First, it was significantly Western. An Easterner or a Middle Westerner would have thought it over first. Then the fact that the man was so average made it significant. If he had looked like a vagabond it would have been not even an incident. It is we who are respectable who are fettered by Grundy. It was a logical thing to do and natural and terribly human, but most of us can’t do the logical thing and natural even if inside we do feel terribly human. Especially these spring days. Today at noon I would like to have gone up on the grass in Union Square and taken my shoes off. Why didn’t I? Not because of the police — but Grundy.
Now a Piute Indian woman could have done it. Her stockings too. A Piute Indian woman when she’s tired she sits down right in the street, right where she’s tired. But you and I, when we are weary we may sigh — “Wish I could sit down.” But we can’t, not until we’ve gone down the street and up in the elevator to some particular place where Grundy says we may sit.
The most significant thing about that man on the grass was that he was in the heart of a great city. Cities are like homes. Some you’re comfortable in — some you’re not. Now, San Francisco, it is a real city, with all the metropolitan lares and penates, dignified and vividly active. And yet there is no city in the country whose children may be as “at home” as here. It is the only city I know of that has forgotten to provide itself with nasty little “Keep Off The Grass” signs. It will probably never be an altogether prohibition town.
It is best to say at the very beginning that if one is tremendously wealthy he will not enjoy this dissertation on staying at high class hotels. If one has more than two bathrooms in his home and can afford chicken when it is not Sunday and turkey when it is not Christmas and could stay at the Fairmont all winter if he preferred, then these words will mean nothing to him.
She has gone, this friend of mine. All winter she has been staying at the Fairmont. Much of the time I, too, have been staying at the Fairmont as her guest. So it is with a sense of double bereavement that I write.
Talk to me no more of the comfort of cozy little homes. Give me a hotel where I am treated as though I were a Somebody. Where I have but to press a button and a liveried servant comes running as though I were Mary, Queen of England, or Clara Kimball Young. And plenty of hot water for baths and lots of enormous towels and, as soon as one’s butter is gone, another piece, and fresh butter at that. Pitchers of ice water and a strapping big man standing so solicitously and watching one’s every mouthful. It makes me feel as though I were the Shah of Persia. At home I don’t feel at all like the Shah of Persia.
I came across something the other day that Boswell quotes Dr. Johnson as saying on this same subject: “There is no private house in which people may enjoy themselves as at a capital tavern. At a tavern you are sure you are welcome, and the more noise you make, the more trouble you give, the more good things you call for, the welcomer you are.”