The Manhattan Trip, Day Three

Our last day, nay, last morning in Manhattan revolved around two major events: 1) Sarah’s audition for Carnegie Mellon, and 2) Getting our flight home on time.

Carnegie Mellon is actually in Pennsylvania, but they hold auditions in New York (and possibly other places), probably because places like New York are a good source of people aspiring to work in the theater. They had rented studio space on Eighth Avenue, about a ten minute walk from our hotel. Sarah needed to be there at 8 am. Her audition would be some time after that. Our flight for Charlotte departed at 12:59 pm. Janet’s sage advice, and our experience from Thursday, told us we needed to be leaving Carnegie Mellon no later than 10:30 am, sooner if possible. But what if Sarah’s audition didn’t get through in time?

I formed a back-up plan. There was a later flight from JFK to Raleigh-Durham, which is about 80 miles from our home. If we had to, we could take that flight, and my wife would come and get us. Clearly, it would be wonderful if we didn’t need this plan, especially since it depended upon the nice folks at American Airlines transferring our tickets, and it would put my wife out having to make a 3-hour round trip to pick us up. But more than anything, I didn’t want Sarah to be worrying about how we were getting home. I reminded her that the whole reason we were there was for her auditions. If she flunked the audition because she was concerned about getting home, then what was the point? “We’ll get home somehow,” I told her. “Just worry about giving a great audition.”

We checked out of the hotel and made our way to the audition, well ahead of schedule. Since we were leaving straight after, I went in with her and sat with her, along with the other candidates and parents, through the orientation. The people running the audition handed out forms for each applicant to complete, which they handed in at the table (see picture) along with a head-shot. When Sarah delivered hers, she told them she had a flight to catch at 12, so if at all possible, she’d like to audition early. They made a note and, sure enough, when they called the first group of five, she was among them.

Sarah’s audition was in two stages. The first concentrated on her acting. She prepared two monologues for Carnegie Mellon: one as Ophelia from Hamlet, and the other as Eliza Doolittle from My Fair Lady. She would have done the latter for Juilliard, but they didn’t want to hear her do an accent. Carnegie Mellon were more receptive to this, however, much to Sarah’s delight (and I can vouch for her skill at sounding like a Brit). The second stage was the singing part. I don’t recall what song(s) she had prepared, but this was the part she was most nervous about. Strangely, she’s more comfortable singing a cappella than accompanied. This was fine for Juilliard, but here she had to sing with a pianist. I gave her some pointers (I’m a musician and her father, it was my duty!), but I’m sure she did fine despite my advice. 🙂

Those blessed and most generous Carnegie people put Sarah in the early group for singing, too, which meant we were out of there by 10! Woohoo!! Now we needed to get to the airport. Janet had warned us that they would be doing work on the E-line, so we needed to take the E-train on the F-line. (Yes, it does sound really confusing to a non-New Yorker–it’s not just you. Can you believe New Yorkers talk like this all the time? “Take the 1 to 6th at 34th and the F to the Q on 112th at 59th where you get the 2 at 10th at 45th…”?!!?!) There was a station on Sixth Avenue we could go to, which wasn’t far from us. However, our week-long, unlimited MetroCard was only good for one person (we had hoped to be able to share it), so I needed to buy a single-trip MetroCard for the train ride to the AirTrain. Not all subway stations have card dispensers, and I couldn’t remember if the station on Sixth Avenue had one, so we detoured to Penn Street Station. Penn Street is a large hub, where you can not only get a subway train, but you can get on Amtrak or get a bus. It took much longer than I had hoped to find a ticket dispenser.

On the way out, a man in one of the Amtrak lines collapsed with his hand gripping his side. Men in uniform rushed over, and someone called for medical assistance. It was like a scene from a movie. I don’t know what the man’s problem was. He didn’t grasp at his chest, so I don’t think it was a heart attack. It might have been a ruptured appendix from where his hand went, but he also had crutches, so maybe there was another issue. I felt bad hurrying away, but there was literally nothing we could do, and we were in a bit of a hurry. As we left Penn Street Station, we saw an emergency vehicle come screaming down the street, no doubt either coming for, or containing our poor friend.

We reached the station on Sixth Avenue, and then searched for the correct track. We found the F-line. Were we were headed downtown or uptown? Once we decided where JFK was, we then followed the arrows to the correct track, or at least what we hoped was the correct track, and waited for the E-train. While we waited, I recalled the map of the subway system, and how each line is separate, and began to wonder how you could have an E-train running on the F-line but going to all the correct E-train stops. How does that work? Are we really going to get there, or are we going to find ourselves at some F-stop without a clue how to get to our E-stop?!! But Janet said, take the E-train on the F-line. She knows New York better than you. Trust her. If she’s wrong, you can mock her mercilessly on your blog. And hers. Assuming you get home and are not stuck going around in circles on the New York subway for the rest of your life…

An F-train pulled into the station. We let it go. The next train came. Another F. I looked at Sarah. “If the next one’s an F, let’s just take it and see how far we get.” We let it go. The next train came. An E! We climbed aboard. On the side opposite us was a digital display showing what station we were at, the rest of the stations ahead of us, and how many stops away each of them are (very useful). I recognized the names of some of the stops from Thursday. Under the station name about 20 stops away, it said “JFK AirTrain.” Woohoo! It was close to 11 by now. I was glad to be on our way to the airport at last, but I was still a little nervous.

