Hadn’t realized thew site had been empty for a year!
Hadn’t realized thew site had been empty for a year!
I expected a doorman at the shining chrome and glass doors. Instead we opened the doors for ourselves and stepped into a small elevator lobby. On the right hand side was a matching chromed and mirrored door that had “Office” painted on it in a 1930’s style font.
On the left there was a matching door without the mirroring in the glass. That one was labeled “Club Room”.
The gates slapped closed behind us with a prison movie clang. Instead of clear view of a house or a dock, the driveway was surrounded by fir trees. They were fifteen or more feet high on either side of the drive around the car. The tarmac made a graceful curve through the trees and opened into a hardwood forested area. We crested a small rise and it was on the down slope that I saw a 3 story art deco hotel. Painted in shades of gray and silver, dotted with cobalt blue trim, with long silver aluminum strips along the straight lines of the facade the building looked like something from a jazz age dream. The building was circled with long rows of picture windows all covered with dark silver blinds or silver sheers. The garden boarder around was filled with gardenias plants with potted mums set at intervals along their There was no portico or evidence of any doors.
I followed the drive around the end of the building, past a gated turn in for an underground garage, and up to a river front view.
Lilibet’s house was a 1960’s rancher in a nice 1960’s development with moderate sized yards and tidy wood fences smack in the respectable Severna Park zip code. In a recent 3 year bout property values had gone up by twenty five percent, one hundered percent , and twenty five percent in sucession.
When my time to buy my own home had come, there was no place in Severna Park I could afford. I was up the road in Glen Burnie, in a section wedged between the airport and the hospital. It too had been developed in the 1960s but with an eye to more modestly sized yards and much smaller bedrooms. Aunt Lilibet’s bedroom walk in closet was the size of my smallest bedroom.
I jumped into the housing market when the price of a one bedroom apartment equaled the mortgage on a small house. I’d had enough of shared walls and third floor walkups. I wanted to live someplace where bringning in the groceries didn’t involve careeing around on tiny outdoor stairs with as much weight as I could carry in tissue thin plastic sacks.
We were on the old riverside road on the way back to Lilibet’s slice of suburban heaven when she held up like an old time revival preacher.
“There at the top of the hill!” She pointed. “Turn into that driveway. The one with the gate.”
“You mean the one where they’ll have somebody shoot at us if we trespass? See the sign!” I admist I squeaked a little but I turned into the driveway anyway.
I’d driven by it enough times wondering what kind of mansion or crumbling boathouse was behind it. I pulled up to the speaker and card scan box at the side of the drive.
“Nobody is going to shoot at us. You and your mother always have to be so dramatic.” She snorted. She rumaged in her coat pocket. “Here you go. Try this on the gatebox.”
She handed me a cobalt blue plastic card embossed with a silver camel.
“Seriously? What are we doing, going to visit Joe Camel ?”
“Be quiet and the scan the card.” Lilibet gave me a raised eyebrow and a frown.
I scanned the card, the gates rolled back quickly, and we drove inside.
I had managed to make it to the ripe old age of never-mind without knowing the Tuxedo Inn existed.
I drove by it nearly every day, but I didn’t see it. Owing to the ten foot tall brick wall, wrought iron gates, tall trees, and general camoflague.
It’s on a road that runs down by the river. A woody, hilly two lane road back to what used to be summer cottages and small waterside hotels.
At one time I’d lived a mile up the road in a shingle style house from 1910. It used to belong to the McCormick spice company and big wigs used it as a getaway from the heat of downtown Baltimore. They road a small local railway to a station a quarter of a mile awy. The railroad access has since been turned into a bicycle path. That behemoth of a house was later split into 3 apartments on three floors. I’d had the top floor, where I can only assumer the servants stayed. It had no view of the river and not much in the way of amenities, so it was never where the hoy paloy would have bunked.
I lived there for seven years and wondered, on occassion, who lived behind the gate up the road. Mostly I figured it was one of the newer residents who’d bought up several lots and put an oversized house with tiny rooms in it on the property.
Since I don’t have a boat, I never sailed by my neighbor so I never saw the art deco facade up on the hill. Nor did I see the glints of sunlight or party light from the “ballroom” built on the edge of the property and hanging seventy five feet up a hillside from a floating dock.
