I can remember the first time I stepped foot into the Plaza Hotel. Situated on the corner of 59th street, directly across from Central Park, my preteen eyes had been fixated on the awe inducing building for the entirety of an afternoon walk with my Grandfather. He was rambling on about the flaws in the public transportation system, claiming that the trains were simply ‘Too packed. Just too darn packed.”
I don’t know if he expected me to respond, considering I was a mere eleven years old and this was just my second time being in the heart of the city. I think he was just content to have someone there to listen, a youthful soul to hold his rough hand and pretend to care. That was perfectly fine with me. I was busy admiring. It seemed that I could not pull my eyes away from the hotel. Something about it was utterly captivating. Even at such a young age, I recognized that there was a history there, something magical.
My Grandfather soon realized I was paying very little attention to his dramatic rant.
“What are you looking at, darling?” he asked in the most interested way. Even he could tell I was mesmerized, and maybe he thought for just a small moment, he too could experience the constant enchantment of a child’s life.
“The Hotel, Grandfather. Its so…so….” I struggled for the proper adjective. It seemed that nothing could truly describe its splendor.
“Can we go, oh please Grandfather! Can we go and just take a peak inside?” I pleaded with all my might. Typically, he was a stubborn man. A man that had a plan and stuck with it, and I was well aware that todays plan included the quickly approaching train back to my parents house in Westchester. But to my surprise, some of my excitement seemed to persuade him.
“You know, Isabel, I just happen to know someone who works in that hotel. It is quite possible that she may be working today. Lets go.“ He grabbed my hand and tugged eagerly, with a subtle yet recognizable flash of light in the depths of his eyes.
As we approached the entrance to the hotel, people scattered the sidewalk, making it that more difficult to get to the entryway. They tipped doormen, juggled bags galore, and anxiously flagged down each scarce taxi -cab. The revolving door didn’t cease for a moment: people constantly entered and departed. My heart ached for those leaving: their stay had ended. For a brief moment, I felt a sadness come over me. Such a majestic place was only a place of residence for visitors temporarily, never being granted the opportunity to fully discover that unique love between family and home. The feeling escaped me quickly, however, as I was bombarded with an overwhelming scene of grandness.
The hotel lobby was a vision of perfection. Marble floors and columns somehow gave off an air of warmth and excitement, despite the cold quality they had to the touch. Gold accents lined the building from head to toe, and well off guests shuffled and laughed without a care in the world. Even then, I felt like the streets of Manhattan and every other place in this ginormous world could not top the emotion this room evoked. At just 11 years old, I had fallen in love.
I became so engulfed by the allure of the room, I hardly noticed that my Grandfather had disappeared to the check-in desk. He was conversing with a woman, an older woman, with eyes that looked distantly sad and newly happy, all at once.
“Isabel! Come here, darling.” My Grandfather waved me over. “This is Mary. We knew each other a long, long time ago. Where have the years gone?” He was oddly excited, I thought to myself.
“Eleanor told me you were working in the city, I just haven’t had the time to stop by,” my Grandfather explained to Mary. She forced a toothless smile.
“Yes, well I know how busy Eleanor keeps you, Jonathan.” The words came out sharply, but before he could respond, Mary was grabbing my hand and leading me to a winding staircase.
“Would you like a tour of the hotel, Isabel? Your Grandfather has told me you have quite the fixation with this beautiful piece of the city. Good taste, might I add.”
On that day, so many years ago, I was granted the opportunity to take a journey through a fantastical world. Such a beautiful, affluent reality the hotel helped to maintain. My young innocence could see no wrong, not a single flaw in all its existence. I was naïve to the secrets it hid. The way that such a large, cornerstone of a city had the potential to house so much corruption. After all, what happens behind the lined doors of a hotel embodied by greatness is a mystery to all, for glamour and fortune can certainly keep a blinded innocent distracted from the wrong doings that are in reality, just the touch of a hand away.