WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 12 Sometimes my theater-related trips resemble paid vacations with a little work thrown in. Other times, irrespective of the quality of the shows that I see, they’re just another day at the office, minus the reassuring comforts of home. That, I regret to say, was how I felt about my four-night stay in Ashland, where I saw three shows at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Don’t get me wrong—I like Ashland very much. The problem, as I discovered two years ago, is that I don’t especially enjoy going there by myself. Had Mrs. T accompanied me to Oregon, I doubtless would have eaten better meals and spent much more time strolling through town. Instead I mostly stuck to my hotel room, knocking out three Wall Street Journal columns and a Commentary essay about Al Hirschfeld while the summer sun shone brightly through the window. It felt as though the teacher had made me stay inside during recess. I emerged only to go to the theater, take my meals, and soak twice daily in the outdoor whirlpool.
It didn’t help that I was, as usual, moderately disoriented by the change in time zones. In addition, I find it hard to write in hotel rooms, perhaps because staying in a hotel makes me feel as though I ought to be relaxing, not working.
Mostly, though, I was demoralized by Mrs. T’s absence, enough so that I was reduced to breakfasting at the hotel, a sure sign of trouble on the horizon. (What is so depressing as the scrambled eggs served at a “complimentary expanded continental breakfast”?) As a result of all this, my overall mood, relieved only by the shows I saw, was grumpy and disagreeable. It was as if the previous day’s blissful drive through the Willamette National Forest had never happened.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 15 I drove from Ashland to Portland without stopping for anything other than gas, dropped off my rental car, and checked into a comfortable but nondescript airport hotel with a first-class whirlpool. As much as I like Portland, which has an excellent art museum (Clement Greenberg’s personal art collection is housed there, though you’d never guess it from the museum’s website) and terrific restaurants, I knew I wasn’t good for anything more than a quick dinner, a long soak, and an early bedtime. All I wanted was to be home.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 16 The horror! The horror!
It started when my flight from Portland arrived early at JFK, then waited an hour on the tarmac for a gate. Once we finally got off the plane, it took me nearly a half-hour to walk from there to the luggage carousels. (Kennedy is a very big airport.) I spent an additional half-hour waiting patiently for my suitcase, which contained all of my clothes, then went to the Delta baggage office, where I was politely informed that it had never been loaded on the plane in Portland and would probably arrive in New York the following day. By then my fellow passengers were starting to suspect the worst, with good reason: it turned out that most of their bags had been left behind.
Not wanting to stick around for the resulting riot, I boarded Kennedy’s “AirTrain” (arrgh!) for the car rental center, picked up a rental car, and drove straight into bumper-to-bumper late-night traffic. The agonizing slowness of my progress temporarily disguised the fact that Enterprise had stuck me with a lemon, a brand-new sedan whose transmission was misbehaving and which, I found out the following day, had already been recalled to the factory. I arrived in Connecticut, unfed and unwatered, at one-thirty in the morning, and fell into bed.
MONDAY, AUGUST 17 I went to a nearby Enterprise office to swap my lemon for a car that worked, then started tracking the travels of my miscreant suitcase. It reached New York in the afternoon and was sent from there to Detroit, from whence it was flown to Hartford an hour too late to be delivered to our place in Connecticut that same night. Since Mrs. T and I planned to drive to New York at noon on Tuesday, I decided to play it safe and pick the bag up at the airport first thing in the morning.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 18 I left the house at eight-fifteen and arrived at the Hartford airport at nine, only to find that the Delta baggage office, which was supposed to open at nine, was still shut tight. I could see my bag through the window and briefly considered breaking the glass and retrieving it, but then I recovered my senses and sat down to wait.
No one having showed up by nine-thirty, I raised a ruckus, after which somebody from Delta arrived at nine-forty-five to unlock the office and give me my bag, whose retractable handle had been broken somewhere between Portland and Hartford and could no longer be used. The baggage agent politely informed me that Delta doesn’t pay for broken retractable handles. I said something short and sharp, opened the bag to make sure that nothing was missing, and stalked out of the office.
(Third of four parts)
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The Bill Charlap Trio plays Leonard Bernstein’s “Lonely Town” (from On the Town). Peter Washington is the bassist, Kenny Washington the drummer:
A 1970 commercial for American Tourister luggage: