02 April 2010

If towns could be nominated for Extreme Makeover Home Edition

My grandparents lived in a small, Midwestern town just northeast of Kansas City, on the Missouri side of the river. As a child growing up in Colorado, the idea that a river could be muddy brown and as slow moving as molasses was mind blowing. The river runs alongside downtown, and as my grandparents aged, they moved from their neighborhood, chalked full of little brick and stucco houses, into a retirement community in the tallest building in the town. The downtown of my grandmother's stories was a lively place to be, with big department stores and swing dances by the lake. In the decades since, the area has become depressed as the Quaker Oat factory and the stockyards left. Small businesses have moved out to the suburbs and the department stores are all down in KC.

Gramps passed away last year, but Grams still lives in the downtown apartment, a beautiful building with high ceilings and marble stairs. My mom returns quite a bit to visit, usually bunking on one of the foldaway couches in the living room. When the "girls" (my sister and I) come along, we splurge and stay in a hotel, the Holiday Inn, (yea, we swanky) a short walk away. In the past, I had fond memories of the hotel, staying there when my Grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary - the only time I can remember when there were too many family members in town to fit in Grandma & Grandpa's house. When my grandfather was sick, it was a nice place to get a shower, clean clothes, and take a half hour to recharge before returning to their apartment.

But now, visiting Gram this last winter, it's become obvious that the Holiday Inn, like so many things in this little town, is in bad need of some love. If this town were a person, I'd nominate it for an HGTV show or Extreme Makeover. It so deserves it.

Let's recap why: the entire thing smells like chlorine, every single piece of equipment in the exercise room is broken, the bedspreads are itchy and I wouldn't sleep with them on the bed if you paid me money. Their "microbrew" is a Sam Adams (and they were out all week). If you get a glass of wine there, be sure to ask when they opened it. The hallways are dimly lit and have carpet that looks like it belongs in a casino. Last time we were there it was Valentine's Day, and a local frat had their big party there. (My sister calling the front desk at 2:30AM: "There's a guy playing guitar in the hallway. His singing is really nice, but it's a little late. Do you think you could ask him to stop?" She so tactful).

And then I saw THIS in the NY Times: Motel Chains Boost the Thread Count, accompanied by this picture:

This is not a Ritz. This is a picture of a Motel 6 (!). In ever better news, the Holiday Inn is staging a $1 billion renovation project across 3,200 hotels nationwide. Is it too much to hope that MY Holiday Inn would be one of them? To offer comparison, here's a picture of said hotel:

Yeah. I know.

My aunts kindly said I was an eternal optimist and told me they wouldn't be holding their breaths, and deep down I know they are right. The little budget hotel in a little dying Midwestern town is not going to make the Holiday Inn's list. JC Penny's, dances on the lake, and my grandfather's hardware store exist in my Gram's stories, not in life today. A part of me knows that. But a part of me, the part that thinks if I want something bad enough it will happen, wants the Holiday Inn to come alive, as if that will rewind the clock on this sleepy little town, and the next time I visit, my Gramps will be in his coveralls weeding in the garden and my Grandmother will be in her "work clothes" (green and white stripped shirt, white pants), making lunch (spaghetti, cut into teeny-tiny pieces, so you had to eat it with a spoon).

The rational part of my mind knows that the next time I visit, I'll be drinking a Sam Adams and avoiding the comforter cover. But I'm letting that part of me coexist with the part of me who is wanting to bet it all for a spectacular makeover...

Top photo from here, motel 6 photo from NYT, and the current Holiday Inn picture is from here.

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