Welcome to day 16 of 31 Days of Heterotopias: Motels and Hotels, a month of posts about how motels, hotels, and inns function as heterotopias and liminal spaces in society. Each post will look at these ideas from its own vantage point, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may mention motels and hotels only peripherally or may focus on them without referencing heterotopia or liminality. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted.
Why I like motels & hotels and not B&Bs:
“One of the more tiring aspects of accepting an offer of free accommodation is a need to be sociable and make conversation with whoever had offered it to you. It would be considered poor form to turn up, dump your bags, crawl into your bedroom and order an early morning alarm call. How I longed to do just that, but instead I chatted merrily away to Marjorie, energy ebbing from me with each sentence, until the tea was drunk, the cake was eaten and I finally plucked up the courage to mention just how exhausted I was. I apologised and said that I simply had to grab a couple of hours sleep, and Marjorie understandingly showed me to my room.” ― Tony Hawks, Round Ireland with a Fridge
Welcome to day 15 of 31 Days of Heterotopias: Motels and Hotels, a month of posts about how motels, hotels, and inns function as heterotopias and liminal spaces in society. Each post will look at these ideas from its own vantage point, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may mention motels and hotels only peripherally or may focus on them without referencing heterotopia or liminality. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted.
We (spouse and I) are staying at the Hyatt Place in Owings Mills for a wedding, which took place last night; it was beautiful, loving, joyful, fun, and perfectly orchestrated. The bride’s family is Greek, so there were Greek dances, Greek music, the exchanging of stefana (crowns) during the ceremony, with a koumbara who moves the crowns — connected by a ribbon — from the bride’s head to the groom’s and back.
The appetizers (mini shrimp and grits, mini crabcakes, fabulous artichoke bites, mini tuna tartare), drinks — a French 77 with St. Germain was the signature cocktail! be still my heart — and 3-course dinner were all delicious, and I felt fortunate to be sharing this festive and joyous occasion with good friends, some of whom I’ve known for almost 40 years.
Meanwhile, back at the hotel, it’s been a mixed bag. Checking in was great — we were given a lovely gift basket we didn’t expect, with local beers, perriers, local Utz crab chips, local chocolate caramels — thanks to the bride and groom. (No photo because we consumed most of it before I thought of that.)
The room is spacious, with a sectional, desk, and small kitchen in the living area, a king bed, a sink/vanity and closet outside the bathroom, where there’s a roomy shower and a toilet. There are lots of outlets, good lighting, and so far our room, at the end of the hallway, has been quiet.
On the negative side, there is a fridge but no microwave (food, like our leftovers from an Indian dinner the first night, can be heated up downstairs in the sort-of public kitchen); the closet is small and hard to access; the shower leaks (you can see the towel we put down on the floor in one of the above photos); housekeeping is hard to come by (we had to call the front desk at 2:30 yesterday to find them, and so far no one has come by today, at 11:30); and worst of all for me, there is very little room to put things in the shower. This is it — my shaving cream and razor are on the floor:
There is also little bureau space, just those small vanity drawers (shown above) and some cubbyholes under the flat-screen TV.
The location, while not walkable to anything, is pretty good for us, only 15 minutes from the wedding venue and about 30 minutes to downtown Baltimore. It’s actually also only a few minutes from the neighbourhood we used to live in in Woodstock, MD, so we swung by to see the old house yesterday. We also took a 3-mile walk on the Soldiers Delight trails, only 10 minutes from here.
All in all, though, our complaints are minor in the scheme of things. This is one of those times when the hotel is just a landing spot between happy social events with good, long-time friends. As the wedding program notes, “Everyone of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious … in a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find each other.” But the bride and groom found each other, I and my college friends found each other and have held on, and my accommodating, generous, and sweet spouse and I managed to find each other, too.
Welcome to day 14 of 31 Days of Heterotopias: Motels and Hotels, a month of posts about how motels, hotels, and inns function as heterotopias and liminal spaces in society. Each post will look at these ideas from its own vantage point, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may mention motels and hotels only peripherally or may focus on them without referencing heterotopia or liminality. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted.
I wrote a couple of weeks ago about my 2006 train trip through New Orleans, Memphis, and Minneapolis. Today, 53 years after Martin Luther King, Jr., received the Nobel Peace Prize on 14 Oct. 1964 for his work combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance, I want to focus on one motel in Memphis, the Lorraine Motel, where King was shot and killed in April 1968.
But first, a few things King said in the 1950s and 60s that are just as relevant today as then.
