It’s Been A Minute, Hasn’t It?

Sorry about the title, I’ve just always wanted to use that phrase, whether it be in real life, or on the screen, so I decided to go for it. Incidentally, I’ve always wanted to use a lot of commas in one sentence too.

So I’ve succeeded on both counts… so it’s been a banner day for me, let me tell you.

No, seriously, it has been a bit since I’ve published anything in this space and I felt it was time. The problem is this…

I don’t have anything worthwhile to share. (Not that that’s ever stopped me before.) It’s just that life has been hectic as hell lately and creatively I’m as blocked as I am physically most days. So let’s do some bullet points and then you nice people can get the hell out of here.

  • Returning to full service at the hotel has made everyone happy; my staff (feels strange to say I have staff), Management, and not that I even really care, but even the guests are happy. Sure, some of them are still stiffing us, but most of them are happy things are beginning to return to normal. It’s been one of the biggest, longest fights of my life, but we’re back and that’s all that matters.
  • Being a manager is great, but it’s a ton of work. You have to try to accommodate your staff’s (there it is again!) scheduling requests, the hotel’s occupancy forecasts, Management’s desire to “run lean” to save money in these uncertain times, and of course, the x-factor, which is always present and will always mess you up.
  • The book is deader than disco on Amazon and so I’ve given up completely on writing fiction and a large portion of my dreams. Though I still hope to someday meet Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt.

Speaking of the lovely miss Hunt…

Actual Conversation At The Bell Desk

CARL: (One of my new guys.) Just read your blog, Robert, you’ve really got a thing for that broad, don’t you?

ME: You mean Helen Hunt?

CARL: No, I mean Mother Theresa! Of course, Helen Hunt! It’s gotta be one of the biggest unrealized ambitions of your life to not have slept with that broad!

ME: Hey, did you really read the post? Helen Hunt in the 1980’s represented my ideal woman. Long before Mad About You, she was the girl next door. The drop-dead gorgeous, caring, relatable girl that you want at your bedside when you’re sick and in your bed when you’re not. The…

CARL: Well, sure! Everyone wants that broad!

ME: And that’s who I married! I wasn’t even aware of this until years later, but everyone at my wife’s work compared her to Miss Hunt. So I’ve been sleeping with Helen Hunt for years! I’ve been married for twenty-seven years… so I’ve slept with Helen Hunt at least twenty-seven times! So I’m a happy guy!

And I really am. My writing career is DOA, but my wife is the greatest gift life has ever bestowed upon me – next to my daughter, of course. I just pray my lovely bride never decides to act on the knowledge that she married one hundred classes below her station.

And that’s all I have. (Told you I was blocked.)

See you in the lobby, kids…

I had no idea what sort of pic to use for this post, except that I didn’t want to follow up some heartfelt sentiments about my young bride with pics of another woman. So here’s a poster for a film that holds a very special place in each of my family member’s hearts for different reasons…

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Posted in Hotel Life | 30 Comments

This Is What I’m Saying, Paul Reiser.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever done this, but if you look up a certain creation of yours on Wikipedia, Paul, this is what you’ll find:

Mad About You is an American television sitcom starring Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt as a married couple in New York City. It initially aired on NBC from September 23, 1992, to May 24, 1999, winning numerous awards including four Golden Globe Awards and twelve Primetime Emmy Awards. On March 6, 2019, a limited series revival was picked up by Spectrum Originals for 12 episodes.

When my lovely bride and I were first married in 1995 we didn’t have a lot of money (not much has changed, truth be told), and so, like most newlywed couples, we found ways to pass the time…

No, I’m not referring to just that, all of you perverts reading this. We cuddled up on our couch in Niagara Falls, Canada, and watched television. Can you guess which program quickly became our favorite?

Paul and Jamie Buchman were newlyweds who didn’t have all the answers to the riddle that is marriage and while this scared the hell out of them at times, they never forgot that love conquers all – even a three-part season finale involving two infidelity near-misses. Needless to say, we were hooked from the pilot.

And yes, I used “hooked”. Get over it.

