Across from where we live [ Luzern, Sempacherstrasse 1, 3rd floor] there is a renovated Hotel called… I cannot recall the name. I am advancing in age. I can always recall excuses. But not the name of this hotel. So I step up to the window and search the adjacent façade: the hideous, port-wine-ish rug outside the front lobby reads “Renaissance”. Whereas before, the hotel before it was born again, was called Hotel Schiller. I think, age again. This latter, earlier name at least mildly pointed to the local context. It nodded in the direction of German-speaking territories, to a moiety member it might even have connoted this: central Switzerland, myth, crossbow.
Now it’s a Jugendstil-affair and the frontage has been agreeably whitened or white-washed or even blanched. I mean agreeable from a tightly egocentric perspective that is not the aesthetic amelioration visible to the jaunting tourist but the significant lumen up-tick for us downtown-LU-dwellers from across the street. Daylight washes into our living- and sleeping room in more generous tides, the sky’s tint can be read from the ambient colours the impeccably white walls are dunked in, dawns and dusks.
Now it’s a Jugendstil-affair, now it’s the “Renaissance”, which gives it, I assume, a more cosmopolitan nimbus. You go to Lucerne [the city, the lake, the mountains] and, as a side effect, a touristic perk: you are born again. There’s an involved, atonal echo with the dead, limestone Lion there if you consider it subcutaneously.
Though, to be blandly balanced, the frontispiece is beautifully ornate now. There are: cornices, architraves, friezes. All those terms, which irritatingly congregate at the tip of your tongue if you look at a building constructed in the style of classical architecture. But not the terms of course, the actual objects, I can see out of our seven-pane living room window, adorning the street front of the Renaissance, lit from below in gelid, spectral white. Most of the sleeping guests are probably unaware of how ghostly beautiful the building they are resting their souls in right now looks from the outside, by night. Not that it ought to be different, their level of awareness. All the disparities in our world, all the differences that inform it.
I am much closer now to the point I was going to make when I began writing this. The phantom Renaissance. Its guests too are ghostly in their short-livedness, live and livid in how they dart onto balconies shaping into new ectoplasmatic phenotypes [English, Chinese, US American, Indian, Polish, etc.], how they hover on ledges to immortalize their sleep-deprived countenance, pale in a pic, how their unknowable shadows gloat behind the hotel’s thick, luxurious curtains, caught in post-aerotransitional ghostdances. The bloodshot rituals of jetlag.
As the resident schmanthropologist I tent towards simple assumptions. I suppose they sleep, I take it they change their clothes, that they complain about LU’s weather, feed on the pictures they’ve taken all day long, that they slumber and jerk in their slumber, that they make long-distance phone calls and I’m rather certain that they shamelessly revert back to their national archetypes.
What they don’t do is behave neighborly. They openly ogle at the backlit spectacle of our curtain-less living room but we cannot be bothered: one, two.5, four days from now they will have vanished to be replaced by an equally curious congregation from a different fleck. They fly this way and that across the grid like real wraiths, ringed beneath their lashes. They observe [the two of us among many other things] like eternity is on their side. Rightly so. The highest art of being on vacation is to get a fortnight to be untellable from perpetuity. Time becomes out-of-time then non-time. This might be what, searching how to put it, people mean to signify when they say “I need to decompress”.
They change all the time these tourists of ours, a craze of blurred faces in rectangles of Jugendstil. We never know if we get to glimpse them again or who when next. Gravity often does not concern them so they hover through their rooms, levitate above their immaculate beds. They appear in the middle of the night in a mad dash under the trellises then disappear in the deep shadows of their day’s well-tended, soft-edged rooms. They are not neighbors, they are ghosts, friendly little picture-snapping ghosts, nothing to be afraid of.
• • •