Friday, September 16, 2016
Well, kids, don't say I never do you any favors...
Yes, as those who follow me over there in the right-hand column on Twitter* already know, I dropped this afternoon into the new Trump International Hotel, just so you don't have to.
And believe me, unless you really, really like blue velour, you don't have to.
Now, don't get me wrong: having lived for as long as we did in the Sandlands, I'm something of an aficionado of big, silly hotels; certainly there are fewer bigger or sillier than those to be found (in abundance) in Dubai. A fellow survivor and I were just the other day bemoaning how one has to readjust, as if decompressing after a long, deep dive, to American hostelries, with their distinct lack of 24-carat faucets, executive Champagne lounges (at breakfast, I mean), or on-call Bentleys ready to speed one to the nearest mall.
But this new... feature on the DC landscape is really something else entirely. Housed as it is in the historic old post office building (late the site of a truly regrettable "festival marketplace," just as successful in the end as most of those generally lamentable impositions on notable sites), it start with a great advantage: the stately old building boasts a central atrium as potentially grand as any out there in the Sandlands. What has happened, though, appears to be something on the order of a Trumpische failure of confidence. The new place may be just as tacky as any of its brethren out there in the Gulf, but somehow - and rather fatally - it lacks the conviction of its own tackiness.
For tawdry to work, it has to be unconscious of its own mediocrity: Maria Montez, say, in any of her roles. When tawdry becomes self-aware, though, it becomes something else - Emmy Slattery, longing to be a lady at Tara, or Stella Dallas, looking in from the rain at the dull, classy people she'll never belong to.
What the place looks like, at this stage, is less like a full out Glamour Attack than it does a particularly ambitious display at a second-rate discount furniture house. It's trying - trying so, so hard - but beyond a certain shiny gloss there lies nothing but boredom. A row of ridiculous and ill-proportioned sub-Versailles chandeliers hangs incongruously from the soaring exposed steel arches, and beneath them is a thick cluster of figured carpets, broad sofas, gilded armchairs, and low coffee tables larded with knick-knacks of uncertain origin and piles of books of the sort less likely to be read than to have cocktails spilled on them. The overall effect is something rather as if your dentist's wife (who dabbles in interior design when she's not doing the bookkeeping) somehow got hold of a substantial budget and an abandoned train station. It's not even fun enough to be ridiculous.
Lord knows this town could use some thrills; one seems unlikely to find them in this almost embarrassingly earnest place. Once again, as so often in recent months, I find myself struck with nostalgia - once upon a time, when she was the favorite victim of the old Spy magazine, who would have thought that Ivana was the classy one?
* And really, why, unless you're just plain opposed to the platform, aren't you following me? Go do that, but do come back...