Tuesday, October 30, 2018

A Scary Vampire Tale, Inspired by and Dedicated to Stephen King

Going Too fast on the Barlow Road
by Greg Ellstrom
  I wish that my car had broken down that night.
I wish I had run out of gas.
I would even have taken the chance of driving off the road into a tree.
Anything to have avoided seeing what I saw down that little lane that ran off the right side of State Route 47.  That little road which I felt sure was a shortcut between the towns of Castle Rock and Jerusalem’s Lot.  Even now, almost a year later, I don’t know what drove me to take that shortcut.
I was coming home from a two-day job just north of Boston.  It was Friday night of Columbus Day weekend, and I was in a hurry to get home to Annie and the kids.  So when I came upon this little road to the right, although I didn’t remember having noticed it before, I just felt that it was the way I was supposed to go.  I turned onto it and headed into the coming darkness, my high beams cutting the way through the tendrils of mist that suddenly appeared floating above the cracked blacktop.
The road, I thought, was really desolate.  Understatement!  I had gone about a mile or two before I realized that I hadn’t passed a single house.  The mist was thickening, becoming a sort of “creepy fog.”  That was when I should have turned around and gone straight back to 47.  I didn’t.  Instead, I accelerated.
That was almost my undoing.  I rounded a bend and started down into a hollow, when my lights reflected off the twisted metal and chrome of a car wreck not fifty yards away.  I stood on my brakes, and they caught and screamed to a halt a few feet short of smashing into the wreck.  Christ, I nearly wet my pants.  I sat upright, squeezing the hell out of the wheel, my heart pounding.
But, I stopped being concerned about myself when I saw her in the throw of my high beams.  A young woman was caught under the twisted body of a ruined sports car.  Night black hair framed her face that was dappled with blood.  Her eyes were closed.  Her arms were reaching out, but her fingers weren’t finding anything.  I was sure she was dead.
Some adrenalin kicked in, I guess, and I jumped from the car and ran the few steps to where she was trapped.  I knelt down and put my fingers to her neck.  I couldn’t find a pulse, but I’m never quite sure of where you are supposed to put your fingers when searching for a heartbeat.  She was ridiculously cold.  I would say “ice cold,” but that is too frickin’ trite, and she wasn’t ice cold, anyway.  She was something else cold!  Something altogether different and wrong. . . then her eyes popped open!
“Shit!” I screamed and really peed my pants a little.  “You’re alive!”
She was blinking rapidly, and her right hand shot to her face to block the bright light. I took her left hand.  It seemed like the comforting thing to do.
“Matthew?”  She said.  “Matty?”
“No. . .No,”  I said.  I had to say it twice because the little word stuck in my throat the first time.  “I’m Todd.  I just. . . came upon your accident.”  Came upon!  God, that sounded dumb.   I pulled my cellphone from my pocket.  
She spoke in a sing-songy voice.  “Going too fast on the Barlow Road.”  Her eyes continued blinking.
I had to get help, but I my phone had none of those blasted bars.  “Shit!  No reception!”
Her eyes stopped bouncing in their sockets, and she looked at me, and I saw fear in those dark orbs.  “What’s your name?”  I asked.
“Kate.”  Her voice was husky and weak.
“There’s no cell reception, Kate.  I’ll have to go for help. “  
I started to rise, but her hand, surprisingly strong, clamped around mine.  “Don’t leave,” she said.  “Please.”
"Kate, I have to.  You’re hurt. . .badly.”
“Call, Matthew,” she said.
“My phone won’t work.”
“Give me your phone.”  Her dark eyes stared into mine.  I gave her the phone.
     She took it with her right hand and punched in a number with the thumb nail.  Her nails were painted deep scarlet.  She tucked the phone under her hair and listened.  
     In a moment, she smiled.  Her teeth were very white.  She said, “Hi, darling.  It’s me.”  She listened then said, “I’m in trouble down the Barlow Road.  Driving too fast,” she said.  “Come, please.”  She listened.  “Thank you, Matthew.”  She clicked off the phone and handed it to me.  “Thank you, Todd,” she said.  “Matthew’s coming.  You can leave.”
