Location: New York, New York

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

May 10, 2005

Here is a report on what I did on May 5 starting the morning in Frankfurt, Germany:

Getting Anne to her plane was easy. With me it was a little harder. We slept at the creepy Sheraton Hotel at the Frankfurt airport. I slept OK and was up at six in the morning. I saw her through security at 10:45. I then went back and checked out of the hotel. I had already checked through my suitcase and got my boarding pass for my 5:22 flight much earlier. Around eleven I headed for Wiesbaden to pick up the 16mm film projector I had been given in Arhus, Denmark. I had left it in Wiesbaden on the 30th after lugging it along with me from city to city starting on April 22. Ulrike, the director of the Wiesbaden film festival had agreed to hold it for me. Heading there all I had with me was my carry on bag. I also had a suitcase trolly. It was on its last legs having shed part of one wheel as I was pulling it along the plush carpet at the Sheraton. I arrived in Wiesbaden around noon. I got there for free not having bought a ticket for the commuter train. I called Ulrike and found the number was no good. I then walked to the Villa Clementine where I hoped the people there would have a better number. That was where we had slept and the projector had been left. The Villa houses the Press Club. I rang the several buzzers, including Atelier, and got no response. I sat on the steps and drank the warm beer that was in my bag. It had been part of a Konnik four pack which had been given to me in Antwerp as a gift. Anne was given a box of chocolates. I then walked to the Caligari Cinema where I showed the films and also found it locked tight. I went into a big, trendy coffee shop and asked for directions to a internet cafe. The bartender told me it was a holiday and not much would be open. He directed me to one that he thought would be. It was closed. At a bus stop I asked two young women if they spoke English. They didn't, but an older man said he did. I asked him for directions. He said he didn't know of any. He seemed willing to help so I showed him the phone number and asked what numbers needed to be deleted or if a 0 needed to be added. He tried several of them on his cell phone with no happy result. As his bus pulled up he said "Down this street is a big hotel. They should have the internet for you." He was a good guy. At the Crown Plaza Hotel a woman behind a counter gave me directions to another internet cafe called Nemesis. It was open. I got on line and saw that in an email from Ulrike sent a few days earlier she had included a cell phone number. I emailed her that I was in town and would be calling. Using one of the booths at Nemesis I tried it and only got a woman speaking German that sounded like bad news. There was no chance to leave a message. Since it was to a cell phone the two times I called it cost me 35 cents each. The helpful clerk tried it. He said the voice was saying that the cell phone was not responding. That meant it was probably turned off. He said that the number from the booth would be left for the cell phone owner, but that phone did not have a ringer. I emailed Ulrike again telling her I would stay at the Nemesis waiting a reply. I was not too concerned as it was a nice day and it was only one thirty. I could stay in Wiesbaden until 3:40 and still make my flight. At 2:00 I walked back to the Villa Clementine. There I found someone. They were guests and knew nothing about Ulrike. They did take me to the back staircase where I went down to the landing to see if the projector would be sitting where I had last left it. It wasn't there.

