at the Peabody Hotel
I walk through the lobby of the Peabody, passing the fountains where, twice a day - once in the morning, and once in the evening - a school of ducks is led down a red carpet into a fountain by a duckmaster. And despite this popular daily tradition a once busy lobby has significantly dimmed, like most everything else, because of the virus. As I pass through the main floor and past the bar I am met by the sweet smell of perfume from the gift shop and the player piano plucking out standards. A player piano feels appropriate for this moment in history: a ghost plucking out ominous standards to an empty hotel lobby, save the staff and myself. When I check in the attendant alerts me that I have been upgraded to a suite with no extra charge given the length of my stay and the vacancy of the hotel. After handing me my keys I make my way across the lobby, up the elevator to the fourth floor, and finally to my room, number 409.
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The room is the size of a large apartment and I'm grateful for the extra space especially as I plan to set up a mobile recording rig to demo on over the upcoming weeks. I consider the shape of the room around me and immediately start to rearrange the furniture to accommodate the makeshift studio. If I had to guess, the room is 200 square feet, and is complete with a large living area, a king sized bed facing a television, a bathroom (with bath and shower), a beauty nook that houses a very large vanity mirror, and a large closet. I decided to spread my gear throughout the room, setting up different stations, each serving a different purpose: Next to the bed I placed a small keyboard; in the beauty nook, my gibson acoustic guitar; and the mobile rig–a laptop and a few microphones–I placed in the middle of the room.
Out the west facing windows you can see a labyrinth of other buildings downtown and beyond them–the Mississippi river, reflecting the moon. I unload the mostly non-perishable groceries into a corner of the room — I plan to make most of my meals from these basic ingredients to avoid eating around others, to avoid the virus. The room does not come with a fridge, so I fill up a bucket of ice and put a few beers on top.
On that first night I found myself feeling restless and uneasy. Why had I come to Memphis? What did I expect to find? Was I really going to spend two and a half weeks here, alone? Feeling claustrophobic, I have a beer in the all but empty lobby — just me and the bar staff — and call a friend. I say I’m thinking about driving back home right then, making the 7 hour trek through the night, but my friend, on the other end of the line, encourages me to stay.
In the morning, I open the windows to downtown, to the river–and I write;
I am happy the suns rising,
Through the faint pink of my eyelids.
I’ll stay at least a day or two, I tell myself.