On a summer weekend in 2009, July 16 to be exact, I arrived off the train in New York and walked to the Hotel Chelsea. I didn’t know then that it was tottering on its last legs, soon to give up its ghosts, but I should have been able to tell by the wretched service and the even more terrifying conditions. The biggest cockroach I’ve ever seen in my life – far larger than anything I’ve ever encountered in Florida or the Philippines – scurried under one of the resident doors on the first floor, right next to the room in which they initially wanted to put me. It was the only time I absolutely refused and made them find me another. Not that I fared much better in Room 532, but it was the perfectly-run-down version of seedy that lended itself to the photographs I got for ‘A Night at the Hotel Chelsea‘.
It would be great if I could offer you some sort of gritty take on the artsy-fartsy scene of Chelsea, bluntly making bold proclamations on the crumbling state of the hotel, and what it meant to its storied history. But to be honest all I felt as I hunkered nervously down into a bed no doubt ravaged by all sorts of bugs was this: I am way too old for this shit. (And I was right about the bugs – my back and neck and even the tip of my nose ended up getting bitten by some creatures in the night – such is the price you pay for getting naked in questionable environs.) Crappy hotels and dodgy lodgings are the province of the young, and I say let them have it. I was done. The next day I checked into the Club Quarters by Rockefeller Center, where there were clean sheets, soaps, and a blandly modern color scheme. It was heaven.
It was, however, worth it – for the honor of saying I stayed there, and for the raw material for one of The Projects.