Down the busy block from Baruch College – an undergraduate school of CUNY – in a residential neighborhood of no distinguishable character, the Carlton Arms (or "Artbreak Hotel") sits. It feels seedy as you approach the locked front door and buzz for admission. A Buddha with a nose polished from years of guests' rubbing his nose for luck sits in the grotto in the entryway.
You walk up the stairs, a stairway painted psychedelically, a sign warning not to let the cat out, and arrive at the second-floor lobby. To your right, an office in which there always are four or five guys talking. Groups of Scandinavians in their 20s mill about, checking in, checking out, asking questions about public transportation to JFK. You catch one of the office-workers' eye – "Do you have a room for a couple of hours?"