Monday, July 28, 2014

The Alto's Journey

Reagan & I spent a day about town last week, Tuesday, to be precise.  I thought we both needed to get out of the house & focus on things other than Frozen acclimating to her new insulin pump, & plus there were some things I had to get done.  The oil doesn't change itself.  We don't grow toilet paper on trees.  Well, you know what I mean.

The day began well.  My dad recently returned from a mission trip to Guatemala, & he brought me this:

I'm not sure why Guatemala has the economic issues it does; I'd pay a high price for more of this stuff.  I have to now point out (because he has so many, many times) that yes, while my father was in Guatemala doing the Lord's work, I was rocking with Queen & Adam Lambert & buying shirts on sale at Macy's.  I have a friend at church who was in Costa Rica doing mission work recently & he has promised me a bag of Costa Rican coffee beans that he says make some of the best coffee he's ever had.  He's a hardcore coffee drinker, & also one of the few males (that I know of) who read & enjoyed my book, so I value his judgment & am eager to grind my foreign beans & enjoy the Costa Rican coffee.  It's amazing how the Lord's work is paying dividends in my life lately.

When my Guatemalan coffee was drained, I asked Reagan where she wanted to eat lunch, knowing full well where we were headed.  She loves Newk's.  Admittedly, they do have a great grilled cheese sandwich; it's a lot fancier than the grilled cheese sandwiches she gets everywhere else.  They also have good, fresh fruit, her side of choice, & tea pre-sweetened with Splenda, so I can't complain too much.  Plus, I know exactly how many carbs are in a Newk's grilled cheese with a side of fruit, so it makes the dosing easy.   

With full stomachs, we headed to the nearest Rocket Lube to have the Highlander's oil changed.  If there's one thing that will make me jump, it's a persistent warning light reminding me it's past time to have the oil in my car changed.  Oddly, it's not the idea that I might be destroying the car's engine that bothers me.  What ushers me right to Rapid Lube every time is being stared down by the light that will not go away & obfuscates my otherwise clean, pretty dash, but regardless, it serves its purpose.    

The oil change was a first for Reagan (aside from the time her father changed his own oil).  She was highly skeptical of the men waving me forward, motioning for me to veer to the left a little as I attempted to line up the car for them while explaining to her that they weren't going to do anything while we were still in the car.  She did not enjoy stepping out onto the large gray metal plates with holes in them that allude to dark spaces below, but I coaxed her into the indoor waiting area with promises of Altoids (they're very strong, curiously strong even, but she loves them & they have few carbs, so we go with it).    

There's a lot of things I don't understand.  Admittedly, in some cases I am satisfied being ignorant because were I truly interested in enlightening myself, I could.  I don't understand why synthetic oil costs more than real oil.  Doesn't synthetic mean fake?  I know we're not talking about diamonds, but generally the 'real' version of something is more expensive than a synthetic version.  The first time I had the oil changed in my Highlander, a kind man came in the waiting area where I was sipping old, stale coffee & explained that the Highlander needs synthetic oil, & was that okay?  Well I have no idea.  I just said, "Sure, that's fine."  I am the woman they spot a mile away.  They whip out the new air filter before I've put the car in park because they know I'll say, "Sure, change it," if they so much as hint it's dirty.  Even without a new air filter, my oil changes run around $70 now in the synthetic-era.  I'd at least like a fresh cup of coffee with that $70 oil change.  Yes, I know it would be less expensive if I didn't use the Rapid Lube guys, but I don't have the luxury of waiting hours at Goodyear, where they take slightly less time than Trey to change a vehicle's oil.   

With new, albeit synthetic, oil in place, it was finally time to head to the promised land: Target.  

After I grabbed a few of the boring household items we absolutely had to have (toilet paper, kleenex, baby wipes . . . the bodily fluid trifecta), I escorted Reagan to the back of the store where the many toy aisles are located.

For all her bravado, Reagan almost always selects toys that are inexpensive.  We were specifically searching for a pair of gloves like Elsa's.  A few Sundays ago, Reagan came home from church, removed her frilly white socks, put them on her hands, & announced they were her gloves, & they were only to be removed for her coronation.  Had I known how tricky it would be to get all ten of her little fingers in a set of actual gloves, I'd have been more than satisfied with the frilly white Sunday socks. 

After some serious stalking of the toy aisles, we left Target with a pair of purple gloves, a few things of nail polish (displayed above), & some new Frozen dinnerware, pictured below. 

