Plaza Hotel (BH:D 293)

May 24, 2012

I spent the last half hour watching photos and videos of the quick and easy demolition of the Plaza Hotel in College Station. Situated at the intersection of the Texas Avenue and University Drive, the building was a landmark or an eyesore depending on your point of view.

I had been to the hotel a couple of times. But no amount of feverish memory jogging attempts is helping bring up the purpose of those visits. The only clarity is that I have been to one of the rooms upstairs once and I had been to the lobby once. They must have been for meeting or picking up someone who was in town for business visit. But for what business? Were they from out of the country?

The more the memory is strained, the better the imagination kicks in as Jonah Lehrer had beautifully conveyed in his pithy, little "Proust was a Neuroscientist". It is the same protein that creates memories and fantasies. The protein pictures I am conjuring up are about a continental breakfast buffet at the hotel lobby. Then there was a dinner, on the other occasion. The events might have been years apart. Was that dinner at the nearby Appleby's? I wish I had kept daily notes then. Thousands and thousands of colorful characters have been dissolved in the protein juices forever now.

The demolition seems to have been quite an event. Facebook told me that Taco Cabana was giving away free food for those who came to watch. Most of the youtube videos contain excited, Chinese or Korean voices. The event itself took three or four seconds. A series of explosions and a neat perfect collapse...massive dust cloud bellowing up in the aftermath.

The act couldn't be farther away from the old home demolition that has finally gotten underway here. Our old home, a small single storied, tile-roofed 1954 building has been contracted out for demolition. Ever since the demolition came up, everyone who has been associated with that home have been waxing sentimental to varying degrees. Negotiations dragged on about how difficult it is to carry the debris away and how the operation makes no profit for the contractor. Then there continues the unending demand for salvaging bits and pieces.
"Oh! the ceiling wood is so good!",
"We certainly can reuse the metal sheets."
"Why would we throw away the solid doors and windows?!"
"Someone could surely use those roof tiles!"

The process moves painfully slowly. The mental inability to let go is gloriously reflected in the actual physical process. Luckily, NGOs and rest of the society hasn't interfered in the name of heritage.

Had it been in India, just the unsubstantiated rumor that some political or religious outfit's head honcho had taken a siesta one god forsaken afternoon in one of the rooms would have been enough to stall the demolition of the Plaza Hotel. Even if the demolition went ahead, it would have been done over a couple of generations with every single bit of the building finding use somewhere else. Like the Indian soul, rebirth galore. As the demolition of one side progresses, we would have easily found guests only too willing to stay in the rooms still intact.

America destroys quickly, decisively and rebuilds from scratch. In India, everything lingers and transforms, never totally lost. To remember like an Indian and act like an American...that's the elusive combination, I guess!

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