Multi-Modalism

I've had an exciting few days. My fiancee and I have flown back east from Seattle to visit her family. We stopped through southern New Jersey to visit her wonderful 95-year-old grandmother, who has all the machinery still ticking at full speed even as her senses fail her. (Her brother, also living in the same Quaker/Friends-run retirement facility asked her while we were there, "Are people living too long?" She replied in the affirmative, "Yes, I think we are living too long." She's not in pain right now, but she's ready to move on.)

In the middle of the night staying in a lower floor of the community, at about 3 a.m., I was woken up by a voice through the ventilation system crying over and over, "I don't want to die!" I don't know the resident in question (we were below the hall Lynn's grandmother is in, but down quite a ways), but I was very sad about it.

I feel like shouting that at times, but I'm afraid it was someone with dementia or Alzheimer's rather than a cri de coeur. It was surreal. I was afraid I was dreaming; afraid I was not. Most of the residents you meet at Medford Leas are happy, active, and at peace with their lives. None of them talk like fatalists. Part of the Quaker ethic at work, too, I think.

From existential fears shouted in the wee hours, we moved on to the bright lights of Times Square and its vicinity. We stayed at a huge discount at a nice hotel on 51st and Lexington. The experience was great until they screwed up a luggage situation at the end. Through the concierge, we managed to get tickets to Proof (currently featuring Jennifer Jason Leigh) on Saturday night. We visited friends of Lynn's way up in Riverdale that afternoon, then saw the show.

The next day, we had breakfast with a favorite friend of mine, now about six months pregnant, when the concierge called: she had dug up tickets for The Producers! Holy mackeral. By the time we agreed to the price (which was very reasonable - so reasonable we assumed Nathan Lane wasn't performing the matinee), they were sold. She called us back later, though, with more tickets, and we were in.

Holy Katz, but The Producers was great. It's certainly by far the greatest live performance I've even seen of any kind, and the show itself is terrific. We'd bought the soundtrack a few months ago, and had been enjoying it. But the acting and stage business and dialogue and - well - everything was just phenomenal. It's pretty much the ultimate Broadway musical, and they just shouldn't try to write another one again.

From the theater, we were supposed to meet a car out front that had picked up our luggage at the hotel and would take us to Penn Station. The show got out about 5.45 pm and we had a 6.30 Amtrak train. We were just a few blocks away, really, but luggage was the big thing: you can't check luggage at Penn Station any more. No lockers, no baggage check. They're just not set up to screen left luggage.

But the hotel refused to release the bags: the concierge (really a third-party in the hotel who handles tickets and transportation) had dropped the ball or the hotel had, and without our claim slips, they wouldn't give the driver the bags. He should have met us at the theater and taken us back to claim our bags. Instead, I think he gave up.

We rushed cross-town by foot to escape the theatre district, which was letting out all its matinees, grabbed a cross-town cab to Park and 51st, ran a cross town block, managed to finally get the hotel to give us bags, had the doorman get us a cab which took us to Grand Central.

Ah ha! Weren't expecting this plot twist, eh? I knew that Metro-North runs a train with just enough time to transfer (I thought it was 20 to 30 minutes, but it turned out to be 5) to the Amtrak to Hartford. We ran through the station, bought tickets, hopped on a very full train, and arrived in plenty of time to get on the Hartford bound Amtrak.

And it was well worth the fuss to see The Producers, we both agreed. Especially since we got here and weren't trapped in New Haven for the night. I lived there five years. Another night wasn't what I wanted right now.

The multi-modalism of this post refers to our means of transport. On this trip, we took, in order: town car to the airport, two planes cross country, monorail to the car rental agency, rented car to and from the retirement community, monorail to the new Newark International Airport Train Station (incredible), NJ Transit to Penn Station, cab to the hotel. The next day, subway, express bus, express bus, subway, subway. Yesterday: subway, subway, cab, cab, regional rail, national rail.

And you wonder why we're tired?