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August 5th, 2006

When I go to a hotel, I go prepared. Doubly so when I go to a writer’s conference. I have a roll-along cooler which is filled with the sorts of things that might be expensive or unavailable in hotels: diet soda, cheese curds and booze.

I was reasonably sure that I wasn’t going to get stuck in a Pepsi hotel, in the home town of Coca Cola (although there were rumors). Better to be safe than sorry.

Cheese curds are unavailable outside of Wisconsin, and thus the perfect ice-breaker. This is the raw cheese, fresh from the whey and not pressed into blocks. If they are really fresh, they squeak when you bite them. If you are not from Wisconsin, you will either spit into the nearest trash or become instantly addicted. If you are not careful, you may eat a half pound of cheese without noticing.

And I hate hotel bars. I don’t care if they are a great place to troll for editors and agents. If I wait long enough, the editors and agents will wise up and come to my room for a drink. Everyone else did.

My roommate Cory and I started out with a modest bar. I brought brandy (with flask of course) and rum, with mojito fixins’. Cory brought a bottle of Cointreau.

Along with other friends from Jenny Crusie’s Cherry writers and fan loops, we had a block of four rooms, mostly in a row. We tended to leave the doors unlatched in the evenings and float freely between rooms.

Apparently there was one room in the block occupied by non-cherries.
Who-ever you are: we’re sorry.
Next time, come by for a drink, or maybe some chocolate. We had enough to spare.

Jenny aggravated our behavior by giving flasks to the moderators of the loops. Now, to go along with my broken red-cross flask, (which has a pink daisy in it and stayed in my office) and my replacement, flaming death’s head flask; I have a flask with cherries on it and my name engraved. I also have a single shot, Sheffield, heart-shaped flask I picked up on the I Love Funky’s visit. This is my evening flask, since it’s hard to cram the flaming death’s head into my little silver clutch bag.

Suddenly, I have a collection.

Let me take a moment to assure anyone reading this I don not drink that much. No one drinks that much and lives to tell about it. If all my flasks returned to Wisconsin newly emptied, I would be writing you from detox.

But people around me have followed my bad example, and there were a lot of flasks on the 23rd floor, and they all needed filling. Before I even got to the hotel, my room had a map of the area, with the route to the liquor store marked in high-lighter.

Not my fault. Not my fault. Not my fault.

By Friday and Saturday, the floating party had moved to our room. I am unaccustomed to being a hostess, or to people seeking me out for company. I have no objections. It was very nice. But unexpected.

And I swear I was not the least bit drunk, when I returned from the Harlequin party on Friday night. I’d been drinking my publisher’s free booze, but had only had two of the evening’s signature cocktails (Champagne and chambourd, with a raspberry. I am sooooo writing more books for you, HQ Mills & Boon). But when I came back, I wasn’t paying attention and went to the nearest open door to track down my roommate and get a key to our room and could change out of the Ebay evening gown, since I’d forgotten to put a key in my purse.

And Cory was ignoring me, which I put down to the fact that the party room was really loud.
But it was very nice that someone had brought the copy of my book along to show off and dropped it on the bed.
And I stood there, staring into the closet, thinking, gee, that’s a nice dress hanging there. I wonder what it looks like on.
And slowly, my eyes panned left, and I saw Cory’s blue cocktail dress.

Which would mean that the first dress I’d been staring at was mine. (No wonder I liked it).
And my book was on MY bed, along with several people, who all had drinks.

I was throwing a party.

Cool.

You can’t really blame me for not recognizing my room, since I hardly ever know where I am, even when I’m on familiar turf. Drop me into a 30+ story hotel where all the rooms look alike? Hopeless. On the first day, I had to go to the front desk and assure them I didn’t need to be re-keyed, I just needed a hint to find my room (I’d been going floor to floor, trying my key in rooms ending in “11” but after 3 wrong tries, it was getting kind of old).

And the room I left on Friday night wasn’t the room I came back to.
#1: It was full of people.
#2: It was full of booze. Booze, and food.

There was a point where someone actually came in with more chocolate, and I was tempted to turn it down. We were full up. And although we started out with three partial bottles of hard liquor, when the room cleared, we had 8. Or was it 11? And I can’t remember if I counted the wine and champagne and bottles left under the coffee machine where I couldn’t see them.

And then everyone left, empty handed. It was like the miracle of the loaves and the fishes with an open bar. When we went home on Sunday, we carried what we could. It would have been wasteful to leave an unopened bottle of Jack Daniels behind. Or the cherry vodka. And there was no way I was stepping out without the Cadbury Flake chocolate from across the pond. The kids say thank you, Chandra.

But between the romance novels, the chocolate and the liquor? The maids on the 23rd floor had a hell of a party on Sunday night.