Day 8 – The Hotel Theresa

2082-6 Adam Clayton Powell Jnr Blvd. Harlem.

In its heyday (which wasn’t this morning) this hotel was known as ‘the Waldorf of Harlem’. It looks so much taller than its 13 stories as it’s thin and there’s nothing much that height around it. It has a rich history. Castro stayed there in 1960 after getting kicked out/fed up with another hotel in midtown (either for killing his own chickens in the room because he didn’t trust the hotel chefs, or over the bill, depending on which story you believe). Khrushchev visited him while he was there. Malcolm X was a regular to the place and famously gave an address out the front.

But it’s a sorry sight today. It’s been closed for years but you my story of the Chelsea Hotel has taught you anything, a closed hotel won’t stop me. The only place open in the building where I could sit and drink coffee and work was White Castle – a hamburger chain that predates McDonalds by about 30 years and is happy not to compete with such a high-quality upstart establishment. I went mid-morning so I was one of the first ‘diners’ (they don’t do breakfast – mind you, anyone who takes their food seriously would claim they don’t do lunch or dinner either). I perched on a stool, opened up the iPad and got to it. Service, it must be said, wasn’t up there with my previous day’s experience at the Waldorf Astoria, but the coffee was surprisingly drinkable. Three hours later I hopped up and walked back up to the counter – which has a bullet-proof perspex screen separating you from the ‘servers’, who speak through microphones when they want to read back your order. I amused myself by quipping in my offhand way, ‘And now I think I’ll try the fish burger.’ No one else seemed amused.

I’ve never been to a White Castle before (nor since) so I’ve nothing to compare it to, but this one functioned more as a community drop-in centre. At any one time, twenty people were milling around with only one or two eating. The main topic of conversation was a police raid nearby on some gang houses – the biggest in New York’s history apparently – that had taken place early that morning.

A productive day with some of the most entertaining customers in a hotel ‘lobby’ I’ve come across.

Today’s word count: 3054

Word count to date: 22,740

  • Adam Clayton Powell marching towards the (now closed) Theresa

  • The Author ponders why he’s the only one writing a novel in the White Castle fast food joint

  • This is a slider. It is a type of burger. Inexpensive, small and ghastly.

  • Castro and Malcolm X enjoying a laugh at the Theresa back in 1960

  • NYPD outside the Theresa when Castro was staying.

  • Twas a bleak and rainy day in Harlem

  • I pity the fool who dares to deface this garage