The Hotel Lobby Tour of America
The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men Often Go Assunder
On The Road Again
Greg and I have been on the road since April 30th and today is May 16th. It had to happen eventually. We are broken and need a day of mending. We’re sitting in a little nook of the lobby at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare near Chicago. The sun is streaming through a giant cone shaped sun roof making it feel like a warm inviting May 16th. Chicago has lived up to its reputation as The Windy City. Although it is technically 50 degrees outside the wind is howling off Lake Michigan in a pitiless never-ending gust.
We’re sitting in the lobby so the hotel housekeeping staff can empty our one small garbage pail, replace our towels, and make our bed…the best part of hotel living. Our room is actually small for this kind of hotel. There is one king size bed, a small desk area, and a dresser that holds a nice flat screen TV. The bathroom has a stand up shower but no tub. Now, in the lobby, I’m sitting on a long cream alligator textured Naugahyde sofa. Greg is in a Danish Modern looking square wood framed chair upholstered in chocolate velveteen. He is reading the Playboy Movie Director Interview Book. We are the stereotypical outsiders here…me making notes on a life that would not even dent the consciousness of the other people staying at this upscale hotel and Greg lost in a world where creative people actually make money off their skills and talents.
This hotel is full of suits. There is a product convention and some sort of seminar going on in different parts of the hotel. Everyone walks purposefully through the lobby in their fine quality conservative business -casual attire and expensive footwear costing more than everything I have on right now. Women all wear heals or pumps. Men wear Italian leather oxfords or the really wild and crazy wear comfortable looking textured leather shoes made in Maine. Everyone has a plastic badge around their necks showing which conference hospitality committee owes them coffee and a croissant. The suits are acting up in the adjacent conference room. Perhaps there is an open bar?
I nominally toy with the idea of asking Greg what time it is. Neither of us wears a watch but Greg has his phone…I have opted to leave mine in the room. I realize just in time that the time doesn’t matter. I know it’s daytime because the sun is streaming through the sunroof and my hand is casting a shadow on the writing paper. Does anyone really know what time it is? Does anybody really care? I feel so close to the band Chicago here in the lobby of this O’Hare hotel.
Greg has reasoned that we have saved hundreds of dollars by taking today off. We planned on a $30 bus tour and $65 Paul Simon concert (if we could still get tickets) plus train fare and meals. Meanwhile, I spent $10 today on two coffees and a croissant to go with my left over tuna salad from last night’s trip to Dominic’s – a local grocery store. The cooler finally came in handy after Greg struggled with it on his lap all across the U.S.A.
Our trip started out like a lovely fairytale but has turned into a version where the wolf eats Little Red Riding Hood. Greg says we’ve been cast out of Paradise, but really, we cast ourselves out by leaving the 90 degree temperatures in Phoenix. Not that we don’t look forward to our visit to Buffalo…it’s just that we both envisioned a vacation where we discovered America all over again. Instead, we are working on a coffee table book about the lobbies of hotels across the Heartland.
California through Las Vegas worked out way past our expectations. I had been holding up physically as well as could be expected after my body slam on the flag stones outside of work about a week before our departure. My hip and knee were still deeply bruised but I was hopeful no structural damage was done. The cold has not been good for the pain. In the sunny days of California where we visited San Diego and Los Angeles I was more positive about getting better on my own. Now I fear the worst but I can’t help wondering if it is all about the damned cold. That's enough on this subject. Let me relay some of my journal entries from the first week of our trip.
May 1, 2011
If you ever want to test your own metal or the metal of your relationship might I suggest putting all your belongings into a small car and taking an extended road trip before getting to your ultimate destination? Yesterday, Greg and I took what was left of our worldly possessions (besides those mailed to my sister Sue in FL, Richard in Bflo, and part of our CD collection to Lorraine that we couldn’t fit into the car last minute) and drove to Carlsbad, CA just north of San Diego. We had to abandon Hans and Lucy (my EBay mannequins) but they were quickly adopted by John our pothead neighbor and his roommate. They were still engaging in body part pranks when we finally put out the dresser for our neighbor and locked the door one final time.
Our six hour drive to California was prefaced by a grueling seven hours of preparation. We packed and repacked the car like the Aztecs assembling one of their seamless walls at Machu Picchu. Greg’s a trouper but I broke down when we got to the Marriott parking lot and opened the back of the car only to have the stereo speaker tumble to the ground. “I’m done! Never again…I will never do this crazy thing again.” I’ll do it again but I’ll find another way…I think I said that last time too. My poor memory keeps me fresh.
