I meant to post this two months ago! Then life took over… But I found this post in the drafts today and re-read it and simply began to laugh because… Because sometimes I end up in weird places!
Last August, I spent 2 FAB weeks in Barbados (the country with the loveliest drug dealers in the world – they dont do any business as far I saw, they politely ask you if you want some smoke, then they apologize and leave, swearing you are their best friend EVER) then I went to NY for my usual yearly visit.
The two Serenas who usually put me up (my cousin and my friend – Sere, ma dove sei finita??? Fatti viva!) were out of town, and while waiting for their return I decided to stay in a hotel. I couldnt afford to spend much but at the same time, being on my own, I didnt want to end up in some faraway hostel, so I went online, to travelrepublic (DONT USE IT! EVER!) and to my surprise I found a hotel right behind Times Square for less than half all the other “low budget chains”. Yes, yes… I should have known better… But, I thought, it’s bang in the centre of the world. How bad can it be???
Ah ah ah…. Introducing….
The Carter isn’t a hotel, it’s a state of mind. It isn’t a real place, it belongs to a parallel universe that opens through a time/space portal designed by the twisted mind of an opium smoker… It’s not even that dirty – I live in London and stained colourful carpets from Victorian times don’t shock me anymore – it’s… quintessentially ugly. If Plato had wanted to illustrate the “idea” of ugly and rotten, he could have used this place; if Dante came back to life he’d set his Inferno at the Carter, one sin for each floor and the chino-mexicans as his devils… And these literary references to metaphisical writers don’t come to my mind by chance… The Carter possesses a sort of methaphysical seediness, and the most incredible thing is that all this is displayed like a badge of honour. There’s something unreal, sublime, paradoxical in this hotel, something beyond human immagination.
Exquisitely disgusting and deliriously funny…
The Carter is a celebration of chaos, dust, and rudeness. You’ve reached the ass hole of the Universe, welcome! Arriving at the Carter is landing on a planet were normal rules of behaviour cease to exist. Nasty porters refuse to help you with your suitcase, but eye you up every single time you pass them; Albanian and Kossovan tourists go out in the evening dressed like they’ve come out from “Saturday Night Fever”, talking loudly as if they were all deaf; unfriendly chino-mexican staff treat you as if you had no right to bother them; scary men sing rap loudly from their room and drop litter outside the elevator, as if it was a landfill; a middle aged, super made up, brothel-madame style Chinese manager sits in the middle of the hall taking notes of people coming and going… All this is marvellous in its utter decadence. It’s like a film set, one of those Altman’s movies where a desperate and corrupted humanity conveys in a place to rot, only to find out there’s no atonement, no catharsis, and they will all go on with their desolate lives even when the Seven Plagues come and frogs start raining from the sky…
Nothing works at the Carter. The public phone swallows your quarter without letting you communicate with the outside world. The sign on the communal computers says “buy internet cards at reception” but at reception they’ve never seen an internet card. The bathroom doors dont close…
The best part is that nothing is included at the Carter’s, not even the most basic stuff. Typical dialogue:
Hm, excuse me? There’re no towels in my bathroom
Towels?? You have to ask for them, madam!
Sorry but… the maid didn’t come today. My room hasn’t been cleaned.
Maid ? if you want your room cleaned every day you have to ask for it!
Excuse me, can I change room? There’s GIGANTIC FAN built in 1931 just outside my window…
All our rooms are extremely noisy, madam.!!!(how dare you implying there must be something as dull as a quiet room in our establishment!)
Of course, I would deliberately ignore the Carter’s horrors, pretend to be at the Ritz, and go out every day dressed in my bohemian chic clothes or, at night, in my 1940s, Katharine Hepburneske blouses. In the morning I’d pass the hundreds of Italian tourists queueing outside Starbucks, all the men dressed in the same checked bermudas and colourful Lacoste, all the women in summer sporty trousers (as if they’re going trekking), Abercrombie sweat shirts (Abercrombie has become Italy’s a new religion. In fact it’s like The Gap but overpriced…) and perfectly blowed dry hair. AAAAHHHHH. AVOID!!!! EVITARE COME LA PESTE!!! What’s the problem with my compatriots? Gente, perche’? Perche’ dovete sempre vestirvi tutti uguali????? Smettiamola di farci ridere dietro. E’ vero, siamo sempre mille volte piu’ stilish dei turisti inglesi che vanno in giro coi cappelli di paglia a gennaio, dei tedeschi che mettono i sandali con le calze, e degli Americani che non sanno la differenza fra Genova e Ginevra, ma perche’ non potete mostrare un po’ di personalita’ nel scegliere i vestiti? Basta coi bermuda a quadretti!! E, donne, non potete mettervi NORMALI quando visitate una citta’? A Milano mica andate in giro con lo zainetto tecnico e le scarpe da trekking… Che poi vi derubano se mettete i soldi nello zainetto, che sta sulla schiena e non vi accorgete del borseggiatore in agguato. E infine… perche’ quest’ossessione con Starbucks????? Che non apre in Italia perche’ sa che agli italiani il loro cappuccino fa vomitare? E a Times Square poi, che e’ fetido, e poi uscite e dite mannaggia che schifezza…New York e’ piena di caffe’ bellissimi!!!! Schiodatevi dal centro!!!!!!! E imparate l’inglese che e’ ora.
Sorry, the above was directed at Italians only… Anyway, after avoiding the Italians outside Starbucks I’d head to the village -east, west and middle- and have breakfast reading a book… Oh, I love that!!!
Yes, I love New York. I don’t think I could ever live in the US – too new for me, I need Europe’s old narrow streets named after people who lived centuries ‘ago, the smell of history – but f I could work a month or two a year in America I truly wouldn’t mind! In fact, I did manage to work while in NY. I did a voice over job! Next door to the recording place I found a Pilates studio, so I even manage to go for a class after work… Even though, Americans are fanatic even when it comes to exercise based on the principle of lenghtening and slowly toning muscles… Slowly? The class I took in NY was more army training than Pilates!!! The woman was mad. Of course I suffered in silence because I, Lara Parmiani, I’m the queen of exercising. I never moan. I never surrender. Don’t you dare challenging me, because I’d rather die than give up. I’ll break but never bend!!! Result: I was unable to move for 3 days…
Returning to the Carter after such days was like returning to Cinderella’s house after a night with the Prince. The chinese Madam looked at me and shook her head as if I was the weird one and they were the totally “normal” people. In my room, I showered with the door open, place earplugs in my ears and desperately try to sleep, despite the lights of the billboard flashing outside (no dark curtains at the Carter), dreaming one day I’d be staying at the Plaza, like Katharine Hepburn…