The second we’re out of the cab I adopt a sophisticated air. Taking the lead, I swing my hand behind me and grab hers. She feels I’m going all Thespian on her. I don’t need acting lessons. I can look as sophizto as she can, or any New-Yorker for that matter, except Sinatra. I’m sure of it. But I’m always sure of sketchy things. It worries me. It probably worries her too.
“He’s going all cosmopolitan on me, I can feel it. You can take the farmer out of the boy, but you can’t….and he’ll want to know every little thing about the hotel. To find out, he’ll strike up a conversation with anyone, anyone, from Conrad Hilton, to the chamber maid who comes in to make up the bed. He’s an equal opportunity interrogator. My brain is shuddering in anticipation.”
We skate one time around the revolving glass door. A skinny French-fry dark-haired Asian woman in a severe business suit and tie, wearing sensible high-heels, welcomes us to the hotel.
“And William will show you to your room.”
William is the Filipino guy with the purple suit and gold pins and he’s grey at the temples and wearing a smile that won’t wash off. The elevator door reliefs are decorated in art deco style, depicting female figures representing music and prosperity.
You had to run your fingers over the folds of their robes just to get the feel of them. Once in the elevator, we need to use our room key card to allow the elevator to let us off on our floor. William shows us how to swipe it and push the buttons.
“People staying at the hotel proper can’t get off on your floor, and they can’t get off in the U.S. Ambassador’s floor either.”
‘Barbara and Steven and the US Ambassador must be important people.’ I figure. ‘At the Waldorf they make you feel special. Being an only child, I already thought I was special, but maybe it was just the Trump in me. Maybe I was just different. If different is special, maybe everybody is special.’
The history-book halls, lined on either side with enormous black and white photos of famous people, remind you where you are. You’re in a landmark hotel, a meeting place, a watering hole, a cultural center, a multi-generational extravaganza that has to be experienced to be understood. I never imagined a building could work black magic, but in its own way, the Waldorf seduced me. And William wasn’t through yet. He had another trick up his purple sleeve.
“You can have breakfast on the 27th floor. They serve snacks all day until four. And to get there, you have to swipe the card like this.”
William smiles and swipes the elevator gizmo with an executive’s flourish.
“Do they have yogurt and bagel?” I inquire.
The Deco doors open and we roll out into the hallway and turn left. The hall is lined with large black and white photos of well-known guests. Our hall had a photo of Princess Grace and Prince Rainer of Monaco. He takes out a packet and hands us two cards when we get to the door. They’re charcoal grey with a W and an A in white formal lettering and they’re superimposed making a sort of a monogram. Makes you want to keep one as a souvenir of a special occasion. Holding our magic cards makes us feel special again. Damn, these fancy big-city innkeepers are good at the hospitality game. He lets me do the honors and swipe it to open the door.
We walk through an entrance with a mini-fridge on one side, and I imagine it’s full of expensive drinks of all sorts. The living area has a couch on the left and a TV on the right on top of a piece of furniture that must have belonged to Marie Antoinette because it’s big and it’s fancy and stylish with scenes inlayed with exotic woods and hand painted ceramic drawer pulls.Look closer and you see pastoral vistas dotted with rose bushes frequented by milk maids, fair ladies, and their hesitant lovers etched in gold. Maupassant’s pale artistic fingers could have tugged at these knobs, I just knew it.
Barb was already through the doorway and plopping down on the bed.
“This,” she said, “is like heaven.”
I gave the mattress an affectionate press.
It had been a red-eye flight with forgettable food and cramped as a mouse trap. It was not quite dawn and foggy below, and even then, the view was spectacular. That’s what I learned about New York. If you were up high enough, the view was always spectacular. Everywhere you looked it was me, me, me, you know, us, us us, us humans. The altitude and all this ‘usnuss’ made you giddy. Good thing it was just a man-made illusion, otherwise it could get to you.
While Barb’s feet were having an orgasm for her being off them, I was scouting the living room and found a bottle of Champagne and two square white plates on the desk. It was two sets of Gigantic Strawberries dipped in chocolate. Did Montezuma have strawberries? If he did, he would have made this himself. Praise Montezuma and his chocolate. Then curse him for giving it to Cortez. Cortez didn’t deserve a taste of heaven. Cortez was a grub.
Looking out the window has me giddy, and I still can’t see the streets, it’s so foggy.
I decide to pop the champagne.
The strawberries sing happy birthday written in delicate chocolate swirls signed Allison and Seth. Her daughter and son in law have sent a suite-warming gift all the way across the continental United States so we’d feel close to them and not so out of place. That’s love.
POP! There it goes. We down the sparkly-party brew, and stuff the chocolate strawberries too. Do you ever… you know… when food is looking this good, and somebody really took their time preparing it, as much as you want to eat it, you hesitate disturbing the presentation?
Like when Barb or any other beautiful woman has her hair just right and her makeup nasty good? When a man understands all the skill and girl-hours it requires to achieve that particular magic, and realizes it was just for him? You feel divided. You have two minds about it. You don’t want to mess it up… but you must.
Like Buddhist sand mandalas, a woman’s face is temporary art and changes with her whims and seasons, suggesting the transitory nature of material life. Her art must be explored in the here and now to be enjoyed, not studied with a scholar’s dispassionate hands-off approach. The Waldorf knew we couldn’t resist their decadent chocolate strawberries. They provided white linen napkins, the rascals.
To be continued….
©Steven Hunley 2017
https://youtu.be/OSq_nwoG43s George Gershwin Rhapsody In Blue