The Best Of Things.

One of the greatest American films of all time (in my humble opinion) contains the following line, “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

Well, as much as I hate to disagree with Andy Dufresne… I have to.

As many of you know, I recently lost a dear friend, a brother-in-arms, which has actually strengthened the bonds between myself and those closest to me. You see, while I consider all of you my friends, in the so-called “real world” there are only a few people who truly know the real me.

Pity those poor souls, won’t you?

But returning to the matter at hand, one of my dear friends recently confirmed (after it appeared on “the Facebook”) to me that he was entering into the bonds of holy matrimony. It was a much-needed reminder that, regardless of the tragedies that fate deems fit to throw in the way of the path we travel… life endures.

In other words, friends, life goes on. And where there is life, there is hope.

And love.

I remember the look on my friend’s face when he first introduced me to his beloved; there was a glow that emanated from his core and burst out from his eyes. He could have illuminated the Falls themselves for eternity. I recall that this struck me so vividly because we’d both seen our share of tragedy in our individual lives. And of course, at that time we were both forced to stand by helpless as our dear friend, Rockin’ Ronnie withered away right in front of us a little more each day until he finally stepped off this mortal coil all-together.

Losing Ron hit the hotel and especially the Bell department, like a freight rain of emotion, but it’s tore Rockin’ Ronnies’ best friends to shreds.

But my good friend was blessed enough to find a light to guide him out of the darkness he found himself slipping into when the news broke. His soon-to-be bride is a living beacon of hope, of love, of life itself. And that hope will never die.

 

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This quote really doesn’t apply to a blog, does it?  I have to start putting more effort into these things…

 

This is a hard world to live in. We forge connections to one another to sustain us. To help us thrive. To ensure laughter is always present n our lives. To ensure we always have someone there to kill a big-ass spider.

We forge connections to one another on an intimate level to ensure we have someone to battle for the covers at night, someone to share the couch with, someone to bring us soup when mucus is rushing out of our nasal cavities as fever thrusts us into delirium.

Is it any wonder they also call me, “Hook, the Honeydripper”?

Yes, sex is a major component in the intimate connections we forge (didn’t think I was going to forget the  hump-humpy thing, did you?) but what is sex without love? Just push-ups on top of someone covered in Cool Whip and bound by soft velvet rope.

What can I say? I’m a romantic.

But I’m drifting (I do that) so let’s get back on point: Hope gives us strength and helps lead us to love. Love gives us hope that we apply to our daily lives. In short, friends, hope really is the best of things but hope and love go hand-in-hand.

So here’s to hope. Here’s to love. Here’s to Frank and Maureen. I’ve made my ultimate, unbreakable connection to another human being but your love has given me renewed hope for the rest of humanity. People always say this, but from the bottom of my frozen Canadian heart, I wish you both the happiest of unions.

What? Anyone can plunk down ten bucks for a piece of Hallmark dreck.

See you in the lobby, kids…

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A Brief Message From The Hook.

About the lack of content on this site of late, there’s a good reason, well. it’s a reason at least. The truth is…

I’m broken.

I am a broken down never-was writer with a bad knee, no prospects and a following that is dwindling fast. Boy, I sound like a real catch don’t I, ladies? Unfortunately for the female population of cyberspace, I’m taken. Though to be perfectly honest, I’m fairly certain my lovely bride has had enough of my funk.

I just can’t rise above a relentless wave of images and truths. My mind is constantly flooded with visions of my friend, his broken body tossed back and forth across the breadth of the Niagara river like a discarded rag doll, his fate one of his own choosing. I feel the effects of this wave every single day.

So where does that leave me?

Incidentally, I don’t have an answer, I’m actually asking, where does that leave me? Every day I struggle to be the man I remember but that man died with Rockin’ Ronnie Stevens. Now I need to redefine myself, though it’s proving to be a struggle to say the least.

That doesn’t mean the original Hook is completely gone from my being, far from it.

CLUELESS ASIAN GUEST:  (Standing in the doorway of his room.)  I’ve never done this before, Robert… 

THE HOOK:  Choose your next words carefully, sir…

CAG:  What? I mean I’ve never used a bellman to bring my luggage down before. Is there a charge?

As a bellman I dread that query. A guest that is preoccupied with monetary issues is not a generous guest. But all a bellman can do in a case like this is bear down (no wonder my teeth are being ground to dust) and move forward.

THE HOOK:  There’s… no actual charge… sir. Though you can certainly leave a gratuity if you like.

