Day 4 – The New Yorker

Cnr 34th and 8th Ave.

Opened in 1929 and was the biggest hotel in New York for many years. One of the best places to see Big Bands in the 30’s such as Benny Goodman (see photo). Ali would use the place after fighting across the street at the Garden. Nikola Tesla went crazy and died there (not sure if AC/DC ever stayed there. Ha!!). Castro stayed there.

Tesla’s tale is intriguing. In his room #3327, he kept a safe filled with patents and super-secret ideas. One, his “Death Ray”, he described thus: “The nozzle would send concentrated beams of particles through the free air, of such tremendous energy that they will bring down a fleet of 10,000 enemy airplanes at a distance of 200 miles from a defending nation’s border and will cause armies to drop dead in their tracks.” Goodness. Upon his death his body and the safe were whisked away. The safe was impounded by the FBI and entered Top Secret status, never to be seen again. Who knows if the Death Ray was true or not, but Tesla should definitely have turned his hand to Science Fiction.

If you like Art Deco, this place is a must. The only draw-back is there is no cafe or food service in the lobby (there’s a diner though attached) so I sat there all morning and spent not a dime. It’s a busy place, right on 8th Avenue and the vibe is very touristy. I sat amongst piles of suitcases and folks waiting for their coaches and cabs. Still, I was there to work and fortunately the muse flowed well sans coffee.

Today’s word count: 3,012

Total word count: 14,180

  • It’s hard to miss this enormous Art Deco block of history

  • Once the biggest in New York

  • The face of an author without coffee

  • Madison Square Garden is right across 8th Ave

  • His laboratory was next door in room 3328

  • I’ve no idea what a ‘Great new ice show’ means

  • Fabulous ashtray – from a display in the lobby


Day 3 – Hotel Chelsea

222 West 23rd.

This place has seen it all. Sid Vicious killed his girlfriend here. Dylan Thomas drank himself to death here. Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001 here. Arthur Miller, Iggy Pop, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin all lived here. And on and on and on.

But it’s closed for renovations and all the long-term residents have been turfed out. I knew that before I headed there but just to be near The Chelsea was going to rub off in some way. There’s just too much genius that has been through those doors not to.
So, I found myself the only open shop within the building – which served doughnuts and decent coffee fortunately – and parked myself there. And sure enough the muse came quickly (descended from somewhere upstairs I like to think).

There are plenty of tourists coming to gawk at this place. There are more plaques to literary and musical greats than any other hotel in New York and there’s always something romantically attractive about faded glory. Mind you, The Chelsea was always a bit grunge. Hard to say what the place will be like post-reno, but somehow, I think I’ll be back at The Chelsea one day.

Today’s word count: 3827

Total word count: 11,168

  • The Chelsea before renovation

  • The front covered in plaques to literary greats (and others)

  • Fortunately, the donut shop is first rate and were happy for me to ensconce there

  • WIP with coffee (in paper cup)

  • One of many plaques

  • The home of 2001

  • Note the subtle reference to Sid Vicious bottom right

  • Tribute to a longtime resident


Day 2 – Hotel Carlyle

Cnr Madison & 76th Street.

Comfortable in the Upper East Side, this place is oozing cash. I won’t relate what I overheard at some of the tables near me because if I’m visiting these joints, I’m up to playing the discretion game. And it’s always been thus at the Carlyle. Kennedy kept a suite here for his mistresses – Marilyn Monroe included. There’s even a photo of him in the lobby.

Got to say, it is a gorgeous place. Small and intimate and dark and pokey (had to turn the screen brightness on the iPad waaaaay down) and with 400 staff for 185 rooms, service is, well let’s just say it ain’t the Ashfield Motor Inn. (Don’t expect such class tomorrow. I’m heading for a dive.) Clearly I was enjoying myself as I hung around for over 5 hours and as it was yesterday at the Algonquin, no one bothered me. Except to replenish my coffee.

Today’s word count: 3337

Total word count to date: 7341.

  • This was my office for the day 🙂

  • Rising high above the Upper East Side

  • JFK exiting the Carlyle

  • Looking through to the Gallery

  • WIP in the Carlyle’s Gallery

  • My photos – warm and evocative as they are – fail to capture the splendour of this place

  • Day 2 – I could get used to this


Day 1 – The Algonquin
59 W44th Street

And so begins a new chapter in the life of Roger Spoffin. In the tradition of Jack Kerouac, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Capote, Steinbeck, Miller, Williams, in fact nearly every American writer of note, I am writing my latest book in the various hotel lobbies of New York. They’re busy places and it can be hard to concentrate but they simply ooze literary history and none more so than The Algonquin. A friend visiting from home brought the Algonquin to my attention. I’d been working on the new book’s outline, character studies etc. etc. from the comfort of my Manhattan pad and my friend listened without interrupting before telling me of the Algonquin. ‘You ought to go write there,’ he suggested.

At 59 West 44th Street, just off 6th Ave, this place is the oldest operating hotel in New York and is famous for its Round Table of writers and misfits. Read about them here: They were a little like England’s Bloomsbury Set, but they hung around for a lot longer and were, ironically, much less influential. In fact, Dorothy Parker – who was there from the start – looking back on the period many years later remarked, ‘The Round Table was just a lot of people telling jokes and telling each other how good they were. Just a bunch of loudmouths showing off, saving their gags for days, waiting for a chance to spring them… There was no truth in anything they said.’ Oh, well.

I entered the Algonquin around 8:30, sunk into one of the deep, brown leather seats, opened the iPad and Roger Spoffin took off. Over the next 4 hours I was swept back in time 100 years as Roger, Marty, Doff, Anna and others (I won’t be giving too many spoilers here) came once again to life. The coffee flowed freely, the ever-professional Algonquin waitstaff left me well alone (I couldn’t help but feel they held a certain reverence for writers – maybe loud-mouths not so much), and by the time I left, I’d clipped comfortably past 4000 words. I feel this writing-in-hotels caper will serve me well.

Today’s word count: 4004.

Total word count to date: 4004.

  • Algonquin from 44th St

  • Day 1 – the Author in the famed lobby

  • The magnificent Algonquin lobby – serene and sumptuous

  • Plaque on the Algonquin noting its famous ‘Round Table’.

  • The original Round Table – a very young Dorothy Parker seated with Harpo Marx standing behind

  • The beautiful Algonquin Hotel – one of a number of gorgeous hotels on 44th Street.