(parenthetically speaking)

a random gal’s random thoughts about nothing and everything in general

When I Check Out, I Like to Check In July 19, 2009

I love hotels. Love, love, love them. Like Tiny Tim—who I had the pleasure of interviewing from his Des Moines hotel domicile back in 1994—I think I could even live in a hotel.

Just think, they’d be no bed to make and there’d always be someone to pick up after you. You could crank the AC down as low as you like and use all the hot water you want and not have to worry about huge electric bills. And room service when you get the munchies at 1 a.m.? Hello! Not to mention all the free ice you want.

To me, there’s just something exotic about staying in a hotel. Even in the most rinky-dink, cookie-cutter chain hotels. It somehow makes me feel, um, international. Even when I’m just shacking up for the night in some hole-in-the-wall along an isolated stretch of interstate in Winnemucca, Nevada.

For one thing, I always sleep better in hotels. Maybe it’s those dark, heavy drapes they always seem to have that block out even the slightest hint of daylight—so much so that if you didn’t know better, you’d think the sun had exploded, enveloping the planet in a veil of black while you were busy dreaming about lollipops and unicorns.


Here's hoping there's room at the inn.

The best I can recollect, my love affair with hotels started when I was 16, when my brother and I were driving in my old brown Toyota Tercel from Texas to Arizona to visit my aunt. I’d drive until I couldn’t drive anymore and then we’d stop at some cheap motel called the All-Nighter or something like that, and then start all over again the next day. Being that it was just the two of us, I felt like such a grown-up walking up to the clerk and saying, “I’d like a room for the night.” Actually, I can’t believe they didn’t look at the two of us and ask us where our parents were and refuse to rent us a room. Because, trust me, I didn’t look then like most 16-year-olds do today—like they’re 18 going on 25. I was lucky if I passed for 13.

In the years since, I’ve stayed in some really nice hotels. The Fairmont in Banff, the Peabody in Memphis, the Owners Suites at Signature in Vegas, to name a few. I’ve also stayed at some real fleabags. Like the time when my mom and sister and I had to scramble to find a room in Galveston, Texas, in the middle of the night after our tent blew down in a storm. I can still picture that tacky red velvet bedspread, the nasty, dingy brown shag carpet, and the live wires coming out of the wall. It was not in the least what you’d call exotic, but it did keep us from having to sleep in the women’s bathroom at our campground all night, where we had retreated after our Coleman SunDome took off in a whirlwind like Dorothy’s house in a Kansas tornado. It was such a pit, the three of us still laugh about to this day. So see, even the crappiest hotels can create lasting memories.

Another reason I love hotels is that they, at least for me, serve as a much-needed escape from the ordinary. I mean, don’t you ever get tired of sleeping in your same old bed night after night? Staring at those faded paisley sheets with the burgundy trim that you’ve had since your thirties?

Sometimes when I’m particularly down or stressed, or some frightening combination of the two, I want nothing more than to check into a hotel, pull the covers up over my head, and get away from the realities of the world. I did that very thing when my precious cat Harold, whom I’d had for 20 long years, got sick and had to be put down. I left the vet’s office, got in my car, and just started driving. I didn’t know, or care, where I was going. I just needed to get away. And rather than turning around and heading home at some point, I simply checked into a hotel for the night. No toothbrush, no night clothes, no nothing. And I think in some small way it may have actually helped start the healing process. (Now some of you will call me crazy for having such an intense reaction to my cat dying, but that’s another blog for another day. Besides, you never met Harold. If you had, you would have done the same thing.)

Anyway, the point is, that when it comes to hotels, it’s like Martha Stewart says: “It’s a good thing.” Of course, Martha would never be caught dead in a beat-up old motel room in Galveston, Texas, with a red velvet bedspread and brown shag carpeting. She doesn’t know what she’s missing.

To further prove I love hotels, check out the column I write about them at Examiner.com.


Rooms With a ’Tude May 6, 2009

I’ve started compiling a list of the world’s most unique hotels. Hopefully I’ll get a few writing assignments out of it. Or even a book deal. (My dream.)

Of course, lots of hotels claim to be unique. But I’m talking truly out-of-the-ordinary here, folks. For instance, did you know that in the Netherlands you can sleep 55 feet up off the ground in a spectacular suite for two atop a working industrial shipping crane?

It’s called the Harlingen Harbour Crane (www.vuurtoren-harlingen.nl) and it sits dockside along the Wadden Sea near the historic town of Harlingen. From its lofty perch, you’ll be afforded sweeping 360-degree views. Inside, you’ll find the accommodations surprisingly comfortable and luxurious (there’s a shower/bath built for two and designer touches like Eames chairs).

Harbour Crane exterior.

Harbour Crane exterior ...

Harbour Crane interior.

and interior.

Know of other unusual lodgings like the Harlingen Harbour Crane? I’d love to hear about them! Want other hotel notes and news? Check out my column on examiner.com.


