One truth of the road is that the nicer the hotel, the more they nickel and dime you. Find yourself, say, at the Holiday Inn Express in Ripley, West Virginia (I have found myself there and I have to say there is not much to do in Ripley, West Virginia) and expect free Wifi and a nice continental breakfast in the morning. Go to the Burnham Hotel in Chicago, as we often do, and you now get Starbucks in the lobby. But just until 10:30 and no rolls, bagels, or crackers. The good WiFi will cost you extra and do not expect a mint on your pillow. This time though they gave us $10 toward the mini bar. With that voucher, we could have gotten no less than two M and M bags. Instead we used it toward cocktails ($6 for each mini plastic Beam bottle- we drank it over ice because we did not want to spend $3 for a can of Coke).
One thing I do not get about the Kimpton hotels is the gold fish you can request. One of our favorite retreats, Rustic Hideaway, used to have a resident gold fish. Quaint. And stressful. “Did we feed it enough?” Yes we did. “Did we overfeed it?” Maybe. The comment book was filled with fish related fears and concerns. Every once in awhile a fish died and the guests felt horrible. By the way, that is exactly what we are looking for in our family vacations. “Daddy, where do fish go when they die?” Red Lobster.
At the Kimpton hotels, the fish is at least voluntary. Which leads me to wonder, are business men really so lonely that they need a surrogate pet. I always thought that that is what hookers are for. Maybe the pet care should not be voluntary? Maybe part of the Kimpton experience should be that you, the visitor, are responsible for a pet of management’s choosing. I see dogs, cats, boa constrictors, kangaroos (for their Australian properties) and Moose (Canadian properties) all in storage waiting for the lucky guest to arrive.
The reason for my stay in downtown Chicago (I live on the northwest side of the same city) was to help me better cover the Chicago Bluegrass and Blues Festival (CBB). Another good reason is that hotels in Chicago are pretty reasonable in January. One quick note about the festival; I have seen my share of bluegrass and I have to tell you that bluegrass festival in Kentucky (or anywhere else where the music is played) means something different than it does in Chicago. For example, in Wyoming, where we once stumbled onto such a festival, it meant homemade quilts sold on the side and large, homeschooled families who do not care much for that Darwin fellow. The only bluegrass I saw at the festival was being smoked in the bathroom.
I have only been writing articles for Splash for a short time. However, I can already tell how organized a place is by the press kit. My favorite so far was what the Black Ensemble Theater put together. It was on a flash drive. They let me keep it. I was happy. At the CBB, I was emailed two photos prior to the date. At the concert, there was a crudely put together sheet listing who was playing and when. They would not let me have there only copy. After some negotiating, they gave me an envelope and a pen so that I could scribble down some notes (I’m not always so organized myself; I forget a pen and the little notebook that I carry). Later my wife had the idea to photograph the list and that is what we used the rest of the night as we texted each other notes.
The music by the way was very cool. And loud. Very loud. It also went on altogether too late and we left before the headline act got on stage. And if that is not living like a rock star I do not know what is.
Note: The link below will take you to my review of the CBB festival: http://www.lasplash.com/publish/Music_107/chicago-bluegrass-and-blues-festival-review.php