Saturday, May 29, 2010

Coming home

I used to travel for work.  Like an all-the-time, gold status on the airlines, Four Seasons leaving me a personal welcome back card and chocolate dipped strawberries in my room 'cuz I've been there so damn often (true story), kind of travel.  It was luxe, as business travel goes, and it's the kind of life that some people might enjoy.

But I am at heart a homebody.  This week I had to travel to Seattle for two nights and three long days to wrap up the work project that has been consuming my life for the past month.  I stayed at the W, where I had been many times before nearly a decade ago, so walking into the lobby started a round of flashbacks to a life I had long been away from and didn't miss.

The W Seattle is an uber-hip hotel, and honestly, I'm not sure I'm "cool" enough to stay there.  Once, a friend of mine sat down at the W's bar, looked to her right and noticed she was sat next to Harrison Ford, who was quietly enjoying a drink alone.  She told me they were there for like half an hour and she never once let on that she recognized him.  Cool as a cucumber, she was.

I walked through the revolving doors at the W after returning from work around 9 pm on Wednesday and was confronted with two turntables and a microphone.  There was a DJ set up in front of the door to mix tunes for the evening in the "living room" (as the hotel dubs their lobby/restaurant) which is turned into a club.  Fortunately it was early, so there weren't yet many of the beautiful people around to make me feel self-conscious of my slightly rumpled appearance after a 13 hour workday.  I am terminally uncool, and no one is at their best in those circumstances anyway.

The corridors leading to the W guest rooms are clad in dark wood and lit very dimly by the indirect glow of blue lamps, which means it always feels like night in there.  Kind of like Vegas, where time doesn't exist.  As an aside, I once spent months working in Las Vegas and stayed for a while at the Palms, another hip hotel, and there is something very strange about negotiating a Vegas casino labyrinth as part of your morning commute.  Stumbling out of never-never land into bright Nevada sunshine as you make your way to the office is surreal.

This week, the W gave me a giggle the morning of my departure.  The hotel reservations had been made for the team by an administrative assistant, so imagine my surprise when I received the invoice slipped under my door and I was registered as shown here.  WTF - really?  Have you seen me?  I must be the palest member of that club, ever.  (Not to mention possessing the wrong bits.)  The mystery deepened when we found that is actually the home address of one of our coworkers, a middle-aged Jewish white guy.  Not exactly your prototypical founding member of the club.

Back when I was traveling all the time, I gave up my apartment and commuted from whatever client location to D's apartment in the Cayman Islands on the weekends.  I was, quite literally, homeless - though never without a place to stay.  I kept a smooshable down throw blanket tucked into my carry-on bag wherever I went.  It could function for warmth on a plane or crumpled up as a pillow; I slept under it at airplane gates during 3-hour layovers in the middle of the night.  It made hotel rooms feel a little less impersonal.  Once, on a flying visit to Oregon when I had stayed overnight with my brother and his wife, I left the blanket behind.  My insightful sister-in-law was all "Oh, no, she left her blanket!"  My brother was like, "So what?" And she said, in a flash of understanding of something that even I hadn't yet realized, "This blanket is home to her, it's the only thing that is constant wherever she goes."  I still take that blanket on any long trips; that's probably one of my top travel tips.

My journey home this week started with cab ride piloted by this guy.  Seriously?  That's the best picture you could get, when it's required to be prominently displayed on the dashboard of your cab?  It either shows a wicked sense of humor, or a serious lack of care for the confidence (or lack thereof) to be instilled in your passengers.  No matter, I made it to the airport in time and in one piece, and that's what's important. 

Although I haven't lived here 100% of the time, Portland has been claimed as my hometown for nearly two decades now, and I have always loved flying home.  Watching Mt. Hood slip peacefully under the wing on approach... gazing out the window as we come in to land, eager to spot the landmarks of our beautiful city spread out below, as if I hadn't seen it tens and tens of times before.  And this week when I flew home, she did not disappoint.  We touched down at 9 pm in the glow of a truly phenomenal sunset, and 20 minutes later when I pointed my car west for the 35 mile drive home, there was still a pink, gray and blue twilight streaking the horizon under the night-black clouds shrouding the sky over the city.  I drove towards that light for 40 minutes, and although it dimmed, it didn't fade altogether and was still there when I pulled onto my own driveway.  It was like Portland had left a porch light on for me... and that made me smile.


  1. I love this tale. I am never cool enough for those hotels either. And I have to say, I've traveled a lot (though never constantly, like you) and the blanket never occurred to me. What a brilliant idea! Glad you're home, safe and sound.

  2. Looks like the cab/taxi driver has thyroid eye disease, probably couldn't help it!

  3. Wow Katie. I looked that up - having never heard of it - and it sounds terrible. Fortunately, this chap didn't appear disfigured in person, so hopefully it's merely a humorous photo.

  4. You have had quite the life, Krys. So cool. And you are waaaay cool. ;) Great tale.