Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Black Hole Part 2

As many of you know, a few years ago on my way to Myrtle Beach for Radio City rehearsals, I was stranded in Atlanta overnight. Well, since lightening strikes in the same place, here is the story from the Black Hole Part 2.

My parents drove me to the Salt Lake City International Airport. I checked my luggage to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I asked if my flight was on schedule from Atlanta to Myrtle Beach, and I was told at that point it was. I said goodbye to Mom and Dad at security. I boarded the first plane that would take me to the Atlanta airport (aka the Black Hole). The flight was a little bumpy because of turbulence. At one point, the pilot came overhead and told us that due to weather in Atlanta, we possibly couldn’t land there so we could be diverted to Tallahassee or Austin. I thought, “Oh no, here we go again.” Then 20 minutes later, the pilot came on the overhead speaker and told the passengers to prepare for landing in Atlanta. What was that all about?!

We landed in Atlanta. I walked to the gate where my next flight would depart. When I arrived at the gate, the flight was on time for its scheduled departure. Good! I met up with two Little People who were in my cast, Amy and Cezar. Amy was from Tucson and started her journey at 7 AM. Cezar was from Connecticut (originally from Poland) and began early that morning as well. Amy and Cezar’s flight to Myrtle Beach had been canceled so they were on the stand by list for my flight.

My flight kept getting delayed later and later. It was originally supposed to leave at 7:05 PM. After many posted delays and a gate change, I finally boarded the plane around 9:30 PM. By some miracle, Cezar got on my flight. (It turned out to be good for me, but bad for him.) Unfortunately, Amy didn’t make the flight. All the rest of the flights were canceled to Myrtle Beach that evening so our company manager, Tim O’Donnell, found her a hotel room in Atlanta.

Cezar and I were excited to finally get off the ground and get to Myrtle Beach that evening. The plane pushed away from the gate, and then stopped. A half an hour went by and we didn’t go anywhere. I was totally frustrated because I had an aisle seat and I couldn’t see what was going on outside. I am so OCD! Finally, after a half an hour the pilot came on and said that the crew was over on the FAA’s 16 hours maximum and so the flight was grounded. It was unclear as to whether there would be another flight crew awaiting us at the gate that could fly us to Myrtle Beach.

We seriously drove around the Atlanta airport for an hour looking for an empty gate to park the airplane. The pilot finally came on and said that they were having a hard time finding an empty gate because either all the planes were loading passengers or the airplanes were broken. Nice, an airport full of broken planes! I totally disregarded the no cell phone rule and pulled out my cell phone. I called company manager Tim to tell him we were probably not going anywhere that evening. He worked on getting me and Cezar hotel rooms.

Finally after being on the plane for two hours and not going anywhere, we were allowed to get off the plane! Free at last, free at last! Once we got off the plane, they told us our flight was canceled and we had to go to the ticketing counter to rebook our flight.

After standing in that line for two hours, I was able to pull up our reservations on my iPhone app. We were both booked on flights the next day. Cezar was to leave at 9 AM and my flight left at 2 PM. We abandoned the ticket counter line and got in the taxi line. I felt like I was at Disneyland with all of the standing in line. Our next big ride was about to begin. Cezar and I finally got a taxi. Tim had text us the hotel information and confirmation numbers for our hotel rooms.

At 1 AM, we of course got the worst taxi driver ever! He drove around lost for a half an hour! What should have been a 15 minute ride was a 45 minute ride. The driver even had a GPS! He kept muttering it wasn’t working and hitting it. I thought it was very entertaining and was laughing my head off.

Then he pulled over on a dark empty street in Atlanta. Then I thought, “And this is how my story ends....” They will find my dead body along the side of the road in Atlanta. I realized then the only way to get out of the Black Hole was through death. So be it!

In reality, he finally got his GPS working and drove us to the hotel. I gave the guy $28 for the ride. (It was $25 on the meter and I gave him a $3 tip for getting us lost. I thought that was very generous!) After I gave him the money, he said something about an airport surcharge. I had no idea what he was talking about (and I wasn’t going to give him any more money) so I just walked into the hotel. As I walked into the hotel, I heard him say something about taking $5 off for getting us lost. I thought, “Do whatever you need to do to justify the money I gave you.” I was totally over it. I checked into the Ramada Suites Limited near the Atlanta airport. It was pretty sketchy as hotels go but typical for an airport hotel. I tried not to think about it and just went to sleep. I went to bed around 2:30 AM.

