The American Bar is locked until evening. As it should be. Even in the height of Summer it is difficult, wrong, to imagine the rooms not blurring softly into deep shadow.
Look for worlds within the worlds.
It is less a bar than a well hidden altar to the pleasure of sybaritism. If the hotel feels like the setting of a Henry James novel then this small, beautiful episode feels more like a short story by James Baldwin or, maybe, Henry Miller.
Someone once told me that there were only two ways to order a drink in a serious bar.
The first is to know precisely what you want and to order with military surety.
The second, and only other, route is to fall into the custody of your bar person and ask them to give you what they feel will perfectly satisfy.
I’m strictly option two. I am served a Gilbert’s Garden. Simple. Gin, Rosemary, ice, onion. It is almost transcendentally perfect.
Midway through this tiny pool of liquid I remember a conversation with a director who said, “The real story happens in the shadow. Out in the edges. Get the shadow right and the light will fall into place. Let the light fall right and everything else is pulled into perfect order.”
I mull the similarity between film directing and interior design. I think about this a lot. I take another drink. Everything fell into perfect order.
I think of Miles Davis seducing Juliette Greco when I run my fingers across the walls that are clad in the most almost not there cashmere. He wrote that his favourite ever suit was a cashmere two-button describing the weight and colour as being like the smoke from a Ferrari or a pistol. Wearing the suit made him feel lethal, irresistible and invincible.
Sitting at that bar, halfway through drink number two (a Negroni interrupted by a splash of soda – the barman is from Rome and assured me it has heritage this way – the soda gave it a gentle lightness to counter the low medicine jolt of gin and vermouth) I feel that I know what he meant.
I would advise staying in The American Bar until your eyes begin to adjust to the light. Not because anything is revealed that is not flawless, capricious and disgracefully gorgeous, but simply because the fragile enchantment relies on a suspension of reality and what is moving in the shadows.
I am gone.