The Strays of Hotel Pine St. Part 1

He blew in on a November breeze.
Wearing a gray coat worn out at the knees.
In a low, whiskey voice he said, “Mister please,
Do you have an extra bed?”
He shook the winter from his head.
Then I gave him a bight to eat,
And welcomed another stray to halls of Hotel Pine St.


First. I’d like it to be known that I am not a poet. Rhyming, poetic imagery, meter, all of these things have been crossed off my Christmas Card list for many years now. We aren’t on speaking terms, and we aren’t the best of friends.

Second. I would also like it to be known that I would never willfully post anything resembling a structured piece of verse. Ever. I’ll leave that to the professionals.

So why am I breaking protocol? Two months ago, I get a soulful injection of good memories from an old friend; the side effects include extreme nostalgia, reminiscing about once upon a time and blog topics. Two weeks ago, I felt inclined to reciprocate said gesture of goodwill through my own means. Two days ago, I just received word that a common denominator of my life will finally be drawing to a close. Two hours ago, I fired up my blog site and tried to make some sense out of the pencil scratch in my journal. Time is not my friend. The only deadlines that exist in my life are the ones that in my head, and therefore, most important. My new found Sense of Urgency is getting a little dusty, having not been using it in over a year. It was something I picked up in an office environment and I assumed should be used in an office situation. That was over a year ago when I had a legitimate office job. And I was still smoking. And things were set in there ways. And blahblahblah……As of this moment in time, the most personal is the most important. I need to give this voice. A chapter is closing on my life, and I feel I need to scream before they draw the shades and change the locks forever.

Time is not my friend.


‘Twas on this date two years before,
Another stray came through the same door.
His eyes were heavy and his back was sore
From staying up all night.
A Welcome Mat is a welcomed sight.
Then he crashed out in the window seat,
And woke up in the morning rays of Hotel Pine St.

His name was Elijah.

My friend is a bit of a shutterbug and also shares my affinity for Portland, Maine. Every nook, every cranny, everything blatantly obvious, or easily overlooked is precious and we regard it as such. Only, I have to rely on memory which is almost twenty years on, and hers is firmly planted in the present. She has seen the wax and wane of every trendy restaurant, political hot-button issue du jour, and ticking time-bomb relationship pass by her door for about as long as I’ve been away from my fair city. It is her home in reality, and mine in my head.

My friend is a bit of a shutterbug and also shares my affinity for Portland, Maine. Having a Facebook account and an impressive collection of photos that showcase our seaside town, she put her skills to use, and fashioned a gift application. A Gift Application, for the 2 or 3 of you who don’t know what that means, or have yet to join the rest of the planet in getting a Facebook account[Planet Facebook…..*shudder*…], is quite simply, an application to make “gifts”. These gifts are essentially pictures you have taken, found, made, or if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, animated into gif files. The sender sends one picture, or gift, to one or more if their friends, then they gift two friends, and so on, and so on…..These gifts could be anything; from inside jokes to general pop culture knowledge. Hers was everything Portland; a lovely patchwork of nostalgia consisting of a couple hundred photographs. The pictures were of old haunts, city landmarks, and perennial festivals, but the icing on this cake walk down memory lane was a photograph of a place lovingly referred to as Hotel Pine St.

The picture was a welcomed sight. It was a feeling that I suppose Old Salts and Sea Captains feel when they see their best girl immortalized on film. It’s like after being landlocked for so long, and they see a reminder of who they are, what they were, and what they can be. They feel greatness and a humbled moment of clarity at the same time. It’s the sheet music to the song that calls them back to the sea. You see, Hotel Pine St. doesn’t officially exist in any literal way. You won’t find it in any travel brochure. Zagats has completely ignored it. There is no website dedicated to it, and you won’t find an entry in Wikipedia about it. If you’re very lucky, you might find something in the Portland Chamber of Commerce regarding this building.The “Hotel” is another in a long procession of Gothic inspired brick houses that survived The Great Fire of Portland. Its architecture isn’t particularly unique for the area, in fact most of the buildings in this neighborhood were designed by an unknown Italian immigrant who, to varying degrees, built entire residential blocks from the same plans. Among it’s historical highlights, it was allegedly a pit stop along the Underground Railroad, but has been converted into apartments for as long as anyone can remember. To anyone reading this, it’s just another building that had just another apartment in just another town. But, for a bright, shining moment in the early Nineties, one of them was inhabited by me. For all intents and purposes, she was my best girl.

Multiple gushing thank-you’s like a fan boy’s platitudes weren’t enough. Responding with a worn out old video of “Old Apartment” from the Bare Naked Ladies seemed lackluster. My friend put a lot of time and effort into something rather insignificant but at the same time really cool and much needed for the soul and therefore rendered her entire project sublime. I needed to respond somehow on the same level, and I was coming up with a dandelion corsage; nothing seemed to measure up. So, what to do? A journal entry of mine sort of sheds a light on this minor frustration.

Idea for a blog: Hotel Pine St.

What style? Story form? Where I try to recall the birth of Hotel Pine St. and the many characters that have inhabited her? That might work, if I had the time. But nothing happened there that hasn’t happened anywhere else in the world.

The usual way? A journal form that weaves in and out of fiction? Maybe. The style I write in still doesn’t preclude the fact that not much happened there. It has to grab the readers’ attention. It has to grab my attention. So, where to start?

At the end. Start at the point where everything is packed into a U-Haul and I drive away to New York. Then again, it wouldn’t really be considered an end, because it had a life of its own. It kept right on going. Anyway…

And it sort of went on like that for another paragraph or so. A few days pass, and I’ve had a chance for this idea to steep in my head; something to keep me at least half awake during work. Then…

After mulling it over for the past few days, I’ve decided to write it epic-poem style. The more I got the idea of writing this way in my head, the more I channeled a younger, angrier Dylan. The more I thought about it, the more I found myself falling in love with Blood on the Tracks. Especially, Tangled Up in Blue. It is a powerful song. The story behind it is rich enough, but more to the point, it’s lyrically potent as well. It’s structurally sound; the framework itself is a testimony to architecture that has been mastered many lifetimes ago, and was built with full intention of lasting forever. Timeless.

The deciding factor lay in that reasoning. If I were to handle this as business as usual, then it would’ve came across as such. I wanted this memory to be timeless. Therefore, I chose a more timeless landscape.

This rambling session still didn’t take care of the “where to start” issue. I had a plan in motion, and not much else. Good intentions, but no license from Hell’s zoning board yet. It would be another week until I fell face first into my Eureka moment.

His name was Elijah.


It wasn’t long before more came to stay.
Some stayed for years, and a few just a day.
A few surfed on couches, the rest paid their own way
To the carnival inside.
You had to be this big to take this ride
Up to where the gypsies meet.
A mad romp through the haze of Hotel Pine St.


(*not Hotel Pine St., but a nice photo of downtown. That picture is coming soon.)


We now pause for this commercial break….

I’ve got something in the pipeline right now, it’s just taking me forever to put the finishing touches on I’ll be posting soon. But in the meantime, very excited about this…..

Tom Waits – Glitter and Doom Live from Anti Records on Vimeo.