We cringed every time Murray failed to get that mouse. We empathized as Paul and Jamie tried to find time to engage in sexual congress. Like the rest of the world, we became emotionally invested as that weasel Doug Burkess planted one on Jamie, testing the strength of the Buchman’s marriage like never before.

To be clear, I’ve always felt Helen Hunt, the young lass from Culver City, had something I found irresistible, and this was long before you tapped her to be your Jamie, Paul. I’ve never been able to put my finger on it – and my wife would cut it off if I ever did – but Helen has always had that Girl Next Door accessibility. She’s the natural beauty that doesn’t know it, the one you feel comfortable with, even though she can drive you crazy with a simple toss of her hair.

This pic proves my point perfectly, no?

In fact, I was initially attracted to my own Jamie, coincidentally named Jackie, because she reminded me of Helen the first time I saw her.

(I waited awhile before divulging that information, naturally.)

Incidentally, Teri Hatcher is a brilliant actor, its true, Paul, but you captured lightning in a bottle with with Helen Hunt.

Getting back yo my own experience in couplehood, like Paul and Jamie, we had our ups and downs. There were battles over everything from daily minutiae to major struggles; I’m not the easiest guy to live with at times, truth be told.

But no matter what was happening, we always found time to cuddle up on that couch and watch the Buchmans struggle with the dissolution of Fran and mark’s marriage, trying to schedule romantic rendezvous (not sure what the plural is for that word), and a plethora of other challenges. Seven seasons passed, for us, and Paul and Jamie.

Then, as you no doubt remember, the show ended and took its place in television history and your bank account. (Thank God for residual checks, right?)

Unlike the Buchmans, our life together went on. We struggled with infertility and had our own series of adventures attempting to use science to conceive a child. One particularly memorable incident unfolded the first time I had to provide a “donation” for testing. The hospital’s donation room was a dimly-lit bathroom with no magazines or videos, just a photography magazine that contained no pictures whatsoever. To make matters worse, hand soap was the only lubricant available.

We really should have realized something was off when a couple came out of the room together before it was my turn…

In the end though, our little miracle, an amazing girl, was the result of science, love and luck. As you can no doubt attest, Paul, being a dad is like juggling jars filled with nitroglycerin while walking a tight rope suspended above a tank overflowing with ravenous piranha.

Oh, and the rope is on fire.

In other words, I screw up more than I succeed, but I’m always in there swinging, so that’s something, right?

Getting back to our lives, we moved in with my in-laws to save money for the IVF treatments, we had our own series of solo adventures in the working world and we faced one life-changing moment after another as a couple.

All the while, with the exception of the odd rare rerun and viewings of our DVDs of the first three seasons, we never really returned to the Buchmans’ world. But they were always present in my consciousness.

I lost one of my best friends to suicide in June of 2017. He found himself too much in this world and surrendered to the power of the Falls. (They’re as deadly as they are breathtaking, Mr. Reiser.)

There were many moments in the first few days following this tragedy that my mindscape was occupied by memories of my love and I visiting the Buchmans.

We were told my mother would pass from bone cancer over the course of a June weekend in 2018. Instead it took months, during which time she survived solely on bottles of iced tea and the will to live. (Life really is more absurd than fiction, Paul.)

Then, in January 2020, my wife contracted a mysterious respiratory ailment that lasted a month, the longest of our lives. We later became convinced she had developed what the world came to know as Covid. In that time, however, something happened that changed us as a family.

The Mad About You revival finally started airing in Canada. We had been anticipating this milestone for some time but it didn’t look we were ever going to get to experience it. And so, we began to watch the revival as a family as my wife struggled to breathe.

It was more fun than it sounds, Paul.

My twenty-something daughter is a fan of Helen’s film work like Twister and Soul Surfer. (She really needs a name for her diehard fans. “Huntnatics” or “Helenraisers”, maybe?) But Murray is the real draw for our kid.

For my wife and I though, revisiting Paul and Jamie’s world all these years later was like looking in a mirror. Once again, we’re going through the same struggles in the same humorous, madly-offbeat way. There was no Season Nine, but it didn’t matter; the world was reminded of the Buchmans’ amazing chemistry and now reruns of the original run air every day in the Great White North.

