have you ever tried to bank in Florida? I’m not sure if it’s because my BofA account is held in Connecticut, or because Florida is a land full of blue-haired people with 401K’s and pensions, but I would have had more luck convincing the Dali Llama to eat a Rib-Eye steak. Not so helpful…..

My next plan of action was to call BofA and at least try to get the charges reversed on my card. Except that this was Tuesday morning, and the previous day had been a holiday, President’s Day… so all financial records had not been updated, and all operators were busy, and my call was very important to them, and someone would be with me shortly, and this call may be monitored…blah blah blah…

Eventually, I was able to follow protocol off a webpage from mymusic.com, where I read many other accounts of people in my situation (as in gullible Wham! fans), and long story short, it was refunded to my account within the 24 hours I had been promised. Whew! So to a six-hour rehearsal I went, and when Patrick let us go early for dinner, I jumped into a car with three friends of mine destined for a mall. We were sick of Miracle Mile by day two, it happens when you’re down here a lot. (There’s only so much Baja Fresh I can take.)

Anywhoo, as we leave the car, I decide not to take my messenger bag into the mall (SO not Miami) and opt instead to carry my lime green Liz Claiborne wallet (Very Miami, except that I paid $12 for mine, and not $85, but whatevs) and blackberry, knowing at some point I can expect a call from both Matt and Kendra during my dinner break. I descend somewhat gracefully from our rented Toyota Highlander.

Now, a funny thing about Miami is that there are no street drains, bad city planning. It may not rain for weeks, but if it has rained at some point in the last month, chances are that puddle will sit there until it finally evaporates. You know where this is going….. I step out of the car, my wallet tucked under my arm and clutching my beloved berry in my fingers, go to close the door, drop my berry at the same moment my right foot steps aside to allow my body weight to shift from the door closing move, and I side tap my blackberry into the puddle. If I were still playing soccer, this would have been a perfect side-pass fake….There’s my berry, floating in four inches of God-only-knows-how-old water.

Buddhists talk often about being in the moment. About how sometimes our coping mechanism for dealing with moments that we can’t handle is over dramatizing them, or bringing in our own emotions as a way of building a barrier between the problem and our selves. So remaining open to any given moment, without indulging in whatever our normal coping mechanisms are, is pretty tricky. I remember reading in one of Pema Chodron’s books about the first time she experienced this type of present moment stasis. This was before she had studied Buddhism, and before she was aware of the idea of a present moment. She was sitting on her front porch having a cup of coffee or tea, and her husband drove up the driveway, got out of the car, approached her and told her that he had been having an affair and was leaving her for another woman. She said in that moment, she could feel her cup in her hand, she was aware of the cups smoothness, the smell of the coffee, the warmth of the liquid in the cup, the warmth of the sun, and the smell of the grass, the blue of the sky…. All of these things flooded her mind for one moment, and she was able to hold them until her senses got the better of her and she hurled her coffee cup at her husband.
Not that my blackberry incident even remotely compares to being told a story of infidelity, but I have experimented with this kind of letting go of the self in order to make room for what’s really there.

This summer (oddly, right before I read that chapter in Pema’s book) I received an incredibly manipulative e-mail from a former friend. Upon reading it, I was struck by how much I wasn’t in that message. It was all about what he needed and was feeling, and wasn’t so much written to me, as it was just delivered to me. It’s obvious to me now that this message was written as a way of convincing himself that these were things that he was feeling, and that he didn’t really feel that way. I’ve been there…. Anyways, after reading it once. I closed my computer. I reached for my phone, grabbed my keys, and was ready to walk to the liquor store, grab a bottle of wine, a pack of cigarettes and settle in for an evening of misery.… instead I sat in the chair in the corner of my bedroom and opened the window and listened to the street sounds. I told myself that I could cry if I wanted to, but tears never came. I told myself that I could be angry if I felt anger, but I didn’t feel anger. I felt pity, and compassion, but no anger. I didn’t call Kendra, or my sister for a few hours, because I didn’t need to. Talking to them would have drawn the drama out of me, and that was my normal way of dealing with it. That constant cycle of heightened drama followed by the processing of it all was what I had become addicted to…. I was self-medicating. It was pretty obvious that this message had nothing to do with me, and I was only the object that he was directing all his anger and frustration at, but I was still just an object. I have to admit, it was pretty crazy, but kind of amazing.

