Dream City Home

Welcome to day 31 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 are all listed here.
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To be an outlaw you must first have a base in law to reject and get out of, I never had such a base. I never had a place I could call home that meant any more than a key to a house, apartment or hotel room. … Am I alien? Alien from what exactly? Perhaps my home is my dream city, more real than my waking life precisely because it has no relation to waking life…  — William S. Burroughs

Dream city as home. This idea works for me. My dreamspace, which feels like a place where I live even more vividly, more sensually, than usual, is often architectural in form and setting, with past houses (which obviously do have a relationship to waking life) — especially this one …

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Maine house, Feb. 2001
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partial kitchen, Maine house, 1994
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Thanksgiving in Maine house, 1995
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fireplace and living space, Maine house, 1994
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stairs and warming oven, Maine house, 1994
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Christmas 1996 (with Cactus) in Maine house

… and apartments, hotels, restaurants, frequently other people’s houses, auditoriums, hospitals, bridges, schools, bathrooms, meeting rooms, buildings and built spaces that I don’t think I have ever been in except in dreams (and there they are typically recurring settings) — all common in my dreams. Of course, dreams have to be set somewhere, like plays, but what interests me is the transformation of knowledge and memory of the building, and the exploration of it in the dream, and how often dreams are set in places I don’t recognise except perhaps from previous dreams. (This dream, e.g., about my dad a year or so after he died, takes place in several buildings I’ve never been in in waking life.)

My “dream city” feels like a multiplicity of places — some real, some not real as far as I know (or at least not remembered by me in real life) — that are significant for various reasons: because of my emotional and aesthetic memories of a real place; because of the feeling evoked by its architecture or layout; because of some association with it through other people’s stories (what my imagination conjures — from novels, from what friends have described, from song lyrics or lines of poetry, from what I’ve heard on the radio — or what my eyes have actually glimpsed, momentarily, in paintings, on TV or in movies, riding past, etc.); or who knows what reason.

DeliveranceChurchinYemasseeSC29Dec2013
Yemassee SC Dec. 2013
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Rocky Mount MC Dec. 2013
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somewhere in Rhode Island, Feb. 2008
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somewhere in Connecticut, Feb. 2008

Why do buildings and other places resonate and spark imagination? Why do they “make us” feel a certain way, evoke moods and sensations (e.g., “haunted houses”)? Is it because they contain us, hold us, bring us together or split us apart, both exclude and include us? Do they somehow form an external correspondence to our interior spaces?

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More to Burroughs’ point, my sense of homelessness, placelessness, alienates me from real life sometimes. My family moved often — due to my dad’s corporate life promotions and transfers — so when asked, e.g. as a security question on a financial site, “what is your hometown?,” I have no idea. I have no hometown, and my home is pretty much where I am at the moment, so in one sense I feel “at home” almost anywhere. But coming home after being away feels jarring — home is familiar, a place I know well and am comfortable, but re-entry to normal life after being away feels oppressive, constrictive; I feel restless, like I’ve lost something. I think it’s partly that on the road (hotels, motels, trains), there is much less stuff and therefore less emotional tiredness brought on by the emotional and physical demands of stuff.  But I think it’s more than that, perhaps something to do with the way, as I’ve mentioned previously, that travel disrupts, questions, and subverts conventional thought and behaviour. Coming home, I feel the demands (that word again) reinstated, the sense of what I am expected to be and do limited by the circumference of “home.”

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Unlike Burroughs’ experience (“I never had such a base. I never had a place I could call home that meant any more than a key to a house, apartment or hotel room”), I have in my life almost always had a base, a room, apartment, or house to come home to day after day — and yet these places have always felt transitional to me. (I’ve written about this before, 5 years ago, in Oct. 2012). I can’t help but notice that all our lives and all our places are transitional, ephemeral, not made to last. In the short run, someone will dig up my garden or terrace it, a storm or fire may take out trees and destroy homes and towns, objects and materials constantly wear out, living things die (some exceedingly quickly, others at a slower rate) and everyone I know, including me, including friends’ children and their children, including all the animals now alive on earth, will die soon. In the long run, all bodies, all buildings and things, all governments, all human constructions will disappear and wild nature will take over, as it is wont to do now when given half a chance.

seaweedgrowingonseawallrockSeasideInn29Dec2014
seaweed growing on rock, Kennebunk ME, Dec. 2014
ferngrowingoutofbrickColonialParkCemeterySavannah18Dec2015
fern growing out of rock, brick, in Colonial Park Cemetery, Savannah, GA, Dec. 2015
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trees growing out of rock ledge, Northern Rail Trail, NH, April 2015
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watermelon plant growing on beach, Jekyll Island, GA, Sept. 2013

And in the longer run, land, sea, and all mortal beings, all species of flora and fauna, will disappear.

Which is why perhaps a heterotopia appeals to me so deeply … the placeless place, neither here nor there: a ship between shores on which an ad hoc society exists only as long as a cruise or passage; a tourist town, which shutters up and closes down after a few months; a public garden, where antiquity meets modernity (and as Louis Marin says, “the unsurpassable contradiction, where art and nature, artifice and truth, imagination and the real, representation and being, mimesis and the origin, play hide-and seek”); a museum (hard on the back and wearying though they are), where the past is reinterpreted by the present (“Foucault’s museum is not a funereal storehouse of objects from different times, but an experience of the gap between things and the conceptual and cultural orders in which they are interpreted”- from Beth Lord); a cemetery, where past and present collide and almost all of us have a relationship with it. A place, in other words, where here-there-everywhere and now-then come together in some ambiguous, disturbing, provocative way. A place that deviates from conventional norms, a constant reminder that ‘normal’ is always and everywhere just a temporary construct. These heterotopic places are where I feel I belong, if one can be said to belong to such a place, because they match my sense of what’s real.

momsspotinEvergreenCemetery13Dec2014
my mom, Evergreen Cemetery, Roanoke, VA, 13 Dec. 2014
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Dad’s ashes, scattered in Mt. Rogers National Recreational Area, Virginia, June 2013

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We each exist in a place now, places that seem real, solid, geographically tangible. At the same time, or in another time that runs alongside the chronology we obey, we are placeless, standing at a threshold, that liminal space, waiting, one foot here and one foot there, waiting, inhabiting multiple realities, multiple places and times in one moment, in one space. That’s how it feels to me, and I guess it’s why hotels, motels, lodging, and the movement of travelling resonate for me, reminders of the non-linear world beyond and inside and overlapping this other world we are inexplicably placed in. They remind me that we’re here for the moment, we’re in this spot in each moment as we move toward another spot in each moment, places we’ve never been, or have visited in dreams and in memory.

We live out of suitcases, uncertain in the middle of the night how to find the bathroom and the lights; we wake up disoriented, aware of strangers coughing, flushing, moving about next door; we check ourselves in the mirror before opening the door and stepping through.

MollysinkmirrorConservatoryLongwoodGardens13Oct2017

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Thanks for traveling with me on this part of my journey.

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Almost Certainly Not Axe Murderers

Welcome to day 30 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.  (More about heterotopias and liminal spaces.)  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.

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exteriormorningFairfieldInnhotelKennettSquarePA12Oct2017

“The man behind the check-in counter gives the impression that he has just axe-murdered the motel’s owner (and family, and family pet) and is going through these procedures of hostelry so as not to arouse suspicion.” ― Paul Quarrington, The Ravine

I mean, how could I not use that sentence in this series. But seriously, the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Kennett Square, PA (the Brandywine Valley) is nothing like this! It’s just a clean, simple, normal chain hotel in a medical/corporate park alongside Route 1, perfectly located for visits to Longwood Gardens, exactly two miles away from the hotel. It’s also only about a mile to charming Kennett Square, with shops and restaurants, and about 1.5 miles to Victory Brewing, a brewpub on the outskirts of Kennett Square. Spouse and I have stayed at the Fairfield Inn three times now for six nights total — in Aug 2015, July 2017, and Oct. 2017 — and will use it in the future when we visit the area.

I’m not sure what so appeals, besides primo location and hotel staff who in no way resemble or suggest axe-murderers.

It’s not the Pumpkin Spice coffee.

pumpkinspicecoffeeFairfieldInnhotelKennettSquarePA12Oct2017

It’s not the wacky carpets, although it is kind of fun to try to walk only on the straight lines.
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The breakfast is variable, though usually the oatmeal and fruit are good.

partialbreakfastroomFairfieldInnhotelKennettSquarePA12Oct2017

I think it’s really just the combined sense of comfort and anonymity that appeals. The staff is friendly and efficient but non-intrusive. They look up when you walk in and out, so you feel someone is noticing your presence, but their eye contact, body language, and spoken words (if any) don’t suggest they are watching too closely or monitoring your movement. Housekeeping comes at a predictable time. The public space is impersonal but there is coffee and tea and sometimes lime water offered at all hours, as well as candies at the front desk sometimes, and complimentary newspapers on weekdays.

The private space, the rooms, are comfortable, too, with all the basics provided.

