I arose at four-thirty Wednesday morning in New York City. Twelve hours later I checked into a hotel in Boise, Idaho, having first flown west to Phoenix, Arizona, where I changed planes and headed north. Five hours after that I was sitting down to see the Idaho Shakespeare Festival‘s production of Major Barbara. Now, twenty-one hours after my alarm clock last went off, I’m back in my hotel room, getting ready for bed.
I could complain about the length of my day, as well as certain disagreeable things that happened to me along the way, but I won’t, because I’ve been reading Notes of a Pianist, the newly reprinted travel diaries of Louis Moreau Gottschalk, in which America’s first important concert pianist (and one of our most original composers) tells in excruciatingly frank and funny detail what it was like for a musician to go on the road in nineteenth-century America. No, I’m not fond of snatching a hasty breakfast in between flights, but once you learn what it was like to pay an overnight visit to Springfield, Illinois, in 1863, you’re likely to come away with a greatly enhanced appreciation of the Egg McMuffin:
St. Nicholas Hotel (!!!!) Each one of these exclamation points, if it could speak, would tell you a story of tribulations, of all kinds of mortifications that should render the St. Nicholas Hotel, Springfield, forever celebrated! First, the legislature being in session, the house is full, which is the same as saying that the beefsteaks are leathery, the eggs too hard….We are cooped up, six of us, in a little room hardly large enough to hold one bed comfortably. The water to wash with is as black as ink. The proprietor charges us for a supper that we have not eaten, and, upon a timid observation that we make respecting it, looks at us as if he wished to crush us and, addressing the porter, throws out this memorable phrase, which seems to me not to speak very highly in favor of the honesty of the travelers with whom he is in the habit of dealing: “Billy, take care that the trunks are not taken away before the bills are paid!”
In any case, the truth is that I love traveling, even the ordinary parts. I love being whisked through the streets of Manhattan before sunrise. I love gazing out the window of a plane at clouds and deserts and mesas and mountain ranges. Above all, I love to explore a city that’s new to me, then spend the evening watching Shaw or Shakespeare or Lynn Nottage. What could be more fun?
So yes, I had an excellent day–but enough is enough. I get to sleep in tomorrow, after which I’ll be paying a visit to the Boise Art Museum, dining with a local arts journalist, going to see Love’s Labour’s Lost, then flying to Cedar City, Utah, to do the whole thing over again. That being the case, I think I’ll eat an Owyhee Idaho Spud (no, it’s not a potato product) and hit the sack. It’s midnight in Boise, and even a drama critic deserves a good night’s sleep.