wwcitizen: (Long Road Ahead)
These past few autumn weekends, there have been times in the morning or late afternoon that we have had the windows open at the kitchen table. Light, cool breezes whip the blinds about making a friendly "tack-tack... tack... tack tack". We are sitting at the kitchen table reading through our news feeds or looking up recipes for that evening's dinner.

It's around these quiet times of day when I hear familiar distant sounds that tug at my soul. These specific sounds are off the in the distance, so I cannot see what is making the sound, which further tugs on me. At each occurrence, I want to run to the office to post about these distant sounds.

These sounds always bring forth throngs of memories. Some sounds even remind me of smells, such as hanging out the laundry mid-afternoon or passing by barns where the smell pork curing sneaks onto the sidewalk. Other sounds make me want to book a trip somewhere or just get in my car for a spontaneous road trip! Most of the sounds remind me of my grandmother or my childhood.

Every time these sounds occur, we are sitting quietly in the house. I suppose at those moments of focus and stillness that my soul is most willing to listen. I'm probably most present in that stillness.

Each sound is unique. Each memory is unique. The season of the memory or place the sound takes me to is fairly distinct each time. I love those distant sounds.
wwcitizen: (Car in the Country)
This is now my fourth week starting off at the North America Corporate Headquarters for Jaguar Land Rover. It's interesting work being a Senior Project Manager and Business Analyst for them. There's lots of work to be done, that's for certain.
It's also interesting working for a company where most of its employees can't seem to afford one of their products. But, there are plenty of opportunities to drive the cars, whether as part of the corporate fleet for work-related travel or as a demo run for a new car that's coming out.

I just missed the opportunity to drive an F Series, which they allowed employees to test drive the week before I joined up. Here's a video of the car traveling around France. VERY HOT!!
wwcitizen: (Airplane Travel)

Almost two weeks ago, we had a quite literally "shitty" flight down to Florida.  We had also been denied nut-containing products from their snack selections because someone in our rows 3-6 apparently very sensitive nut allergies.

This week, our flight was delayed by about 45 mins. Why? Because the plane had flown in from Bogata and needed to "clear customs"... aka "get fumigated and cleaned out of drugs", I'm sure.

When we did board the plane and got to our extra leg room seats in row 5 (I was on the window and Matthew in the middle), our aisle-seated neighbor was a full-grown young woman who happened to be about 2.5 feet tall. Yes, a midget. Yes, a midget, who paid extra for more leg room. Why would a midget need extra leg room?  She treated the space like it was her apartment. She hopped down to organize her stuff in the pouch in front of her, reached into her grocery bag, pulled out some snacks, and hopped back into her seat.  As we were deplaning and walking carefully over her, she was in the middle of folding a tiny pizza whilst laying on the seat with her ankles in the air.

Then Matt went to turn on his TV on his display. The first channel that displayed a show was presenting the Wizard of Oz!!  And which scene exactly??!  Yes. The Munchkin scene where Glenda is saying, "Come out, come out! Wherever you are!" Matthew nudged me to look at the screen, we both looked at each other startled and he changed the channel quickly.

Of course, Matthew and I during the flight couldn't discuss these things because that would have been rude and inappropriate. But we were confused. She seemed like a nice enough woman, but didn't have much to say. The only time she needed assistance was from the flight attendant with her tray table and from Matthew to hit the flight attendant button; standing on the seat, she still wouldn't have been able to press that button. :-(

Before we landed, one of the flight attendants ran up to the front and said, "Is there a doctor on board? We need a doctor in row 5 immediately!"  THAT WAS OUR ROW!  Of course, Matthew and I side-glanced toward our neighbor who was as happy as a clam laying on her ENORMOUS seat, as if it were a chaise lounge, playing with her iPad. Then about 10 people behind us said, "NINE! ROW NINE!"

As we were descending, something happened to one of the passengers and had to be evacuated once we landed in a sit-up stretcher. We overheard an EMT or police officer say, "Yeah, we have a possible code 16."  We found out later that code number meant that there was something to do with alcohol abuse, medication overdose, and/or mixing of the two combined with the cabin pressurizing and depressurizing.  So, even though the pilot did get us landed safely 15 minutes late instead of 45 minutes late, we all waited about 15 minutes while the sickly passenger and his wife got off the plane. 

While we waited for everything to settle, I called our driver just to confirm that we'd just landed and they hadn't updated our new flight from when I'd called the week before. So, they thought we were supposed to arrive at 2AM on Monday!  Needless to say, I said, "Well, we probably have about 20-30 minutes before we have our baggage and are ready to get in the car, which should be enough time to get to La Guardia from NJ."