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view into room, Oct. 2017
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two double beds, Oct. 2017
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one king bed, July 2017

The desk has additional electrical outlets and jacks. There’s a microwave, fridge, and coffee maker. There’s ample drawer and closet space.

bedACmicrowavefridgedeskTVdresserFairfieldInnhotelKennettSquarePA12Oct2017
microwave, fridge, desk and chair, dresser and TV, coffee maker, lighting, Oct. 2017
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microwave, fridge, desk and chair, dresser and TV, coffee maker, lighting, July 2017

The bathrooms are big enough with capacious counters and lots of space for shampoos and such in the shower.

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bathroom, Oct. 2017
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sink, counter space, mirror, Oct. 2017
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tub/shower, July 2017

The rooms aren’t cheap — from $105-$165 per night depending on what season and nights we stayed — but they’re comparable to other places in the area, and I feel there’s good value for the money (just the location near Longwood alone means we can return to the room and then back to Longwood easily during the day).

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Speaking of Longwood, and since this is a garden blog, a few pics from our visit this month, starting with the almost-futuristic bathrooms in the conservatory:

toiletsinkbConservatoryLongwoodGardens13Oct2017

This is what they look like from outside:

bathroomcurveConservatoryLongwoodGardens13Oct2017

I’ll be doing a longer post on this trip to Longwood soon, but for now, a few teasers:

oldbeechtreeLongwoodGardens13Oct2017
old beech tree, meadow
monarchredadmiralbutterflyredyellowdahliaFlowerWalkLongwoodGardens13Oct2017
monarch and red admiral butterflies on dahlia
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mimic fly on chrysanthemum
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lanterns in conservatory
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dahlias
HarpageantEasyDoesItFloribundarosepinkorangeLongwoodGardens13Oct2017
‘Easy Does It’ floribunda rose … pink and orange

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Next time I’d like to get to Chanticleer, Mt. Cuba again, and maybe even Tyler Arboretum in Media, PA. Might need a trip to the area just for garden-going. And a few more nights in the cheerfully disinterested Fairfield Inn & Suites.

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Myrtle Beach Days

Welcome to day 29 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.
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I grew up going to North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for summer vacations with my dad and sisters, and in recent years we (spouse and I) have considered retiring in that area, so in June 2014 we stayed in a condo there for a couple of days to look around at houses and amenities and get a feel for the place now.

When we went, three summers ago, we reserved a one-bedroom oceanfront condo at the Wyndham Towers on the Grove in NMB three weeks ahead of time for $255 per night. Looks like about the same pricing for June 2018. Off-season prices are quite low, with availability of $102 per night for a 1-BR oceanfront, and for a week around Christmas (18-26 Dec), a 1-BR oceanfront is going for $62/night! Hmmm ….

WyndhamTowerontheGrovehotelsignNMB20June2014

The Wyndham Towers on the Grove is actually a timeshare condo building, and when we checked in we could have had a reduction in cost and some goodies if we sat through a sales pitch for one. Having done the condo-sales-pitch thing once before in New Orleans (hours of my life that I will never get back), and with only 2 days to spend here, we decided against it. (We’re not looking for a condo to retire to, particularly not one that’s a quasi-hotel.)

As a hotel, the place is fabulous. It’s on the beach. View from room:

viewfrombalconyWyndhamToweronGrovehotel8pmNMB21June2014

The hotel room is really two full, separated rooms plus a real kitchen with stovetop and oven, dishwasher, sink, cabinets (with bowls, plates, glasses in them), fridge, microwave, coffee maker, etc. The bedroom is the first room you walk into (in ours; layout varies by unit), then through the galley kitchen to a living room and balcony overlooking the ocean and the pools below — there are outdoor heated pools, a hot tub, plus a lazy river partly underneath the building.

LazyRiverWyndhamToweronGrovehotelfrombalcony815pmNMB20June2014

In all, the space was almost 400 square feet, with two TVs and a washer and dryer in the unit. The wifi worked well once we got some kinks ironed out. Parking in a big garage across the street was a bit of a pain, but that inconvenience was totally offset by having the washer and dryer in our condo.

livingroomintokitchenWyndhamToweronGrovehotelNMB21June2014
view from living room into kitchen (door between), and bedroom is beyond. Note washer/dryer!!! And you can see the handle for the pull-down Murphy bed should it be needed.

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In Myrtle Beach — part of the 60-mile Grand Strand — the beach is the thing and that’s where we spent most of our time when we weren’t driving through neighbourhoods looking at houses.

