Sunday, April 29, 2012

PaliHotel Melrose

An Upscale Hostel?

Update July 2013
I see that Conde Nast has designated this hotel on their "Hot New Hotels in 2013" list.  

Maybe in the intervening time since writing this it this hotel has improved dramatically. Otherwise, a magazine whose mantra is "Truth in Travel" just dropped a notch in my estimation.

Some background. As an architect I am in the business of creating buildings that exploit the potential of their site within the parameters of my client's budget. It is always a delicate balance. With new construction options are pretty varied. With renovations, we know that the parameters on our options may be more limited.

For many years urban expansion in the US has been characterized by leapfrog development that crept further and further from the historic core of our city's. The result? Soulless suburbs with gated enclaves served by anonymous linear strip malls.

And while capital investment rushed to the suburbs, abandoned urban spaces were left to crumble. This wasted land, isolated communities, and made us 100% dependent on our cars.

LA was the poster kid for this. And, of course, it has never been a sustainable development model.

Now a troubled economy has focused market interest in the re-imagining of older, well placed, and underutilized building stock.

And fun new spaces are emerging via adaptive reuse. Inserting new restaurants, lofts, and retail spaces into old buildings, with modern infrastructure can make them appealing, while being environmentally sensitive. It also frequently allows a new business to launch much faster than if they had to build everything from scratch.

When done right adaptive reuse can be amazing.

So when I saw a teaser ad for LA's newly renovated Palihotel Melrose in the very wonderful Tablet Hotels e-newsletter I figured I'd give it a try.

The PaliHotel Melrose

The hotel is just a block west of Fairfax on Melrose. That is, by any measure, a great location. An energetic walk to the Farmer's Market, close to Canter's 24-hour restaurant, and right in the middle of lots of cool Melrose shops.

But there are some issues.

When I arrived I had to maneuver my rental car into the garage beneath the building. Parking is very limited and costs an extra $20 per night (the in-room hotel data says it should have cost $15). The garage is not served by an elevator, so if anyone in your party requires a wheelchair cross this hotel right off your list.

I know the hotel is new, and staff is getting acclimated, but the desk staff seemed indifferent to being there. The cafe did not appear to be open. There is no bar (yet?).

Maybe my code date is too far past, but for $200-$300 a night (even in LA) here is what I'd like:
1. I'd like a hotel with a fitness room and pool or hydrotherapy unit. None here.
2. I'd like a quiet room with a clock radio in it. Nope and nope.
3. I'd like an in-room coffee maker. Forget it.
4. I'd like to be able to control the heating and cooling in my room (i.e. my very own thermostat). Nada.
5. I'd like a decent work desk with proper lighting and a comfortable chair. No, no, and no.
6. I'd like a closet to hang up my clothes in and somewhere to put my suitcase. No and no.
7. I'd like an in-room phone. Seriously No?
8. I'd like a king sized bed. PaliHotel has never heard of em.

They obviously didn't forget all this stuff, they simply chose to ignore it.

The Bed (Nightstands Are Little Round Metal Stools)

The building has been cosmetically renovated. But, at its heart, it is a wooden structure with thin partitions and doors (without self closers?)

Finishes run the gamut of every possible shade of "too dark". Halls are covered by Tara quality heavy drapes (albeit good for their acoustical value.) Lighting in halls is best described as eerie with big filament bulbs. The designer had a fetish for filament bulbs.

My mattress and bed linens were excellent. The wireless internet worked fine. The TV was great. The mini bar had chocolates by Dean and Delucca! Can't complain there! The shower head was huge with greeat water pressure. Yippie! But......the pressure left me standing in a tub full of water due to a plugged tub drain. Yuk!

There was one plush robe (my romantic side suggests two in a room with a queen bed?) There were fine toiletries.

The Bathroom was Decent Sized

The Work Desk, Filament Light, and Odd Chair
Cute But Total Rubbish to Actually Use

A Ladder to Replace A Real Closet?

The PaliHotel tried too hard to be cool. And traded away basic hotel features. It actually comes off more like a (very) high priced youth hostel.

With some serious tweaking it can be great. But till then, for those who want to stay near The Grove / Farmers Market / CBS Studios, think Farmer's Daughter on Fairfax.

Roadboy's Travels © 2012

Thursday, April 19, 2012

When I Grow Up

When I Grow Up I Want to Be....

1. What grade are you in?
2. Do you have any brothers or sisters?
3. What do you want to be when you grow up?

The most common questions we pose to children....

Of course questions one and two deliver numerical answers.

Ahh but question 3, it opens up the whole world. A doctor? A police officer? A pilot? A video game designer? A famous actress/actor? A chef?

For me from about age five I said architect. My answer typically drew a patronizing "well isn't that cute" look. 

I hated that look.

But, most of the folks that gave me that look are dead, so all is forgiven.

It is actually an amazing gift to know what you want to be at a young age.

So this leads me to Dorothy. Dorothy is a life-long friend. Dorothy has traveled all over the world. She has worked for famous cooking magazines, owned her own bay area restaurant and catering business. Dorothy always knew what she wanted to be.

