Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Going Gaga Over My Trip to Europe for My Son's Wedding - A Potpourri

Mr. and Mrs.  Timothy Michael Chase
Photo by Raluca Chase, Kalura Photography
I have just touched back on U.S.soil for the first time in two weeks.  It was a memorable fortnight, indeed. In no particular order of significance, here is a potpourri of memories and encounters from the trip that took me to NYC, Berlin, Krakow, London, Wallington, Dusseldorf and back to NYC and Boston.

  • Let's start with the primary reason for the trip: my son, Timothy Michael Chase, being married to the lovely Katarzyna (Kasia) Adamek in St. Anne's Cathedral in the Old City of Krakow, Poland.  The wedding, as I mentioned in a brief FaceBook posting while on the fly, felt like a royal wedding:
  • There were horse-drawn carriages for the bridal party and families, taking us from  the church through the historic Rynek Marketplace in the center of medieval Krakow.
  • There was the reception, held in an old Austrian fort high above the city at the memorial mound for Tadeusz Kościuszko, military hero from the American Revolution and several Polish military engagements.  How appropriate to choose the memorial site of a hero who unites Polish and American history as the setting for a party to celebrate this contemporary Polish-American union between Thymn and Kasia.
  • The setting was gorgeous and prepossessing.  The food, which kept coming until about 5:00 AM, was stupendous.  Kasia's family own a chain of very fine pastry shops throughout the Krakow area, so you can imagine the cornucopia of delights that spilled from the platters onto every white linen-draped table.
  • The Polish vodka, of infinite varieties of flavors, flowed as it should at a Polish wedding reception.
  • In the wee hours of the morning, while it was still dark, a large percentage of the wedding guests made the climb to the top of the Kościuszko Mound in a torch light parade and an unparalleled view of the city at night.

  • Shortly thereafter, after we had returned to the fort, we were beguiled by a unique show by fire twirlers performing on stilts and in masks using fire and fireworks as the colors with which they painted the night.
  • Polish weddings do not last just one day.  So, the next day, the families and close wedding party participants met for a luncheon, followed by a half-day long music festival that Thymn had organized with many of his musician friends from Poland, England, Scotland and the U.S.  The festival was a roaring success.
  • Thymn  had asked me to sing, so my oldest son, Ti, and I reprised an old duet we had sung together many years ago: "River In  The Rain," from the Broadway show "Big River."
  • Thymn had also helped me to learn a popular Polish wedding song about a white teddy bear called "Biały miś."  Apparently it was a big hit.  Every Polish woman in the audience came out of her seat and basically formed a mosh pit at the front of the hall.  And the end of the number, I gave the white teddy bear to my daughter-in-law, the newly minted Mrs. Chase, as the audience chanted: "Bis, bis," which apparently means the equivalent of "Encore".  But, I had bent my tongue around enough Polish phonemes for one night, so I practiced the dictum:  "Always leave the audience wanting more." Thymn assured me that I could have a very lucrative career as a Polish wedding singer should I so choose.
  • The next few days involved visiting with family and Polish friends and American friends who had traveled from afar for the wedding festivities.
  • I bid farewell to Krakow and loved ones and winged my way to London via Berlin on the surprisingly efficient and friendly Air Berlin.  It was my first encounter with this rapidly growing carrier, and I will use them again in the future.

  • I had a bit of a layover in Berlin while awaiting my flight to Heathrow.  The Berlin Airport has an unusual set-up in that each individual gate has its own security and immigration station.  I tried entering the gate area for my flight,  but there was an earlier flight to London not quite ready to depart, and the gate area was full, so I was told to wait in the outer lobby.  I found a seat  and began reading the book I was working on at the time.  
  • I noticed an energetic group of young Germans sitting around me, talking excitedly amongst themselves.  When I asked if they were also going to be flying to London, they looked at each other and one of them replied coyly: "No, we are waiting for a friend."  I bent my attention back to my book, but my curiosity had been aroused, so after a few minutes, I said: "Eight people seems a lot to meet a friend.  Where is your friend coming from?"  Once again, they exchanged conspirational glances, and then another member of the party leaned in toward me and whispered.  "We are waiting for Lady Gaga.  She is expected on this inbound flight from  London and will be landing at the gate that you are departing from."  It turns out that they had met her before,  and had won tickets to the concert to be held in Berlin the next evening.  
  • "Do you know something of Lady Gaga?", they asked incredulously of the old White Rhino.  I sang a few bars from her song "Poker Face."  Their jaws dropped, and then an hour and a half of fascinating conversation ensued.  Eventually, my flight was called for boarding, and as I left them, they were checking in with the gathering gaggle of paparazzi who were also there to catch a glimpse of the notorious singer.
  • So, I was alerted that she would most certainly pass by the other side of the glass partition that separates the departure lounge of Gate 42 from the arrival lounge.  I had my iPhone camera ready, and was rewarded with this shot of the tastefully attired superstar..
    Lady Gaga Arrives in Berlin

