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Monday, May 10, 2004

The Glamorous Life 

I should probably start my guest-blogging by answering a question that's floated around the back blogs here and over at 4MysteryAddicts since I first showed my face at the Edgars ceremony: What happened to Olen after we all got tired and went home...and why did he not show his face again that week? Did something...untoward happen between him and Ken Bruen that first evening?

(I added the last bit -- I don't think it crossed anyone's minds.)

You can see from Sarah's earlier post what happened up to the time everyone left for home that evening. Afterward, Ken and I remained rooted at the Collins Bar, chatting with the bartender (an Irish camaraderie grew between him and Ken) and stepping outside now and then for cigarettes. While outside, we conversed with some interesting gentlemen who were unable to draw us in on their business propositions, but were pragmatic enough not to let this upset them. Ken and I closed the bar, found a late-night coffee spot, and then stumbled to our respective hotels.

By then, it was 6 in the morning.

The next day I was due to check out of the Grand Hyatt by noon and move to a more affordable place on the Upper West Side. Groggy, hungover, and a little confused, I did just this. I lugged my bags through the subway, getting lost once, and finally made it to a place that, on the web page, looked like a charming, affordable corner of the Great City.

Looks, as we all know, can be misleading.

I should've been clued in when the front desk told me they would only accept cash for the room, up-front -- but I was tired. I began to mutter that I didn't know if I had enough cash, and the man quickly pointed over my shoulder; I looked. An ATM machine sat behind me. So I paid for two nights and, exhausted, took the elevator to my floor. A dark, decrepit corridor faced me, lined with doors that seemed to be falling free of their frames. Then I found my home-away-from-home.

Afterward, I had the distinct feeling people felt I was exaggerating. But I wasn't. It was the kind of room I'd only seen in films, the one that houses the heroin addict. A bed, a television bolted to the wall, and that's it. No table, dresser, phone or chair. There was a visibly grimy, lumpy carpet stapled to the base of the wall, and the wall itself was covered in a sickly-green paint that was, quite literally, peeling. Cracks shuddered through the door and the window, and above me a single fluorescent tube offered illumination. The thing is, it was a heroin addict's room, but without the one advantage of that lifestyle -- I wasn't on heroin.

It was a tough weekend for lodging in New York. The Tribeca Film Festival, psychiatry conventions, and numerous other gatherings had filled the hotels to the brim. So when I went back downtown and lunched with my editor, Kelley Ragland, she made a lot of fruitless calls to full hotels. But at least she was able to feed me. And that gave me the strength to walk many blocks to the Mansfield Hotel, where I knew Ken was staying. It turned out they had a room for me for one night. So I returned to my Upper West Side room, packed again, and asked sweetly at the front desk if I could at least get a refund for the second night. They pointed to a sign on the counter with the rules of the house. A highlighted line said, "No Refunds for Early Check-Outs". This is obviously a recurring theme for them.

The clouds seemed to part once I was back at the Mansfield, though I didn't see them. After a shower I rested in their M Bar, drinking until Ken, predictably, arrived. The night was looking up, but exhaustion caught up with me and I stayed in and slept while the rest of the world went out. The next day, after searching for more lodging, buying jeans and sitting in the Blue Bar at the Algonquin to protect my bald head from the sun, I returned to the M, where (who would've guessed?) I ran into Ken again. That crowd grew, and I had some good talks with Jason Starr (whose stories about Halle Berry kept us all mesmerized), but when they decamped for dinner I again stayed behind, waiting for the car to the Marriott out at JFK, from where I'd be flying home the next day.

And the Marriott was as you'd expect.

The surprising thing was that my stamina for...well, everything...paled next to Ken Bruen's. He's a firecracker, that one, and I look forward to testing my limits with him again. Hopefully next time I'll be up to the challenge.

OK, enough about me. Just wanted to get that out of the way.


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