Mis Ancestros Isleños

Mis Ancestros Isleños

Out of my 16 great-great grandparents, 2 were German/Spanish, 2 were Scottish, 2 were British, 7 were French, and 3 were Spanish. That means that more than a quarter of my ancestors are of Spanish descent. Pretty surprising, right? Other than the fact that I have an affinity for tacos and anything made from an avocado, you would never know that blonde-haired, blue-eyed little me has any connection to the land of passion and conquistadors. Though a few ancestors were from the mainland of Spain, the majority of them were Isleños (islanders), a name given to the people from a small Spanish archipelago 60 miles West of the Moroccan coast called Islas Canarias, or The Canary Islands.

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The Canary Islands is likely derived from the Latin name Canariae Insulae, meaning “Islands of the Dogs.” According to some historians, the islands were given this name because it contained a “vast multitude of dogs.” Some have even speculated that the native people, the Guanches, used to worship dogs and treat them as holy animals. They would even mummify their dog with their owner to help guide them in the afterlife. The ancient Greeks even have recorded that there were a people living far to the west who were “the dog-headed ones,” who worshipped dogs on an island. The most notable dog native to The Canary Islands is the Perro de Presa Canario or the Canary Mastiff. They were originally bred for working with livestock (note for later). The importance of dogs in their etymology and culture is retained in their coat of arms and depicted on their flag.

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Perro de Presa Canario or Canary Mastiff
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The Canary Islands flag

The Canary Islands is the largest and most populated archipelago of the region. It is made up of 7 large islands and several smaller islands, all of volcanic origin. My ancestors come from the islands of Tenerife, Gran Canaria, and Lanzarote.

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Tenerife is the largest and most populous. It is known internationally as the Island of Eternal Spring with temperatures ranging from 64-82 year round. It is believed that Tenerife is the location of The Elysian Fields mentioned in ancient Greek mythology. Perhaps this is the namesake of the street in New Orleans. Tenerife is also famous for hosting one of the world’s largest carnavals.

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Tenerife, Canary Islands

Gran Canaria is the third largest in the archipelago in area and altitude. It was populated by the Canarii who are thought to have arrived as early as 500 BCE. The capital city of Gran Canaria is Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, which is also jointly capital of the whole of The Canary Islands with Santa Cruz de Tenerife. It was the first stop Christopher Columbus made on his way back from the Americas.

Aguimes is another notable city in Gran Canaria from which many of my ancestors hailed. Aguimes has been restored to reflect the perfect picture of a traditional and peaceful Canarian town. It has some of the best preserved cave dwellings including a church built into the mountainside and many popular cave restaurants.

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Aguimes, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

Lanzarote is the easternmost island in the archipelago. Like the other islands that make up The Canary Islands, Lanzarote has volcanic origins. It has solidified lava streams as well as extravagant rock formations. It is sometimes referred to as the “Island of 1,000 volcanoes.” Arrecife, meaning rock reef, is the capital city. The name was given to the city in the 15th century in reference to the black volcanic reefs. Ships would utilize these reefs as a hiding place from pirates.

I have yet to uncover exactly what city my ancestors were from in Lanzarote. In the late 18th century, there were volcanic eruptions on the island for six years from 1730 to 1736. My 7th great grandfather and grandmother, Domingo† and Maria Campo lived in Lanzarote during this time of extreme volcanic activity. They are both recorded to have lived until 1751, so it seems they survived the eruptions. I can’t imagine living during a time where the threat of volcanic eruption was a daily concern! The volcanoes are now classed as historical and therefore dormant, although you can feel the heat under the surface at Timanfaya. Today, the heat coming off just nine layers of volcanic rocks is used to cook steaks and fish for tourists.

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Lanzarote, Canary Islands
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Due to the unusual black landscape, curved stonewalls are used to protect the growing of grapes in the wine producing region of La Geria

So what does this mean for me and my family? Why would these people leave behind such a seemingly paradisaical land? How did they traverse 4,300 miles of ocean and become such an important link in my ancestral chain?

From the first arrival of Europeans in the mid 1500s until statehood in 1812, Louisiana flip flopped between Spanish and French rule several times. During a time of Spanish rule in the late 18th century, the Spanish Governor of Louisiana, Bernardo de Gálvez, sought to grow his army to protect against British expansion and populate Louisiana with more Spanish citizens. In 1777, the Spanish government issued the royal order to begin recruitment from the Canary Islands. At about the same time, the Canary Islands was going through an economic downfall and many jobs were being seized by the industrialization of other major European cities and countries. plague of African locusts invaded the islands. Paired with a terrible drought, the locusts ruined the dried-out crops on which the farmers depended upon for survival.  This created a perfect opportunity for Governor Gálvez to recruit. He offered Canarians (preferably married with children) an escape from their poor living conditions, land, farm tools, a house, a monthly stipend and a fresh start in a new land across the Atlantic.

Routes from The Canary Islands to the New World.

