Friday, December 02, 2011

The Year In Review

I had a choice between writing this or posting a naggy entry on a group blog. I decided being happy is a better option. :)

After a year which I thought couldn't possibly be topped - i.e. 2010 - I've been proven wrong, and am definitely not complaining!

And the fact that the best and most exciting events occurred within a period of 2 months has wreaked havoc on quite a few vital organs, not to mention my already mauled sleep cycle!

Returning to the USA was a major highlight, of course, and I still remember the moment I spotted the lights of New York City as the plane approached during its descent. Sheer joy coursed through my veins, and only escalated further when we arrived at the beautiful Marriott Marquis hotel and were treated to a view of Times Square from our room.

Over the next 6 days, we revisited a few familiar sites, and dropped by a couple of new ones. The Museum of Modern Art is gorgeous, and I could've sat for hours, staring at one of Monet's water lily canvasses, if I didn't have a show to catch that evening!

But nothing beats Broadway, the biggest reason for my return to the Big Apple - and trust me, I can't stay away for more than 4 years at a time!

Every theatre - except for the Lucille Lortel in Greenwich - is within easy walking distance from the Marquis, and even the simple act of collecting my tickets from the box office then standing in line to enter the venue gets my heart pounding.

But sitting in an auditorium with hundreds of fellow theatre fans, as magic unfolds on stage... the amazing talent, the tour de force performances, the soaring music, the major bawling they induce... it really makes you forget your own life back home just for those few precious hours, as you allow yourself to be transported to another world.

I love it. Sooooo much! :)

Watching 5 very different shows - didn't have time for more, unfortunately - was a dream come true! The Book Of Mormon, Follies, Phantom Of The Opera, The Submission and How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying all left me spellbound and craving more. However, Follies and Phantom win hands down for the cast's heartrending portrayals. Crying at a Broadway musical is, in my opinion at least, an absolute must! :)

The cherry on top? Seeing Daniel Radcliffe up close outside the stage door, just an arm's length from me as he stopped for a split second before hopping into the waiting SUV. ( Heavy rain that night, so no meet-and-greet with the fans. ) And let's not forget Jonathan Groff, who blew me away with his warmth and record-breaking hug! :D

Next, a blissful week in Orlando, Florida, hopping around Disneyworld, Universal Studios and Seaworld.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is tiny, but the atmosphere is festive, and butterbeer is extremely delicious! Like a perfectly blended vanilla shake mixed with gingerale. I have a very low tolerance threshold where high-speed rides are concerned, so Flight of the Hippogriff was about as much as I could take. And it was fun! :)

Disneyworld is everything I imagined it to be, even though the crazy weather made me miss Epcot and Animal Kingdom ( and there're strictly no refunds for pre-paid tickets, argh! ). Still, Magic Kingdom and Disney's Hollywood Studios more than made up for that. The 'live' shows are the best I've seen ( also visited Anaheim and Tokyo previously ), and the fireworks displays are so beautifully choreographed I couldn't help tearing up. Those timeless Disney melodies are super-potent!

However, I was surprised to discover that another Orlando attraction is dearer to my heart than Disneyworld. Yep, Seaworld stole my heart, and part of it will remain there forever. :)

If you're ever in that area, make sure you drop by. It's absolutely lovely, and if I'd had time, I would've gone twice ( 2nd visit is free! ). The one at the Gold Coast is wonderful, but Orlando's is at least two times larger, with many more opportunities for hands-on interaction with dolphins ( without paying a hefty price for "special encounters" ) and most importantly, the orca shows!

I've been so busy since returning home, I haven't been able to transfer my photos and videos to the computer. Let's hope I'll get to do that this month, including uploading the vids to YouTube. There's one of the baby dolphin pool, where these adorable mammals bob their heads up and down so they can see you better. If it doesn't make you smile, you're made of bloody stone.

After that, a long stay in San Francisco for sightseeing and an emergency medicine conference. Unfortunately, I found SF underwhelming in terms of scenery and activities. But the locals swept me off my feet completely, and a guy at our hotel's front desk is so impressive I made sure to send a complimentary email to his manager. ( He's also very cute, but that's beside the point. :))

Pier 39 is great, but the shopping's even better. Hawaiian pearls, fresh from oysters you hand-pick yourself! I was lucky to choose 3 different colours ( white, pink and blue ), and was only too happy to pay extra for gorgeous ring and pendant settings.

