In Bed With Julian Hanna

I’m staying in room 665 of the Westin Pasadena on Los Robles. The temperature outside is 23°C (74°F) but the window doesn’t open. There is a leather sofa. It’s a Superior King so the bed is impressively vast.

On the beside table sits ‘Paradise: The Southern California Idyll of Hitler’s Cultural Exiles’ by Lawrence Weschler, with its useful map of the suburban houses of émigrés. Next to it is a notepad with notes for a manifesto I’m writing, a bed manifesto.


O great American bed!
Exploding all reasonable bounds of luxury and convenience
Pure Egyptian cotton
Fit for a sheik and his entire harem
Or one six-foot-four-inch (193cm) business traveller.
O faultless, spotless bed!
I could not possibly use this much bed.

But I will try.
At the north end I’ll compose a TRIUMPHAL ODE,
At the south end a MANIFESTO, something BELLICOSE and BOMBASTIC!

Home is far away tonight.
The home bed is familiar, crowded
The scent is comforting, the linens need changing
The children, if you’ve got them, pass freely at all hours

The hotel bed is good, bad, and indifferent
Full of promises and disappointments

I haven’t got very far with the bed manifesto, not even as far as the numbered list of tenets. You need to be in the right frame of mind.

The pervading mood on the coasts is a mournful blue. The middle is angry red.

I went to a reading and Jonathan Lethem was crying, and we all wanted to cry with him. He said that there are potholes now in every thought. Maggie Nelson gave him a hug.

Bed can be a refuge in these times, but the sex is complicated.

In the 1970s, even as late as the mid 1980s, you would have found a coin-operated vibrating bed in a room like this. It was as simple as putting in a quarter. Was that sexy?

I do sometimes wonder who is staying in the next room. If you could see a cutaway of the hotel with the walls removed. What are they doing in that space that is identical to mine? Are they doing it all night long? More likely they are feeling tired, homesick, disoriented. An empty hotel room is an easy place for intimations of your own mortality to find you. Instead of sex noises when I pause beside the wall I hear only quiet sobbing.

But fantasies are hard to kill. So the hotel room and the hotel bed – no matter how chilling their offers of loyalty points, how sanctimonious their environmental gestures, how starched their cold white sheets – still retain the slight but persistent shimmer of sex. Better still when your lover is there in the room with you, and you can keep the gathering clouds of apocalyptic doom at bay by wrapping your naked bodies in the warm blanket of desire. Without that lover you are left to your own devices, like carving your solitary initials in the headboard. – JH

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