Mark Twain Hotel, 345 Taylor St. Jan. 22, 1949
This story is the reason I think there is a connection, a destiny, and maybe an existentialist thread from the moment were born to the moment we die. It’s not a big story but it is big story to me and I’ll tell you why. It proves a point, about destiny and how just maybe our subconscious and our dreams know what we are to become even before we understand it ourselves.
When I was eleven I went on a plane for the first time. It was a pretty big deal. My parents and me were going to California. I remember the trip and some of the stuff we did. It was a big deal because we always went to the jersey shore for a week if we could afford it but this was big for my parents. This trip was the trip of a lifetime for my them at the time. We did all the typical tourist stuff that tourists do. We went to a wax museum and Universal Studios. We saw Alcatraz. We visited my parents friends in San Francisco and they took me on a canoe ride right under the golden gate bridge. That was beautiful. We went to China Town in San Francisco and we drove down that famous windy road. We rode cable cars and we drove on that scary and breathtaking Pacific Coast Highway . We saw the Big Redwoods. We even went to Carmel, Clint Eastwood Territory. I remember there was a store there that was just for lefties. Everything in the store was for a southpaw.. I’m a lefty I thought that was cool. I remember we couldn’t find a hotel one night and we thought we would have to sleep in the car. Back then we didn’t have computers and or phones to help us know what to do and my parents were not savvy travelers because they never really traveled. It was a great trip but I was eleven and not very present but I had as much fun as I could at the time. I remember we were staying in a hotel in San Francisco and we were walking to a restaurant and I guess we were right on the edge of the red light district because there were prostitutes everywhere. I really liked the restaurant because it had a salad bar and an ice cream bar and a live band and I never saw anything like that before. I mean give an eleven year old unlimited ice cream and well yeah..that’s cool. .My parents knew how much I liked that restaurant so we went back the second night and again we walked past the prostitutes . .. each time feeling a bit out-of-place but I liked it. My Parents not so much. I was always attracted to Gritty ..even as a young kid. I didn’t like that the girls were prostitutes but I liked the feeling in the air, there was life going on, different from the boring suburbs. There was an energy I felt that my soul was attracted too instantly. I always felt like a prisoner in the suburbs. It was depressing for me. I used to walk along 42nd street a lot when I was 16 or 17 and I thought it was cool. I would hang out in the village but I would walk down 42nd street to get back to the port authority. Pimps always thought I was a run-a-way and I would tell them..no I’m just from Jersey. 🙂 Ha Ha. I will never forget Gypsy the pimp. He was dressed in all red leather, it was the eighties, Eddie Murphy was popular. He had a red leather cowboy hat to match and a lot of gold chains. His chest was showing thru his red leather jacket Gypsy The Pimp, I never forgot him. I met up with twice; not on purpose of course. He had a great memory because he remembered me. I of course remembered him. He would walk me to the port authority and he would ask me questions along the way and he was very polite and very likable..and in there lies the problem. He wasn’t dumb. God bless his next victim. Both times when I got to the port Authority Gypsy would say Au Voir my little friend, and them he would yell. Your too pretty to be from New Jersey and would flash that big smile.
I used to think about how smart and charismatic Gypsy was and what might he had become if he had been allowed to be something else.
So Anyway, back to San Francisco.
The name of the hotel we were staying at was The Mark Twain Hotel. Now this is the part of the story that freaks me out. I never understood why but I loved that hotel. I mean I really loved it. When we got there we walked into the lobby and the bell hop was super friendly and bent down and gave me a sticker, like an oval one you see on everyone’s cars now a days with initials on them. The sticker was brown and it read the Mark Twain Hotel and it had a clipper boat on it. I loved getting that sticker and the bell man was very nice too me. First Impressions and all. I really liked the lobby, it was kind of dark, lots of Mahogany I think and it had a feeling ..old ..like stuff happened there…you know like history. I just felt it and I liked it. It was instinctual.