One of Gálvez’ recruits was my 7th great grandfather, Manuel Nunez de Villavicencio*. In July of 1778, Manuel, his wife Josepha Suarez, and their 5 children set sail for Louisiana on the S.S. Sacaramento, the first ship of Isleño immigrants heading for the port of New Orleans, under the command of Captain Benito Ripoli y Barcelo as a part of the Louisiana Batallion. Manuel and 260 other passengers arrived approximately 6 months later at the port of New Orleans.

The Isleños settled in four towns strategically placed around New Orleans to guard the city from British invasion: Galveztown, situated just below Baton Rouge, Valenzuela, located along Bayou Lafourche, Barataria, located along Bayou des Familles in Jefferson Parish, and La Concepcion, later San Bernardo, located in St. Bernard Parish along Bayou Terre-aux-Boeufs (see map below). Manuel and his family settled in the latter along Bayou Terre-aux-Boeufs, sometimes referred to as the “end of the world.” It is situated on the extreme outskirts of the bayou, where the land and sea blur into one. There he made his living as a farmer and fisherman. Manuel and other Isleño farmers in the area provided the New Orleans market with the majority of their garlic, onion, bean, potato and poultry supply. The inhabitants adapted to their new terrain and learned how to best profit off of the land and sea as farmers, hunters, trappers, and fisherman. However, their work would be put on a temporary hold. Shortly after arriving in the new world, Manuel and his many of his Canarian brothers, served in the Revolutionary War in the Gálvez expedition from 1779-1783.

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Four major Isleño settlements
San Bernardo National Scenic Byway, St.Bernard, Louisiana

The few published church records from the time in the St. Bernard Parish suggest that Manuel and his sons were probably the progenitors of the Nunez families in the area. By the mid 1800s, most of his descendants were living in the upper part of the Bayou between Reggio and St. Bernard. They brought the tradition of domesticating cattle to the area, hence the name Terre-aux-Boeufs or “Cattleland.” Ranchers from all over Louisiana and even parts of eastern Texas brought their herds of cattle to St. Bernard for training. Isleños specialized in livestock domestication due to a scarcity of horses and mules in Tenerife. In their homeland, they were forced to use oxen for crop cultivation (remember the dogs?). In addition to cattle training and farming, many Isleños worked on sugar plantations, harvesting sugar cane and cypress. Vincent Nunez, grandson of Manuel and my 5th great grandfather, was a prominent merchant and sugar planter. Apparently prominent enough that robbers pinned his house for a break-in in November of 1852, though they only got away with a few “sundry” items.

Vincent Nunez

The Isleños brought so much more to Louisiana than farming and ranching techniques and men to build Gálvez’ army. They brought rich cultural and social traditions that are deeply a part of the southern Louisiana lifestyle to this day.

Something that I’ve experienced within my life, that was most likely passed down from my Isleño ancestors, is the importance of family. Isleño’s entire social life was centered on the family and Roman Catholicism. Religious holidays were of great importance and celebrated extravagantly with dancing and huge feasts. If you know my family, you have most likely been to one of our infamous crawfish boils. We often celebrate major holidays, like Easter, blasting music, playing yard games, and sucking crawfish heads with family and friends. Growing up, Christmas was an all day event where everyone in the family, immediate, extended, first, second, third cousins, and even ex-husbands and wives, crammed into my great grandmother’s den to open presents and eat food until we were sick. However, this practice wasn’t reserved for major holidays only. Every month we would have a birthday party to celebrate all the family members born during that month. If it wasn’t a holiday or a birthday, chances are many of us were still gathered at grandma’s house eating dinner together several times a week, if not daily, like our ancestors, who ate all meals together as a family. Many of my grandmother’s recipes featured a medley of beans that had been stewing in a pot all day with salt pork or pickled pork, a culinary tradition passed down by our Spanish ancestors.

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A simmering pot of Caldo soup, a traditional Isleño recipe

An observation was made by Raymond MacCurdy, who spent 7 years amongst the Isleño community in village of Delacroix. He observed that the people were “very devout and superstitious, stoic, have a sense of humor, and are extremely hospitable…they respect and obey their elders.” Add in the parties and the importance of family, and you have an exact description of my family.

Another tradition of great importance to the Isleños of Louisiana was décima singing. This was a Spanish tradition traced back all the way to the 15th century. Due to the geographical isolation and lack of formal education in that part of the state, oral traditional art was the best way for the people to pass along their stories and traditions. Generally, décimas are a stanza of poetry consisting of 10 lines per stanza, 40 lines, or 4 stanzas, per song. These songs were often sung at events in the communities, such as dances, weddings, and holiday celebrations or even after a long day of work or after a meal at a friend’s house. Their musical influences seeped into the mainstream at  the beginning of the 20th century as Latin Jazz made it’s way to the forefront of the dance halls and night clubs. Today there are fewer than a handful of people still practicing the tradition, one of the reasons being the loss of the Isleño language that is only spoken by a few elderly in the community. Though the tradition has waned from the society, remnants still live on in Isleño descendants’ passion and affinity for music.