But my favourite place in SF? Macy's, haha. The sales staff are amazing - so friendly and helpful, with the power to grant obscene discounts after minimal haggling. No more new stock in the storeroom so you have to buy what's on the rack? Extra 10% off. Buy more than 3 items in a single style? 10% off too! On top of 50% slashes for selected brands, ranging from Kenneth Cole to Calvin Klein to Ralph Lauren! And tourists get a 10% discount card! My head's spinning! :)

The perfect cap to the 4-week trip? The excellent Scientific Assembly, run annually by the American College of Emergency Physicians. After an especially stormy year on the work front, I suffered a severe episode of burnout, which was miraculously cured by this congress. The speakers are so inspiring, the lectures are expertly delivered, and uplifting quotes abound on a daily basis.

My favourite: We do the impossible every shift, and we make it look easy. :D

So I came home, recharged and ready for anything. But as expected, after a week, I was back to my crabby old self, no thanks to the insane patient numbers and various annoyances which slowly ate away at my attempts to remain upbeat and optimistic. Dammit!

Little did I know that help was on the way. On 3rd November, my mom and I attended David Foster's concert at the Marina Bay Sands Grand Theatre. And what transpired almost gave me a heart attack! I somehow managed to work through an episode of incapacitating stage fright - thanks in large part to Mr. Foster's encouraging smile ( thank you! ) - and will always draw on this fabulous memory every time I feel like crap. Which happens a lot during shifts. So if you see me staring into space with a goofy grin on my face, just give me a moment to switch from mad to glad. :)

Last but not least, Kevin Spacey's much anticipated return to Singapore. The long wait - 15 years! - was worth it, and watching him twice as Richard III is something I will always cherish.

I am also aware of the unbelievably good luck E and I were blessed with, when we managed to meet Mr. Spacey in his car outside the stage door, and he so kindly stayed to speak to us and sign autographs. His personalized message for E is so appropriate, and there was even an indication that he enjoyed the encounter as much as we did, when he cheekily pointed out his co-star, seated beside him, during our conversation. That was priceless! :)

And today, I received an email from his personal assistant at The Old Vic, confirming that my fan letter and enclosed donation to the Kevin Spacey Foundation has been received by Mr. S ( I was worried the cheque may get lost during The Bridge Project's world tour ), and that he will write to me soon.
I'm just glad the cheque is intact! If I hear from Mr. S, that's a bonus! :)

Best of all, though, is news that he'll be back in the near future, to collaborate with the Singapore Repertory Theatre on future projects. Let's hope it will involve another stage performance!

Celebrity and holiday experiences aside, however, it's been a life-changing year on the whole. Appreciation for the arts is one thing, while contributing funds is a completely different kettle of fish. Following Mr. Spacey's Twitter and Facebook updates, reading numerous interviews, being privy to his packed schedule in Singapore ( shows, workshops, fundraisers ) and seeing the depth of his dedication in his fiery performances, I finally understand what it takes to be in this business.

To get a clearer idea of what he goes through, read this Wall Street Journal article, dated 1st December 2011. To quote Dana Brunetti, his close friend and collaborator: "Kevin can plow through scripts, plow through plays, do conference calls, do everything he's doing at the Old Vic, do everything I need him to do... and then he'll do a three-hour play, go to a fund-raiser afterward, meet somebody for drinks, walk his dog and go to bed — and wake up, walk his dog, go jogging, read three scripts. It's like, 'How the hell do you do this?'"

I honestly have no idea where he gets all that energy. Maybe it's possible when you're doing something you love, which got me thinking that it's about time I get off my butt and start putting aside some time for serious writing. As in submit an entry for a legitimate competition and see where I stand. ( Was supposed to do that this year but as usual, medical work got in the way. Hmph. )

Other valuable lessons learnt in 2011? That nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it and have God on your side. That good deeds, even if they aren't acknowledged immediately, will be rewarded in some way later on. That total strangers are capable of acts of immense kindness ( thank you for the gorgeous David Foster concert photos! :)). That even huge stars can epitomize kindness and generosity when you least expect it!

I really can't imagine how life can get any better than this, but as Mr. Spacey has said many times, "If you've been lucky enough to have a dream come true in your life, make sure you have another dream."

For 2012? A trip to Spain and Portugal. A do-or-die short story submission to an international writing contest. Chief editor duties for a massive emergency medicine-related paper. Perhaps a return to the Singapore Medical Association's newsletter? ( I've been asked to take over The Hobbit's column, but do not deem myself worthy. :))

2013 and beyond? Watch Mr. Spacey on stage at The Old Vic in London. Go back to Broadway, Las Vegas and Paris. Visit the Southern part of the U.S. - there's a tour of Savannah, Georgia, including sites featured in my favourite novel, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil ( which, incidentally, stars Mr. Spacey in the lead role - uncanny? Yes! :)). Visit Canada, Hawaii, the rest of Europe. Get my writing off the ground so I don't need to rely on my medical career as much ( I can enjoy it more that way ). Become a patron of the arts. Etc, etc.

“As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.” - Abraham Lincoln

"To infinity - and beyond!" Buzz Lightyear