A Hotel Lobby Look

I stayed recently at the Renwick hotel in Manhattan, and while I didn’t particularly care for the stenciled quote on the wall of my room, I did like the look of the Renwick’s cozy lobby.  I thought the stacked books painted to create a portrait were an especially cool touch.

Hotel lobbies — constantly pushing the boundaries of room decor!

Lame B-Day

Today is my birthday.  As birthdays go, it hasn’t been in the top 5 all-time.  I’m in NYC, and my flight home has been repeatedly — and incrementally– delayed.  Every half hour or so my phone buzzes and another delay is announced, always with “apologies for the inconvenience.”  I’m now looking at a departure time that is more than three hours after the scheduled time, and I’m wondering whether the next announcement will be an outright cancellation.

All in all, it’s not the best way to celebrate a birthday.  Fortunately, birthdays don’t mean that much to me.

Random Quotes Upon The Wall

When I got to my room at my hotel in NYC last night, I discovered it was one of those places that has random quotes printed on the walls.

In this case, it was the above quote attributed to Andy Warhol — although some contend it actually originated with Marshall McLuhan — helpfully placed right next to the bathroom.  For good measure, the mat on the desk has a quote attributed to John Steinbeck:  “People don’t take trips, trips take people.”  (This is a paraphrase of sorts of a line from Travels with Charley:  In Search of America that reads “We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”)

What’s the point of quotes on the walls and on desk mats?  I’m guessing it’s supposed to convey a certain erudite edginess, like you’ve suddenly found yourself in some intellectual artist’s loft in Soho, rather than in a stodgy hotel.  But in my view, the wall quote places are really more alienating than the standard generic hotel room.  After all, I didn’t pick the quote — and in fact I don’t think I’d ever print any quote upon my wall, even if it were some deeply meaningful quote from the Gettysburg Address rather than a vapid observation about gullible art critics.  So when I wake up and see the quote on the wall, it immediately tells me that I’m in a strange room.  It doesn’t exactly convey a “make yourself at home” feeling.

Everybody seems to be big on quotes these days, although many of the quotes you see are actually fake.  It’s as if the message is that there’s no original thinking yet to be done, and we should just sigh with appreciation at the wisdom of the ancients — which is an approach I heartily disagree with.  But even if you are a big fan of quotes, what does a quote from Andy Warhol about art have to offer a weary traveler?  My guess is that Warhol himself would find the fact that his quote appears on a hotel room wall to be a hilarious commentary on the wannabe state of modern society.

Dinner Of Champions (Travelers Division)

Lately I’ve eaten a lot of dinners in airports.  It’s not a good thing.  Airport food has definitely improved over the years, but it’s still significantly burger/pizza/chicken-centric and often loaded with sodium, and eating a heavy, salty meal doesn’t exactly sit well when you immediately stumble onto a plane and then sit on your butt for hours.

So, I’ve started looking for these do-it-yourself yogurt/fruit/granola combos when I’m required to eat an airport dinner.  They seem reasonably light and reasonably fresh, they’re relatively low in calories and sodium, and they don’t leave you feeling like every ounce of moisture has been sucked from your mouth and a lead ball has been lodged in your stomach.

As airport dinners go, those are pretty high standards.

The Detroiter At Buddy’s

Last night we had dinner at Buddy’s Pizza, a Detroit institution for decades and also home to rectangular, “Detroit-style” pizza.  Russell and I split a “Detroiter” — pizza loaded with meats and cheeses, with the cheese placed on top to maximize the meaty flavor and avoid charring the pepperoni.  

The Detroiter was fantastic.  That should come as no surprise, because Buddy’s is frequently identified as one of the very best pizza establishments in the U.S. of A.  The crust was perfection itself — light and crunchy, without the doughy gumminess you find in many “deep dish” pizzas — and the cheese on top approach really does enhance the flavor.  We also enjoyed a pitcher of Buddy’s beer, a very refreshing lager with hints of citrus that went well with the pizza.

I’m pretty sure there will be another trip to Buddy’s in my future.

O’Hare After Dark

I’m here in O’Hare Airport tonight, waiting to catch a late flight home.  So far, at least, no one has assaulted me or tried to bodily remove me from a seat — but my adventure is not yet over.


There’s definitely a surreal quality to O’Hare after dark.  It’s an enormous facility, designed to accommodate huge throngs of passengers, so when night comes and the crowds have seriously thinned out, the solitary traveler is almost overwhelmed by the vast spaces.  There was a guy playing a solitary saxophone at the end of the walkway leading to Concourse 3, and his echoing notes perfectly captured the kind of lonely feeling that is created when you’re traveling alone, through oppressively large, impersonal spaces that make you feel swallowed up and almost nonexistent.

There’s no better advertisement for the pleasures of “home” than O’Hare after dark.

Getting “Bumped”

We’ve all been in this situation:  we’re at the gate, waiting for our plane, and the gate agent makes an announcement that the flight is overbooked and they’re looking for “volunteers” to take a later flight in exchange for a travel voucher.  If there are no immediate volunteers, the value of the voucher can go up . . . and up . . . and up.

But what if there are no volunteers, at any price?  I’ve never bitten on any of those offers because I would much rather get to where I’m going.  What if everyone on a particular flight took that approach?  I’ve always wondered about that scenario.

united-airlines-man-dragged-out-of-plane-253x189Now we’ve got an answer, of sorts.  On one overbooked United Airlines flight, from O’Hare Airport in Chicago to Louisville, an airport security officer physically assaulted a passenger who was in his seat on the plane and dragged him down the aisle and off the plane so United staff who needed to get to Louisville could take his seat.  Of course, other passengers had out their cell phones and took video footage of the encounter. The video is pretty shocking when you consider that the man who was mistreated was a ticketed passenger who had paid for the flight, checked in, and followed all of the rules.

United told passengers that four people needed to leave the flight and that it was selecting the people who needed to give up their seats to United staffers by random computer selection.  Three of the unlucky people apparently left voluntarily — but when the one passenger refused, he was forcibly removed.  One passenger said that the man had originally agreed to give up his seat, but rescinded his decision when he learned that the next available flight was not until the next day.

Of course, United officials and the Chicago Department of Aviation say that the actions of airport security were contrary to policy, and they’ve apologized.  United, meanwhile, is dealing with a PR nightmare.  How many people are going to think twice about choosing a United flight if, say, an American flight is available?  And for those of us who fly regularly, it’s an eye opener to think that you could be chosen randomly to give up that seat you reserve because an airline has decided that its staff needs to have that seat instead, and then mauled by airport police if you decline.

“Fly the friendly skies,” indeed!