Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Return of the Traveling Music Teacher

It’s been three months since I set foot in an airport trailing my two trusty bags. There are no “welcome back!” signs, high fives from the ticket agents or nods of recognition from the Starbucks employees. I guess plane travel has gone on just fine without me—and I have been just fine without it. And yet there is a homey familiarity and twinge of excitement knowing I’m about to be catapulted into a markedly different reality, from Frankfort, Michigan to Frankfort, Germany— same first names, but whole different landscapes, histories, language, culture. Not that I’ll partake of much of the German Frankfort beyond the airport, because it’s a mere stop en route to Verona, Italy.

Why Verona? Is it a pilgrimage to rub Juliet’s breast for luck? (It’s a statue, folks). Hear opera again in La Arena, the outdoor theater where, in 1973 on tour with my college choir, we went to Ponchielli’s La Giocanda? (There’s a short ballet in that opera called “Dance of the Hours” and I almost fell out of my seat when I recognized the Alan Sherman song “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadda!” That was my innocent “ugly American” moment). Or simply eat great pasta at sidewalk cafes?

Alas, nothing quite so romantic. Though I may do all three of the above, the real purpose is to put the traveling-Orff-teacher hat back on that I wore way back in January, February, March when I started this blog. There’s a three-day course for Italian Orff teachers and it’s time to get back into teaching mode. I’m not sure yet if I’m teaching in English or Spanish or simply gesture, but no matter, we’ll figure it out. But first a short hop from Traverse City, Michigan to Chicago that leaves at 3:44 and arrives at 3:40 (quite a feat of time travel). Then a seven-hour layover in Chicago. (Note to self—start reading the travel agent’s arrangements a little more closely.)

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Now in Chicago, arrived from a plane small enough that some passengers had to move to the back to evenly distribute the weight. So proud of myself, remembering a hidden outlet to the right of Wolfgang Pucks where I can write this without losing battery power. But alas! no juice. So it’s the modern hunter’s search for a free source of electricity and score! in the walkway between gates D and B/C, there’s one on the silver air units. And it works!

Of course, all of this would be solved by the Red Carpet Club, where I once had privileges as a United Gold Card Premier Executive. But despite my lifelong allegiance, they either upped the requirements or I flew under the minimum one year and they demoted me to the lowly Silver Premier. “Too bad, buddy— you’re out with the huddled masses, sitting on the floor leaning against a post munching on your $4 Dirty Potato Chips while we’re in plush chairs replenishing our free drinks and snacks.” When will we start to discuss class in this country?

I’m sure I’ll ask this again when I board the plane and walk back through the plush first-class cabins through business class through Economy Plus to my cramped little seat in row 40. Why don’t they put the cheap seats up front and spare us the misery? Do they really need to taunt and torture us by making us walk through the seats of our dreams, with their fold down beds, private videos, smiling attendants who call you by name and say in their sexy voices, “More champagne?” while we peasants sit in seats designed by the Masochist Engineering Department watching the same movie we’ve already seen twice with the seat in front one inch from our nose? Do they really need to rub it in as we parade down the aisle from the luxurious to the bearable to our seats? Soon I imagine it will keep going to the hard-bench- church-pews to the standing room only cabin to the isolation chamber imported from San Quentin.

And by the way, what did these Corporate Executives do to deserve this anyway? Exploited some sweat-shop workers in Asia, sold their product regardless of its effect on human health and happiness, climbed over their colleagues to get the big desk by the window? Do they really need one more glass of champagne? Shouldn’t some other profession, say the dedicated lowly Music Teacher, be given some strokes for caretaking the bodies, minds and souls of our nation’s children? Well, really, why not?

With five more hours of layover, the long trip across the Atlantic, another three hour layover in Frankfort, arrive in Verona 6:30 tomorrow night and teach the next day, I better have more positive thoughts than these! Stay tuned—I’ll be checking back in.

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18 hours since I left the shores of Lake Michigan and I arrived safely in Frankfort. The flight turned out to be pleasant enough, immersed in the world of Water for Elephants, a spontaneous buy while browsing the Chicago Airport bookstore. And then I fell asleep before the end of The Adjustment Bureau video. (Can anyone tell me if Matt Damon got the girl?) Now gratitude to Frankfort Airport, which unlike its American counterparts, has many seats without armrests inviting you to stretch out and sleep. And another great perk, at least in the Lufthansa area—free coffee and tea machines with choices like cappuccino, expresso, machiatto, café latte, hot chocolate, roiboos tea, etc. Yes, free! But boo-hiss to both Frankfort and Chicago, who have yet to follow San Francisco and other airports and offer Free Wi-fi. So the actual posting of this scintillating travel blog will have to wait, keeping my readers in edge-of-their-seat-suspense. J

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Okay, suspense is over. I arrived in Verona on time without incident, my bags arrived and the person who was supposed to meet me was actually there to meet me. It doesn't always go so well. Out to the workshop sight, a pasta dinner and at 9:15 pm here and who knows what body-time, the fun game of “let’s see if I can sleep through the night.” Wish me luck!

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