“Your wreck has blocked the road.”  Another dumb thing to say.
“Go back the way you came.”
“I can’t leave you.”  
“If you don’t,  you might wish you had,” she smiled.  Her face which had been pale was now livid.  She had to be minutes from death.  I couldn’t leave her, could I?
I opted for nobility and went to the car to get a bottle of water and switch off the headlights.  When I got back, I offered her a drink, but she shook her head and locked her lips.  Sitting there in near darkness with a bottle in my hand, I decided to take out my very clean handkerchief and wash the spots of blood from her face.  It seemed like a nice thing to do for a dying woman.  I dampened the cloth and dabbed at a splash across her forehead. My finger began to burn, and I pulled my hand away.  I looked at the handkerchief.  There was a hole in the fabric where I had wiped away the blood.  At that moment, I should have hauled ass out of there. . .but I didn’t.  I sat frozen like some kind of stupid lawn ornament in the middle of a Hieronymus Bosch painting.  When I looked back at Kate, she was smiling.  In her hand she held a shard of glass from a shattered headlamp.   “Todd,” she said, “slice open the palm of your hand.”
“What?”  I began, but she stared at me and smiled.
“Do what I ask?”
So I did.  I took the glass and sliced my palm from pinkie to wrist.  It hurt like hell.
      Kate grabbed my hand and pulled me and it to her.  She started to suck on my palm.  My palm stopped hurting. It felt good.  It felt even better the longer she sucked my blood.  She looked better, too.  Color was coming back to her cheeks.  
I don’t know for how long she stole my blood.  Maybe two minutes.  Then she pushed me away and said, “I don’t want to use you all up.  That would make Matty very, very angry.”  
  I was weak.  She looked strong.  She felt strong, too, because she put her hands to her sides and tried to do a pushup with the car on top of her.  It actually rose a few inches, but she had to quit and let herself slowly back down to the ground.  “We’ll wait for Matthew,” she smiled.  I thought she had lipstick on her teeth, and then I realized it was my blood.  Realizing that, really sucked!  Poor choice of words.  I tied my burned handkerchief around my palm wound.
In the distance, the roar of a powerful engine coming from the direction in which I had been traveling filled the hollow.  A truck with a row of spotlights across the roof of the cab came over the edge of the hollow and roared slowly to a stop.  It was a big, frickin’ black truck!  A Ram with a Hemi!
"He’s here,” Kate purred.
He, Matthew, got out, and he seemed to me to be nearly as big as his truck and nearly as black.  He walked toward us, a tower of a man, easily six and a half feet tall, with shoulders wide as a pool table, and an afro the size of a chrysanthemum at the end of October.  He crossed to us and smiled.  HIs smile was as white and bright as Kate’s.
     “Hello, baby,” he said.  “What I tell you about driving too fast down the Barlow Road.”
“Thank goodness, Todd came along.  If no one had come before sunup.. . .the joke would be on me.”
Matthew looked at me with a smile devoid of warmth.        “Thanks, Todd.  Now here’s what you are going to do.  When I lift the car off of Kate, you are going to pull her out from under it.  Got it?”
“Yes.”  My voice was nearly as weak as my body felt.
Take hold her arms now.”
Kate raised her arms, and I grabbled them by the sickly cold wrists.  The big man from the Ram bent at the knees, put his hands under the edge, and lifted the car off the woman as easy as you might lift the lid of a hope chest.  Strange simile!  Hope was something of which I was rapidly running out.  “Pull her out!” he ordered, and I did, and what I saw made me abandon all hope. First, I saw the a pool of blood that seemed big enough for a couple of bodies.   It  had been hidden under the car.  Then, I saw that a three foot piece of metal from somewhere on the frame had been driven directly through Kate’s chest right where here heart should be.  Six inches of the metallic spear protruded from her back.  She had been skewered straight through the heart and was grinning.