Many of my family members have a natural, raw talent for music. In fact, many of my cousins and my grandfather, direct descendants of the Nunez line, are extremely talented musicians without ever having studied music or learned to read it, much like their ancestors. My most notable Isleño relative, who made a living as a musician, is my 3rd great grandfather (Manuel Nunez’ great, great grandson), Alcide Nunez. Alcide was a jazz clarinetist in the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in the early 20th century during the birth of jazz in New Orleans. Stay tuned for a more in depth post on Alcide, his career, and his contributions to Jazz.

Alcide Nunez

Of the four Isleño settlements, two survived into the nationhood of our country, including St. Bernard, the village where most of my ancestors originally settled. They all endured a plethora of hardships including storms, floods, sickness, disease, mosquitoes, intense heat, and the many yet to be discovered mysteries of the swamp. They were a people running away from drought-ridden, locust-plagued land only to find that their lives would be threatened by drowning and disease. It was not the Heaven they had dreamed of however, it was their new home and there was no turning back.

For centuries they would endure many threats to their home in the form of natural disasters. Floods, hurricanes, and intense heat made it extremely difficult to create a life sustained by farming and fishing. Living so near a disappearing coastline makes for easy work as a fisherman, but can be disastrous for a farmer. The Isleños have persevered through centuries of major hurricanes including several just after their arrival in the late 18th century, the hurricane of 1812, the Chenier Caminanda Hurricane, categorized as the deadliest hurricane in Louisiana history, Hurricane Betsy in 1965, up to the historic Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Some, growing weary of constant reconstruction, have moved to other cities, other states even. However, time and time again, Isleño people return to the land their ancestors built up from nothing but a marshy swamp. They have tenaciously fought to restore these lands, preserve their culture, and press on.

Aside from my deep love for dogs, it is in the of spirit of perseverance and preservation that I feel most connected to my Isleño ancestors. While cherishing and honoring the rich traditions that make up the very essence of who we are, we continue to press forward, through the storms, standing at the end of the world, ready to face any challenge life may bring.

†Domingo Campo -> Francisco Campo -> Antonio Campo -> Simon Campo -> Josephine Campo -> Frank Cuadrado -> Odeal Cuadrado -> Odeal Ayo -> Tracy Pigrenet -> Me

*Manuel Nunez -> Estevan Nunez -> Vincente Nunez -> Victor Nunez -> Alcide Nunez
->Mary Nunez -> Dora Mae Mocklin -> William Pigrenet -> Tracy Pigrenet -> Me



Origin Stories

Anyone that knows me knows that I am pretty obsessed with origin stories. I’m not talking about comic book heroes’ sagas. I am talking about where things come from. What single thing sparked an idea that evolved into a common practice in everyday life. I love etymology. I love the idea of word roots and why they are what they are. I love thinking about where customs and traditions come from, where last names come from. I love searching for original intent and intention in behavior. Psychology is fascinating to me. Maybe it’s because I studied acting, which is basically a study in human intent. Whatever the reason is, this has spread into it many side fascinations, a major one being ancestry.

I spend countless hours and money a year on ancestry research. So many cultures have a deep appreciation for their ancestors. It seems to be a practice in American culture that has lost its value. Perhaps because we are such a vast melting pot of so many different origins and cultures, that it has become harder to trace. Or perhaps because people ran to America to escape from their origin story and rewrite a new one. But to me, it is such a precious gift to know your origin story. Unfortunately, dark parts of our country’s history has ripped that privilege away from so many who yearn for that knowledge. This only fuels my fervor to search for and treasure my roots that much more.

As I read about cities and wars and tales of my ancestors, I can’t help but feel a visceral connection to these people. Some stronger than others. With some, I swear I recognize traits that me or other family members share though we are separated by hundreds of years of time.

Thus far, I haven’t really done anything with this passion other than compile notes and records that slow down my computer as they pile up. I have thought about writing a historical fiction novel or screenplay about some of my favorite ancestral stories, however that would require that I be adept at writing! For now, I will share their stories in a humble weekly(ish) blog post.

Many of these stories are still tangled with endless plot holes and unexplainable twists. My hope in writing this blog is that I can solve some of these mysteries while sharing some pretty interesting tales and honoring the who, what, where, when and (the toughest) why, that literally makes up who I am.

New Chapter in New York

I am trying not to start all of my blogs by saying, “Wow I am so behind on writing in this blog. I swear I will keep up better.” Sooo…

Wow…I am so behind…. etc etc. You know the rest.

So many new things have happened since the last entry but we will leave those things be and move on to the present.

Ben and I are officially New Yorkers! We made the big move May 31 to NYC! We are living in Astoria, which is in Queens. It is lovely. Everything is within a block of us and not as expensive as Manhattan. It’s been about 3 months and we are settling in fine, Mellie and Lily included. Mellie misses the grass a lot but I think she is getting adapted.

Ben is still working for Entertainment Cruises, but he is working on the Atlantica which is the more upscale version of the Spirit with no singing. Just his cup of tea!

