Seeing life through rose-colored glasses

Oh, my poor, neglected blog. Apologies to the three, maybe four readers who are still around for not updating. I apparently have the attention span of a goldfish when it comes to these things. šŸ˜›

This isn’t much of an update, but I wanted to share this extremely raw a cappella recording of La Vie En Rose that I did for a friend who’s recovering from an accident as a little feel-better-soon gift. Whenever I hear this song, I can hear Audrey Hepburn in my head explaining that it means seeing life through rose-colored glasses, and I yearn to seeĀ Paris.

Be warned, it’s extremely raw, uploaded straight from my phone, so you can hear all the pops and whistles on it. Still, in the interest of keeping things real, here you go.

Hope you like it. šŸ™‚

Hong Kong Holiday, part 1

 

View from the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade. Hong Kong 2016. Copyright Marnie Dolera.

To be honest, Hong Kong was never really on my list of places to visit before I die, but when a good friend offered me the opportunity to travel here, I was in the mood to become an anonymous face in a crowd in a place Iā€™d never been to before. I wanted to walk around and get lost in a metropolis where I had no obligations and no one knew me. Vietnam and Cambodia were out of the question, mainly because, for all of their virtues, they didnā€™t have the hustle and bustle of a true megapolis that I was craving. I wanted the strange (in)security of not knowing anything or anyone, theĀ danger and yetĀ the safety it offered.

So Hong Kong it was.

I have to admit, when I first came here, I wasnā€™t expecting to like Hong Kong as much as I do now. The only image I had of Hong Kong was one of a homogenized culture sacrificing heritage on the twin altars of commercialism and progress, all shiny and chrome-y and neon lights. But what I learned, after almost a week here, is that life thrives in the spaces between.

I did a lot of walking in Hong Kong, and when I say a lot, I mean A LOT. Three days of almost non-stop walking for eight to ten hours in running shoes that havenā€™t quite been broken in have left me with aching hamstrings and sore feet, but it was the price to pay to get some insight into this enigmatic city. Walking is always the best way to make a city your own, and discover the pockets of beauty in the heaving, humid mass of humanity determined to carry you along in its wake. There are always those moments, if youā€™re patient enough to look for them.

Guitarist on TST Promenade. Hong Kong 2016. Copyright Marnie Dolera.

The other night, around midnight, while I was walking on the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, I came across a long haired, lanky young man in typical rockerā€™s garb ā€“ black leather jacket, jeans, and boots ā€“ practicing his skills on an unplugged electric guitar. He was completely lost to the world, a bizarre sight on a boardwalk filled with joggers in tiny pastel and neon outfits puffing along, defying the near freezing wind blowing in from the harbor, even at that late hour. I discretely took photos of him and sat shivering on a nearby bench, listening to him strum away, his metronome inexorably counting the beat, watching the lights of Hong Kong Island in front of us while a red half-moon floated overhead.

I eventually learned that his name is Bob, and that he came to Hong Kong for his Masterā€™s degree, and that he was in IT. He goes to the harbor to practice his guitar almost every day, he said, because it was too noisy in the dorms and he couldnā€™t hear the music. I wondered aloud how he was able to play in the cold, but he said heā€™d gotten used to it.

We chatted a little longer until we hit the language barrier, and I went off and left him to play in peace, and a lovely Hong Kong moment was added to my box of travel memories.

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Hong Kong marked quite a few firsts for me, which I may or may not write about in future posts. As you may have gathered, this will be the first of several blog posts about Hong Kong, written in no particular order and following no particular date. To paraphrase a pithy quote often attributed to Mark Twain, never let chronology get in the way of a good story.

And now, for something completely different.

I know, I know. I haven’t been a very good blogger this past year. But honestly, there’s been so much going on and I’ve been so overwhelmed that I just wanted to retreat and take stock of things before posting again.

So. To the three, maybe four, readers who still follow this blog, hello again.

I’ve been sorting through the photos I took last year trying to choose what to post, so expect a few new items to appear here soon. But for now, as I said above, here’s something completely different.

A few people in my life know that I love to sing. I love music, all kinds and all genres. As long as it resonates with me or has a good melody, I’m all over it. I’ve been known to listen to the same album — heck, even the sameĀ song — over and over for weeks on end, which, needless to say, drove the people around me absolutely batshit crazy.Ā But I regret nothing.Ā Ha ha.

My love affair with music took a backseat when my mom was dying in 2006. Mom was a coloratura soprano who would constantly sing around the house; I have many memories of her singingĀ kundiman and arias Ā with our piano teacher on Saturday afternoons while we kids played in the shadow of a giantĀ duhat tree on a small hill near our house. We didn’t have very many neighbors at the time, and the sound of her voice would carry from the farm almost all the way to the highway, which was a good 10-minute walk from our street.

Mom was so good that she was offered a full scholarship to the UST Conservatory of Music to study voice and music theory, but she declined because she was already pregnant with my sister at the time. Between working full time and taking care of three bratty kids, there wasn’t much time for formal classes, but she always welcomed an opportunity to sing, even if it was just singing along to the radio while she worked from her home office.

She loved to hear me sing, and always encouraged me to do so, but I always felt so awkward and inadequate next to her powerhouse of a voice that I hardly sang in her presence. Dad also sang very well — and still does, to this day — and that did not help to make a painfully shy kid any more confident in her singing abilities. I ended up singing my heart out with friends at my collegeĀ tambayan, and even performing in public quite a few times during poetry readings, and later, at friends’ weddings. I sang everywhere and anytime, and I loved it.

But still, I never felt comfortable singing for my mom. Even when she was dying in the hospital and begging me to sing for her, I would always hem and haw and find a way to get out of doing it, something that I would later come to bitterly regret. She used to ask me all the time to sing two songs in particular, which I will not name here, and I would oblige her on the rare occasion. Looking back, it was a horrible thing to do to a dying person. Now, ten years after her death, I still wish I’d granted her request more often than I had then, and I still feel a tiny twinge in my heart whenever I perform for a crowd of strangers.

I lost my voice, almost literally, after she died. Music no longer held any appeal. I remember recording a song at 4am on my tiny mp3 player two weeks after we’d lost her. I stopped singing or even deliberately listening to music for a long, long time after that. I lost my voice to guilt and regret and to the treacherous voice inside me that always told me I would never be good enough.

But that was then.

These past few months I’ve found a community of wonderfully strange people online who have become my friends, and they’ve encouraged me to start singing again. I’ve been taking tentative steps towards putting music back into my life, and they’ve witnessed the struggle and the sometimes horribly pitchy recordings that I sent them while I was getting my confidence and my voice back.

Some of those recordings will never make it past that small circle, but now I’m starting to feel confident enough to let the world at large — or, you know, you three or four lovely, lovely weirdos still following me here –hear my voice again.

All this is really just to say, here’s my latest recording, and I hope you’ll like it, and thank you for still being here.