We needed to take the AirTrain to Gate 8. We were getting on at the stop before Gate 1! Checks the time… deep breaths… Thankfully, the  gates aren’t far apart, and a couple were not on the route (or didn’t exist at all–I’ll let your imagination decide which sounds better), so it only took about twenty minutes. We then crossed the terminal, up escalators, down escalators, and along corridors until we got to security. I expected long lines, given this is JFK. It was almost deserted. We sailed through security, and found our gate, just in time for boarding.

Except the flight had been delayed, and wouldn’t be leaving until 1:30.

Don’t anyone try to convince me the Lord doesn’t have a sense of humor. 🙂

The rest of the trip home was uneventful. I was glad to be back. It was nice visiting New York, but I don’t think I could stay there for an extended period of time. Sarah can’t wait to go back. She would live there if she could.

To finish up, here are some lessons learned/tips for those planning a trip to New York:

  • Don’t pack more than you need. I took a duffel bag which contained clothes, my travel mug, a short story I needed to edit, a book to read, travel-sized toiletries in a clear bag, tea bags, and a pad and pencil. There was nothing more I needed, and I used all these items. Neither Sarah nor I needed to check any luggage, so we could leave our plane and head out immediately. Also, we didn’t have a lot of luggage to carry getting to the hotel, or returning to the airport.
  • If you are a tea drinker, check ahead of time to see if your room comes with a coffee machine, or some kind of hot water dispenser. If it doesn’t, either find another hotel, or make sure you locate the nearest Starbucks.
  • If you’re used to spending less than $10/person when you eat out, be prepared for a shock, or stick to fast food. You will need a good dining budget.
  • Make sure you have opportunities to charge your phone. Either take a portable charger, or find places you can charge up your phone (e.g., hotel, Starbucks, a literary agency…). Don’t wait until you’re at 5% and stranded somewhere on Tenth Avenue to think about this!
  • If you have a smart phone, Google Maps is your friend. Especially if your sense of direction is as bad as mine. Seriously, though, aside from letting you know where you are in relation to the rest of the city, it displays all the landmarks and places of interest. If you don’t have a smart phone, get maps of the city and the subway.
  • If you intend to walk places, wear good walking shoes.
  • Don’t linger on sidewalks. Walk with purpose. If you have to stop to get oriented, move to the inside edge of the sidewalk, or into a building.
  • Smile. Be friendly. Don’t be afraid to ask people for help. I spent over an hour walking the streets and didn’t once feel threatened.

And finally, a word for my writer friends–especially those who frequent Janet Reid’s blog. Some of you might think I’m something special because I got to visit New Leaf and have an audience with Janet. Not so. I did nothing that any of the rest of you couldn’t do. Namely:

  • I frequent the comments enough that Janet knows who I am. This is not required, but if she’s seen your name in the comments, or you’ve won a contest, she’ll be less guarded than if you tell her “I’m a writer who reads your blog” but she’s never heard of you. It’s common sense, really. If you were in Janet’s shoes, wouldn’t you be a bit warmer toward someone you’ve had previous contact with as opposed to a total stranger? The more you know an agent, and the agent knows you well enough to know you’re not a jerk, the more open they will be to giving you some of their time. Again, common sense.
  • I emailed Janet to let her know I would be in town. Janet extended an invitation to me, but I could have just as easily asked to stop by. Whatever you do, don’t call Janet, and don’t just turn up. If Janet wants you to call her, she will tell you when she emails you. Don’t assume permission until it’s granted. By the way, this applies to all literary agents, not just Janet Reid.

If you do get a chance to visit Janet (or any agent for that matter) be respectful of her time. We visited around lunchtime, but when we got back, Janet had work to do and she pretty much left us alone. If she hadn’t invited us to use the conference room, we would have left.

Sorry I didn’t have a lot of pictures for this installment. We were too busy trying to get to the airport to stop and take photos. Once we arrived at JFK, however, I did take this one, just for my friends over at Janet’s blog. They’ll understand:

Thanks for reading! Feel free to use the comments for any questions you might have about my time in NYC, or just to comment!

P.S.: Here are two VERY different musical takes on the New York experience. The first is by ex-10cc members Godley and Creme, giving a somewhat cynical foreigner’s view of the city in 1979. The second is by Billy Joel, a native New Yorker, pining for his home town from California in 1976.