As I contemplated this ghastly anomaly, Matthew dropped the husk of the car.  It crashed loudly, and my head snapped away from the horror I had seen.  I wanted to cry, but Matthew roared with laughter.  “Holy shit, baby.  Glad we didn’t get you the car with the real wood trim.  You’d a been a goner.”
Kate with the gaping hole in her chest laughed giddily at that, and I knew what I had known for awhile but which my brain refused to accept. . .this was vampire humor I was hearing.  The undead!  Nosferatu!  Blood suckers!  Yupper, that’s who I was hanging out with.  But me having heard that joke. . .maybe the joke would be on them.
They were no longer paying me any mind.  Matthew knelt down by his lady, rolled up the sleeve of the skin tight t-shirt he wore.  And drew his fingernail across his wrist.  I saw then that his nails weren’t nails, they were green, twisting claws.  Black blood spurted from the wound, and he put his wrist to Kate’s mouth.  “Drink some, baby,” he said.  “You’ll be your old dead self, soon.”
So Matthew offered his wrist, Kate sucked his blood, and I walked back as quietly as I could to the rear of my SUV, more than ever thankful that I had chosen surveying as a profession.  I was also grateful that the morning before I had been worried about being short on stakes to mark the plots I was to survey, so I had gone down into my basement and taken two old inch and a half by four foot dowels, trimmed them to sharp points and tossed them into the back of the Jeep in case I needed them.  Thank God, I hadn’t needed them.
I was as swift and as silent as my drained body could be fetching those stakes.  When I got back to my new friends, Matt had just taken his hand away from Kate’s mouth, was starting to turn back to me, and said, “Now I’m thirsty, Toddy!”  That was when I jammed one stake into his back with all the might I could summon.  I picked just the spot, because the stake went through his chest, not encountering any bone, and exited through his heart and seven or eight inches out of the front.  The surprised wail that came from Matthew’s mouth was terrifying, I guess, though he was dead almost immediately.  He tumbled down onto his lady friend and the stake that was through his chest went through her stomach.  She gulped, her eyes bulging, and some black blood came out of her mouth.  “Holy shit!” she sort of whispered.  “Todd, you killed Matthew!”
“Yep,” I nodded and watched as Matthew officially passed away.  He didn’t turn into a pile of dust like in some of the monster movie.  Instead, he shriveled up like a big African-American raisin.  When he was done shriveling, he was about half his original size.
Instead of giving Kate a chance to enthrall me or something, I took the other dowel and jammed it through her heart.  The life went out of her eyes, and, for a second she looked sad, then for even less than a second, she looked happy.  Then she shriveled up!
This was no time for messing around or doing things in a half ass way. I got the can of gas I keep in the rear of my car and doused the two vampire prunes with it.  Then I tossed a lit pack of matches on them and watched them go up.  They and the stakes burned really brightly.
I got in my Jeep, did a nice K turn, and raced down the Barlow Road, never stopping until I reached Route 47.  Then I drove like hell home.  When I got in my house, I hugged my wife as if I hadn’t seen her in a year.
When we stopped embracing, she said, “you smell a little like gasoline.”
“I had to burn up a couple vampires!”
She grinned.  “Silly boy!”
Then I showed her my sliced and burned right hand...which made her frown.
Three days later, we moved.  If I was ever to get a full night’s sleep again, we had to move out of the Lot.  Annie never much cared for it there anyway.  She was a city girl.  The kids were too young to be anything but excited.  In daylight, we went south on Route 47 on our way to wherever our new home would be.  Nowhere along 47 between the Rock and the Lot,, was the Barlow Road to be found. And I looked really carefully,  But way out in one of the fields where the Barlow Road should have been, I could see a narrow wisp of smoke climbing straight up into the windless sky.  Were a wrecked sports car and a couple of blood suckers still smoldering out there?  I imagine so.

