Claudine Jones-Scene4 Magazine

Claudine Jones


In a little while I'm going to be sitting in my son's car, parked just off Lake Merritt somewhere, reading a book or taking a nap. It'll be an hour & a half most likely, depending on variations unknown at present. Since I'd rather not make two trips, I'll sit in the car cocooning, while R goes to the protest organized in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux, one of the many no-fault participation events we've attended for decades.

I was  thinking I'd take a pad & do some writing but that is a last resort since my hands won't obey me anymore when I pick up a pen. My signature is fine, but taking notes at Middle East Peace Committee? Nah.  We rotate as Facilitators & as Note-taker, but I've begged off—I sincerely can't do it: it's illegible, indecipherable crap.  This isn't totally new—still got rag notebooks from university days that show my note-taking style. Whew. No, the thing now is that where I used to be able to form some kind of combination of graphics & verbiage that was helpful as a study tool, I presently am unable to keep up. My hand just won't move or when it does, it ain't ready for prime time.

Back to Lake Merritt: my poor lamb can't get there on public transportation, scorns Lyft (even if he had a smart phone) & can't drive the one car at our domicile that temporarily remains—my couch-surfing son's—because R is not covered by our insurance. This is because the underwriters are still waiting for resolution on the claim of two years ago when our previous car was totaled.

Got that? You cannot get vetted until you have no open claims. This is beyond annoying, because in this byzantine mansion, he (I) got a substantial payoff for that claim from the other side—same company, btw—& we proceeded to a) lose the replacement car in a hit & run,   b) discover to our horror that R had been driving it illegally the whole time he has been using my house as his actual address, & c) find through a local biker-chick insurance broker that there were in the last five years no-liability/no-payout blips on ALL of our driving records.

Yep. My oldest, with the perfect driving record going back decades, smacked by a deer three years ago;  my second, our basement-dweller, with the driving record of only three years with automobiles as opposed to motorcycles, got a speeding ticket on I5 the day after he was officially licensed to drive cars in California; I got the cops sicced on me by a fellow with road rage three years ago; & R?  We didn't know it was illegal, &  they didn't catch him, but the claim's still open, so he can't drive & we can't change our insurance.

Somebody said 'Fuck 2016”. I tend to agree.

Early last year S, a lovely lady/colleague from SF Conservatory of  Music living in Berlin, posted her status on FB at the urging of her boyfriend. It was extensive. Gory. Very detailed. We all wished her the requisite speedy recovery, good wishes, miracles & thanks for being brave enough to let us in on her private suffering. She proceeded down the FB path, giving medical updates every so often, or pictures, & opinions on the craziness of her ex-patriot nation. In real life she sang & taught & ran her small business, & got a fabulous ring from her boyfriend to place on an exquisite finger.  A wonderful long visit from family, with postcard pictures of gardens & people I don't know. In July: a scary bout of pain that followed her all the way to the end of a recital as though daring her to finish that last stanza, before being whisked off the ER & more radical treatments.

Full disclosure here: the last time I saw S was 12 years ago, on this side of the puddle after a performance of a show I would really like to forget I was ever in much less had somebody see—although I did a pretty good job, I think, for what it's worth—& she said she was in town recording something...? A local composer...I've forgotten the details. SuperWoman-crShe looked gorgeous as usual. More full disclosure: I was the oldest member of my '92 graduating class at SFCM.  She could not have been more than very early twenties & that was 24 years ago. You do the math. I'm a grandmother. S has been dressing up as Wonder Woman for parties & doing stuff I gave up on looooong ago, like including Carmen in a recital program. 

On Tuesday afternoons once a month, we betook ourselves, we of the Voice Department, to strut our stuff on the main stage, presenting our latest in best form for our peers & teachers, & the first thing I thought when I beheld S was 'wow, she's built like a linebacker'. She stepped daintily in her high heels, but the effect a little bit Ballets de Trockadero. All 6 feet in sleek satin & size 11 pumps—this was back when you could get away with a 3 inch heel; we were never tortured with those CFMs they wear now—but it was so apparent that her body was not meant to be cantilevered in that fashion. She was a fucking Amazon! Let her be barefoot for fucks sake!  So I was already primed to want her to succeed, as soon as she stood still by the piano. It was not to be. It's all bafflegab, or maybe the Wagnerian repertoire, but I wanted S to sound wonderful & to my ears back then, she was hit or miss. Great smile, though.

Now comes the hard part. I have been around a lot of singers in my so-called life. Not necessarily A list, granted, but decent talent. When somebody opens his or her mouth, I want it to be great as much as the next guy, but holy moley! What do you do when someone pulls a foster-jenkins on you?  You have to keep your goddamn opinion to yourself. Okay, to be fair, nobody does it like the original, except maybe Anna Russell & that was on purpose. No, I'm talking only oblivious of the small 'o'   A shade of wobble, a soupcon under the pitch, a quarter-teaspoon of scoop. Just enough to make you casually scratch your earlobe & look extra hard at the program in your lap & remember: one of the most lauded, most likely to appear on a top-10 list is none other than Maria Callas, who made me almost literally throw up in my lap in the lab at SFCM as I sat listening to one of  her late recordings of some opera aria or other that I was working on.  My bad. To be fair, I had just listened to Jessye Norman's recording.  

This makes my heart hurt. I saw & heard so many over the years, some so forgettable makes you wonder what they were doing there (& somebody could certainly try  to say that about anybody—how does Desiderata go? 'there will always be greater & lesser') & sometimes it came down to matching the voice with what you were seeing, although that really makes as much sense as all musicians in an orchestra being white males of a height of 5'10. 

I heard that S was really working hard & improving, even if I didn't dig the sound so much maybe cut her some slack.

& now she's dead. 

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Actor/Singer/Dancer Claudine Jones has worked steadily in Bay Area joints for a number of decades.
She writes a monthly column and is
a Senior Writer for Scene4.
For more of her commentary and articles, check the Archives.

©2016 Claudine Jones
©2016 Publication Scene4 Magazine




December 2016

Volume 17 Issue 7

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