My last blog entry, on March 26, was from eight time zones east of here, aboard the cruise ship Crystal Serenity on the Arabian Sea. The SELECTED SHORTS performances were successful with the cruise passengers and, I hope, will open up new opportunities for selling Symphony Space attractions to the rest of the world in order to help the budget on 95th Street and Broadway.
Some highlights of the truly unreal two weeks on the luxury cruise, presenting literary readings:
Getting off the ship in Safaga, Egypt, and travelling in a convoy of buses, with police escort, to see Luxor and the Valley of the Kings with its Pharoah's sarcophagi;
Sailing into Aquaba, Jordan (cf Peter O'Toole as Lawrence of Arabia--"On to Aquaba!"--
and looking across at the lights of the Israeli port/resort of Eilat. Another long bus ride, this time with a Jordanian guide, through rocky desert landscape to the ancient ruins of Petra, something like a grand canyon carved in rock formations with Roman edifices and amphitheatres at the bottom. A long strenuous walk back up to the top, one portin of which I did on horseback, not camel.
Traversing the Suez Canal, in fact doing our second of three SHORTS programs in mid-canal, with windows showing both Asia and Africa.
Docking in Ashdod, Israel, a port on the Mediterranean, and taking a one hour drive through the West Bank, past the wall and the checkpoints, to spend a day seeing Jerusalem, the Western Wall, the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gesthemane, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Religious fervor on every street corner on that Palm Sunday, Jews, Christians, and Muslims in a big intense soup of religious energy. Back to the ship and departure for...
Cairo, Alexandria, and the Pyramids! Sailing INTO Egypt the ship held a haute cuisine Seder for those who wanted to commemorate the Exodus FROM Egypt! A little bizarre, but great chopped liver. Six hours on the bus to and from Gizeh, but those huge pyramids and the Sphinx were worth it.
Across the Mediterranean and up to Piraeus and Athens. The SELECTED SHORTS cast and I stole past the barriers onto the proskenium of the Theatre of Dionysus, where Aeschylus and Sophocles and Euripdes had their great hits, and orated some Shakespeare, since none of us had any Greek.
Then the long but wonderful climb up the Acropolis to the Parthenon. Spectacular.
Later in the day, walking around Athenian neighborhoods, I had the chance to test my long-held theory that you can't get a container of coffee to go without the cardboard cup having drawings of Rockefeller Center and the Statue of Liberty!
Back to the ship for the final leg, through the Greek islands, the Dardanelles, and the Sea of Marmora, for a ghostly approach into the Bosphorus and Istanbul, with breath-taking vistas of huge illuminated mosques on the hills, sliding by the ship's windows.
Finally, three days on our own in the huge, crowded, sprawling metropolis of Istanbul, with daily crowds on the main streets like Times Square New Years Eve masses.
Then a long flight back home in time for last Wednesday's historic SHORTS event at Symphony Space, and rehearsals for tonight's Thalia Follies on Springtime, Baseball, and Sex.
It's good to be home.