Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Truth Is Stranger than Fiction
One of my favorite hotels in the world (or at least the parts of the world I’ve seen) is the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Nye Beach, Oregon. Even I readily admit that the Sylvia* isn’t right for everyone, but oh, how it is right for me.
For one thing, it’s old and creaky and you can hear the plumbing gurgle when someone on another floor flushes a toilet. For another, there’s a “house” cat or two that roam around according to their whims. On my first visit, one of them greeted me from my pillow when I checked into my room. There’s no swimming pool, no hot tub, no room service. Not even a phone in your room.
So what is it, you may ask, that makes me love the place so?
Well, it’s 45 feet from the beach. 45 feet straight up. Yes, this funny little place perches on a bluff over the ocean. If one were so rude as to spit off one of the balconies, they could spit on the beach. (Kids: don’t try this at home.)
Each of the rooms is named for a writer and is a world unto itself. Willa Cather has a private entrance through a cottage garden teaming with perennials. E.B. White has twin beds. One rests beneath a window through which you can see the ocean (if you’re a bit of a contortionist). The walls in Alice Walker are covered with a mural that takes my breath away.
On the third floor there is a library crammed with books, both old and new. In the mornings, the smell of coffee drifts down the stairs, enticing guests to wander up. In the evenings, mulled wine waits for those who gather around the fireplace to read, chat, or lounge on the library’s generous balcony.
And all of these things are lovely. They are not, however, what brings me back every time I get half a chance. Instead, I am lured to the place by the dinner game, Two Truths and a Lie.
Every evening a delicious, delectable, delightful meal is served, family style. Guests are seated at large tables and introduced to one another. After a bit of get-acquainted chatter, The Game begins.
One at a time, each person at the table is asked to tell three stories about themselves: two true that are true and one that's a lie.
The other guests then try to figure out which is the lie. Questions are allowed, and the storyteller must answer all questions truthfully.
The results are hilarious.
Somehow or another, even shy people are drawn from their shells by the camaraderie of playing detective with a group of strangers.
And the stories. Oh, the stories you hear at the Sylvia Hotel. I’d swim raging rivers and crawl across sharp pebbles to hear the stories told at those tables. People describe things they’ve never admitted to their own loved ones. They reveal their hearts and sometimes their souls. They share themselves—truly share themselves—with their dinner companions.
The questions are at least half the fun. People give away so much by the questions they ask—their attitudes, their prejudices, their longings. This part of the game is often pee-your-pants funny, as storytellers struggle to tell the truth without giving too much away.
After you’ve played The Game a time or two, you discover that most often, the least interesting story is the lie. Truth is oh-so-much stranger than fiction. And the truth is, dinner at the Sylvia is a delight to look forward to again and again.
*I don’t know the folks who own the Sylvia and no one paid or even asked me to write this.