Welcome to day 20 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.
The Footbridge Beach Motel is really just a basic roadside motel, with a pool (which we’ve never used), with wifi (which we require), but what makes it perfect for us is that it’s a 5-10 minute walk to the Footbridge Beach — usually quite uncrowded, even in the middle of summer, and if you drive there in season you pay a $20 parking fee — and a 1.3-mile walk on a sidewalk into the lively tourist town of Ogunquit (about a 25-minute walk for us), which means we can leave the car most of the time at the motel and walk to the beach and town. (There’s also a trolley shuttle to town in July and August.) And there are good places to eat across from and next to the motel.
They also accept pets, which mattered to us when we first started visiting Ogunquit in 2012.
It’s a relaxing spot, both the motel and the beach. Photos below were taken at the end of August 2012, mid-June 2015, and late May-early June 2016.
The Foot Bridge (across the Ogunquit River to the Atlantic Ocean)
Welcome to day 19 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 have stayed in at least one B&B that worked for me, because we — spouse, dog, self — were in one of several separate cottages surrounding the Birchwood Inn, in Lenox, Massachusetts — in the Berkshires — and the innkeeper (Ellen, who has since retired; unfortunately, the new owners don’t seem to rent the cottages anymore) had two dogs of her own: a sweet golden retriever, Quinn, who was trained to help the deaf, which the innkeeper partly was, and this lovely little black dog, Piper, a beagle-lab (bagel) who looks demonic in my photo for some reason.
This was May 2010; spouse and I hadn’t had time away together except for a family birthday party in two years, and after our difficult fall and winter — full of sad goodbyes and uprooting, spouse’s medical diagnosis and ongoing treatments, the dog’s medical diagnosis and ongoing lab tests, my father’s death and my mother’s Alzheimers, as well as the weight of friends’ sorrows in tough times — it was a much needed pampering. Sometimes B&Bs are good for pampering, as long as they leave you alone, and they did.
We interacted with Ellen and other folks only at breakfast and afternoon tea (yes, tea! so civilised; talk about pampering), if we felt like it — though with Piper more often, as she had the run of the place — and the breakfasts, at our own table, were incredibly delicious, including: cheese blintzes with a Maine blueberry sauce on top, a spring omelette with peas and asparagus, lemony stuffed French toast, fondue Florentine soufflé, fabulous ginger pear pancakes, a berry fruitini, a watermelon and kiwi stacked on a crumble with a lemon curd topping, poached pears with a lovely sauce, and sausage, bacon, or ham if desired.
We were invited to sit on the inn porch, for tea and otherwise, and I think we did …. it’s been 7-1/2 years and I can’t quite recall anymore, though I remember that we got bread, cheese, a fruit tart, olives, beer, etc., at the local farmer’s market and gourmet shops and had lunch on our own cottage porch one day.
We bought marcona almonds and cheese at Rubiner’s Cheesemongers in Great Barrington, too. (I guess the woman behind the counter wasn’t pleased about my photo.)
Somehow I neglected to take any photos inside the cottage room, except of our dog, Gretchen:
She seems relaxed.
This was our cottage from the outside, in the evening —
there was a rabbit running around —
— and our entrance (the back entrance) into the Inn proper —
— and another shot of the Inn’s porch:
It was quite a nice place to be, walkable to Lenox, and the restaurants in the Berkshires were amazing, especially Viva Tapas Bar in Stockbridge — their fried artichokes live in my memory as one of the best things I have ever eaten — which sadly apparently closed in 2012,
and especially especially Rouge in West Stockbridge, from whom I still get emails and to which I would return in a heartbeat if it were closer. (I guess I took these weird photos with my phone at the time. Sorry!)
Bistro Zinc in Lenox was good, too, where, sitting next to a tall window that opened onto the sidewalk, I had trout meuniere and spouse had soft shell crab. Mmmm.
There are so many interesting things to do and places to visit in the Berkshires. We had only a week or so and went to Edith Wharton’s house, The Mount — what I remember from it is climbing hydrangeas; the mind-boggling Asia Barong in Great Barrington (still get eccentric emails from them, too); Naumkeag House & Gardens in Stockbridge (44-room Gilded Age house, designed as a summer home by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead, & White, the former country estate of New York City lawyer Joseph Hodges Choate); Kennedy Park trails in Lenox; the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail, which runs about 11 miles from Pittsfield to Adams, MA — we walked from the Farnam’s Rd entrance in Cheshire to the town of Cheshire proper, and back, about 4 miles; Tanglewood, in Lenox, where the Boston Symphony Orchestra plays in the summer; and a play (preview performance of Julius Caesar) at Shakespeare & Co. in Lenox.
