You can learn a great deal from the New York Times despite The Donald’s reference to it as a fake news source. The New York Time’s recent story by Yonette Joseph about Nick Burchill’s hotel stay is so strange it could not possibly be fake news. Let us begin today’s exercise in world literature by remembering Mark Twain’s famous quote: “Truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities, truth isn’t.” If Mark Twain said it, I believe it. And that settles it.
Once upon a time in about 2001, Nick Burchill traveled all the way from Nova Scotia to Victoria, British Columbia. Nick was on a business boondoggle. He got to stay at the Fairmont Empress Hotel, which is the classiest hotel in Victoria and perhaps the entire western hemisphere. I have personal knowledge of the Empress’ classiness because I was there last summer. Not to stay there, but just to walk through the lobby to absorb some class that I am sorely lacking. We considered going to high tea, which is an Empress tradition since 1908. The high tea menu includes 21 different loose-leaf teas to choose from as well as scones, pastries, clotted creams (which sounds awful but expensive) and strawberry preserves from the rooftop garden. You can indulge in smoked salmon on blini; honey ham and mushroom quiche; truffled egg salad on brioche; and mascarpone raspberry tarts among other dainties. I did not see a chicken wing or a collard sandwich on the menu. Unfortunately high tea’s lowest price is $75 a person ranging up to $115 if you get a classy adult beverage to wash down your tea. Since we didn’t have a half-price coupon, we skipped high tea.
But back to our friend Nick. Nick had a bunch of Royal Canadian Navy buddies from Nova Scotia who ended up in Victoria with a hankering for a taste of home, to wit: Chris Brothers TNT Pepperoni, the pride of Nova Scotia. Nick, being a pal, packed up an entire suit case full of TNT Pepperoni and hauled it out to the Empress. His room did not have a refrigerator, but the day was cool. Nick spread his pepperoni out by an open window so it wouldn’t spoil. Nick left the room for a walkabout for several hours. Turns out if there is one thing sea gulls like to eat better than garbage, it’s TNT Pepperoni.
When Nick opened the door to his room it was sea gull pepperoni party time. About 40 of our feathered friends were chowing down on Nova Scotia’s most delicious salted meat. Unfortunately, TNT Pepperoni and the gastrointestinal systems of sea gulls are not compatible. It was like one of those colorful Roman orgies where the Romans would eat and drink themselves so full it was Vomitorium time. The gulls were eating, spewing and having loose stools all over his formerly elegant hotel room. Not only that, the gulls were drooling. Nick was quoted in the Times article saying: “The shocking thing for me was the saliva. I didn’t know that sea gulls drooled. The slime was covering everything. They were whipping it up into the air. It was like a tornado.”
Gentle reader, let that mental image sink in for a while. Downstairs the guests are paying $75 for a cup of tea and cookies. Upstairs the sea gulls are spewing. The mind boggles.
Realizing sea gulls were not paying guests, Nick tried to chase them out of his room. He threw a shoe at one, which sailed out the window along with the gull. He retrieved his shoe, which was covered in yuck. After using water to remove the yuck, Nick tried drying it with a hair dryer, which fell into his sink and shorted out the electricity. Realizing he had lost his battle with the gulls, he finally called housekeeping. Management was not amused. They sent him a letter banishing him from ever returning to the Empress.
Fate brought Nick back to Victoria 17 years later. He wrote the Empress a letter seeking a pardon much as Scooter Libby just received from The Donald. The Empress forgave him on the condition that he never brought pepperoni to the hotel again. And they both lived happily ever after.
So what have we learned today class? There are some things even sea gulls can’t digest. There are worse things than stale pepperoni. $75 is too much to pay for a cup of tea and a biscuit. The early bird gets the pepperoni and projectile diarrhea.
As Emily Dickinson once almost said, “Hope is a thing with feathers, but you can catch more sea gulls with pepperoni than by putting salt on their tails.”
Nick should have taken Willy Nelson’s advice when Willie sang: “I got busted in Laredo for reasons/ That I’d rather not disclose/ If you’re stayin’ in a motel there and leave/ Don’t leave nothin’ in your clothes.”
As the late great Percy Bysshe Shelly once said: “Hail to thee blithe spirit! Bird thou never wert.”
If you think this column is for the birds, you are correct.