In the past I have celebrated today's holiday with family, or by hosting colleagues and international students. This Thanksgiving holiday marks my first Thanksgiving in Detroit, my first without a turkey cooking in my oven, and my first with out a myriad of loved ones and/or friends with whom to share laughs, food, drink, and memories.
As a result of my "choice" to stay in Detroit, I have been brooding... well, better, ruminating on several observations, or musings, for hours. I have fought with the decision to post (or, alternatively, not post) those thoughts, ideas, and observations. In the end, as you see before you, the choice to share a mild stream-of-consciousness essay won-out.
I am sure that you are well aware, as readers of my blog, that I am by no means a writer or poet. My epistolary skills, and shy - if not failing - vocabulary would probably make the least of the great authors of the English language roll in their graves, or say special prayers for those victim to my postings. Admitting that sad reality, and offering sincere apologies for those who continue to suffer through my thoughts, I am reminded that this blog is as much for the reader as it is for the writer. I am also reminded that this choice - to read my blog - is in fact your choice, and by opening myself and thoughts to you, you are welcomed to accept, engage, ignore, disdain, celebrate, and/or condemn my thoughts and my blog. Ideally, this will bring us closer - or at the very least, some bizarre catharsis.
One more preliminary. I have to thank Angela Theis, Mat and Rose, Susan Prevoznak, and my brother William "Billy" Brent for offering to host me this Thanksgiving.
My thoughts through out the day have been plagued with critical self-rapprochement. I can't help but fall into a particular thought pattern; a pattern I find so distasteful when I read or see it in someone else - that might be the reason why I am so turned off by it. Here, stuck immobile to the plain reality, I am compelled to address these not-so-profound observations of a 28-year-old, lower middle class, white, male, opera singer from New York. Replete with and enveloped by all of my cultural, normative, inescapable, inborn, superimposed, and regrettable truths. I feel un-free (what a silly choice of word) from my self-critical, self-condemning rapprochement. I have spent already 380 words to tell you nothing. Not nothing, but nothing of the thoughts that lead me to my vitriolic diatribe. So, all of this put-down for what? At what cost, and/or for what purpose are these verbal and orthographic masochistic jabs?
That question, though in the guise of yet another layer of auto-enmity, is at the root of this autobiographical essay that you are reading.
"At what cost?" reminiscent of "sacrifice," related to "struggle."
"What is the value in...?"
Then the question to ask also, "to what benefit?" "to what joy?" "to what fulfillment?"
These questions spiral strait to "entitlement," "privilege," and even "gratitude."
I'm bombarded by self-doubt, self-criticism, and self-hate before I can fully nourish the very humanity that breeds my perception and self-curiosity. But these "self-" things feel, yet, imposed. Too, they feel like a layer of protection. They feel like a brilliant intellectual game played by the saboteur... well really, the self-sabotage aspect of my mind, which works to its own advantage (my conscious disadvantage?).
So how can I genuinely ask:
-What does a musician sacrifice for his/her art?
-At what cost does dedication to an art that, once committed, becomes a 24/7 concern, come?
-Will there ever be a gain that ranks in value of the sacrifice?
-Does this question come from a place of self pity?
-What of those soldiers, nurses, doctors, clergy-persons, doormen and women, security guards, police and countless others? What of their sacrifice?
-What of their gain?
-What of those less fortunate artists who struggle and receive no reward, or worse no encouragement?
-What of those people who are homeless, hurt, forced to live in hardship - but not by choice? what of those victims?
Of course, then ... I have to questions the circumstance, and the intrinsic value (if any thought, person, place, concept or things can have "intrinsic" value) of the very thing (or things) sacrificed.
I mean to say: "What is being sacrificed?" "What is the value of that sacrificed thing?"
A person who follows a vegan diet and lifestyle by choice, might say: I sacrifice the ease and simplicity of ordering food when going out or shopping for my strong commitment and belief in animal rights and healthy/sustainable food-service practices. There is a valuation and balance in this decision. Animals > Food. simple.
But what of something less physical in gain and in loss? What about psychological health? Emotional health? Is that something worth sacrificing? Can anything really be gained? Am I just being too sensitive?
Just forget about finances - that just throws a wrench into all things.
We sacrifice time (minutes, hours, days months, years, lifetimes), comfort, ease, memories, friendships, family, holidays, vacations, mental health, sometimes physical health, hobbies, lovers, and relationships (to name a few). We give endless tears, energy, love. Is it worth it?
