It’s 3:36 in the morning, I’m about 200 feet in the air, and flat on my back staring at the ceiling.
I think it’s because we have a hot water heating system in our house.
I’m desperately trying to get a good night’s sleep, because all day tomorrow I’ll be wandering around a convention hotel, wearing uncomfortable clothes, going from meeting to meeting, drinking too much mediocre coffee and overhearing conversations full of statements I don’t agree with.
This is the third time my eyes popped open , and I think it’s because the hotel has, as most do, a hot air heating system that kicks in at random intervals. The room is either too hot or too cold and always much too noisy while making up its mind.
Because I’m not wasting time by sleeping, I’ve gotten up and wandered over to the window a couple of times. Even though I’m on the seventeenth floor, my view is mostly a giant parking lot and boring buildings. That’s a new experience. I have some very early morning events even when I’m at home, and I’m never bored with the view. There’s always something to see, even if it’s just a glimmer of starlight sparkling off snowdrifts.
As I stared thoughtfully at the parking lot, the heating system kicked in and blew cold air all over my knobby knees, which didn’t help in my quest for sleep.
Going to the big city just isn’t what it used to be. It makes me miss the Curtis Hotel.
Sometime in the early 1960s, our family traveled to the State Fair. It was a big deal for us, made even bigger by the fact that we stayed in a hotel.
Be still my heart. First time ever for me.
At that point in my life, the tallest building I’d ever seen was the grain elevator in my hometown. As we approached downtown Minneapolis, the Foshey Tower, all thirty-two stories, loomed high in the sky. Not exactly the New York skyline, but I was amazed.
We stayed at the Curtis Hotel, which was only about half as tall, but still the most impressive building I’d ever set foot in, particularly since the advertising on the brochure in the room said it featured steam heat and artesian water.
I don’t remember the exact year, but I must have been old enough to read, because I was fascinated by the concept of artesian water; that water could fall on high ground a hundred miles away, sink into the earth until it hit bedrock and then pour out under pressure just by digging a well. But living as we did, in a little house where heat came up from an oil burner in the basement through a grate in the middle of the floor, I was equally fascinated by the radiators on the wall. Since it was State Fair time in Minnesota, when the typical temperature is between 80 and Melt-Your-Face, the need for room heat was completely theoretical, but it seemed so elegant.
Speaking of elegant, the bellboys and other hotel staff were dressed up far beyond what I’d normally see, even at a church service, the only place I’d ever seen someone wear a suit.
I never stayed at the Curtis Hotel again, but I always had a twinge of nostalgia, seeing its giant sign looming over Minneapolis and I remember being sad when I read it had been torn down and replaced by an office building.
Times change. There have been a lot of hotel rooms between then and now. Hardly anyone wears suits anywhere, much less to church, and elegance is a threatened commodity. Fewer wonders make a ten-year-old boy go, “Wow!” and that’s a pity.
And hotel rooms are far too noisy.
Copyright 2021 Brent Olson
If it was the early 1960s my grandfather would have been managing the ac/heat for the Curtis if it was 1969 or later my father (and grandfather would have been in charge of whole building maintenance).
My first annual summer conference of agriculture educators was at the Curtis Hotel in 1981. Even though the hotel had seen better days by then, it was still an eye opening experience for a country boy. I enjoyed your story.
I was today years old when I learned that the cabin at Pine Haven Christian Assembly, the Curtis Hotel, was named after an actual hotel in Minneapolis. Most of the rest were named after people in the Bible.
I don't remember the name of the first hotel I ever stayed in, but the circumstances are clear. You see, we were a camping family. My older brother had a summer job as a guide from the Boy Scouts' Charles L. Sommers Wilderness Canoe Base in Ely, MN. We dropped him off, and went to a place called Rainy Lake to set up camp. Of course that night, it rained. And rained. And rained some more. Our tent was inundated. Dad took us to a hotel. Don't remember much, but that it was dry. When we got home, Mom and Dad bought a camper.
When I was a 4-Her with beef cattle we took a county fair champion to a year ending cattle show in St. Joseph, a big city to me back then. They had a dinner for us at the Hotel Robidoux Hotel and I was just in awe, and years later on another such venture got to spend a night there. It was the big time, and yes, there've been hundreds of hotel rooms since then. I learned last year that the old grand hotel in St. Joe is also no longer. It appears, though, that us farm boys can be duly impressed at a young age. Noisy? My exchange student company put me up in a hotel in the inner city of Zurich one floor above a gay bar where they seemed to party all night. They certainly knew how to put "gaiety" into "gay!"