The other day I was at work and I had some opera music playing in the background. I like to listen to music when I am working because it calms and relaxes me as I deal with my day job’s stresses. I tend to listen to instrumental jazz or symphonic classical music. In short, things without words, because that way I can concentrate on the words involved with my work.

One of the major components of my day job is communication. Would you believe that on average the last couple of years I sent 12,000 emails annually? Sent, not received, sent. That means I write that many mails. And I don’t mean I write one mail and send it 12,000 times. I mean 12,000 individual mails. Broken down over the average number of working days per year it’s about 60 a day.

Damn, I wonder what the word count total might be? Add T.I.L.T. and my novel project to the list, and let’s not forget personal emails and texts and postings, and well, I write a lot of words, words, words all day and all night so when I’m writing in some form, I like to listen to music with no words at all.

Or, to be specific, at least not words I can understand. See, I also like to listen to French rap or Cubano café music, both which have lots of words, but since I don’t speak the languages, most of the time I have no idea what they are saying. Which is a real shame, since I grew up in Spanish-speaking Texas and studied French for five years. You’d think clever me would be fluent, but nope, they’re just nice and familiar and I like the way they sound, hence the words don’t seem to count and distract me when I am focusing on other words.

That’s the essence of my music preferences: when doing something without words, like driving or cooking or running, I love rock and pop and all sorts of poetry disguised as music — I do love words after all. But when I’m reading or writing or editing any sort of document, I don’t want any more words in my head. There’s only so much data processing my old head can handle!

Maybe someday technology will catch up and Apple will invent the iBrain, connected to the iCloud,so I can iRelax and let T.I.L.T. write itself, but until then I’ll need to make do with what I got even though iTired!

Anyway, recently one weekend while enjoying cooking a mega casserole with wonder wifey, a live broadcast came on the radio of the New York Metropolitan Opera. Being a big fan of New York City, it was somehow exciting to know it was happening live. To hear the people clap and the announcers explain the story scene by scene, and to imagine being there, in New York, at the Met, and dreaming of maybe getting to go and see it live someday, all while having fun cooking with wifey, it was a really cool experience. And somehow since then, I’ve been hooked on opera.

I went to the Met website where there is a treasure trove of ultra-quality recordings to watch and listen to if you want to pay for it. But there are also tons of free stuff of pretty great quality on YouTube or countless internet radio stations, so I’ve not been lacking for sources to listen to opera.

Anyway, so there I was at work, writing away, and listening to opera because if you can understand what they’re saying you are either a genius or Italian or an Italian genius and I don’t know where one word ends and the next one begins and don’t care — I just know the human sounds and pure emotions they produce are literally breath-taking because, well, you gotta be able to breathe if you can sing like that!

I was enjoying myself and humming along when one of my colleagues came in and check with me about some thrilling work issue. They started talking and then stopped mid-sentence, eyebrows raised in surprise, and said, “Opera? You listen to opera? I’d never have  guessed you to be an opera guy.”

I explained how I like all kinds of music with no words, and so on, but while I was talking my mind was asking myself what that meant: ‘never have  guessed you to be an opera guy’.

Just what did that imply? What do you think of someone who listens to opera? What do you think of opera in the first place? Do you think of snobby, rich people? Or educated, cultured aficionados? Just what was my colleague trying to say? That I wasn’t snobby or rich? Well, that’s true. Or at least I hope it’s not true. I mean the snobby part — I’d love to be rich so I can go to the Met of course and show off my wifey wearing the last fashions of Fifth Avenue and Tiffany’s. Wait a sec . . .  Hmm.

Anyway! Or was my colleague somehow surprised that I might like educated, cultured things, or perhaps that I might indeed be educated and cultured? What kind of music would not surprise my colleague’s notions of what a guy like me might listen too? Death metal perhaps? I do like to wear black.

It reminded me of a funny story about a guy I went to theater school with. He was also studying music, specifically opera, and so had to practice singing very loudly. He found one of the best places to do this was in his car while he was driving, because who could he disturb? He had a convertible and drove with the top down blasting opera at insane volumes and sang along. One time he pulled up at a red light next to an old man who had his windows rolled down. The first moment he stopped, the old man turned and scowled at him with disgust at listening to music so loud like he was some sort gangster or neighborhood menace. But after about five seconds the old man’s face melted into a smile as he recognized it was opera music my friend was singing and blaring at decadent decibels. The old man clapped and shouted, ‘Bravo!’, as my friend drove off to wherever the fat ladies sing.

In short, at first the old man also would not have thought a guy in a convertible blasting music would be an opera guy. It just goes to show you, you never know who likes what and why. Nor should you try to guess.

It really shouldn’t be surprising for anyone who really knows me. I worked on a couple of operas back in my theatrical career. When I was a kid, I was actually in an opera at the Houston Grand Opera. I was just an extra playing a servant who had to walk on carrying a big tray of glass jars, praying I wouldn’t trip and fall and crash into the fat lady singing like she had a cat in her throat. At least that’s what it sounded to me like back then, but, well, taste do change as we grow up, don’t they?

So, yes, call me Opera Writer Man. Hmmm. Maybe I should write T.I.L.T. the Opera! Starring me and wifey! No, wait, that wouldn’t work, I would need a fat lady. Hmmm.

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