I've passed through Philly (do the natives call it that?) various times on the train en route to Washington or Baltimore, but was last actually in the city in the '70s. My college friend M (mentioned in the old diary as that very smart "blond kid") went to med school at Penn (in "Filthydelphia"), and I visited 3 times.
One of those times was when I met my father at a surgical convention in Bala Cynwyd (my parents had moved to Florida by then). We heard Shelley Winters was staying in our hotel but didn't see her. Daddy and I had a seafood dinner at Bookbinder's. I spent an afternoon with M and we walked around Society Hill. The other two visits were pleasant too, and I only have good memories of Philadelphia. It's a real city.
This visit was good too, though very brief. IFC took care of everything. Jon and I were on the same Acela (familiar from crosswords) train Tuesday afternoon. I arrived at 12:30 for the 1 pm train, and faced a long line to pick up tickets. I soon realized there was a separate Acela line, which was shorter but extremely slow. An electronic sign claimed it was 6/22/05, so we had even gone back in time.
I finally got my tickets, and we headed to the track. I had been on the Metroliner long ago, but not the Acela. We settled into comfy seats and brought out our reading material. I had my iPod and headphones, and said something to Jon over the music. Apparently it was pretty loud because the conductor reprimanded me. But wait? Aren't you allowed to talk on a train? I do speak louder than I realize sometimes, but is that a crime?
Well, it is when you're on a "quiet car." After I got warned a second time, it sunk in that the conductor was telling me noise was frowned upon in THIS car. Oops. We occupied ourselves quietly with puzzles, magazines, and music and before I knew it, there was the river and the skyline and we were in Philadelphia. Super-fast trip. It could take longer to get to parts of Brooklyn.
We were told to look for a driver by an angel statue, and sure enough there he was. He held out his hand, and I shook it. Uh no, he wants to take your bag, pointed out Jon. Oops. We got in the car and soon reached the Sofitel. There was a line to check in, so instead I greeted Patrick and Will, who were being interviewed in the lobby (actually, the bar, which took up most of the lobby). Jon and I sat in, and this interviewer seemed to know what he was talking about, and had seen the movie.
I checked in, and went up to the room. Or tried to, since I couldn't get the elevator to accept my room key (needed to access the upper floors). I finally figured out how to work the card and reached the 12th floor. I don't know if all the rooms were similar, but I had a suite. Glass and wood double doors connected a living room, bedroom, dressing room, and huge bathroom. Very nice.
Unpacking, I felt like I was on the "Candid Camera" episode where people are shown an apartment without a bathroom. Except instead of no bathroom, there was no chest of drawers. There was a small drawer in the desk, smaller ones in the stands on each side of the bed, but nothing in the TV cabinets in either the living room or bedroom. The closest alternative was a few shelves in the closet, so I threw my stuff there. I also at various times could not find (but then found) the thermostat, light switch, and my necklace. Later one of the IFC people confirmed there were indeed no discernible drawers.
Back in the lobby, Merl had arrived, as well as Patrick's mother, who was also at Stamford and Sundance. I've seen her 3 times since January, while the last time I saw my own mother was Passover last year. One of Patrick's sisters was also here, up from DC. The Creadon-O'Malley clan alone should insure good box-office for the movie.
As Will, Patrick and Merl were interviewed for various media outlets, I sat in a corner near Jon attempting to hook into free wireless, but the connection was iffy. I could see my E-mail list, but everything froze upon opening, so I'll have to handle it back home. Lots of responses to the Tribeca ticket raffle. Tyler arrived. Donna the local press person said she gave my name to a Jewish paper, who may call in the future. I reminded her Jon is also Jewish.
We all needed to do video interviews for the web site (going live soon), and I went up for my turn. It was in a suite directly below mine. I couldn't think of many interesting anecdotes, and hope I didn't say anything too embarrassing. I was never good at speech in school, so it's odd to be in any kind of speaking role. I'm much better in print. We saw the "teaser" (not the full trailer) which was neat.
Nothing else was scheduled for a while, so I sat in different places in the lobby, trying to get the best wireless spot. Nothing was great, but now I could at least open the E-mail, keeping it to read more carefully later. The guys wanted to have Philly cheese steak, and went to a nearby place, splitting a few sandwiches among them since we were eating dinner shortly.
For the trip to the movie theater, IFC had what can only be called a "party bus," a large vehicle with upholstered seats along the sides. Pictures were taken (IF YOU HAVE PIX, PLEASE SEND THEM TO ME). We piled in, ready to party.
At the theater, we were told the long line of people out front was for "Wordplay." Will went in to see the movie as he had already eaten, Patrick was introducing the film and then going back to the hotel to do his video segment, and the rest of us were going to dinner. We milled around the lobby a bit, taking pictures next to the "sold out" sign. Jon wanted to leave his bag, and the theater manager at first said he couldn't guarantee its safety, and then was accommodating when he found out Jon was in the movie, locking the bag in the box office.
The restaurant recommended to Donna was supposed to be 2 blocks away, but blocks must be different in Philly because this was not like any 2 blocks I've ever seen (more like 20). There were plenty of closer places, but this was supposed to be Mediterranean seafood. It didn't seem particularly either, and when we asked the waiter what part of the Mediterranean (we wondered if Portugal qualified), he came back with the chef's vague answer that it was international fusion cuisine.
