October 13, 2016

A glimpse of an atrocious hotel lobby in Gagra, Georgia (or is is Abkazia?) sends me back to "That Party at Lenny's."

Yikes. This is the worst hotel lobby I have ever seen featured in a article in the NYT.

Not only is there an old hairy-legged, black-sock-wearing man in shorts sitting on a depressing sofa, not only do limp draperies block the light, not only is there a set-up chess board with extra-large pieces... there's a huge statue — double life-sized — of Vladimir Lenin leaning forward intensely as if he's about to get up and kill you.

The article is about a place in Gagra which is in Georgia (or Abkhazia, "a quasi country whose existence only Russia and three other nations recognize"):
Built in 1952 as a retreat for Stalin’s secret police and taken over in the 1960s by the Communist Party Central Committee, it used to be called the 17th Party Congress Sanitarium. It now calls itself the Amra International, a rebranding that has not improved the service but has added a dash of 21st-century aspiration to one of the world’s most alluring, and strangest, vacation destinations....

“Coming here is like going to Cuba,” said Maxim Gundjia, Abkhazia’s former foreign minister. “It is a retreat into childhood.” Abkhazia, he added, is made for “melancholic tourism,” its aged but still grand sanitariums short on comfort but rich in reminders of a vanished world....

Svetlana Kalinskaya, a 70-year-old Russian retiree from Rostov-on-Don, said... “Compared with Turkey, the service here is zero.... But it is paradise.” Asked whether she minded Lenin looming over the lobby, Ms. Kalinskaya said the statue only brought back happy memories of a “time when we all lived together in one big country.”

Some younger Russians also come for the experience of being back in the Soviet Union, even though they are often too young to remember the real thing. Sergey Rogulov, a 39-year-old driver from St. Petersburg, said he liked the shabby Stalin-era interiors — “it is like time travel back to the U.S.S.R.”...
There's nostalgia for everything — nostalgia for the bad old days, nostalgia for a past you never experienced, nostalgia for the mud — nostalgie de la boue as they say in French, which, if you look it up, you'll find the second hit at Google is for the wonderful old Tom Wolfe article "Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny’s," which isn't entirely out of place here in the shadow of that gross Lenin statuary. It was the 1960s:
Within New York Society nostalgie de la boue was a great motif throughout the 1960s, from the moment two socialites, Susan Stein and Christina Paolozzi, discovered the Peppermint Lounge and the twist and two of the era’s first pet primitives, Joey Dee and Killer Joe Piro. Nostalgie de la boue tends to be a favorite motif whenever a great many new faces and a lot of new money enter Society. New arrivals have always had two ways of certifying their superiority over the hated “middle class.” They can take on the trappings of aristocracy, such as grand architecture, servants, parterre boxes and high protocol; and they can indulge in the gauche thrill of taking on certain styles of the lower orders. The two are by no means mutually exclusive; in fact, they are always used in combination. In England during the Regency period, a period much like our own—even to the point of the nation’s disastrous involvement in colonial wars during a period of mounting affluence—nostalgie de la boue was very much the rage. London socialites during the Regency adopted the flamboyant capes and wild driving styles of the coach drivers, the “bruiser” fashions and hair styles of the bare-knuckle prize fighters, the see-through, jutting-nipple fashions of the tavern girls, as well as a reckless new dance, the waltz. Such affectations were meant to convey the arrogant self-confidence of the aristocrat as opposed to the middle-class striver’s obsession with propriety and keeping up appearances. During the 1960s in New York nostalgie de la boue took the form of the vogue of rock music, the twist-frug genre of dances, Pop Art, Camp, the courting of pet primitives such as the Rolling Stones and José Torres, and innumerable dress fashions summed up in the recurrent image of the wealthy young man with his turtleneck jersey meeting his muttonchops at mid-jowl, à la the 1962 Sixth Avenue Automat bohemian, bidding good night to an aging doorman dressed in the mode of an 1870 Austrian army colonel.

25 comments:

mccullough said...

