You remember the Deca Hotel. It stood there for 86 years, at 45th and Brooklyn, northwest corner.
The appropriately-named venue had a lobby that must've made many an interior designer pause; for though they may have traveled far and wide, no room has ever had a greater variety of Art Deco-themed chairs. High-backed affairs with an African inspiration. Seats that looked like a musician's snare drum. Gold-trimmed arthropodic monstrosities from the fashion school that tries hard to be uncomfortable. It all bordered on ridiculous but achieved a certain warmth in its inclusive chaos, a welcoming coherence born of balanced disparities.
Doesn't that describe my 7/49 route to an exact tee?
No wonder I felt at home. Look at this hodgepodge, charm and creativity all sourced from the same time period– jazz, bookcases, fireplaces: America the modern, counting time between World Wars.
When I did the nighttime 7/49 (which I'm temporarily away from to avoid forced overtime, but have every hope of returning to), I'd take my breaks in the Deca Hotel lobby if there was time. It was a breather both from and of a piece with the inherent ridiculousness of that route. The storied airs of Broadway and Rainier, chaotic, colorful, often absurd... Naturally ending in an immaculate art deco timewarp with a warm fire. Of course. It was just outlandish enough to make perfect sense, and I loved it.
I'd stretch out with a book from their color-coordinated shelves, or more often sprawl out with an eye toward the high ceilings, neither reading much nor thinking, just being, drifting off the focused high of driving and public engagement. Taking in the dulcet Euro-trance tunes, a piped-in tinny melancholy you associate with all-night settings, airports and cleaning crews and vacant reception desks.
I loved the conflation of sensations I'd feel. Exhausted, but pleasant; the shoulder aches fading away, blood returning to my calves. Echoes of recent conversation floating in memory. The warm fire, just the homey anachronism I needed to compliment the jungled urban night. Often the timing had me in there for a brief spell only: ten minutes, frequently less than five. But here there was room to breathe, and I'd be remiss if I didn't heed the advice of an Eastern European novel about a maid I opened up in there one night, whose title and author I've long forgotten, but a line from which I hold close to my heart as a maxim:
"She took life as it came, and made the best of it."
My eyes would wander up and out over the lobby, living in the raised ceilings and top-to-bottom wall mirrors. I saw myself as if from above.
I'll be older someday. I'll be older, and I'll drift back to this moment, these nights. The cluttered high-flying days of youth, and the peace we here and there managed to grab hold of. I used to drive city buses in South Seattle in the middle of the night by choice, I'll think to myself. And I took my breaks in the lobby of the Deca Hotel.
I will look back on these fresh-faced days in all their strife and color, and know myself enough to know that I will name them as some of the happiest days of my life.