And we watch faithfully.

My wife and I have changed over the years (who doesn’t, right?) but becoming mad about Mad About You again has engulfed my Jamie and I in a wave of nostalgia that has proven to be an invaluable comfort as the world implodes around us.

My wife is the light in my darkness, Paul, of which there is a great deal. I look at her sometimes with the same gleam in my eyes I had over twenty-seven yeas ago.

Then she notices, tells me its weird and orders me to stop.

So, I want to thank you, Paul, for creating a world that has changed my world and that of so many others. Mad About You will always represent a simpler time in my life, one free of so much heartache and tragedy. Not only that, but Mad About You is my wife and I on the couch, madly in love, even today, even if we fail to remember that at times.

You can be proud of your legacy, Mr. Reiser, as can Helen, John, Leila, Anne, Richard, and so many others. Even now, you’re all bringing so much laughter and light into a world that sorely needs it.

Thank you all.

Posted in Hotel Life | Tagged | 17 Comments

Dear Ronnie…

Hey, brother,

I know it’s been awhile since we talked, but I’m sure you understand. I’ve been feeling frustrated/overwhelmed/lost lately and so I’ve decided to do what I would have done in the past: I’m venting to the best listener I know.

Putting the events of the last two years into words isn’t easy, to say the least. (I honestly can’t wrap my head around the fact this nightmare has dragged on into a third year.)

As you can imagine, things at the hotel have been… I guess “unfamiliar” is the best way to describe our new status quo. I’ve been working in the Bizarro World version of Niagara for wat feels like forever now and it’s been soul-crushing, quite frankly, my dear friend. And so, the bellmen have been coping with the pandemic the only way they know how: by utilizing madness to dispense service to travelers.

When they’re allowed to, that is. The hotel no longer offers full-service valet or bellmen service so we’ve truly been left at the mercy of our guests.

And as you know, Ronnie, our guests have no mercy.

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I honestly don’t know anymore…

There are exceptions, of course.

Like the guest in 1412 who, when faced with the realization that there were no luggage carts left for guest use at check-out time, had to select one of two options:

  1. He could stand around and wait like an idiot for another guest to return a cart. (Something that rarely happens.)
  2. He could (gasp!) engage the exceptionally-entertaining assistance of an actual luggage transportation professional like myself for a modest fee.

Being an American from an unabashedly Red state, he chose a third option after walking away in anger: he stole a maid’s cart, loaded all his bags on it in the most haphazard manner imaginable and rolled it through the crowded lobby on a Saturday morning like it was the most natural thing in the world to do.

He even approached me and tipped me “for the help”, even though no help was actually given.

Sitting at the Bell Desk watching this insanity unfold, my first instinct was to turn to you and say, “Do you believe this shit, brother?”

But your place as my wingman has been occupied by others in the last few years. There are only four of us left from the crew you served with for a decade, Ronnie, and none of us are the same bellmen we used to be. Some people won’t accept change. They just refuse to sign for it.

So they cope however they can. Outright denial. Bitter rants. Turning to vices best left unmentioned. I’m genuinely shocked that some of us haven’t taken a vacation of our own… from reality. In my case, there’s been some personal growth – within reason, of course.

A wish that you held for many years has finally come into existence: yours truly has been elevated to Bell Captain.

I am now Captain Hook at last. Leader of a department that has been marginalized, crippled, and almost stamped into oblivion.

Almost.

In the midst of the most horrific crusade ever devised to sever a person’s grasp on reality the bellmen have endured humiliation, infighting, financial ruin, etc., and we’re still here.

We are the cockroaches of the Niagara Falls hospitality industry, Rockin’.

Granted, we’ve been sprayed, stomped on and subjected to all manner of attempted eradication – but we’re still here. Though for how much longer is anyone’s guess.

I’m going to wrap it up here, my brother. There is so much I want to tell you, so much I want to say, but the words refuse to leave my addled brain and make their way to the screen via my elongated fingers.

Don’t worry about me, my friend. These days hope is like summer in Siberia; you’ll never find it, and you’ll certainly never feel it, so you have to go ahead and make it. It feels like the bellmen are on a journey whose conclusion is uncertain, and the only thing we have to collectively cling to is hope.

