Wednesday, February 9, 2011

i remember you well at the chelsea hotel

i have long since been fascinated by the chelsea hotel. i don't remember why, exactly, except that all of the artists i love seem to have a chelsea connection.

it must have started with leonard cohen and from there joni mitchell, janis joplin, and jimi hendrix. although, i really don't know who came first. but the chelsea has always been on my mind.

several years ago, i was in new york for work and as i was going to finish my job with a few days left over. i thought i would extend my stay and get a room in the historical hotel. my good friend was going to join me in the city so this would be the perfect opportunity to check it out...i don't think i would have ever had the nerve to stay there on my own.

well, needless to say, it was eerie, very eerie. other than the tenant on the other side of the wall who seemed to be on a coke binge, the hotel was uncomfortably quiet. in a city of honking horns, sirens and screams, the chelsea seemed to reside in it's own little universe.

i had my friend snap a few photos of me outside of the hotel but as it was one of the coldest nights of my life, they did not turn out well. there was a blur of me in front of a blur of a lit up neon sign that frankly could have been anyplace. i'm ok with that, though. i've always wanted to stay there and now i have and it was an experience that i will never forget. unfortunately, i haven't been able to go back to get some better shots.

so, my whole point of this rambling post is that i was given for my birthday the new patti smith book, just kids, that documents her life with the photographer robert mapplethorpe, much of which took place at this famous residence of the weary artist.

reading this book took me to so many places that, although i have never seen them on my own, they are very real to if i have read about them so many times, that i may have actually been there.

patti's recollection of their years together was such an honest, heartfelt memoir that i found myself in tears, even though i was reading it in an airplane, a restaurant or a hotel lobby much of the time. it took me to a different time and place entirely. one that i wish i could have been a part of, had i not been born a few years too late on the opposite side of the country.

and not that this time was entirely romantic, we can't forget the incredible people we lost in the 80's due to a tragic misunderstood disease. however, would we have given these artists the respect they so deserved if they were still walking among the living? i really don't know. but for now, there is still the memory of the chelsea hotel...

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