I was new in town and needed a short-term accommodation so I headed to a neighborhood near the coast to see if I could find a hostel or B&B.
I saw an old seaside mansion a few blocks away from the shore that had a vacancy sign hanging from the porch.
I walked in and was greeted by the owner, a middle-aged, slovenly, heavyset man who politely greeted me and asked if he could show me around the premises.
The place was an absolute mess and in dire need of what I thought would require massive renovations.
The man took me into a room with a large aisle dividing two sides of sleeping berths, some with doors and others closed off with just ragtag curtains. The conditions were simply appalling and I couldn't imagine how such a place could even exist, especially so close to the beach and in what appeared to be a fairly upscale part of town.
As it was nearing breakfast time, the man invited me to stay and join him for pancakes and coffee while he attended the morning rush in the dining room.
While he was working at a contraption that made pancakes, he was showing me how he applied these huge bricks of butter to the grill which made, in his words, "the perfect pancakes."
As he was making another batch, he turned to me and said he thought I'd make an excellent hotelier and was eager to finalize the details of our agreement for sale of the hotel.
I seemed to have forgotten that I was there in the first place because I had come to take possession of the hotel after having stayed there some months earlier, falling in love with the hotel and its surroundings.
I decided to go for a bike ride to clear my head while the reality of my soon becoming a hotel owner sunk in.
On my way out, I grabbed a large orange from a bowl on one of the tables.
As I was riding through the neighborhood of beautiful tree-lined streets towards the shore, I managed to peel my orange with one hand and by biting the rind, which I most uncouthly spit out onto the ground hoping no one would see.
As I approached the shore, I could see the beach through the wooded fields, but what caught my attention were a string of houses I had just remembered belonged to the hotel and were used as external properties which would soon become my own.
I returned to the hotel a few months later to take possession of the property, but when I arrived, I noticed that the place was in shambles and all but uninhabitable.
I was greeted at the reception desk by the owner who appeared nervous and smiling through some sort of agony which he struggled to hide.
He told me everything was in order and that the notary would be there soon for the official transfer of the property.
I couldn't believe how much the hotel had changed over the few short months since I had last been there, but kept my trepidations to myself and acted if nothing was wrong, though the owner could plainly see how concerned I was.
I walked upstairs to inspect the large sleeping corridor and was shocked to see it in a state of disrepair so decrepit that it would be impossible for any guest to lodge there.
The doors were off their hinges and the curtains were threadbare. There were holes and sometimes gaping openings in the ceiling where rafters and skylight could be seen. There were cots with stained torn mattresses and unmatched broken chairs strewn about everywhere.
I walked into the courtyard and passed the guest laundry facilities where a dozen or more washers and dryers were located in what I imaged was once a greenhouse. Some of the machines had been recently replaced as they still had the manufactures stickers on them.
I thought it was quite interesting to observe that every machine had large quantities of small coins---or perhaps tokens---set atop of the coin slots.
I went back into the hotel and found the owner making pancakes as the morning breakfast service had just begun and the tables were already filled with guests.
Having just made my rounds through the property, I couldn't imagine where all these people were being lodged as I didn't seem to see one guest room that appeared habitable.
I asked the owner where all these guest had slept and he told be they were all staying in the new wing, which he said slipped his mind and forgot to tell me about.
He said that after we had agreed on the sale of the property, he realized how much he had let the hotel fall into disrepair and hired a contractor to build a new guest wing while the other part of the hotel could be renovated. He said he had spent a million dollars of his own money for the renovations and that it would not influence the price we agreed upon for the sale or any other conditions. He apologized and said he felt bad and that his paying for the renovations should make up for any irresponsibility on his behalf.
He told me that he had to catch a train and suggested I finish making the last of the pancakes.
We shook hands and he was on his way.
I made the last dozen pancakes with the remaining batter and took the platter of pancakes around to the guests, inviting those who wanted a second helping to take two more pancakes, though I didn't anticipate so many people would want a second helping and the platter was soon empty.
As I was walking out of the dining room, I noticed an old wooden hutch that had a number of large serving platters that still had generous portions of fried eggs, hash brown potatoes, sautéed mushrooms and fresh tomatoes upon them.
Just then, one of the guests, a young, tall, slender blond-haired woman came up to me and introduced herself as one of the staff members. She told me that it was custom for the staff to use the communal bath on the second floor after dinner on Thursday evenings. She said as the new owner, I was well within my authority to revoke what had become a well anticipated perk for the hotel employees, but I assured the woman I had no intention of keeping them from their long-standing ritual.
Somewhat overwhelmed by the morning's flurry of activities, I decided to go outside and sit on the porch and get some fresh air.
Just as I sat down, I saw I man I recognized to be Ron Mark, my former playwriting professor from college, looking exactly as he had some 34 years earlier.
As he walked in front of me, he did a double take, turned around and walked back towards me.
In the few seconds that transpired before he reached the porch and stuck out his hand to greet me, I tried to do a quick mental calculation of his age, remembering that he was 47 in 1988 when we first met at DePaul University in Chicago.
Then I woke up.