The Frozen dinnerware coordinates with the Frozen figurines her Grandmama bought her, & (not pictured) her Frozen T-shirt, & her collection of Frozen coloring books.   

When we left Target, we still had one mandatory stop (the grocery store), but I wasn't ready to face it yet.  I headed to Chick-fil-A, where I ordered a coffee & a Coke Zero.  I was sitting & sipping my coffee when Reagan made a face & asked, "What kind of coke is this?"  It was more like, "What kind of coke is thiiiiIIIIsss?"  I realized I hadn't taken a sip of her drink before handing it to her, something I usually do to avoid her unknowingly downing a regular soft drink.  I took a sip of her drink, which was obviously Root Beer.  I looked at my ticket, which clearly read 'Coke Zero,' & headed back to the counter.  I was kind . . . but admittedly mainly because the lady who helped me was not the individual who'd served my daughter a day's worth of carbs in a cup.  Seriously, food service employees, people have allergies, people have diabetes, people have crazy mothers, so when they order a Coke Zero, give them a Coke Zero.    

With her Coke Zero in my hand for real this time, & her new purple Elsa gloves in her hands, we headed to the elusive back end of Chick-fil-A, the play area.  I can't admit to you how often we go through the Chick-fil-A drive-thru, but it's a lot, & Reagan always asks about the play area, & I always say no, & so last Tuesday I let her have the run of the place.  

We did eventually make it to the grocery store, which was as boring as it sounds.  

A few shots of Reagan with her Elsa gloves:

She's concerned about the power she'll unleash if she removes the gloves:

I'm ready to talk about Frozen now.  As you can tell from the above riveting rundown of a typical day for me, Frozen is very much an intricate part of my psyche.  I need to talk about it.  

I first saw Frozen last December when my mom & I took the kids to see it.  Reagan enjoyed it; Henry saw the first ten minutes & fell asleep, which is nearly identical to my dad's one experience with the film.  I've tried to impress upon him that he needs to watch it again while conscious because if there's anyone who appreciates great music & intricately woven vocals, it's Gordon.  Seriously.  I became immensely more interested in the movie when I realized Princess Elsa is voiced by none other than Idina Menzel.  I have to give props to the Disney folks for Frozen.  They might also in turn give props to Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked, the book about the witches of Oz turned into a broadway sensation.  

The similarities in Wicked the musical & Frozen don't end with Idina Menzel.  Both are centered not on a romantic relationship, but on the relationship between two women, one with a sugary soprano voice, the other an alto born with powers she doesn't understand that force her into a life of isolation.  In both musicals, there's an early number establishing the oddity of the alto-voiced lead, while also serving to solidify the syrupy goodness of the soprano lead.  The next act features a duet between the sweet but naive soprano & a man she's just met five minutes ago, but whom she loves & intends to marry.  Whether dancing through life or walking through love's open door, it is clear to everyone but the betrothed soprano that she won't be living happily ever after with her prince of the day.

What I adore about both Wicked & Frozen is the journey of the alto, & not just because both are voiced by the wonderful Idina Menzel, & not just because I prefer an alto to a soprano.  After struggling to find her place in a world that isn't welcoming of her & her power (after all, no one mourns the wicked . . . conceal, don't feel!), the alto inevitably flees, setting the scene for her big moment of triumph, which in a musical or Disney film translates to a fantastic musical number.  It should be noted that she always flees in a specific direction, such as to the Western sky, or up the North Mountain.

The theme of the alto's journey, & thus her big musical number, is freedom.  Whether her line is, I may be flying solo, but at least I'm flying free, or Yes I'm alone but I'm alone and free, it's obvious she feels she can finally breathe.  Or feel, rather than conceal, or defy gravity, whichever.  She is willing to embrace solitude for freedom, specifically freedom from judgment.  Yes, I may be green & labelled a witch, but I can deal as long as I am free.  I may turn everything in my path to icy stone when I lose my tempter, but I just don't care anymore who knows.  I think that's every mom's anthem at some point, Yes I'm alone but I'm alone and FREE!  No doubt the Disney geniuses are aware of who pays for the movie tickets, & the DVD, & the soundtrack.  And the figurines.  And the plates.  And the gloves.  And the coloring books.  

