Friday, July 1, 2016

The Shining Stars of a Dull Hotel

by Drew Martin
I never read or watched The Shining but I do think a lot about it, particularly because my parents often took me to the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York, where Steven King supposedly wrote it. So with that, in combination with the horrifying happenings at the Bates Motel in Psycho, and the unsettling lyrics of the Eagles’ Hotel California, I really need a hotel to work hard at making me feel like I will survive the night and that it is not some warped playground for a wacko. But more than that, I am typically more unnerved by the existential crisis I feel at the lack of culture and intelligence in a boxy, nondescript place.

When my family and I recently checked into a place in Massachusetts for a four-night stay, I immediately panicked. It was a tired, cavernous structure, with old carpets, shoddy construction, too much unpainted dark wood, and it seemed depressingly empty. But then I started noticing a couple young dancers trickling in and milling about. Within a couple hours the place was filled with hundreds of bouncy teenage girls in satin dance school jackets, and their perhaps-once-attractive middled-aged moms not far behind, moving slowly like pack animals. 

Lo and behold a regional dance competition filled the void for almost the duration of our stay. Sure it was noisy and chaotic, and the teens were splashing around in the indoor pool while eating chocolate donuts, but there was an infusion of youth, color, and creativity into the old, drab, and boring hotel. 

Due to the fact that I am on vacation with my family, I could only pop in on the events for fifteen minutes each day because my wife and kids were shockingly disinterested. My initial reaction from my arts background was that this was a gold mine and that I needed to document the event/take hundreds of pictures, and make a movie of it all: the costumes, the dancers, and the moms reliving their dreams. 

It was a fascinating occasion because on one level it was entirely inspiring to see all these kids honing their craft and doing something creative and physical with their lives/bodies, but then on another level there were all of these tense hopes and mini-dramas at work; somewhere between a kids beauty pageant and a varsity sporting event.

But alas, I only took a couple pictures with my phone camera and saw a tiny fraction of the phenomenon. And when they all took off today at the conclusion of the competition, and the hotel emptied out, it felt like someone poked a little hole in my soul.