“It’s not only necessary to know how to go about loving your enemies, but also to go down into the question of why we should love our enemies. I think the first reason that we should love our enemies, and I think this was at the very center of Jesus’ thinking, is this: that hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. If I hit you and you hit me and I hit you back and you hit me back and go on, you see, that goes on ad infinitum. It just never ends. Somewhere somebody must have a little sense, and that’s the strong person. The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil.” — 17 November 1957, “Loving Your Enemies,” sermon delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL
“There’s another reason why you should love your enemies, and that is because hate distorts the personality of the hater. We usually think of what hate does for the individual hated or the individuals hated or the groups hated. But it is even more tragic, it is even more ruinous and injurious to the individual who hates. … For the person who hates, the true becomes false and the false becomes true. That’s what hate does.” — 17 November 1957, “Loving Your Enemies,” sermon delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL
“For nonviolence not only calls upon its adherents to avoid external physical violence, but it calls upon them to avoid internal violence of spirit. It calls on them to engage in that something called love. And I know it is difficult sometimes. When I say ‘love’ at this point, I’m not talking about an affectionate emotion. It’s nonsense to urge people, oppressed people, to love their oppressors in an affectionate sense. I’m talking about something much deeper. I’m talking about a sort of understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men.” — speech at the Great March on Detroit, 23 June 1963, Detroit, MI
“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” — “Beyond Vietnam,” 4 April 1967, New York, N.Y.
In 1945, Walter and Loree Bailey bought the Lorraine Motel in downtown Memphis (before that, it was operated since the 1920s as the Windsor Hotel and the Marquette Hotel) and transformed it from a whites-only establishment to an upscale motel welcoming both blacks and whites in the Jim Crow era. Among guests were Ray Charles, Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, Ethel Waters, Cab Calloway, Count Basie, Aretha Franklin, Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, and Nat King Cole.
King himself visited numerous times, including the spring of 1968, when he and Dr. Ralph Abernathy were in town to help lead sanitation workers in a protest against low wages and poor working conditions (timeline of strike). Jesse Jackson was also with the group.
King gave a speech on 3 April at the world headquarters of the Church of God in Christ, the Mason Temple, in which he told them,
“I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you.”
The next day, 4 April, King was shot in the neck walking back into his motel room (room 306) from the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, where he had asked a saxophonist to play “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” at the rally that night.
The motel’s co-owner, Loree Bailey, operating the motel switchboard, “suffered a stroke when she heard the shot fired. She died on April 9th, the same day as King’s funeral.”
Walter Bailey continued to run the motel after King’s death but instead of renting out room 306 again, he turned it into a memorial, until 1982, when he “declared bankruptcy and stood by helplessly as his high-end establishment became a brothel. The Lorraine would have been sold at auction, but the Save the Lorraine organization bought it and decided to transform it into a museum.” After the final tenant, “Jacqueline Smith, who had resided there as a housekeeper since 1973, refused to leave and was forcibly evicted,” the motel closed in March 1988 and the National Civil Rights Museum was dedicated in the summer of 1991.
James Earl Ray was arrested, pleaded guilty, and was convicted of killing King; Ray was sentenced to 99 years in prison, and died in prison in 1998 from hepatitis.
In 1999, the King family brought a wrongful death case against Loyd Jowers, owner of Jim’s Grill, a restaurant near the Lorraine, and “other unknown co-conspirators” for King’s murder. After four weeks of testimony, with more than 70 witnesses, a Memphis jury unanimously found for the family, i.e., “that Jowers was part of a conspiracy to kill King, and that the assassination plot also involved ‘others, including governmental agencies.'” Coretta Scott King named some of those others as “the Mafia, local, state and federal government agencies. Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department (under Janet Reno) had ordered a new investigation in August 1998 and its findings in June 2000 refuted allegations that there was any conspiracy to assassinate King, “including the findings of the Memphis civil court jury.”
Only a little more than 6 years after King was shot, his mother, Alberta Williams King, “was shot and killed as she sat at the organ in the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta” one Sunday (30 June 1974), by Marcus Wayne Chenault, a 23-year-old black man from Ohio who said he shot her because “all Christians are my enemies.”
I noticed a woman protesting the museum when I was there. That woman is Jacqueline Smith, the same housekeeper who was evicted in March 1988; she has been there protesting ever since (at least until 20 Aug. 2016, the last mention I found online), because she feels that the National Civil Rights Museum “worships” King’s death rather than celebrating his life. She also opposes the way that “King’s legacy in Memphis is tangled up with gentrification. She points out that many blacks can’t afford to live around the Lorraine Motel.” And she objects to the commercialisation of King’s life and death; one of her slogans says “Dr. King came to Memphis to support the poor, needy and oppressed; not to buy worthless junk.”
You can see one of her signs below, in my photo (Nov. 2006).
I didn’t know about this controversy ahead of time and was confused when I saw Smith protesting the museum. I thought that she and her protest were the main attractions, and though I knew King had been shot there, which is why I was visiting the motel, I didn’t realise there was a museum on the site. I wish I had and that I had looked through the plexiglass into the room where King was staying. That will have to wait for another trip to Memphis.
