I  awoke this morning from an anxiety dream.  The problem, you see,  is the word “oriental.”  My husband and step-daughter, both pillars of politically correct behavior, have informed me that I must never any longer refer to people of Asian descent as “oriental.”  No, no, NO–people of Chinese, Japanese, Laotian,  Vietnamese heritage will be extremely insulted by this.  The proper term today is “Asian” and I must correct my frame of reference.  But I keep slipping and my husband, particularly, is growing frustrated with me.

And now my anxiety over insulting some poor soul has obviously crept into my unconscious hours. .. for in my dream I was standing in front of a large group of people trying to defend my use of the forbidden “O” word.

The problem is, you see, that I have always loved that word…oriental, ORIENTAL….even this moment it conjures up the most fabulous images.  The old Raffles Hotel in Singapore, leather and wood Louis Vuitton steamer trunks, a dining car on the Orient Express, white jade, red paper dragons, dreams of India for those who traveled on the old Orient Pacific mail packet ships, and, of course, for me today, Mandarin Oriental Hotels.

One of my fondest professional memories is my introduction to this venerable hotel chain.  Perhaps that day was just auspicious because already I’d had the good fortune of sharing our project manager’s hotel limousine from the airport (not my normal method of travel for sure).  Perhaps it was the wall of tiny magenta orchids behind the front desk trembling in the breeze off the bay…but most assuredly it was the instant sense of peace upon entering my guest room.  Oh, the decor was (as designers are wont to say, “tired.”) But that was the purpose of my trip–a model room to present the new guestroom design.

But what made this room, tired as the decor was, such an envelope of tranquility?   Well, first of all, it smelled good–it was very clean, and the bed was made up with extremely fresh, crisp, high quality linens.  Through the partially drawn draperies I could see the sparkling water off Brickell Key, and there was another orchid spray in the bath, sitting on the stone vanity next to a collection of scented soaps and unguents and a pile of fat white towels.

But what totally captivated me came from the television–soft oriental (oops, Asian) music floated out of a standard flat-screen TV, and while I watched, a beautiful booted and caped blond model strode forwards across the screen accompanied by two white afghan or borzoi dogs.  Then a man dove into a pool filled with floating red apples.  What was going on here?  Mesmerized, I sat on the edge of the bed and watched Mandarin’s  looped “welcome video” three times–attempting  (with limited success) to identify the hotels hinted at in one beautiful scene after another.

Finally, I managed to rouse myself from my reverie, wash up, change my clothes, and “orientally tranquilized” drift  down to the restaurant to meet the rest of our team for dinner.

I have read that Mandarin Hotel Group is the favorite hotel choice for another extremely busy (but much more successful) woman–Martha Stewart.  Cheers, Martha, here’s to ORIENTAL tranquility!