(With, as many scary stories deserve, a tip of the hat to Stephen King.)

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Something Wonderful is Happening in Auburn

There have been few times in my personal history when I have been more in need of a little spiritual uplift.  On Tuesday afternoon, my spirits soared, when we went on a joyous journey to Avonlea courtesy of the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival and its wonderful production of “Anne of Green Gables.”  Billed as a folk/rock musical, I found little folky or rocky about it.  What I found was musical theatre brilliance performed by a cast of mostly young people who sing and dance and act with their voices, their bodies, and their hearts.

McKenzie Custin as title character Anne Shirley is this musical.  This delightful young woman has a remarkable voice, a sweetly expressive face, and the ability to act, to be someone else, equal to that of older, more established performers.  Her performance was one of the best I have seen in the last several years, which includes two visits to New York to see FIDDLER, WAITRESS, and SUNSET BOULEVARD.  The next time the role of Elfaba opens in Broadways’s WICKED, McKenzie should get it.  She would be magical.

Tremendous credit should go to the other actors, too.  The five adults, two of whom take multiple roles, and the cast of kids cavorting about the stage for nearly 3 hours.  Director Jenn Thompson and Choreographer Jennifer Jancuska are so talented in creating movement, fashioning interaction, and drawing beautiful stage pictures.  Of course, the creators Matte O’Brien and Matt Vinson deserve huge applause for devising this magical adaptation of the novel.

Attending ANNE OF GREEN GABLES is like attending a world premiere.  I could find mention of only one other production since the show was birthed at “The Pitch,” which is FMT’s annual musical incubator two summers ago, I believe.  ANNE runs until the 25th of this month.  Get a ticket if you can.  Don’t be surprised if they are all gone.
Greg Ellstrom

Mckenzie Custin (National tour: All Hands on Deck, Regional: Newsies and Mary Poppins at Centenary Stage Co.) makes her festival debut as titular character Anne Shirley; with Nancy Anderson (Broadway: Sunset Boulevard, A Wonderful Life, Wonderful Town, A Class Act) and D.C. Anderson (Broadway: The Phantom of the Opera, National tour: The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, Pippin, Martin Guerre, The Phantom of the Opera) as siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert; Chris McCarrell (Broadway: Les Miserables, Off Broadway: The Lightning Thief) as Gilbert Blythe and Michelle Veintimilla (Broadway: The Visit) as Diana Barry. Dawn Troupe will be playing the role of Rachel Lynde; with Alan Ariano as Mr. Blythe/Mr. Phillips and Angela Travino as Mrs. Barry/Miss Stacy.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

How Bad Can Movies Be?: “The Open House” and “The Circle”

         I just finished watching the Netflix film “The Open House.” One thing good to report is that it is only an hour and thirty-seven minutes long. The plot: There's this financially strapped family made up of dad, mom and son. Dad gets run down by a car that is speeding in an alley. Mom now can’t afford the mortgage. Mom’s rather odd sister says use our house in the California mountains, but remember it is for sale so you’ll have to leave during open houses. They move there and meet a weird old woman at the local store. What crap might she be foretelling?  Got me.  They get to the house. Weird things happen. No reason. Uninteresting. Idiotic. Things get bad for mom, son.  There one friend gets his throat slit Then things get really bad for mom and son. I mean really bad. The Awful Ending all because of the open house?  I don't know.  There's no purpose. No reason. Dare I say, no logical motivation. It is a movie that shouts out “why was I ever made?” Why did you watch it, Greg? Because I am a sucker for scary movies. They can even be bad scary movies. But they must be bad/good! This was just plain bad/bad!

