I had such a grand week at the conference. The 11th through 15th of March was my spouse’s purported Spring Break from the university, but as so often happens, most of the week was filled up with work. In this instance, the work was exceedingly pleasurable, but as it was the conference of the American Choral Directors Association, it was, as are most tremendously enjoyable activities, exhausting. Two, three or four concerts a day, master classes, seminars and sessions of all sorts, wandering the exhibitors’ booths, networking and lots of socializing and late, late nights are all piled into the ACDA conferences. By the end of the week, going home sounded beautifully and truly welcome.It might surprise some people to hear it, but by nature I’m an introvert, shy, and I used to have a fairly nasty perpetual case of social anxiety. Yeah, all that fun stuff. I spent a lot of years feeling scared and sick over every new meeting, every unfamiliar place or event. Luckily for me, there are such things as therapists, medications, and lots of family support and training. As a result, going to the various conventions, festivals and conferences that bring together the choral world from time to time has gone from what was, the first time I attended one with my then new husband, quite overwhelming and nerve-wracking to this last, which like its latest predecessors was a much-anticipated ‘family reunion’ with a great number of beloved friends and colleagues from all over the world.So I certainly had a grand week. Meeting with longtime friends from various places we’ve lived, choirs my husband’s conducted, and from our school days, and with ever so many outstanding colleagues, we got to celebrate with them all over music, lunches and dinners, receptions, walks-about-town, drinks and quiet conversations. We laughed and hugged and chattered with current and former students, with composers and conductors and publishers and singers and players, so many friends, and it was all tremendous fun. It made for long days and for short sleeps, for incredibly dry eyes from staying up way too late and for teary eyes from amazingly sweet meetings, no matter how fleeting, with our long-absent dear ones. Stellar music performed by both friends and strangers moved me to both sniffling and silly grins (sometimes simultaneously). It made me as happy and full of love for music and friends and life as I can get, and it made me so tired I could hardly move ten of my cells at a time. And it made me look forward with great intensity to the splendors of home. There, I can relish in retrospect all the sweetness of the multitude of marvels granted by a superb week. And I can revel in Just. Plain. Being. Home.
Drinks. I love food and all of its crunchy, salty, sweet, chewy, tender, steaming, spicy, bold, sour, gooey goodness, but let’s face it, all of that goes down better with a good drink or two. At the moment, I need to behave better than I have for the last number of months, so I’ll be living on the memory of all of the tasty liquid loveliness while sipping lots of cold, clear water for the nonce. This isn’t forever, and I know I feel better when I give my poor beleaguered body an occasional break from the excesses of travel and lazy eating and all of those other happy tortures that tempt and taunt in ever-increasing increments until it’s time for one of these breaks. And believe me, I’ve nothing against a crisp fresh glass of water. Or twenty.
Still, I do enjoy the wide variety of ways one can slake one’s thirst beyond refueling the necessary percentage of corporeal content with good old aitch-two-oh. That glass of lemonade made glinting green with alfalfa was a quintessentially Berkeley taste that was remarkably enjoyable in its grassy clean refreshment on a warm sunny day. I’m not sure if I felt more like a retro-hippie or a happy cow while sipping it–not much matter there; the only important thing is that it tastes great.
Mostly, it’s a grand thing when the drinks complement the context. Sipping ‘hay clippings’ in earthy, counterculture country like Berkeley just feels mighty apropos. Wetting one’s whistle with a gingered Irish whiskey based drink in a pub while nibbling at hot fish and chips works like a, well, a lucky charm. Tipping back a glass of icy white rum with lime when sharing conversation with the cosmopolitan bar owner who made them and hearing about his history as an opposition newspaper editor in Noriega’s Panama, as a banker, and as a descendant of an old family determined to help shape the new Panama by subtler means, through ecological work, by working for social change, and by teaching others both by example and in simple, heartfelt conversations over a drink–that’s a combination perfectly designed to make a moment of what could be mere small talk into a cultural, educational and personal exchange to remember.
Because we all thirst for something to drink. It’s essential that we replenish, you know, our bodily fluids. But far more than that, when we sip we are in communion, in a way. There’s the affinity between the drink and the situation, and between the drink and the food, to be sure. But a drink with another person can easily create, regardless of its contents, a real contribution to building affinities between those who share the drinks. Those that already existed, they can grow stronger. Some meetings of people need that nice drink to invent the possibility of affinity. The raised glass is the opportunity for a new meeting of minds, and maybe of hearts.
Then again, sometimes a refreshing drink is . . . just a drink.
My big sister flew out and visited here for a couple of days last week. It was heavenly. Besides that I just get a big ol’ kick out of her company at any time, there are a number of reasons that time spent with her is a great treasure.
One, of course, is that having known her my entire life, I can happily be myself without any fear of shocking her. I can (and do) even revert to my most immature self and she never skips a beat but joins me at whatever level of silliness most promotes our laughing until our eyes turn into faucets and we choke on our drinks from our big snorting guffaws. I can, in the safety of my own kitchen, drink a few more of those drinks than I would do on my own, and be just as ridiculous as that makes me be. No repercussions. Well, she might tell Mom when she gets home. But it’s usually the duty of the younger sister to be the tattle-tale, right? So I should be safe for now.
When I get to be with my sister I can catch up on all that’s happening in her life, something that is not even remotely the same over the phone because it lacks the drama of the whole pantomime portion, not to mention all of my interruptions to ask what X or Q player in the story is currently doing. We can rant shamelessly about the current state of the world and everyone and everything that we know in it, and know that the Top Secret information and occasional swear-slippages need never leave the room. I can tell her my own life’s updates and make them seem as glamorous or pusillanimous as I wish, knowing that she will listen to it all with whatever sisterly sympathy or elder-sibling disgust is requisite in the event, just to help me sort out what’s believable and what’s merely my imagining.
I take it as not only excuse and permission but a virtual requirement that I eat any and all of the junky but deliriously tasty things I would normally consider inappropriate for regular dining, starting with chips and a big bowl of ice cream for lunch and not budging impressively far from that sort of menu for the duration. Now, granted, if the visit exceeds a week, I might be better behaved, but (a) this was a short visit (so there!) and (b) I probably wouldn’t be better behaved (so there!). Guess it’s just as well she didn’t test me on this. But it was a danged delicious few days, even if my body may take a while to recover.
And it’s certainly amazing how much my spirits recover from any time lost between visits, when I get just this one little dose of sisterly vitamins. Having three such stupendous sisters is probably an unfair advantage of mine, but I am not in the least apologizing for it. You have to admit, if it’s a selfish trait on my part to revel in such wealth, at least it’s one of the least of my offenses. She said, grinning just a little devilishly.