Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Gondolier in China, How It All Begins

Our story begins when my good friend, Andrea, calls me in early July to chat about her plans to travel to Macau, China. She’ll be training a group of gondoliers who are opening four rides in the second-largest building in the world, the brand spankin' new, Venetian Macau.
Having previously spent 2004-2005 gondoliering in Vegas (and hating it, as rowing around non-stop in circles singing "Santa Lucia" incessantly and answering stupid tourist questions all with an Italian accent, did not prove to be fun for me.) Although after re-reading that sentence, I've decided to think twice about that notion and sign up for more punishment, this time in China.
Prior to my drastic dash from hell in Vegas to living it up with my sister in D.C., Andrea had told me she was planning to sign up for the China trip, so I knew it was coming. As usual, when I find out there's someone else in the world doing something more interesting than me, I get a spastic twinge in my gut, and jealously wish I was the one going. Especially when said adventure includes foreign countries and getting paid well. I express this sentiment, as I'm coming off a loathsome career with Enterprise rent-a-car and wishing I had remained a gondolier, if only to move to China.
Months pass, and I start putting my new life together, by enrolling in the Aveda Institute, a cosmetology school, in order to launch a new career as a make-up artist. I begin my short-term career as a shift supervisor at Starbucks in order to receive part-time medical benefits, as I am a recent victim of knee surgery.
It's a particularly uneventful day at Starbucks, and my shift is dragging. I’m on break, sitting in my favorite window nook, watching with amusement as colorful passer-bys dodge puddles and raindrops. My mobile rings. I consult the screen, see that it's Andrea, and decide not to answer. She's a talker, and I only have five minutes left of my break.
I do decide to check her message, and my heart begins pounding with excitement.
Andrea: " I just had an idea, and I can't believe I didn't think of it before! You should call and ask if you can come to China, since we need people desperately, and Helen's not running the program. Gwen's running the program, and she likes you, so I think you should just call and ask."
Helen is my ex-boss, also known as the spawn of satan, and her and I had a scuffle about me quitting two years ago because I only gave her two weeks notice, as opposed to a month.
The rest of my shift passes in a daze as the grain of hope is embedded in my brain, and shoots upward at sunflower pace, growing and invading the very core of my being. I know without a shadow of a doubt, that if given this opportunity, I would sit, roll over, shake, and play dead. Tell me to jump and I will. Now the concern is, what if I’m getting excited for nothing?
I call Andrea immediately, and wait anxiously as she e-mails me all the contact info for Best Agency. I shoot them an email right away and find that this idea has gripped me so feverishly, that I’m unable to sleep, as I keep re-checking my e-mail to see if they’ve responded. Finally, Karah e-mail me to call her.
I dance a silent jig in a circle around myself and get on the horn. Karah states that Gwen doesn't necessarily remember me, and I might need to re-audition. My heart sinks, as the reason I don't have a career in the performing arts is due to my acute hatred for auditioning. I suppose it could be compared to a corporate individual who possesses a fear of interviewing. Except that I've been blessed with outstanding interview skills, and have never failed to get any position I've applied for. Why then, this fear of auditioning? Because I think it's a huge pain in the ass. A lot of time and energy gets invested in something that more than likely won't pay out.
In the past, my need to perform was great enough that I was able to overcome this debilitating condition and I actually beat the pavement looking for jobs, like any starving artist. And I found some. These days, however, I just can't be asked. Other ambitions have taken hold of my heart, and provide me with a easy excuse to throw in the towel, and never bother auditioning again. But now, here I am, dearly wanting to go to China, and hearing that I may have to audition, either by submitting a recording or singing over the phone. I announce to my sister-
Me: "I'm not re-auditioning, I just won't go if that’s the case."
Cara: "Don't they need people desperately? I think they'll let you go no matter what."
Cara gets a gleam in her eye as I tell her about the opportunity, as she's clearly relishing the idea of an end to me mooching free room and board off of her. Feeling discouraged and defeated, I respond to Karah’s inquiry.
Me: "I’ve already been trained, and I worked on the water two years ago. I passed the audition then, and I'm single, ready and willing to go to China at the drop of a hat. Do you need me to sing on the phone right now?"
Karah: "Oh no, I couldn't judge that! Don't worry, I talked to Gwen and she wants you to definitely come for the 1st phase."
Me: "Er, I have to be in a wedding in Alaska from Aug. 22nd-27th, so I was thinking phase 2? Since it starts on Sept. 2nd?
Karah: "No, no, no, she needs you for phase 1. We'll fly you from anywhere. How about if we fly you out from Alaska on the 27th? Why don't you email me all your flight info, and we'll work something out?"
Me: "YAY! I'm going to China, I'm going to China, I'm going to China!"
I run downstairs to inform my roommates with a whoop and a scream. Then I immediately call Andrea and relay the good news. I’m seeing her in less than a week, anyway, at her house in the Hamptons, but I’m too excited to hold this in.

I have a funny feeling in my gut, though, and I can't help but wonder if I really have a job. How did I manage to dodge the re-auditioning bullet? And could I sign a contract or something so I have proof that I'm really going? After e-mailing back and forth for about a week with Karah, she expertly dodges the contract issue.
Karah: "No, no, a contract comes much later, let's just take it one thing at a time."
Deciding to believe her, now the only thing weighing on my soul is the Mike Gillespie issue. Mike has played a feature character in my life, as well as other blog entries. I had talked him into moving to D.C. and getting a job with me, rather than living in his parent's house in po-dunk Pennsylvania. I'm used to persuading Mike against his will to do such activities as: Shit in the woods, go on a Polish pilgrimage involving kneeling on concrete, travel through Romania with no money and end up bribing the conductor to get through Yugoslavia, etc. Mike is my adventure buddy and my best friend. Now that I've dragged him to D.C., I can't bear to leave him behind a mere week after he's moved out. What to do? I've got to convince him to come.
Mike, of course, is reticent at first. He claims he's not a singer. I claim they don't care, they're so desperate for gondoliers willing to re-locate to China. He counters with the idea that his parents will hate it. I parry with the observation that he's not doing anything with his life anyway, besides waiting for the navy to call, and contemplating working at Starbucks with me. In the end, I wear down his resistance, and he has a memorable phone audition with Ron, in which he sings in German and then follows up by sight-reading "Santa Lucia" that he had picked up at the library the same day.

The best part was the head shots. Mike was unwilling to pony up the cash to have a set done professionally, against my better judgement. Having been in the industry so long, I know the repercussions of having an inexperienced, ghetto headshot. But determined to help him in his quest, we research techniques for doing your own on-line. We come across an interesting theory about taking pictures of yourself in the bathroom mirror in the pitch black. Adorning him in my sister's tight, v-neck work-out shirt. (And what a sight, my 6'3" friend looked sporting that.) Against his grumbles, I spiked his hair up with water, turned out the lights, and stood on the toilet, taking hundreds of pictures of Mike, which we then converted into black and white on i-photo.

1 comment:

Cara said...

I'm dying to hear the next installment!! How was the flight? Reunion with all your friends out there? Have you already started work?

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