Nope, I didn’t know anything about any of it until one November afternoon when my aunt Lilibet took me out to lunch. She didn’t take me to lunch at the Tuxedo Inn, she took me to lunch at the Double T Diner. We were eyeing the dessert case with malintent when she made her play.
“You know you are my only heir.” She mentioned a little too merrily. “And, there is a family legacy that I need to pass along to you.” She pointed to the “sucicide by chocolate” cake in the case. The waitress carved her off a healthy slab and plunked a scoop of vanilla ice cream next to it.
I had visions of a family tiara or great uncle John’s racoon coat or some such. With Mom in assisted living, I had rifled through everything in her house looking for things I could sell when the insurance ended and the money dwindled. There was nothing except grandmother’s modest wedding ring and an antique marble topped table. I picked out a slice of walnut pie.
My mouth was full of pie when Lilibet jumped in again.
“Don’t you want to know what it is?” Her eyes were alight with mischief and her face was deep pink. I hadn’t seen her that full of mirth since we’d gotten snockered on the last of Uncle Howards XO cognac and watched Pirates of the Carribean on DVD.
“It would be really nice if you told me mom’s house had a metric ton of gold bullion buried in the basement.” I sent her a sly smile. She was showing all the signs of bringing up some long lost relative or dumping me with some odd chore I wouldn’t find amusing at all.
She reached out and put her hand on my arm.
“Oh Dear, don’t worry. I will help you with Frances. She will never want for anything.” She gave an extra pat and then grabbed her spoon up again.
Lilibet was doing well with her investments, but I didn’t envision she had 45,000 dollars a year it took to keep mom well cared for.
“No dear, this is something your mother knows nothing about. With only the three of us left, it’s going to be your problem who has it after you.” She looked wistful then she winked. “No dear, this is my your grandfather’s, well for want of a better word. It’s his speak easy hideout!”
“What?” I squealed in spite of a mouth full of pie. “What the hell are you talking about? Prohibition when out in 1933. What is this, a hole in a hollow tree where we hide the family hooch?”
“You just wait and see! Now finish your pie, I’m not letting this ice cream go to waste.”
I’m supposed to be writing something. Something, anything, about this crazy place called the Tuxedo Inn. It’s not in New York, it’s in Maryland. Twenty five miles outside of the nation’s capital. Twenty minutes from the state capital. I promised myself I’d write something about this place just in case I woke up one morning and it turned out the Tuxedo Inn was like “Fight Club”.
Maybe I just snapped one night at work and I’m in a nut house someplace on thorazine dreaming the whole place up. If I am, well I’m certainly perking on the front burner. Thorazine must be better than any of us ever suspected.
But I can’t stay in la la land forever. I have to get back and take care of my mom. She’s 82 and her memory shorts off and on. If she falls prey to the state, they’ll toss her someplace that I wouldn’t put my worst enemy.
Hell, without me the expensive assisted living she’s in wouldn’t do her any favors either. I keep light bulbs, toilet paper, facial tissues, a first aid kit, a sewing kit, canned dogfood, and a six pack of canned root beer in the trunk of my car just to keep things at that joint on an even keel.
Management is so cheap they lock up the light bulbs. Then when residents blow a light the staff can’t get to the bulbs until the next day. By then it’s a different shift and the lights aren’t on. The bulb doesn’t get replaced when the supply closet is unlocked.
More than once I’ve gone down the short hallway where mom’s suite is and replaced bathroom light bulbs for everyone.
The toilet paper is the same way. They’ve switched to the most vile splinter filed stuff they can find and they won’t put a multi-role holder on the wall. Since it takes ten sheets to clean up and afternoon tinkle, a shared bathroom is empty of paper in not time.
I made sure mom always has a jumbo roll of the “good stuff” hanging on a piece of yard on the inside of her bedroom door handle. I also stash a few extra rolls in her sock drawer.
So if I’m in a thorazine induced coma, dreaming about an art deco hotel hidden in the woods along the severn river, I better write this down and wake the hell up before the toilet paper runs out.
If I’m not, if this fantastical place is real. I better write this down anyway because I don’t think I’ll be able to keep it secret no matter what I promised. If I write it down, I’m spilling the beans. But if I don’t put what I write on my blog, then I’ve kept my word.