The past couple weeks have been rough. The world seems to be falling apart, our country is being run by an orange ventriloquist dummy being controlled by an actual nazi…things are bleak and depressing and scary as fuck. With all that going on, I haven’t exactly felt like updating a blog about my random activities. All these huge, immense events going on and nothing felt smaller than me talking about how I tried Indian food. But I did. Despite my lack of blog updates, I am pleased to report the resolution continues unbroken. And I can’t decide if this blog is the least important thing on earth right now, or maybe more important than ever, or (most likely) somewhere in between. But what I know is all the reasons I started this blog are still there. And by doing new things I can meet new people and learn new things and incorporate new things into my life to hopefully become a better, braver person. Which is a thing the world really needs right now. So let’s do this.
One thing I highly recommend if you’re looking to undertake a new thing resolution is a group of amazing friends who will join you on your journey. They will invite you places, tag along on your escapades, suggest new things and in general make everything better with their presence. Everything is more fun with friends. So when my good friend Karen suggested we go to an Indian restaurant so I could try Indian food for the first time, it was a no brainer.
I am a pretty picky eater. While I’ve made a concerted effort to expand my culinary horizons in the past few years, the hard truth is I’m still pretty unadventurous when it comes to food. I order the same thing every time I go to a Chinese restaurant. Every. Time. If I find something I like, I stick to it. Why mess with success? Who wants to go out to eat and try something new and wind up paying for something you hate? Not me. But there comes a time when you have to explore restaurants outside of chain places and foods outside of chicken fingers. (Ideally that time comes sometime around 13 years old but what can I say? I’m a late bloomer.)
So Karen and I ventured to a local Indian restaurant with a lunch buffet. The perfect way to try a little bit of everything! Karen, an old hand at Indian food was a huge help as I navigated my way down the buffet. I tried fried cauliflower (not a fan, thereby debunking the popular myth that anything is good fried), onion chutney, some kind of pickled spicy chutney that I did not care for, tamarind sauce, lamb curry, chili chicken, naan, chicken vindaloo, chicken curry and some kind of fried potato and vegetable balls that were really delicious. I also tried a sip of Karen’s mango lassi, which was far too yogurty for my taste.
My favorites were definitely the naan (I think I could eat it all day, warm and flaky and chewy and the perfect way to scoop up leftover sauce and rice, mmm!), the chili chicken, the onion chutney and whatever those little fried potato balls were. And now the next time some friends want to do dinner and suggest Indian food, I definitely have the confidence to happily agree, knowing I’ll find something delicious. I may even try my hand at making my own naan and chutney! Food is an awesome doorway into new cultures and now I find myself curious about Indian culture as well! Today an Indian restaurant, tomorrow a Bollywood film or boating on the Ganges. Who knows?
But wait! That was not my only new adventure during week three! Another amazing friend of mine (see how they come in handy?), Lauren, helped me achieve my biggest new thing yet! Her family has season tickets to the Metropolitan Opera and she incredibly generously invited me to tag along to a performance of Roméo et Juliette.
Going to an opera has been something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I am a HUGE musical theatre fan, but I am not a huge fan of classical music, so I’ve always wondered if opera would appeal to me. So I hopped on a train and headed to NYC. It happened to be the same day as the Women’s March so a fun benefit of traveling that day was seeing the crowds of people headed to one march or another with their signs and pink pussy hats. Seeing so many people ready to protest and join together in solidarity definitely lifted my spirits even though I wasn’t joining them this time.
Lauren and I met on the train in Philadelphia and it was actually our first time meeting “in real life” as they say! We’ve been online friends for more years than I care to say but this was our first face to face meeting! Those can always be tricky and there’s always a little nervousness, but Lauren and I found plenty to talk about on the train ride up and then over some pastries and orange juice at a cute little cafe. We met up with her parents an hour or so before the show and because her parents are long time Met members, we actually got to go backstage a little bit! I am a sucker for behind the scenes things so it was very cool to get to wander the maze of tunnels and hallways most audience members never see. Seeing the enormous harp cases, or stacks of prop chairs, or all the employees bustling around just makes you realize all the components that have to come together to make theatre magic. It’s what I love most about theatre, the community it takes to create a piece of art.