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beach looking north, 8:30 a.m., 22 June 2014
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underside of live worm on beach, 22 June 2014
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brown pelicans in flight, 21 June 2014
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beach looking south, 8:30 a.m., 22 June 2014
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view of Wyndham Towers from beach, 21 June 2014

As I recall, from the condo we could walk to a grocery, a couple of restaurants, a few souvenir shops.

BarnaclebeachstoreNMB20June2014

It’s much quieter in North Myrtle Beach than in Myrtle Beach proper. A drive from the hotel but still in the North Myrtle Beach area are ziplining (Go Ape in Little River, SC), mini-golf, arcades, bowling, a winery, music shows, a small boardwalk, and Barefoot Landing, a sort of golf resort and upscale eating/shopping area — with 100 stores, restaurants, and attractions — that’s also home to Alligator Adventure and Alabama Theater. We ate at the Joe’s Crab Shack there.

onpatioatJoesCrabShack21June2014MollyatJoesCrabShack21June2014

And of course Myrtle Beach itself has the boardwalk and is an extravaganza of amusement parks, the Skywheel, Ripley’s Believe it or Not franchises (Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium museum, Aquarium, 5D Moving Theater, Haunted Adventure, and Marvelous Mirror Maze), pirate-themed attractions, museums, outlet shopping, eating, brewpubs, beachfront bars, golfing (including many mini-golf and par-3 courses), on and on. Broadway on the Boardwalk, on the Route 17 bypass, is a “shopping complex set on 350 acres … with 3 theaters, 17 restaurants, more than 100 specialty shops, attractions, nightclubs, and 3 hotels, surrounding Lake Broadway. It is the largest festival entertainment complex in South Carolina. It has an IMAX theater, Ripley’s Aquarium, Hard Rock Cafe, Planet Hollywood, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, and The Pavilion Nostalgia Park.”

South of Myrtle Beach are Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge, Huntington Beach State Park, and quite a bit further south in the state are the Yawkey Wildlife Center, the Santee Coastal Reserve, and the 400-square-mile Francis Marion National Forest. We’ve spent a little time in the Francis Marion National Forest but not much.

We didn’t actually do anything in Myrtle Beach itself, except drive through a bit of the town (on a Sunday morning) — so many little motels! —

inMyrtleBeach10amSunday22June2014

and then divert to Route 17 …

HollywoodWaxMuseumMyrtleBeach21June2014

… for the drive south of Myrtle Beach to Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet.  We really enjoy this hybrid sculpture garden with plantings, a short boat tour, historical signage and sculpture related to rice plantations and slavery, wild and tame animals (some in cages and some not), etc. I posted lots of photos (and some info about Brookgreen) in July 2014 from that visit.

daylilygardenbedBrookgreenGardens22June2014.jpg

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Christmas at Myrtle Beach has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

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Sand Under My Toes

Welcome to day 27 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.
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“I used to dream of a week-long beach vacation with white sand under my toes… right now, I’d settle for 48 hours at a Motel 6 with some Lysol and a UV lamp.” — Ingrid Weir

I was lucky enough to spend several days at a motel almost on the beach, with almost white sand  ̶u̶n̶d̶e̶r̶ ̶m̶y̶ ̶t̶o̶e̶s̶  under my shoes.

The Sand Dollar Inn on Pine Point Beach in Scarborough, Maine, is one of those motels with an impermanent and insignificant name, or at least part of the name (sand). Even sand dollars don’t last long on the beach: they’re either washed back to sea, picked up after dying on the beach, or picked up and killed by someone who doesn’t know how to tell a live sand dollar from a dead one. (I tried to explain this once to a woman who was picking up live sand dollar after live sand dollar off a beach; she didn’t give a damn. Yes, I’m bitter.)

Alive:

livingsanddollarbeachJI15July2016
Jekyll Island, GA, July 2016

Dead:

sanddollarOceanBeachSanfranciscoCAJan2004
Ocean Beach, San Francisco, Jan. 2004

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Anyhoo …. The Sand Dollar Inn is sweet. I mean, look at this kitchenette, with its painted pink cabinet and drawer pulls, two-burner stovetop, King mini-fridge, plastic drying rack, Country Living dishtowel:

kitchenetteSandDollarmotelPinePoint22June2013stovesinkfridgeallinoneSandDollarmotelPinePoint22June2013

It’s a block from the beach, with a porch you can eat on. (Well, on a table on the porch.)