  • As she passed by me, I blew her a kiss, and pantomimed the phrase "POKER FACE."  She broke into a huge grin, and the others in my departure lounge applauded and said:  "She really likes you."
  • The flight to Heathrow from Berlin was otherwise unremarkable.

  • My main purpose in visiting London was to spend some more time with Ti and Raluca and their three children - and also to take in some London theatre on the cheap.  When I learned that James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave were starring in  a version of "Much Ado About Nothing" directed by Mark Rylance, I knew I had to find a way to see the show.  I managed to score a very inexpensive seat, and watched with delight as these two old war horses of the stage and screen traded barbs and quips and witticisms penned by The Bard hundreds of years before Lady Gaga drew her first breath.
  • I have learned that unlike Broadway audiences, London theatre audiences tend not to congregate at the Stage Door of the theatre to pester the actors for autographs and poses.  I do not collect autographs, but I do enjoy giving immediate feedback to actors whose performances I have particularly enjoyed.  So, after the final curtain calls, I betook myself to the Stage Door of the Old Vic.  After a few moments, a youngish man appeared and looked around and said: "Does anyone want something signed by Mr. Jones or Ms. Redgrave?  They are going to go straight to their cars once they come out of the door, but I will bring in programs to be signed, etc."  
  • I replied, "I do not have anything to be signed, but I did want to thank Mr. Jones for the essay he wrote in a recent book."  "What book?"  "Living With Shakespeare."  I reviewed an advance copy on Amazon and on my Blog.
Review of Living With Shakespeare

  • The young man replied, "I had something to do with that project.  You are talking about Susannah Carson's book,right?"  
  • "Yes indeed.  What is your role here, if I may ask?"  
  • "I am  Mr. Jones' personal assistant."
  • "How does one get such a position?"
  • "Pure nepotism; I am his son."
  • The conversation continued, and soon Mr. Jones the Younger was heading back into the theater to help bundle up Mr. Jones Senior for the ride back to his hotel.  He promised that I would have a chance to have a quick conversation with the man behind the voice of Luke Skywalker's father.  He was true to his word.  As James Earl Jones exited the historic Old Vic, his son, Flynn, steered him in my direction.  I recounted my experience of seeing him perform Iago, my recollection of his  performance and that of Mr. Plummer, and my appreciation for the essay he had penned for the new book.  He laughed heartily when I acknowledged the correctness of his observations about Iago.  I told him that I would be pleased to send him a copy of my Blog review of the book.  He turned to his son and said, as he climbed in to ride shotgun in a mini-van that had come for him: "Get this man's name so I can properly thank him."
    James Earl Jones
  • The next day, I received an e-mail from Flynn Jones that contained the following statement: "It was actually really good meeting you just now."  I assume that this means that not all encounters with audience members are filled with delight.  My next item on the "To Do" list today is to send to both Messieurs Jones that Blog review cited above.
  • The rest  of the time in London included some more delightful time with my grandchildren - at the Science Museum and in the home where they are currently staying south of London.  On Sunday I was able to worship with my son, Ti,  and the family at St. Patrick's Anglican Church in Wallington, Sussex, London, where he serves as assistant vicar.
  • I found another cheap ticket to see the new stage version of the Irish novel and film, "The Commitments."  Thoroughly enjoyable. Keep your eyes open; it may come to  Broadway.
There is more I could tell,  but jet lag is telling me that enough is enough for now.

I am back in Boston in time to be close to Fenway (no tickets to Game #6) for a possible celebration tonight.

Go Sox!


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