In January 2002, broken, I read Heidegger's Being and Time and thought nonstop about hotels.
Heidegger was my hotel, an unfriendly, dominating, domicile. I stayed for one cold, difficult month.
No philosopher, I entered Being and Time for aesthetic pleasure and for hotel gleanings.
My goal: to refurbish the meaning of hotel. As Heidegger says, "it is the business of philosophy to protect the power of the most elemental words..." (...)
Being-at-home, Heidegger says, is not the "primordial phenomenon." "Not-being-at-home" is more fundamental. To be not-at-home may mean to be at hotel. (Am I at home in this language?)
I may deviate from Heidegger in this discussion.
Hotel presupposes home. To speak about hotel is an oblique way to address home problems.
Do you check into a hotel? Or does the hotel condition check into you?
My friend referred to his lover's death, euphemistically, as "checking out": "Mark checked out." We "check out" when we cruise: "I checked him out."
Dwelling in the hotel state, my voice newly neutral and indifferent, I hope to override the "They" of home, of fixed domicile.
HEIDEGGER AND CUSTARD PIE
While reading Being and Time, suddenly I remembered a custard pie from the 1960s. I hadn't tasted it; I'd merely seen it, quivering, in its cafeteria vitrine. The relation between house and hotel is like the relation between restaurant and self-serve smorgasbord. The custard pie, trembling behind glass, is the hotel, offering itself.
Hotel existence uncannily suspends us above groundedness. To be in hotel is to float, or to tremble, like just-set custard.
Heidegger frequently uses the term "thrown." We are thrown into Being. And, I'd add, we are thrown into the hotel, thrown into its impersonal, public muddle.
We turn away from work as a means of "taking care," says Heidegger. To check into a hotel: this too, may be a mode of taking care, of refusal.
Hotel is a method of "not-staying." Curious, we stray; we enter the euphoric state of "never dwelling anywhere."
Hotel existence, because socially unattached, is silent, even amid noise.
We may take speed in a hotel room, and yet a hotel room more frequently finds us tranquilized and numb. Stranded, alienated, closed off from authenticity, in the hotel we commit what Heidegger calls "the plunge." We dive into "everydayness." We eddy. We "fall prey."
To be in hotel: is this an inauthentic practice? Checking into a hotel, are we freed from surveillance and ordinariness, or are we squashed and smothered by the "They"?"
—Wayne Koestenbaum, Hotel Theory