Friday, October 07, 2011

The Chelsea Hotel

I was recently in New York City.  It had been a while since I was there, and one of the places I wanted to see is the Chelsea Hotel.  It is place of legends – successive and dramatic stories that played out in many of its rooms.  Dylan Thomas over imbibed and died there.  Pattie Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe lived there, beginning a life long love affair that lasted for decades.  Bob Dylan lived there and wrote “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” in room 211.  Sid Vicious stabbed his girlfriend Nancy Spungen to death in room 100.  He later died of a heroin overdose.  Leonard Cohen lived there and wrote a song about the place, in which he sang about his room and a dalliance with Janis Joplin that he later regretted.    Jack Kerouac wrote his infamous “On the Road” while on a three week drug fueled trip.  Arthur Miller suffered through his break-up from Marilyn Monroe while staying at the Chelsea.  Arthur C. Clarke found the inspiration to write “2001: A Space Odyssey” while living there.  Madonna called the place her home in the 1980’s. The lobby saw the likes of Andy Warhol, Allen Ginsberg, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, the Grateful Dead, Velvet Underground and an ongoing cast of characters from the free-spirited and bohemian era that was then and now, but, for then, found its nesting place in the many rooms of the Chelsea Hotel.  The era still lives, but not at the Chelsea.  It has long since moved on.
Sadly, the Chelsea was recently sold.  The hundred or so residents still living there will have to soon relocate.  They will be bought off.  The Chelsea is to be remodeled along the lines of, according to the news, a “Holiday Inn-ish”style of structure.  A modestly priced motel.  A come and go kind of place.  A far cry from what the Chelsea once was and can never be again.
I understand that change is the name of the game.  Nothing stays the same forever. 
But I regret not visiting the Chelsea Hotel when I recently had the chance.  I asked where it was and was told that it was a good walk from where I presently was.  I should have followed my better instincts and hoofed on over there, just to take a look and maybe sit in the lobby and touch things, knowing that everything in the place is a second or third class relic.
But I had things to do, places to go.
People to see.
And I missed out. 
Well. There will be other times, other places that attract and breed the strange and mystifying world of art. 
I read that the Chelsea lost its allure a while back.  So say the newspaper stories about it.
So maybe I really did not miss anything.  But I wonder. It is a great thing that is passing, soon to be a flashy motel.  I should have sat in the place, and said a prayer of gratitude.
And then got up and looked for something just like it. 

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