Sometimes, you just gotta grab a little extravagance.
Is it prudent? Hell no. Is the money better spent on something else, say, debt? You betcha.
But in the midst of a humdrum winter, heavy with snow and slush and salt and more slush, when days are hazy and you try and try to focus and then realize that no amount of squinting is going to sharpen the fog-softened edges all around you, when the sun is almost terminally cloaked behind a thick layer of soggy grey clouds, you realize it's high time for a little treat.
Friday night, I had a play at The Goodman, "Shining City," set in modern-day Dublin, a lighthearted bill of theatrical fare about a lapsed priest and an adulterer whose sure he's being visited by his wife's ghost. Ah, those Irish, always up for a chuckle.
Saturday night, I had Kelley's birthday party, for which she wanted me to make brownies and Russian Teacakes
So I thought to myself, "Self, it's February in Chicago. You should get yourself a lovely hotel room for the weekend."
I poked around online, looking at a wide range of hotels. Some were too over the top (damask and ornate gold frames everywhere!), some were too out of my price range (The Penisula), some were too austere (I want more to a hotel room than a bed and the vague idea of a chair), some were far too boring (I do not want a hotel room that looks like a hotel room: ugly floral bedspread, cheap-looking art prints in even-cheaper-looking gold frames, the sink outside the bathroom), but then, Goldilocks-like, I found a hotel that was just right, a hotel that I'd never before considered, a hotel in a great location with rooms that looked modern yet comfy.
I found The Hard Rock Hotel
I know. I was surprised, too.
But through the magic of the off-season, I scored a lovely little suite for a ridiculously reasonable rate (compared to what I've been used to paying given that most of my hotel stays in the past year were in New York City), a lovely little suite on a high floor with amazing views to the west (overlooking the Chicago River) and to the north (overlooking Michigan Avenue). This photo is from the hotel's web site, but it's a perfect representation of my room. The vantage point of the picture is from behind the desk. The bit of wall that's partially obscuring the bed houses a very nice bathroom with a big glass-walled shower and separate soaking tub. There is, as you might expect, rock-star-themed art in the rooms. John and Yoko hung out in my bathroom. Bowie kept watch over my bed, not that he had anything much to see.
So Friday after the play, I made my way back to my room, changed into comfy clothes and crawled into bed to watch Oprah, who was featuring a matchmaker who was going to tell all we single women of the world what the hell we're doing wrong in our quest to find love.
I didn't learn anything new. I might want to start shopping for a few cats.
I turned in at a reasonable hour and woke up at a reasonable hour and started reading Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal
, which is easily one of the best book titles in the history of titled books. Apologies to my readers who count themselves among the faithful. I don't mean to offend, but seriously, you've gotta admit that it's funny to think about a Bible that features a kid named Biff.
Eventually, and despite the do-not-disturb doorknob hanger I put in place the night before (which said something more clever than "Do Not Disturb," something much more rock 'n' roll), I decided I should get myself together and make my way out of the hotel at some point.
So I headed into John-and-Yokoland and proceeded to wash my hair with the Aveda shampoo and conditioner left for me by housekeeping and quickly decided that the tingly herbiness of Aveda's mint and rosemary hair-care products was leaving my hair feeling icky. I made a mental note to pick up shampoo and conditioner while I was out for the day. Which I did.
I wandered up Michigan Avenue, stopping wherever I felt like stopping. I was in the mood to spend money, but money was not to be spent. Don't you hate that? I did buy a couple birthday cards and a little notebook to tote around in my purse. It's the kind Hemingway used. I expect that this little book will either inspire me to: a) write great novels about tortured souls or b) move to Cuba.
Lately, I've reverted back to my weird food predilection for "something," as in, I know I want something, but for the life of me I can't figure out what. So I wandered to Whole Foods, which has a fabulous array of ready-to-eat stuff, and I looked and looked and ended up with minestrone soup. Which was exactly as uninspired as it sounds. It was also $5, which seemed like a lot for a little cup of soup, but Whole Paycheck didn't earn its nickname by being reasonable.