Is any of it worth it? Would I be happier doing anything else? Am I happy do this? Is life really about happiness... or rather, not the attainment of happiness but "the pursuit of happiness?" Is human existence more like the masochistic rinse repeat of the Undergound Man [Dostoyevsky]? Is the Underground Man just another jester? How am I similar or dissimilar to him?
How much of the vindication or justification of my choices have to come from the value those choices have to me, meaning the value I assign to them? Must my commitment be fulfilled by my love? Am I asking for success with out struggle? What is success? Do I not know love?
Do I not know happiness?
So where does a Thanksgiving stream of consciousness existential essay end?
It ends here:
Thank you to my mother and father, Jeannine Brent, and Bill Brent, for being the two most supportive and understanding parents a young musician could ask for (year I am ending the sentence with a preposition! 'cause that ain't a rule).
Thank you to my brother, Billy, who is quite possibly the best living human being on the planet.
A huge thanks to my grandparents Lucille and George Annunziato, without whom nearly all things in my life would be impossible.
Thank you to Yiselle Blum for being a constant source of affection, support, and a great friend.
Thank you to James Marks for being the best friend a guy could ask for (another preposition).
Thank you Danny Iuliano, Karen Assad, Nic Grosso, Costas Tsourakis, Richard Block, Justina Soto, Jason Blumquist, Natasha Blumquist, Brent Davis, Susan Prevoznak and my entire extended friend base from UGA Gloria and Bob Jackson, Kay Brown, Drs. Donald and Jo Anne Lowe, John and Nancy Songster, Kitty Wilson, and the entire OLLI Opera group, and of course my "besties" like Greg Hankins, Luca Lombardi, Serena Scibelli, Ben Smith, Francisco "Chico" Goncalves-Azevedo, Martina Kloss, Christopher Voss, Evelyn Shreves, Avery Draut, Kate Mulligan-Ferry, Emily Laminack, David Horger Mailee Speetjin and all my other southern connections.
Thank you to my few and dwindling Purchase College lovelies like Seeri Sung, Steve Kraatz, Matt Abramo, Ipek Brooks, Ivy Wong, Margaret Garofalo, Rachel Ford, Natalie Carducci, Marshal Henry, Dan Merriman.
Thank you to my rekindled amours from FSSA Karen Rodriguez, Maria Ximena Paredes, and the Schaeter brothers!
Thank you to my summer program and professional colleagues: the dear Michaele Postell, Jeff Byrnes, Raehann Bryce-Davis, Angela Theis, Gordon Schermer, Brent M Smith, Ray Blackwell, Rob Chafin, John Dooley, Daniel Lopez, Caitlin McKechney, Rose and Matt, Elaine Rinaldi, Joan Kruger, Megahn Mashburn, Marshal Taylor, Catherine Giel, Martina Arroyo, Mark and Sadie Rucker, Irene Mastrangeli.
Thank you to Richard Leech and David DiChiera for inviting me to participate and hiring me to be a studio resident artist with Michigan Opera Theatre.
Thank you to Frederick Burchinal for years of support and believing in me.
Thank you to Kathryn Wright for teaching me more things than any one other single person.
Thank you to Milton Masciadri who is a constant source of support, joy and friendship.
Thank you to Timothy Cobb, without whom most of this life would have never been possible.
Thank you also to Gerry Hecht, Susanne Farrin, Stuart Isacoff, Adrian Childs, Dorothea Link, Emily Gertsch, Ubaldo Fabbri, Gary DiPasquasio, Sandra Lutters, Heidi Best, Thomas Sandri.
A very special thank you to three people who were taken from this world Mortey Damasek, Blaise Cladio Pascal and Ellen Goldfarb.
I am thankful and grateful for the generosity of a few more friends, family and family friends for their love, time, patience and support:
Thank you to my aunt and uncle Annie and Mike Franzese, my aunt Pauline, my brother's family and his three beautiful children.
Thank you Dr. Frank Block and Marcy Block.
Thank you to the Prevoznak family, the Draut Family, the Marks family Brian and Nene, to Debra Marks and Wayne, the Perrone family, and Sullivan family, the Krikorian family, The Orans Family, and the Rizzo family, and the Greco Family.
I am so thankful for my employment, the engagements (gigs), my career, my education, my health, the fantastic apartment, the love and understanding others have for me, the new friends in this new city.
I am one lucky dude.
and - as ever - thank you to my Readers!