Last Sunday morning, as I sat in my living room listening to Bach and reading The New York Times, I came across this great article in T Magazine called A Hotel Room of One’s Own. You’ve probably already noticed from the beginning of the first sentence of this blog post that I have a certain sense of myself: I’m the kind of person who listens to Bach and reads the New York Times on Sunday mornings. Yeah, sounds pretentious, right? Well, it’s really just an example of what Kurt Vonnegut says: you are who you pretend to be. I want to be the sort of person who does these things on Sunday mornings regardless of the other trappings of my own life that get in the way: the dishes from last night’s dinner in the sink, the laundry piling up from the week and, especially, my highly energetic dog who will only stand for this relaxing behavior for so long before it’s poke, poke, poke: Hey lady, time to run with the dog or time to romp with the dog on the beach or time to play throw the tennis ball with the dog — me, me, me! I’m right here ready for anything, anything but allowing you to sit there and listen to classical music in your jammies! You see what I mean.
So the title of this article struck me immediately — this allusion to Virginia Woolf — and the photo featured on the page of Vladimir Nabokov writing at a beautiful antique table in his fabulous room at the Montreux Palace Hotel in Switzerland where, apparently, he went to stay and never left. The writer of this article, Andrew O’Hagan, tells us that Nabokov’s experience living in a hotel can be seen in his later books, this sense of belonging “everywhere and nowhere at the same time, as if the only furniture one might seek to possess is the furniture in one’s own mind.” Love that!
Also, O’Hagan knew the writer Joan Didion personally, another writer who was a genius of what he calls “hotel prose.” “She knows precisely how to be in an anonymous, air-conditioned space; indeed, you might say she craves them and knows them, as the women in her books do. . .” I understand this too. One time I went on a business trip with my husband where he went off to meetings all morning and I sat in some anonymous hotel room and wrote. I enjoyed this time immensely. And, too, I once took my dog and rented a hotel room on the Oregon Coast to finish a novel I was working on. (Right away, you can see the problem with that idea — though this was a different and less needy dog.)
But the point of O’Hagan’s article is that you don’t have to go out of town to find a lovely hotel escape — you can do this right here in your own city. O’Hagan perfectly describes that peculiar freedom one gets when staying in a hotel — losing yourself in its “otherness, a heavenly runway to freedom when you’re feeling imprisoned by yourself.” He encourages his readers to think of this, in Virginia Woolf mode, as a matter of personal freedom. You need to find a place that appeals to an idealized version of yourself. It’s a place where you can check into perfection and check out of “the overfamiliar mess of life.” In an ideal world, he says, everyone would have a hotel room of one’s own. And now I want one! In a hotel room on a Sunday morning there would be no energetic needy dog, no laundry and no dishes.
So I go online and look at photos of the Sorrento Hotel in Seattle, a place that I haven’t been in years but I remember as cozy and warm with a great restaurant. And I’ve heard that the Sorrento has shed its old clubby persona for a hip new vibe. (I’d like to think of myself as warm and welcoming too, age appropriate, but still sort of with-it.) Someone also told me that the Sorrento sometimes sponsors “drink and read” nights, where one can sit quietly with a book and sip cocktails or wine. I don’t see this listed on the hotel’s calendar for the Fireside Room, but I do see that there is live music most weekend nights. This might not be conducive to the writerly sensibility, but hey, a writer’s got to get out sometimes too. So I’m thinking I will definitely check this hotel out, maybe it will become my favorite in-city escape.
And, Dave, if you’re reading this blog post, remember that our anniversary is only a week away.
P.S. To be fair, I also Googled “Best hotels in Seattle” and though there’s a long list, and many of them look lovely, none of them spoke to me in the same way.