Asia Barong …. a unique place: “In the unlikely event we do not have what you are looking for, we can search in Asia for it. Or by using the link to the order form below, we can carve to your specifications any sculpture in any quantity or material.”
Naumkeag (not quite open for the season, and no indoor photos allowed):
Kennedy Park in Lenox:
Ashuwillticook Rail Trail
Shakespeare & Co. – some dilapidated buildings on the property
Plus this quirky cemetery in Stockbridge! (cemeteries are another heterotopia, uniting all other places and people in a community in a past-present sacred-forbidden place of crisis, often on the margins of town — this one is on the edge of a golf course):
If you want more travelogue, I blogged about this in May 2010 in several posts: intro; Thurs-Sat; Sunday; and Mon-Wed.) I note, on re-reading them, that the innkeeper saved us scones one day when we didn’t make it back for afternoon tea on time. That’s one perk of a good B&B: you are offered comfort and reliability in a difficult, unreliable time.
Welcome to day 18 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.
In an article about museums (Foucault’s Museum: Difference, Representation, and Genealogy), Beth Lord writes: “As we will see, the space of representation is the heterotopia. … the ‘space of representation’ makes possible an institution that interprets objects; an institution that puts on display the ways that objects are conceptually understood.”
“[I]t seems clear that this show of work by Truitt was developed with larger ideas in mind. In recent months, the BMA has done a great deal to recast the experience of entering visitors, and it’s worth thinking at least briefly about how this show thus plays a part in a larger museological project.
“The most radical change, of course, involves the rehabilitation of the museum’s traditional, formal entrance. Placed at the top of a dramatic set of stairs, the large portal features two massive sliding bronze valves, and can feel almost forbidding in its scale and associations; as Carol Duncan once noted, such entries suggest that the art museum is a modern, secular, equivalent of a temple. …
“The architectural historian Vincent Scully used to claim that, in arriving at New York’s elegant Penn Station before its destruction, ‘you entered the city like a god.’ Mount the stairs of the BMA, stroll through the large doors into the renovated Fox Court, and you can gain at least a sense of what he meant.”
That is how we entered the BMA on this occasion, and grand it is.
The special exhibition at the BMA right now is Tomás Saraceno’s “Entangled Orbits,” which I touched on in a previous post. Today I want to highlight Anne Truitt’s “Intersections,” and particularly some of Kerr Houston’s comments about it and the BMA itself, as well as Truitt’s own words in an extensive oral history interview, which I think are pertinent to heterotopia, blurring of real and representative, and perhaps related to this conversation about motels and hotels as well.
First, I want to say that as a child and teen visiting relatives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, I swam in a pool that belonged to the Truitt family and I heard of Anne Truitt as an artist. I don’t think I ever met her personally, but I understood then that a woman could make art her life’s work.
So, with that tenuous connection, I always look for Truitt’s art when I visit museums. Anne Truitt: Intersections, installed in one small open room near the BMA’s Asia and Africa collections, consists of five wooden columns of different colours (perhaps, as Houston notes that Walter Hopps once claimed about her work, evoking the “light and color of Maryland’s Eastern Shore”), “roughly human in scale,” spaced apart and actually created at different times in the 1960s. She has layered acrylic paint on them, “using increasingly fine sandpaper in order to create a surface that was so smooth that it looks almost ethereal;” Truitt said of the pieces “‘I let the color, which must have been gathering force within me somewhere, stream down over the columns on its own terms.'”
Probably Hopps is right about the Eastern Shore influence of colour and light on Truitt’s work; she herself says this in an extensive oral history interview in April 2002, two years before she died:
“So that gave me a place on the Eastern Shore. What I’m really leading up to is the fact of why this is so charged for me, the whole Eastern Shore. It was the first thing I opened up my eyes on. I think it’s very important what you open your eyes on first. There’s a kind of decision that you have to take as you go through your life: whether you’re going to stay in your body, so to speak, whether you’re going to look at it realistically or actualistically and whether you’re going to settle and address yourself to the situation. [Laughs.] I think the first environment on which you open your eyes tends to tincture or tint or color the way in which you view the world from then on. … The exterior world as opposed to the psychological world. … So the first things I opened my eyes on were in the Eastern Shore. And they’re still there in my work. I’m still, you know, never — it’s just ingrained in me.”
Later, she adds
“On the eastern shore of Maryland, the sky seems to be uniform, more or less. It’s not a place of clouds. It’s a place where the molecular — the osmotic — everything, all the color is held up in osmosis in the moisture, but it’s not cloudy.”
