Here I am at Heathrow in London, somewhat peeved at the British security system. Also at the fact that gate numbers aren’t posted till shortly before boarding, making it compulsory to sit amidst waves of clashing perfume and shopping music, in a mall of overpriced items and common duty-free enticements, while waiting to be told where to go. There’s no settling in to work or think before the flight – glances at the gate assignment board every two minutes rule that out. The only people who seem thrilled to be here are a group of Japanese high school students, girls and boys alike, perusing the virtual warehouse of cosmetics and brilliantly-colored designer displays with puzzling looks of sated ecstasy on their faces. Everyone else appears perplexed, isolated, tired, overwhelmed, or numbed to their surroundings.
Well, it’s time for me to head to Gate 9, as bidden by the airport. Off I go. More later.
So, now I’m sitting at the gate, after yet another security procedure. I understand caution and appreciate efforts to keep everyone safe. But this is really too much, and I’m miffed because I don’t like being made to feel like a criminal when all I’m doing is paying an airline to take me from one city to the next. In the States, it’s common procedure to remove one’s jacket, belt, jewelry, and shoes before sending one’s belongings through the X-ray machine. That used to feel invasive, but I’m accustomed to it now. There’s no privacy when one’s larger bags are inspected in one’s absence three times a week – but I’m used to that too. (For someone like me, living out of suitcases, it’s like having a uniformed government agent rummage through one’s entire apartment and all of one’s possessions, with bomb detectors and gloves, twice weekly, just because.) What annoys me, what I’m not used to, is what I went through today just to fly to Copenhagen: security questions at the check-in counter, boarding-pass check at the head of security, a half-hour wait in line, separating everything into assigned bins yet being told not to remove my belt, necklace, or shoes, which of course set off the metal detector when walking through, then a full body rub (not even a pat-down), an inside-of-belt inspection, being commanded to remove my shoes, waiting for them to be x-rayed, putting them back on, then being shepherded with all the rest of the passengers into a specific shoe-removal/x-ray area, going through the process again, being sent to wait for my gate assignment, having my passport checked again at the gate, and finally looking at the crowd gathering to board on the plane and realizing that the Pakistani family in front of me probably had it a lot worse than I did. Even though, granted, I did have the singular experience of being asked sharply if that’s a musical instrument I was carrying, so that I could be treated to an eye-rolling and tongue-clicking by the security guard upon his receipt of an affirmative answer. We all have different challenges.
Despite this, security checks aside, I still love traveling. Surprisingly, the enforced tedium of a long flight is relaxing, and little is more exciting to me than arriving in a city without knowing precisely what awaits at the end of the day. I like living out of suitcases – it constantly reminds me what’s extraneous – and after a decade of full-time performing, I find hotels to be nearly as homey as my own apartment. I still enjoy stepping out the front door of a building and exploring whatever’s around the corner. Most of all, though, it’s hard to beat making music every day and meeting people who place great value in the arts.
Now I’m on the plane. This flight has been a while in coming: I’d switched to an evening departure when I realized that my violin needed additional in-shop adjustment after yesterday’s fingerboard maintenance, bridge touchup, and seam gluing at Beare’s. My violin proved unusually finicky until we hit just the right spots for bridge, soundpost, and tailpiece placement, and fit in one last, tiny glue job (the varnish had begun to develop an invisible but audible fault on the wing of one of the f-holes). I’m not one to adjust endlessly, so it was a relief to get it right so that my instrument can finally go back to being as stable, reliable, and beautiful as it normally is. I’ll change the strings tonight when I arrive at the hotel, and then it’s forward ho, into this last stretch of Sibelius before the recording sessions.
For now, though, I get to fly my favorite airline – SAS – to Copenhagen, a city I always enjoy visiting. The seat next to me is empty; I’ll swing my feet up and slumber until dinner is served, and then I’ll watch a TV show or listen to NPR on my iPod for the rest of the trip. Or maybe I’ll study Spanish. I’m going to Honduras in a few weeks, and for that reason, I picked up a good, thick language dictionary (with grammar and idioms) in the course of a walk around London last night. Thanks to my past French studies, it took me all of one minute to learn to count to one hundred in Spanish. Whether that will do me any good remains to be seen. Language #5, here I come!
Yours from the road,