SnowberryParkPinePointScarboroME18June2017
The Sand Dollar is that white roof on the right, just a block from Pine Point beach on this cute path. (June 2017)
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porch with table and chairs (June 2013)
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Negra Modelo and peanuts on motel porch, 24 June 2013

Pretty comfy inside, too.

bedroomSandDollarmotelPinePoint22June2013

And it attracts rainbows (view from parking lot adjoining back porch).

rainbowoverSandDollarmotelPinePoint24June2013

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We stayed in mid-June, when it was a little more than $100 per night. A block from the beach!

And the beach is 4 miles long!

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Pine Point beach looking toward Old Orchard Beach, stormy evening sky, 23 June 2013
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Pine Point beach, late afternoon, 22 June 2013
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Old Orchard beach in fog, 18 June 2017
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Pine Point Beach, dense fog, 18 June 2017
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Pine Point Beach, Aug. 2014
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snow on Pine Point Beach, Feb. 2015

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You can walk all the way to Old Orchard Beach, which we did.

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we had a cocktail and shrimp outside at Myst, with a view of the ferris wheel and carousel, 24 June 2013
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The Pier and ocean from Myst, 23 June 2013
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the Old Orchard boardwalk, mid-July 2009

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If you’re inclined, you can walk on the Eastern Trail, or kayak in the marsh:

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Eastern Trail, 23 June 2013
marshpatternsScarbroughmarshoffEasternTrailPinePoint23June2013
Scarborough Marsh, off Eastern Trail, 23 June 2013
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red-winged blackbird, Scarborough Marsh off Eastern Trail, 23 June 2013
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phoebes, Scarborough Marsh off Eastern Trail, 23 June 2013
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sparrow with caterpillars, Scarborough Marsh off Eastern Trail, 25 June 2013
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snowy egret, Scarborough Marsh off Eastern Trail, 25 June 2013

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Or just hang out on the beach.

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I did manage to air out the toes. 24 June 2013
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piping plover, June 2014
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many clam shells, March 2016
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gull skirmish, July 2009

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We used to live 2 blocks from this beach, way back in the winter of 1994. I love a winter beach walk.

This is what it looks like in December on the beach:

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my legs and shoes on the beach, 11 Dec. 2015
purplemolluskshelloakleavestableauPP11Dec2015
beach tableau, 11 Dec. 2015
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gulls squawking, 9 Dec. 2011
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beach and sky, 9 Dec. 2011
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The Sand Dollar Inn, boarded up, 9 Dec. 2011

It really is impermanent, ephemeral.

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How far is the unseen world from Midtown?

Welcome to day 26 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.
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signforMidtownHotelroomBoston28Feb2015

“There is no question that there is an unseen world. The problem is, how far is it from midtown and how late is it open?” ― Woody Allen

Woody Allen is no doubt speaking of Manhattan’s midtown, while I’m referring to Midtown Hotel in Boston, the fifth of my favourites.

entrywayMidtownHotelroomBoston28Feb2015
exteriorMidtownHotelfromacrossstreetBoston28Feb2015

I had long admired its mid-century low-rise almost-western motel sort of look, smack dab in the middle of Boston, a city where glamourous, luxurious, high-rise, grand hotels reign supreme — Boston Park Plaza, Mandarin Oriental, Eliot Hotel, Four Seasons Boston, Taj Boston, Fairmont Copley Plaza Boston, Ritz-Carlton Boston Common, Boston Harbor Hotel, Hilton Boston Back Bay, Copley Square Hotel, Fifteen Beacon, The Loews Boston Hotel, to name a few.

TheFairmontBoston14June2012
The Fairmont, Boston, June 2012

The Midtown’s price is great, usually about $100 per night, and the location is pretty perfect, near restaurants and shopping at Copley and Prudential, across from photogenic Christian Science Center pool and plaza, with its Mary Baker Eddy library and mapparium, and walking distance to the symphony and the Museum of Fine Arts (and really to Boston Public Garden and Common, only about a mile away).

MaryBakerEddyplazaandPrudentialCenterbuildingsBoston14June2012
Christian Science plaza and Prudential Center, June 2012
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Prudential Center and Copley Place, Feb. 2015
horsesculptureXmaswreathinfrontNeimanMarcusCopleyBoston12Dec2015
outside Neiman Marcus at Copley Place, decorated for Christmas, Dec. 2015
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atrium with fountain, inside Copley Place, March 2015
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Christian Science plaza, March 2014
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gardens on Christian Science plaza, June 2012
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Mother Church of the Christian Scientists, and Christian Science Publishing House with Mary Baker Eddy library and mapparium, June 2012
Mother Church of Christian Scientists, Feb. 2015
Mother Church of Christian Scientists, Feb. 2015
DudamelsmilingLAPhilharmonicatSymphonyHallBoston23March2014
conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic at Symphony Hall, March 2014

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So I was happy to book a room there a few years ago, in late February 2015, for an overnight stay during the 2015 Boston Flower Show, and then another time so that we could take an early train from South Station. In all, I think we’ve stayed at the Midtown three times and hope to do it again.

