The best writing advice I've ever gotten thus far was from a professor I had last year who for whatever reason had a strong association with the character Caliban from Shakespeare's The Tempest in my mind--she wasn't a traitorous, murderous, rapacious professor or anything, it's just that every time I think of her the only thing I can think is of Caliban. I've always wanted to call her Professor Caliban, and sadly it took me a long time to recall her real name as I was writing this.* Regardless, she gave great advice--she told me that when I wrote, it was important for me to think of exactly what it was that I was trying to say, because so often in my writing my ideas are lost within my impressive vocabulary, or the real points I'm trying to make are disguised amongst other ideas. So I repeat that constantly in my head when I sit down and write real papers, or when I hit writer's block, it works every time. It works in everyday life, too. For example, last Monday night as I was sitting by myself in an auditorium listening to an opera singer, I thought, this is terrifying. It was exactly what I wanted to say, the best and most succinct way to describe how I was feeling. Thank you, Professor Caliban.

I went to what I thought would be the pinnacle of culture and good taste and instead I was on the edge of my seat with an adrenaline rush of fear pushing my heart rate up to about 210. To be fair, I had never been to the opera before, and so I was woefully unprepared for what I would be experiencing. I had to go for my Music in New Orleans class, and it started out quite well--this middle-aged woman swept on stage in a floor-length gown with diamonds all over and a fur stole, which was a great sign. But as soon as the music picked up I felt like I was being attacked by the Italian language. I think I'm overly sensitive to loud voices to begin with, so when she started hitting the high notes at 3,000 decibels I was so far on edge my blood pressure probably jumped about 60 points. It didn't help that she was an emotional roller coaster, crying, laughing, screaming, she must've asked God , WHY? WHY? WHY? on her knees like 12 times.

I know that the emotional expression in opera is the point, and that the music is supposed to be a sort of sung play, and that I was supposed to be in awe of her impressive command of six different languages and her apparent iron lungs. The only thing that I was in awe of was how fast I went from calm to sheer panic. I know now exactly where all three exits are in Dixon Auditorium.

Eventually I settled into a far less alarming feeling of bewilderment and even, at the end, loosened up to enjoy the last five minutes or so of the concert. Will I go back? That's about as likely as Frosty making it in hell. But hey, I went. And P. Caliban taught me that there will be no beating around the bush, not even for opera. And now that my heart rate is back to normal, I can say that some of the lyrics were really pretty--and her pianist was wearing an all white suit, so at least I had something visually stimulating to look at.

In other news, life in New Orleans is rolling along quite smoothly. I read books, I go to the doctor, I sit in the sun. It's a hard life.

xoxo, Lauren

*Professor Heffernan. She was visiting from UPenn.

p.s. For those of you that saw in the news that Emily and Brad are having troubles off the Bachelor, don't worry. I read the People article. They're going to be fine.