So, my blackberry is floating in four inches of water. Collective gasp from my friends abound. I walked over to it and picked it up. It immediately started vibrating, and in fact, did not stop vibrating until 11 pm that night. It worked for five minutes, and then the keyboard shut down. My thoughts were flooded with many emotions. I needed a phone while I was down here. I need to be able to talk certain people, I need to be reachable, and need to have e-mail access… I had also become hopelessly addicted to it. Was I being forced to give up my blackberry for lent??? GASP!

For the next few hours of rehearsal, I tried to be really zen about my stupid phone. I told myself that I didn’t NEED it, I enjoyed it, I could get something lesser and still function fine.. but my spirit was being tested, big time. The next afternoon, nearly eighteen hours after the fated incident, after many, many attempts at blow-drying the berry and all its minuscule parts, it was time to give up the ghost.

I walked to a T-Mobile store, fully expecting to pay $300 for a new berry. I couldn’t tell if I had insurance on it from the website, and I still hadn’t received the 100 rebate from my broken one, it didn’t seem fair to have to buy a new one. The question was, do I lie about what happened to it? Now, having been blow-dried, its screen was white and only displayed a sad face and a number -807. Was 807 T-Mobile code for “this moron dropped her phone in a puddle”… I had heard stories of people lying about what was wrong with their phone only to have it cracked open by an employee.. and the truth about spilling soy sauce or whatever always found them out…

In the end, and I am wrapping this up, I told the truth. I admitted that I was a human, and I dropped it. That I was unable to talk with my son for 48 hours now and was starting to twitch… and asked if there was anything they could do. They could- they knocked 100 off, for no reason, and told me I could get my old model for 300, now 200 with the good karma discount, or a new Pearl for 200 – 100 with karma… I opted for the pearl, it’s smaller, cuter, and has a camera. I also opted for the insurance, and got it in white so it looks different than Matt’s. So, I just paid 100 dollars for a phone, and when I get home I might have that 100 rebate check from my first model. They should cancel each other out, and I can chock the whole thing up to one crazy Miami experience. How can you not believe in Karma??

As a post script, yesterday as I was typing this blog, just as I got the part about being zen in the moment, my computer froze and deleted two pages worth of writing… you can ask my friend Paul, (who is going hair product free for his stay in Miami), he was sitting right next to me. I laughed hysterically for a minute, and then shared what I had just been writing about, and what had just happened. Oh, the irony…

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Miami Part One

So this blog is unlike any of my other blogs in that it is completely unprovoked by an academic charge… I am not attempting to prove something, I’m merely about to rant for a few pages about my last few days in Miami. So, if you’re expecting something incredibly enlightening, you may want to skip this one, however, if you would like to be entertained, read on…..

So, Monday morning I woke up in Brooklyn, and after taking a hot shower, I kissed a sleepy Mafoo goodbye, and dragged my suitcases down to the curb at 6:45 am to be greeted by my cab ride. I’m usually a fan of being friendly and cordial, and for the first fifteen minutes talked with my driver, his name was Joe…. That got old real fast… I couldn’t tell if I was just cranky, and in desperate need for coffee, or if I was just being a bitch, but I really wanted him to be quiet! I tried to casually answer e-mails on my blackberry, and even make a phone call to my mother (who’s always awake by 6 AM) but nothing seemed to sway this gentleman from his long-winded tirade.

