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 The Brancatelli File

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BY JOE BRANCATELLI

July 23, 1998 -- Fat Boy the Frequent Flyer had wanted to ride the subway, to do it the right way, but life intervened. So he slid into his Jeep, aimed it toward the Brooklyn Bridge and headed for home.

Funny that Fat Boy still thought of Brooklyn as home. It had been a long time since he had visited, almost ten years since he had finally moved away forever and more than 20 years since he had started flying all over the world. Still, for all the miles, Brooklyn was home, and Fat Boy was going home again.

Home to see a hotel. What a concept. Brooklyn with a hotel.

Fat Boy knew a lot of business travelers wouldn't get it. What's the big deal about another Marriott? Every place has a Marriott. Moscow has a Marriott. Why should it be news, why should it matter, that Brooklyn had a Marriott?

If you grew up in Brooklyn, you would understand. When you grew up in the fourth-largest city in America, you always made excuses for what wasn't there. Things like hotels and newspapers and airports. Somehow, Brooklyn never had any of the stuff that went with being the fourth-largest city in America.

Yeah, Brooklyn is larger than Philadelphia, but, no, sorry, we don't have a television station. Oh, yeah, absolutely, two million people live here, more than Atlanta, but, no, sorry, there's no newspaper. The Dodgers? Moved to LA, give us a break already. Ebbets Field? Knocked it down 40 freakin' years ago. Don't you know that song--"Oh, there used to be a ballpark right here"--yeah, yeah, that's about Ebbets Field. I guess we could drive by where it used to be. The family? Moved to Jersey or somewhere. No, we don't have a Six Flags or a Busch Gardens, but, you know, your kids would like Coney Island. Hotels? Uh, sorry, all our hotels are in "the City," which is what everybody who ever lived in Brooklyn called Manhattan.

That's when Fat Boy the Frequent Flyer realized that he was talking to himself. He shook his head. Silly, he thought. But that's why this damned hotel is so important. It's like two million people climbing on their rooftops and yelling, "Hey, we're still here, we matter, we got a hotel now."

Fat Boy's reveries ended the moment he pulled up to the hotel--a wide, bright building in a new complex of office towers--and maneuvered his way down into the parking lot.

"Ten dollars," said the distracted attendant.

"In advance?" asked Fat Boy.

"Yeah, in advance," said the attendant.

"Welcome home," Fat Boy said to himself as he fished for his wallet and found a bill. The attendant handed him a claim check and walked away, so Fat Boy grabbed his briefcase, got out of the Jeep and started walking up the ramp.

"No, no, no," yelled the attendant from behind. "You park yourself. Drive down the ramp, make two right turns and look for a spot."

Fat Boy just smiled. This was Brooklyn, after all. If it were easy, or even logical, it would be no fun at all.

When he finally made it to the hotel lobby, Fat Boy was shocked by the throngs of guests shuffling between conference rooms. The hotel was only open two weeks, a small army of construction workers was still scurrying from task to task and the "grand opening" was months away, yet the hotel was already packed. Later he learned that the 376-room hotel was already selling out on some nights.

"This is good, this is right," Fat Boy said to himself as he wandered around the hotel and poked his head into the meeting rooms, the health club, the restaurant and a few of the guestrooms. Except for some concessions to Brooklyn's ethnic constituencies, a copious amount of Brooklyn-themed artwork and a newsstand selling Brooklyn post cards--he fingered a photo of an ancient Kishke stand and wondered what out of towners would make of it--this could have been the Marriott Anywhere.

But the point of it all was that it was the Marriott Brooklyn. It was here. It was real. It didn't matter that the hotel was officially called the New York Marriott Brooklyn. And although it was nice to know that 65 percent of the employees of the hotel actually lived in Brooklyn, that didn't matter, either.

All that mattered, Fat Boy knew, was that Brooklyn finally had a hotel. America and the world could come to Brooklyn now and order room service and pay too much for overnight dry cleaning. Frequent flyers could tell their spouses and their families they were going to Brooklyn on business. People would come over the Brooklyn Bridge and now they could stay if they wanted to stay.

After a while, Fat Boy the Frequent Flyer made his way back to his Jeep. He had to get to the airport for a 5:30 p.m. flight, but he knew there was time. So he drove down Flatbush Avenue, wound his way through Prospect Park and kept driving until he reached Coney Island.

It was a hot and steamy July day and the beach and the Boardwalk were crowded. It didn't take long before someone noticed Fat Boy was wearing a tie and a jacket.

" 'Ey, suit!" yelled a shirtless guy in cut-off jeans. "Shouldn't you be in the office?"

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com

Copyright 1993-2004 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.