Happy Tuesday, and welcome back. We now begin the wrap of of this Series of Unusual Events, and soon I will start a new blogisode series. As of this moment I don't know when that will be, and I'm not sure what it will be, but I DO know I want it to be funny after all the serious September 11th stuff. So we'll just think of it as "Something Funny Coming Soon to a Blogisode Near You." Isn't that great? I really should have a job naming things. This desire to name things comes directly from my father who is an inventor and always has a name on the thing he is thinking about inventing before he's even invented it. For a long run of it, everything ended in Master. There was Poolmaster, Tennismaster, Tanmaster. You get the point. He's a master and he's going to make a million and you can't beat that with a stick even if it's highway robbery. Maybe I should write about my Dad next. He is under consideration. But don't tell him because he will call me and want to come up with the name which would be Blogmaster. And then he would want to plan how to spend my million. Which would probably involve a safari.
Which brings us right back to the safari trip of 2001. So we have Mom and Dad trucking around Africa looking at lions for an undetermined period of time because all international flights to the United States are canceled. We have Rob Meffe who needs to get back to New York to resume work at his show. We have little Charlotte Meffe who is blissfully unaware of all of this, and we have me, getting ready to do a 2pm matinee at Atlanta's Fox Theater, which seats 5,000 people and had a pre- 9/11 bomb scare. Got it? Good.
I always think of September 11th as the day that changed so many things--but one of the biggest changes was the way the news was delivered. Pre-9/11, the "news ticker" or "crawl" on the lower third of the TV screen was used sparingly, really only on sports stations to give stats and stocks on the financial network. What we are all so used to now, started as a norm on September 11th. And it never went away. I still refer to it as "scare tape" because all it ever did was scare me. "Anthrax has been discovered in Dan Rather's office" "The terror alert level has been raised to orange."
Things that stand out in the days just after 9/11: When you turned on the radio--to any channel--it was all news. Even top 40 stations. All TV stations were news, even the kids stations had a news crawl. There were no airplanes in the sky, not even cargo flights, although it was not uncommon to see a fighter jet. There were American flags EVERYWHERE.
So how do you protect an impressionable child from all the sadness? We avoided the TV, although Rob and I found one station at the Georgian Terrace that was blissfully news free--an ARTS station played performing arts music videos 24 hours a day, which we watched all curled up in our king sized bed. Charlotte in a stroke of good fortune, willingly gave up Dora to watch scenes from operas, movements of symphonies and ballets. We'd cuddled Charlotte until she'd go to sleep, and then whisper about what the hell we were going to do. As it was, Broadway (Rob's job) was closed for an undetermined amount of time, and he didn't know how he was getting back to New York, because his wife, the writer of this blog, forbade him to get on an airplane. Not that he was really interested, anyway.
Also, people were avoiding large crowds. It felt too dangerous, especially because people were coming forward and taking credit for the attacks, promising more to come. At the time, no one knew if it was over or just beginning. On Wednesday, September 12th, we had a matinee of Phantom, which I was CERTAIN they'd cancel. Everything was canceled. Sports events, shows, concerts...the world had come to a screeching halt. Leigh and his stage management team made calls to tell us, we had a show at 2pm, and another one at 8. You know that phrase, The Show Must Go On? Well, it did, although I'm going to tell you, between the bomb scare and being one of the first large groups to meet in the country, we were a very skittish crowd. I'd say it was the most scared I'd ever been to do a show, but I think it is tied with the night after the Northridge earthquake when we did a performance of Les Miserables in Pasadena. There were still aftershocks going on, Los Angeles had a dusk to dawn curfew, we had to walk past dumpsters full of debris that had fallen in the theater during the earthquake--but we performed. I still have a clipping from USA Today with an article about how Cameron Mackintosh's LES MIZ was to be the first public performance in the LA area after the earthquake. Are you seeing a trend here? POP QUIZ! The producer of The Phantom of the Opera is? Yup. Cameron Mackintosh.
So I'm back at work on Wednesday, and we get word that Broadway is raising the curtain on Thursday. Rob had to get back to work--it was his job, but also we were racking up a sizable bill at the shwanky hotel that was supposed to be a few nights, but now was stretching to a week and a day. Someone in the cast had a girlfriend or wife who also needed to get back to NYC quickly, and we hatched a plan for Rob to share a rental car with her. By the way, I just asked Rob who it was, and he has no recollection of this at
all--he thought he drove alone (he didn't) although he said he does remember the exact route they drove (of course he does). Sixteen hours in a car with someone. How can you forget that? I digress. Rental cars, by the way, were another funny thing after 9/11. You could rent a car one way for a cheap rate, because all the rental car companies were pitching in to help out. That was the great thing about 9/11, we all became buddies and allies the second those towers came down. Nothing petty mattered.
Rob and the mystery rider left early on Friday and got back to New York very late. Rob said he could see the towers burning on the ride in from New Jersey, and could smell it as soon as he got to Manhattan, even from our apartment on 56th street--about 4 miles north. I'll never forget the phone call I got from him. He said, "It's terrible here. Don't bring Charlotte back."
So I'm in Atlanta with Charlotte with no way to get anywhere, and no where to go because my parents are stuck in Africa, and their house in Cincinnati had burned down. I had Charlotte registered for her first day in pre-school in New York and she would be a no-show. Time to do some quick thinking.