Later, some hot chocolate seemed in order (only $3). My friend Qusai had called while I was meandering through Nordstrom and I called him back after scoring my hot chocolate at Starbucks, but the guy sitting next to me was clearly too involved in my conversation, so I headed outside where it was far too noisy to talk, so I headed into the Tribune lobby, where it was far too quiet to talk, so I told Qusai I'd call him back when I got to the hotel.
On my way, I detoured into Fannie May for a turtle. A Pixie, in Fannie May parlance. "Milk or dark?" asked the girl behind the counter.
Holy mother of God, when the hell did they start making dark-chocolate Pixies?!
"One of each," I said. "I'll have a little taste test." What? They're small.
I called Qusai from the comfort of my room's sectional, catching up on the past few years, a conversation that amounted to "We don't understand men."
After 30 minutes of not understanding men, I hung up so I could get ready to meet my friend Steve for "a drink," which is Stevespeak for "several glasses of wine and why aren't you drinking more?" The man bests me on wine consumption 2-1.
We met at 4. He had dinner plans at 7. I was due at Kelley's at 7 to set up desserts for her party.
So at 7 p.m., we were still sitting in eno (the fab wine bar at the Hotel Intercontinental, if you haven't been). Oops.
We shared a cab up north. I got desserts set out at Kelley's before her guests arrived. Steve met me there after his dinner. (Kelley had lots of wine on hand for the party. Steve's a total oenophile. Horse. Water. Drink.)
Later, he and I were in a cab headed back to the hotel where we were going to get a late dinner, because my day's food consisted of a South Beach bar, the aforementioned dull minestrone, and a slice of baguette with a smear of Brie at Kelley's party.
Lemme tell you: A suite at the Hard Rock is a nice place to hang. I opened up the drapes to reveal the fab views and put on my CD of tunes in progress which I had given Steve earlier. (There's a whole other companion story to this blog post which I'll get around to some other time and which I'll recommend you read in a carpeted room because your jaw will hit the floor.)
Room service arrived with our selections (a chicken quesadilla, made with spinach tortillas, for him, a mushroom-Swiss burger for me). We toasted with sparkling water.
Later, he headed back to his place and I got ready for bed and managed to sleep for a few hours. If I go to sleep too late, even though I'm extra tired, I have trouble sleeping. Weird.
Sunday morning, I loafed around a bit, hungry for "something," which was not featured on the room-service menu. I rooted around my purse, knowing full well that I the only things in there that even approached edible were cherry-flavored Halls. Hardly the breakfast of champions. And then my hand landed on the little white paper bag from Fannie May.
Pixies for breakfast!
Sad to say, though, the dark-chocolate Pixie was a great let-down. The caramel was not the caramel of Pixies past. The milk-chocolate Pixie was what I remembered, but I was still recovering from the disappointment of its dark sibling, so it wasn't as enjoyable as it should have been.
I showered again, using my new shampoo to erase the previous day's Aveda calamity and eventually called in my checkout sometime before 11 a.m.
So there it is: The Hard Rock Hotel Chicago. God is in the details, you know, and the HRH has a keen eye. Turndown service results in a comfy robe splayed across the bed with a bottle of Fiji water on the bedside table, and propped against it a little card with a dream-related lyric to ponder as you drift off to sleep. And a red-foil-wrapped, lips-shaped chocolate, which made me think of Valentine's Day but which L.A. Dave thinks is a nod to the Rolling Stones' logo. There are fresh flowers in the room and bathroom, single artful blooms in small cube vases filled with flat black stones. A professional-grade hairdryer is tucked into a black drawstring bag and hung underneath the sink. Every bathroom amenity you might have forgotten beyond the usual shampoo and conditioner is waiting: mouthwash, lotion, toothbrush, toothpaste, cotton swabs, cotton balls, emery board, sewing kit, bath gel.
The next time you need a little luxury, book a Studio Suite. Absolutely worth your time.