I try to be a man of culture (a strong statement coming from someone who used to participate in lengthy email chains regarding the most recent “Flavor of Love” episode). I listen to NPR sometimes. I fashion myself a great fan of “indie” music. Occasionally I will read a book, or at least leave one on the end table near my bed with the best of intentions, only to waste away the minutes before slumber playing Words With Friends on my phone instead. Point is that I can do words and stuff.
It was culture I had in mind when I considered my wife’s Christmas gift this past year. I usually like to arrange some kind of date rather than buy her a material gift because I value our time spent together more than lavishing her with goods. Also because I’ve tried to buy her material things before and it hasn’t gone well. Also because I saw the movie Blood Diamond in a hotel once. Also because I cannot afford diamonds.
Speaking of movies, last year for her gift we went to see Les Miserables even though I generally cannot stand musicals. Luckily I am a very cultured man and enjoyed myself greatly, especially the part where Russell Crowe was in the movie because he was in Gladiator.
When it came time to consider this year’s gift, I wondered if I should maintain my cultural ways. I mean, I went to a musical … what other culture is there? Maybe we should just see Anchorman 2. Then a mom at our daughter’s ice skating class casually mentioned that her husband had just taken her to the opera, and I thought, ha, what a dork! Then I thought, wait, that’s culture. Then I thought, crap, I am going to the opera.
Last weekend my in-laws watched the girls as my wife and I embarked on a date at Phoenix Symphony Hall to cash in her Christmas gift. I had painstakingly mapped out my route to the parking garage because I have been frequently flabbergasted by Phoenix’s random one-way street puzzle grid. (When we first moved here I tried to go to a D-backs game and one-wayed myself to Tucson. Embarrassed, I just stayed there for the weekend.)
When we received our ticket to the parking garage, the kindly worker asked where we were headed, and when I told her the opera, she said they would validate my parking ticket there. This didn’t seem to make any sense, but whatever.
I had made a dinner reservation at what I thought would be a somewhat formal restaurant befitting a pre-opera meal; however, I did not consider that the Phoenix Suns were also playing that evening, and thus our romantic table for two was surrounded mostly by men wearing ill-fitting Kevin Johnson jerseys working up a drunken lather before heading across the street.
Nevertheless, our meal was great and afterwards we ventured outside into beautiful evening weather and walked two blocks to Symphony Hall. Once in our seats, my wife said, “Should you try and validate the parking now?” I said sure, but who validates parking at the opera? It didn’t feel right.
I asked an usher, “Excuse me sir, but where can I validate my parking?” as I held my ticket in the air.
He responded, “Umm, we don’t … do that.”
I considered yelling, “WHO AT THIS OPERA CAN VALIDATE MY PARKING? I AM VERY CULTURED,” but instead sat back down, confused and dejected.
We saw La Boheme—hilarious!—and I only almost fell asleep once. Luckily there was a screen that displayed the words. Not for me—I was able to interpret the entire thing through body language and context and by whispering loudly to my Italian-speaking wife, “What is happening?”—but for everyone else. Speaking of everyone else, did you know it’s cool now to wear jeans to the opera? Some people just ain’t cultured.
Anyhoo, we very much enjoyed ourselves and, caught up in the euphoria of an actual date, even considered going out for a drink afterwards. Unfortunately, it was already almost 9:30 p.m., so … yeah.
When we were leaving the parking garage, I handed the man my parking ticket along with a ticket stub from the opera to see what would happen. What happened was that we didn’t have to pay for parking. It was the best opera ever!
Unfortunately, the Suns lost, information I gathered from sports talk radio on the way home.
Note: This column appears in the 2/13 issue of The Glendale Star and the 2/14 issue of the Peoria Times.