December 17, 2018

Chiang Mai at night

Dateline: Chiang Mai, Thailand-

The second half of today’s travelogue. I have arrived in Thailand in one piece, arriving after a journey of some 27 hours involving three airplanes, four airports, and more time zones than I care to contemplate. It’s currently just after midnight, local time, but my body thinks it’s time for lunch. I assume my body and brain will eventually come to an accommodation with each other, but, in the meantime, I’m exploring the fabulous world of late night Thai television as I’m too loopy to go out exploring in the small hours of the morning. I’m going to wait for my tour guide to show up at 8 AM. A full day of temples and other historic sites according to my itinerary.

There have been questions as to why, in the middle of the holiday season, I decided to up and travel half the globe away. It’s no secret. Much of Christmas, especially the last seven years or so after Tommy and I took over the children’s Christmas pageant at church, was, for me, bound up in our identity as a couple. There was the pageant, our annual post Christmas open house bash, my family Christmas, his family Christmas, the opera Christmas concert, the Messiah etc etc. When he died this past year, one of my first decisions was to make sure I got away from all the usual patterns for this holiday season. Thailand was on the bucket list, it’s warm, it’s non-Christian. I figured it was as good a place as any to spend two weeks hiding from the usual spate of activities. Will I go back to any of them after this year? I haven’t figured that out yet. New life, new traditions to be forged.

I can’t say much about Chiang Mai yet. I’ve only seen the airport and a highway at night getting to the hotel. I’m sure I’ll have lots more to say about it tomorrow. The last leg of the flight, Seoul to Chiang Mai was as uneventful as the rest of the trip. I may be bitching about 27 hours, but think about what such a trip would have required even 100 years ago. More like 27 days each way…

An ASO chorus rehearsal from an earlier year. Familiar face center at the top…

For storytime, I’m going to go back to the Messiah. I still have a hard time believing I’m actually in the ASO chorus and get to sing all of these masterworks with a world class orchestra. Usually, we just do the Christmas portion (part 1) with the Hallelujah chorus tacked on the end. This year, we did significant portions of the whole thing. This was my first crack at parts 2 and 3 and some of those choruses are rough and I left it to the guys that seem to have been singing the Messiah since they were in diapers to do some of the heavy lifting. I moved my mouth convincingly on some of those runs… It didn’t help that I was on the border between the tenors and the basses and had a tenor singing in one ear and a bass in the other. Note to self. Bury self deep in bass section next year… Anyway, during the dress rehearsal process, I was reflecting back on the first time I heard the Messiah. I was 8 or 9 and the choir at our church (University Congregational in Seattle) did it as a special program. I can’t remember a whole lot more about the music program there in my childhood (other than the organist and some of his family drowning in a tragic boating accident) but that Messiah stayed with me. The chorus that stuck with me at a young age wasn’t The Hallelujah Chorus (which I thought was sort of silly, especially the standing up part), but rather For Unto Us A Child Is Born. To this day, that music, especially as it ascends into the chords that make up Wonderful Counselor et al. stirs something deep in my limbic system. Maybe it’s that message of how each new birth rekindles the possibility of hope and each child has the potential to save us from something eventually.

I’ve been a bit weepy over holiday stuff, which I suppose is understandable, and I’ve had to stay away from the Hallmark channel entirely or I’d be a huge mess. I went to see Scrooge! at Virginia Samford Theatre on Saturday night, just before I left and cried all through the second act. Fortunately, I was sitting by myself in the patrons balcony and didn’t disturb anyone with my sniffles. I’m not sure why it got to me the way it did. I’ve seen dozens of versions of A Christmas Carol over the years. Heck, I even played Scrooge a couple years ago. (A part I would gladly do again). Maybe it was because it took me back to childhood. I saw the film in theaters when it was first released, back before they cut a number of sequences that I don’t think have been seen since (like Scrooge being weighed down by his chain by devils in hell). Maybe it was watching a whole lot of friends perform. Maybe it was missing Tommy. He never got to see my Scrooge due to other commitments (he said he’d catch it next time).

It’s late, or maybe it’s early. One way or another, I need to take my melatonin and get a few hours of sleep before touring in the morning. More later…

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