Wednesday, January 13, 2010

...and take you to the Holy City.

Recently, I sang the funeral of a world traveler. The Eulogy was given by her niece who clearly admired her as an independent, single, woman who did, said and went, wherever she wanted. I was taken in by the account of her travels and the description that her niece offered of her both physically and personally. I drew a mental picture of a well-dressed, sophisticated woman, with solid finances and deep appreciation of all things cultural. I loved the fifteen minutes that I spent following her around this world that she had now left behind; imagining that she had the key in her pocket to some wonderful existence and that at any minute she would toss it over her shoulder to me. She no longer needed hers and I had my hands held out feeling that I had not found mine.
The interesting thing about these life summaries is that they are just that: a summary. Void of detail. There had to be days when her flight did not leave on time, or she was frustrated because she had never found Mr. Right, Wrong, or Indifferent to travel with her. She must have been lonely, at times, in Paris, Rome or Barcelona. Right? It must be terrible to have everyone in your family have a family, and you are left to run around the world chasing the light of great cities.
This brief train of thought, (in a surge of self awareness) I had to admit, was born of a deep, warm jealousy of a woman who was now dead. She reminded me of this great, jet-setting, dream-chasing gal, who’s only responsibility was to the love of her life, her career and her Holy City: New York. That would be me, circa 1991.
Just to walk around New York, live among the colorful citizens, eat her food, wear her clothes, was all I wanted. I had stayed, worked and traveled in beautiful places, but none better than New York. The mid-day bustle, late trains to auditions, quick burrito ( scratch that, only have time for a hot pretzel), street fairs, gypsy cabs, rehearsals, show, drinks with friends, dinner with colleagues, television on the couch, sirens blazing, home, home, wonderful home.
Then came the greatest adventure: After a trip to St. Luke’s Roosevelt, it was stroller up the stairs, down the stairs, grocery bags hung on the back of the stroller, treat us both to lunch at Sarabeth’s, get a babysitter so I can take the audition, find a school, we all make friends and live happily ever after.
After another trip to St. Luke’s Roosevelt, the story changed: Hot pavement to cool grass, Ollie’s Take Out to McDonald’s drive through and the 9 train to Volvo Cross Country. This is where the great woman being eulogized and I part ways. I had made choices that turned into more choices that left me, I thought, with no choices.
You may wonder why this funeral, out of all the hundreds of funerals that I have sung, merits this mentioning, since it seemed to have stirred bad feelings and throw me into a kind of torpor so deep that I almost could not sing “Jesus Remember Me”. Well the truth is, that in that very moment I heard the key hit the ground. The woman had tossed it from my imagination into my own magical existence and I was too enthralled by the light to catch it. I never wanted what she had or I would have chosen it. At every turn I chose, and lived and chose again. I have built my Holy City around me and it makes no difference where I go, where I live or what I do. I am so grateful that I was there to hear her story. A story that bore such stark contrast to the one that I have lived so far, that I was able to choose again.

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