CAG:  I don’t have any paper money, and I’m leaving right now. Sorry about that, buddy!

Not as sorry as he was going to be.

THE HOOK:  Since we’re on the subject of education, sir, here’s an invaluable tip that will serve you well over the course of your future travels. Always be sure to inform a bellman that you’re planning on not tipping him, and this next part is key… after your bags are safely downstairs and in your vehicle.

CAG:  Why?

THE HOOK:  A lot can happen between here and your trunk, sir. Especially in an empty service elevator.

His face told the tale. He realized the potential horror that could be awaiting him. And so I left him there to stew in his own juices as I headed down to the valet deck. With his bags in my care. And his toothbrush.

I’m not done evolving.

But I’m getting there.

See you in the lobby kids…

 

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“Let me give you some advice, kid… it turns out you really can take method acting too far. And never stiff The Hook!”

 

 

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A Silent Sunday Offering.

I call this one, “Worlds Collide: When The Hook Met Jack Bauer.”

Seriously, on a recent visit to NYC I met members of the NYPD’s counter-terrorism unit (CTU), and in spite of my daughter’s words of caution (“These guys don’t mess around… they’re going to shoot you, Skippy!”) I asked them to pose for a photo. One of these true heroes obliged this pasty, lanky Canadian.

The rest is blogging history.

Enjoy, kids.

 

Fun Fact: I’m carrying a Jack Bauer-style bag. #SuperNerd

 

See you in the lobby, friends…

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An Open Letter To The Cast Of Anastasia on Broadway.

It’s been said that Broadway is a place where dreams are born, but I have to disagree.

Having walked the hollowed sidewalks of this magical place on two occasions now, I believe Broadway is a place where dreams are shared, and each time those dreams grow even more glorious and complex.

A simple street sign with immeasurable power over millions of dreamers.

 

On Wednesday, August the thirtieth I arose from my far-too-brief slumber to hop in a limousine (yes, one can actually hop into a limousine, just watch you head) with my daughter and as we made our way through the dark Canadian night of Niagara Falls to the Toronto airport to board a plane bound for New Jersey’s Newark airport (insert Jersey joke here) I had to ask myself:

“Why in the world did I drag myself out of bed after working a crazy shift the night before just to visit Broadway for one day? Am I nuts?”

Oh, did I mention my daughter and I were flying into Newark at ten in the morning, hitting Times Square/Broadway for the day and then flying back to Canada at nine in the evening?

At this point you’re either thinking one of two things: One) “You really are nuts, Hook!” or Two) “Aw, you’re such a great dad, Hook!”

Incidentally, both thoughts are perfectly acceptable and valid.

The truth is, my daughter has been mercilessly bullied, ignored, marginalized and made to feel she has no friends for most of her eighteen years on this planet. She suffers from a medical condition called interstitial cystitis that only affects 2% of females under the age of forty and spends most of her nights sitting up in bed waiting for her pain to subside so she can get some sleep. In the meantime she she surfs the interweb and reads about one thing and one thing only…

Broadway, baby. It’s all about Broadway. Sarah’s world revolves around the glorious dreams that unfold on various stage at Broadway’s theatres.

And that, my friends, is why I sacrificed precious hours of sleep to stand in various lines at two airports in two countries before standing in a final line outside the Broadhurst Theatre. Needless to say, my daughter didn’t stand in any lines… she floated above them.

No, my child isn’t a witch, she was just metaphorically floating on air. Canadians are weird, but we’re not that weird.

It should also be noted that Sarah has become a strong, independent young woman with a gifted for the written word. Indeed, my daughter has become the sort of scribe I wish to emulate if and when I ever grow up. I’d be proud to know Sarah even if she wasn’t my child.

 

 

Ironically, Sarah’s elation reached a fever pitch before the curtain rose on that afternoon’s matinee of Anastasia. A form brushed past her back as we stood in line and a voice rang out, “Excuse me.” This figure, unknown to virtually every theatergoer save for my child entered the Broadhurst through the stage door and disappeared immediately. Sarah began to tremble and struggled to form a coherent thought, to say nothing of uttering a single sentence.

“Did you see… that was… I can’t believe… that was (voice lowering) John Bolton!”

And so it began.

We made our way into the Broadhurst, purchased a programme, took our seats and soaked in the atmosphere. It’s difficult to describe the energy one feels before a dream comes to life but luckily that power still resonates in Sarah’s eyes and so I can spend the rest of my life trying.

