Arriving at night at a Western airport is quite a standardized affair. There’s the man in orange vest assigning taxis to the scarce queuing travelers. There’s the taxi duly speeding to a notorious business hotel. Though standardization does have its limits: the taxi-man guessed my language wrong (and somehow a hearty ”Gruss Gott” does not make one feel particularly welcome in non-German speaking country).
And then there’s the landscape one gets to admire through the taxi-window : desolate highways and uniform glass buildings with on top the neon-signs of all the global brands of the world (ah how reassuring, they have Nokia here too, and Samsung!, and Philips!).
One is dropped off in front of a hotel, makes one’s way to the reception. Where one is greeted by smiling hotel staff – their professional friendliness in my case mixed with a hint of cautiousness and surprise. Well it’s true, I don’t particularly dress the business part. And whenever I do try to act like a self-important business-person, something horribly exposes me as a fraud: either the lack of credit card as such (which happened on my first business trip) or the sheer lack of decorum (once when I smugly drew my credit-card in a restaurant, my companion giggled “oh, is that your bus-pass?” upon seeing the neat blue plastic card holder).
In the hotel-room a flickering screen announces “Welcome Mrs XXX” . One takes a shower and then, finally, the day’s duties fulfilled, one can let slacken discipline. Lying stretched out on the bed, escaping from worldly worries and oneself in a hesitating, groping, and ultimately redeeming Bruckner-symphony (blessed be portable CD-players, yes, mine is a Philips :))
In the morning one pulls the curtains and is surprised to look out over a harbor – rippling water, a luminous grey sky tinged with an orange glow. And oh yes, what a nicely renovated room, with those wooden beams, and hey is that a true ship’s chest.
Clearly, here’s a hotel that does play its part, as stated on their website
“ With its exposed beams and thick walls, Admiral Hotel’s listed warehouse building from 1787 creates a unique setting for exquisite cuisine, a lounge designed in international style and rooms with a true atmosphere of timeless quality.”
Breakfast in the restaurant at first does not feel very timeless, what with all those keen early-rising businessmen taking in calories and caffeine to fight their business-battles. But hey, isn’t that a little canon there in the corner? A replica or real one? How cute. Would I be allowed to pat it on its back? This little canon surely is there to remind us of the “barrage of British naval attacks” the hotel’s brochure mentioned when describing the site’s momentous history.
Over breakfast I browse though the TS Eliot book I smuggled in. And chance upon an essay on Tradition in the arts. How moving, poetry’s outstanding modernist pleading for “the historical sense”, involving “a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence”. So yes, now I begin to understand how the postmodernist attitude differs utterly from the early 20th century modernist sensibility. Modernists like Eliot and Proust were radical innovators, but intimately familiar with the traditions whose passing they mourn .
Whereas postmodernism merely plays with the fragments of the past – frivolously quoting without empathy, and certainly without mourning.
Postmodernism is a renovated hotel “decorated in international style” , with a few rustic beams here, a canon in a corner there.