By the time I got up at 8:30 AM, Amy and Cezar were already at the Atlanta airport for their 9 AM flight. I was glad I wasn't them! I was still scheduled for the 2 PM flight. I got ready for the day and went down to the free breakfast in the hotel lobby which consisted of cereal and stale donuts. Tim the company manager called while I was eating and told me he got me on the 11:30 AM flight. I hurried to finish eating, went up to my room, grabbed my bag, and checked out of the hotel. I took the hotel’s shuttle back to the airport. I printed out my new boarding pass for the 11:30 AM flight. I went through security and walked to my gate.

The plane loaded on schedule. The passengers were all in our seats. I was blessed to have an empty seat next to me. They close the door and the gangway folds back. But we didn’t go anywhere. After sitting there for a half an hour, the pilot finally comes on the speaker and says we had a loose floorboard on the plane. I thought, “Are you kidding me?!” The pilot told us to make ourselves comfortable because maintenance was on their way to fix it. I figured that was the story of my life. I text Mom and Tim and they think I’m kidding. Of course, I’m such a funny girl! I text back, “Do you think I would kid about a thing like this?!” They both text back, “No!” The flight attendant was super annoying. (Maybe by this time, I thought any flight attendant would be annoying.) Anyway, he busts out the snack cart and serves us drinks and snacks. I thought that was a bad sign if we were getting fed before we even left the ground. Finally an hour after we are scheduled to leave, the plane moves away from the gate. Then we wait in line for another half an hour to take off. To say I showed up late to Myrtle Beach would be a gross understatement. I missed my first rehearsal.

Taking into consideration the time change, it took me 24 hours to travel from Salt Lake City, Utah to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. All I kept thinking was, “It was faster than the pioneers.” Just trying to keep a little perspective.

The Big 3-2

Over a week ago, I had my 32nd birthday. It was great! I'm used to being 32 because I have been telling people that is how old I am since January. Now it's just official!

I began the celebration a week before I left for Radio City with my parents. We went to Cracker Barrel (my choice) for dinner because I wanted their blueberry pancakes. They tasted delicious! Then we continued the celebration at home with tres leches birthday cake from Cafe Rio!

Then the celebration continued on the eve of my birthday. Some members of the cast met at Burro Loco for dinner. I had a great time getting to know new people and discovering what an awesome cast we have this year. Here are some pictures from the celebration:

To me, nothing says "Happy Birthday" like sitting on a wooden donkey wearing an oversized hat!

I received many phone calls, text messages, and Facebook messages wishing me a happy birthday on my actual birthday.

A few days after my birthday, I went to Coldstone to get my free ice cream for my birthday. I got cake batter ice cream with yellow cake mix-in so I got cake and ice cream to celebrate my birthday!

The messages continued to trickle in for days afterward. I think I was able to spread my birthday over a week's worth of time because of my late well wishers! Thank you!

I love birthdays-mine, yours, anyone! This birthday was a fabulous one. I love the age I am and the wonderful opportunities that I have been blessed with.

Monday, November 1, 2010

NYC-My Happiest Place on Earth

It's that time of year again: Time for the Winn Girls Annual Trip to NYC. Somehow we keep having more fun and finding more things to do in this city that never sleeps. After the trip was over, Mom said, "This was the best trip to NYC we have ever had." Amen sister!!

Mom’s sister, Caren, picked us up from the airport in New Jersey and drove us in to New York City. She dropped us off at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Times Square. We checked in to the hotel while she parked the car (which is no easy feat nor cheap endeavor in the city). Our room was on the 23rd floor and overlooked Times Square. We got settled and then headed out to Times Square.

We walked to Patzeria Perfect Pizza across from the Marriott Marquis Hotel. I still think it is the best pizza in New York City! We walked across the street and saw the musical The Addams Family with Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth. Mom and I had seats in the wheelchair section at the back of the orchestra level. (Wheelchair seating is how we can afford to go to so many Broadway shows.) When we got there, the usher asked us if we wanted to sit closer. We said sure! We were on the seventh row from the stage! The Addams Family was so funny! I loved seeing Nathan and Bebe perform live. During the performance, one of the light bulbs popped. Everyone, including Nathan and Bebe onstage, heard the pop of the light. Nathan and Bebe then went into hysterical laughing. They had no idea what happened; they just heard what sounded like a gunshot! At one point, Bebe shielded her eyes from the glare of the spotlight and asked if everyone in the audience was alright. They finally stopped laughing enough to go on with the show. I love live theater!

