With the preciseness of the alarm clock besides the weatherman played by Bill Murray in the 1993 movie “Groundhog Day,” my eyes pop open at 5 a.m.
Mr. Murray’s’ first thoughts were of why Sonny and Cher were singing in his room. My first thoughts were “where am I?,” which was, as usual, accompanied by a smile. The strange surroundings reminded me that I was in a hotel, and the lack of financial news on the television station on this Monday was a reminder that it was Memorial Day 2022.
In my defense this was not a “senior moment,” which to use a Seinfeld phrase “not that there’s anything wrong with that,” but because this was near the the end of a month of being on the road.
With my hand safely wrapped around the ever so good first cup of coffee, I relaxed enough to take notice of this historic hotel-train station that had caused us to detour on our trip from Santa Fe to Santa Barbara. Being a compulsive reader, I was fascinated by the plaques outside each of the 309 rooms of the LaPosada. Now I am not “hero struck’,” but I have to tell you that Harry Truman, Albert Einstein, Errol Flynn, Roy Rogers and many others from all fields got my attention and made me almost disappointed that our room had only housed an actor named Withers. What about this hotel caused these folks to stay here?
Movie star Fred Harvey decided in the roaring 1920s to build a magnificent hotel to, among other things, introduce linen tablecloths and silver utensils to Winslow, Ariz. Much like my parents graduating high school into the Great Depression, LaPosada (“the resting place”) Hotel opened on May 15, 1930. My parents lived near DuPont and Campbells soup, and LaPosada was located an estimated 9-12 hours either from, or to, L.A., via the attached Santa Fe Railroad home and station.
This flexibility served it well until, in 1957, the hotel closed, and the railroad maintained the building until the National Preservation of Historic Places helped reopen the hotel and shifted it back to it operating again as a hotel. Why does it attract visitors?
I remembered from writing feasibility studies that the break-even point for hotels is around 62% occupancy, and this hotel averages near 100% for its 309 rooms. Why?
For sure, we had the modern requirements while also enjoying the remnants of days prior to television and the internet, when various small rooms for conversations or reading existed along with a large meeting room with a piano that perhaps Harry Truman played, along with games for children.
Providing for people to entertain themselves, and each other, was a reminder of the habits conveyed in restaurants in Williamsburg, Va. We have advanced in technology in the approximately hundred years since Fred Harvey’s dream. What has been the cost in personal skills?
Our server at dinner saying it was difficult for the hotel to hire and keep employees caused me to ask why since it was obviously the employer of choice in this town where the only other alternative seemed to be the company that was putting the boards on the windows of the closed businesses. The server saying “It is drugs” made me wonder how drugs were able to permeate this small town of around 9,000 people? Is it representative of other towns?
The answer was obvious.
With our current president opening our border, fentanyl has escalated drug problems because it is immediately habit forming and is so potent that small amounts can kill. During Biden’s policies so much fentanyl is arriving from China through Mexico that the street value has declined from $220 per unit to $20 leading to dealers using it to “cut” other drugs, such as marijuana. How much will this devastation extend to all of us?
The Plein Air Convention had drawn us to Santa Fe, where we participated in “paint-outs,” meaning visiting and painting historic buildings nestled in the mountains. The beauty and the hardiness of the people who settled these areas a hundred years before our Civil War was an impressive mixture of races and genders.
A week of making our grandchildren proud with 10,000 steps a day around Santa Fe proved that “people of a certain age” do tend to feel the difference between sea level and 7,400 feet. And the desert climate illustrated the importance of water in the building of this town.
I remember my law school professor saying almost 50 years ago that someday the most important natural resource in the West would be water. Are the 8,000 border crossers a day exacerbating this?
On our way to Winslow, Ariz., we had visited the wonders in the Petrified Forest National Park, where over millions of years nature had moved a tropical jungle 1,900 miles from near where todays Costa Rico exists, to Arizona. During the move some trees were prevented from rotting by the mud preventing oxygen becoming as hard as quartz. The desert climate helped preserve their history by the layers of rocks showing by color variations the various stages that had impacted them over the millions of years.
Our next stop, the Grand Canyon, deservedly is one of the eight wonders of the world, offered us the additional importance of seeing things through different perspectives as we looked down into the canyon after previously looking up from a raft. The powers of nature so dwarf those of man. Why do some think man in a few years can change our climate?
During our trip we had watched nature adjust by varying its growths from cactus to shrubs to trees and back depending on the ground, water and altitude. Kind of makes you feel a little inadequate to watch the plants grow by only using dirt and water. On our way to Kingsman, Ariz., if you squinted you could see, or at least feel, the presence of the characters from the Steinbeck novel made into the movie starring Henry Fonda, “The Grapes of Wrath,” driving down the old Route 66 to escape the disasters occurring in Oklahoma, which reminded me of the painter Kevin MacPherson at the convention being on standby to vacate his house in Taos because of the disaster of a fire. How much has fleeing to avoid disasters changed?
That smile on my face at the LaPosada is part of my “high” every morning since I was in the 4% who were given a second chance at life after their heart stops (see OneHeartTwoLivescom.wordpress.com). As my daughter said, “Dad, if you had to have a heart stoppage, I wish you had it sooner.” Shame wishes for those who are in search of a similar smile through drugs. Memorial Day reflections would not be complete without mention of the headstones in Normandy, and elsewhere, indicating the sacrifices for the freedoms that make my everyday smiles possible. Would such a perspective prevent some from using drugs to search for smiles, or a president to acknowledge the importance of defending borders?
Brent E. Zepke is an attorney, arbitrator and author who lives in Santa Barbara. Formerly he taught at six universities and numerous professional 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.”