Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Looking For Lightning

Upscale hotels offer baby-sitting services, and my parents used them three times when my brother and I were wee lads. Two of those times were during a stay at the old MGM Grand Hotel (the one that later burned) in 1977. During a two-night span, while Mom and Dad went off to pull slot machine handles or attend to ceremonies related to a pharmacists' convention, two different ladies attended to us.

The first was a standard-issue grandmotherly-type. For reasons I don't remember, she let us get away with marking up the bathroom mirror with a white crayon.

"You know, some maids don't like that," I remember her saying. Mom ended up cleaning it off.

Our second sitter hailed from India. We could barely understand her through her accent, but we knew enough to back off when we tried to play with the clock radio in the room.

A year later, convention business took us to Atlanta. We spent the first night at a deplorable Holiday Inn with stained carpet and questionable linens.

"This feels like chicken feathers," Dad said of the pillows.

The next evening took us to a high-rise Marriott. We ate room-service pancakes for breakfast, and after dinner, a lady kept her eyes on us for a few hours.

This time, we didn't mark up any furniture, but I was intrigued by her story of what was going on at another hotel not far away. She told us about this adventurous floor, full of strange and wonderful sights, most forgotten to my memory. But I do remember her talking about some kind of a fake-weather room, a "lightning room."

Naturally, I had to go there. I begged Mom and Dad to take me there, to the Hilton down the street. We looked all over. We asked the managers. My parents asked me what I heard. I told them what I heard. We made it to an upper-floor restaurant.

"Well, we have a fountain with lightning in it, but that's it."

That sitter was full of it, we concluded.

Now, I wonder if what she was talking about was really the now-defunct World Of Sid & Marty Krofft, an indoor amusement park housed inside Atlanta's Omni International complex. The park served as the backdrop for the first season of the Krofft Supershow from 1976 to 1977.

Among the attractions was an indoor circus and a life-sized pinball machine. I see no evidence of a lightning room, but my young ears could've easily heard it wrong. In any event, the Krofft's world ended due to a bad neighborhood and competition from Six Flags Over Georgia.

Today CNN occupies the space with newsrooms and sets, but they at least left the gigantic escalator that once led into the park. If I'm a good boy, maybe I'll ride it someday.

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