Last Night

Trip Start Nov 08, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

We made our way back over to the Park Hyatt. Our first visit there had been such a success that I felt like we needed to go again and see what the skyline looks like when the sky is black and the buildings are decorated with a million points of light. Plus, when we were there the previous morning, we only made it to the 41st floor, but at night the New York City restaurant and bar is open - on the 52nd floor. It's only 11 more floors, how big of a difference can it make? Yes, but it's about 20% higher. Did I just blow your mind?

Still, we wanted to see it, so we strode back up to the hotel with the same confidence as before. The only difference was that now that the sun had set, the place was much busier and people were elegantly dressed and we looked like we had been hiking around town all day like vagrants. But as I assured Lindsey (and myself in my head), they don't know we don't have money. Maybe we're so hip we look poor. And even if we stick out, the Japanese are entirely too proper and polite to say anything to make us feel unwelcome. We just had to hope that no yuppie pricks from Dallas or LA had emmigrated to Tokyo to work at the Park Hyatt. We made our way back up to the 41st floor where we could catch a second elevator up to the top. The views from the same lounge we had visited during the day were still stunning at night. Mt. Fuji was missing, but the city looked more majestic. Only the most impressive structures were prominant, and the darkness hid the many crumbling edifices that sprawled out away from the city center.

We again felt out of place, but this time is was almost paralizing. You can say over and over again that you don't care what people think, but it would be horrifying for someone to stride toward you, look at you reproachfully, and ask if they could help you in a tone that clearly meant "Get out of our nice hotel before one of your fleas bites me." But people only smiled politely, if not apologetically. We had to walk by several fine dining establishments in order to reach the elevator that would whisk us up to our goal of the 52nd floor. We made it through unscathed, and with a deep breath and a smirk, we pushed the button for the New York Grill.

The doors opened and we were greeted with our worst fears realized: Two door people waiting to welcome us up. Beautiful classical music drifting through the air. A haze of candle light around the corner. The woman was wearing a black evening dress, the man a tux, but I quickly looked past them at the floor to ceiling windows that displayed the whole of Tokyo at my feet. 11 floors makes all the difference. I stepped out of the elevator, asked if they had a bar (with no intention of staying or buying a drink), and just then another man walked toward us, well-dressed, distinguished, and taller than me (which made me even more uncomfortable). He spoke to us in English and asked the expected "Can I help you?" But none of the disdain was there. No condescending look, just a genuine smile. He caught me off guard. I explained that we had heard there was a bar up here but that it was obviously too posh for us to visit in such improper attire. He laughed and smiled warmly and assured us it was not too posh and that we should come in and have a drink. I thanked him and told him we would come back another night when we were better dressed (this whole time I'm staring out the window, drinking up the view I faced all this possible humiliation for). He said again that the place was nothing special, but that the view as we could see was quite special, and that we should stay for a drink. I declined and faced Lindsey (who had frozen like a baby deer and I had to nudge her back to the elevator). We pushed the button to return to the 41st floor (which we now realized was a hole and not worth our even glancing out the windows) and we took one last look at the brightly lit skyline as the elevator doors slid closed in front of us.

Once we made our way down I wondered why I had even worried. Why should I care if strangers give me dirty looks or whisper as I walk away? I'm not that guy am I? I'd have to say that on the whole I am not. But it's that same fear I get when I speak in public. It's threatening having those eyes on you, seeing their judgment, their distaste. And the thing that makes it so painfully difficult is that if I were allowed a conversation with each of them, I could defend my position so well, explain that I choose to live a certain way or dress a certain way, that I reproach their lives more than they could possible disapprove of mine. I'd get overly defensive, say that I would always choose care-free poverty over a wealthy slavery to a career or lifestyle or a car payment. But there is no opportunity for that. And no need. It's just a passing look, then they're gone. And when they're gone the feeling quickly passes. The fear disappears and I'm just glad I got to see that view. And I think everyone should. I'm going to start taking homeless people up that elevetor and telling them to go press their dirty faces against the glass, have a good look, and soak it all in until someone politely asks, "Can I help you?"
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