We went up to the room and it was really small. I remember reading that some of those rooms were really small because back in the day they were made small for the maid or butler quarters. ….for the help that traveled with their uh ..employers or masters…ok I said it….You know rich people would bring their help and the small rooms were for them. So anyway the room was really small. I think I slept on a cot. The bathroom was so small and it had one of those old-fashioned sinks and the bathtub had feet. The walls were covered with small square tiles. I loved everything about that room. My parents weren’t thrilled but I was loving it. Ok so here we are in a really old hotel near the red light district and I was happy and didn’t want to leave. Now I don’t know why I loved that hotel so much, I do like vintage old stuff and was attracted to that even as a young kid. There was something else though….Something I felt about it….I felt that history, I mean it is called the Mark Twain Hotel. The literary history was dripping in the air. The only time I felt that again was when I stayed at the Paramount in New Orleans…when I was there so was AL Gore at the time and you know the story was that historically a ton of politicians would stay there and wheel and deal. The bar tender told me the Blue Room, bar at the Paramount , was famous for shifty wheelin’ and dealin’ going on over a stiff drink…it had that same feel. I believe you can feel stuff in the air and the way it moves around you ; like a kinetic science of some sort.
What’s weird though is what happened after. Years went by and I grew up and I never forgot about the Mark Twain hotel. I would think about it all the time. I made a scrap-book out of some pictures I took there at the hotel and I had that sticker that the bell hop gave me in my scrapbook. I couldn’t forget it. The memories were so vivid to me. I even knew what room we stayed because I wrote it in my scrapbook. Room 203.
I recently checked back into the website to see what was going on with the hotel and it was sold. It is now called the Tilden Hotel. Bummer, that must be recent because I looked at it last year and the website still said The Mark Twain Hotel. So in my twenties is when I discovered Billie Holiday and I of course loved her… I was reading some stuff on a website about Billie recently and then I came across something about the Mark Twain Hotel and I started to feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up….I got a tingle feeling. On January 22, 1949 Billie was arrested when a raid occurred by federal Narcotic agents at the Mark Twain Hotel. They raided her room for a very small amount of opium and a pipe that they found in her room. This was an ongoing witch hunt from the FBI on Billie. They would try to do anything to destroy her and I believe in the end..they finally did. They eventually took away her NYC Cabaret card preventing her to work or perform anywhere that sold alcohol.
Billie was heartbreak, Billie was beautiful. Billie deserved better.
She wasn’t the only one in the arts that the feds were to crucify but it was a damn shame. So after reading that article I thought to myself was that the reason? Was that the history I felt. Every hair was standing up on my arms and neck when I looked at what room Billie got arrested in. I realized it was the same room we stayed in. Unbelievable …it was Room 203! Here comes the existential thread. The DE-JA-VU. The come full circle of it all. Is this the reason I loved this hotel so much. Did my sub conscious somehow know that Billie was in this very room. Years later I am inspired by her in a way that is mind-blowing for me and as an eleven year old, did my body, my mind , my spirit already know I was connected to something in room 203? Something kinetic again, energy is the motion of waves, electrons, atoms, molecules, substances, and objects right, so it was about the way the air felt or moved or somehow my sub-conscience knew that something happened there. Ever since I was 20 I wanted to sing the blues like Billie. I adore her.
This is why I think our bodies and spirits and antennae that is our living human body is much more insightful than we might want to admit. Do our bodies know our destiny when we are small? Is our destiny in our blood plasma. Is our destiny in out flesh. Is our destiny in our hearts. Is our destiny in the 65 percent water that makes up most of who we are. All I know it something about that hotel attached to me just like Billie’s songs of heartbreak attached to me and never let go. I thought about it often and never knew why. Maybe this is why. If not and I am wrong and it’s just a coincidence then so be it but it makes a story non the less. I knew I loved to sing when I was eleven but I didn’t know consciously that I would be on a stage doing it. I never thought that would be an option for me.
Now there is a plaque that lies near the entrance of the room. The Billie Room. I didn’t know who Billie was in 1977. I don’t know if the plaque was there in 1977 but I was there and I never forgot.
The pictures above are mostly more current pictures of the hotel. I have some of my pictures and one of my dad in front of the hotel right here. This is what the hotel looked like in 1977.