Myself, I hope I can make it across this barren landscape and emerge in the promised land. I hope to see you again someday my friend (though not for years!) and hug you for a week. (I’m secure enough in my masculinity to admit that.)

In the meantime, I hope my dreams are conduits to the Great Beyond and you’re sitting on a beach in a heavenly version of Aruba. Like Ellis “Red” Redding, I hope.

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Rock on, brother.

Posted in Hotel Life | 38 Comments

Into The Grey…

You may not want to accept it, but the truth is right in front of you… it’s been there all along.

This world, overrun with billions of souls, has become nothing but a game farm – and it’s always hunting season.

You’d see it if you’d only look past your own selfish desires. You’d hear their ragged, horrific breathing if you’d only shut out all the noise they’ve been flooding you with. You’d feel the pain you’re in if you stopped injecting artificial pleasure into your senses and form.

You live only to serve the dark, disgusting needs of ancient beings so far removed from you they only see humanity as food. And not the tasty kind. No, humanity is the haggis of The Dark’s menu, to be consumed only when nothing else is left in the pantry.

My friends… my family have been fighting for you… but the day is fast approaching when you’ll have to fight for yourselves.

So get ready… get ready to push past your fear, to swallow your selfishness and to live for, to fight for something bigger than yourselves.

Get ready to claw at the darkness until it bleeds daylight.

– Nemesis

Into The Grey, the next excruciatingly cool installment of the Infinite Crossover Crisis… coming, well your guess is as good as mine, truthfully.

Incidentally, reading the above quote with some thrilling, Matrix-style soundtrack in the background heightens the experience. But it’s your choice. After all, it’s your world.

Or is it?

Posted in Hotel Life | 17 Comments

Welcome To My Non-Post.

As many of you are no doubt aware by now, I am a huge nerd and so you may or may not have picked up on the significance of this post’s title.

The Defenders are Marvel Comics’ official “non-team”, a lose affiliation of heroes who gather to vanquish foes no single hero could stand against. Everyone from Doctor Strange to Daredevil to the Hulk and even Howard the Duck has been a Defender.

They’re not exactly The Avengers or even The Great Lakes Avengers, but they’re cool in their own way and they’ve even inspired my heroes, the Infinite Syndicate. (Into The Dark, Book One of the Infinite Crossover Crisis is on sale now, kids! Though truthfully, no one gives a toss anymore.)

At any rate, this isn’t really a post just as The Defenders aren’t really a traditional super team. I just realized this morning that I haven’t written a post in months. Then I realized why.

I just don’t care at the moment.

About much, truthfully.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a great life. I have a a cool haunted house to live in, a wonderful family, money in the bank (though not as much as I did two years ago) and my (very) rugged good looks. I’ve been blessed.

But work is still a pale, disgusting shadow of what it once was. I’m finally the Bell Captain, but it’s a monkey’s paw situation to say the least. This horrific virus has devastated my industry and brought out the worst in everyone I deal with, even internally in some cases.

My book jut isn’t selling. I can’t get an agent or a publisher to spit on me if I was on fire. And I’ve given up on writing the next installment for now. The enthusiasm just isn’t there.

I have some good friends who are killing it in their respective fields and it just serves to make me feel even worse about myself. Venting like this feels good, but it reinforces my belief that I’m just not ready to be creative again and won’t be for a good long while.

And of course. the world is still imploding.

On that happy, uplifting note, I wish you all a good day.

Posted in Hotel Life | 27 Comments

The Hooks Shatters The Glass Ceiling In The Hall Of Justice.

This is a fun story, playfully told by the author. With the right artist, think this would make for an excellent series of graphic novels. A very different way of viewing the world of Superheroes. – Amazon review of Into The Dark.

I love this review because it zeroes in on exactly what I want to achieve with the Infinite Crossover Crisis: a new take on a genre that’s been covered by a legion of writers, each one far more talented than yours truly. The first modern comic book, Famous Funnies, was released in the United States in 1933 and since then everything there is to say about the superhero genre has been said, apparently.