‘Basic’ wireless is free, with ‘high-speed wireless’ for an additional $10/night. There is also an outdoor pool, which is usually frozen when we are there. Pets are allowed for a fee.

outdoorpoolMidtownHotelNoDivingBoston1March2015
outdoor pool in March 2015 … no diving

The Midtown’s big drawback is that it’s on the Green Line, a confusing 4-headed T monster of a subway/trolley line if ever there was one, so we just Uber when staying at the Midtown. Or walk to the Orange Line. Or walk to the destination. If you drive a car there, there’s parking on site for a $25 fee.

I guess the other downside is that it’s a motel, not opulent, with no breakfast — though Thornton’s restaurant, next door, is quite fine for breakfast. There is sometimes a line after 9 on weekends.

strawberrycrepebreakfastatThorntonsRestaurantBoston1March2015
strawberry crepe at Thornton’s, March 2015
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salmon, bagel, tea at Thornton’s, March 2015

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There’s nothing really remarkable about the Midtown, other than the price, although I do dig the retro decor. They have a bellman to hail a cab if you want one, you can store bags at the front if your room is not ready on check-in, and there is a cute little lobby. But the rooms are just motel rooms, with adequate amenities, though certainly a good value for the price in Boston.

The rooms we’ve had have been fairly large, but with no microwave or refrigerator (you can rent a refrigerator, which probably tells you more about the hotel than they would wish).

bedMidtownHotelroomBoston1March2015
fairly spacious room with queen bed, two nightstands with lights, March 2015
bedTVmirrorwindowMidtownHotelroomBoston28Feb2015
bed, flat-screen TV, dresser, mirror, window, Feb. 2015
bedTVtablechairsMidtownHotelroomBoston28Feb2015
bed, flat-screen TV, dresser, table large enough for two laptops, two chairs, closet and more drawers, Feb. 2015
closetdresserMidtownHotelroomBoston28Feb2015
closet and dresser, with ice bucket and cups, Feb. 2015

The one light/fan combo switch for the whole bathroom area sheds light on the little sink alcove as well as the closed-off room with the toilet and shower, so at night it’s bright as midday in the bedroom if someone needs to turn on the light to use the facilities.

bathroomMidtownHotelroomBoston28Feb2015
sink outside bathroom, lit by same light as bathroom (Feb 2015)
bathroomtoiletshowerMidtownHotelroomBoston28Feb2015
behind the door, the tub/shower and toilet (Feb 2015)

On our first visit, we could hear everything from the noisy room either above or next to us, until 1 a.m. and again at 7 a.m.  Which is unfortunately true in many motel rooms, and another reason anonymity is key.

I especially enjoy the aesthetics of the public spaces, such as this hallway/stairway, filled with potted plants, with a view to the parking garage.

stairwayhallwaytolobbyparkinglotMidtownHotelroomBoston28Feb2015

This was the view from our room one time:

pigeononrailingfromMidtownHotelwindowBoston1March2015

I’ve recommend the Midtown Hotel to everyone I know who stays overnight in Boston.

MidtownHotelsignatnightBoston28Feb2015
night view, Feb. 2015

It’s the sign lettering, the font, that makes it seem like a western hotel, isn’t it? Shoot out at the Midtown. Let’s hope not.

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Somebody else, some stranger, haunted

Welcome to day 25 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.
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cemeterynearDenverCOJan2004

I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn’t know who I was – I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I’d never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn’t know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn’t scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost. — Jack Kerouac, On the Road

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Oh, we have twelve vacancies. Twelve cabins, twelve vacancies.

Welcome to day 24 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.
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Who knew there was so much to know about motels?

Wikipedia’s motel article is pretty detailed, with sections on architecture and layout (“typically constructed in an ‘I’-, ‘L’-, or ‘U’-shaped layout that includes guest rooms; an attached manager’s office; a small reception; and in some cases, a small diner and a swimming pool”); room types (some with small kitchens, some connecting); a history from auto camps and courts to early motels (“a handful used novelty architecture such as wigwams or teepees or used decommissioned rail cars”) to chains, and from expansion (when motels added swimming pools, colour TV, Magic Fingers!, and beach-front motels were popular) to decline (here’s a handy list of defunct motel and hotel chains) and then revitalization; international variations (Canada, Europe, and South America); “crime and illicit activity” and “motels in popular culture.”