He dropped me off at the Delta domestic portion of the inner bowels of our lovely JFK airport amidst throngs of freezing cold passengers… It seemed that the lines inside the airport to check in were ridiculously long, and if we just waited through the cold, curbside check in would be the way to go…. Your bags checked in, and ticket in hand, you could proceed to security and be done with it. I, on my way to Miami, and thinking that I would be going from a warm cab to the airport, was only wearing a t-shirt and my fleece… I knew that I could stow the fleece in my carry-on when I got on the plane, and that I had a 2 downbeat, and my flight got in at 12:30, any surprises and I would be late, and therefore docked in pay…so I waited, and twenty minutes later dug through my suitcase to find my hat and gloves, twenty minutes from that the ONE man that Delta had assigned to work the curbside check in…. WENT ON BREAK! At this point, the line of pavement pounders had weaved itself into a pretty caterpillar shape… well, as you can imagine, mass mayhem was just around the corner.

The air was still, to say we waited with baited breath is not quite the affect…at first everyone was calm and still, and then slowly, murmurings from the crowd…. The caterpillar shaped line suddenly became a mob of formless people as the realization that somehow with the Delta employee gone, we were somewhat without order… One man stepped in front of another man and the other man yelled and pushed, and security had to be called over to break them up. At that point, I decided to break free of the caterpillar and do a self-check in and risk the confiscation of my explosive eye cream and shampoo…

As you can imagine, the inside of the airport was even crazier than the outside. It was 7:55, and my flight took off at 8:40. Things were not looking good for me. I checked myself in with a swipe of my credit card, and humped it over to security, where I witnessed a woman with a cardigan set and Coach briefcase attempting to appeal to other passenger’s good senses. Her flight left at 9, and she was asking if she could get ahead of them in the security line. Well, as you can imagine that morning, people weren’t feeling too compassionate. She approached me, although I was somewhat further back in the line. At this point, I had accepted the fact that there was a very good chance that I would miss my flight, and I couldn’t do a damn things about it, so when she asked me if she could cut, I let her. I could have been angry and ripped her apart for being so obnoxious when it was obvious to everyone that we all had somewhere to be, and the situation was just a little bit out of our control….

Anyways, I got through security (exploding moisturizers and all), and with fifteen minutes left until take off, I ran from gate 1 to gate 29 and made my flight. Because of the mayhem with check in Delta delayed our take off twenty minutes…. I nestled into my window seat next to a friendly NY couple (they were Yankee fans) and popped my noise-reducing headphones on, and looked over my music for my rehearsal.

Now, I had thought that I had left myself plenty of time in the morning. If you can check yourself in the night before and print out your ticket, and carry your luggage on board, you save yourself oodles of time that you can spend having a decent cup of overpriced coffee and reading the paper…. Or if you’re a workaholic like myself, looking over music or sending e-mails, coordinating calendar, etc…. This morning left me sprinting towards my gate past not one, not two, but three Starbucks!! And oh, sweet Jesus, it smelled SOOO good, and I knew the watered down “hot and brown” they would serve me on the plane would suck, but I needed to make my flight!!!

So 45 minutes into the flight when the frazzled stewardesses were being pushed to their utter limits, I heard one summon one of the other stewardesses to the back of the plane where I overheard hushed and excited conversation… it seems that they had run out of coffee… these poor women found themselves mile high in the sky with a cabin full of cold cranky New Yorkers…. The time folks… 9:30 am….. and there was no coffee….

I landed safely, met my friend Paul at baggage, who was mourning the loss of his luggage. Paul flew into Fort Lauderdale, but it seems his luggage flew into Miami.. via Boston, Washington, Charlotte, Philly, Miami and finally Fort Lauderdale. On any other day, Paul would have rejoiced that the airline had offered to credit him the mileage that his luggage was collecting in the sky, but he was a gay man who had just had his Kiehl’s eye cream and Crew hair product removed from his suitcase, and at this point he just wasn’t having it anymore…We found lunch (and coffee) and settled in for six hours of rehearsal. But the story doesn’t end there folks…. It’s just the beginning….