Last week, a post on the insider Chelsea Hotel blog, Living with Legends, sent me in search of the virtual Chelsea Hotel. On a sidestreet of the metaverse Second Life, the virtual Chelsea Hotel stands, looking a lot like the real-life hotel. It's all there: the neon sign, the bricks, the filigreed wrought-iron balconies--over which hang signs saying "Bring Back the Bards."
Last night, I went back and chatted with the hotel's creator, Mykal Skall, a poet and musician. It was a crowded night, a poetry reading was just breaking up and Mykal was on his way to a Second Life music gig.
Outfitted with harmonica and guitar, he stood with me outside the hotel's entrance and explained how he'd always dreamed of staying at the hotel. Some people come to the city to see the Statue of Liberty--he came for the hotel. He created the virtual Chelsea as a gift to the Bards, the ousted former managers of the hotel. He said, "I just want to bring the awareness up about the greed that's killing the Chelsea."
Mykal Skall's avatar, outside entrance
At the virtual Chelsea, as in the real one, artwork lines the stairways. A rickety elevator takes you from floor to floor. The tiled hallways lead to rooms you can rent (with Lindens, the currency in Second Life). And, unlike in the real one, the iconic mailboxes are here, complete in their seeming chaos. On the desk, a photo of the Bards, a copy of Ed Hamilton's book, and poetry by Skall.
Upstairs, the infamous Room 100 is still smeared with blood and littered with dirty needles and cigarette butts.
"The history of the Chelsea isn't the place, like a battlefield," Mykal told me, "It's the residents. Until they kill it. Then we won't have the next Dylan coming out of there. Or the next Look Homeward Angel written."
We chatted a bit about the vanishing city. About places like CBGB--which also used to have a replica in Second Life (that's where my avatar got his souvenir t-shirt), but that vanished, too. "Of course," Mykal said, "we can always go to Vegas to experience New York." Barring that, we can go to Second Life.
my avatar in CBGB t-shirt, Chelsea stairway