After the show, we stood by the stage door and got some of the actors’ autographs. Nathan went out a different door so we didn’t talk with him. Bebe came out the stage door and talked with us while she signed our playbills and we took her picture.

Mom and I sat at Duffy Square in Times Square for a little while. It was fun to be back in my city. Oh how I’ve missed it!

The next morning, we walked to a nearby deli for breakfast. We rode the subway to Brooklyn and didn’t even get lost! We walked from the subway to the Brooklyn Bridge. We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. The distance was over a mile. We stopped frequently to take pictures and read plaques and other information along the way. It was fun to walk across the bridge.

When we got back in to Manhattan, we walked to Century 21 (the department store). We didn’t find anything worth buying. Everything was still overpriced for me! We rode the subway up to our hotel on 51st Street. We went to TKTS. and bought three orchestra seats to Promises, Promises. My aunt Caren met up with us at the Crowne Plaza.
By the time we left for dinner, it was pouring rain outside.
My feet were soaken wet! We walked to a nearby French restaurant called Pigalle. The food was delicious! We didn’t want to walk back to our hotel so we stopped in a different hotel lobby to dry out from the rain and to wait until the theatre opened. When we got to the theatre, I was walking to find a restroom in the theatre’s lobby when I was stopped by the house manager. He asked me where my seat was. I told him orchestra level row x. He said because of height restrictions he needed to change my seat. I told him I had two other people with me. He changed our seats to box seats on the mezzanine level. It was nice because no one was in front of us. We had an awesome view of the stage. I was sad that I wasn’t able to see Kristin Chenoweth in the performance but what can you do?! She obviously didn't get the memo I was in town! Sean Hayes did an amazing job! He was so funny! I loved his performance! Molly Shannon was funny but you could tell she had just started the role. I really enjoyed the show!
After the show, Caren was able to get us backstage because she is a friend of a friend of Sean Hayes. We gave the stage manager at the stage door our names. He ushered us on to the stage where we waited for Sean. While we waited, we talked with Sean’s dresser. Then Sean came on stage and talked with us for a few minutes. Of course we told him how great his performance was that evening. He was very nice! Sean had some other people waiting for him so he left us to talk with them. We then went back out the stage door. As we walked out the stage door, we heard an audible "Oh" from those waiting at the stage door for Sean and Molly. It was a disappointed "Oh"; not an excited one.
We waited to get Molly Shannon’s autograph for our playbill and a picture. Molly Shannon is the real deal! She makes me laugh (on and off stage!)! I enjoyed listening to her talk to the other people at the stage door.
The next day, we bought muffins and fruit for breakfast from the same nearby deli. We rode the subway to the Manhattan Temple. We were a little early so we walked across the street to Barnes and Noble. Then we spent a few hours in the Manhattan Temple. It is such a beautiful, peaceful, and calm place in the middle of a crazy city.

We walked to Serendipity III for lunch. Mom had a frozen hot chocolate. I had some of that. I got a cinnamon ice cream sundae with caramel. Mom helped me eat that! It was delicious! I absolutely love Serendipity III-the food, the ambiance, etc. I HIGHLY recommend it.

We walked to the Gershwin Theatre to pick up our tickets for Wicked that evening. While Mom was getting the tickets, I was looking at the cast list in the lobby. I saw my friend, Al’s, name on the list. (I worked with Al at Radio City in 2007.) I was so excited! I missed seeing him perform when I saw Wicked in Seattle last year. After Mom got the tickets, we walked in the stage door of the Gershwin Theatre, and I gave the guy behind the desk a note for Al. Mom and I hurried back to the hotel to change for the evening. I received a text from Al about 20 minutes later that said we could meet at the stage door after the show and talk.

