A love letter to the Flatotel in New York

Dear Flatotel

It’s a little after midnight, and my bag is packed in preparation for tomorrow’s flight back home to Phoenix. This part of the trip always makes me a little sad. In some ways, I feel like traveling for business affords sort of a partial exemption of work responsibilities: You get to activate the “out of office” e-mail autoreply and phone greeting, which starts it all, and the travel days themselves eat up almost a full workday each way.

Julianne Moore & Ralph Fiennes in "The End of the Affair"

My first trip to New York was for a press junket for the movie “The End of the Affair,” starring Ralph Fiennes, Julianne Moore and Stephen Rea, and pretty much everything I decided to do turned against me. I made it an overnight trip, for starters: Got to the hotel just in time to jump on a bus for the movie screening, got up the next day and did round-table interviews with the stars, then grabbed my bag and headed back to Newark, N.J.

Other bad ideas: Not researching cab fare ($50 each way, at a time when I was living without credit cards); thinking it was a good idea to walk from the hotel at the top of Central Park to a bar in Chelsea (“how far could it be?”

); deciding to make that walk in new Beatle boots. The overall experience was so awful that the following week, when my editor asked if I’d be interested in going back for a junket about the movie “The Next Best Thing,” I suggested somebody else go, even though that meant I rejected the opportunity to meet both Madonna and Rupert Everett (with whom my friend Sharyn and I had been mildly obsessed with since watching “The Comfort of Strangers” many years previously).

In fact, I didn’t return to New York for 10 years after that.

On my first trip back, we stayed at the Hilton, a classic businessperson’s hotel — gigantic but generic, convenient but utterly unmemorable, and the sort of place where they stick you with $18 a day to use the Internet in your room. When I found out we’d be going back to the city more frequently, I did my research and found you, Flatotel.

Chic like a boutique hotel, but without the condescension and attitude. I appreciate that you’re not trying too hard to get attention, like the Standard and its voyeurism gimmick. The organic Sprout Out shower products are delightful. Practical Sammitt loves that you hand over a cable Internet cord for free if guests ask for it, and that you’re seriously across the street from one of my clients. I love the beds, the rooms and except for that time when those European women were camped out on the business center computers, jabbering away in a foreign tongue while researching their island vacation when I was waiting to just print my damn boarding pass, pretty much everything has been seamless. Even that time we messed up our reservations and had people needing to stay a day later (but in only one of the rooms, and we needed to split the payment), and kept bugging your behind-the-scenes team about shipping out packages and needing Band-Aids and I forgot my laptop charger and could you check to see if the FedEx package has arrived yet? (How about now? How about NOW?)

This trip, however, was a whole new level. For some reason, we ended up getting upgraded to one-bedroom suites. Your website says these suites start at $11,500 a month, and I assume that’s the studio-size one. For the past few days I’ve been wandering around a setup that, at 1,100 square feet, is half the size of my house.

The living room, with south-facing windows.

The only downside is that, totally unprepared for such a gesture, I actually have availed myself of only about the standard stuff. No lounging or relaxing in the living room, just sitting at the desk working. I never set foot in the second bathroom (although I briefly considered doing so, just out of principle). The full kitchen? I got ice out of the refrigerator once, and it turns out that the wireless Internet works best in there, so I spent an hour or so perched up on the counter trying to punch out some e-mails. I haven’t turned on either of the flat-screen TVs. When I wake up in the morning, four-fifths of the acre-sized bed is completely untouched (while the remaining one-fifth looks like a tornado has hit it).

The bathroom, with more windows. And the robe.

OK, I did totally use the bedroom closet and its many shelves — mostly out of principle, again, emptying absolutely everything out of my suitcase and either hanging or stacking it in an appropriate place. Every morning I marvel at the water pressure and delicious amounts of hot water available for the taking (even if the shower nozzle is for some reason about chin-height, forcing me to perform acrobatic maneuvers to rinse the aforementioned Sprout Out products from my hair). And for some reason, I love the clothesline that goes whizzing from one side of the shower to the other, which I believe is a kinder way to treat a towel than trying to either wedge it back onto the rack (“I will use again!”) or wadding it up on the floor (“Please wash”). I know renters probably use it for line-drying of actual laundry, but a temp like me has gotta make do with what he’s got.

I’ll even miss your windows that actually open — just a wedge’s worth, no doubt to prevent any jumpers from going bananas onto the sidewalks below — even if now that the night temperatures are in the 30s, opening them would lead to more misery than good. And I’ll miss the comfy terry-lined robe (which I am currently rocking, thankyouverymuch, allowing me to pack away everything that won’t be worn tomorrow).

You really are more like a flat than a hotel room. I’d say it makes me feel more at home, but I don’t have a robe this nice at home. (Or a robe at all, actually. Maybe it’s time to consider one.) I can’t wait to come back to you again.

Love, Sam.

WHAT SAM WORE: 11-14-10
The shirt: Cotton pullover from H&M, New York
The pants: Cotton track pants by Armani Exchange,
from the outlet store in Palm Springs, Calif.
The shoes: Samba sneakers by Adidas, from Sports Authority.
(C’mon, “Sam” is right there in the name of the shoe!)
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