Travel Saga

The past 7 days feel like many more. Steven, my husband, was scheduled to speak at a conference in New York City, so we planned a long weekend of theater around his business trip. On the agenda: a just-opened new production of Brian Friel's Translations; A Spanish Play, a new play by Yasmina Reza starring Zoe Wannamaker; Grey Gardens, with Christine Ebersole; the Roundabout Theatre's new production of The Apple Tree, with Kristin Chenoweth (whom Steven loves and I enjoy); and the latest revival of Stephen Sondheim's Company, starring Raul Esparza, whom I fell for when I saw him during the Kennedy Center's Sondheim Celebration in Merrily We Roll Along. All this to say that I was very much looking forward to our mini theater-fest.

We set off from Charlotte (a two-hour drive from Asheville) last Tuesday morning and arrived at Washington, D.C.'s Dulles airport on time. "Weather" -- the snow storm that was coming in from the Midwest -- caused United Airlines to cancel our flight. Then they canceled the next, then the next, and so on and so on. We spent the night at an airport hotel. Unfortunately, the next morning's story was much the same. It was particularly frustrating to be stuck in D.C. since the weather wasn't all that bad there and, we heard later, not as miserable in New York as we'd been led to believe.

In light of my fairly aggressive travel schedule over the past few years, I've become a pretty hardy traveler, and would probaby have stuck it out in D.C. for a while longer, hoping for the best. But Steven needed to get back to work, since it was highly unlikely that he would get to his speaking engagement on time. So we rented a car and drove (yes, drove) from Washington to Charlotte, where we picked up our car and headed for Asheville. Some of the agencies from whom I'd purchased our theater tickets were understanding and reversed the charges, but others refused to do so. Sigh.

What should I find in my inbox the morning after our road trip but my weekly US Airways "e-saver" email, touting a $158 round-trip airfare direct from Greenville to NY LaGuardia that weekend. The flight originated in Greenville, SC, an easy hour-and-a-half drive from Asheville. How could I see this as anything over than an omen! At least that's how I presented it to Steven, who, understandably, was loathe to head back in the direction we'd come back from. "But we have theater tickets waiting for us that'll go to waste! I implored ("implored" is exactly the right word). He knew how much I'd been looking forward to seeing Company, for which we had excellent seats that I'd bought months before, so he agreed, and we got up at 3 a.m. on Saturday morning to catch a 7 a.m. flight in Greenville.

This travel experience was a 360-degree turn from our earlier one. We took off and landed on time going and coming; the weather was cold but sunny in New York; and we thoroughly enjoyed our whirlwind visit. Company was terrific, as expected, and The Apple Tree, although not great theater, is exactly the type of star-vehicle made for someone with Kristin Chenoweth's star presence. The piece de resistance for me was getting to spend several hours on Sunday morning at the 57th St. branch of Kate's Paperie, satisfying my paper lust. I brought back enough paper to keep me happily making books for half a year. To help me when it comes time to re-order -- and that time will come -- the sales clerk, who was patience itself while I made her trawl through dozens of flat-file drawers as I passed judgment on papers -- left the bar codes on the sheets of paper, rather than remove them as they usually do, so that I could refer to the appropriate numbers when I call. We'd bonded over our mutual awe over the books in the catalogue of the recent artists' books exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (see February 10 post).

The moral(s) to this story? No doubt Steven's would be different, but mine are: sign up for email on last-minute air fare deals, and always write down the locations of Kate's Paperie stores before you travel to New York City.

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