Love the gauzy curtains: white red white.

buwaya puti said...

Good lord, this is the worst? You really are sheltered.
No way. I have seen far, far worse across this great land.
Dirtier, shabbier, unpainted, uncarpeted, broken down pinball and vending machines and etc. ad infinitum.
This place is reasonably neat and well maintained. So its got a gimmick statue in it. You will find weird stuff everywhere that isnt a chain.
And Asia. And Europe. Dont get me started.
I was once a road warrior and I have seen what I have seen.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

Atrocious? I think it's hilarious.

rehajm said...

It does have that Wes Anderson vibe.

Sean Gleeson said...

That Party of Lenin's.

buwaya puti said...

Its amusing.
I am mostly Spanish, so it comes naturally I guess, the taste for the bizarre.
But thats another thing travel brings, perspective. V

rhhardin said...

I'd imagine Bob Dylan is playing in the background.

coupe said...

Looks cozy to me. It looks freshly vacuumed. Colors kind of suck.

pdug said...

One of the oversized white knights has been replaced with a rock

Ann Althouse said...

When I travel, I look for horrific juxtapositions. I used to record my discoveries longhand -- with a fountain pen in a sketchbook, drawing and writing, in the manner of my favorite book "Get Me a Table Without Flies, Harry."

Now, I've got a digital camera and can experience the horrors more expeditiously.

But still... what am I doing traveling? It's an angsty art mission. Not that relaxing, pleasurable stuff I see in the ads and travel articles. I should be getting paid, not paying.

buwaya puti said...

Thats the point of travelling - discomfort, danger, and shock.
All in order to impress the folks at home.

See Hilaire Belloc.

Amadeus 48 said...

Thanks for the excerpt from Radical Chic. It has been my touchstone for judging social mores for over 45 years. The passage where Wolfe describes the angst of deciding what sort of servants to have passing the canapes is a classic (Lenny and Felicia settled on white South Americans).

Sydney said...

Someday we will have hotel lobbies like that, with statues of Obama. Or Hillary!

cubanbob said...

Svetlana Kalinskaya, a 70-year-old Russian retiree from Rostov-on-Don, said... “Compared with Turkey, the service here is zero.... But it is paradise.” Asked whether she minded Lenin looming over the lobby, Ms. Kalinskaya said the statue only brought back happy memories of a “time when we all lived together in one big country.”

Some younger Russians also come for the experience of being back in the Soviet Union, even though they are often too young to remember the real thing. Sergey Rogulov, a 39-year-old driver from St. Petersburg, said he liked the shabby Stalin-era interiors — “it is like time travel back to the U.S.S.R.”...

Funny that neither of them has an urge to travel to and stay in a Gulag. If Fat Kim were to croak today and take his regime with him will their be North Koreans nostalgic for the good old day in thity years time?

Paddy O said...

Nostalgia day!

robother said...

"Back in the US, back in the US, back in the USSR. You don't know how lucky you are, boys."

tim in vermont said...

Once you realize that Lenin is really getting up to let a fart, the room isn't so bad.

William said...

Imagine being nostalgic about all those trips to the dentist when you were a kid.

Michael said...

Vladimir is reaching for your pussy. Because he can.

Unknown said...

According to the chess pieces, the couch and Lenin, those 2 people are really tiny.

hawkeyedjb said...

A great big guy on a stone toilet. In the lobby. No wonder the smaller people are averting their gaze.

George Grady said...

I love how the one white knight seems to have gone missing, and is replaced by...what is that exactly? An enormous wad of used chewing gum?

How does a piece that size even go missing? You couldn't absentmindedly walk off with that thing in your pocket, or accidentally kick it under the couch!

Rob McLean said...

I like the big chess pieces.

buwaya said...

"You couldn't absentmindedly walk off with that thing in your pocket, or accidentally kick it under the couch!"

It fits in Russian pocket comrade.

Bad Lieutenant said...

nostalgie de la boue

Talk about le mot juste! Ann, when you finally join a cult, that should be your new name.