Also on the subject of colour, Truitt says you couldn’t pay her to study it — “I suppose if they offered me a million dollars, I would leaf through Albers’ book; but it would take a million, and I would leaf” — because “I think if you apply your linear mind to color, you’re going to come out with a linear scheme for color, schema, and I think it would bear no relation to what color means to me.” In other words, studying colour would intellectualise what is essentially experiential. It would falsify in some way what is real, what is true to experience, emotion, perception, intuition.
Houston notes the “stark geometry of her columns and the way in which they casually blurred the lines between painting and sculpture,” which is exactly how it seems when you’re looking at them. They are like standing paintings. He also describes them as “mute witnesses” that are “testifying to their presence in a manner that only affirms their thereness.” Truitt herself affirms the referentiality of her work — that it represents something in the real world, a real there there — and Kristen Hileman (BMA curator of contemporary art) has written that “Truitt’s pieces were commonly rooted in her own experiences and memories. They often bore titles that evoked intensely personal associations: Odeskalki, for instance, was derived from a late-night fireside chat with a friend, who told Truitt of a Hungarian nobleman who had been hanged on a meat hook. Far from being chaste exercises in form, Truitt’s pieces are thus bound to specific lived experiences.”
Truitt has said “I have struggled all my life to get maximum meaning in the simplest possible form.” Her sculpture in some sense then may act on us, standing alongside it or looking at it, as heterotopic space does; because it holds multiple layers of overlapping meaning, it may disquiet in its ambiguity, may disturb us or evoke ambivalence as we absorb her life’s experiences emanating from the painted form.
At the time Houston wrote his article (but not now), there was also an installation called “Imagining Home” at the museum, featuring “recorded interviews with local Baltimore residents who were allowed to live, for a time, with an object of their choice. Through this process of temporary loans –- an idea occasionally practiced by other museums in recent years, as well –- the works literally became a part of a home, and the line between public and private is momentarily dissolved.”
Dissolving the line between public and private is a heterotopian concept, a way of bringing our attention to what we normally don’t notice about the hegemony of places, the official and authorised purpose of spaces, who may inhabit them, how they may be used, how they’re accessed, whether they are closed or open, what they demand of us, how they divide or unify us, and so on. As Laura Rice writes in Of Heterotopias and Ethnoscapes: The Production of Space in Postcolonial North Africa (2003) about the mirror, it “serves as a heterotopia when it focuses our attention on the ambiguous relationship between what we think of as reality, and representation: a site where this dynamic of recognition/misrecognition is especially pronounced. The destabilizing force of the heterotopia rests in its ability to foreground [i.e., to make us notice] the representational foundation upon which we construct what we commonly think of as reality. It shifts our attention to the power of representation to manage, manipulate, and distort reality.”
I can just imagine this awareness of reality’s basis in the representational when sitting with an exotic Matisse or an ornate bowl & spoon in your familiar living room.
It would act as reminder that all the decorative objects in our house are actually representational at some level, and yet they seem so real to us; and if that is so, we might wonder what else seems solidly itself when in actuality it’s not only itself but a rendition of something else, a depiction that could be otherwise, that could carry multiple meanings, harkening back to memory, history, experience or forward to imagination, dream, recurring patterns, eternity.
Interestingly, Truitt recalls growing up with troves of great art in her house — tapestries, Chinese art and clothing, French furniture, sculpture, paintings of ships — which she was allowed to interact with as she liked.
I hear echoes of heterotopia — of a non-place place that makes more noticeable the structure and purpose of other places — also when she muses (in the oral history again) that “when you see something, its opposite is implied. If you see black, white is implied; if you see light, dark is implied; good, evil. It seems to be set up on a line of dichotomy.”
When we feel disquiet in an familiar yet unfamiliar space, like a hotel room, it maybe be because we are reminded of a familiar space, like a home, and in the junction between the two, in our minds and experience, we sense how there is like here, how away is like home, how being a stranger is like belonging, and we also sense how it’s different, what governs each place and identity, perhaps how we are different or feel different in different places.
“In sum, it does more or less exactly what a museum show should do, presenting iconic works in a way that implies their current relevance, while also framing them in provocative, productive ways.” For example, the text on the wall accompanying the sculptures offers a short essay by Shannen Hill in which she suggests that Truitt’s vertical forms can be compared with verticalilty in traditional African art. Houston sees this as the BMA’s encouraging “a conversation between its curatorial departments, while openly acknowledging that our responses to works of art need not be monolithic. Does the asymmetrical positioning of the columns remind you, perhaps, of the idiosyncratic placement of the rocks in a Japanese rock garden? Carry on, the museum seems to say.”
