22nd September 2010

I am in Gordon Ramsey’s Plane Food at Terminal 5. Younger I used count myself a failure if I was not the last onto the plane, preferably just before they closed the doors. Life was for living not for sitting in airport lounges. As 9/11 followed hard on the heels of my fiftieth birthday , I cannot tell whether age or circumstance changed my view . Now I arrive at least two (preferably three) hours early and work. This time last year Jonathan Arac and I convened a small seminar on the relations between film and novel, more precisely between Hollywood and the American novel in the period 1920-1960. Rashly at the end of the seminar I volunteer to edit the transcript for, say, next week. In January I realize that a simpler way to proceed is to edit my own contributions, no problem in junking or completely rewriting my own words, and get everybody else to do the same. Eight months later and I am furiously cutting and pasting for this is a real deadline – the participants at the seminar must get the transcript before the weekend and I know that I can do nothing once I land in the States because I will be swallowed up in the organizing of the final stage of the Colonial Film research project.
There is a moment of delight as I remember that the last ten pages are simply talking about future plans. Cut and the completed transcript flies into cyberspace for Jonathan to distribute. I board the plane at 5 and sleep almost continuously to arrive in New York at 8. As I get into a taxi I idly turn my phones on and both British and American erupt with texts and messages from Filipa who has missed her connection in Bogota and is casting severe doubt on my abilities as a travel agent. I am mortified because in retrospect it is obvious that she should have taken a direct overnight flight from the biennale in Sao Paulo and not a day flight that meant a connection through Bogota. A bad situation gets worse when it becomes clear that she is so delayed that she will have no time to check into her hotel when she does get to JFK around dawn. One of her texts reads “I would love to go on being your groupie but it takes too much energy”. I resist the temptation to text back that I haven’t noticed too much groupie like behaviour and ring the Kitano in desperation.
The Kitano has transformed my life in New York. For many years I tried to pretend that the grimy and disgusting Grammercy Park hotel was the nec plus ultra of New York living. In this fantasy I was encouraged by Hitchens whose attachment to the place bordered the obsessive. But seven years ago the filth of the room and the inefficiency of the service finally dertermined that I must find somewhere else and a random internet search found me a Japanese hotel in mid town where the majority of staff and guests are Japanese and where I have now stayed so often that I can beg a favour. I go to sleep secure in the knowledge that if Filipa does get in early enough to get a couple of hours sleep, the Kitano will provide a bed.


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