Living in the moment at Cityhouse

It was inevitable that in a world where most hotel lobbies are stuck in the 1980s — with mauves and light grays and retro Art Deco accents — that we would reach a point where more modern hotels get stuck in the 1990s. Places that tried desperately to upgrade and escape the Golden Girls parlor look are now themselves anachronisms. Case in point: Parc 55's Cityhouse.

Don't get me wrong: The '90s is still a fuzzy decade, yet to be defined by any one shtick. The '50s was all about poodle skirts, the '60s focused on hippies, the '70s was van culture, the '80s was Valley Girls, and the '90s … dang. Still, I know a '90s hotel bar when I see one.

My comrades and I sat on a low, boxy sofa made of scrubbed brown velour. The rest of the seating in Cityhouse is shaded in rich reds and aubergines. The rug beneath our feet had a sparse, clean geometric pattern. If this had been the '80s, we would've seen the same pattern, but designed as if it had been hand-painted, with brush strokes and splatter. But this was the '90s. Oh, wait, this was the 2010s. A wise movie production designer once said that if set dressers were accurate, any movies that took place in the 1950s would have living room sets from the 1930s and 1940s, since that is really how people lived. None of us exist exactly in our own decade.

I wish we had been filming a movie the day I went to Cityhouse. I had two of my developmentally disabled clients with me, as well as another staff person. The clients were on a date, although once they actually got together on said date, they didn't really say a word to each other. That's how these things generally go. My clients will spend an excited day in anticipation of seeing one another, and then, when it is actually happening, they act like they couldn't care less. I suppose you and I go through the same things, except we have to fake it on the date and act like we are glad to be there.

Still, the young man, whom I will call Frank, had made a college try with the woman, whom I will call Maude.

Frank: “Knock knock.”

Maude: [Silence]

Frank: “Knock knock!”

Maude: [Silence]

Frank: “You are supposed to say, 'Who is there?' Okay? Okay. Knock knock!”

Maude: [Stared blankly and then looked at me] “KayKay, he kookoo nuts.”

Despite their ill attempts at communication, the two are fairly crazy about one another, and most Mondays are spent tootling around town with them. It's the highlight of my week.

The waitress brought us fizzy water, diet Cokes, and a basket of french fries, which disappeared in about two minutes. I leaned back and looked around. Everyone at Cityhouse was moneyed, attractive, or on a business trip of some sort. The space was big, with tall and low tables. The whole lounge was on the second floor, overlooking Powell Plaza.

Ah, Powell Plaza. On the way in, a gutter punk with needle marks on his arms squatted down in Maude's way to say hi to her. She is pretty cute, being 4 feet tall, stout, Chinese, and having Down syndrome. But she is not a little baby, which is how this guy was talking to her. Again, she gave one of her blank stares and then said, “You kookoo nuts,” and pushed past him.

Now Maude was holding court at our table, letting out whoops and cackles at whatever struck her fancy. People were staring. Good, I thought. It's the 1990s. Get with it, people.

When I think of the '90s, I think of those chunky, brightly colored Apple computers in shades of tangerine and blueberry. I think of retro-chic, like tiki bars, Martin Denny, and Kustom Kulture. I remember never brushing my long hair for three years so that it would look messy and grungy, and trying to make my boyfriend wear baggier shorts. Jane's Addiction sounded like Southern California to me. I loved Public Enemy and hated positive-hippie hip-hop. But how would you draw a picture of any of these things to distinguish the decade from any other? And what about the 2000s? I have no idea how to define the last 10 years.

The real question is, why does it matter? I don't know. It just does. You never know what you're in when you're in it. It's like Maude and Frank's date — they will talk about it afterward for a week, and that's after talking about it nonstop before it happens. But when it's actually going on, it's hard for them to connect to the moment.

We all walked down to the street. The revolving door was fun to try and maneuver. I pretended to put Maude on a luggage cart so I could push her down the stairs. “Kay, you kookoo nuts!” Frank gave Maude little playful pokes. He was smiling sheepishly. I remembered what he said to me on their last date, spelling it out so that Maude wouldn't understand —  “M.A.R.R.Y!” — and then pointing at her. I love my Mondays with them. We all made plans to see each other again, and Frank got on the bus.

Maude and I walked to the number 30 bus stop to Chinatown. I would take her home and help her get settled. She would mark the day off her calendar by putting a big X through it. The sun was going down, so she couldn't see so well as we walked. She squeezed my hand tightly and we made our way. It was Monday, March 15, 2010, at 7:15 p.m. That much I knew.

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