25 November 2013
Ace Hotel
20 W 29th St, New York, NY

Aces. When I was young, acknowledging of course that I no longer am, the word "Aces," was slang for awesome, great, fantastic, boss, neat, wicked, tight, rad, slick or whatever your personal choice for "the best" might be. Possibly the use derives from the playing card Ace, highest card in a deck, depending on the game and the players, mind you. My brother once threatened to kick the crap out of me for suggesting that an Ace could be the lowest or the highest. Though "Ace" has also been used to describe an expert combat flier who has shot down five or more enemy planes. My brother and I never flew planes.

This posting has nothing to do with any of that, but the Ace Hotel is "Aces."

The Ace is located on 29th in NYC and radiates hip. It says, in some self promoting publication of their's, "Second only to the New York Public Library, our lobby is the prettiest place to rub elbows with adventurers." I'll second that. Eighteen-foot ceilings. Comfortable seating, mixed with retro wooden tables you remember from that old library where you needed a card to borrow a book you'd never bring back on time even if you did get around to reading it, and book lined shelves. The glass taxidermy case makes me think of the Field Museum in Chicago and, yet, it goes perfectly. Clever signage brings a smile, like the service elevator with, "This One Doesn't Go to the Lobby. But that one does,” painted on it in big letters with an arrow. An elevator version of, "These aren't the droids you're looking for," a reference I make often, though I'm not really even a Star Wars fan (I am a huge fan of other 1977, the year Star Wars came out. It's the year I escaped from high school, the Talking Heads - Psycho Killer, Lynyrd Skynyrd - That Smell, the first Apple Computer and the NYC blackout come to mind.).

You oughta visit this place just to see the sticker art wall. Beginning in the early 90s, Bronx artist, Michael Anderson, collected graffiti stickers off of New York’s light poles, mailboxes, street signs and walls. Ace used Anderson’s collection of some 40,000 stickers (crazy - seems impossible - 55 stickers into it, I'd have abandoned the idea and moved on), which includes the work of artists such as Shepard Fairey (Obey), Barry McGee (who tagged as Twist) and Steve Powers (ESPO), to cover the lobby stairway walls. As I understand it, some of the sticker artists didn't like their work being poached by Anderson. Oh, well, forgive me, I'll be using a compilation of five photographs of the work to create a five foot wide acrylic piece to hang in my office. A repurposing of a repurposing, of what often is a repurposing in the first place, since many of the sticker artists used USPS stickers and "My Name Is" stickers, along with other individual's art as the base of their own effort. Shepard Fairey, himself, said, "A lot of times this sort of raw material that’s available in our world, whether you’re photographing it or drawing from it, is seen as not having any value until a specific person runs it through their skill set and their vision and then it becomes valuable. For someone to then say that it wasn’t about that person’s abilities I think is wrong."

It's worth mentioning that the place isn't an art gallery. It's a hotel, of course, and it's a really good one in my humble estimation. In some way it's a boutique hotel, but not in a "W" glossy, upscale, sorta way. Here you’ll find retro and salvage furnishings, Schoolhouse Electric style lighting, along with vintage turntables and a collection of vinyl. My room had a full size Smeg refrigerator stocked with decent food and drinks - no tiny bottles of booze, one lonely Diet Coke, and a quarter sized bottle of cheap wine here - designed like a loft apartment, you definitely feel like you're in a home away from home. The artistic flair extends beyond the lobby into the rooms - some with walls painted by known artists.

Speaking of the lobby, the Lobby Bar, is ultra cool, you could imagine yourself walking into it and hours later thinking, "Wait, wasn't I checking into a room?" The place is in constant motion until very late, and offers access to the Breslin restaurant and the John Dory, an oyster bar with a corner view onto Broadway.

You literally can't go wrong here and, if that wasn't enough, I could create a whole blog post about Stumptown Coffee, and probably will at some point, when my travels swing me through Portland (Oregon, not Maine). But, for now, it was nice to start the next morning walking into Stumptown off of that same eclectic lobby to grab a perfect cappuccino.

Give the place a try. Walk through the lobby after grabbing an espresso and see if you don't want to spend the night.

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