The driver made it (somehow!) to the airport in 15 minutes from across the George Washington Bridge.  We were amazed as was his dispatcher, and we made it home in one piece by 10PM, just in time to place the last order from our local Chinese place.  It was a long, adventurous day to say the least.

wwcitizen: (S&M - Hawaii)

For the last 8-9 months we had been planning a trip with some friends ... somewhere.  First, France, then NC, then, DE, and then we finally decided on Puerto Rico. I'd been wanting to bring Matthew here for the last 8 years and this was a perfect opportunity.
The flight down couldn't have been better. Smooth the whole way and we were essentially in Business Class on JetBlue. Perfect. Check.
Getting to the hotel and checking in were a breeze. Check... check.
It had started to rain a bit, but we figured we'd take a nap first.  We got into the room, turned on the A/C... only pseudo-cooler air. Uh oh.  The front desk suggested we wait a bit because the room had been empty for a couple of days. Fair enough.
Under the ceiling fans,  we took a 3-hr, sweaty nap. Then we started the process of switching to another room with a broken A/C unit, checking other rooms, calling Hotels.com to see what other options we had.
Within an hour, we had a new unit, a MUCH better room, a 35% discount at the restaurant, and a free round of drinks at the bar. It turned out good.
We had a good dinner, walked around a bit, and got caught in a couple of showers. We ended the night meeting the hotel drunk from FL, who calls herself, "Monkey!" because she likes to mount her boyfriend (of 28 years) and jump around on it.  As she so graciously demonstrated for us, "Eh-eh-eh-eh-eh!!" while gyrating around on her stool.  Classy.
Looking forward to more Caribbean adventures today!  First off, I'm jumping in the jacuzzi!

wwcitizen: (Broadway)
While it wasn't Broadway, a movie, a TV show or a commercial, it will apparently be a short film, festival piece, or festival submission.  This was my first "cold read" ever. I had no copy of the script. When I arrived, there were no copies of the script. When the guy walked out of the room - The Red Room (and, well, it was behind a red door) - and did a double-take at me, THAT's when I got a copy of three pages of the script. And I got to size up my competition right then - about the same build but looked a little doughier, different features, and didn't look quite as professional (IMHO). Not sure if that matters anyway. What does matter is that THAT guy had received the whole script like two days earlier via email. I got an email response for the audition, but no attachment. They had that guy run through the full script - 10 minutes or so - twice.

It was an interesting experience and I look forward to more of these. Matt gets the information from Craigslist and other places and goes. He's got some parts in upcoming festival pieces already!  There was a part that he really wanted to audition for last week, but he was just too sick to go, which was unfortunate. But, there will be more.

I had to read through the ethereal, surreal script twice. It's basically a 3-person script; my part was the support actor to the lead.  One read-through was with the first reader, who looked a lot like Zach Braff.  The second read-through was with the other selected opposite to my role. That guy - long, brown, curly hair, smelled faintly that he'd gone through a day - a little street-worn, yet actually wasn't all that hard on the eyes.  Both of these guys were very thin. The second guy seemed to understand his role better.

The great thing is, during the entire experience, I didn't have time to get nervous at all. My life doesn't depend on any level of acting or gigs. All that sort of weight is lifted off my shoulders already. It felt good to be there going through the process of learning lines off the page enough to emote something. THAT was cool.

Oh, and here's my head shot I'm using (Matt made it slightly more "head shot worthy"):
Steve Head Shot

Edits: Changed "art films" to festival piece and/or festival film, since the directors will be submitting these pieces to festivals. Also, "art films" tend to be code for porn, which these are not.
wwcitizen: (French choses)

Without a car, Mont-Saint-Michel seems virtually impossible to reach. Jennifer (the Colby student I met on the train from Strasbourg) and I wanted to go there especially. It's a fascinating Medieval town on an island off the coast of France in a place that most would consider completely uninhabitable and barren. Of course, leave it to monks to consider a place like this habitable enough to build upon, but secluded enough to where vows of silence or celibacy would be easier to adhere. The result? An amazing feat of architecture that is completely awesome and overwhelming to experience first-hand.

This was Friday, our last day in Caen. We had spent good days in Caen and the surrounding area and gotten to know the town pretty well. This Friday was a day or so after our American Disco experience, which turned out to be a lot of good fun. We started out this Friday with a late breakfast. Around 11:00, Jennifer decided she wanted to go back to the youth hostel and take a nap. She said she would meet me at the train station at 2:00 to go to Pontorson, France, and then hitchhike to Mont-Saint-Michel.

