a better Waiting for Godot
Thursday, January 24 2019
location: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, New York, USA
Gretchen had bought us both brand new $300 Tortuga backpacks for our trip to Costa Rica. These were the special kind with built-in laptop slots and a cargo capacity up to (but no larger than) the limit for airline carry-on luggage. Since Gretchen is an avid reader and does not believe in reading books on electronic devices, she would be bringing a fairly large number of books to our Costa Rican cabin. As for me, I would be working remotely and would want a reasonable work setup. So, in addition to the laptop I would be bringing for Gretchen and the laptop I would be bringing for me, I would be carrying a spare portable AOC monitor. Its resolution was only 1366 X 768, but it was unlikely our cabin would come with a television. Other things I packed included four or five teeshirts, a pair of sweatpants, swimming shorts, my nice green shorts, an extra pair of socks, five or six magazines (particularly The New Yorker and Make), the Lonely Planet Guide to Costa Rica, my good Nikon camera with the telephoto lens, three micro-USB cables, two 120v USB wall warts, a Chinese counterfeit Arduino Leonardo, 200 mL of gin in travel-sized containers, a film cannister of kratom, 4 oxycodones, and some unspecified number of guarana capsules and diphenhydramine gel caps. All of this together came to around 25 pounds (I weighed it).
Our housesitter Dana arrived in the early afternoon after a series of weather-related airline travel travails. She was in her 30s and had good energy and a sense of humor. [REDACTED] She also seemed competent, which was important given that we would be entrusting our house, critters, and worldly possessions to her for a month.
The drive into New York City was fairly painless and was handled entirely by Gretchen. As is common for a trip into the City, Gretchen had piggybacked another activity: us seeing a musical entitled The Band's Visit on (or just off) Broadway in Midtown. We'd made such a good time in our drive down that we had an hour to kill, so we looked for a bar where we could have a drink. The Rum House was too dark and crowded, so we ended up at a bigger, more brightly-lit hotel bar. It was happy hour when we arrived, so we got drinks off that menu. We also got fries, even after the bartender told us that the oil used to fry the fries was used for everything the restaurant fries (and that this has been the practice in every restaurant he has ever worked at). The happy hour drinks were strong, and Gretchen (for alcohol is more of a poison than a pleasure) regretted having had her drink the rest of the night.
The Band's Visit was across 47th Street at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. It was a fairly traditional space with balconies and big chandeliers, though the stage had been outfitted with large rotating surfaces, allowing actors and sets to be swung into position mechanically (this is probably a common thing, though it's the first I've ever really noticed it). Gretchen had bought us two $35 seats which were near the center of the front of the balcony, in such a good spot that our usher made a comment about it the moment he saw the location on our tickets. The musical was a dramatization of the accidental stop-over of a traveling Egyptian police orchestra in a dusty back-country Isræli village. Much like Waiting For Godot, nothing much "happens," though unlike Waiting For Godot, there are opportunities for the characters to break into song, and these opportunities are not missed. Much of the music is infused with an Arab or Isræli sensibility (the eponymous band is one that plays traditional Arab music). I'd found sitting through a local production of Waiting For Godot to be some of the most excruciating minutes of my life, but with the production values, the music, and moments of latent sexual energy (something Waiting For Godot desperately needed), The Band's Visit was a reasonably entertaining experience, even if it wasn't exactly my thing. My favorite moment came at the last instant, after all the build up to the band's finally getting where it needed to go. At that instant, the conductor waved his wand to signal the first note of the performance and that was when (spoiler alert!) the curtains dropped.
My only real discomfort during the whole production was a dryness to my right eyeball that I couldn't clear no matter what I did. I'm a hypochondriac by nature, so naturally my mind went directly to the possibility that I was coming down with pink eye the night before I would be flying to Costa Rica. Had I touched a besmirched doorknob and then rubbed my eye? I usually keep an unconscious register of what parts of what hands are potentially contaminated, but perhaps I'd made a mistake. Happily, though, the discomfort had vanished by the end of the musical and I did not have pink eye.
We were in a bit of a hurry to get to our next destination: a reservation at Isa's restaurant Modern Love in Brooklyn. We arrived there about 20 minutes late, but it was no big deal. Gretchen ordered us a fondue appetizer and I had the chimichanga. Gretchen got some sort of pasta dish she'd had last time. The last time we'd been here together was on the day I'd been fired from Mercy For Animals, and the meal had totally turned my mood around. So that was perhaps too big of a precedent to repeat. Tonight's meal was fine in comparison (particularly the fondue), but it was also sort of a let-down. Gretchen actually thought her pasta dish had too much nutritional yeast in it; that never happens! I was the only one who got a drink: a passionfruit margarita. We struck up a conversation with Bella, the young woman who was our waitress. For some reason she commutes down from Albany twice a week to work at Modern Love (and perhaps do other things as well). When she heard we were about to fly to Costa Rica, she said she would also be going there in a few days. And then we talked about the ongoing record-setting government shutdown and what that meant in terms of flight delays and other unforced travel headaches visited on us just so that a very small-minded man can have a monument to racism built at his decree.
Part of the reason our meal at Modern Love wasn't all it could've been was that we sort of had to hurry through it to get to the next thing: dropping off our car with Charles, the one-man private parking operation we patronize near JFK airport. We were running a little late because The Band's Visit hadn't stuck perfectly to schedule. (Gretchen loves to stack up activities close to each other; if I'd been in charge of logistics, we might've done only one thing instead of three or four.)
Instead of taking our car and dropping us off at the airport, we had Charles take our car and drop us off at a Howard Johnson's near the airport, where the plan was to sleep a few hours and then board an early-morning flight to Ft. Lauderdale. This plan was great in theory, but in practive the Howard Johnson wasn't running a shuttle in the early-morning hours we needed one in order to get on a airplane scheduled to leave at 6:00am. For some reason, such important details are elided from websites and people making plans (in this case Gretchen) are forced to improvise or complain. Gretchen managed to get the fat & affable east-Asian (not south-Asian!) guy serving as the HoJo cashier to schedule us a cab, though (unlike the shuttle) it wasn't going to be free.
Though it was in a different hotel, our room at the HoJo was identical to the one we'd stayed in before our flight to Mexico on the day I'd been fired back in June. On that night, I'd been so anxious that I'd been unable to get any sleep at all. Tonight, though, I took a shower, climbed into bed, and thought about the Chris Watts murders until I fell asleep. It would only be about four hours before we'd need to wake up again.
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