Both Wicked the musical & Frozen are modern in that they are female-centered, rather than prince-centered.  There are handsome men milling about, occasionally breaking into song, but the central  relationship in both musicals is the bond between the alto & the soprano.  They compliment each other, musically & otherwise.  The flighty soprano's redemption is her defense of the alto; whether her sister or her friend, their relationship shifts from distant to warm & loving, & the soprano, having made an attempt to understand the alto's desire for isolation, guards her against the onslaught of the raging villagers.  Obviously the Disney film ends happily, & Elsa is returned to her kingdom, her relationship with her sister & her subjects restored.  Elphaba's story doesn't end as well, but her parting of ways with the good witch makes for one of the best duets ever, EVER!, For Good, originally sung on Broadway by Idina Menzel & Kristin Chenoweth.  My favorites lines are, of course, a section sung by the alto:  

It well may be, that we will never meet again in this lifetime.
So, let me say before we part: 
so much of me is made of what I learned from you.
You'll be with me like a handprint on my heart.
And now whatever way our stories end, 
I know you have rewritten mine by being my friend.            

Reagan, be an alto in life.  Guard your heart, don't assume you'll marry the first man you meet, & learn the virtues of solitude.  Gravitate to people who accept you & are willing to defend you against the mob.  Learn the value in letting go of the past.  For a gripping & well written lesson on the perils of living in the past, read The Great Gatsby.  Finally, accept & appreciate your mother's ability to work a reference to American literature into any context.  

It needs to be said that Disney made one major mistake with Frozen.  It's not so obvious if all you've done is watch the film (repeatedly), but spend some time listening to the soundtrack, & their misstep is glaring.  I try to leave you with at least one piece of sound advice when I write, so here's today's: there is never, ever a reason to have Demi Lovato record a song sung by Idina Menzel.  There are two versions of "Let It Go" on the soundtrack, the one Idina sings that's featured during the film, & another version that I think plays as the credits roll on the movie.  If you're unsure of who Demi Lovato is, don't worry, as I'm not sure myself.  She is not Idina Menzel, & that's really all you need to know. 

Idina was voicing a misunderstood, powerful protagonist long before Elsa, & I'm trying to get Reagan to embrace Elphaba's story, to no avail.  I've only seen Wicked once live, but I love the soundtrack; it tells the story.  I am trying to teach Reagan the value of a soundtrack as well, that if you listen to it from beginning to end (rather than switching between the two versions of "Let It Go" & skipping every other song) you can enjoy the story over & over.  And over & over & over.  And over.  She has learned the word duet, so we're making progress.

Clearly, my brain needs a distraction from basal rates (which I am on the verge of nailing!) & altos, not that they're not both fascinating.  Not only have I spent too much time contemplating the many roles of Idina Menzel, but concerning reading & writing, I'm in a holding pattern right now, & I've got to put an end to it.  I am a few hundred pages into The Summer Garden, the final book in The Bronze Horseman series.  I'll eventually finish it, because it is not in my nature to not finish a book series.  World War II is over, & ** spoiler alert ** Germany loses Alexander & Tatiana have been reunited.  They're getting down to the business of living, & it's tough stuff, especially when they're both scarred, physically & emotionally, from the horrors they experienced during the war.  More on them later, but my point is that I don't race to get in bed at night so I can begin reading, & often I end up piddling on the Internet, which is a vague way to say I randomly google things like Mockingjay trailer, or distressed furniture (which I love & am always in the market to purchase), or synthetic oil, or Robert Pattinson.  Yeah.  I hate me too.  The next thing I know, it's after midnight & I've wasted time I could've been productively reading, or spending time with Edie & Dr. Foster (who're in the middle of celebrating Christmas, which is difficult to write with zeal & authenticity when it's July), & instead I've got three tabs open to various articles about Robert Pattinson & Zac Efron going bowling.  This is what happens when I am not absorbed in a book.  It's sad.       

I think the main culprit is August.  I know it's coming; it clouds my judgment.  August is my absolute least favorite month of the year.  It's so hot now, & I'm constantly berated with Frozen, a movie in which people whine about an eternal winter, which honestly sounds fabulous to me (as does being able to freeze people who anger me).  I can now fit in corduroy pants I haven't been able to wear for several years, & I want to wear them!  I want to wear all the boots I bought on sale last March, but it's almost 100 degrees outside everyday, & if I show up places in heavy corduroy pants & winter boots, people will start to wonder.  While I am an alto, I don't have the voice to get away with being weird.  I can't sing myself out of many situations.  Defying August?  Maybe?    


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