 

It would take a more adept scribe than myself to do justice to the performances of John Bolton, Derek Klena and company but I will say this: every cast member of Anastasia, from a seemingly-inconspicuous Royal guard to an expat Russian aristocrat drinking their sorrows away in Paris gives 110%. They believe in every note. They open their heart with every gesture. And the audience can feel it and truly is a part of the journey.

Not to play favorites, but I cannot say enough about Anya/Anastasia herself, Christy Altomare. In my daughter’s own words:

“She struggled for years just to get noticed but she never gave up!  She’s one of us and you can see it in every performance!  I hope she never realizes how good she is!”

The same can be said for every cast member; none of them appear to realize just how blessed they are to be the messengers of such a beautiful dream. Anastasia is about the enduring bonds of family, bonds that can survive any act of violence regardless of how horrific they may be. Anastasia is about the often conflicting love for one’s country and above all, it is about the struggle to recognize and accept one’s identity.

Heady issues for a “simple musical” it’s true, but Anastasia speaks to every soul who is fortunate enough to see it. Love. Honor. Sacrifice. Even some of the most hilarious onstage kissing you’ve ever seen, all of these factor into the journey that is Anastasia. And the production values? Well, they’re a cut above, kids.

From the moment you sit down you’re wowed by a curtain that features projected snow cascading across its surface.

Beat that, Hamilton.

(My kid’s going to kill me for that but it was totally worth it.)

 

My Broadway moment.  And not coincidentally, the exact moment all the lights exploded… 

 

But back to the production values: A monolithic screen sits behind the actors and transforms you from a doomed St. Petersburg ballroom to a European railway to a Parisian street instantaneously. The behind-the-scenes artists of Anastasia are the true unsung heroes of Broadway. And speaking of unsung heroes…

There was a slight casting issue that gave Sarah cause for concern. The “regular” Gleb, Ramin Karimloo, didn’t appear at our performance, a fact that did not go over well at first. “He’s Canadian! How often does one of us get to be here?” However, when Ramin’s “replacement”, Wes Hart, took the stage… he did not win her over.

But by his second performance she was hooked, pardon the pun.

Indeed, I found myself completely overwhelmed by Anastasia. I recently lost a dear friend to suicide and so I was apprehensive about watching an entire family, fictional or not, be wiped from existence.

But Anastasia captured my heart and left me with a deeper appreciation for my daughter’s dreams and passions. And for that, my new friends, I thank you all.

 

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“We’re headed for the big time… The Hook’s blog!”

 

One more thing, as the curtain rose and we made our way back to the New York crowds the next phase of our journey began. Waiting for autographs and pics by the stage door is a Broadway tradition, one that Sarah discovered when we saw Hamilton in April. We were honored to take part in that tradition once more, especially when we realized all of Anastasia’s principles would be joining us.

Sarah was too starstruck to articulate her feelings to Mary Beth Peil, John Bolton, Derek Klena, Nicole Scimeca and company, but she found the courage to tell Christy Altomare that she was “the best Anya they could have ever found”.

Tears welled in Christy’s eyes. Tears welled in Sarah’s eyes. I was all cried out from the performance.

In closing, Anastasiacs (I just made that up!) I can never thank you enough for lighting a fire in my daughter’s memory that time will never be able to extinguish. My daughter and I now have two Broadway shows under our belt (Hamilton in April was more than Sarah could ever have imagined and so Anastasia was an unbelievable bonus) and with any luck we’ll be able to sell some more organs (not our own of course) and make our way back to New York from Niagara Falls again soon.

See you in the lobby and on the web, friends…

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Summer, Summer, Summer, It’s Like A Merry-Go-Round…

As the summer of 2017 winds to a screeching halt an inescapable sense of irony has enveloped Niagara Falls; the season is ending but it feels as though the madness is just getting started.

Hookers, noticeably conspicuous by their absence this summer, have returned in droves. (Which is fitting when one remembers that they get driven for a living.)

Australians and their wonderful-but-not-really custom of not tipping are running around like dingoes searching for babies. Except, of course, what they’re really doing is looking for are service personnel to not tip. If I ever become a super villain I’m going to build a colossal robot baby with laser beam eyes to vaporize Australia. I’ll begin with the dingoes, naturally. Evil irony rocks.

It should be noted that there are several decent, kind, generous, hard-laboring folk among the degenerates – but as I always say, those people are boring so who wants to read about them?

