Friday, December 17, 2010

The Turquoise Room.

Last week, I wrapped a project in Denver, packed up and drove to Los Angeles over a weekend, and started running on another project here on Monday. I bitched about making yet another move with a car load of crap for weeks before I actually had to do it. Just when I was at the end of my moving-around-the-globe-for-projects rope, this most recent route took me through northern Arizona, an area I grew up hiking, biking and running as a kid. While I can't say driving 1,500 miles in two days was a blissful experience, one of the stops I made along the way reminded me why I ultimately love my nomadic lifestyle.

On a recommendation from a colleague, I stopped for breakfast along I-40 at the Turquoise Room inside the historic La Posada hotel in Winslow, Arizona.  I ordered the second best bread pudding I have ever eaten. (The best was an Italian friend's grandmother's recipe in Portland, Oregon, that my friend topped with dark chocolate and served warm.) This one was a pumpkin spice bread, soaked in cream and topped with prickly pear cactus syrup, pine nuts, dried cherries, and candied quince from the hotel's backyard garden. The rest of the menu was filled with elk sausage, duck leg, and other local ingredients and the coffee was roasted nearby in Flagstaff.
I feel like there's a joke to be made somewhere when into the dining room walk three Brits, two American tourists, a rock show crew member-looking guy, and me.  Rock show guy told the waitress he came out from Flagstaff just for his breakfast.  I was surprised, mostly because he didn't look like the kind of guy who would be up before 10am on a Sunday, much less a guy who would drive an hour and a half for breakfast.  As if the Brits didn't already spotlight it, rock show guy's imported presence put an even finer point on the spectacle of a gilded emptiness of this lovingly preserved building in its dusty old railway town. The opposite of ruin porn, it was like time capsule porn. Dining in this oasis of history and time reminded me a bit of my place in Nebraska, the old library.  The town around it is struggling to hang on, and the library is a gem in what I will eventually have to admit is a decaying way of life, even though the romantic notion of knowing such a place still exists comforts me.

In the La Posada, I couldn't get away from the sentiment of a bygone world. This beautiful, haunting mural seemed a continuation of an homage to former lives; the people sitting in front are gray and grotesquely deceased.
A few trains squealed by, kicking up some lonely desert dust.  Like a life support machine, the trains' schedules seem to deliver the only pulse left in Winslow.  The La Posada is a romantic, solemn nod to the younger, fitter displays of the railroad's opulence. They ate well in those times, and clearly still in these. I honestly wonder when I will be able to come back through and have dinner and drinks at this place again, because despite time passing over the location, the chefs in the kitchen provide a reason alone to make the trek into the desert.

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