       Now “The Circle,” available on Amazon Prime, stars A-list talents Tom Hanks and Emma Watson. When those two watched the finished film they helped create, they must have run screaming from the screening.  It is the embarrassingly terrible tale of a sweet, bright young woman (Emma) who takes a job at vast tech/social media company run by a Steve Jobs-like, super-cool CEO (Tom).  The company (The Circle) is manufacturing a mini-cam system which will keep an eye on every single person in the world. No more bad people because everyone is traceable with facial recognition in the mini-cams. Pretty soon governments are requiring their citizens to wear these cams. No more crime. Everyone votes. Yada! Yada! And sweet, bright Emma, rather than being the hero that brings this ridiculous idea down, champions it. Ludicrously she goes from data enterer to the new CEO of the company. Two characters who were introduced early seem to be the ones that will show her the error of her ways. Nope! They both just disappear. Emma and the Circle take over the world.  There are two embarrassingly bad scenes. One when Emma’s mom and dad are caught in a sad sex scene involving a pump that is seen by the whole world, and two, the final scene, which made me want to shout, “Emma, fall out of that kayak and sink!"  When I finished watching "The Circle," I considered going back and watching the last half hour, thinking I had missed something that would give some logic to this blundering, tiny brained, stegosaurus of a movie. But I couldn’t stand the thought of it.

Doughnuts and Slavery

A couple years ago I did a post about a time many years gone by when I was teaching, and the student council was having a home room competition for something or other. The poster advertising the competition said that whatever homeroom won would receive "Three Dozen Dognuts." It's a great, funny memory. I saw another interesting and somehow wonderful poster last weekend when we went to watch a basketball game at a local high school. Not Chittenango. As I was walking through the gym area lobby, I saw a small poster which had a little picture of a cupcake and read "Bake Sale to Raise Money to Combat Human Trafficking." Talk about a challenge. Kind of like "Pea Shooters Needed to Take Down Rogue Elephants." Still it seemed so sincere and nice. Here are some safe, protected kids trying to do something about an unbelievably heinous crime. When you can't hire Liam Neeson, you go with the baked goods. I loved that poster. Dognuts for all!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Archie Andrews, Child of the Dark Side!

When I was a kid I loved comic books.  The market wasn’t flooded with superheroes then, so my favorites were the Dell Mickey Mouse/Bugs Bunny comics based on movie cartoons, Dennis the Menace comics based on the newspaper comic strip, and Archie Comics, an eponymous label about teenager Archie Andrews and the innocent, fun-loving denizens of the town of Riverdale.  When I heard last year that the CW, the network that aims at the youthful demographics, (18-49 years old), was airing a series called RIVERDALE based on the Archie comics, I just had to watch.    Even if I was out of the age range.  I have watched.  Let me tell you the CW’s RIVERDALE isn’t like any Archie comic you read in your well-spent or misspent youth.

In the new RIVERDALE,the characters, although physically resembling those of the past, are nothing like their cartoon predecessors.  Archie played by KJ Apa is a bulked up, 21st century version of the cartoon character with an up-to-date hairstyle.  Remember how cartoon Archie had those weird curls atop his head. No more.  And, not only does the beautiful, raven-haired Veronica Lodge, played by Camila Mendes, have wealthy parents, but her father Hiram made that wealth as a cold-blooded crime boss.  In the comics, Jughead was only concerned about pursuing a hamburger.  On RIVERDALE, Jughead is a fearless laptop-wielding student journalist writing for a school that apparently has no editorial taboos and is also a member of a motorcycle gang for which his often imprisoned father was once president.  He still wears the weird beanie, though.  Now, I think the TV Betty is my favorite character.  Lili Reinhart really looks like Betty, especially when she has her tied back in the signature ponytail.  She’s sweet, cute, and vulnerable as a good Betty should be.  Still, she is a tough young woman, a journalist like Jughead, and she’s not afraid to do battle with the psycho killer who stalks the Riverdale streets. She also often crosses pens with her nasty mother who is the editor of the local Riverdale paper as well as having a lot of nasty words with her at home.  As to some of the other characters of import in the comics, Reggie Mantle has a limited role in the show but is the go-to-guy if you need steroids.  Dilton Doily, comic book nerd, is now a potential serial killer.  And Miss Grundy, the old maid school teacher of years gone by, is now a hot, 20-something music teacher who teaches Archie a lot more than chords on his guitar.  (Miss Grundy was a short-term character in the show.  She got murdered already.)