I walked around Caen to some places I hadn't been, such as one of the churches. Jenn and I had not been to this particular church, Eglise Saint-Etienne (Church of St. Stephen), better known as the 'Abbaye aux Hommes' (Abbey to the Men). I found a back entrance to the church and entered. At that point, I didn’t know the name of the church, its significance, or the location of the door I opened in proximity to the rest of the church.

Starting to walk into the church, I spent a couple of minutes letting my eyes adjust to the lesser light inside. I was looking upward to the ceiling, when I tripped on something on the ground. To my left, a little stifled laughter peeled through the silence. A male voice said in German to the laughing voice, "Was macht er da? Hat er sich schon vor Mittag besoffen?” (“What's he doing? Is he already drunk before noon?").

"Naja, was ist so lustig?” I retorted. (“Well, what’s so funny?”) "Ich bin fast runtergefallen.” (I almost fell!), I said toward the shadowed voices.

“Du hast ja auf den Grab von Wilhelm der Eroberer gestolpert! Schön mal aufpassen, wo du tretst.” (“You stumbled on William the Conqueror’s grave. Watch where you’re going!”) the other male voice replied.

And there it was: At 20 years old, I had stumbled upon the grave of William the Conqueror! Literally. I can never live that down. I didn’t really care that the Germans had spoken to me with the informal address (“Du”), but looking back, they were probably shocked that I spoke German and were equally as embarrassed that I had understood what they said as I had been to stumble on William’s grave.

So, I rushed around the church, embarrassed, for about an hour, checked my watch, and took off to the train station by about 1:30. I grabbed some radishes along the way at the market and rinsed them at the station.

I sat at the station on the platform eating my radishes waiting for Jennifer. We didn’t have cell phones back then and the youth hostel was quite a distance away. I had gotten there in time to be able to see her from all angles getting onto the train. No sign of Jennifer. It was 1:58, and I thought, “Well, here goes! Hopefully, she’s on the train and we just missed each other – somehow. I’ll see her when we get off the train in Pontorson.” And I boarded the train.

My seat area neighbors were two beautiful little children speaking a mixture of English and French to their mother across the aisle, who in turn spoke to them just in French, having understood the English bits. She and I struck up a conversation, which revealed that her ‘usband was American and she was French; they were bringing up their kids bilingual. I was immediately jealous of the little kids having such an opportunity.

When we reached Pontorson, I bid the kids and their mom farewell and got off the train. I waited a few minutes before starting to find my way to a good hitchhiking spot. No sign of Jennifer – at all. None. A station attendant told me which road went to Mont-Saint-Michel and I started walking and thumbing. Within a kilometer, a woman picked me up. A woman! A woman picked up a young American man on the side of a road, heading toward Mont-Saint-Michel, which isn’t really close to anything. I couldn't believe it, but didn't pass up the opportunity.

View Larger Map

As it turned out, the driver had been a tour guide for Mont-Saint-Michel and made it a practice to pick up hitchhikers heading that way. It gave her a chance to share her knowledge with folks and “play her part” in sharing her area’s history with travelers. We had a great 10-minute conversation about the highlights of the place and the transportation back. Having lucked out so well with my very first solo hitchhiking experience, I thought that I would hedge my bets again on the way back to pick up the train to Caen.

Mont-Saint-Michel is breathtaking. It is an awe-inspiring work of architecture, art, music, dedication, meditation, and, well, I could go on and on. It’s also indescribable. At that point in my life, I had not seen anything more intriguing or so quickly been enamored of a place as Mont-Saint-Michel. I could have spent a week there and not been bored. I still dream of returning some day and spending a lot more time there.

On the way down and out of the city walls, locals told me that all the buses had already left for town. I started walking and thumbing and it started drizzling. It would normally seem as though no one would pick up a stranger, normally, let alone a wet one. But within about 10 minutes, a family of French Canadians picked me up in their minivan and took me straight back to the train station. They were excited that I was American, but didn’t speak much English.

I ended my day waiting for the train in the station restaurant with a bunch of Canadians on their way to Rennes – the opposite direction on the train from Caen. I had to get back to Caen to spend the night, take the train back to Paris, pick up my bags, and register for classes. Dinner and drinks were over and the Canadians hopped on their train to Rennes. I sat myself outside on the platform waiting for my train, which was supposed to come an hour later at 9:00. Or so I thought.


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Stephen Lambeth

May 2017

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