Sometimes a Holiday Inn Is a Great Idea

Welcome to my random musings about the world, on a weekly-to-occasional basis.

Where we are: London, walking our feet off.

Sometimes a Holiday Inn is a great idea

Years ago, we had a friend who went to Japan and stayed in a Holiday Inn. I judged him so hard. Why would anyone travel all that way just to stay in a room that could be anywhere in the world? Didn’t he want to get off the beaten path and see what Japan was really all about? Didn’t he want to have a truly authentic experience?

Well, I’ve learned a thing or two since then. I’ve been off the beaten path. Things can get weird and creepy when you stray off that path. The generator might be leaking fumes into your room. There’s shit on the duvet. You might freeze to death, or sweat to death, or just spend the whole night hoping whatever creature is scrabbling around on the thatched roof stays outside. The staff might be surprised that you want a towel. You’ll bumble around in the noontime dark because you were instructed (in very stern capital letters) to KEEP THE CURTAINS CLOSED AT ALL TIMES TO KEEP THE DUST OUT. There might be water buffalo peering in your window, or warthogs, or a man with a blowtorch. The pool might be empty (actually, if I’m there, the pool will most likely be empty, so if you want a hotel with a pool, you shouldn’t travel with me). 

You might have to take a Xanax to get to sleep.

I think it was Ethiopia that broke us (and if you read last week’s email, you may be surprised that it wasn’t India). 

At our hotel in Addis Ababa, we had a huge room, but the closet was a flimsy plywood DIY project propped up in one corner. I tried not to look too closely. There were no windows, but one dingy glass door opened directly onto the tiny enclosed courtyard at the center of the building. Again, I tried not to look too closely, but the sound of the generator was worrisome.

The bathroom was also huge, but the fittings all looked as if they’d been scavenged from yard sales, or maybe the detritus from a demolition site. The counter had the sort of grubby, sticky feel of a poorly finished preschool snack table, but taller—it came up to my chest.

There was a huge jacuzzi tub for two, complete with padded seats.

The piece de resistance, though, was the shower. We still refer to it as the disco shower. It was, like the tub, big enough for two people. The walls were lined with various jets and nozzles, and multicolored lights that blinked and flashed. There was even a remote control. It was seriously a disco shower.

But there was no water.

Okay, maybe I exaggerate. There was a thin trickle of water. Eventually someone came to our room and removed the main shower head, so that I could wash my hair. Lee doesn’t have hair, but he does like to get wet when he showers. After about four days, he gave up and booked us into the Hilton.

In the year and a half since we were in Ethiopia, I’ve learned to love a western chain hotel. They may not be glamorous, but they’re usually functional. We know whom to call if there’s a problem. There’s a basic level of cleanliness. Some are a little older or shabbier than others, but they’re usually predictable in a way that can be comforting when everything beyond the front doors is discombobulating. 

We’re not usually looking for a five star experience, but sometimes familiarity is the greatest luxury I know of.

So if you want to get off the beaten path on your next vacation, feel free. Or don’t—whichever you prefer. I won’t judge. 

In the meantime, if you need me, I’ll be at the Marriott.

From my writer’s notebook:

In a desperation move, the Brooklyn Museum is planning to deaccession (sell) a dozen paintings. The funds raised will be used to care for the rest of their collection.

The idea of selling off art for any reason other than purchasing new art has long been taboo in the museum world, but Covid has changed everything. Museums all over the world have been struggling under shutdowns and visitor capacity limits. Many now find themselves in dire financial straits; I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for a museum director to decide which of their precious masterpieces has to go on the auction block.

What caught my attention about this particular sale is that one of the most significant pieces is by Lucas Cranach the Elder, an important Old Master of the German Renaissance.

Teaser: a Cranach painting has a significant role in the book I’m currently writing.

The saddest thing, in my opinion, about museums being forced to auction off their holdings is that there’s no guarantee that these important works will remain accessible by the public. If some random billionaire wants to buy a masterpiece and hang it in his basement for all eternity, there’s nothing anyone else can do about it.

Take care,


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