Except it hasn’t.

There’s always room for a different interpretation of any subject, at least in my humble opinion. In my case, I want to showcase people with extraordinary abilities who use them to do more than just punch Lex Luthor or the Joker in the face. You see, as far as I’m concerned, Superman has never realized his full potential.

In other words, what good is a Superman if he doesn’t actually do anything truly super?

He could divert the course of rivers and end drought in places like Ethiopia.

But he doesn’t.

He could fly into nations under the thumb of ruthless dictators and bend those thumbs back without even breaking a seat.

But he never does.

He could change the entire world in a week – or less.

But he… well, you get it by now.

Granted, I realize that changing the world and interfering with a nation’s political structure isn’t as simple as it sounds. The Man of Steel is, for all intents and purposes, a US citizen, and as such, would be responsible for any repercussions/blowback resulting from his world-changing actions. So, while a few writers have had Superman tackle real-world issues like the ones I’ve just mentioned, most prefer to keep him in the same old “punch Luthor in the face” lane. DC Comics is currently using Superman and Lois’ son Jon to tackle this topic, with the Super Son questioning his father’s lack of world-changing agendas.

But my point remains the same; Superman just refuses to ruffle any world leader’s collective feathers, and so he sticks to natural disasters and super villains.

That’s not what my superheroes are all about.

My characters are living in a world under the collective thumb of ancient beings who embody mankind’s most vile impulses. The Dark are just as evil as the name implies. Imagine the Joker on crack made from pure evil.

(In retrospect, maybe I should have called them something ironic, like “The Happy, Fluffy Bunny Squad?) After God disappears and they win a war with their siblings, The Light and The Grey, The Dark seize control of every significant aspect of humanity’s existence. Now the thirteen members of The Dark have one agenda…

Create as much chaos as possible; it’s the perfect chaser for all those delicious superpowered energies they extract from their victims. Superheroes in costumes were virtually wiped out in the aforementioned war, but human beings with extraordinary abilities still exist – though they often find themselves abducted by The Dark’s minions and taken to a facility where their power is harvested and fed to the world’s puppet masters.

As you can imagine, punching supervillains isn’t enough to win this fight. (Though it is a big part of what my heroes, the Infinite Syndicate, have to do to see their agenda through.) My heroes will have to change the world in order to free it from The Dark’s control.

But how does one change the world, exactly?

If you have superpowers, you… well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?

Trust me though, I have a plan. They may not wear spandex or go by fancy code-names, but the Infinite Syndicate is made up of members who can:

  • Stop time dead in its tracks.
  • Bring inanimate objects to a form of life.
  • Turn night into day.
  • Grant wishes by ingesting a single drop of genie blood. (It’s gross, but it gets the job done.)
  • Harness electrical energy.
  • Create energy shields.
  • Interface with any electronic form of communication.

And that’s just scratching the surface. Of course, superpowers can’t cure disease or purge people of their capacity for evil. I briefly considered writing a chapter where a character cures his mother of her bone cancer and flesh-eating disease, but suffering, no matter how horrific it is to witness, is a part of life. And besides, I indulge my wish fulfillment bucket list in many other ways, trust me. And free will is God’s greatest gift to humanity; we need our inner light and darkness in order to truly be human.

So, as you can see, my creations have their work cut out for them – but their mission isn’t impossible.

Or is it?

You’ll just have to read Into The Dark, Into The Grey, and Into The Light to see what sort of impact superheroes can have on the world when they shatter social convention and push the limits of their abilities.

See you in the lobby and the virtual bookshelves, my friends…

“Bat-Hook” logo by Jorge O’Neill of Twitter.

Posted in Hotel Life | 2 Comments

The Places Of Into The Dark.

There are a million different elements (give or take) that can impact a book’s success.

Where a story takes place can be as important as what’s actually happening, in my opinion, at least. My Infinite Crossover Crisis series is going to stretch from the bowels of New Jersey to the glittering, morally-bankrupt streets of Vegas, to a patch of Limbo that resembles the setting of one of the most beloved rock songs of all time, to Heaven, Hell, and… well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?

