I sit at an internet terminal in a "boutique" hotel in San Francisco. Priceline.com loves to give me "boutique" hotels, which it considers a bit more luxurious than good old fashioned Hyatts and Wyndhams. I find myself with mixed feelings on this point. It's true that the Scandinavian modern furniture in one, oblong and jagged in non-furniture type ways,
made for a curious look, which contrasted with the curious obscure New York fashion magazines provided for night reading. But the room still felt rather like a 2 star hotel in a fading non-tourist European city, the kind of place where commercial travellers stay because it's close to the train station. Last night's stay was in a place which uses faux Italianate decoration, in recognition of that fine California tradition that when one lives in a really neat looking part of the country, one should slavishly imitate another part of the world, though that part is less fun than where one is.
I'm reflecting this morning, though, on the way in which I travel. I get to see a fair bit of the country in my journeys. But I do not see the giant arches, the sweeping expanses, and the best museums. I instead amass a collection of conference rooms. Conference rooms are all well and good. I found myself last night waiting around in a conference room in which a fellow Waite's painting "Walhalla" was posted. "Walhalla" is a kinda grey/grim parody of a hall of heroes type of building, a Legion of Honor, if you will, but instead of fallen heroes commemeorated, the statues are all gone, and the walls are blank. Sometimes my travel feels much more "Walhalla" than "Valhalla".
Last night, therefore, when my meeting lasted until later than I had hoped, I found myself not in a charming restaurant, soaking in SF ambience, but instead standing in line at the shawarma and pizza by the slice place. Now, truth be told, I am really more a shawarma and pizza by the slice kind of person than a posh Italian restaurant type of person. But I do think that my life sometimes is lived rather a great bit by the slice, and without some of the artistry with which I read about other lives being lived.
Today I'll sit in another conference room, and then fly to another city, where I'll stay in a Wyndham (an incredible priceline bargain) and then sit in conference rooms for two more days. Then I'll fly home and sit in my own conference room at my office. I have become quite a refined observer of conference rooms. "What is the soft drink selection?"; "Are pens provided in case I forgot mine?", "What is the wall art?". I find that I see more conference room art these days than wall art at museums. This is not a bad thing. I remember the California law firm some years ago which bought a great deal of the 1960s up and coming artists, only to wake up one day and find that their art collection was worth a great deal more than their practice. Another large law firm has a catalog of its art collection, with a title like "The Art of X, Y and Z Law Firm". It's actually a more informative book than most actual museum art places, which seem to have a desire to justify the aesthetic instead of just telling what the picture is about. I'm all about what the picture is about.
I think sometimes my life is a Kodak instamatic. It's a cheap little camera, entirely serviceable, perhaps freed of the pretension involved in an expensive "real" 35 mm. It can't take good pictures of flowers, and it won't win any awards, but if you need a group shot in a conference room, it's entirely serviceable.
My CD sold for 2 dollars and 15 cents, with 3 bidders. I am ready to post it again for auction. I've had a lot of fun with it. This weekend I must travel out of town, and perhaps I'll see something besides a conference room.