Welcome, Travelers, to a destination new to many but well-worth the time and effort! Rich in fascinating artifacts, personal histories, exotic foods, and charming locals, Apartment 506 of the Wilmer Arms will put you under its spell from the moment you enter the atmospheric but strangely fetid elevator on level one and soar to the heights! Or the hearty can enjoy the austere clarity of the concrete stairwell! However you arrive, prepare to be delighted.
At first the tiny “Welcome Center” with its quaint teeny bench and table (strewn with an amazing array of print ads and bills, envelopes, paperclips, coins, and unidentified keys all in a large handwoven Chinese-knock-off “Mexican” basket) may seem cluttered and daunting, but if you take a moment you will appreciate its familiar appeal. This is a spot “for locals only” where visitors often pass through failing to drink in the experience. Connections with the indigenous peoples are already forming! Take a moment to check out the few small photos of odd groups and couples on the wall next to the obviously historic flaking mirror. Here the colorful personalities of the natives bloom uninhibited. This is your first taste of the intoxicating adventure you have undertaken!
Our next stop is just a few steps away in the main district of “506,” as is it known to locals. It’s a busy cosmopolitan hub for entertainment, casual dining, musical performances and even spontaneous dancing. If you’re lucky you may see the natives performing their classic “Croon Into the Hairbrush” and humorous “Disco” moves or even a risible but sincere “Moon Walk.” This multi-purpose, multimedia center is a daily work and play ground for the local folk.
Before you leave, don’t miss the mantel which is laden with more enigmatic photographs, half-burned smoky candles with truncated wicks left from apparent revels past, and sometimes petrified orts. This display is a veritable museum of the culture and sensibilities of 506. So too the small short tables near the large inviting lounging areas. Here you find remnants of dining pleasure, paperback books teasingly missing their covers and the first thirty pages, glasses and mugs empty, but often with tantalizingly dark stains. The most revealing find of all, if you are lucky enough, will be personal mail and messages, in and out of envelopes. Dive deep into the psyche of the inhabitants. Overdue notices? Requests from from charities to save animals, cure fatal diseases, or help others in countries whose names you are not entirely sure how to pronounce? Special offers from cable companies, teeth-brightening dentists, credit card issuers and phone services? This is where one’s eyes are opened to the everyday lives of others!
After the hurly-burly of the center of 506, move down the tranquil short passage to the spa-like “watering hole.” Immerse yourself in a hot tub enjoying a healthy dose of scented salts and oils you will find in dusty decanters. Or an invigorating personal rain will refresh the weary sojourner! These sensual pleasures the lucky denizens of 506 take for granted. If you have the time, don’t overlook the cabinet of treasures on the wall: the deep scientific bent of the locals will be revealed. Explore an array of ointments, pills, sera (new, used, out of date, rancid—-a veritable trove!), and small strange implements. If the theme of this district is water, that of the Cuisine Capital of 506 (our next stop) is most certainly temperature, hot and cold.
Large and small appliances provide heat or cooling for the storage and preparation of local fare. Inspect the coldest compartment of the large humming chest for exotic iced entrees like pad thai, enchiladas, meatloaf with a reddish or gray sauce; poorly sealed cartons of a variety sweet delicacies (“Klondike Bars” are a local fav worth trying!); a plastic open box of metallic- smelling and tasting cubes of ice (a taste that is acquired slowly and may not appeal to the hurried tourist); an entire loaf of bread whose best-by date is mainly illegible but definitely from the 90’s; a bottle of imported vodka, flavored or plain. It’s a foodie’s world to explore with the friendly locals who will generously thaw, heat, or pour these odd and delicious viands.
Exhausting as our tour has been, you simply must make time for a quick visit to the tranquil haunt of the 506 locals’ nightly ritual. A large flat surface will invite a completely horizontal experience of unequal peace. To maintain your serenity, avoid the jumble and chaos of the “dresser” top and the storage area hidden by large ill-fitted sliding panels. Both are storehouses of more historical gems and totems, but you will want to maintain this last experience of well-earned calm as you make your way out the portal where your travels began.
Journeys like this one to 506 educate, renew, and change us for the better, letting us see the world as others as do. To borrow from the ever wise Samuel Johnson, “When a person is tired of 506, he is tired of life!”