August 19th, 2007

Tom Lehrer is Smug

chapter 1. in which 18 straight whiskeys certainly is a record, all right


Arrived in Manhattan on the Acela local after missing my express train by thaaaat much. Everybody loves the MBTA and its fine morning service. As it turns out, I was only an hour later than I had expected, and I did get to see a bit more of the stations along the route as we stopped for each one. I had opted to spring for the extra 20 bucks and get a Business Class seat which, if you want to break it down, means $10 for glorious extra legroom and $10 for all the complimentary beverages you can guzzle down in the cafe car -- besides booze, of course, but it would have been perfect for this morning's trip.

"Didn't think I'd encounter so many screaming babies in Biz Class," I texted Miz B. It was true, too. Business Class ain't so much Business Class anymore as it is Upscale Coach. Lots of families getting on at Providence. Shook my view of train class a little bit. Sure, I didn't expect Business Class to be full of men in Oxford shirts and Bluetooth headsets saying "Buy! Sell! Sell! Get me into Nobu tonight at 7:30!" into thin air, but I did expect it to be, well, grown-up and quiet. Quiet enough so that, presumably, some business could get done. Quietly. On a laptop.

Instead I had two babies two seats in front of me who were not very fond of the whole experience,, some "quit touching me! MOM! He's touching me!" children a few rows back, but to my left and up one row, a pair of amazingly well-behaved 7 or 8-year-olds. They were travelling to New York with Grandma and were enjoying the ride a whole lot but doing so in that Very Well Behaved way. They played Auto Bingo or Train Bingo, asked Grandma neat questions about the Empire State Building and only got up to visit the Cafe Car and not play Racecar Derby up and down the train aisles. I like kids like that. I also like kids who shut up and bury their noses in a book or five, but that's just me. Rather, that was me.

"They should have a Screaming Baby Class," Miz B. texted back.

"I don't think that's necessary," I replied. "They already know how to do it very well."

My esteemed base-ball connoisseur and Coney Island friend Mr. Dyte met me at Penn Station and we headed down to 222 W. 23rd so I could check in at the Hotel Chelsea. It was much like visiting a dying friend, as the Last Bastion of Bohemia is poised at the very brink of gentrification and boutiquing. Stanley Bard, the long-time manager since 1946 and true soul of the hotel (who has been known, apocryphally, to accept paintings or other works from The Starving Artists in lieu of rent) was ousted as manager in June by the hotel board, spearheaded in part by David Elder, the heir of one of the hotel's owners. Elder is a beast of the cruelest persuasion. His mother's will stipulated that while her shares in the hotel would go to David and his brothers, they would be held in trust by her husband, author Piri Thomas, who would receive all the income from the trust until his death. At that time, the shares would fully go over to the Elder brothers, who would then presumably throw Machiavellian schemes to usurp the shares from one another.

However, Piri Thomas is still very much alive and spittin' mad, for while David Elder has made sure that Thomas has not seen one red cent of this income, Piri has still had to pay the taxes on it. David Elder is a cheat, a fraud, and a charlatan of most unsavory and unsympathetic type, and there will be a hearing this Monday -- the final one, residents and friends of the hotel hope -- to oust him as a trustee. Hopefully there will be two guys waiting at the door to hoist him up by his shoulders and belt to give him the true physical one, two, thuh-REE! heave-ho onto the street.

While Elder and businesswoman Marlene Krauss have already kicked Stanley Bard out and brought in the coporately nebulous "BD Hotels LLC" to run the place, there is still hope that something could turn around and keep the two, who never really cared much about the place until Chelsea started to become the New Expensive-Trendy neighborhood, from turning a truly unique institution into another expensive boutique hotel with tourist-friendly history: Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke stayed here! Ooo! So did Ryan Adams! Get a picture, honey! We may see a celebrity here! Can we see the room where that punk guy killed his girlfriend? Will that be on the tour? It's nice to know those types have gone, though. I wouldn't want my kids to have to see any of them.

But that's not what the Chelsea is. Collapse )