Thursday, 8 December 2011

The End Of The Chelsea Hotel- A Rest Stop For Rare Individuals

Sometimes inspiration comes from a person, and sometimes inspiration comes from an act or object, but sometimes (just sometimes) inspiration has a physical location. You can travel there, immerse yourself in its waters and come away gleaming with inspiration. For the longest time my home of inspiration was located on the other side of the globe: The Chelsea Hotel at 222 West 23rd Street, New York.

As you know I'm an avid reader and an avid music fan. A recent trip to New York allowed me the honor of staying at The Chelsea Hotel, and drinking in bars frequented by some of the most influential names in modern music. 

You can retrace some of my footsteps by checking out this link to the best Rock 'N Roll History Map of New York. Its a map of historic music sites in New York City and Los Angeles put together by me from my personal collection of music biographies.

I said some, because as of August 1, 2011, The Chelsea Hotel ceased being a hotel while it undergoes "renovation". The long term residents have been allowed to stay but the site is no longer open to anyone with money to stay. There is no word yet as to the planned outcome of renovations- will The Chelsea be allowed to retain her gloriously seedy decadence, or will she be nip-tucked to within an inch of her life? I have a lot of feelings surrounding the Chelsea Hotel, many come from knowing her place in music history, but many also come from my own experiences of the place.

Meeting in the Chelsea Lobby before heading on  New York adventure

My memories of the Chelsea Hotel are as they should be- stepping in from the blustery cold in a leopard print coat, my husband and I jumping on the bed like children, staying up late drinking wine while watching music videos on TV, wrapping myself in a soft towel after bathing in products from the Chelsea Hotel Apothecary, struggling to eat Chinese takeout with the utensils left in the kitchen- two corkscrews, a beer bottle opener and a fork. When I look back on my time there I have lots of fond memories, and a sadness that I will probably never again be able to experience that glorious, decadent seediness. The feelings run parallel to the ones I have about my son as an infant. I will never again be able to go back and experience those wonderful, crazy, amazing moments.

Real Mature: Jumping on the bed, pretending to be the interior designer
who thought paint splatters would make great room decor.

It felt really fucking cool to walk the stairs that William S. Burroughs, Tennessee Williams, Jack Kerouac, Iggy Pop, Stanley Kubrick, Arthur Miller, Dee Dee Ramone, Patti Smith, Robert Mapplethorpe, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Andy Warhol walked. It felt morbid in the most brilliant way to sleep in the same building that writer Dylan Thomas died in after drinking 18 shots of whiskey at the White Horse Tavern and Nancy Spungeon bled to death in from a Sid Vicious inflicted knife wound (Note, we went exploring trying to find room 100, but it had been renovated so room 99 went straight on to room 101). I rode the lift past the floor that Sir Arthur C. Clarke wrote “2001: A Space Odyssey” on and the various places in which Andy Warhol shot his film “Chelsea Girls”. I ran up and down the stairs that Bob Dylan walked when writing songs for his 1966 Blonde On Blonde album, touched the door to room 822 (Madonna shot scenes for her Sex Book there) and admired the artworks from literally hundreds of residents.

The view up from our floor.

I can show you my Chelsea photos, but it wont be the same as having been there yourself. I can tell you my Chelsea stories, but they will all fall flat and dull because the inspirational thing about the Chelsea isn't her hundred year old bricks, the art work on her walls or her well trod landings. In truth, you don't have to have climbed the stairs of the Chelsea Hotel to have been inspired by her. In much the same way that glitter left on your skin the morning after a party is a poor representation of the fun you had last night, the physical Chelsea Hotel itself was a seedy mismatch with rude staff, shonky heating and cantankerous residents. The real magic came from the creations sent out into the world by many of its beautiful ordinary inspiring inhabitants. All that remains of the Chelsea Hotel is dust settling on ornate balustrades worn smooth by the passing of many talented hands, sheets covering the furniture drunks and poets once lounged on, doors closed to rooms in which glitter was once danced into the carpet.

I like to think about the Chelsea in this way, because it makes me feel connected to the past in a way that doesn't exclude the possibility of the future being equally amazing. With a son who means the world to me, I can only hope the future brings more poets, dancers, artists and musicians, and more places like the Chelsea where rare individuals can rest their weary bones.

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