After getting screwed over twice for time off, I took unpaid leave and finally made it out to Orlando. With Phantom of the Opera on Saturday, I wanted to have enough free days to see a handful of friends I had woefully neglected over these many long months, so I left Tuesday night and enjoyed the uninteresting but not altogether unpleasant hour and a half drive to The Big City. (Yes, Orlando can respectfully hold that title when compared to where I presently live, where adventures after dark are limited to drunken karaoke with hillbillies, hanging out in a Wal-Mart parking lot, or the always popular sport of cow-tipping.)
Wednesday I enjoyed much Raptor-y goodness - though, not nearly enough - with browsing Barnes & Noble and conversing with Orlando's most deadliest of creatures (well, after elderly motorists anyway): Raptorgirl. There's nothing so refreshing as a swim in the black waters of cynicism and sarcasm, and Vanessa has a wellspring that's almost a match for my own. Though, my waters are still darker than thine. (Where the hell did that come from? And to think I once fancied myself a writer. *scoff*) And while I believe Raptor's claws have dulled a bit from age and experience, it's good to see she still has a vicious bite when it comes to talk of relationships. Hehehe. Good times.
Sadly, bookstores remain dangerous places for me and, while I couldn't tempt Vanessa to buy anything, I walked out with Card's Shadow Puppets and Zelazny's Lord Demon, both of which I finished before returning home on Saturday just shy of midnight. Good stuff. While I have certain issues with Card's preachy-ness - I can only conclude that it's his preaching and not that of his characters since every book and story of his that I've read offer similar sermons - I have to admit that he tells a compelling story and has a real gift for creating characters I genuinely care about. I still consider Xenocide a tedious mess of a novel, but the Bean books are a welcomed apology. As for the posthumously written Lord Demon from Zelazny (assembled and co-author by Jane M. Lindskold, whom I know absolutely nothing about) was decent, but far from Zelazny's best. Ordinarily I stay away from posthumous works, because I'm forced to wonder just how much is genuinely the author's work, but the premise of this one was too intriguing to pass up. Sadly, I just don't feel like the story was as developed as much as it should have been. The style was very much Zelazny, I'll give Lindskold credit for that, but there were numerous places, especially in the last few chapters, where everything felt rushed and glossed over. On top of which, the book did seem to hearken back to the classic Amber series, capturing much the ideas and flavors therein while remaining a pale shadow - no pun intended - of those books. Not a bad read, but it would never be among my top recommendations.
On Thursday I was treated to the much welcomed company and hugs of Cornrelish. (I generally don't like being touched, especially if I don't initiate the contact, but her hugs are always wonderfully inviting, like a warm welcome home.) And she gave me my first exposure to Enzian - a very snazzy theater, if I may say so. A very cool place, though it's a shame they can only accommodate one movie at a time. Of course, considering the films they offer are more along the art house/independent/limited release line, it's the perfect arrangement. Not being hungry, I didn't try the food, but everything certainly smelled good. Next time I'll have to sample something from the menu and get the full movie & a meal experience. We saw 21 Grams, which I knew absolutely nothing about going in. It was surprisingly engaging and a really enjoyable film. And that's saying a lot, considering I hate Sean Penn. (He's a good actor and all, but there's just something inherently annoying about him. I can't explain it. Just like Benicio Del Toro has this odd charisma about him that, to me, makes him infinitely likable.) I think one reason I enjoyed the film was because it reminded me a bit of Memento, which is just an absolutely amazing movie. Both films have that anachronistic story development that keeps your mind active. Plus, they are both just well written and wonderfully acted. Though, 21 Grams definitely has a slower pace to it. But I'd highly recommend it to anyone not opposed to that sort of film. Though, if you're just looking for shit blowing up, topless chicks running about, or "hot elf ass" you'd do well to pass it by.
I finally managed to get a hold of Melissa on Friday and was therefore able to squeeze in one more visit. It's funny. Three different people all agreed that there's nothing to do in Orlando. (Well, that's not entirely true. There are a multitude of things to do, but most of them seem to happen on weekends, or they involve outdoor activities or bars/clubs which I'm not much into. And, thankfully, I'm not alone though. Though, for the record, for my friends I would happily - albeit somewhat grudgingly - endure being dragged to a bar or club or similarly out-of-vein environment/activity. Uh, but don't ever test me on that. Heh.) With neither of us feeling like dressing up and going out and devoid of creative ideas on what else we might do, we spent the evening lounging about her apartment drinking sangria and catching up.