And of course, the New York Jews have made their presence – and their coolers packed with kosher delicacies – known. One family in particular briefly lifted me out of my summer funk and made me forget my troubles and for that I will be forever grateful. I hadn’t loaded their luggage up on the valet deck and so I had no idea what awaited me when my elevator arrived at the fortieth floor of the North Tower, but based on the sheer number of weathered suitcases, Jewish tomes in clear plastic cases and the aforementioned kosher foods, I knew it was going to be good.

Yes, I realize my use of the word “good” may be puzzling but remember, friends, offbeat, supposedly-negative experiences with guests are this blog’s meat and potatoes. And so after a quick knock on the thin presswood door I was greeted by the tallest Jew I’d ever seen in the blackest of black coats.

Thus began my adventure with the Hebrew family from the Bronx who never met a gentile they didn’t drive around the bend.

 

Not all Jews are this much fun to be around… but most come close.

 

As the father dished out detailed instructions regarding the placement throughout the room of every… single… item… on his cart, three of his howler monkeys children were racing around the cart. Inevitably, one of his spawn jostled the cart and a cooler – which the guest, against my urging, had insisted be placed on top of the bags rather than on the bottom – fell off and deposited it’s bounty all over the hallway.

That was my breaking point.

“Jesus Christ!”, I muttered not-so-under-my breath.

Before the Ultimate Jewish dad could respond, his sole well-behaved child, a door mouse of an eight-year-old girl with jet black hair pinned ridiculously-tight to her head and a drab, blue, long dress emerged from the back of the room. She must have been part Kryptonian because she clearly heard my declaration of frustration and responded with one of the best comebacks ever.

“This again? My father said we already apologized for that! Don’t you people ever let anything go?”

See you in the lobby, friends…

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I’m Still Down… But I’m Not Out.

The following moment of levity (my type of levity, at least) comes to you courtesy of New York, New York’s Jewish community (I love these guys for reasons that will soon be made clear) who have descended in record numbers to Niagara Falls this season.

One gentleman in particular has stood out.

For all the wrong reasons.

He made me wait ten minutes while he loaded the cart with every item he owns. (Seriously.) Then he made me stand on the Valet Deck like a slack-jawed yokel as he loaded his far-too-small vehicle with said items. This took a full twenty minutes. (Which is a lifetime in a business where time truly is money.) And all this happened at the peak of check-out time.

Then he proceeded to stiff me.

But only after asking me one of the most inane queries that has ever been posed to me. A question that I’m certain he had pondered for some time.

ORTHODOX JEW:  I have a question. Isn’t a genuine “Thank you” just like a regular cash gratuity?

ME:  Only in the sense that laughter is actually the best medicine.

OJ:  But that’s what everyone says!

ME:  Let me put it another way, sir. If, for example, someone was to savagely beat you with an inch of your existence, who would you want dispatched to your aid, an actual licensed medical practitioner… or Howie Mandel?

The Summer of 2017 may not have been my most profitable (to say the least) but it’s been damn entertaining at times.

See you in the lobby, kids…

 

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“You do realize I don’t do this shit anymore, right, Hook?  And I was never a real doctor anyway?”

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Enter title here. (Because I sure can’t think of one.)

A death in the (extended) family.

A mid-life crisis (or The Hook’s equivalent of one, at least).

Hordes of tourists, their behavioral dials set to “Are You Duckin’ Kidding me?” all over Niagara.

Various family crises.(IBS and IC have devastated my family these last few years.)

Parental drama. (The less said about this the better. I almost envy a wild animal’s young; at lest they get eaten before their suffering can really begin.)

The seemingly-endless parade of Trumpian circus performers, via CNN.

Exciting stuff, right? “Come for the awesome titles, stay for the brilliant content!”

My point – and I do have one – is this: the summer of 2017 has kicked my pasty white butt by hurling one challenge after another in my path. And so the wind simply isn’t hitting my creative sails these days, especially since they’re not unfolded.

The truth is, I’m tired.

All the way through to my bones.

So here’s a pic of Chelsea, via the Hamilton app my daughter downloaded last week. Sarah LOVES this software and so you can expect to see more of it’s greatness on this site in the future. It’s all about Lin’s creation/empire in our house these days, don’t you know. Not that I mind; I’ve never seen my kid as happy as she was when we attended a Hamilton performance in New York in April.

So enjoy this offering and please accept my apologies.

See you in the lobby, friends… eventually.

 

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