Not (entirely) about hostels

A hostel is one of my preferred types of lodgings. Not only does a hostel provide for a more adventurous experience, but it typically strives for a minimal luxury investment in exchange for a more homely and personalized treatment.

But this is entirely academic. On the contrary, I face certain conflict in the idea of composing another travel brochure, and these introductory sentences have already depleted my dopamine reserves. The body suddenly feels heavy and resistant. The black wood table surface sustains my black oversized coffee mug filled to capacity with black coffee. My pen is entirely black colored in both ink and base, and I wish so was the paper on which I write. The entire café features nothing but black colored furniture on a dark gray floor surface. Semi-spherical black lamps extend throughout the ceiling. The anti-chromatic setting fails to inspire.

I make a desperate effort to evoke the brightest emotions about hostels. And yet I feel helpless in presence of tasteless ragtime tunes emitted from the ceiling speakers. The barista raises the window shades, but this does little to redeem the hopeless situation. A headache ensues. I struggle to filter the voices echoing throughout.

I’m at the Station café on Pacific and Kearny in San Francisco, next to Chinatown. The scent of dumplings already reaches me at this distance, provoking further nausea. I’m in desperate need of detoxification.

The Station, what a luring name for a café. How many other similarly named cafes have I encountered? I have come to immediately associate the word with the David Bowie album Station to Station. The self-titled introductory track extends to over 10 minutes, teasing the listener with a minute of steam-locomotive ambient effects before proceeding to an otherwise captivating riff. The album captures a tone of similar character to the soul-influenced Young Americans before it, but otherwise culminates an era in face of the altogether different sound of the Berlin trilogy that follows. I can’t recollect the number of times I must have replayed that trilogy in the past year alone. It’s of no surprise it served as inspiration to countless electronic and industrial music composers.

I incorporated much heavily synthesized music into my listening repertoire in the last couple of years. The idea bears relation to the recurring themes that much characterize my thoughts and emotions. Cyber-reality, existentialism, artificial intelligence, noir, underground… I entertained the films Blade Runner and The Crow a time too many, although not necessarily on screen, but in imagination. I can evoke much of the emotional spectrum characteristic of certain films, books, or albums upon a mere exploration of the respective neural pathway. It makes for cheap and maintenance-free entertainment. In fact, flying over night-time Los Angeles in a commercial jet circa 2018 has evoked an experience not hopelessly distant from a journey over apocalyptic Los Angeles circa 2019. I made sure to play the respective soundtrack as an accompanying measure. The brain fills in much of the missing context.

In how many alternate histories, I wonder, do I gravitate towards performing rock music in cheap night-time establishments? And in what percentage of those branches do I wield the guitar as opposed to percussion instruments? What about keyboards and synthesizers? How many of those sets end disastrously as a result of monitor malfunction or an amplifier short-circuit? I hope my alternate-history counterpart employs a reliable sound technician.

On the topic of alternate histories, I wish to explore future time travel. Some branch of future development involves hostel ownership and part-time operation. Such a real-estate enterprise doesn’t fit in the conventional scope of my aspirations, but the idea provokes certain curiosity from time to time.

I find a hostel to be an open canvas of simple and inexpensive components that if exercised in a right combination, results in a provocative and dazzling atmosphere, capable of generating much nostalgia, creativity, and powerful interaction. I have been amazed with the energy evoked by conversations over tea and old rustic furniture. There is pleasure in serving yourself breakfast in a communal kitchen, welcomed by distant and yet open random strangers. There is spontaneity in finding hens, rabbits, or other farm creatures openly roaming the territory. There is honesty in managing a transparent business serving a budget traveller with minimal accommodation requirements. And there is joy in staying at an establishment less resembling a bureaucratic institution and more a children playground.