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112 COLUMNS A SLAVE
By Michael Matthews
March 20, 2014 -- I'm unlikely to ever watch 12 Years a Slave. I'm sure it's very good, Best Picture Oscar good, but it's not my cup of cinematic tea, what with slaves being flogged for not working hard enough.

On the other hand, I'm writing 112 Columns a Slave because it has now been ten years that I've been trying to keep you amused here at Do Not Disturb. All while being flogged monthly by Joe for my sloppy English.

What you don't know is the beautiful English and some of the humor has not been entirely my authorship. Joe religiously edits every column and seeks nothing in return except my promise to write another one. Meanwhile, an unseen copy editor provides the precise grammar to keep us all sounding good for you, dear reader.

Over the last ten years, we've laughed, cried, joked, analyzed, philosophized and tried to make sense of hotels, especially the luxury end of the lodging scale. I haven't let many secrets go, but I so appreciated the good wishes that poured in after I disclosed my illness. I'm in my second year of beating the bug in large part due to your get-well thoughts and good karma. Thank you, my friends.

Now to another of my secrets: I am terrified of heights. I suffer from acrophobia, agoraphobia and vertigo. Why I don't know. Maybe I was dropped as a baby.

I can't climb a ladder for more than four steps without feeling my nuptials receding into their original home and my sweat glands secreting their contents throughout my terrified body.

I can't even stand by a window that is floor-to-ceiling glass. I won't stay in hotels that have floor-to-ceiling windows unless they have curtains blocking the view. More than once, I've asked the bellman to draw those curtains while I hid in the bathroom. Unfortunately, that didn't work at the Mandarin Oriental San Francisco. The bathrooms there have great views, too. So I stood in the corridor instead while the smirking bellman drew the curtains.

I also have huge difficulty taking one of those hotel elevators that suddenly open to allow you to see the views as you hurtle up or down, seemingly attached by magnets to an invisible wall. Hyatt Hotels, I notice, especially favor these. Your humble hotelier? I face inwards, sometimes on my knees, praying aloud, much to the amusement and, sometimes, consternation, of fellow passengers. I won't knowingly stay or visit a hotel with such elevators.

Idiotic architects on behalf of equally idiotic owners now think it's smart to have hotels and bars perched on top of their buildings. In Hong Kong, where I spent much of my career, the Ritz-Carlton has rooms 118 stories above ground and a bar called Ozone at the top of the tower. You can feel the building sway and your martini gets ripples in it. You won't get a drink order from me. I'm not even getting in the elevator.

In London, Shangri-La is fixing to open a hotel 52 stories high and 623 feet above sea level. It's in The Shard, the world's ugliest skyscraper. The elevator takes a mere 28 seconds to reach the indoor pool on Level 52. I won't be going there, either.

At least the Shangri-La pool is enclosed--unlike the infinity pool at Singapore's Marina Sands. It's about 500 feet above sea level with not even a railing between you and the seagulls. Even the video of the pool frightens me.

I won't even discuss what's going on at hotels in Dubai or China, where higher-is-better isn't just a geographic or economic imperative, but a cultural craze. And don't get me started on Marriott, which opened two hotels in a 68-story building in Manhattan earlier this year. Why am I not impressed with--and terrified by--the claim that the tower is "North America's tallest hotel"?

Speaking for the 18 percent of the world's population that suffers from acrophobia, we are not amused...and we won't be guests anytime soon.

In the meantime, tell Massa not too flog me too hard. I'm already writing my next column.

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ABOUT MICHAEL MATTHEWS Michael Matthews has managed and marketed fine hotels around the world for more than 45 years. He spent 14 years in Hong Kong building the legendary Regent International group. He has also worked with St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton and Rosewood hotels. Matthews is currently based in Arizona. He began writing Do Not Disturb in early 2004.

THE FINE PRINT Joe Brancatelli makes this space available to Michael Matthews in the spirit of free speech and to encourage editorial diversity and the wider discussion of important travel issues. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property of Matthews. This column may not be reproduced in any form without the express permission of Michael Matthews.

This column is Copyright 2014 by Michael Matthews. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2014 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.