Wednesday, April 13, 2016

One Seven Seven: Rooms

I write from the bed of room 1014 at The Standard, Downtown LA, where I may or may not have “made love” in the ginormous bathtub last night. 

My goal in life is to live in a hotel. Reality can be so boring, so predictable—I prefer a lifestyle of constant escape, because why not? However, since I can’t afford that yet (sigh), for now I use hotels for their most basic functions: travel and sex. The first, of course, is self explanatory, but it’s easy to take for granted what a night in a hotel can do for your sex life.

The quote is by Karley Sciortino, "Karley Slutever" of the rather delightful Slutever blog (and her own column at Vogue these days, too). It's from a piece at the blog that Standard Hotels has at its website for 05 April 2016.  I'm an admirer of Ms. Sciortino, and I have to agree with her about hotels and sex:

Hotel bars and restaurants have a slightly different vibe than most others—there’s an inherent level of intimacy and possibility, which often leads to more free and open conversation. Who knows what can happen at the hotel bar: maybe you’ll meet an exotic stranger and have a surreal, Lost In Translation adventure. 

Hotel sex is a sexual luxury item, and the novelty of it allows you to play into fantasy. Basically, when you check into a hotel, you check out of life, which enables you to take on a new identity. I’ve had the most hedonistic, Helmut-Newton-style sex of my life in hotel rooms. It’s sort of like how an actor puts on a costume to help get into a new character—in a hotel, a space of both elegance and anonymity, you can be a different, more adventurous you. Also, the huge bed, good lighting and 400 thread count sheets don’t hurt.

I've always believed that a new city isn't really yours 'til you've had sex there, preferably with a beautiful stranger. Hotels, of course, are the classic venue for that. They're temporary places--- stage sets, really, if you follow the precepts of travel marketing. Well-designed, well-managed hotels are supposed to offer elegance and anonymity, an interlude where you're in a new world, where the stage is kept perfect for you. Fresh linens on the bed, the sheets turned down, the room immaculate, the view breathtaking. It's a fantasy locale, and there's nothing like the intersection of anonymity, elegance, and an unknown city to suggest that sex is, well...required.

I stayed once at a boutique hotel in Manhattan that made a discreet point of suggesting that its upstairs club--- which had an indoor pool with its own banks of benches and a poolside d.j. ---might lead to a night in one of its sleekly Euro-styled rooms. The main desk had its own little shop where "intimacy kits" with condoms, lube, and blindfolds could be purchased. The design was all about suggesting not just the hot-sheets hotels that used to be all over Midtown in the days when New York was on the edge of apocalypse, but a venue for adventures. Not romance, mind you, and not commercial sex--- adventure.

Hotel bars are like airport bars, of course. They're like some Interzone fantasy, some Casablanca or Tangier fantasy. Step inside, order a drink, and you don't come from anywhere, you aren't going anywhere, your name and particulars cease to matter. Hotel bars and hotel beds encourage confessions and stories. Insofar as they do that, they're my natural habitat. 

Once, long ago, I spent a Christmas Day in a boutique hotel. There was snow outside, and grey skies, and a language I barely understood. The hotel's theme was something Anglophile, something about foxhunting prints  and dark velvet. There was a restaurant with a Christmas dinner designed to bring up Oxbridge-life novels and films. I ate alone, and found myself talking to a girl who'd been sitting alone with her drink, very obviously near to tears. That ended a couple of hours and  a few drinks later with the two of us in her bed, exchanging stories and watching the snow outside mask the city lights. I left her asleep and never saw her again. I may have left her a note with my contact address--- not e-mail, no: this was before e-mail ---on hotel stationery. I do remember that it mattered to me that there was hotel stationery in the drawer. I did wonder if any of the things she'd told me were true--- name, upbringing, past, why she was there and what (who, of course) had left her crying on Christmas Day. I may or may not have told her stories of lives I wished I'd led rather than anything about the one I was living. 

In hotels I always think of the rooms as tiny, individual worlds, little display cases for lives and hopes. When you walk hotel corridors, you're walking past cells filled with ongoing stories. When the door closes behind you, you're cut off from the outside world, alone or not. 

Hotel sex is a statement about stage sets and making oneself part of some half-remembered (or half-imagined) film or novel. Hotel sex offers that--- escaping into being part of a novel or film. That's not such a small thing. 

Hotel sex is a way of marking out that you've been to a new city, a foreign city, an unexplored country, and been part of a film or novel there. It marks out the unexpected and the singular. It's a marker for discovering that, here in some new world, you do have social and sexual value. Those things aren't small, either. 

Hotel life and hotel sex offer up many of the same markers. And both things offer up hope of being outside the world, at least for a while. 

I do miss hotel bars and hotel restaurants tonight, and of course I miss hotel sex--- a lovely girl sitting naked on the bed, framed in half-light from a window looking down on a foreign city. 

If you're reading this, I hope you'll tell me about the hotels and cities where you've found moments of escape, where you've found Adventures.