Comic book Betty and Veronica were both always trying for romance with Archie.  Usually Veronica was successful.  That’s the case in the TV show, too.  Archie and new-girl-in-town Veronica fall for each other and go, as they used to say in the 50‘s, all-the-way!  (They probably still say it.) In the TV show Betty also has an in-depth relationship, really in-depth, with Jughead. . . although there’s still that sense that Betty would rather be with the red-headed kid.  Poor Betty.

The producers pulled some actors from 90’s kid-oriented TV shows to play the grown-ups in RIVERDALE.  BEVERLY HILLS 90210’s Luke Perry is Fred Andrews, Archie’s hard-working dad, Molly Ringwald of SIXTEEN CANDLES and PRETTY IN PINK is Archie’ ginger-topped mom, Skeet Ulrich, one of the two killers in SCREAM plays Jughead’s dad, and Madchen Amick of TWIN PEAKS is Betty’s mom, Alice Cooper.  (Was Mrs. Cooper really named Alice in the comics?)

I happily admit that I usually enjoy this show.  The young actors are great looking and fun to watch and just serious enough in their portrayals not to make the characters seem silly.  A scandal in the old Archie comics might have involved gold fish in the punchbowl at the prom.  On the CW, Season 1 dealt with, among other dark things, sexual abuse and football players, and Season 2 with an vengeance-seeking killer bent on murdering everyone in Riverdale who ever sinned.  Now that’s a big job no matter what town you are talking about.  Does this sound silly?  Does it sound like too much of a stretch?  Maybe. . . still I recommend RIVERDALE.  Watch it once, and if you hate it, never come back to this comic town again, but you very well might like it.  Care to try?  Season 1 is on Netflix and Season 2 is probably still on demand.--Greg Ellstrom

Friday, December 29, 2017

CDs You Never Heard Of!!!

I’m a CD person.  I don’t store music on any electronic devices or subscribe to any music services.  I like my music on the little plastic discs, and I have quite a pile. Because I directed so many musicals when I was teaching, a big chunk of my collection is of Broadway and Off-Broadway shows.  My most recent Broadway CD is “Dear Evan Hansen,” the 2017 Tony Award winning show, which I got for Christmas.  I got “Next to Normal” recently, too, because it is the next production at Syracuse Stage.  Last spring, we saw “Waitress” on Broadway, a fabulous little musical, and we have been playing the disc ever since.  

I also like to buy the discs of lesser known shows, odd shows, virtually unheard of shows.  I have several collections called “Unsung Musicals,” that include songs that were cut from famous shows or songs that were part of shows that flopped.  Some of my favorite, little known show CDs are “Floyd Collins,” a musical about a guy who dies trapped in a mine, the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer Musical called “Once More, With Feeling,’ ” “Assassins,” Stephen Sondheim’s musical about all the famous American assassins and attempted assassins from John Wilkes Booth to Squeaky Fromm, “Phantom,” about, but not to be confused with, “Phantom of the Opera, “From Here to Eternity,” recorded only in England, which I hunted down on Amazon, and the truly awful rock opera, “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.”  I could go on, but won’t.