We hoped the cuisine was better than the initial service, as several of the things we ordered were not available. We shared some appetizers, and also ordered entrees, reminding the server that we had to be out in an hour. The service improved, as dishes started arriving fresh out of the oven. Most of the appetizers were excellent (the empanadas were too spicy for me, but the vegetable tempura and calamari were good). My roast chicken was tasty, but very hard to maneuver; it seemed more like a small Cornish hen. Donna apologized profusely, saying this place was highly recommended - but it wasn't that bad.
Not looking forward to the long walk back (Merl wasn't feeling well to begin with), we called the van and he took us back to the theater. We had the same driver all day, including the train station pickups. We arrived just as Al was about to finish the final puzzle, so I saw the end yet another time. It still moves me. I also really like the ending montage and the music that plays as the credits start. It's been in my head ever since.
Time for Q&A. The festival person (who was in charge of docs, and recognized me on the street when we came in) introduced Patrick, who introduced the rest of us. We got the usual sudoku question, heard again how they managed to get Bill Clinton, and got a good response from the audience. Afterward, someone came up who said she knew me, but I needed some prodding. She mentioned the NPL - OK, I got it: Sappho. Another man said he had been at the tournament.
I was so busy talking that I missed meeting (or even seeing) Jon's brother, who was there. Outside, we learned there was a party nearby celebrating the last night of the festival. It was at Bookbinder's, a big, noisy gathering with fresh seafood and other appetizers (but I was still full from dinner). I passed my drink ticket back to Patrick (or Tyler).
Unfortunately, Philadelphia allows smoking and some people were. I couldn't take it and started to excuse myself, and our IFC person kindly put his cigarette out. I hope my clothes don't reek of smoke. Though we mostly talked among ourselves (I get very shy at these things), I did speak to a few people who had seen the movie. One woman seemed insistent that we see some of the city before leaving (sorry, too late).
Everyone was ready to leave, so it was back to the party bus. I could get used to this. We were reluctant to call it a night, though, so sat in the hotel lobby/bar. Talk was about Miramax in its heyday, and of course the movie which is being recut slightly. I don't know exactly what's been changed, but we'll see soon enough in Tribeca. Everyone was leaving in the morning (Patrick and the IFC people at the crack of dawn), so after more talk and some tasty shrimp and crab appetizers we finally adjourned. Next week in Boston!
I was so keyed up with excitement I didn't sleep much. Finally I decided to get up and shower. The stream of water was weak, and the nozzle was impossibly high (at least 2 feet higher than the tournament board). It looked like there was a knob to adjust it, but short of bringing the desk chair into the stall there was no way I could reach it. I filled the bath instead (brrr in the interim). That had a separate hose attachment so it wasn't just like soaking in your own soapy water.
I was ready early and sat in the lobby using the dubious wireless. All around, people were speaking French, which makes sense since the hotel is French-owned. Tyler eventually arrived, and we found our driver (a different one) out front. He just came back from taking Merl and Marie to the airport. At the station, Tyler realized his train was 40 minutes after mine. He tried to switch (which would connect to an earlier train to Albany), but it would cost a lot more (my train was an express). IFC probably would have covered it, but at this point he stuck with what he had.
So I said goodbye and went down to track 3. At least I think they said my train was on track 3. After several minutes, a train arrived across the platform on track 4. I was confused. No other trains were around, and I somehow assumed the other direction was towards New York. I asked a conductor who said it was indeed the NY train, but I had to board at the other end. I huffed and puffed with my luggage, feeling increasingly frantic. Was this really the right train? Would I miss it because I couldn't run fast enough? I finally got to where people were boarding, was assured once again it was the NY train, and moved forward until I found a seat with no one next to it. I didn't take off my coat until my ticket was punched and the conductor didn't tell me it was wrong. What's the worst that could happen? I'd end up in Wilmington and have to go back again, I guess, possibly incurring an extra fee.
Once I calmed down, I typed this blog entry on the laptop to the rapidly depleting battery. I charged it before leaving, and didn't bring the cord since I'd only be gone a day. Before I knew it, we were in New York. I still get excited when I see the skyline, and still feel relieved when I step back on New York soil.
I had to prepare the NYT puzzles, so went directly there. Normally I could walk from Penn Station, but I took the subway one stop due to the luggage. It's just a duffel bag and laptop bag (and shoulder briefcase bag) but still too onerous for walking. The Sunday puzzle was ready, so I did that, after fiddling with printer settings to get it on Sunday-sized paper. The default used to work, but they must have changed something on the printer itself; I finally figured out I need to specify paper tray 2.
I finished Sunday and sent it off just after 3 when the dailies arrived. I was looking around for a discarded Tribeca guide that had been inserted in Sunday's paper, with no luck. I called the NYT entertainment marketing person (who happens to be from Great Neck and was the sister of my sister's good friend - she is involved in "Wordplay" tie-ins, saw a DVD of the movie, and said to her husband that she knew she knew me from SOMEWHERE. She asked Patrick to ask me, and we figured it out. My sister then spoke to her friend for the first time in years) and she brought one over. She did look sort of familiar (and hasn't aged very much), but I would never have placed her without a lot of help. We had a nice talk.
Back to work, I finished the dailies although I was getting VERY tired and came close to nodding off. I thought I left after 7, but got home at 6-something so realized the clock on Will's computer needs to be switched to daylight time. This means I actually sent in the puzzles around 2, earlier than usual. I don't know why I'm still awake.
I don't think I can get through all my E-mail before conking out, but I did check for Tribeca raffle entries. 20 people have registered for 38 tickets so far. Most are non-puzzlers, since the puzzlers saw the movie at Stamford. A nice mix of people from all parts of my life. It's quite possible I'll do another drawing for the New York opening in June.