Virtual Museums on the Internet Symposium
May 8 - 10, 1998
Wednesday, June 6 -- New York
Try to make my getaway undetected but the landlady catches me in the hall and yells about the rent money I owe. She asks me where I'm going and I tell her Austria, on business -- be back Monday. While she parses the data I make my break and head for the Bleecker Street subway station to catch the local to Grand Central. It pulls out just as I'm at the token booth so I sit and wait and worry that I've cut my time too close. The plane leaves JFK at 6:20 and it's nearly 4:00 so I probably won't get there two hours early. I never do and always have some kind of hassle even though I've confirmed my reservation the day before. Thought this time I'd tow the line but guess not.
A man talks on the pay phone to what sounds like 911 because he hangs up suddenly after yelling "and I suppose someone almost run down by a 2-ton truck isn't an..." He looks familiar and looks at me as if we sort of know each other but not enough to confirm. He's about to make another call when the train pulls in and we both get on.
The Carey bus is really a van with the luggage compartment inside, up front. I make a man much larger than me take the window seat because it's over the wheel and he sits with his knees bunched up under his chin.
The bus drops me and a Swiss couple off at the wrong entrance so we have to walk across the parking lot to find Swissair. The check-in counter doesn't have their computer up when I get there then when they do there's some problem with my seat so they ask me to wait in the International Business Class Lounge while they do some "rearranging".
Lucky me, I think, getting bumped up from Economy. Good omen. When I check my ticket I see from the fare I was booked in Business Class in the first place. They must have a deal with the airline since I can't imagine anyone spending that kind of money on me. But then, perhaps I'm too used to living on the cheap. Still, I'd rather suffer in Economy and have the rest of the money to pay my rent.
The lounge is hidden in a back hallway but once inside it's large and comfortable with a free bar and buffet. The man at the desk says he'll page me when there's a seat confirmed for me so I head for the smoking lounge. An English woman in too-tight pants says her mother didn't quite smoking until she was 73 and the next time she'll fly the other way on Japan Air because they still let you smoke on international flights. I nod in agreement though the fact that it was possible to get to the same place by flying the opposite direction had never ocurred to me.
Out in the sprawling main lounge I have a couple of free sandwiches then a free vodka and tonic. I'm paged to the front desk and am told my seat assignment then go smoke some more.
An hour or so later I hear my name being paged again and find people running around the terminal frantically looking for me. I guess they don't pipe boarding announcements into the smoking lounge or else I was too engrossed in my reading to hear. It's two minutes to takeoff and everyone on the plane stares at me as I fumble into my seat. Maybe they think I'm a VIP who has to be smuggled aboard at the last minute. I do my best to play mysterious.
Revenge is had on me, though, because the pale young man next to me is a Brit studying bank reports -- we're going to Zurich -- and my "personal entertainment system" doesn't work. After lots of wine I fall asleep and wake up in Switzerland eight and a half hours later.
Thursday, June 7 -- Zurich/Salzburg
There is an abundance of Hasidim in the Tyrolean Airline terminal and an old man missing his nose who has to hold his glasses on his face with one hand while holding a cane in the other. I can't help but stare and wonder if he lost his prosthesis or just doesn't care. It's hard to say what I would do if I lost my nose.
Everything is neat and organized in the Zurich Airport as you would expect. There are no identifying signs to tell you that you are in Zurich as if part of the orderliness is that you should already know. I ask the woman at the desk if I'm in the right place. She says yes and gives me my seat assignment. Two young men in black suits who seem to be industrial designers of some sort sit next to me. Everyone around me seems to be either an industrial designer or a Hasid. Or maybe both. Everyone is wearing black, including me.
A young woman, perhaps his granddaughter, helps the noseless man on to the plane. It's half empty so I take a window seat and watch the Alps go by until we reach Salzburg forty minutes later.
A nice man in a green Mercedes picks me up at the airport along with Alonzo Addison who is the Project Director for the Design Technology Group at the Center for Environmental Design Research, Berkeley. He flew in via Frankfurt and is friendly and younger than I thought he'd be. We trade what information we have about the symposium, which isn't much until we arrive at the Schloss Leopoldskron.