A couple of months ago, I purchased through Amazon, two of the gems of my collection: The Premiere Cast Recording of Stephen King’s “Carrie,” and the World Premiere Cast Recording of “Heathers, the Musical.”  Back in the 80’s the “Carrie” musical opened for the first time on Broadway and closed a few days later.  It was so bad that a book about musicals that flopped was written called “Not Since Carrie.”  The reason for the title was that over the years so many reviews about bad musicals began with the line “Not since “Carrie’ has there been such a horrible. . .etc.”  Because it was so bad and so many people talked about it over the years, that a reimagined revival was all but definite.  It took decades, but it’s happened and based on the new CD. . . I imagine it is pretty bad, too.  I was so disappointed because I love Stephen King’s things, especially the early stuff.  And “Carrie” was his first.  “Heathers,” the movie, came out in 1988 and starred Christian Slater and Winona Ryder.  It was a hilarious, dark, dark comedy about the dangers of popularity in high school.  It was great.  And, hooray, the musical soundtrack is fun, too.  You can even go online and find lengthy scenes from the World Premiere.  Don’t anticipate glitzy Broadway glamour, though.  The costumes are nice, but the scenery is at the level of a respectable high school production of something with platforms.  (In doing my research for this post, I discovered that there is a “high school” version of “Heathers, The Musical” in Italian.  I can’t figure that out!)

But still, I treasure these two musicals, because they are such “pop cultural”. . . treasures, and  even though, they aren’t going to win any Tony’s, they are much better than “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.”  (The missing comma in the Andrew Jackson title isn’t my mistake.  It’s the way the title is written.  Maybe the authors thought they didn’t have commas back when Andrew Jackson was prez.)
Greg Ellstrom

Friday, December 9, 2016

Two Nights at the fantastiC citizenM

                                   An avant garde wall in the lobby of the citizen M
                                (at center an urban reimagining of "The Last Supper")
It was chance that led us to the citizenM Hotel on our trip to NYC last week. Geri VanAlstine, our terrific agent at AAA, did a search for reasonably priced places to stay in the Time Square area and came upon the citizenM. The citizenM where we booked our room is on 51 St. about 50 yards from Broadway. I know the name is odd. It sounds like the title of a dystopian novel or an old Peter Lorre movie. In fact, it is part of an international chain of “boutique” hotels.

Let me explain the philosophy of the citizenM. Simply, the citizenM folk believe that a hotel should be like your home. At home, you don’t spend a lot of time in your bedroom but rather in your living room or den. For this reason, the citizenM rooms are rather spartan, but their lobby is a joy to visit. The lobby is filled with comfortable furniture, desks for study, a refrigerator along one wall with snacks and cold drinks, an eating area, and a small, but well-stocked bar. The towering walls are covered with interesting art and shelves holding all sorts of unique stuff. This is a lobby designed for “hanging out.”

Also, when you go to the citizenM, you won’t bump into any management in 3-piece or power suits. You won’t see any bellhops, either. It appears that the hotel is staffed completely by great-looking young people of a variety of races all under the age of 30. They wear sort-of uniforms and are delightful to interact with to a person. Whether they are tending bar, being baristas, assisting at the check-in kiosk, or just walking around smiling and saying “hello,” these “kids” make the experience really special.
Now about your room at the citizenM. Staying there is your way of finding out whether you would be happy living in a tiny house like the ones that are the rage on HGTV. One end of your room is all big bed. There is only one side of the bed from which you can get out. This made it a little tough for older folks like us but will pose no problem for the spry. You can store your suitcase in the giant drawer under the bed. At the center of the room is a dresser of sorts which features a tiny sink for cleaning up and a really brightly-lit mirror. The bathroom chamber contains both toilet and hand shower or rain shower, with mood lighting. The water temperature is self-controlled by a thermostat built into the soap dish, basically. All of these necessities--lights, mood lights, heat, curtains, shades, media--are controlled by an easily operated iPad.
We hadn’t been to New York City in forever. Now I can’t wait to go back. . .like tomorrow. We saw great shows, had good food, and communed with wonderful friends. And I can’t wait to hang out in the lobby of the citizenM again.
Greg Ellstrom