Kage Baker absolutely loved staying in hotels. The whole convention thing – a necessity for a writer to observe, from time to time – got a thousand times more fun for her when she realized it meant more weekends in hotels.
Cushy beds, clean bathrooms, tidy rooms – none of which she had to care for herself. Restaurants on the premises, and the lure of late-night room service. The inevitable jewelled glow of city lights, strange city lights, outside the windows; the fevered blue glow of the swimming pools floors below; the glow of the late light in wood-panelled bars … a separate Universe of delight, in Kage’s eyes.
Hotel Space, she called it: like L-space in Sir Terry Pratchett’s novels, or hyper-space in everbody else’s. Hotels are all built in pocket Universes where slightly different laws apply – laws of interesting people, fascinating local foods, amiable bartenders. Leather banquets and deep pile rugs and wooden panelling. She loved it.
She always wrote in hotels, because it was private and quiet (except for the Con noises in the halls; you learn to tune those out, like lions roaring on the Serengeti.) She felt … protected. Cosseted. Also, rather wild and unfettered, out loose in the world as she was with a change of underwear and a magic notebook – so her mind relaxed and went off on its own tangents, and she wrote and wrote and wrote.
Kage also tried the Kansas City Cut steak in everyplace we went, sampling the country for the best beef. Kansas City, not surprisingly, won on steak; Texas won on beef simple of itself. And she drank her beloved musical comedy cocktails – Planters Punch. Singapore Slings. Manhanttans. She taught barmen coast to coast how to mix a proper Sidecar, years before retro cocktails were popularized again by Mad Men.
And we ate in restaurants where the tables had cloth napery, and two forks per plate, and the condiments were all in glass. If we were too full for dessert, she was actually delighted: that meant we could order something scandalously chocolate later on from Room Service. Kage couldn’t calculate a tip to save her life, but she always reminded me to tip at least 20% – she abhorred poor tippers, thought it was unforgivably declasse.
I am presently in a Radisson across the street from SeaTac Airport. I have an early flight tomorrow, and the fact that all I have to do is drive across the street is going to assure I make the plane. My room is quiet and comfy, and there’s a feather comforter on the bed. I’ve had an extraordinary dinner of fresh halibut and elegant trimmings, and a shower with soap that smelled like marzipan. I could hear Kage exclaiming, “Oh, man, I would so have eaten this when I was 4!”
I don’t think she would have. But she might have licked it …
Outside the lights of the airport and the city are coming on. The last light of the day is a line of embers behind them in the West. Planes are stitching light through the darkening sky. The last flights of swallows are rolling home in huge, ever-changing amoebic flocks, like fireworks seen in black and white.
And I can feel Kage so very near! So this is where her spirit likes to manifest? In good hotel rooms?
I should have known.