You’re tired of going to places where all you can see are fellow New Yorkers trying to escape New York. So you get on an American Airlines flight from JFK, and four hours later you’re in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a place that will not leave you unchanged. A little while later, your cab drops you off at the Hotel Oloffson, the funky, famously eccentric place where Graham Greene set his Comedians, Charles Addams housed his Addams Family, and Harold Pinter got married. Outside its gates are the humbling, urgent realities of perhaps the most ill-starred country in the hemisphere; but inside, the young Haitian-American owner, Richard Morse, has resisted coups, armed attacks, and constant threats to defend a flavorful, tranquil hotel whose rooms are still named after the writers and actors who’ve stayed there. And every Thursday night, the two sides come together, as Morse and his band, Ram (featured in the movie Philadelphia), play songs of independence from their Puritan Voudou CD in the lobby while Ton Ton Macoutes, coffee-colored beauties from the rich houses on the hill, U.N. officials, and people who are living on the streets all come together to hear the possessing rhythms. Three days in Haiti is a year’s course in realism, and in the ways we find to transcend it.
DETAILS Hotel Oloffson (011-509-23-4102, fax 011-509-23-0919; rooms start at $75). The hotel has its own restaurant (entrées, $10 to $15).