09 Feb, 2011
When I travel somewhere, I take endless photographs, but that typical scenic shot—the Grand Canyon, Big Ben, anything in Yellowstone—I don’t even try to capture. I know someone before me has put a lot of time and energy into crystallizing the feeling of the place in perfect lighting, at just the right moment, with all the pieces falling in line with the close of the aperture. I buy their postcard.
The Pfister Hotel at the lunch hour is just such a postcard. I’ve tried to understand the place at all hours of the day, and have to confess, lunch seems to be the time where the convergence of staff prowess, culinary smells and the right pace in the traffic of guests helps crystallize the hotel.
All the businessmen lunch in the café in the window seats. Rather than the near naked morning meetings where they’re baring only shirtsleeves, jackets slung over chairs, they are fully suited and highly engaged in the goings on of their world. The beauty is in the buffer the blinds seem to provide between the business and the street. Freezing, bundled passersby hurry into the frame, but seem a world away.
In the lobby, society women confidently move through and into the hotel—all with the perfect hat (oh, how I love the hats!), many with shopping bags and even laptop cases. The bellmen converge on their station, impeccable in their uniforms, but smiling and chattering to one another awaiting a client in the lull of noon hour check-ins.
There’s a buzz, a motion, but not a hectic quality. It’s a well-oiled machine. The uniforms, the business of it all, the shoppers and those just passing through remind you of its formality and history. But the oversized, over-inflated mylar balloon boldly wishing a long gone celebrant a “Happy Birthday” that bounces against the cherub in the high ceilings of the lobby helps bring the present to mind.
If this wasn’t postcard enough, this glimpse into the routines and grace of the Pfister, married with the whimsy of the lost balloon, the next guest I encountered sealed the image for me. A woman confidently entered the scene with a Boston Store dress bag slung over her shoulder, her hair whooshing as she moved past. Her new dress, purchased for an evening event, instantly makes me smile and suggest she seems like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.
And then it’s all fit for a frame: my postcard is an image of the Hollywood glitz of the Regent Beverly Wilshire and Julia Roberts’ broad grin when she conquers the hotel guests with her charm. Peter, the concierge, is my Barney (Hector Elizondo) as he spots a mother and her daughters—someone he may have helped the night before—and he surveys their liking of the place thus far, their review of his recommendations.
Maybe I watch too much TV, or far too many movies, but when I had a Pretty Woman moment right there in the Pfister, and that woman understood it with me, that’s when I captured the perfect snapshot (and hit the elevator to see if I could catch Richard Gere in the equivalent of the penthouse suite…).