We moved around a lot when I was a kid. Which I enjoyed. So I have a portfolio of childhood memories of special places. When I went to college I was particularly looking forward to visiting an soda fountain in an old haunt. From my childhood home, in second grade, we would walk three blocks. Crossing two major streets, pass the fear inducing polio nursing home, down a small side street to the pharmacy and get ice cream sodas at a dark wood counter. I returned my freshman year in college, it wasn’t there.
In a different city in seventh grade a medium length bike ride away was a tiny two lane bowling alley in a residental neighborhood over a bar. If you were rich you could use a phone on the wall to order a hamburger. They would send it up on a dumb waiter. I wonder if it’s still there?
I had a job that involved a trip a week to NYC and it took me a long time to find the hotel that I wanted to return to. The one I finally ended up in was small, run down, with a piano bar that the locals would come into for a drink. When you checked in they would give you a room, but you often needed to go back down and ask for a different room since they were all in very different states of decay. The hotel had once had a dance hall, bar, etc. on the roof and if you rode the elevator to the top you could wander around it’s remains. The city all about you.
I had a job that involved a trip a month to Silicon Valley. The hotel that finally won my loyalty was Dinah’s Garden Inn. Somebody at VON made me sad today, Dinah’s has apparently closed. It’s going to be torn down.
Who ever owned Dinah’s laid in the most amazing gardens. Between the buildings there were ponds, and little waterfalls. The plantings were amazing, complex, mature, and very appropriately fragrant. They had also accumulated a huge amount of garden art from the South Pacific; including a large elephant that they would cover to protect from the rain.
Dinah’s also featured theme rooms; though I’ve never stayed in one. Somebody had a lot of fun. The railroad barron room includes a train set.
The good news is that apparently my informant was mistaken. I suspect that the ratty motel down the block is the one that’s closed. It was nothing but ground cover. Dinah’s on the other hand should be declared a Shinto shrine, or something.