The Truth About Publishing, Part 6

I schlepped into Manhattan late last Thursday afternoon to deliver the finished manuscript of my Damn France Book.

I took a train into Manhattan, and a taxi to the Flatiron Building, and when I got to my editor’s office I took a photo of the Damn France Book sitting in her guest chair:

One of the reason I hand-deliver my manuscripts is because I get such a charge out of hanging out in my publisher’s offices, because my publisher is Bloomsbury, and Bloomsbury’s offices are in the historic Flatiron Building in New York City. You know the Flatiron:

Built in 1902, it’s been famous since it was erected on a peculiar triangle-shaped bit of land on 23rd Street in lower Manhattan.

In 1903, the artist Alfred Stieglitz made the first iconinc image of the Flatiron in a snow storm using that new fangled technology: photography.

In 1904, the artist Edward Steichen paid homage to Alfred with his iconic image of the Flatiron, using that new fangled technology: color photography.

The Flatiron is situated at the heart of lower Manhattan, where Broadway (an old Indian trail that slashes its age-old way diagonally down the isle of Manhattan) crosses Fifth Avenue.

See how the Flatiron is built like a triangle? Like a flatiron of yore? (Photo of a flatiron of yore to follow.)

On this visit to Bloomsbury, I was on a mission: I wanted to penetrate the inner sanctum, get to the heart of this publishing culture. I wanted to get here:

I wanted to get to the head office.

Well, they are very nice people at Bloomsbury. My editor, Kathy Belden, was more than happy to take me down into the pointy part of the building. Turns out that the Publisher of Bloomsbury, George Gibson, has his office in Bloomsbury’s front wedge of the Flatiron, on the third floor.

This is what a distinguished literary Publisher’s office looks like:

This is George’s desk, in the cradle of the Flatiron Building.

If you step carefully over George’s lateral filing system on the floor, and look out his window (which faces uptown, north, towards streets that number 24 – 220th, the highest street number on the island of Manhattan, by the way; anything higher is in the damn Bronx), this is the view:


And then I was out on the pavement, heading up to 29th street to check out the latest hipster haven in Manhattan, passing through the Fifth Avenue plaza at 23rd street:

My destination was The Ace Hotel at Broadway and 29th street.

The Ace is the anchor to Manhattan’s newest (and some say, last) new neighborhood — NoMad.

NoMad was the only stretch of un-named real estate left in Manhattan, a dreary stretch of streets north of 23rd and south of 34th that are full of discount perfume stores. The area is north of Madison Square Park = NoMad.

I wanted to see the Ace Hotel because the Ace chain (of four hotels in America so far) was founded by Portlander Alex Calderwood for Portland-ish travelers — cultural travelers— who travel to see film, design, art, literature, food, and music.

The sidewalk evergreens  have fetching little blue lights in them.

Inside the hotel it’s very dark and word is, there’s a hip bar scene going on in there.

It was so very dark in there that I didn’t take photos, but I wasn’t there for the bar scene. I was there for the Stumptown Coffee bar.

Stumptown Coffee is famous in Portland , Oregon — a strictly hometown institution, full of Portland ethos and style and insider jokes (Stumptown is an old nickname for Portland, from when it was a pioneer town and the developers were cutting down trees and the locals, already showing signs of their peculiar brand of Portland tribalism, decided to come up with the least catchiest town moniker ever).

So there I was, standing in the middle of the Stumptown coffee bar in the Ace Hotel,  and I start shooting pictures, and this is what the barista does:

That is sooooo Portland, soooo Stumptown coffee.

And yes, all the baristas wear hats.

One last picture, not related to this post at all: I walked to Penn Station on 34th Street, passing the Hotel Pennsylvania on my way to Penn Station to catch the LIRR home to Long Island. And on the sidewalk was the cabin crew for Air India, waiting for their bus to JFK airport:

I just loved the sari -ish uniforms — in turquoise!

20 Comments, RSS

  1. Margaret July 4, 2011 @ 3:49 am

    Oh, I do! I so want to read about your forthcoming weekend at the Ace Hotel!
    This post is so interesting – Even I have seen pictures of the Flatiron Building and have wondered about its origins and why it is that shape. And now I have seen the inside too, albeit at second hand.
    Could you not do a ‘Damn Manhattan’ book? It would provide you with lots of reasons to stay at the Ace Hotel….

  2. Mary July 4, 2011 @ 9:33 am

    I’m thinking that would be a nifty place to have an anniversary night/weekend.
    Next time it rolls around, ask Top Cat if you can have THAT as an anniversary gift to each other. It would be f u n .