I had a dream job this summer. I worked as an usher and on the promotional team for Spiegelworld for their show Empire. It was basically a burlesque circus of awesomeness! I miss it so much. I met some really lovely and talented people. Half of them will forget me or perhaps they never even knew my name, but I will forever remember them and my summer at Spiegelworld. I was so inspired in so many ways by the show. I often was moved to tears even though I saw the show 150 times and worked 60 hr work weeks. I was always happy to go to work! That is rare. But all good things come to an end (bad things tend to do that too I guess but let’s keep that cliche phrase for the sake of the story). I am currently unemployed but searching high and low for a job. It is really hard to follow working at Spiegelworld but one must move on I suppose….

Living in New York is a much different vibe than living in Boston. They are both “big cities” however, people are wayyyy nicer in New York. Let all of the debates be put to rest! Whether if it’s because of all of the transplants here in New York or not, it is a much friendlier city than Boston. Boston is very beautiful though. It at least has that on New York though New York has it’s own unique beauty. Who thought that graffiti could be so beautiful? It really is! Concrete, beams, metal, and grime all put together with very little vegetation somehow has it’s own way of being truly beautiful.

One thing that I really experienced here that has been really rough is how people won’t think twice about ignoring you. No matter what anyone says, as a living, breathing, and feeling human being, it is very painful to be flat out ignored. A friend once said that at the core of every human is a need for acceptance; it’s what we all have in common. I totally have experienced that this summer more than normal. I worked on the flyering team for Empire which is basically fancy language for “the girl standing in her underwear in Times Square handing out flyers.” There were times where I would look someone straight in the eye and say, “2 for 1 for Empire”  and they would look away like they didn’t even hear me!  I don’t understand! How can you just flat out ignore someone who has said something directly towards you? It is a very painful thing to experience over and over. I will say, that is one part I will not miss about my summer job. Anyway, I have concluded that maybe because of technology, or for whatever reason, people nowadays cringe at the idea of human interaction. That is one of the saddest things to me. How hard is it to turn and say, “No thank you.” Or even, “No.” Heck, I would even be satisfied with a “No lady! Screw off! Don’t talk to me ever again you crazy hooker!” At least it shows that that person can connect with me. The disconnect that exists in largely populated areas is such an interesting dynamic. Maybe it’s technology. Maybe it’s the overstimulation of the city and the shear number of people that is overwhelming.not sure of the answer… I always make a point to acknowledge people’s existence. It’s so depressing to me to think that our society has come to a point where we don’t know how to communicate. I have such an interest in language and communication. I mean my degree is basically in human interaction, behavior and communication. That’s what acting is right??

In other news, working at the Circus all summer has really inspired me to get back into silks. I have been training a few times a week and I am having a blast. I don’t quite feel marketable as a music theatre performer so I am trying to add some more special skills to my toolbox. I have always been very physically moved (no pun intended). Silks is a really satisfying way for me to engage in that. It also incorporates drama, dancing, and music. We will see where it leads.

Overall, the first 3 months as a New Yorker have been quite a roller coaster. The fact that I live here is still very overwhelming and somewhat surreal. I find myself thinking about how many things happen here in New York that seemed like the stuff of the movies. Living thousands of miles away my whole life, it never seemed accessible or real. I am living amidst Times Square, the Empire State Building, movie stars, the subway, Broadway, fashion, amazing food, and so much history. And here I am writing this blog in New York City 11 years after the tragic events of 9/11 and I think it is all finally sinking in. Those horrific events that were tiny snapshots on a fuzzy analog TV in my 8th grade classroom are now life size and easily seen from the roof of my building. I am living here in the center of the world, the big apple, where wonderful and horrible things happen simultaneously everyday, even every second. I can’t wait to leave my print on this city. I am so scared to endure the low times. I am equally anxious and excited to see what the future holds for me in my new chapter of life in New York City.


So the bad news is, I have totally sucked at this for the past few weeks.

The good news is that nothing really exciting or notable has happened!

This has been my life for the past few weeks:

Wake up feeling like crap, go to work, struggle to have energy and stand up for 5+ hours at a time, drink lots of tea, pee a lot, come home eat noodles with butter and salt or cereal, blow my nose 1,000 times, go to rehearsal, get winded from dancing for 2 minutes because I’m sick and my lungs are infected, come home, eat something chocolatey, watch mythbusters probably, try to sleep but fail because I feel so crappy, finally fall asleep then do it all over again.

There! Caught up!!! But today is a new day!

Neil is coming in town! I am finally not feeling sick after weeks of hacking up my lungs and blowing my nose. We cleaned up the apartment and picked Neil up from the airport and rode the Odyssey! It was a blast!!!!!! I would have lots of wonderful pictures but I forgot to put the memory card in my camera….ooops. We had great food and drink and enjoyed the company of a crazy gay couple, a couple getting engaged, and most importantly DeeDee Martin, who changed our lives. She was the singer of the band that was playing and she was a genius!!!! Her speaking voice was like a muppet, but her singing voice was gold! We were more than thoroughly entertained for the whole cruise! Neil and I kept saying the same thing and finishing each others sentences…it’s going to be a long week for Ben! haha! Sorry Ben! I am so excited though! It’s nice to have a friend that you can not see for months and years and still act like you just saw each other yesterday. : ) I am so thankful for that! I love hearing his opinion about the city and the culture here. Sometimes I think I am crazy and biased but I am not alone in my perceptions. He said something along the lines of “I didn’t realize it would be this much culture shock.” THANK YOU! My thoughts exactly when we first moved here. We also rode the B line last night so it wasn’t  great first impression…. Anyway, we have a busy and exciting week ahead! I can’t wait!!!

