Thursday, January 10, 2008

I Want to be a Part of it.-- Newark, Newark

Start spreading the news... I'm leaving today...

We arrived from various directions for the Association of Performing Arts Presenters Conference in New York. Our goal was to meet representatives of theaters from around the country and around the world in order to tell them about the work of the Natalya Sats Theater of Moscow, its brand new production The Snow Maiden created with the participation of Valery Lantratov's Russian National Ballet Foundation and some of our other productions, which we will tell you more about later.

In order to get an affordable suite for three people, Valery Lantratov, our translator Yulia Coe and I, we decided to stay in Newark, New Jersey. And the distance created yet another opportunity for unintended travel adventures.

Irvin S. Cobb once called New Jersey the "semi-colon of the Eastern seabord." I know that New Jersey has long suffered from an undeserved negative comparison to its shining neighbor "The Empire State," but I can't really improve upon its reputation with my description of Newark. On this trip, my welcome to the city came in the form of a giant rat that ran out of a chicken restaurant where I'd stopped for directions. We kept looking for The Garden State's gardens, but had little luck.

The advertisements put out by Newark hotels boast of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and other attractions, but Newark is really just a crossroads from Liberty International Airport to Penn Station Newark and on to Penn Station New York.

I would actually be curious to know how such a thing came to pass that a New York and Newark Penn Station could be so close to each other on the same line. Valery can't hear the difference between the names on the announcements, and he can't be the only one.

Did they run out of ideas for names around there-- New York and Newark... Penn Station and... Penn Station?! You would think the "city that never sleeps" could be a bit more creative with naming things.

The route from Newark to JFK by car takes you through Manhattan through the Lincoln and Midtown tunnels. I am one of those people who has come to rely entirely on plastic debit cards. I rarely use cash any more, so I only had $12 on me as I headed towards the airport. After paying the $6 Lincoln Tunnel toll, I spent most my commute dodging taxis and tourists in a panic that I would not have enough money to get to the airport and that I would end up like the poor guy in the MTA song by the Kingston Trio:

"Did he ever return? No, he never returned and his fate is still unlearned/ He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston. He's the man who never returned."

So far I had not managed to find much stress-free time to enjoy the anticipation of seeing Valery again, or to think about the wonderful opportunity we had to promote a brand new ballet or the adventure of the tour itself.

Waiting for a passenger on an international flight is always interminable. It takes about an hour for an international flight to de-plane and clear customs. (De-plane is one of those odd airline terms. You never hear a person say they got to the parking lot and "de-carred." You also rarely use the word "stow" outside the cabin of a ship or a plane. As in: "I stowed my bag in the back seat before I de-carred at my final destination, the parking lot at Wal-Mart." And how do you "pre-board?" Aren't you, in fact, pre-boarding from the moment you get up in the morning?)

I spent part of the time sitting on the airport floor-- no seats for people picking up international passengers at JFK--doing edits on my next book and the rest of the time playing the "guess the origin of the flight" game where you try to figure out where your passengers flight is in the customs line by observing the ethnic makeup of the people coming out of the gate. "Chinese people-- that must be the Beijing flight." "Those look like Mexicans-- probably the Mexico City flight."

By the time Valery actually emerged from the gate I had started to zone. He spotted me before I saw him. I was gazing right through him.

Let the tour begin...