Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Grand Hotel?

In a Times Op-Ed piece Roger Cohen describes the pleasures of anachronism in his description of Berlin’s Hotel Savoy (“The Virtue of Redeeming Vice,” NYT, 12/26/14). “It has taps and regular light switches rather than electronic command consoles designed to bamboozle. Its staff tends towards the gruff. Its clientele tends towards avoidance of gyms. Nobody asks for you room number when you walk in for the excellent breakfast. Right next to reception is its cigar bar, where you can drink and smoke into the wee hours as the masters of espionage did back in the Cold War days.” Does this description remind you of Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) or Grand Hotel (1932)? One thing is sure it’s not the Hotel California, nor is geared to modern technophiles like former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg who attempted to legislate the consumption of soda as well as cigarettes. However, it’s definitely going to appeal to those who have ended up with toilet water up their ass and unwashed hands when they attempted to use the bathrooms in one of the more technologically advanced and politically correct hotel rooms that populate modernity. Occasionally one runs into people who would be perfect inhabitants of the kind of redoubt that Cohen describes. They're the kind of polymathic intellectuals who time has left behind. In the age of specialization, they know about everything. They not only smoke but smoke strong French cigarettes, like Gitanes and Gauloises. They drink a little too much, but only know AA, the way one might encounter a minor character in a novel. They have, of course, read The Interpretation of Dreams, but the whole enterprise by which character is questioned or changed is simply not part of their project--the whole point of which is to dig their heels ever more deeply into the life they have always lived, with all its infidelities, imperfections and even life lies. They're devoted to no higher calling than the perpetuation of a certain level of impervious cultivation, though they're more colorful than some healthier reinvented personalities who are Codependent No More. It’s nice to know that there're still people who defy the notion of progress and it’s even nicer to know that that there's a hotel in a grand old metropolis which caters to them. Whether descendants of metrosexuals, who check their recovery group meeting lists when they arrive at their hotels, could tolerate Cohen’s description of “how wonderful it is to walk into the fug of cigar smoke in the hotel lobby,” without throwing up, is another story.

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