Workin Through the Cold

Day 34-37 – February 3-6, 2012
Workin Through the Cold

Feb 3 – Worked at Teavana all day. Getting more comfortable with the whole sales process. My sales were a lot better today for sure! Benni met up with me after work and we had a cute little dinner date in the mall food court. It is one of our favorite spots because we don’t like a lot of the same food (well, I don’t like a lot of the food Ben likes) and we can both get whatever we want and it’s cheap! We don’t have to tip and we can sit down and eat together away from the house and both enjoy our meals. I like our food court dates. Afterwards, we are always too full to move so we end up sitting there and talking for about an hour. This time we  talked a lot about the show that he is currently writing. I think we sorted out a lot of things as far as structure goes. It’s going to be a great show once everything is all on paper! He is having a few songs performed Feb 20. I am really excited for him. I think people will like it a lot. It’s relatable, funny, sad, real, relevant, all those good things. I also enlightened Ben that the show is autobiographical. He was completely shocked! I thought he knew! When the shock came over his face, I thought he was joking. Nope….he had no idea. I guess that sort of thing is a bit unavoidable for writers. He knew that much. But he didn’t realize how close of a parallel it was to his life. Silly Ben! I will post videos from the show after the concert.

When we got home I made a great discovery myself. The Wizard of Oz ON ICE!!! Who knew?????? It happened in 1996 starring Oksauna Bauil! How did I not see or hear about this before now?????  Anyway, all is well because I watched it and it was brilliant.

Here is the link for those curious: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gm55VXGZY4&feature=results_main&playnext=1&list=PL4129A1534CCC103A

You definitely should check it out. It’s pretty much pure genius!

Feb 4 – Talked to Neil for a while this morning about his trip! I am sooooooo excited he is coming! Boston is not even ready. We are also going to New York for a few days. We are going to christen our friendship by seeing not 1, but 2 Broadway shows! Our plan is to see War Horse at the matinee and Anything Goes in the evening. It’s going to be a blast!

On a less exciting note, I had rice for lunch today. That’s it. just rice. We are poor and have no food. There has been a lot of rice, pasta, and pancakes around the Harrell place the past few days. I don’t mind so much but Ben doesn’t understand what it means to have a meal without meat. It’s like the meal is void if there isn’t at least a tiny piece. He is getting used to it though. Although, I think he is sick of my pancakes…but they are so easy to make!!! And cheap! I don’t know how so many people my age eat so well. It’s really expensive. I guess we could go to the grocery store and find some good deals and use coupons…that’s a thought…..oh well! Rice it is today.

We watched a really interesting documentary today called The Rape of Europa. It is about the the effect of WWII on art. Hitler and his cronies went around looting famous art from museums throughout Europe, stealing for his own personal collection. Interestingly enough, he was an artist himself. He applied to an art academy but didn’t get in. The other students that applied that get in were Jewish. Hmm. It is a really dark but really interesting documentary. It sheds a light on a part of the war that we don’t often hear about. It’s one of those things where you think, “Hmm. I never though about that.” I am so fascinated by the history that surrounds that era. I also like seeing the causes for certain events; the origin of people, ideas, and movements. It is really clear why art became what it did shortly after WWII. Basically, I just love documentaries. I am THAT guy. When I turn on Netflix, I go straight to the documentaries section. I want to watch them all! But, the clock ticks and I realize it’s time for work….

I had work on the boat tonight. Crazy right? It was a random indy cruise with just Mitch and I as the servers. I was looking forward to some good tips but these people were awful. I hardly got 10% in some instances. One table gave me $2 on a $50 tab after I did so much them!!! I gave them a refill on one of our fishbowl drinks, with the manager’s approval, when we are really not supposed. I expressed to them that we made a special exception and they gave me 2 dollars!!!! GRR! It’s hard not to focus on the financial outcome at that job, especially right now when I am eating plain rice for every meal. To top it all off, I am starting to feel a little bit sick…Times is hard…

Feb 5 – Woke up today with my allergies attacking me full force! I really need to get my medicine refilled but we have to pay bills first. What a world, where I have to choose paying bills or breathing. Lame. I didn’t really do a lot today. I felt awful. I lounged around with toilet paper stuck up my nose watching Mythbusters all day.

In spite of most of the world stopping because of the Super Bowl today, the circus folk go on. I had silks tonight and it was a lot of fun! We worked on some back balancing, a new knee hang, and we did some improv. Basically, we were given choreography that was very simple. We did the combo 3 times, each time with a different mood and intention to some music. It was so much fun to get to play around in very simple positions, to experiment with different ways to get in and out of tricks that we know really well depending on the character and mood we were given. I can’t wait to be able to perform an actual piece. It is still a while down the road but I am excited. Maybe since this whole theatre/musical theatre thing isn’t working out so well, I will just run away with the circus. Sounds logical. At least it will be nice to have a gimmick. Then they have to hire me!!!! Muahahahaha!