The action in the first book in the series – and maybe the only one if I can’t overcome my current personal crises and writer’s block – Into The Dark, jumps around the globe like a frog on a hotplate. However, I think this fictional globetrotting, coupled with an overabundance of characters, just adds to the story’s appeal. And since I am the creator and Supreme Being of this universe, my opinion counts for everything. Plus, I’m trying to introduce my readers to a world under the thumb of ancient, literal dark gods who feed on chaos and whose reach stretches to the Multiverse itself – and a big story requires a big scope, right?

For the uninitiated, the Infinite Crossover Crisis takes place in a world where the three forces God put in place to maintain the Balance between order and chaos, The Light, The Grey and The Dark, went to war when the All-Mighty disappeared. The Dark emerged victorious and that’s why the world has slipped so far into madness; you see, The Dark literally feed on chaos now that God isn’t around to feed them a portion of her power.

Opposing The Dark’s machinations are a rag-tag group of superheroes earthbound angels and spirits, and even a vampire. All good now?

So, here are a few of the locales you can expect to visit if you dive… Into The Dark.

See what I did there?

Anyway…

THE DUSK INSTITUTE: THE INCOMPARABLE STATE OF NEW JERSEY.

The ultimate purveyor of bad medicine, this joint isn’t exactly the Mayo Clinic. Hell, it isn’t even Betty Ford. The Dusk is where you end up if you’re in possession of superpowers but vulnerable. The Big Bads of the Infinite Crossover Crisis, The Dark, have staffed this hospital from Hell with medical practitioners who haven’t exactly vowed to do no harm.

In fact, staff members like Doctor Death and The Controller go to extreme lengths to push their patients prisoners to the absolute limits of their powers and sanity, all in the name of harvesting a portion of their power/suffering to feed The Dark.

As for the building itself, The Dusk, much like Dana Barrett’s NYC apartment building in Ghostbusters, is meant to to function as an antenna to attract and concentrate extraordinary energy which is used to power the sort of equipment one would use to slowly drain gifted humans of their powers and will to live. In spite of its cutting-edge equipment and practices, The Dusk looks like a hospital straight out of the Fifties. From chrome and vinyl chairs paired with chrome-legged tables with Formica tops to linoleum floors in bright, trendy colors and patterns, this clinic of the damned is all about a bygone era of design, kids. Indeed, characteristics of 1950s design, namely, a Scandinavian influence paired with space and atomic age-inspired shapes, are all over The Dusk.

It’s a shame such a cool place is a den of evil.

THE RUSSELL HOUSE HOTEL: ST. CATHARINES, ONTARIO, CANADA.

What you are about to read is fact.

The Russell had a long, colourful, and sometimes contentious life before suffering three serious fires and finally, demolition in 1996. in. It began as the Stinson House, a hotel and tavern established at the corner of of James and St. Paul streets in downtown St. Catharines in 1843 by Samuel Stinson. Unfortunately, Stinson didn’t have long to grow the business – in 1846 he died, poisoned by his wife and a gentleman friend.

This is why it pays to cook your own meals when in an unhappy marriage, fellas.

The hotel was then taken over by Stinson’s son, who I hope, for his sake, remained a bachelor . A later owner renamed it the Russell House. The Russell suffered a slow decline for much of the 20th century. By the 1970s and 1980s it was largely patronized by bikers and punks, and by the 1990s had become the last resort for the down and out. During the 1990s the building suffered the three aforementioned serious blazes. After a February 1994 fire the building sat vacant and slowly fell into disrepair. Eventually the city obtained a court order that the building had to be taken down no later than Nov. 30, 1996 . . . and it was.

But that wasn’t the end of the Russell’s story – far from it. And now we delve into the fictional pool that is my imagination, my fellow dreamers.

After the final conflict between The Light, The Grey, and The Dark and the rupturing of the Balance, a group of displaced demons, their hellish home now inaccessible, decided to get crafty and make good use of the vacant corner the Russell once sat on. Pooling their swiftly-dwindling netherworld resources, they created their own version of the infamous building, one that transitions between a pocket dimension and this particular prime reality.