20 thoughts on “The Manhattan Trip, Day Three

  1. AJ Blythe

    Colin, I totally cracked up at Kale chips. Did you grab a few in case you are sent back to Carkoon? Not that I’m suggesting you frequent the place or anything 😉

    I hope you update us on Sarah’s auditions. I really hope she wowed Carnegie, especially as I’m sure her Brit accent would have been spot on, after all, she’s got you to mimic – unless your accent is too plummy for Eliza (although that could be the ‘after’ accent).

    I appreciate you adding those pointers for the Reiders who stop by, but I doubt anyone thinks you got special attention.

    As a PS, I read briefly your post the other day on the new incarnation of Doctor Who and finally remembered to pass the tidbit onto my Whovian (who has just got his hands on a blueprint poster of a sonic screwdriver). I think he thinks you have an inside scoop on all things Whovian because everytime he asks where I found out, I have to say on Colin’s blog!

    1. cds Post author

      Call it a leap of faith, AJ, but no, I didn’t grab the kale chips. 🙂 And yes, I’ll keep you all updated on Sarah’s auditions, either here or on Janet’s blog. I know she would love to get in to Carnegie Mellon, and not just because they love their Scottish heritage, so I hope they look favorably on her too.

      I hope no-one thinks I got special treatment by Janet. I know that if others from the blog were in my shoes–especially those like you who would have traveled many miles to be there–she would have treated you the same. At least! But these pointers are good to remember for visiting with any agent. If I’d had more time, I would have tried to set up visits with other agencies. There are so many of them in that area!

      A blueprint poster of a sonic screwdriver? How cool!! Here’s the latest scoop as far as I know: The tenth season starts broadcasting in the UK and US (and probably worldwide) on April 15th. Chris Chibnall, the new show-runner starting with season 11, is still working on “Broadchurch” season 3, and won’t begin Who until after that. So we’re looking at an Autumn date for season 11 with the new Doctor. Some names I’ve seen floating around as suggestions for the new Doctor: Ben Whishaw and Rory Kinnear (from the James Bond movies), and Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley in the Potter movies). I hope that helps you keep your cool Mum status–not that you need help in that department, I’m sure! 🙂

  2. Dena Pawling

    >>find places you can charge up your phone (e.g., hotel, Starbucks, a literary agency…).

    This line made me LOL.

    “Hi, I just stopped by to charge my phone.”

    Glad your trip went well and it seems you had a great time. Yes, please let us know the end result of your daughter’s second audition. I hope she’s accepted!

  3. Claire Bobrow

    That was quite a trip to the airport via the subway. I felt stressed out just reading about it! Sorry you struggled to get there on time, only to have a flight delay. Typical…
    Good luck to Sarah!

    1. cds Post author

      We probably had enough time to get to the airport, it’s just when you have so many variables, and it’s your first time juggling them, it can be a bit…tense. And as it turned out, we had plenty of time to get there! Serves me right for not trusting. 🙂

      Thanks for the well-wishes. I’ll certainly let everyone know how Sarah gets on. 🙂

  4. gypsy martin

    As someone who always longed for the stage, but lacks two out of three threats (can’t dance and am a very average singer), I am vicariously enjoying Sarah’s journey very much! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    1. cds Post author

      You’re welcome, gypsy–and thank you! If I recall correctly, Carnegie Mellon said that they don’t require their acting applicants to be able to dance. If they are accepted, they will receive sufficient dance training for what they need as part of their course work. This is good news for Sarah since she has no dance experience at all.

  5. donnaeve

    I waited until the Day Three post to comment – I thoroughly enjoyed reading all of them. I liked the pictures of food and your commentary about finding hot water (too funny!), and particularly the part about John Lennon. I’m very into the moments like that too, Colin, where I have to go and “experience” and think about where somebody stood/sat/walked, and I’m sure I come away with a glazed look. I’m super impressed with your factual knowledge about what you saw and experienced. And! I have to admit, I’m a worry wart like you when it comes to traveling around and being unsure of the steps along the way to get from Point A to B. Day 3’s adventure with the E train on the F line? Ho boy. My nerves would have been shot! You all did great navigating the city, and I’ll admit, Google maps – I LOVE Google maps!

    But it works in a very literal sense.

    For example, this past Tuesday I went to UNC-TV to tape an interview for NC Bookwatch, and the address is 10 TW Alexander Drive. I punched that in and drove along until it said, “You are at your destination.” Except I wasn’t. (And I was ALREADY nervous, as you can imagine. I’m like, where’s the building!) I turned in and saw other buildings, and then ah! Finally! A sign with an arrow pointing straight for UNC-TV. So, I go along this loooooooong winding sort of road where I can’t see a darn thing except…trees. And now I’m panicking a bit b/c I was supposed to be there at 1:45 and it’s now 1:45, and I haven’t parked, got into “a building, somewhere!” A bigger than I expected building finally came into view, and then relief when it revealed that yes, it WAS the right spot.