After class I headed over to Mitch and Maura’s for the rest of the game. Waiting for the bus was a bit twilight zoneish. I was the only person in sight for miles! Harvard Square was like a ghost town. I am pretty sure I was the only person in the city not watching the game. I caught the last 2 quarters. It was a fun game to watch. I could really care less about the outcome but it’s always fun to be in good company and eat some football game food complete with a chocolate football cake. We watched the ADORABLE puppy bowl after and the first episode of The Voice. I have never seen it before but I really liked it! Too bad we don’t have cable. I might try and catch it online this season. It seems a lot more legit than American Idol. They actually let GOOD trained singers compete. Who knew??

Still not feeling too great so I am going to bed asap! Ben gets paid tomorrow which means I get medicine! YAY!

Feb 6 – Slept in way late today. Still not feeling great. I couldn’t sleep at all last night. My throat hurt so bad but it was so hot in our bedroom that I needed the fan on but it was hurting my throat to have the fan on and whine whine whine complain whine ouch. When I woke up my throat was on fire. I put on some Silver Needle tea and made pancakes. I also have recently discovered Jeff Blumenkrantz’s podcast. I know I am a bit behind the times, but he has a ton of his music on there to listen to for free including his most recent series, Month Upon a Time. He has been writing a song for each month starting last June. It’s pretty good stuff.

Worked at Teavana today. I tried so many different tea concoctions to try to help my throat. So far nothing has really helped. I think I finally caught what Ben had. Or my body just hates me and I have terrible allergies and sinus problems all the time. We had a competition at work today. We often do. I am terrible at them. Some of the other people are really competitive. I just like to do my job with no other added pressures. If I win, I win. The end. By the time my shift was over I was feeling pretty awful. I got some Qdoba with my lousy tip money from the boat and headed home.

I started reading An Actor Prepares today. It is so good!!!! I am hoping it inspires me be a brilliant actor. Here are a few great quotes that I have highlighted in the first chapter and a half.

“The actor, no less than a soldier, must be subject to iron discipline.”

“It drives you into such a state that all you can do is long for your turn to get through with the thing that you are afraid of.”
(Speaking on the feeling of watching someone on stage just before you go on)

“But the minute the curtain rose, and the auditorium appeared before me, I again felt myself possessed by its power.”

“You may play well, you may play badly; the important thing is that you should play truly.”

“The fundamental aim of our art is the creation of this inner life of a human spirit, and its expression in an artistic form.”

“Plan your role consciously at first, then play it truthfully.”

“Our aim is not only to create the life of a human spirit, but also to express it in a beautiful, artistic form.”

“In our art, you must live the part every moment you are playing it, and ever time.”

Good stuff. I am excited to read more of the book and the other two in the series.

When I got home I talked to Neil for a while on the phone. Basically, I have decided that we are the same person. We live on the complete opposite sides of the country, yet we are the same person! I love it. I can’t wait for him to be here in 12 days 🙂


Mediocrity is My Middle Name

Day 33 – February 2, 2012
Mediocrity is My Middle Name

Today was the most infuriating day! UAWDFHAWEIFJ#(UADJSOFvqnur89iowaekdjf jflkd

I had an audition at 11 this morning. It was probably the first true dancer call I have gone to. It was a disaster! I was slightly worried about it going into it but I had no idea how bad it would. We were in a room the size of my bathroom, on the most slippery floor and we learned 6-8 8 counts in a matter of minutes. Oh and just about every move was the exact same. A lot of weight and direction changes etc….There was nothing I couldn’t do but there was no way I was going to learn it that fast. And on top of all of that, squeeze out a smile! Nope…didn’t happen. Not a lot of the other people got it either but they were better dancers technique-wise so their messing up looked a lot better than mine. I rely on my performance so outweigh the technique and well…none of it existed. It was so embarrassing and depressing. To make matters even worse, all the people that were there that were worlds better than me were all in Emerson and BoCo students. I have a DEGREE AND I STILL SUCK! UUgghhhh!! I am just at so much of a loss as to what I should do. What is the next step for my career? For me life? Not to be dramatic but what is the point of pursuing a career in something I am mediocre at??? I am going up against 18 yr olds that are way better than me. It seems like the simple answer is to keep training and keep taking more classes. Was the couple hundred grand I already paid for training and classes not enough?  We can not afford all the classes I need to get to the level I need to be. Since we moved to Boston, I have been marketing myself as a dancer. I am really not a strong enough singer or actor for those things to carry me through auditions and now apparently not a good enough dancer. I am exhausted. I am out of options. I am truly at a loss. I have no idea what to do with myself. I am almost 25 and I am not at a professional level of ANYTHING! I feel like I have just royally screwed myself over because I listened to so many people lie to me and tell me that I was talented enough to pursue performing as a career. I am so angry at all of those people. at myself, at all of the stupid 18 year olds who are way better than me and 100 other things. The worst part is that every few weeks when I am paying the bills for my “education” I am constantly reminded that I am not good enough AND just in case that isn’t enough damage, I get to damage my pocketbook as well that I am spend 90% of my time filling with stupid filler jobs that I am also, ironically enough, MEDIOCRE AT! I am stuck somewhere in between decent-ish community theatre and theatre that pays the bills………Not a fun place to be. I have this little “I suck” epiphany every so often but I have never felt so certain about actually quitting as I feel today. It is just about the point of no return…

So as a result of all of this, I decided the rest of my day would be spent in bed in comfy clothes eating girl scout cookies. Believe it or not, this didn’t really end well either. I felt pretty sick after all those cookies but they were delicious DAMNIT and I deserved them.

