With the accuracy of the alarm clock next to the weatherman played by Bill Murray in the 1993 film Groundhog Day, my eyes open at 5am
Mr. Murray’s first thought was why Sonny and Cher were singing in his room. My first thoughts were “Where am I?” accompanied by a smile as always. The odd setting reminded me I was staying at a hotel, and the lack of financial news on the TV channel that Monday reminded me it was Memorial Day 2022.
In my defense, this wasn’t a “senior moment,” which, to use a Seinfeld phrase, “not that there was anything wrong with that,” but because this was near the end of a month on the way.
With my hand wrapped securely around that good first cup of coffee, I relaxed enough to notice this historic hotel train station that had caused us to take a detour on our journey from Santa Fe to Santa Barbara. As a compulsive reader, I was intrigued by the plaques outside each of the LaPosada’s 309 rooms. Now I’m no Hero Strike but I have to tell you that Harry Truman, Albert Einstein, Errol Flynn, Roy Rogers and many others from all walks of life caught my attention and made me almost disappointed that our room had only housed one actor with the name Withers. What about this hotel made these people want to stay here?
Movie star Fred Harvey decided to build a lavish hotel in the roaring 1920s to introduce linen tablecloths and silver utensils, among other things, to Winslow, Arizona. ) The hotel opened on May 15, 1930. My parents lived near DuPont and Campbells Soup, and LaPosada was an estimated 9 to 12 hours from or to LA via the attached Santa Fe Railroad Home and train station.
This flexibility served well until the hotel closed in 1957 and the railroad maintained the building until the National Preservation of Historic Places helped reopen the hotel and operate it as a hotel again. Why does it attract visitors?
From feasibility studies, I recalled that the breakeven point for hotels is around 62% occupancy, and this 309-room hotel averages almost 100%. Why?
Of course we had the modern requirements while at the same time enjoying the holdovers from before television and the internet when there were various small rooms for conversation or reading, as well as a large meeting room with a piano which Harry Truman might have played and children playing.
Allowing people to entertain themselves and each other was a reminder of the habits instilled in restaurants in Williamsburg, Virginia. We have made technological advances in the hundred or so years since Fred Harvey’s dream. What was the cost of personal skills?
Our waiter at dinner said it was difficult for the hotel to hire and retain staff leading me to ask why as it was obviously the employer of choice in this town where the only other alternative seemed to be the company providing the Boards installed on the windows of the closed plants. The server saying “It’s drugs” made me wonder how drugs could permeate this small town of around 9,000 people? Is it representative of other cities?
The answer was obvious.
With the opening of our border by our current president, fentanyl has escalated drug problems because it’s an instant habit and so potent that small amounts can be fatal. During Biden’s policy, so much fentanyl is arriving from China via Mexico that the street price has dropped from $220 a unit to $20, leading dealers to use it to “cut” other drugs like marijuana. How much will this devastation affect us all?
The plein air convention had drawn us to Santa Fe, where we participated in “paint-outs,” which means visiting and painting historic buildings in the mountains. The beauty and hardiness of the people who settled these lands a hundred years before our civil war was an impressive mix of races and genders.
A week of making our grandkids proud by walking 10,000 steps a day around Santa Fe proved that “people of a certain age” can tell the difference between sea level and 7,400 feet. And the desert climate illustrated the importance of water in building this city.
I remember my law professor saying almost 50 years ago that one day the most important natural resource in the west would be water. Do the 8,000 cross-border commuters a day exacerbate that?
On our way to Winslow, Arizona, we had visited the wonders of Petrified Forest National Park, where over millions of years nature had shifted a tropical jungle 1,900 miles from near present-day Costa Rico to Arizona. During the move, some trees were prevented from rotting by the mud, preventing oxygen from becoming as hard as quartz. The desert climate helped preserve their history, with the rock layers showing through color variations the different stages that had influenced them over the millions of years.
Our next stop, the Grand Canyon, deservedly one of the Eight Wonders of the World, gave us the added meaning of seeing things from different perspectives as we looked down into the canyon, having previously looked up from a raft. The forces of nature overshadow those of man. Why do some think that humans can change our climate in a few years?
During our trip we had observed nature adapting, varying its growth from cacti to shrubs to trees and back depending on soil, water and altitude. Somehow one feels a little inadequate to watch the plants grow with only dirt and water. On our way to Kingsman, Arizona, if you squinted you could see, or at least feel, the presence of the characters from the Steinbeck novel The Grapes of Wrath starring Henry Fonda as you drove down old Route 66 to see the Escaping disasters in Oklahoma, which reminded me of the painter Kevin MacPherson, who was at convention on standby to evict his home in Taos due to a fire disaster. How much has escaping disaster changed?
That smile on my face at LaPosada is part of my “high” every morning as I was in the 4% who were given a second chance at life after their cardiac arrest (see OneHeartTwoLivescom.wordpress.com). As my daughter said, “Dad, if you had to have cardiac arrest, I wish you had it sooner.” Shame wishes for those drugged in search of a similar smile. Memorial Day reflections would not be complete without mentioning the headstones in Normandy and elsewhere, which point to the sacrifices made for the liberties that make my smile possible every day. Would such a perspective discourage some from using drugs to search for a smile, or a president who recognizes the importance of defending borders?
Brent E. Zepke is an attorney, arbitrator and author living in Santa Barbara. He previously taught at six universities and numerous specialist conferences. He is the author of six books: One Heart – Two Lives, Legal Guide to Human Resources, Business Statistics, Labor Law, Products and the Consumer and Law for Non-Lawyers.