Now the ultimate dive bar, the Russell is now home to a band of demonic supervillains as well as the spirits of the hotel’s former residents, one of whom has a very personal connection to this saga’s MC, Paul Nemesis.

This concludes my online TED Talk on The Places Of Into The Dark.

See you in the lobby and in the virtual book aisles, friends…

Posted in Hotel Life | 12 Comments

Just Another Sunday…

There’s a reason you’ll never hear me say, “Now I’ve seen everything!”

Early this morning, as most of the hotel’s temporary denizens slept peacefully in their temporary beds, a young couple was, as they say, “pitching woo.” Of course, it’s a safe bet most of the hotel’s temporary residents engaged in the same activity the night before.

But this particular coupling was different.

For one thing, the young lovers in question were showing their age, engaging in carnal battle at six am.

For another, the young lady in question moaned “Wakanda forever!” as she climbed that mountain, as they say.

So that was my morning as I delivered almost nine hundred bills. How’s your day been so far?

See you in the lobby and the virtual bookshelves, friends…

Posted in Hotel Life | 16 Comments

The Tao of Captain Hook.

As you may or may not be aware, my friends, I have recently been promoted to Bell Captain, the ultimate case of the inmate running the asylum.

Nevertheless, I’m doing my best to rise to the occasion and keep this ship (which has felt like it’s been sinking for 17 months) afloat while making some much-needed adjustments to my new role. I’m leading by example in a selfless manner and making sure my charges (all four of them) understand that the changes to our department’s operating systems may only be temporary.

With any luck, that is.

The truth is, no one really knows exactly what the hospitality industry is going to look like when the scourge of Covid-19 is finally under control someday. Let’s be brutally honest, Covid is never going away, but I’m confident we can find a way to return to some sense of normalcy once these ant-vaxxing sons of bitches finally realize they’re putting themselves and the whole world at risk with their madness.

For now though, I’ve been considering writing a manual for any new bellman I may hire someday. To that end, here is the section that deals with Frequently Asked Questions rookie bellmen have posed to me over the years.

ARE WE ALLOWED TO HAVE SEX WITH THE GUESTS?

While we firmly (pun intended) believe in providing the best customer service possible, the only way to truly answer this question is with another one.

“Were you allowed to have sex with customers at your previous place of employment?”

Of course, it must be acknowledged that this response once backfired on me when we hired a male stripper to be a part-time bellman…

But getting back to the sexual matter at hand, no, you may not engage in any sort of carnal encounter with a guest at any time. And yes, this even applies to any adult film stars that occasionally visit our establishment. Although, to be honest, simply because someone is a porn actor does not necessarily mean they are a sex addict. They just want you to believe they are.

WHY CAN’T BELLMAN CARRY FIREARMS?

You’re most likely chuckling right now, but every single new hire has asked this question out loud within one week or less of being in the hospitality trenches. Serving people in any industry can be challenging. Serving people in the hotel industry can be soul-crushing.

You’ll find yourself reevaluating your personal moral code on a daily basis, especially the section pertaining to maiming and terminating the life functions of your fellow human beings. And yes, even douchebags are human beings.

But carrying weapons of any kind while on duty – with the exception of a razor-sharp wit – has not been approved by Management, despite frequent requests by staff for over two decades now. So please keep your firearms, bear spray, brass knuckles and other device intended to inflict harm and even death, at home please.

WHY DOES [INSERT DEPARTMENT NAME HERE] SUCK SO HARD?

As with any place of business that employs more than few employees, hotels have an operating hierarchy that inevitably leads to clashes between departments. As a bellman you will find yourself wondering why the Front Desk has booked a guest in the wrong room type or why multiple guests are often issued keys for the same room. Or why Housekeeping ignored the inescapable buzz of a sex toy in a drawer. Or why Maintenance left their used plunger in a guest bathroom.

The answers range from simple human error to gross incompetence, but one thing is immutable: Other departments will always make messes the bellmen have to clean up.

So do your best to do just that – and as quickly and as quietly as possible. Then you can move on and get back to the business of making money.

WHY ARE GUESTS SO CHEAP?