  3. Laura George July 4, 2011 @ 9:45 am

    I’ll ready anything you write so bring on the Ace Hotel! Oh, you make me laugh! I really appreciate your wit and humor…great way to start my week! Hugs from Florida!

  4. Janet July 4, 2011 @ 10:22 am

    I’m with Laura: I am up for reading anything you write. Scribble it on a cocktail napkin, artfully of course. Pencil it on the stub of your train ticket into the city. Write something on the postcard in your room at the Ace Hotel (I hope they haven’t abandoned the wonderful custom of hotel stationary.) Thanks for this post. I loved my afternoon in the city.

  5. Rachel July 4, 2011 @ 12:36 pm

    Actually, Janet – and everyone else – have said it all for me too. Although I suspect that The Ace has indeed abandoned hotel stationary. Most have. Wishing you and TC and the under cats a glorious fourth. Indeed time to celebrate. Hugs from San Diego as well…

  6. Terry Grant July 4, 2011 @ 1:10 pm

    Stumptown coffee in Manhattan just seems wrong. Can you really appreciate its rich, earthy mood-altering effects without a drizzly rain falling outside the front window? I’m skeptical.

    Terry in Portland

  7. Tracey July 4, 2011 @ 9:52 pm

    What I REALLY want to know is if the coffee is worth all the hype.

  8. Janet July 5, 2011 @ 8:51 am

    There is a new Capital One commercial that I just saw last night. It’s shot from the little triangle park you’ve described in this post — the last scene shows Ben Stiller’s daddy urging us to use our Capital One card and in the background is — yep, you guessed it: the Flatiron Bldg. It’s as if you were the location scout for the spot.

  9. Nadine July 5, 2011 @ 11:11 am

    Could the “Excelsior” in the lobby an homage to Jean Shepherd? I know of no connection between him and the Pacific Northwest but I always associate that word with Shepherd.

    Be sure to tell us if you think the Chelsea Hotel should be worried about the new kid in town.

  10. JOAN July 5, 2011 @ 1:24 pm

    I’m happy reading anything you write. Why not a series of Postcards from Long Island, Manhattan, Brooklyn, all the boroughs, complete with your illustrations in miniature. You’d reel me in right away.

    Spending the night in the posh upscale hotel is a great staycation for a personal celebration. What’s next, birthdays or anniversary, first kiss ????
    Whatever works.

  11. Deborah July 5, 2011 @ 4:10 pm

    Of course I want to hear about your cross-cultural adventure!

    Thanks for the inside peek at the pointy-cornered office. That’s exactly where I want to head every time I see a picture of that building (well, that, and I want to scale it like spiderman)

    Just watch Shadow Catcher, a documentary about Edward S. Curtis and how long he labored to produce his 20 volume set on the American Indians (10+ years) and thought of you.

  12. Laurie July 6, 2011 @ 8:49 am

    Where the Knicks** play baseketball…:)

  13. Laurie July 6, 2011 @ 8:50 am

    ..and maybe if I spelled basketball correctly that comment would have some credibility

  14. Barbara Lemme July 6, 2011 @ 12:42 pm

    We always want to hear the latest and enjoy the pics/art. No fear, we are here.

  15. Helen McHargue July 6, 2011 @ 7:44 pm

    This is a little off-subject but I thought of you and book signing when I read a little story in “The Sisters” by Mary Lovell. “A famous writer was in Australia on a book signing tour. As one woman handed him a book he asked her name and duly wrote, ‘To Emma Chisit with best wishes….’ It
    turned out that the woman had only been asking the price.

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  17. Vicki in Michigan July 6, 2011 @ 9:53 pm

    Thanks for taking us along and letting us look out that really cool window on that excellent view!

    I’ll be glad to hear about the Ace Hotel. 🙂

  18. Barbara Finwall July 7, 2011 @ 3:29 pm

    Looks like Alexander thought Topcat would need some help on your visit to the hotel. (You may have already deleted his comment).
    Of course I’ll be waiting for whatever you write next.

  19. nancy javier July 7, 2011 @ 3:50 pm

    Hi Vivien,
    We used to stay at the Pennsylvania Hotel where we did our needlework shows back in the early 80’s. It was then called the New York Penta.
    I just looked it up to see about the name change and found this interesting bit of info:
    The hotel has had the distinction of having the oldest continuous phone number in New York still in use today. That number, Pennsylvania 6-5000, is the inspiration for the Glenn Miller song of the same name. Many big band names played in the hotel’s Cafe Rouge including the Dorsey Brothers, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and the Glenn Miller Orchestra.
    Nancy (Barbara’s sister)

  20. Mary July 8, 2011 @ 5:54 am

    I think you have been hacked. Alexander is an interloper.

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