I read few children’s books when I was little and most of the ones I did read I’ve completely forgotten. Where other people wax poetic about Goodnight Moon and Dr. Seuss, I only remember a few books of rhymes, The Little Red Hen, and little else. I read Tales of the Unexpected long before I ever cracked open any of Roald Dahl’s children’s books. But one of the exceptions to this rule was Eloise. I loved Eloise at the Plaza and I especially loved it when my mother told me that the stories were inspired by a real little girl.
Later on, when I was a little older I read about other people, famous or just wealthy, who lived in hotels, and eventually came to understand the concept of the residential hotel. New York writers and artists who lived in such places fascinated me. It would be great to have a mansion full of books, of course, but it would also be grand to “live downtown” like Eloise or Dorothy Parker. Alas, I am no Dorothy Parker, but then the San Jose DoubleTree is no Plaza Hotel… it’s not even a Hotel Chelsea, so I guess that’s alright.
But for two decades of conventions it was home; we wore it into shape like a good pair of shoes, and man could we dance in it by the time we were done. I was there for ten of those years and every year I would find something new to like about the place. It took me a year or two to figure out that the stairs were faster than the elevator and that the poolside stairs went to the second floor—eliminating the need for elevators entirely.
The Coffee Garden menu, once a minefield of potentially hazardous decisions, became as familiar as the back of my hand and once I restricted myself to the safe choices there was no better place to socialize, its open layout allowing passing friends to join meals and conversations. The foot-of-onion-rings is sorely missed but the breakfast buffet is still the best way to beat a hangover into submission. And at 2 a.m. it’s a beacon of hope and caffeine, all alone in the night.
In my years in the art show staff I became intimately acquainted with the Donner Pass Room, which I swear I saw referred to as the Donner Pass Banquet Room at least once. Each year we managed to get more stuff in there—we fit art into that space until the walls creaked. In fact I’ve been all over the hotel, dashing from pillar to post in my staffer days, finding all the comfortable quiet spots once the upstairs couch disappeared, and hunting for the last of the remaining red lions during the transition era. My second SiliCon I stayed on the ground floor, which was interesting but a little surreal; like waking up one morning and discovering your front door opens onto downtown San Francisco.
So I’ll miss the place even though I know I’ll enjoy exploring whatever new spot we end up at. And I know that we’ve been outgrowing the DoubleTree for a while now and that the reasons we have to move on are probably at least partly unpleasant. But I don’t know what they are, and right now I don’t care. At SiliCon I intend to go to the quiet bar, which is one of the few places I never spent time in, and drink to a decade of memories. After that I’ll lift a glass to the ghosts of old disputes, that we may leave them behind us when we move on. Then I’ll toast the success of our upcoming endeavor in finding a new place. By then I’ll be three drinks in and getting sentimental, so I’ll probably drink to old times again. And… well, after four drinks I’ll be nearing the end of my cash (I’m a good tipper when I’m drunk) and probably singing “Auld Lang Syne”, so at that point I would appreciate it if someone took over both the drinking and the toasting.
SF/SF Issue 30, September 2006