    Anyway! I wish Sarah luck and I’ll be looking out for your updates on what happens!

    1. cds Post author

      Thank you so much, Donna (stbnytba)!! 🙂 Part of the poignancy of that moment at the Dakota was in the fact that I have known that place and that moment for over thirty–close to forty, actually–years. I’ve had the events of that night, both as they transpired in Manhattan, and as a point of time in my life, etched into me for most of my life. Actually being there for the first time made that head-knowledge suddenly very real. And I think that’s why I shivered.

      I worked out at RTP for a while, so I know exactly where you’re talking about! I’d be as lost as you were now, but back in the day, I could have taken you to the UNC-TV studios–and that was in the days *before* Google Maps! 🙂 Saying that, I totally sympathize. That place is a maze if you don’t know where you’re going.

      “Bookwatch,” Donna! Do you remember seeing “Bookwatch” at Bouchercon? At least for us North Carolinians, that’s a big deal. Congrats!! I hope it went well. Do you know when your spot will be broadcast? Or have I missed it?

      1. donnaeve

        Yep, I knew my way around RTP quite well too – having worked there for 25 years. (make that !!!!)

        Bookwatch – thank you! And, oh yes, I noticed Bookwatch at Bouchercon, and yes, it IS a big deal for us NC’ers! I just taped the segment Monday, but, I don’t know when it will air yet. Honestly, I’m going to be a nervous wreck when I know it’s gonna be on, b/c I can’t remember what I said – AT ALL. I don’t know if I had little nervous twitches, or whatever. I was like a deer in the headlights. Or spotlights. Haha. The hardest thing I had to do was stand near DG Martin (practically on top of him it seemed like) and do what they said was a 90 minute spiel about the book – for social media. There was a 4 min. one and then this 90 min. thing. COLIN. I felt my lip do that “weird” thing. LOL! Do you know what I’m talking about??? Where you can feel it jumping? Aye yi yi. I just…sort of mumbled something or other. NO idea what THAT will come out like.

        Oh well! Soon as I know when it’s scheduled, I’ll be sure to share it out! 🙂

        1. cds Post author

          LOL–I know just what you mean. Not that I’ve been in front of a camera like that, but I’ve been in situations where I’m having to talk about something, and my stomach’s in my throat, and I’m feeling the lip thing… and I walk away without a clue as to what I just said, whether it was coherent, on topic, or useful to anyone. That probably describes most of my job interviews, actually! 🙂

          Please let us know when it’s on–I’m sure you did much better than you think.

  6. lilacshoshanwp

    I had to find out what happened with the audition at Carnegie Mellon…Sarah sounds so special and gifted. She has amazing parents, so I’m not surprised. 😉 I’ll keep my fingers crossed for her.

  7. Diane

    Colin, I’ve been MIA for a while now, but just finally caught up and am so grateful for your travelog! It sounds like a good trip, and your not-stressy-dad vibe comes across; I have to think that was good for Sarah, all other stimuli considered. 🙂

    Can’t wait to hear about her future successes, and maybe watch them as an appreciative audience some day.

    1. cds Post author

      Thanks, Diane! There was some stress in the race to the airport which my daughter interpreted as panic. In all honesty, I wasn’t panicked, though I was anxious to make it to the correct station and get on the correct train going to the correct destination. This kind of thing is always a good stress elevator when you’re in a strange location. We made it, and managed to have a good time in the process, however.

      She still hasn’t heard from Carnegie Mellon, yet. I’ll certainly keep everyone informed of her progress. 🙂

  8. John Davis Frain

    That was fun, Colin. I feel like I traveled with you now. Ha. I’m gonna have to check more recent blog posts to see if there’s an update on Sarah. She’ll be fine no matter what, I can already tell that, but I hope Carnegie Mellon knows their opportunity and doesn’t pass up on it.

    If you visit Manhattan for a week, I’ll have to take off small bites. I’m exhausted after three days of traveling within an hour! Thanks for bringing it to us. And no explanation needed to Reiders on why you were able to visit with Janet for lunch. No one at the Reef should be surprised that the star pupil had a field trip with the teacher. You’ve earned it. I’m not speaking for Janet when I say that, I’m just pointing out a reality. Congrats to you!

    1. cds Post author

      Thanks again, John. Sarah tells me they all say she won’t hear anything until late Spring. Of course, that doesn’t stop me asking her every day if she’s heard anything. I’m her Dad–it’s what we do, right? 🙂 As for Janet, I’m pretty sure the only stars in her book are her clients. I’m quite confident you would get the same treatment if you were to meet up with her. Maybe better if you take that legendary manuscript along with you… 😉


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