AND just in case I hadn’t danced enough for one day, I had a dance rehearsal for Wild Party tonight. Just what I wanted to do. It was a lot better than the audition, that’s for sure. It just made me realize even more that I am doing theatre with people who are really good at other things and those things are their day jobs. I am one of the few people in the cast actually pursuing it as a career. I don’t have a day job that is my career. I am not good at anything else and the best I can do is community theatre….I think that is a sign that something is wrong. This probably isn’t the path for me. It’s a sad reality but sooner or later I need to be real with myself. No one else will tell me the truth so I think I just need to discover it for myself…I knew going into this show that I would discover how I really felt about this industry and career. I told myself before it started “However you feel during the process of this show will determine if this is really for you.” I still have a month and a half to really decide the outcome but so far, not looking so good.

There is really no point is the end-of-blog superlatives. I think we all know what they would be like……

Favorite: Cookies

Least Favorite: ….see above…

What I Learned: ….see above…

Thankful: Cookies

Do Differently: not suck…

yeah…something like that….

Now I Have to Do Math

Day 32 – February 1, 2012
Now I Have to Do Math 

I can no longer rely on the day of the month to know which entry I am on. It’s a sad day in Chelcy Harrell’s world of blogging. I must actually count and/or do math now. Or just look at the previous post and add 1. I think I like that better.

I had work allllll day today from 10-4. I am definitely getting a lot more confident with the sales process. I am loving drinking tea all day. I had Silver Yen Zhen Pearls (our  best white tea) blended with Lemon Lime Kampai. My throat was killing me and that definitely did the trick! I tried Six Summits Oolong today which is a raspberry flavored Oolong and I used the Tupelo honey to sweeten it! It was a hit! I was scared to veer away from sugar for fear that it wouldn’t be sweet enough for my delicate little southern belle taste buds but was I ever wrong! All of our honey is so delicious. I could eat it all day. A lot of the employees use it on toast and in baking. I think honey shall be my next purchase.

After work I headed to Porter Square for Cirque Fit. I got there way early so I wandered around Pier 1 for a bit. I have decided that I want everything in that store. Maybe some day I will have a house that I can decorate and I can buy out Pier 1. For now I just walk around and dream about one day taking a nap in a plush Papasan chair with my kitten curled up next to me….ahhh….Anyway, class was good tonight. Like silks on Sunday, I feel like I am actually progressing and not just being ridiculously sore and tired after workouts. We did some skill training working on handstands. I surprised myself with how long I could stay up and in the words of Seth Rudethsky I “still got it.”

Speaking of Seth Rudethsky and “getting” things, I bought the new Godspell CD. I really like it! I feel like Godspell is always being reinterpreted so it was fun to hear yet another version. There are some older versions that I will always love best but some of the new arrangements are a lot of fun. One of my favorite parts is in Turn Back O, Man  in the patter section where she says, “Turn back O, man – I’d like to see THEE more clearly – Turn back O, man – for the first time I feel….wicked”  So genius! I died! I also loooveee the new Finale! I definitely recommend checking out the CD. It’s always fun to hear a fresh new spin on old favorite tunes.

We finished up the evening watching the Mavs/Thunder game…it was stressful as always. What made it better was the delicious sweet potato tater tots we had! OMG! Sooo delicious! Sweet potatoes have a way of swooping in and making things that normally consist of regular potatoes 10x better.

Favorite Part of the Day: New Godspell CD

Least Favorite Part of the Day: Public Transit…grrrrr

What I Learned: Sweet Potato Tots exist and they are delicious

What I am Thankful for: My ipod 🙂 Sometimes ya just gotta tune the world out and listen to Godspell

What I Will Do Differently Tomorrow: Audition….really nervous…..

Not So Tough

Day 30 – January 30, 2012
Not So Tough

If you read my blog a few days ago you probably read about my marathon fitness day and how much of a workout fiend I was. Well today is a different story. I am so sore! I hardly work out my legs as intensely as I did this weekend and now I am paying for it. Living in a 4th floor walk up has never really phased me that much but today, I am highly aware that there are many flights of stairs between my bed and the outside world.

I made some yummy pancakes for brunch today and did a little bit of cleaning before heading to work. We finally got new training manuals in! I feel like such a nerd, but I am so excited to study my flashcards. Tea nerd alert! I know that I will feel more comfortable selling the more I know about the product. I am ready to move through this learning phase to the comfortable phase. I hate being new! A guy at work today started spouting off all of this information about pink peppercorn and how rare it is the health benefits of it in the tea! I want to know about pink peppercorn! Let the studying BEGIN!

