Business Trip

My mouse-sized room at the Hudson Hotel cost nearly 200 times more than a night at the Hotel Italia in Bolivia a few years back, and made the carry-on bag wedged next to the bed look huge. For another ten dollars, I got a shaky one-bar wireless connection. On the east coast, the Interweb is still a privilege, not a right. In spite of the the honking on 8th Avenue, the close wooden walls and drafty windows put me in mind of my log cabin days. That suits me, but I’m still horrified at the expense.

“The city hasn’t turned the heating on yet,” said the very nice woman at front desk when I called to tell her I was cold. Was this Leningrad with Louis Ghost chairs? In the Library bar downstairs, people drank cocktails to _Thriller,_ same as five years ago, except the New Yorkers have moved on and these are out-of-towners now. The cafeteria was furnished with heavy benches, like Hogwarts.

In the boom years, my friend Lee would call me for Priceline slumber parties on her work trips to New York. I’d meet her at the Ritz, the Waldorf, or the Royalton. Sometimes we slummed it at the Paramount, which was all sharp edges, tight corners, and tricksy fittings. We sat up late telling secrets over thirty-buck club sandwiches.

At the time, my ex was plagued by phone cards calls from would-be investors in his new business. (1999 was an odd year.)
“You don’t understand,” one specimen hissed, “I can introduce you to the business development group at Acme Corp.”
“As it happens,” said Jason, reasonable as always, “my wife is in a hotel room with the head of business development at Acme Corp right now.” Lee and I were trying on one another’s clothes at the Royalton.

Slumber parties aside, I don’t like the learned helplessness of hotel life. Doormen worry me. So do bellhops. I’m too cheap for room service, even–and especially–when I’m not paying, and too often I find myself sitting alone above a city, dithering over a mini-bar Toblerone that would have bought five nights at the Hotel Italia, and longing for a nice cup of tea.

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