To create realistic dialogue, I was once instructed to eavesdrop on conversations. Write it down without the he said, she said clarification. “It will become obvious who’s saying what,” I was told. Clearly, she wasn’t eavesdropping at The Bar at The Four Seasons where nothing happens and everything is whispered between clicks of glasses.
If you’re sitting at the bar, and you look up toward the ceiling, your immediate instinct will be to hop off your chair and run. Thin uniform shards of steel float in the air, hanging from fishing wire. Once you overcome your flight instinct, you want to touch it. You can almost feel the ceiling beneath your hand; it feels like a nail statue from The Sharper Image. The lengthy rectangular windows are dressed in chain mail, and as the light hits, you’re certain the walls are moving. I sat in my chair, taking it all in, along with a really lovely Sancerre, and it got me to thinking about pennies in wishing fountains. I think it was the metal curtains, which looked like neatly fallen stacks of polished pennies. It was beautiful and warm in a way I never thought gray metal could be. It feels like you’re in an Escher drawing, lost in some stereogram world where things pop at you after staring for long enough.
You lose yourself. But I guess that’s true with all mostly-empty hotel bars. You always feel like a stranger in them. They’re the same everywhere, regardless of the city. They smell of mahogany, linen, and brass polish; they smell like London.
Sometimes our lives feel so small and insular. We know our friends and all their stories, but on our way to work, we see a city full of quick-paced strangers, with their own friends and insular stories. They all have favorite tv shows and pet names for their friends, and we know none of their secrets. Yet, we still live small. I like half-empty hotel bars that will never feel half-full. They let me feel like a stranger at a beginning.