They gave us an accessible handicap room at the Marriott…I was surprised since I didn’t know our “handicaps” were that obvious ;-) The nice thing about it was that the sliding glass doors open up to the first floor pool area where I sit to write my journal. The air has a touch of coolness, there are tropical birds calling from the unusual pine trees with long needles that culminate in puffs at the tips of the branches.
The one thing I want to remember is the windmill farm on Route 10. I have never seen anything manmade more beautiful. At first you see a couple windmills off to the right of the road. They are white and elegant like the portrait of a woman by Modigliani or Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. They are lyrical. As you drive west the hills are scattered with the slow motion of rudders spinning like choreographed dancers, whirling dervishes, the swaying watch of a hypnotist as you wind down the road yourself in motion, spell bound until the dramatic culmination of the full spectacle to the south…a magic apparition of white motion against the rugged snow peaked mountains…so poetic you forget momentarily how to drive.
Monday, May 2, 2011
Yesterday was a lovely day. We drove into San Diego down route 5 south. We ran into an art festival in Little Italy quite by accident. The people here seem joyful and exuberant. All kinds of people in all kinds of colors and shapes. There was no sense of being uncomfortable in their own skins or even in the clothes they chose to wear. Loose fitting cotton garments with comfortable shoes. I love these people. We should have moved here but I’m glad we had our Phoenix time. I purged the evil spirits from my soul. It made me appreciate the people in my life so much more. I definitely feel like I’ve emerged a better warmer person. I let go of some hard core that kept me from getting close.
We walked through the festival looking at people, occasionally glancing at art and listening to the eclectic blend of music and voices scattered through the event. People were dancing in the streets…San Diego is on the Planet Paula.
After the art festival we decided to go to Sea World. We watched the Shamu show twice. The whales are beautiful and smart. They danced and splashed and seemed happy to entertain us. The same was true of the sea lions. However, the gigantic white walrus seemed to be frantically pleading with us to get him out of there. He flailed his arms and moved his whole body in agonizing contortions that many times took on human characteristics of profound suffering. I know that it’s not smart to attribute human qualities to animals but this guy really seemed desperate. He was totally isolated in a rather small tank for such a large beast. From the little I know about Walrus they don’t seem to be solitary creatures. You always see them on nature specials in big walrus communities talking and complaining to each other. I’ve never seen a white one either…they are usually brownish. This one was like a ghostly walrus apparition under glass.
Friday, May 6, 2011
I am full of moments. A nap in the Buddhist part of Forever Hollywood Cemetery; the play God of Carnage at Ahmanson Theater staring Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini, and Marcia Gay Harden; an uphill trolley ride with Bob on an insider sightseeing tour; old town where I could have sworn I was in a town square in a small Mexican town; The Egyptian Movie Theater where Bob and I saw a double feature of Elizabeth Taylor/Montgomery Clift movies (A Place in the Sun and Suddenly Last Summer); Beverly Hills window shopping; good meals and good company.
My legs ache but I feel strength returning to my body. The more I walk the better I will feel. My body was starved for exercise…I was starved for entertainment. Now I feel like I’m coming out of a coma. Phoenix, for the most part, was a coma. Greg is fresh and happy. I am enthusiastic and hopeful. This trip is like learning to be ourselves again. Like recovering from a brain injury.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Today we drove over the Rockies in a snow storm. Mark, “defying death in the Rockies” off my bucket list. Greg kept saying he had an uncontrollable urge to listen to Christmas music. Funny thing is, the CD’s we wanted to take with us for the trip that we mailed to Lorraine last minute had a collection of Christmas music. Greg has always been psychic. CO is absolutely gorgeous…I wish I could have seen it under blue skies.
This is where the story stopped until our little visit to the lobby today. We have not had many experiences since our ride through the Rockies…but we did see Bryce Canyon and Zion in Utah even though we had to see them through the rain.
I didn’t write in Las Vegas because I was having too much fun to write. We ran around with Patty and Paul and when we were at home we talked and laughed until my face hurt. We always have fun with them whether we visit them or they visit us. We hope to see them in Buffalo this summer and then in Florida in the fall.
Now it’s time for me to call it a night and crawl under the feather comforter. This Day of Rest was a brilliant idea. I am ready to start fresh tomorrow…even if we do have to fight the elements.