HolidayInnResorthotelbackJekyll20Dec2015

If you’re interested in staying at motel with character, check out Momondo’s June 2016 list of “Iconic American lodging: cool and offbeat motels in USA,” which includes The Madonna Inn (I knew someone who stayed there once) in San Luis Obispo, CA (“rural ranch meets pink fantasy palace”), the Red Caboose Motel in Philadelphia, the Thunderbird Marfa in Marfa, TX, Kate’s Lazy Meadow, a 1950s marvel near the Catskills in NY, and Dog Bark Park Inn, shaped like a beagle, in Cottonwood, ID.

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bathroomOldeTavernMotelOrleansCapeCod1Nov2016

The “motels in the popular culture” section mentions some movies known for a motel setting, notably the Bates Motel in Hitchcock’s 1960 film Psycho. An “isolated motel being operated by a serial killer, whose guests subsequently become victims, has been exploited in a number of other horror films, notably Motel Hell (1980) and Mountaintop Motel Massacre (1986).” Somehow, I missed those. The 2011 thriller The Innkeepers used actual rooms and hallways of the Yankee Pedlar Inn, in Torrington, CT, for interior shots.

Of course, the “long-established connotations of motels and illicit sexual activity” manifests in “Motel Confidential (1967) and the porn film Motel for Lovers (1970),” as well as “Paradise Motel (1985), Talking Walls (1987), Desire and Hell at Sunset Motel (1991), and the Korean films Motel Cactus (1997) and The Motel (2005).” Sordid events take place in Pink Motel (1982), Motel Blue 19 (1993), Backroad Motel (2001), Stateline Motel (2003), Niagara Motel (2006), and Motel 5150 (2008).

An article in the National Post (9 Oct. 2015) succinctly summarises in its subtitle (taken from comments by Dave Alexander, editor of Canadian horror magazine Rue Morgue) why sleaze, horror, vice, and violence are housed in hotels and motels: “Hotels are a pseudo home where people go to do bad stuff and a place where strangers intersect.”

From the same article, Canadian film director Brandon Cronenberg says that “‘a hotel room is both a foreign space and an intimate space. … We might sleep there, bathe there, have sex there, but it’s also somewhere unfamiliar and uncontrolled, and that creates a sense of vulnerability.'” Further, says Cronenberg — getting at the heterotopia as a place that both exists in time but also outside of time, as a discontinuity of time, an accumulation of time — “a ‘hotel is like a labyrinth of secret history.’ … There is something delicious about the idea that a sordid moment from that history might resurface in the present, perhaps literally in the case of a supernatural story.'”

EdgewaterBeachResorteveningmistDennisportCapeCod15Sept2017

“All good hotels tend to lead people to do things they wouldn’t necessarily do at home.” — Andre Balazs

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When I think of motels, I think of My Cousin Vinny, starring Joe Pesci as Vinny, an inexperienced lawyer from New York trying to free his nephew and friend from a murder charge in Alabama, and his sharp-witted girlfriend Lisa, played by Marisa Tomei. Technically, Vinny and Lisa are staying in an H OTEL, but it’s basically a motel, one with a railroad track abutting it. If you haven’t seen it, watch this 2-min video to see what happens at 5 a.m. in the motel room.

Then there’s Fawtly Towers, the British comedy set in “a fictional hotel in the seaside town of Torquay on the ‘English Riviera.'” John Cleese is the “tense, rude and put-upon” and socially conservative owner Basil Fawlty, with Prunella Scales as his bossy, acerbic wife Sybil, Connie Booth as the peacemaking chambermaid Polly, and Andrew Sachs as the “hapless and English-challenged Spanish waiter Manuel.” The quartet tries to run the hotel “amidst farcical situations and an array of demanding and eccentric guests and tradespeople.” It’s such an iconic show that hard to believe there are only 12 episodes! The whole series came about after Cleese, then with Monty Python, stayed at the Gleneagles Hotel in Torquay while filming on location:

“Cleese was fascinated with the behaviour of the owner, Donald Sinclair, later describing him as “the rudest man I’ve ever come across in my life.” This behaviour included Sinclair throwing a timetable at a guest who asked when the next bus to town would arrive; and placing Python member Eric Idle’s briefcase (put to one side by Idle while waiting for a car with Cleese) behind a wall in the garden on the suspicion that it contained a bomb. Sinclair justified his actions by claiming the hotel had “staff problems.” He also criticised the American-born Terry Gilliam’s table manners for not being “British” (that is, he switched hands with his fork whilst eating).”

