I’m here.

Just an hour before I arrived at the rehearsal studio, I was still slumbering away in my bed on my still somewhat comfortable mattress, cocooned in my still surprisingly insulating comforter. I could hear the muffled vibration of my cell phone buried in the pocket of my winter coat which was across the room.  Of course, by the time I had put my feet on the floor, stepped over some stray laundry, and fumbled through the pockets of my coat, the vibrating had stopped, but now the little red light was flashing. You have voicemail.

I didn’t even bother checking the message, I just went ahead and called back the "Missed Call". I had suspected why I was getting that call at 9:00 on a Sunday morning, and sure enough, my suspicions were correct. Someone was sick, and they needed someone else to come in and cover the day of auditions. Sure, I can come in. See you soon.

In retrospect, I’m not really sure just why I said, "Yes." Under normal circumstances, I would have just let the phone ring, and checked to see if someone left a message later on; but since WQXR had been quietly sounding in the background since 8:30, I was already coming out of my slumber to the strains of some Bach and Elgar. When I called back, I may have just been too tired to say anything but "Yes".  A pianistic Pavlovian response – Work equals Money, Money equals Rent. I guess I could have said, "No. I’m sorry, I already have other plans today," then gone back to bed for a few more hours.  Or, at the very least, "I’ll come in today, but only if I’m paid double the usual rate due to the last minute notice." Hindsight is 20/20. But I just hung up, and started getting ready.

It wasn’t until the D Train reached Rockefeller Center that I realized I had not brought my laptop with me. No book. Not even a magazine. Nothing to help me pass the time, nothing to keep me company. I stopped by one newsstand in search of the Sunday New York Times… We only carry the weekday.  What?!?! I passed a Starbucks – one of the twenty (at least) that bask directly in the neon glow of Times Square – and thought about getting a coffee, but then remembered that they carry the New York Times. I was able to grab one of the last two copies they had, and the barista/clerk even let me cut into line since she could tell I just wanted to buy the paper.  Nothing Tall, Grande or Venti for me at that time.  Another block or two later, I realized that I should have at least have gotten a Mocha.

I’m here.

The day was quite leisurely paced. I had plenty of breaks, plenty of time to read. Plenty of time to text silly messages to some of my friends – although, I had to step out of the studio into the hallway to do so since the signal was pretty week behind the closed doors. Plenty of time to give a listen to the audio-feed of the show that was running in the theatre next door.

The studio itself was very conducive to reading, if not ideal for reading. High ceilings, one wall lined with mirrors, a decent grand piano, but despite the number of recessed lighting fixtures, the general lighting was surprisingly dim. It was just The Room and I and the Times for most of the day. No distractions. It was an interior room, so there were no windows which made me feel better about not having my camera with me since there was really nothing to take pictures of.  Even the two big, round windows in the hallway were frosted – they were there to let light in, not to let one’s gaze out.

Every couple of minutes my reading would be interrupted by a familiar face coming through the door.  Some I knew by name and greeted with a hug; others I recognized from a Playbill bio, a television appearance, a movie role, and greeted with a smile, keeping a professional distance. Each person was taught a few short sequences of steps, and some were asked to improvise some movement accompanied by my own improvisations at the piano in the designated, requested style. It was during those brief exercises that I really wished I had not forgone the caffeine that morning.

That was pretty much the routine for day, interrupted only by a very quick lunch break. Work, work, work. Read, read, read. By the time the casting director informed me that I was done for the day, I had managed to make my way through the Sunday Times. Consequently, I was brought up to date on matters International, National, Local, Arts & Leisure, Style and Magazine. Even Real Estate.

I bundled myself and my newspaper up – I would take it home with me and put it in the recycling bin –  and headed back down to the street. As I stepped out of the stage door, I realized it was the first time I had been outside since rushing to the studio that morning. That first intake of the cold, NYC-fresh air into my lungs finally cleared away the bits of my interrupted morning slumber. Just a few feet later I found myself in the middle of Times Square. Like most New Yorkers – native and otherwise – I have a love/hate relationship with Times Square. Sometimes all the people, the noise, the lights, the smells are just too much to deal with, something to be avoided.  Other times – and this was turning out to be the case this evening – it feels great to be a part of all the fabled and infamous hustle and bustle of those few blocks of midtown. To be both and Observer and Participant. Native and Tourist.

I’m here.

As I navigated the crowded sidewalks, I noticed a couple trying to take a picture of themselves with the lights of Times Square as their background. Would you like me to take your picture? They kindly refused stating that they had perfected the art of the outstretched-arm-point-and-shoot self-portrait.  However, they did ask where I had picked up my copy of the Times. I told them that I had picked it up earlier that morning, and had managed to read all of it during the course of my work day. I then offered it to them. At first I could sense that they were waiting for me to attach some sort of catch to my offer, but they eventually accepted my gently-used newspaper. They even said they would make sure to put it in a recycling bin. Nice catch.

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