Hampton Inn and Olive Garden (Richmond, VA)

Welcome to day 7 of 31 Days of Heterotopias: Motels and Hotels, a month of posts about how motels, hotels, and inns function as heterotopias and liminal spaces in society.  (More about heterotopias and liminal spaces.)  Each post will look at these ideas from its own vantage point, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may mention motels and hotels only peripherally or may focus on them without referencing heterotopia or liminality. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted.


Being in a foreign place, preferably for the first time, having seen many things and collected new impressions, and returning to an empty hotel room with an hour or so to blow. That mix often yields fine results.  — Stefan Sagmeister

Yes, it does, and here’s another thing that can yield fine results: Being in a familiar place, even a place of childhood, having seen many things and collected many impressions, having emotionally compressed past, present, and future into one sticky toffee, returning to an empty hotel room with an hour or so to blow.

Specifically: After spending an intense day or two with family for a sister’s 50th birthday celebration in Virginia,



with a visit on the way to meet your favourite Hannah Banana bulldog (may she rest in peace) and her brother, Tank, and her mother, Kim, in Charlottesville,


then a week exploring your most favourite spot in the world (Jekyll Island, GA) with just your spouse,


with an utterly perfect side trip to Fernandina Island, FL to spend time with a good friend who’s moved too far away,


then a 9-hour car trip back to Richmond, Virginia — to visit a botanical garden before returning the rental car and boarding the train in the late afternoon for the trip back to Boston (an overnight journey) — to arrive there tired and anxious from the harrowing rainstruck highway through the Carolinas, later than expected without food breaks, ordering ahead online (still on the highway) from your phone, from the familiar and comforting Olive Garden menu, dashing in to pick up the food in a torrential rain storm, and arriving a few minutes later at a decent-enough chain hotel — one you’ve stayed in several times in the past, including before and after funerals, before and after weddings, before and after other intense family events that take a psychic and physical toll, despite joy, love, history, because of history, patterns, the way time unfolds — to eat and rest. Only to eat,


in your room with its “Do Not Disturb” tag hanging on the doorknob, and only to rest, mindless, knowing that no one else knows you’re here and no one will come bother you, need anything, expect anything. And that there is no routine for you to adhere to. Ahhh.


We had some red wine left over from Jekyll!


Then, to get back to the quote above, in those moments you may dwell in the midst of possibility, gratitude for friends and family, reluctance and anticipation of returning home, longing for the beach and the south and the simple condo and anonymity and every-day discovery and wonder, longing for close friends to be closer, longing for exactly where you are and what you’re doing. Shaken, stirred, it’s still a fine result.

Chain motels and chain restaurants can nourish, recharge, shelter and bring comfort. Bless them.

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