Gwendolyn Toth

Gwendolyn Toth is the director of the New York City-based early music ensemble, ARTEK, and a soloist on early keyboards (organ, harpsichord, fortepiano). She is married to harpsichordist Dongsok Shin, and they have three children.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The cembalo brisee arrives at JFK, just ahead of Hurricane Irene

On Thursday August 25, Dongsok and I got the exciting call that Lufthansa had received the shipped folding harpsichord, and would we please come take care of the paperwork? We checked (this took some time to find out the hidden customs phone numbers on the internet, they wouldn't want to make it easy?!) and determined that in fact Customs was open in the evening as was Lufthansa, and set off.

We found the Lufthansa building without too much trouble (once we figured out that Building 23 comes AFTER Building 22, 24 and 25...). There, we were given our paperwork and an extremely confusing set of directions to the Customs building. I think one could drive around all the many air cargp buildings at JFK - it's literally like a small city - and never come out - it's sort of like an alternate universe. Finally arriving at the customs building a half hour later (yes, it took that long), we couldn't get in the front door. Dongsok had cleverly retained the internet numbers for the Customs people, so he called them up and (miracle!) they actually answered. What did they say? "Hi, we saw you walking up to the building so we locked the doors!" (I am NOT kidding.)

After his laugh at our expense, he directed us to the side door, mercifully unlocked, where we entered, went upstairs and the same jolly fellow approved our paperwork without the slightest trouble (well, I guess he was in a good mood after goofing with us!). Made our way back to Lufthansa, not getting lost, amen, where we submitted the papers & proceeded to the loading dock to get the instrument. So - Dongsok and the very nice Lufthansa man are loading it into the back of the van when another Lufthansa employee says solicitously to me, "How old is he?" I looked at her in some confusion. "He' husband..." (pointing at Dongsok). She said, "No, I meant in the box." Staring at her, I realized she thought it was a child's coffin. Ok, it's possible, I guess! At the moment, it was all I could do not to burst out roaring hysterically. I assured her that in fact it was a harpsichord, no body inside, she was totally embarrassed and apologetic and kept saying "I hope I haven't upset you!" No, but sure gave me a laugh!

Back at home, my daughter Linnea demonstrates that in fact the case is a perfect fit. Is this funny, or creepy? I'm not sure!

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