Mom and I watched Wicked. I don’t know how many times I have seen the show so let’s just say too many to count. This time I watched the ensemble instead of the main characters which I had never done before. The ensemble does so much in the show that I never realized before. Al did an amazing job! He is such a great dancer! He had some pretty awesome costumes too! I was able to find him in every scene he was onstage except for when he was in the flying monkey scene. I love Wicked!

After the show ended, I hurried to the stage door and waited for Al. Al came out soon after and we talked for a few minutes. He asked if I wanted to go on stage and have a look around. I said sure! I grabbed Mom from the line of autograph seekers behind the barricades and we went with Al. We rode the elevator up to the stage. He showed us some of the props (Wizomania tickets, wands, green bottles, brooms, etc), quick change areas, and some of the sets (the cornstalks from Munchkinland, the Wizard's throne, etc). We took a few pictures on stage. While we were onstage, PJ Benjamin who played the Wizard came up to us to see who we were. Al introduced us to him. He was very nice. Al showed us where the trap doors were on the stage, as well as vents, microphones, and the tracks that move the sets on and off the stage. Al and I caught each other up on the people we knew in common. I had a great evening with a good friend seeing my favorite show onstage and backstage! It was an awesome day all the way around with all my favorite things! Manhattan Temple + Serendipity + Wicked = Perfect Day

The next day Mom and I ate breakfast in the hotel's restaurant because we received two free vouchers for breakfast because they couldn’t find me a two-step step stool at the hotel. It was a buffet so I had waffles, French toast, strawberries, blueberries, bacon, and orange juice. I certainly got my money's worth! :) It tasted delicious! We walked to the theatre where A Little Night Music was performing and bought two seats for the matinee that day. (We checked TKTS for tickets but they didn't have it listed on the board.) Broadway legends, Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch performed in it. Bernadette was amazing! I was so glad I got to see and hear her sing live and in person. I really enjoyed the musical! Finally, I didn’t sleep through the Saturday matinee! Yea! That hasn't happened for a while!

Mom and I saw the play Driving Miss Daisy. I believe it was the first play I had ever seen on Broadway. Usually, all I see are musicals. James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave performed in the play. They did such a wonderful job! I really enjoyed the play. After the play, Mom and I waited and waited and waited for them to come out the stage door. There were two sides waiting for them to come out. James came out, went directly to his car, and left.

Vanessa spent time with those of us waiting for autographs and pictures. She went to the other side first. She spent FOR-EVER at the other side. She was even chatting and taking pictures with people that didn’t even see the play that just happened to be walking past at the moment!! She finally came to where Mom and I were. She talked with us while she signed our playbills. She asked us if we could get our picture together. We said sure. They moved the barricades so we could get a decent picture. She asked if I wanted my "Mum" to be in the picture. I said sure. She gave the camera to a boy Vanessa kept calling Amon. He took a picture. Then Vanessa said, “Let me see it.” She didn’t’ like the first one because she said it was too far away. She told Amon to take another picture, but to zoom in so it was just the three of us in the picture. He did as he was told. Then Vanessa wanted to see the picture again. She liked this picture better. Vanessa then asked if we wanted another picture. We figured we had taken enough of her time so we said no but thanked her for her time. We got out of the way so many other people could get her autograph and picture. We talked to Amon until he and Vanessa got in her car and drove away.

On Sunday, Mom and I rode the subway to church (at the same place as the Manhattan Temple). We attended sacrament meeting with the Manhattan 1st Ward. One of the speakers gave an interesting talk that included the statistics of the ward. For all of my LDS friends, you might find these statistics interesting:
About 426 members in the ward
Ward boundaries: 42nd St to 80-something St/5th Ave to Hudson River
7 Young Men
7 Young Women
27 children in Primary
24 babies in Nursery
11 babies born in the last year with another one expected any day
6 cars owned by ward members

After the closing prayer, the bishop asked those who were attending for the first time and visitors to stand. I would guess at least 65% of the people stood up. Wow!
Mom and I met my friend Brad Galey across the street after church. (Brad performs in New York's Radio City Christmas Spectacular.) We walked to a nearby Mexican restaurant and enjoyed lunch together. Brad did most of the talking which was fine with me. After an hour and a half, Mom and I had to go in order to catch our flight home.
This was the BEST NYC trip we have ever had. We got so many perks like better seats and backstage passes. I was able to see friends, like Al and Brad. I can't wait to see what next year brings!