Again, a heterotopia is one kind of place that’s in conversation with many places; it comments on, questions, and subverts culture by connecting with it in unexpected or disruptive ways, by contrasting with the mores and conventions of other places in the culture. That seems to be what Houston could claim for the BMA, in its quest to juxtapose unexpected pieces of art and to prompt viewers to consider them in unfamiliar ways.
Welcome to day 17 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.
To enlarge on yesterday’s post,
I’m with Rat.
When I travel, whether alone or with a friend or spouse, I want complete anonymity from strangers and even some time away from most friends and acquaintances. I often travel to be with friends or family, and of course I want to spend time with them, enjoy meals, weddings, birthdays, or other occasions with them, and talk a lot together, be together, face to face, in a way that email, texting, and social media does not allow. But, because I am half extrovert and half introvert — both energised and enervated by social contact — there comes a time when, after a day of socialising, I need an hour or three alone to recharge, process, breathe, and of course work on my photos. For that, the chain hotel or motel in a city is perfect.
“She left me the way people leave a hotel room. A hotel room is a place to be when you are doing something else. Of itself it is of no consequence to one’s major scheme. A hotel room is convenient. But its convenience is limited to the time you need it while you are in that particular town on that particular business; you hope it is comfortable, but prefer, rather, that it be anonymous. It is not, after all, where you live.” — Toni Morrison
The trip spouse and I took this last long weekend, to attend a wedding, was pretty perfect for me in terms of balancing social and alone time:
Day one: A day in the car together, during which spouse and I rarely talk and I can think, not think, and observe what’s outside the car. Followed by dinner out at a vibrant brewpub, where I can see other people and overhear their conversations. A little low on socialising but I know what’s ahead and so this is fine.
Day two: A day wandering at Longwood Gardens with spouse, interacting slightly with others, mostly taking in the beauty of the world as it is, while texting with friends too, and then dinner out at a place we used to visit when we lived in Maryland (but now not owned by the same folks, apparently); it’s where our parents met each other before we married. When I’m at Longwood or any public garden, or hiking on a trail, or even walking city blocks, I am really focused on what I am seeing, hearing, smelling, breathing, touching, flora and fauna alike, in a way that is much like meditation, I think.
Day three: Lots of texting with friends pre-wedding, a 2-hour walk with spouse on trails (Soldiers Delight — where chrome was discovered in the U.S.!) nearby the hotel for my daily dose of nature, followed by driving around the neighbourhood we used to live in — and the heavy energy flow of memories that that evokes for me — and then being at the wedding venue (lovely inside and out) from 4:15 to 11:15 p.m., mostly talking in depth with a few good college friends, plus lots of superficial chit-chat and shorter interactions with other friends and acquaintances, moments of photo-taking silliness, listening to heartfelt wedding vows and speeches, meeting a few strangers, and (maybe best of all?) an hour or two of celebratory dancing.
Day four: Texting, texting, more texting with friends here for the wedding, a little time with spouse walking around Charles Village, then an hour or two with friends (and spouse) at the Baltimore Museum of Art — more beauty, more conversations, more new things to discover — followed by another walk in a nearby park and then four or five hours with close friends who are family, at their house for cocktails, a cookout dinner, a walk around their neighbourhood after, changing conversational partners as we walked (but it still wasn’t enough catching up).
Day five: Another car day after breakfast at the hotel, minimal conversation with spouse, my own processing of the weekend, follow-up texting and emailing with friends of photos, glad tidings, etc. Once home, the chore of unpacking, thinking about groceries, falling into bed at 8:30 exhausted. Texting with friends and my sister, whose close friend had some hard news yesterday, which changed my psychic energy, too, on hearing it.
Day six: The perfect post-travel day, with no obligations, the ability to sleep late, then only a quick dash out for groceries and a couple of small errands, time to look at photos, organise a bit, reply to stacked-up emails, do laundry, make dinner, blog a bit.
The hotel (Hyatt Place) that we stayed in did not have weirdos in our room (other than us) or people in the bathroom, though we did eat breakfast a couple of days with strangers (but many were speaking some Chinese language, possibly Korean, so even that didn’t intrude), and the TV in public spaces at these places is always intrusive. Mainly, the hotel was a convenient place to rest between doing the meaningful things, a place we could close the door and shut out the world, which is necessary at times. In other words, a little bit of heaven among the beautiful entangled orbits.
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.