“We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says: ‘Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.’ … We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.” — “Beyond Vietnam,” 4 April 1967, New York, N.Y.
Welcome to day 13 of 31 Days of Heterotopias: Motels and Hotels, a month of posts about how motels, hotels, and inns function as heterotopias and liminal spaces in society. Each post will look at these ideas from its own vantage point, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may mention motels and hotels only peripherally or may focus on them without referencing heterotopia or liminality. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted.
Earth Hour in 2016 was on Saturday, 19 March, from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. local time around the world.
Earth Hour — which I had never heard of before 2016 — is a worldwide annual event begun in 2007 and organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF — until 1986, it was called the World Wildlife Fund), encouraging individuals, communities, and businesses to “turn off non-essential electric lights for one hour … as a symbol of commitment to the planet.” (There’s an Earth Hour FAQ but most of the links don’t work.)
As it turned out, I (with my spouse) was at the Boston Intercontinental Hotel during that hour in 2016, and they were observing it, serving us a trio of fruit & veggie juices and some lovely snacks in the rather dimly lit but spacious lobby. I don’t know why I didn’t get photos of that event — probably took them with my phone, then accidentally wiped them — but I did get photos of the Boston ICH, really much too highfalutin for us (and too pricey, at $250-300 per night), though very perfectly located next to South Station (and Amtrak).
The hour in the lobby was odd, a sort of social hour in an essentially anonymous space. I’m not sure whether the dim lighting made it better or worse.
From the outside:
In the public spaces:
In our room, there was a weird sort of rice-paper screen sliding divider between the room and the bathroom, with its gigantic (and completely neglected by us) tub.
I should add that this is the place where I took the stairs down instead of the elevator, probably to get ice on another floor or just to see what was what, and then could not get back onto my floor. The door was locked, not only to my floor but every floor. I had to walk all the way down and exit outside, ending up in an area that was a sort of work zone, and from there found my way back around to the front of the hotel, only to find it wasn’t actually the front of the hotel at all but instead the automatic door into some privately owned condos adjoining the hotel. All this exercise and adventure for only $275/night!
But it’s next door to the Amtrak station!
Note the pyramid (the T — metro — entrance):
I always wish the hotels were like they are in movies and TV shows, where if you’re in Paris, right outside your window is the Eiffel Tower. In Egypt, the pyramids are right there. In the movies, every hotel has a monument right outside your window. My hotel rooms overlook the garbage dumpster in the back alley. — Gilbert Gottfried
With the Boston ICH, you can have pyramids and, if you take the stairs, the dumpster.
Welcome to day 12 of 31 Days of Heterotopias: Motels and Hotels, a month of posts about how motels, hotels, and inns function as heterotopias and liminal spaces in society. Each post will look at these ideas from its own vantage point, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may mention motels and hotels only peripherally or may focus on them without referencing heterotopia or liminality. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted.
“I love hotels for their solitude and comfort, but I believe a seedy one can have as much promise as a plush one.” — Freema Agyeman (actress)
When I booked the Sea Whale Motel in Middletown, Rhode Island, I had slight idea what we were getting. The online reviews were pretty good, but with a few dark negatives. We’d never been to this area, except passing through nearby on train, and though I knew Newport was classier, dressier, and much more expensive than I wanted, I worried that this little motel, on a main road, cheaper than almost any other accommodation in the vicinity, would fail to satisfy. I thought it might be sketchy, seedy, scary. Or located in some remote place that made it impossible to get anywhere without headache.
I worried for naught. Oh, it was slightly seedy, but in an upper-class sort of way.
Really, it wasn’t seedy at all. It’s waterfront, on Easton Pond where the drinking water comes from (along with adjoining Green End Pond). Easton Pond leads to Easton Bay and from there to the ocean. It’s only a mile or so to the Cliff Walk in Newport, and it’s easy to get to Portsmouth, Bristol, Tiverton, Jamestown, and the Kingstowns from here. The place is a real mom-and-pop motel; the owners were present every day, at the front desk, doing laundry, watering plants, just walking the grounds and chatting.
I enjoyed sitting outside in the adirondack chairs, watching the red-winged blackbirds in the mornings, and the ruddy ducks, which I hadn’t seen before.
We visited in May this year, when it was a little chilly to lounge outside except bundled in layers, but the deck is a nice feature for warmer weather.
The view from the deck to the pond (Newport to the left):
And from the lawn to the ponds:
Exterior (we were upstairs, with a deck):
The inside was perfectly motelish, with wifi that worked and two places to sit with computers. There were two entry doors from the outside, one in the front of the motel (off Route 138A) and the other in the back off the deck, above the parking lot.
