Monday, October 23, 2006

French Lick

Startled. It’s becoming a recurring condition. Not physically, though that happens, too.

This is more like, well, duh, when did I start to think like that?

My life, so far, has gone from Gunsmoke to Dexter, party lines to chat rooms, old style paternal Democrats to big government Republicans.

I’ve always thought myself a forward thinking woman. Embrace the new. Build on the past, don’t live in it.

Then the startling started. Kind of backward epiphanies. Shameful anger at the disruption of my world for the good of the masses.

Take French Lick Resort.

A few months ago, we were getting ready to mark our thirty-third anniversary. A no-brainer. Hit the French Lick website, reserve a weekend, hope they upgrade us to a suite. The Indiana dowager has been a favorite for a decade or more. Once a hip hangout for pre modern celebs and Chicago mobsters, in its old age we found Nirvana with burned out light bulbs. Victorian bones with 70s sculpted carpet band-aids. For us, a never fail romance rekindler with lithium mineral baths.

This time, the website pronounced it closed.

To reopen in November as a magnificently refurbished historic hotel and spa. With casino.

I was devastated. My lovely, shabby hotel with its legitimately-distressed marble Pluto water spa and 1920s golf course, where we could sit on the unevenly settled stone veranda and chat with the few people there or sneak to wobbly tables in private nooks to drink and giggle, is gone. My deep breath sanctuary with the dark Derby Bar and the tee-shirted croquet players on the front lawn, lost. My wondrous, imperfect refuge that demanded no perfection from me, no more.

Now it's going to be all clean and neat and reguilded and crowded with loud, nickel slot-loving Hoosiers who couldn’t care less for quiet and retreat, or aging boomers who want joys and stolen kisses without need for botox, apple martinis and surround sound.

It’s not like I hadn’t been warned. Two years ago, we walked right by casino plans posted in the dim lobby on our way to play grab-ass in the dark gardens. They had the name Trump attached to them. Somewhere, I heard some of his new casino ventures had gone bankrupt. My relief was unfounded.

I am my grandma and single dollar tips all over again.

Yeah, yeah, good for the local economy, all that crap. Clean and hygienic. Tons of service sector jobs for locals. Investors' dreams of high rollers, weddings, conventions, buses of guests being dazzled and entertained fulfilled. Better that than gone forever. I suppose.

November is only two weeks away. My priority should be to angst over the election, the war, the economy; to pester my Silcon Valley son to post more digital photos of my granddaughter.

Besides, this one isn’t as easy to fix as it was to slip a few dollars more on restaurant tables after my grandma got up.

I’ll live. I may even add something to this world yet. It takes a lot to kill all the forward momentum in a 1960s woman.

But as for progress at French Lick, I refuse to like it.

No matter how startled I get.