Editor's note: This article will soon be Chapter 4 in my next book, 2020: Living dangerously in a Time of COV$D. Lots of chapters yet to be typed up. I better stop slacking and get to it.
April 25, 2020: "We have a special deal for you," bragged Expedia. Good timing -- one day after my $1,200 government stimulus check had arrived. I'll take that deal! Fly down to Los Angeles, spend a night at the
legendary Biltmore Hotel and fly back home the next day. Boom. Only $300. But
then complications set in. Flight changes kept popping up in my
inbox until the only sensible thing to do was to spend another night at
Money to burn!
"Sunday night will cost you $60 more than
Saturday night," said Expedia. Huh? I balked. But COV$D-19 had made
me rich! Money's no object. Why not. Then my friend Samantha called.
"Remember when I asked you what you'd do if you won the lottery? And you replied that you would use that money to travel?" And
thus be able to benefit the most sentient beings, my ultimate goal in
life? Yeah, I remember. "Well, be careful what you wish for. Now you've got money to travel with on the one hand -- but on the other hand a
lot of people got sick and a lot of small businesses crashed."
Bummer, she's right. And do I feel guilty? Absolutely. And yet here I
am, on a teeny-tiny airplane, with only eleven other passengers aboard,
on my way to the legendary Biltmore Hotel. "The Biltmore is the most
haunted hotel in America." Bring it on!
Oh, and BTW, I think that I already had COV$D -- and recovered. Or
perhaps not. Last week I had some of the symptoms of a mild flu plus my
usual weird desire to hide under the bed for days with only a good
book. Does that count as COV$D?
The plane is taking off. Biltmore ghosts, here I come!
And the bus from LAX airport to Union Station downtown was cheap
and quick. Finding the metro station was easy. "Just take the purple
line and get off at Pershing Square." Okay. Now I'm here. But which
way is the Biltmore from Pershing Square? Ask a cop.
"I'm a big fan of The Rookie police show," I told three cops standing on the corner. "Might you direct me to the Biltmore?"
"See that large brick building that we are standing right in front of?"
Duh. Beautiful Georgian facade -- but the freaking front door was
closed, locked and chained. Oh crap. Am I going to have to sleep outside with
the other hobos on Pershing Square? At least the night was warm. Slowly and sadly I walked around the one-square-block-sized hotel. Locked down and locked out. But wait! There's a secret back entrance! I'm in!
And I've just entered an amazing fairyland. Suddenly I was so glad that I came!
This hotel puts even the Palace Hotel in San Francisco to shame.
Ornate carvings. Incredible chandeliers. Vast stairways and ballrooms
and terraces and chambers. Art Nouveau! In the style of San Simeon.
In the style of freaking Versailles. I'm in heaven. Bring on Katherine
Hepburn's ghost! Luxury. Beauty. History. So worth the (imaginary)
risk of getting COV$D-19. Tomorrow maybe I'll just curl up in a
chair in the lobby, read a book and pretend that I'm Mary Pickford.
Plus this place is vast. Plus I've got the entire ninth floor all to
myself. I could willingly just move in and live here. Guess I have a
thing for old hotels.
Time to go to sleep.
So glad I came.
April 26, 2020:
Slept like a log. But, damn it, no ghosts appeared. At least no
famous ghosts. At one point in time, a female detective ghost just
stood at the foot of my bed and stared at me. She was perhaps 40 years
old, light-skinned, shoulder-length brown hair, wore a blazer, had a
detective's badge hanging from her neck and was no one I'd ever seen
And my only dream involved a party in Eugene, Oregon, at a house so
very typical of the homes where hippies lived back in the 1960s. I kept
trying to make an herbalist brew me a perfect cup of tea. Frustrating.
Then I went and sat on the front room couch next to an old flame of
mine. I was tired -- and apparently pregnant. Weird dream.
What to do today? Perhaps an unofficial tour of the Biltmore? Perhaps
an unofficial tour of the nearby cathedral, Our Lady of the Angels? A
nice long walk in the heat?
Wow, just wow! I just did a complete tour of downtown L.A. On foot.