The Sea Whale was actually a nice unassuming respite in between bouts of fancy dining,
Welcome to day 11 of 31 Days of Heterotopias: Motels and Hotels, a month of posts about how motels, hotels, and inns function as heterotopias and liminal spaces in society. Each post will look at these ideas from its own vantage point, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may mention motels and hotels only peripherally or may focus on them without referencing heterotopia or liminality. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted.
This must be a special class of heterotopia: hotels and motels that one sees, admires, perhaps even tours, but in which one never actually spends a night. I mean, talk about ships that pass, a crossroads of the familiar + unfamiliar, a place that’s also a non-place, a threshold that one walks right up to — but doesn’t cross; or does cross, and then crosses right back.
This is the Hampton Inn & Suites, on Amelia Island (Fernandina), Florida, Dec. 2016. Those sherbet colours!
Here’s the Norseman Inn, on a spit of land at Ogunquit, Maine, June 2015.
I’ve eaten at the Bohemian Inn in Savannah, GA — Christmas breakfast one year, a dinner another year, drinks at Rocks on the River another year — but I’ve never stayed in the hotel. I’d like to but I am in love with the HIX there.
The Westin on Jekyll Island, GA, is new-ish (2014?). It’s always been rather empty when I’ve been there.
This little Lighthouse Motel right on the beach in Pine Point (Scarborough), Maine was renovated recently and is now the Lighthouse Suites. It looks great. I’d like to stay here sometime.
This is a Westin hotel in Savannah, GA, across the river from downtown Savannah; you can take a commuter ferry that runs every 20 minutes between it and downtown Savannah. I’ve taken the ferry a number of times, just for the fun of it, but never stayed in the hotel; it seems a bit inconvenient unless you’re attending a conference there.
And finally, the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, an iconic place to stay on Jekyll Island, GA, but though we’ve been visiting the island since the 1990s, we’ve never stayed here. We have had a few Christmas brunches, some other meals, and a tour of the hotel, however. Looks nice!
I can’t wait to not stay at some other hotels and motels!
Featured image is Holiday Inn at Jekyll Island, GA.
Welcome to day 10 of 31 Days of Heterotopias: Motels and Hotels, a month of posts about how motels, hotels, and inns function as heterotopias and liminal spaces in society. Each post will look at these ideas from its own vantage point, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may mention motels and hotels only peripherally or may focus on them without referencing heterotopia or liminality. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted.
“Any considered motel nomenclature would begin by marking the impermanence that tends to define these roadside accommodations. There are so many examples to cite of this possible taxonomy that you might lose an entire evening in front of a screen searching words like “rainbow,” “breeze,” “wind,” “wave,” “surf,” “sleep,” and “shore.”
“But what of the preponderance of sand? There’s so much dust caught up in the history of the motel. The chief trait of sand is its very insignificance. Like a one-storey L-shaped structure set against the enormity of the American landscape, it’s not something that tends to occupy one’s attention. It lacks both financial and intrinsic value.
“It bears our footprints as we walk through it before a gentle breeze erases our trace in much the same way that the former presence of a traveller is extinguished by the motel cleaning staff at 11 a.m. following a night’s stay. …
“Homogeneous and basic, but also ubiquitous, the motel will eventually be consumed by itself, as the life of convenience and mobility it promised accelerates like a sand storm to envelope our entire way of life. As it is gradually buried, we’re moving too fast to even notice.” (“On the Preponderance of Sand Name Hotels,” at Motel Register on Tubmlr)
The insignificance of sand is debatable of course. Sand, as beach, seems intrinsically valuable to me (and others: see end of “The World is Running Out of Sand” by David Owen in the 29 May 2017 New Yorker for discussion of sand loss and sand replenishment, relating to Hurricane Sandy), but sand used by the construction industry has historically been of economically low value, e.g., averaging $4.81 per ton in 2000; however, the rise of “frac sand” — sand used in the fracking process: “Oil and gas drillers inject large quantities of hard, round sand into fracked rock formations in order to hold the cracks open, like shoving a foot in the door” — has increased the price of sand. In 2014, it reached between $60-70 per ton; as of this spring it was back to about $40 per ton (per WSJ), ten times its price almost 20 years ago but still so cheap, relatively, that “transporting sand and stone for ordinary construction becomes uneconomical after about sixty miles.”
Still. One could imagine the same being said of each of us not long after our deaths, that we were impermanent and insignificant. Come to think of it, if there is someone to say it it might be said of the human species a few hundred or thousand years from now, that homo sapiens were ubiquitous, impermanent, and in the end, insignificant in the scheme of time. A thought to ponder next time you’re in The Sands, the Sleep Inn, the Autumn Breeze motel, the Summer Breeze motel, or my usual staying-over spot in Rockland, Maine, the Trade Winds Inn. (I wonder what the wind is worth. To a sailing ship, everything.)
parking lot and rear of inn
We were there for a day or two and then we were gone.