We sat for a while at the employee cafe, a cafeteria style restaurant in the basement of Lincoln Center, and chatted. As we sat, people came by to greet Lauren’s parents, one of the ensemble members gave us some inside scoop about some of the performers and their various temperaments. We also met the Met’s librarian, which was a job I didn’t even know existed but sounds amazing!
From there we wandered back upstairs to take our seats. We were seated in the first row of the Grand Tier, which I was told has the best view and maybe more importantly, the best sound. The opera house is everything you want an opera house to be; rich red velvets, sparkling chandeliers, grand staircases and floor to ceiling windows in the lobby.
I was happy to be seeing Roméo et Juliette for my first opera. Even though there are subtitles so you can follow along if you’re not fluent in French, already being familiar with the story helped a lot. It meant I could glance at the subtitles when I needed/wanted to, but could easily follow the story even without looking at them. The show itself was incredible. Every aspect of the production was clearly first rate. The costumes were exquisite. There were leather duster coats for Mercutio, Tybalt and Romeo that flared dramatically, a flowing diaphanous nightgown for Juliet that always looked like it was about to fall off but never did and ensemble members in jewel tone suits and extravagant gowns with whimsical ruffles and hats. The set was astounding, a floor to ceiling exterior palace set with balconies and windows and doorways everywhere that were used beautifully and a simple raised dais center stage that became everything from an outdoor market to a bed on the lovers’ wedding night to the mausoleum where they meet their tragic fate.
And the performances…were astounding. Like I said, I’m not a classical music person and this opera experience didn’t change that for me, but you don’t have to be a classical music lover to appreciate the incredible amount of skill and control it takes to sing opera. Those people, (in particular the two title leads) sang their faces off for almost three hours. All while running around the stage, climbing balconies, sword fighting and doing a lot of hardcore kissing. The two leads of Romeo and Juliet had great chemistry together and were really able to believably pull off playing two impetuous, reckless, lovesick teenagers.
Let’s talk about opera curtain calls! Because I am used to musical theatre curtain calls, this came as a hilarious surprise to me. First of all, people really do actually call out “Bravo!” and “Brava!” Not just at the end of the show but after any particularly good aria. So, that was fun. Now, if you were to go see a Broadway show, at the end, traditionally, the stage goes dark briefly while the actors who were last on stage clear off and then the curtain call begins with the chorus members, followed by the smaller roles and culminating with the leads taking their bows. Then they will generally do a group bow, gesture to the orchestra to give them their due credit, do another group bow or two and that’s it. It takes a few minutes, maybe a little more if you happened to see a truly spectacular show. For instance, I was lucky enough to see Hamilton: An American Musical in Chicago and it was amazing and the audience was on its feet during the curtain calls and it still didn’t go over 5 minutes.
But at the opera, curtain calls go on forever! And they start with the leads taking their bows. The two leads never left the stage after their final death scene, they just got up and took their bows. Romeo swept Juliet up in his arms and carried her around the stage, a bit of campy silliness that delighted the audience. (Although he almost tripped on the train of her long dress and that could have spelled disaster.) They bowed for a couple minutes and I was beginning to think that in opera no one else gets to take a bow, but then they left the stage and the performers in the supporting roles came out to take their bows. At this point I learned that people really do throw roses at the stage! But you have to aim carefully and have a strong arm, or you’ll just hit some poor orchestra member in the head and your flowers won’t make it to the stage. The supporting players took their bows, then the two leads came out again and took more bows, collected more flowers tossed to the stage. Then there was a group bow. Then they brought out the person I assume was either the director or the conductor and then there was another group bow with him. Then they brought out four people in suits who were….I have no idea! But we applauded them anyway! Then there was a group bow with them! Then several more group bows! And then finally, it was done and they left the stage. The ensemble never got to come out to take a bow! That seemed unfair, considering the time everyone else got, but there you go.
I got on the train back to Baltimore that evening, scanning FB, looking at pictures from all the marches around the country and the world. I had seen beautiful art and people all over the world were marching against tyranny and fear. That’s not a bad day.