Snow Day March 2, 2009

It snowed in Atlanta today. Lots. We’re talking accumulation here, people. snowy-atlanta

Snow reminds me of my childhood. Well, part of my childhood. When we lived in Pennsylvania. I was probably around 7 or 8. We lived in a small house at the top of a hill out away from the city (our address was Route 1). It was an idyllic little spot next door to a hay field (where we’d fly kites) and not far from a friend’s farm (they gave us a baby pig as a pet). In winter, we’d slide down our driveway on cookie sheets and use the shell of an old VW Bug as our fort during snowball fights. We’d eat cupfuls of fresh snow with chocolate syrup poured on top.


Man-Man checks out the snowy scene from the safety of the screened porch.

Snow’s fun when you’re a kid. As an adult, not so much. Sure, there are times when as a grownup snow is great. Like when you’re going skiing. Or it’s Sunday and you just want to snuggle up by the fire and eat chili and read a good book. It’s when you have to get out and drive in it that it becomes a problem. Or maybe that’s just because, since I was old enough to drive, I’ve never lived in a place where the drivers had any idea how to content with ice and snow. Like today, I heard siren after siren, the emergency vehicles whizzing to and fro to rescue Atlantans who don’t realize that when it comes to weather like this, the motto is, “With snow, go slow.”

Lucky for me, I don’t have to commute to work braving treacherous roadways packed with people who don’t have the slightest clue about how to drive in wintery conditions. I don’t have to bundle up in a coat, hat, gloves, and a scarf. I don’t have to scrap the ice and snow off my car and wait for the windows to defrost. I simply walk from one side of the house to the other, turn on my computer, and, voila, I’m ready to go.

Yup, snow’s great for kids. And the self-employed.


I Saw a Fox January 30, 2009

Filed under: happy thoughts — jillb @ 8:47 pm

I saw a fox near the parking garage at my office the other day. We have a big pond back behind our offices, so we’re used to seeing geese and fish and turtles, and I even saw a pair of deer wandering through the trees back there one morning, but a fox? I was totally taken aback. It was beautiful, though, with a thick, bushy red tail. It was dark out, and he just popped up in my headlights when I came around this corner. We both stopped for a second or two and looked at each other, and then he ran off. I don’t really have anything smart or existential to say about it; it was just a neat little unexpected encounter in an otherwise routine workweek.


Aw, Shucks January 28, 2009

280482823Another friend of mine has a new book just out that I thought I’d give a free plug to. It’s by Robb Walsh, a fellow Texan and longtime food writer, and is called Sex, Death and Oysters. (Don’t you just love that title?) The official description calls it “a record of a gastronomic adventure with illustrations and recipes—a fascinating collection of the most exciting, instructive, poignant, and just plain weird experiences on a trip into the world of the most beloved and feared of all seafoods.” Wow, who knew oysters could be that exciting? Personally, I’d rather read about oysters than eat them, so I’ll have to add Sex, Death and Oysters to my ever-growing reading list. Best of luck and continued happy eating, Robb!


A Political Party January 27, 2009

inaugurationcookie2Just wanted to follow up, since some people have asked, about the big Obamathon the family and I had on inauguration night a week ago. We actually ended up not making the Inauguritas and even skipped the whole Good vs. Evil ping-pong tourney, but we did dine on Barack Obama chili (yup, his actual recipe, which you can find here, among other places) and also snacked on a bag of Obama cookies—featuring the faces of Barack, Michelle, Malia, Sasha, and the yet-to-be-named family dog—that my sister picked up especially for the occasion at Pike Place Market in Seattle. There was also the reading of grievances against the outgoing regime, a rehashing of Bush bloopers and funny quotes, an Obama quiz, and other political hilarity.

It’s funny, my family has never been very political as a whole, and this was the first time we had ever come together to celebrate, even in such a silly way, anything remotely civic, bureaucratic, or governmental. I guess January 20, 2009, was a historic day in more ways than one.


the write stuff January 21, 2009

I spent some of my formative years in a little town north of Dallas called Lewisville. (Well, at least it was little then. It’s since suffered from full-on urban sprawl, making it indiscernible from every other strip-center-filled suburb across the state.) Lewisville wasn’t exactly what you’d call cosmopolitan (our high school football team was called the Fighting Farmers, for christ’s sake), and, well, it just wasn’t the sort of place you’d except to find a lot of future rocket scientists or Pulitzer prize winners. But there is one former resident who’s making quite a name for herself. Her name is Andrea Buchanan, and she was a friend of my sister’s while we were growing up there. She’s since gone on to become a respected filmmaker and also, just recently, a best-selling author.

51ubyr6lvdl_sl500_aa240_3Her new book is called Note to Self, and in it, 30 notable women, including singer Sheryl Crow and actress Kathy Najimy, talk about some of the defining moments of their lives and the lessons they’ve learned from them. Reviewers have called it “deeply moving, incredibly inspiring and uplifting” and “a book every woman should own.” I’ll be reading a copy as soon as my sister-in-law finishes with it. Given the buzz and good reviews, though, I think it’s safe to go ahead and offer my congratulations to Andrea (mixed with a healthy dose of jealousy!), and to say keep up the good work.