Ok, its around 2AM New York time. Our ride from JFK to Manhattan was engaging enough, but after spending an entire day to travel from SFO to JFK, we poured out of that blue shuttle van in front of 222 W. 23rd. St. feeling like a couple pieces of stale Cajun beef jerky.
However, the minute we stepped into the Chelsea Hotel,
("Dutch Masters"), by former resident and world renown artist, Larry Rivers, hanging in the lobby? This was exactly the sort of energetic "juice" we had hoped to experience, and were not
As a practicing artist for over 30 years, and retired college Art Instructor, I, and my wife, an avid reader, were elated just to be standing at the registration counter of this truly historical and sometimes home of world renown artists, writers dancers and musicians, some of which, such as Thomas Wolfe, Henry Miller, Mark Twain, Dylan Thomas and Brendon Behan are
recognized with large brass plaques on the front of the hotel. Other celebrity/residents not recognized with plaques, but remembered more for their "brass balls" reputations, include
Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Syd Vicious and numerous others.
The first room we were shown had an obvious problem, in that the door knob came off in my hand as the clerk was leaving.(!) My mind immediately flashed back to Bod Dylan's lyrics from
Desolation Row..."about th' time the door knob broke." which, in some perverse way, made me feel "chosen". However, the clerk apologized and said because of the late hour, we could stay in another room, which had a kitchenette and was much more expensive, for our original agreed upon price of $239. No problem.
As soon as we entered the second room, Janet and I didn't care if the door worked or not, for we simply HAD to stay in this room, which I immediately named "The Kafka Suite." Most of the walls were painted an ultra-gloss bile green color, which would normally repulse even me, but atop this weird slime-like background, were large 6" to over 14" stencil-painted cockroaches, beetles, flies, moths, lady bugs, spiders and dragon flies...each painted a different fluorescent color!
We were sure as hell awake now, as we stood there gazing about the room in total amazement while thinking about Franz Kafka's famous short story "Metamorphosis". This being our first real introduction to unrecognized local artistic energy, we were immediately rejuvenated to the point where we figured that in order to take full advantage of the situation by experiencing dreams and/or nightmares from Metamorphosis, we'd need to have a late meal of sorts, to guarantee restless sleep. In short, something that came served with a side order of onions! So, we tossed our bags on the bed and bolted downstairs out the door, and into the street.
We only had to walk a couple of real city blocks before we came to a small bar-b-que joint
where we experienced for the first time, fried onion strings, which are Vidalia onion rings cut to 1/8" wide, deep-fried, and served by the half-pound...with a fork...and delicious beyond description! Again, just one of the small things that make NY such a memorable place!
So, after nearly a pound of strings and a few beers inside us, we waddled back to the
Kafka Suite in anticipation of encountering Gregor Samsa during the night. However, fortunately or unfortunately, neither of us ran into him during our 10 hours of undisturbed sleep. I emphasize undisturbed, for when the Chelsea was built in 1885, it was designed to accommodate visual and performing artists who could practice their talent without disturbing other tenants, so they made the walls 12" thick!
The following morning, we were unable to convince the manager, Mr. Bard to rent us the Kafka Suite for less than $400, and were moved to a smaller room on the third floor near the rear. Though visually less interesting, this room certainly proved to be much more "interactive", which after the first morning's "roomarobics", prompted me to label this one the "Circus Room".