Let It Snow!
Twice in my life I’ve treated myself to a no-expense-spared vacation. The first was in 2000 when I went to Paris, and the second was in 2016 when I went to New York for the first BroadwayCon. On my deathbed, if I have any regrets it will be that I didn’t do more of that. I’ve treated myself to a couple other New York trips and intend to take more, but nothing will compare to that first one.
I saw Hamilton just as it was becoming HAMILTON!!!! There had been a lot of buzz about the show for at least a year, so I knew this was a show to spend the money on a ticket. Only five years ago and a $150 ticket to Hamilton sounds quaint. But there I was, row H on the aisle, the entire original cast. I’d purposely not heard the recording, and the production was everything people say it was.
When I went to BroadwayCon, there were scores of excited high-school drama club members and university drama majors swarming all over the Manhattan Hilton and every single one of them was shouting the lyrics to Hamilton. I’d never attended a convention like this and had no expectations. I’d bought the premium pass because I didn’t want to miss out on anything. And I didn’t. There was a sizzle to the event, as the first one. Was it going to be pulled off? Would people have a good time? There was a real feeling of Micky and Judy putting on a show. There were hiccups, but in a way they added to the charm. I enjoyed myself enough to buy a premium pass for the second BroadwayCon, which ended up being hosted at the Javits Center. That was fun, but lesson learned: you can’t recreate the magic of the first time.
BroadwayCon was a three-day event, beginning on Friday and going through Sunday afternoon. On Saturday it began to snow, and the snow was significant enough featured speakers were not able to get into the city. What’s a drama convention without a little drama? But everyone made do. People who were in town, but not booked for the convention came in and did meet and greets. People who hadn’t planned to give talks, gave talks. People sang. It was fresh. And the snow started to pile up.
At about noon, I was sitting in a room with about a hundred other people Jennifer Ashley Tepper giving a talk about the Broadway theatres. I love the old theatres. I’ve performed in both the Athaneum and Lyric Theatres in Chicago. I love them. Tepper has written a series of books about the histories of these temples in New York and everyone in the room was enthralled. Then every cellphone in the room exploded with a grating alarm. In New York City. A roomful of alarms going off. Hearts stopped. People rustled through pockets and bags trying to get to their phones. Personally, I had no idea my phone could make the sounds that were coming from it. On the screens of all the smartphones, the city had sent a warning and issued a command. The city was shutting down because of the snow. All cars had to be off the streets by 2:00. Or else! There might have been one or two people in the room who left, but most of us were tourists, and while I wasn’t one of them, almost everyone else had rooms in the Hilton. We all settled back in for Jennifer’s talk. I highly recommend her books.
I had a break after that, so I decided to go back to my hotel for a nap. All that energy is exhausting. By 2:00 the snow was already knee high. And there wasn’t a single car on the streets. I have no idea where they all went, but they were gone. Almost as if they’d never been there. It was eerie.
My hotel, the Manhattan was kitty-corner from Carnegie Hall, and my room overlooked 7th Avenue. I actually managed to have the same room for both of my BroadwayCon visits, which was kind of fun and kind of strange. I flipped on the television and tuned into MSNBC. They were saying that airports were going to be shutdown for days, and that if you planned to travel you should make alternate plans. I planned to travel. I called the airlines. I was on hold for hours. I started getting messages from friends, asking if I was all right. Of course I was. But then I made the realization that if I couldn’t get out of New York, was going to need a place to stay. And there I was in the most expensive hotel market on the planet needing a last-minute room. That’s when I panicked.
I hung up on the airlines and called the hotel. I’ve booked enough Manhattan hotel rooms to know the one I had could run eight or nine hundred dollars a night in peak season. It seemed like hours before I got through to hotel reservations, and all I could see was my credit card bill becoming second only to the national debt. And then I thought, what if my room was already booked by some other desperate traveler? Surely someone had already booked it. The agent not only assured me the room was available for three more nights, but that it would only be $99 a night. Only after I hung up and started to breathe again did I realize that if I couldn’t get out of New York, the people who would be using my room next probably couldn’t get in. So I relaxed and watched the snow come down. I ran out to the corner deli and bought supplies and returned to my room and splurged on renting a movie.
In the morning the snow was still coming down. People were sledding down 7th Avenue. I love New York, but never more than that silent Sunday morning when it was swathed in white. It was a family party. People made do. Everyone I saw was having fun because there was nothing else to do. The kids in the Hilton were getting calls from Patti LuPone offering to have pizza delivered. #sendpizzaPatti. For a day there was nothing to be, but happy. And so everyone was.
And then it was over. The convention. The snow. Monday morning the streets were filled with cars again and it was forty degrees. The snow turned to slush and people who had to live their real lives were grumpy trying to get around. Travelers were still stuck, though. My flight was going out until Tuesday morning. I was still in New York, but my vacation was over. I was ready to go home. And eager to come back. I’ve been back twice since then, and am itching for the world to open back up so I can return. But as the city is being pummeled once again with snow, I’m just a little jealous of the inhabitants.