We are staying in an adjacent Meierhof building which houses the Salzburg Symposium classrooms and offices. Barbara Stachl, who has been coordinating things, meets us at the reception desk and says we can do an equipment check around six in the Parker Hall conference room on the second floor, My room is simple in a college dorm sort-of-way but with a king-size bed. I take a short walk around the grounds then go back and try to figure out the alarm and take a nap.
I can't sleep, which is just as well because I hadn't set the alarm correctly. Instead I watch the British news, take a shower, shave then go for another walk in another direction into the woods passing fat, blue-suited Austrian men here for another conference. I fight the bugs along the edge of the lake and sit on a bench to write this. Soon I'll go up and try to do a final version of my talk, run through it then go over and check the equipment. There is a dinner for us at eight in the Schloss then, hopefully, sleep. Someone left a red rose in a bud vase outside my door while I was out.
At six the equipment is still being set up because the previous conference was late in getting their stuff out. I'd seen piles of cases in the hall and wondered if they were for some big production from the ZKM but it turns out they are the caterers for the previous conference. The check doesn't matter much in my case since all I need to do is make sure my HTML files are OK and the Netscape browser works. If they don't I can download new files. Barbara apologizes and says we can do it as planned during the cocktail hour before dinner.
Cocktails are served on the Terrace of the Schloss, which overlooks the lake and a view of a very big mountain that looks like Cezanne's Mont Sainte-Victoire. Between the Terrace and the lake is a small formal garden where ducks like to hide in the shrubbery. It all looks vaguely familiar because it was used in the movie "The Sound of Music" though for some reason I remember a large grass lawn where the children run up to greet their father. But, then again, I tend to get "The Sound of Music" mixed up with "Cabaret." The locals cringe at the mention of the movie and it is a badge of honor to say one hasn't seen it. But they do like the fact that tourists come to Salzburg just to see it and spend money.
Walking over I'd passed two women unloading their car. They looked like sisters and they both had the same damaged bleached blonde hair that would fit in at either a trailor park in Nevada or a wealthy salon. Fashion is a toss-up these days.
Six or seven people sit around one of the four tables, most of them women, all wearing black. I'm wearing the jacket of my suit and a pair of black pants that are too long so I fold up the ends so they look like cuffs but don't fool anybody. My name tag is blue, which signifies I'm a speaker but most of the others have different colors depending on whether they're staff or guests. More people arrive and we enlarge the circle of chairs until it finally divides in two and half move to another table.
The two women I passed earlier arrive and I attempt to introduce myself. One of them waves her hand dismissively and says only "We've met" and they walk past me. I chat with John Wyver of Illuminations about TV and and then the others and soon the coolness passes from the group. The two women who said we'd already met come up to me and one of them says they were mistaken and tell me they are attending the symposium as guests from Munich.
The General Manager of the Schloss, Thomas Heim, gives us a history and tour of the Schloss, built by Archbishop Leopold in 1736 (his heart is buried in the chapel) and later refurnished by the director Max Reinhardt early in this century. We convene for dinner in the candle-lit Venetian Room, a rococo extravaganza concocted by Reinhardt -- all gold leaf, mirrors and paintings of decadent aristos frolicking. Lots of buffet food that I pile on one plate like I'm at a picnic instead of going back for individual courses like everyone else.
We talk, drink wine and generally get to know one another while getting drunk. I tell Graham Defries, the British lawyer who preceeds me on our legal panel, what I plan to talk about and he seems shocked that anyone would defend a low-life criminal like Heath Bunting. I didn't realize the Sainsbury infringement case I'm using as an example in my talk is quite well-known in England.
Dinner over, we drift back to our rooms in the adjacent building where I attempt to go over my talk once more but fail and end up watching British news in English and Monty Python in German on TV before setting the alarm for 7:00 so I can check the equipment in the conference room and falling asleep.