Now, I'm really not much of a drinker...anymore. Ahem. For the same reasons I've never dabbled in drugs, even the supposedly harmless ones like marijuana, I don't drink often. And I still maintain that I didn't have that much to drink that night either, though Melissa tells me otherwise, but for much of the time I was out there, food and my stomach were not on the best of terms, so I blame a lack of proper food filtration on my words and actions. Furthermore, I'm not an angry drunk or an amorous one either. On those rare occasions where circumstance or lack of proper judgment cause me to imbibe more than I should, I become what I've termed "oratorially inebriated." It's not really a drunken state, but I'm probably more vocal and animated than would be healthy in public. (Which is why I almost never drink outside the safety of home.) And when the conversation turned toward occupational dissatisfaction... I had some of the following to say, though I have endeavored to clean it up a bit to spare myself some embarrassment and removed excessive expletives to give it a little more elegance:
"God damn, monkey-raping cocksuckers! They fucked me over, not once but twice on my vacation time and had me work extra hours - at no extra pay - to cover their asses. Who the fuck gives someone off Christmas week, anyway?" [At this point Melissa pointed out that I had, in fact, made a request to have off part of Christmas week and that was part of my argument. I was pissed that I couldn't get time off then because they already gave it to someone else. But that sort of logic and reasoning was wasted on me. I was speaking, damn it!] "It's total bullshit. Inconsiderate, ignorant fucks. I swear, we need concentration camps for stupid people. Herd them up and gas 'em all! Hitler had some great ideas, but they were misdirected." [Some of you may have actually heard me say this before. It's one of my favorite arguments. Ahem. Though, I'm actually not anti-Semitic. I just hate stupid people. You may well be wondering, "Well, who should determine which people are deemed stupid and which aren't?" Melissa, having a good laugh if I remember correctly, wondered the same thing and put the question to me, along with a sarcastic, "You?"] "You're goddamn right! I'd be in charge. I'm probably not the smartest guy in the world, but I'm smart enough to know that if I'm going to spearhead a fascist regime I better be in charge. Fascism is a great system; it only sucks for those people not in power." [Melissa: "Spoken like a true despot."] "Fucking A. I have to look out for myself, first and foremost. Then I'd protect anyone who's useful to me. And then, as long as their opinions match my own, I'd be an advocate for all the plebs." [Melissa, in hysterics: "What about your family and friends?"] "I already said, 'anyone who's useful to me.' Duh. If my family and friends aren't useful to me, then what the fuck do I need them for? Fuck 'em. Let them hit the showers with the inbreds, assholes, and anyone else who pisses me off."
It's speeches like that that ruin my dreams of presidency. *sigh*
Many hours of bizarre dream-filled sleep later, Saturday came and Jenni and I went to Phantom of the Opera. I always forget what good company Jenni is. Well, I know, else I wouldn't bother to ask her to these things, but it's always a more than expected treat to spend time with her. I rather wish I still lived in Orlando so I could see her and the rest of my friends more often. In any event, I was really excited to see her reaction to the show. By all rights, I shouldn't like Webber's Phantom of the Opera, because it takes certain liberties with Leroux's novel that I don't like, giving the story more of a saccharine, romantic angle than I care for. And, as I've said before, Webber's probably one of the less interesting composers out there, generally going for simplistic melodies that are more sweet and somewhat catchy than daring and diverse. Still, I inexplicably enjoy the musical. In any event, Jenni loves the music but had never seen the show live, so I thrilled at the opportunity to take her. (Probably because I'm selfish and self-serving and I like the idea of someone having memorable moments of their lives tied, even loosely, to me. But we'll save that analysis for the psych sessions.) Happily, she seemed to really enjoy the show.
As for me, I thought the production was wonderful - every bit as much as last time - and was thrilled to see that Brad Little was reprising the role of Phantom. The first time I saw the show, years back when I was still at UCF, Brad Little played the Phantom and, in my opinion, gave a performance that was far superior to that of Michael Crawford. Not that I don't like Crawford's performance, but...Crawford always struck me as a little too soft, too gentle with the role. He is perfectly suited for the tender moments, but his voice lacks the power to communicate rage and insanity. Of course, as with any theatre piece, the role is entirely open to interpretation by the actor. So, it may just be Crawford's choice to keep those elements in the background. But, personally, I think that's a bad choice. If you read the novel, you see that the Phantom is rather mad, an unbalanced mind and a raging heart. What I love about Little's performance is that he brings out more of the character's dark side. There are moments where you genuinely believe he's on the edge, could snap at any moment and fucking kill someone - including Christine. Unfortunately, Brad Little is only playing the Phantom during the first week or so, after which the role will go to Gary Mauer - and I know him from somewhere but haven't yet figured out where. Of course, this isn't entirely a bad thing. Since I'm going to see the show a few more times while it's in Orlando, I rather like that I'll get to see a different actor's take on the role. I'm looking forward to that.
I have a few complaints with a couple cast choices, but for now I'm going to reserve judgment on them. Hopefully they'll do better or be more to my liking upon second or third viewing. If not...well, then I'll slam them. In the meantime, I'll voice complaint with that stupid twat sitting a few seats over that saw it necessary to fucking sing/hum along with most of the first act. How can anyone be so fucking inconsiderate? I was joking with Jenni about getting her a little drunk so she'd stand up and start singing along in loud, drunken fashion with the performers, but... I think that's even worse than a cell phone going off. Not by much, since I fucking loathe people who don't turn off their cell phones in movie theaters or at operas and such. (As I told Jenni, I find that lack of common sense and decency so offensive I would fucking stab my own date if her cell phone went off during a show. Heh. She made sure to leave her phone in the car.) But to fucking sing and hum along? I paid $75 a ticket to listen to the professionals sing, you stupid cunt, so shut your fucking hole or go the hell home and sing while you're washing dishes. God! Is it any wonder I can't stand people?
So, minor annoyances aside, it was great to get away for those few days and see some people I sorely missed, though I didn't realize how much until I had to leave them all again. I'll need to get to Orlando more often. That's all there is to it.