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Writer Stan Parish has always been inspired by hotels. The germ of the idea for this summer’s heist thriller, “Love and Theft,” was sparked by a stay at the Wynn in Las Vegas. In the last few months, though, Parish has taken his fondness for room service and turndown one step further: checking into fancy hotels around New York City to make them his ad hoc home slash office.
“It was the price of an airport motel room, and considerably less than a Soho House membership,” he said of his recent stays using the last minute booking app HotelTonight. “I’ll be thanking the developers of that app in the credits of the TV pilot I’m writing.”
Parish is following in a grand literary tradition of writers working from hotels, especially in New York: both Arthur Miller and William S. Burroughs hit creative highs while living in, and working out of, a room at the Chelsea Hotel, for instance.
The late writer Maya Angelou recognized this, too; she rented a room specially to focus when in the throes of writing (Parish cites her as inspiration for his idea).
“To write, I lie across the bed, so that this elbow is absolutely encrusted at the end, just so rough with callouses,” Angelou said, “I never allow the hotel people to change the bed, because I never sleep there. I go into the room and I feel as if all my beliefs are suspended.”
Now, though, the practice is more viable — and more welcomed — than ever, as pandemic-hobbled hotels in NYC struggle to weather the dearth of tourists.
Earlier this year, one report predicted that 25,000 of NYC’s hotel rooms, or around 20 percent of the industry’s capacity in the city, would not reopen after shuttering for the pandemic. Some innovative properties have tried repurposing those empty rooms: see Williamsburg’s Wythe Hotel, which has converted some into ad hoc private dining spaces, where up to 10 people can book for supper, catered from Le Crocodile, its brasserie downstairs. Taking up full time residence, though, is more viable than ever, given that rates have slumped: Per initial figures from industry tracking firm STR, the ADR — or average price of a hotel room per night — in New York City in October 2020 was $135.10. Twelve months earlier, it was $295.60, so rooms are less than half price versus a year ago.
Other hotels, like the swish NoMad on Broadway and 28th Street, are offering “locals” rates (starting at just $305 per night) for people in the city and the tri-state area. For instance, a suite at the NoMad that typically runs $2,100 will set back a New Yorker just $1,700, which the hotels said has attracted a number of staycationers — who receive a 20 percent discount and a $500 dining credit for stays over two weeks.
Parish’s preferred sojourning spots have been the Beekman in the Financial District – he loves the black marble desks — the Soho Grand and Nolitan. He said that hotel rooms provide a “neutrality” that’s conducive to his creativity.
“My living space has always been a kind of shrine to my favorite distractions — books, art, records, Italian liqueurs,” he said. “When I’m writing away from home, I want to the space to be as free of distractions as possible. The idea [of a hotel room] is to keep the space as sterile and minimal as possible.”
Parish declines penthouse rooms, despite the views — too prone to party types, as he learned early on — but insists on housekeeping, for professional reasons.
“Cleaning your home is a classic artistic act of procrastination, but when your room is cleaned daily you have one less excuse to stop working,” he said, noting that he lives out of a small bag for several months at time. “A few days of uninterrupted work is the dream of every creative I know. Hotels are perfect for that.”
Family-free tranquility is what drove authors Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen into hotel rooms. The New York Times bestselling duo lives in different cities — Greer in New York, Sarah in Washington, DC — so they were forced to travel if they wanted to work together in person.
“I hear it most often from other parents; that these hotel writing respites breathe fresh air into the work process,” said Pekkanen, who says they often cover the walls with giant Post-its covered in notes. “One time, we checked out, and I accidentally left the Post-its up after we checked out, and we imagine the cleaning person coming into the room and staring in horror at the words on the notes: ‘Make murder look like suicide?’ and ‘Knife or gun?’ “
It isn’t just writers inspired by Miller and Co. drawing inspiration (and isolation) from hotel rooms — their digital-era counterparts are adopting the practice, too.
Just ask LA-based influencer Becky Garcia, 38, aka @beckyboricua. She has visited NYC regularly over the last few months, living and working from Hotel 50 on the Bowery. It’s part of the Work from Hyatt program, which the hospitality giant has launched for this very reason.
“It doesn’t feel like a hotel, but like a very comfy home, and anything I need I can just request it,” she told the Post.
Hotel 50, per Garcia, has become more than just a place to sleep and work.
”A boutique hotel like that inspires me to create — the views are amazing. It gives me that extra energy, that impulse to start creating,” she said “The décor, the ambiance, the energy of a hotel — I start creating without realizing I’m even doing it.”