I went back to the Nemesis. I again tried the cell phone number and got the same response. There was no reply to my email. At 3:15 I gave up and walked to the station. I bought a three dollar ticket for the 3:42 train to the airport. I called Ulrike one last time. She answered. She said she had been at the hospital with her mother and had to shut the phone off there. She was very apologetic. I told her I was the one burdening her and that I hoped her mom was ok. She told me she could have the projector at the station in ten minutes. That would just let me get the train. Outside I looked for a box to put the projector in so I could check it through. I had cleared with Lufthansa when I checked in that I could check through another bag later. I found a trash compactor with some flattened boxes outside. None was the right size. I reached in the opening and started pulling out more. I could see a box, no flattened, that would be perfect. It was for Chinese noodles. All the writing on it was in English and Chinese. I could have found the same box in NY or anyplace else in the USA. Getting it out of the machine was tough. I tore one corner extracting it. I also found styrofoam packing material and some weird black foam rubber of unknown usage. Ulrike soon showed up. I threw the projector into the box and loaded up the trolly. It was 3:42. Inside I found I had just missed the train. Luckily there was another one at 3:57. My flight would start boarding at 4:20. It was a thirty three minute train ride to the airport. At 4:35 I was at the Lufthansa counter. I was told the bag had to be checked through within ten minutes for it to make the flight. They also told me they had no tape. I was flabbergasted. All airline counters have rolls of strong tape for customers to use. The helpful clerk pulled out several of the long baggage tags that after printing are stuck to the bags. They were blank. Peeling off the back left two inch wide by twenty inch long pieces of strong tape. She gave me enough to close up the box enough to get it through the nearby x-ray machine. The x-ray attendants could not just look at the projector before I put it in the box. I knew it would have to be opened once it went through. I was right. I had about five minutes to get the projector out, get it back in and taped up. I got the box open and pulled the styrofoam and weird black stuff out. The projector was laying on its side with no front cover. The attendant recognized it as a projector. No kid in America his age would have been able to do that. He ok'd it without taking it out and seeing if plastic explosives had been packed in among the gears. The helpful clerk came over with more of the pieces of baggage identification stickers. We both starting peeling and sticking. It took eight of them to close up the torn corner. I also reinforced the bottom. With one minute to spare it was sent along the conveyor belt to the plane. The clerk then told me I would have to hurry to make my flight as I would have to pass through passport control and two security gates. Two security gates? I took off pulling the trolly behind me with my carryon bag on it. The bum wheel was holding up fine. There was no line at the first security check. There was no line at passport control and I was asked no questions before my passport was stamped. The second security check had no metal detector door to pass through. A guy passed a wand over me, paying especial attention to the metal zipper on my khaki pants. He then did a very careful pat down search not sparing my genitals. It was close to five O'clock. I heard an announcement that said my flight would soon be closing. I was at gate 65. It was the last gate at the end of a very long hall. The three moving sidewalks going that way were all closed for unknown reasons. I got to the plane as the last people were being put on. I've cut it closer than that. Walking to the gate when they are announcing your name through the whole airport is closer, but not by a lot. I was on the plane at 5:15 and within half an hour were in the air heading west.

At JFK the box came down the chute to the luggage carousel with the first bags. It had not burst open which surprised me. I then waited over half an hour for the film bag. It had probably been one of the first bags put on board. Due to Draconian immigration controls most of the foreign arrivals on my flight were still not there to get their bags. Unclaimed bags piled up three deep on the carousel all along its path. My bag finally came down. I now had to hope the trolly would last until I rolled it through the lobby of our apartment. I had to use it from the get go as the previously free luggage carts at JFK now cost three bucks to use. I put the box on the trolley first and the sixty pound bag on second. My land luggage went on top. It was much more weight that the trolly had been designed for. Luckily there was a elevator to the "train to the plane" that would take me to the nearby subway for five bucks. An escalator took me down to the platform. That would be the last escalator I would see. The NY subway system is not handicap friendly. Things were going reasonably smoothly when I got off the A train to switch to the 1 line at 59th street. Exiting the train I had to pick up the whole load and carry it up a flight of stairs. It probably weighed a hundred pounds. At the top it directed me to cross over to the downtown lines to get to the 1 uptown. I picked up the load and carried it down the stairs. Once there I found I was not on the one platform at all. The only trains that stopped there were A's and D's. I carried the load back up the stairs. It was now four in the morning Frankfurt time. I had been up since six and was getting loopy. I left everything on the upper landing and went back down to the platform. I then figured out what was wrong. From the upper landing you can only exit the subway. From the lower platform you have to walk along the platform, underneath where the turnstiles are, and to a staircase at the end of the platform that takes you to the other part of system. Once there I had to pick up the load one more time and go up the stairs. A few steps later I had to repeat the process. I was finally on the right level for the 1 train. If I could get everything up the stairs at 110th street and trolly wheel didn't crap out completely I would be home in half an hour. I got everything to street level at 110th and wheeled the load to our apartment. I am very glad we live in an elevator building.


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