Eccentric Hospitality

Dear Paris,

For obvious reasons, I thought about you the other day while staying at a hotel in Eureka Springs. There is no Hilton there but since you guys gutted the Vegas Hilton of all its Star Trek, I’m sorry to say that Rebecca would not want to stay at any of your hotels anyway.

At first we thought about staying at the famous Crescent Hotel. I remember how you told me that Grant and Jay said it was spiritually active there. But Rebecca likes to bargain hunt and the Crescent was a bit out of our price range.

So as expected, she discovered a veritable gem for only $40 a night. My mother always says that Rebecca can pinch a penny until it screams. This has always been funny to me for two reasons. First, the visual of a constrained, copper-faced President Lincoln hollering at the top of his lungs conjures up a Looney Tunes cartoon in my head. Second, it is not far from the truth.  Rebecca loves to save money.

Anyway, the $40 hotel she found in Eureka Springs was much better than the one in Orlando she found a couple of years ago. That one had prostitutes on the first floor and a little blood on the elevator. I’ll have to tell you about that one some other time.

Like I was saying, this hotel in Eureka Springs was a gem of a find. It was owned by a couple in their late 50’s named Frank and Karina. It was Karina who we met first greeted us on our arrival. She was a very friendly woman whose artificially blonde hair revealed her futile fight against aging. Her thick Norwegian accent and the dark circles under her eyes gave her a ghoulish air.

Deciphering half of what she said through her accent, it was evident that she was an unusual person.  She collected cats and told us that she had 969 in all but only one of them living and breathing. The rest of the cats were either painted, plastic or ceramic. I saw the evidence of this all over the office. I glanced around and performed a quick calculation.  There could not have been more than three hundred that I could see.  She raved about her adopted home, Eureka Springs.  She claimed that there was no crime in the historic town.  A quick google search later revealed that this was untrue.  We inquired as to the local cuisine and she suggested the Pizza Hut buffet.  To be completely honest, there was something charming about her eccentricities.

Later in our stay, we were preparing food to take out to the pool area and grill. Surprisingly, our room phone rang. I say surprisingly because that never happens these days. Fifteen years ago, when your hotel phone rang, there was anticipation and mystery as to who was on the other end. Who was it that tracked you down and for what reason? Was it your boss with important information or a loved one missing you and just wanting to hear your voice? But now everyone has mobile devices and are easily accessible by call, text or email.  One doesn’t immediately know what to think about a call to their hotel room phone.

I picked up the receiver and it was Frank on the other end.  I had yet to meet him.

“Hello, 210,” he said. Oddly, he had called me by my room number.

He explained that he had cooked stew and invited us to share. I told him I appreciated his generosity but that we were shortly headed to the pool area to cook our own food. He then fell just short of insisting we eat his stew. So, as a guest, I felt it would go against proper etiquette to refuse my host any further.

We met him at the pool where he supplied us with bowls of his stew.  Frank had artificial, jet black hair, like his wife, losing the battle of his fight against aging.  His accent was distinctly Brooklyn.  He had a sharpness of eye and an intensity in his face that only comes to men who have seen war.

He headed back to the office asking us politely to return the bowls when we were finished. You can imagine my reticence in eating the stew as I didn’t even know this man. There is simply no telling what he could have done to it. But I had this irrational trust that I am unable to explain.  So I did eat and it was delicious.

On returning the empty bowls Frank invited me into their living area beyond the front desk of the office. This is where I was greeted with the bulk of their cat collection. See the photos I’ve included.

Anyway, this couple added some flavor to our visit. Call it an eccentric hospitality that I found comforting.  Being a member of the great unwashed, I figured you would appreciate my perspective. Pass this along to your dad if you think any of this is worthwhile.

Always,

Eric

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