Sunday, October 7, 2007

Moving On

"Are you folks enjoying my hotel?"

We stood there in the elevator - me, my husband and our friends Jeanine and James. My husband's band played earlier that night at the House of Blues and we'd spent the hours after the show lingering in the posh Foundation Room, sipping cocktails and toasting James' thirtieth birthday.

By the time we made it across the street to the hotel, it was well past 2 am - our eyes blurry from the late hour and a night filled with the type of jokes that push you to tears.

So, when the question was posed to us, we stood there in shock. I wish I could remember what we said. I'm sure one of us mumbled something and that we all quickly stepped out of the elevator. But I do clearly remember what happened when the doors closed after us - we all stood there in disbelief, with eyes that asked, "Was that really??" After all, it's not ever day you meet Dan Ackroyd in the Chicago House of Blues Hotel elevator at 2:30 in the morning.

During a break in my schedule during my last trip to Chicago, I had to visit Bin 36 - one of my favorite places to go during my frequent trips to Chicago. Even though I knew I couldn't indulge in either of my passions given the growing bean in my belly, I still wanted to visit a familiar place, a place where I've shared long afternoons over wine flights and cheese plates.

I was on the phone with my husband, chatting about my day, as I made my way down Dearborn, when I saw the sign. "They changed the name of the House of Blues Hotel," I exclaimed. We'd known that the House of Blues Hotel and the Loews hotel group were parting ways so I can't say the name change was surprising but what I saw when I made my way to the hotel and up the stairs, was a complete shock.

Gone was the huge pink chair that sat outside, the huge golden Buddha that greeted visitors in the lobby, and the funky decor. The bold colors were replaced with white and the decor lacked any of the originality that excited me so much back in 1998 when I visited for the first time.

My heart sunk and tears welled in my eyes. I felt as though I'd lost a good friend. I recounted every change with my husband on the line and could sense that his disappointment mirrored mine - we'd shared many, many memories at the House of Blues hotel. Of the cities we travel to together, Chicago is by far the most frequent and we've never stayed anywhere other than the House of Blues Hotel. I felt as though so many of our memories were wiped away with a few coats of paint and some new furniture.

It made me wish I'd said more on that night so many years ago - that I'd said how much I loved that hotel. That I'd mentioned how it was my first introduction to Chicago so many years ago and how I thought it represented so much of what I love about Chicago: energy, fun, hospitality. I wish I'd spoken of the memories shared at that hotel - of how I loved to see the faces of friends and family when the discovered the gem of a place, with it's Howard Finster artwork, terrazzo sinks and bottle cap phone. How we'd ushered in many special first trips, big birthdays and new years in that place and how I couldn't think of a better place to have spent each occasion. It was something unique - with it's own character - words almost never used in association with something as generic and sterile as a hotel. I wish I'd gushed about how great the House of Blues Hotel was and how much it meant to me.

I doubt any of that would have changed things; nevertheless, I feel compelled to say it now. Dan, I did enjoy your hotel - thanks for the memories.