After work, I met Benni for some Applebee’s. I was so hungry today that I just couldn’t settle with leftovers and ramen. I got a nice hearty pasta and a delicious chocolate cake for dessert. I’m sure my wallet will be hurting because of it but my tummy is sure happy.

For whatever reason, Ben and I are both beat today. We are heading straight to bed! That is…after watching the newest episode of Once Upon A Time. Maybe it will pick up this week. It’s been moving really slowly. When we started the series, I was curious as to how they were going to stretch the series out to more than one season but they are definitely showing me how. After watching Prison Break where 1,000 things happened in an episode, it’s hard to watch this show where 1/2 of something exciting happens. I am really bad at watching series. Netflix has really spoiled me. I like having the next episode at my reach. I want to know what happens next and I want to know NOW! In similar news, Downton Abbey’s 3 season is being released in the Fall of 2012. I can NOT wait!!!!

Favorite Part of the Day: Dinner with the hubby

Least Favorite Part of the Day: Stairs

What I Learned: I should work out my legs a lot more…

What I am Thankful For: Chocolate cake!

What I Will Do Differently Tomorrow: Wear more clothes. I have been in denial about the fact that it’s still winter.

OH! And just to clear the air! One of my previous posts may have caused people to believe that I was going to be naked in Wild Party. I will not be naked!!!!! Some of us will be in period appropriate under garments (1920s). I guess the sarcasm didn’t come across in using the phrase “bare it all” via internet. No worries folks! 🙂

Project Kick My Own Butt

Day 29 – January 29, 2012
Project Kick My Own Butt 

Crazy busy day today! I woke up early to go to a “panty ready” boot camp for Wild Party. A castmates personal trainer agreed to give us free boot camp sessions so we can all look good when we have to bare it all on stage. It was pretty intense. I was having flashbacks to high school track. I’m not really a big cardio person and that was really apparent today. We did a lot of lower body/core kind of stuff which was a nice change from all of the upper body I normally do at silks. During our short break before rehearsal, I had a long lost favorite sandwich from the Real Deal: The Turkey Terrific! It’s basically Thanksgiving dinner in one sandwich! YUM!

We learned the opening numbers of the show today. Pretty exciting stuff! Within the first five minutes of the show, I stick my behind to the audience and it gets slapped. Hah! That’s going to be a fun time for the parents. I am little nervous about them seeing the show but I am glad they get the chance to come visit! It will be all kinds of awkward fun having Ben, his parents and mine sitting all together watching the show! Good times….

Anyway, after a 4 hour dance rehearsal, I was headed to silks for the first time in 3 weeks!! I keep getting sick on Sunday nights, but not tonight! I made it! I might not have been 100% after a full day of physical activity, but I was there dangit! It was so great to be back. I was worried that it would be tough to get back into things but it wasn’t bad at all. It’s nice to get to a point where you aren’t miserably sore afterwards. It makes me feel like I am actually progressing and getting better and that makes it a lot more fun. We got to work on a swivel which is basically an attachment to the rigging which makes you spin! It was a blast. If it wasn’t for my stupid sinuses, I could’ve done it all day!

So after my marathon day of physical activity, I am beat. Definitely time for bed!

Favorite Part of the Day: Feeling good after silks class

Least Favorite Part of the Day: Sucking at cardio intensive activities

What I Learned: I can take 8 hours of working out without completely dying

What I am Thankful for: Hot chocolate

What I Will Do Differently Tomorrow: Probably be in pain and not as excited about my marathon day

Cleaning, Cleaning, Lady Gaga and Cleaning

Day 28 – January 28, 2012
Cleaning, Cleaning, Lady  Gaga and Cleaning 

Today was  a major cleanfest around the Harrell house. We did tons and tons of laundry and cleaned all day. There really isn’t much else to it! I had to send in a demo today, so we took a few hour break to record some stuff. If anyone has a burning to desire to hear the tracks I can send them to you (family members aka mom). I recorded a little Gaga and Rascal Flatts then we got right back to cleaning. The good news is, every piece of clothing in the house is clean (well, just about). The bad news, the place is still a disaster!! I get a little carried away with reorganizing things while I am cleaning so I create even more work than is already there to begin with. And that, ladies and gents, was my day in a nutshell. Or not in a nutshell. I didn’t really leave out too many details. Much more cleaning in the future….

Favorite Part of the Day: Listening to some old school 3 Days to Sunday

Least Favorite Part of the Day: Spending hours and hours cleaning and still not being finished!

What I Learned: Ben said something genius yet extremely obvious. I just never thought about it this way. He said, “Think about the amount of time it took us to make this mess. It took us a month to create it, so it’s going to take a long time to clean it. Think about if we cleaned up at the end of everyday. We would only be cleaning up a days worth of mess instead of a month.” That makes so much sense!

What I am Thankful For: My precious pets who make me smile on lame-o cleaning days

What I will do Differently Tomorrow: Leave the apartment…oops

For a more interesting post, check out my Word Nerd post from earlier today!