Gay Globe Trekker

Green Globe Trekker: Settling Accounts

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul longs for hotel lobbies of yesteryear, but takes “art” in Kimpton.

Lil JP stealing one of my Dad's books at The Grand Hotel

Since I was a little kid traveling with my family every other year to The Grand Hotel in Pt. Clear, Alabama, hotel lobbies have enamored me.  My heart skipped a beat every time I saw the giant double doors fog up as the over air-conditioned interior fought off July’s southern humidity.  Once inside the kingdom, there was the smell that I describe in my Condé Nast Traveler essay on the experience as “an odd mix of pine floors and fried crab claws.”

As an adult lucky enough to travel the world, I developed an affinity for hotels that understood the lobby wasn’t just for shuffling people to and fro, but a stage.  And like good set design, I prefer my lobbies have a measured point of view so as not to overwhelm the actors guests.  While I could never quite square myself to the overt and uncomfortable theatricality of Miami’s Delano, I was immediately drawn in by the modern painting collection at Barcelona’s Hotel Arts.

The lobby of Kimpton's Hotel Palomar in Atlanta has a definite point of view.

Recent travels have left me slightly disheartened at the state of hotel lobbies with most companies adopting a Shake n’ Bake approach to dumb down design.  But a reception I attended last night for the unveiling of a 28-foot installation by artist Barbara Nessim gave me hope.  Kimpton Hotels commissioned this piece that will reach two-stories in the lobby of their new hotel Eventi, opening in “North Chelsea” in May 2010.  Kimpton’s interest in artwork already captured my attention on my recent stay in Atlanta at their Hotel Palomar.  So I’m looking forward to their latest in New York—the 50th hotel in their portfolio.

There was one more bit of lobby drama that captured my fascination as a kid—the moment my father paid for the two week stay—with a personal check.  He would march me up to the counter, take out his wallet and ready his personal check from Republic National Bank, while announcing in a dramatic flourish to the front desk attendant, “I’m here to settle my account!”

Years later, on my adult visit to the Grand Hotel, I also marched up to the counter the night before my early morning departure and announced, “I’m here to settle my account!”  The clerk eyed me suspiciously.

“We have your credit card on file, sir.”

So much for the dramatic.  Hey, I wonder if Kimpton Hotels would consider taking a check?

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