Day 2 cont'd., cont'd.
I circled the hotel an indeterminate number of times, hoping somehow that the elusive Palace Hotel would emerge through the mistiness of the late Jersey evening, a literal oasis, a savior for the road-weary- to no avail, of course. I decided to stop and ask for directions at the Radisson, and thought twice about it, my fatigue becoming paranoia about rude and embittered East coasters that must surely have had it in for me. Why is this city so goddamned hard to get around?! It was one in the morning. Surely the night clerk would steer me the wrong way. Fucking tourists. I'd do the same thing.
I parked in a no-parking zone, hazards ablaze. I peeled myself from the seat, legs and arms jittery from all the subsiding adrenalin, my fight or flight instinct disabled, mutated into an unfamiliar strain of 'drive or die,' a new bacteria that easily conquered my nerves. Walking to the door of the hotel, I felt high- in a bad way, though- and light flashed in my periphery, light that wasn't there, exploding into a million refracted points by the raindrops collecting on my eyelashes. Eyelashes and water- the stoned man's prism.
I made it to the door under a shining, wet maroon awning and pulled. And pulled again, just to be sure, like people do when doors are locked. And.. once more. The night man looked up, bored, used to the homeless, probably, that yearn for a lobby of repose. Wet, haggard, crazy-eyed- I could have been homeless. I made some sort of motion with my hand- Open the door. He pointed to the wall on my right- a telephone, sans buttons. I picked up the receiver, and directly was having a conversation through two glass doors and about 100 feet of lush carpet. Essentially, I was having a face-to-face phone conversation. As Brendan Kelly said, "There's two types of prisons, some say. One where you're locked up and everything's outside, and the other one- you're outside and everything's locked away."
The overweight man, stuffed into a shirt and half-vest, pointed the way. "Go that way, about five or six miles. You're on the completely wrong end of the street."
"That way," I pointed, mimicking his gesture. A not wholly unfriendly nod. "Thanks."
Back in the car, I felt better, but not relieved. We wound our way up the hilly street and emerged at an odd three way stoplight. It was red, and so naturally, I stopped. One line of traffic, off to my left in a sort of S-curve, was stopped as well. One line, to my right, at sort of an acute angle, was also stopped. I sighed- a momentary lapse.
A car pulled up behind me, stopped quickly, and inched closer. As I watched the headlights begin to set in the horizon of the bumper and mirror visibility, a car passed on the left, fast, right through the red light. Then the honks began. I can only imagine what the guy behind us was saying: "Fucking GO, Texas!"or "Dumbass hick! GO!" or "As a native Texan, I understand this fellow's confusion at this strange intersection, and perhaps if I gently honk, I can coax and encourage him to bolster enough confidence to FUCKING GO, DOUCHEBAG!"
Shit. The light's red here, but I guess I'll go. "Shit," I told Rebecca. Very cautiously, I edged into the intersection, and then zoomed through. "What the fuck was that?!" I pondered. Finally, though unbeknownst to us at the time, the worst was over. The horrible, seemingly destroyed by giant, spiked metal feet, construction laden road finally put the Palace Hotel into our line of vision. Elation. Exhaustive elation. We pulled into a spot on a hill and staggered, somewhat melancholy, into the lobby. We checked in, inquired about the continental breakfast we would not be attending in the morning, and rode the elevator up to the fifth floor of the 'under-renovation' hotel.
When the doors opened, thousands of us stared back at us. The entire hall was lined with one or two inch lengths of mirrors, seperated by dark strips of wood. This wasn't helping. This was Timothy Leary's vision of a hull in a 1940's pleasure cruise liner. A few more steps... a few more. We closed the door behind us, leaving the sounds of partying tourist groups just returning from the clubs in NYC to bounce off the mirrors and settle into the dark carpet and plaster ceilings and become part of the living history of the building, to give the hallway character, to help one to feel less alone when walking in solitude in the aging hotel.
I returned to the car to put our parking pass on the dashboard and to retrieve Rebecca's pillow. I returned to our freezing room. There was a thermostat on the wall, but we couldn't turn the air off. I told my mother I'd call her when we got there, so I tried to make a calling card call from the phone by the bed, and when Rebecca and I had both tried enough times to determine that it wasn't our fault that we couldn't dial out- we aren't stupid, for Christ's sake- I made a call to the front desk to inquire about the phone.