And, the fact of the matter is - Dorothy cooks better than anyone I have ever known.

Sorry grandma.

So go read her new blog. I'll make it easy click here!

Come hungry.

Roadboy's Travels © 2012

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Boy From the Dust

Traveling to Survive

Despite decades working as a big city police officer he remained a country boy at heart. He saw things and people as good or bad. He could not be bothered to stew about shades of grey.

When he set out to do something, whether building a house, rebuilding an engine block, or refinishing furniture, he saw his jobs through.

He was totally loyal. He would think nothing of giving the shirt off his back to someone who needed it more. He found money on the ground everywhere we went.

I saw him cry only once.

Despite all the provocation I could muster, I do not recall him ever hitting me. I did, however, witness him lose his temper. Being Irish, it was truly frightening.

Soon after anyone asked where he was we'd smell Swisher Sweet's coming from the garage.

He had a head full of hair till he died. He got his height from his mom.

He was a lifelong Republican. As soon as I reached voting age I took great pride in consistently canceling out his vote.

Almost every female that knew him confided that, at one time or another, they had a crush on him.

His name was Meredith. But everyone (except grandma) called him Mac.

To me he was just dad.

Standing: Dad, John, Grandpa Bev, Vernon
Dale (in Front)

Born in 1923, he was the third son born to Bev Lewis and Alpha Iola in Mullinville Kansas. Mullinville, population 250, is located in Kiowa County about 30 miles east of Dodge City. Today Mullinville's claim to fame is limited to MT Liggett's fantastic folk art lining Route 400 just west of town. 

The family worked Grandpa's farm until the bank sent earth movers in to crush their farmhouse. After gathering whatever they could, the family walked beside their ancient (and overloaded) Ford from Kansas to Pritchett Colorado.

Our family knows what drives the banking industry. The only difference between their reckless behavior leading to the depression and today is their steady declines in integrity.

Upon arrival in Colorado his family of eight dug a hole in the ground, covered it with wood planks and rolled roofing and called it home.

His childhood stories never acknowledged poverty. They were just another dustbowl family working to survive. They ate a lot of beans and he remembered vividly the day a government truck dropped off fresh oranges from California. He said those oranges were the best thing he had ever tasted.

Dad described life in Pritchett as time spent working on Uncle Lester's wheat and broomcorn fields, playing high school basketball and dreaming of how to escape.

Working the Wheat Fields in Pritchett

Eventually his oldest brother (John) moved to California. He took a back breaking job busting scrap iron for transport to Japan. As soon as dad could go he also went to Long Beach to live with his Aunt Elizabeth taking a job at Consolidated Aircraft. He loved California and told me how excited he was to be able to go to the Long Beach waterfront to watch Howard Hughes fly his Spruce Goose. 

When Japan started firing all that scrap iron back at the US John immediately enlisted in the Army. Dad went Navy.

Standing: Waundia, John, Vernon, Da
Seated: Maxine, Grandma Alpha Iola, Grandpa Bev Lewis, Dale

Going to War

John was quickly sent to Europe serving under Patton. He survived the Battle of the Bulge. After the war he became withdrawn. He lived in the attic of his sister Waundia's log farmhouse and never talked about the war. After he died we found a cigar box full of medals.

In the Navy dad was a firefighter. He was assigned to San Diego and the Alameda Naval Air Station. In Oakland he met my mom at a dance at Sweet's Ballroom.

Mom At Yosemite 1945

Mom and dad courted in Oakland, in Golden Gate Park and at Yosemite (where she worked each summer.) He was totally smitten, sending mom postcards and saving his gas coupon's until he had enough to drive to Yosemite whenever he could.     

A Post Card From Agua Caliente 
On the back: "There is 3 Jackasses Here - the One With the Hat is the Biggest"

At Golden Gate Park

Dad After Proposing At Yosemite

He proposed to mom on one of his trips to Yosemite. They were married in a Lutheran Church in Reno.

The Wedding Photo's

With the war drawing to a close dad became a police officer. Being a police officer defined my dad from that time on. Dad loved helping people.

Dad Working Radio

While still in his twenties he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. One generation earlier this would have been a death sentence, but the development of injectible insulin allowed for him to live a full life. It probably is the reason I am here to write this blog post today.

In fact, after witnessing many of his fellow officers fall to alcoholism, depression and suicide, he concluded that diabetes saved his life by forcing him to grow up, eat right and pass on the booze.

After raising a family, my parents moved to the country. He could once again fish and hunt and heat his house with wood.

Dad passed in 1998.

I guess if five of life's character defining events are:

1. Facing hunger
2. Being homeless
3. Overcoming serious illness
4. Shouldering a weapon in wartime
5. Working in a profession where you put your life on the line everyday

I score zero.

Dad scores five for five

Whenever we made family road trips if we heard Bobby Darin croon: "Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth dear...." dad would smile broadly and sing along.

Nowadays I do the same thing.

Mack the Knife was dad's favorite song.

Roadboy's Travels © 2012