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“Of course great hotels have always been social ideas, flawless mirrors to the particular societies they service.” —  Joan Didion

Philip French, in the Guardian’s 16 Dec. 2000 article, “This Looks A Nice Place To Stop,” gives a brief history of 75 years of motels in Hollywood, “a metaphor for angst and alienation.” He perhaps overstates the case for danger: “Motels are places for assignations and illicit sex, for planning crimes and dividing the spoils, for insecure people in transit or desperate people on the run. There’s always the chance that you’ll wake up alone, robbed after a night of passion, or that the place will be surrounded by cops (as in Bonnie and Clyde (1967) or this year’s Way of the Gun) and you’ve the choice of shooting it out or getting handcuffed.”

backofWestinhotelfrombeachJekyll29Dec2015

French describes as motels as “located on the edge of cities, identifying their patrons as marginalised, or they are out in the wilds of the Midwest, dwarfed by the big sky and the majestic landscape. … They have a dispiriting anonymity,” either homogeneous chains that “protect us from local colour,” or “squalid, cigarette-scarred, kitsch-decorated, the thin-walled suites located behind flickering neon signs and fetid swimming pools. The upmarket places were acidly satirised in Richard Lester’s Petulia (1968), where would-be adulterers George C. Scott and Julie Christie book into a San Francisco motel so impersonal that you never meet the staff or other guests. The experience of staying in downmarket versions is cleverly caught in Christopher Nolan’s Memento (2000), whose protagonist suffers from short-term memory loss and has to take Polaroids so he can recognise the LA motel he’s living in.”

Not movie-related, but French tells us in this article that in 1934, “Frank Lloyd Wright incorporated a motel in his design for a utopian city called Broadacre. Lloyd Wright planned a ramp for visitors to drive their cars virtually into their motel rooms.”

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Besides those named already, there are lots of other famous movies set partially or wholly in hotels and motels, among them Grand Hotel (1932) with Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore (the Grand Hotel, where “nothing ever happens”); the Marx Brothers movie Room Service (1938); Week-End at the Waldorf (1945) with Ginger Rogers, Lana Turner, Walter Pidgeon, Van Johnson; Jacques Tati’s Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday (1953); A Touch of Evil (1958) dir. by Orson Welles, with Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh; The Bellboy (1960), with Jerry Lewis as a bumbling hotel bellhop; the Barbra Streisand/Ryan O’Neal romantic comedy What’s Up, Doc? (1972); California Suite (1978) with Maggie Smith, Richard Pryor, Alan Alda, Jane Fonda, Bill Cosby; The Shining (1980) with Jack Nicholson; the rom-com Pretty Woman (1990) with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere; Lost in Translation (2003) with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson; The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) with Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith; and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), with Ralph Fiennes and F. Murray Abraham.

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I’d never heard of it before but The Florida Project (2017) — about young kids who live in “the Magic Castle, a purple-colored budget motel that’s near the Magic Kingdom and above which clouds resemble dollops of cotton candy” — sounds like something I’d want to see: The camera moves “in and out of [the motel’s] rooms, investing the minutia of the down-and-out lives within this little ecosystem with a bittersweet energy and significance.” From the same (linked) review, this is also intriguing:

“Some might argue that The Florida Project’s ending constitutes another such misstep, but that would be to misunderstand another of Baker’s fundamental projects. Joan Didion has written, and better than no one else, about Miami as a transient metropolis, one that’s been built in the image of so many Cuban cities, and one that seems like it will, if not exactly crumble, reveal its essential ephemerality when so many of its Cuban-born citizens feel like they finally have the license to return to their homeland. The same could be said of Orlando, a city which feels like it only exists in relationship to Disney World, a capitalist dependency that’s very much felt throughout this film. As lived-in and detail-rich as the lives in The Florida Project are, the environment where they’re rooted is fleeting, a place where one passes through but never stays.”

Coming of age at the Magic Castle motel abutting the Magic Kingdom: Heterotopian in multiple ways in its ephemerality, marginality, placelessness (a place that disappears or where we simply can’t stay for long): the motel, the resort “World” itself, and even perhaps in the fleeting nature of childhood. Foucault himself speaks of child’s play as heterotopian in a way: “In one example [of heterotopias, Foucault] refers to children’s play, when they invent games. They produce an imaginative space, but at the same time mirror the physical realities around them. A bed can become a boat or a sandbox a whole universe.”(from notes on Ylva Ogland’s 2014 art exhibition, “Diverse Variations of Other Spaces”)

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Title quote spoken by Norman Bates to Marion Crane in Psycho.

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