As a bellman you’ll be asking yourself this question every time you move eighteen bags from the lobby to the fiftieth floor and receive a few schillings (if you’re lucky) for your trouble. Because we are in a gratuitous position, our wage is the bare minimum mandated by law – but that doesn’t mean you can ignore the x-factor when dealing with guests. Anything can and will happen when your labors are complete.

Some guests will spend thousands on electronics, booze, drugs, hookers and anything else they consider essential, but when it comes to tipping, they’re suddenly poor. This is an immutable fact.

What can you do about this immutable fact? I’m afraid there’s no advice I can impart, except this: You can “get” anyone… if you’re clever enough to cover your tracks. That is all.

That concludes our preview, kids. Perhaps we’ll revisit my Bellman’s manual someday. After two decades in the hospitality trenches, I have a great deal of “wisdom” to impart to the younger generation. One can only pray the hotel biz reverts to something recognizable to a pre-Covid existence. Otherwise, bellmen will become extinct and the younger generation will be forced to take jobs that don’t allow them to observe humanity at their very best – but mostly at their worst.

See you in the lobby, friends…

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The More Things Stay The Same…

To suggest the last sixteen months have been challenging and in some cases, life-altering, is to suggest Donald Trump has a few eccentricities. 

Let’s face it, we’ve all had to face some unsettling truths and make some hard choices in the last year- and-a-half – and it looks like this wildly-dark ride isn’t quite over yet.

However, while civilization has been irrevocably altered by the damnable nightmare that is Covid-19, some things, like Mother Nature’s impact on this globe, never change. Sure, it feels like Momma N has an entire swarm of bees in her organic bonnet these days, with all the wildfires, mudslides and a host of other natural disasters humanity is facing these days, but at least she’s left the seasons untouched.

To that point, I was walking home from the hotel the other night just before midnight and I took the opportunity to take stock of the events of the day.

  • The hotel was “sold out” for the first time in months. (An unprecedented North American labor shortage has led to the hotel being unable to clean more than sixty percent of the rooms, thus giving the term “sold out” less weight than ever before.)
  • We’ve switched from a full service property offering bell service to one that allows guests to take their own cart if they don’t wish to avail themselves of the services of someone who actually knows what they’re doing. So now guests are placing fully loaded coolers on top of smooth suitcases and gym bags. What could possibly go wrong?
  • Guests are hostile.
  • Guests are raging over minor issues.
  • Guests have, quite frankly, lost their fucking minds over the past year-and-a-half and have thrown reason and good manners out the window.
  • The air is crisp and humid.
  • Horny skunks are roaming the streets once the sun goes down.
  • There’s an electricity in the Niagara air.
  • A few guests allowed nostalgia to overtake them and actually engaged my services. It was glorious. The feeling of walking home with pockets that weren’t empty was deeply unfamiliar.

What did all this pondering, done over the course of a mere ten-minute walk lead to, you ask? An inescapable revelation, friends…

The closest thing to an actual Niagara Falls summer is finally here.

It will be agonizingly brief, but summer is actually here. It certainly doesn’t feel the same, but then again, what does anymore? And there’s one more significant change that cannot be ignored…

My immediate supervisor of twenty-two years, who didn’t work a single shift in the last sixteen months while the rest of us toiled in Hell, has resigned and his assistant has stepped down. That left a vacancy waiting to be filled. Granted, the job and the department no longer resemble the pre-2020 version, but the role of Bell Captain still needed to be filled.

And now it has.

So yes, you may now proceed to unleash as many Captain Hook jokes as your fevered, social media attuned brains can manifest, my children. I can take it, I’m a captain.

What does this mean for my life as an indie author, you may be wondering?

Well, I’ve never been a manager before, so making schedules and filing payroll is all new to me and will no doubt be taking up a lot of my time. But promoting Into The Dark and writing Into The Grey and Into The Light is going to be put on the backburner for the time being, at least.

But I’ll get back to mining my creative depths eventually. In the meantime, I have a lot of studying to do, so wish me luck.

See you in the lobby, and the virtual book aisles, friends…

Posted in Hotel Life | 31 Comments