In 93-degree heat. Staggered back to the Biltmore with sunstroke and
dehydration -- but boy did I cover all the bases. First there was
Pershing Square where I got yelled at by a panhandler for being a racist
bitch because I wouldn't give him five dollars. "I bet you would give
money if a White boy asked." But the actual square itself was all
closed off due to the lock-down.
Then on to the Grand Central Market, a gigantic funky food court.
Bought a cobb salad for $18. Pricey, right? Then I trudged up to
Olivera Street for the best taco in the world! And also a barbacoa beef
But Olivera Street was mostly closed down. All the quaint little
souvenir shops were boarded up. On to the cathedral. Built like a bomb
shelter basically -- or like a castle-slash-bunker under siege. Have
no idea what the inside looked like because the heavy wrought iron gates
were bolted closed. On a Sunday morning. I crossed myself and moved
Walked past the Mark Tabor Forum, the Chandler Pavilion, the Walt
Disney concert hall. A fashion model was doing a photo shoot in front
of the concert hall so I jumped right in. "Want a little old lady in
your shoot?" I don't pay my SAG-AFTRA dues for nothing. But apparently
they did not want me Their loss.
Then more trudging, back down the hill in the heat to the Biltmore.
Almost didn't make it. Thank goodness for air conditioning. Also I ran
into two Mexican men who were joyously practicing their mariachi music
and vocal harmony over near the cathedral. Lovely. I offered them
three dollars in support of The Arts but they graciously refused.
This trip has been awesome so far. Now it's time to chillax for a
while and then go read a book in the famous and impressive Biltmore
garden court. Took more photos. Absorbed more awesomeness. Looked for
more ghosts. Then back to my room to eat leftovers from the Grand
Central Market, watch The Rookie and eat a Kind bar for dessert. Dark chocolate. Simple pleasures while surrounded by old-Hollywood decadence.
So glad I came. And yet, damn it, almost any kind of change or effort
is always so scary for me. I'm always scared. Scared of airplanes,
scared of travel, scared of people, scared of writing, scared of
everything. It's a miracle that I get out of bed in the morning -- let
alone go off into war zones or take on the Dark Overlords of the world.
But still I do it. Stupid? Dumb? Or brave?
Oh shite. Now I'm afraid of having to wake up at 6:00 am and being out the door at 7:00 am. Being coherent that early in the morning
really scares me.
I can do this!
But I still hate to leave the Biltmore behind.
April 27, 2020:
Damn it, I had a really rough time getting to sleep last night. 1:00
am. 2:00 am. 3:00 am. Still wide awake. Used homeopathic and herbal
sleep remedies. Nothing worked. What's with that? I was desperate.
Finally at 4:00 am I went under -- only to be woken up two hours later
by reception. Crap. Plus I had really weird dreams.
First dream: my apartment complex's maintenance guy discovered that all
our sewer systems were rotting away beneath our feet. Second dream: A
young Saudi man was staying with me to help out around the house and
then the doorbell rang and there was his mother, seeking asylum. And
she had two little children with her -- and she was pregnant. And then a
few more children appeared. And then more and more children. No one
knew what to do, least of all me. So we hid them all in a basement
temporarily (hopefully not one connected to rotting sewer pipes). But
then there was an earthquake or cave-in or something, and clods of dirt
started falling from the ceiling of the cellar and on to the hapless
woman and her family.
Then the phone rang. 6:00 am? "I'm up! I'm up!" Honestly. Somehow I
managed to stagger off to the airport -- but only after spending a few
last lovely moments sitting in the glamorous Biltmore lobby and sipping
Chomping on Fritos at the airport kept me going long enough to make it home and
play free-cell solitaire long enough to decompress. I wonder where I can
go next. Got myself hooked on stately old hotels, especially haunted
ones. I wonder if they have any in Arkansas, the one American state
left that I have never been to. Las Vegas seems like a waste of time
because all the historic hotels there are closed -- but I do want to go
there for Mothers Day. Or perhaps go to Sacramento. It's got haunted