Motor Hotel

After A long drive, it’s the kind of
place, like an oasis, or a mirage
in the desert, that just reached
out to you – Motel Vacancy- twenty nine
dollars for the night, on a dimly lit well
worn billboard to the right of the
highway. It’s the kind of place you find
in West Memphis or Gary, Indiana,
where the front door is locked, and
appears to be frosted glass, but it’s
covered in smears from a dog’s nose
being pressed up against it.

The person behind the counter is never
awake, always watching Montel Williams
or Judge Judy, drinking a pepsi and eating
take out. Typically they are more
concerned with the license plate number
on your van, than the five other kooks,
loitering outside of it. Twenty nine dollars
plus tax divided by six, is roughly five
dollars and sixty cents, and no one ever
has it…or at least exact change.

The six of us, almost offset the
ominous presence of the hookers, hustlers
and meth heads lurking in the parking lot,
but not quite, and the two dudes behind
the dark tinted car windows, half way
rolled down, are always just as sinister as
any bad guys in a cartoon or a bad TV
show. If you do make eye contact, it’s
wise to gesture a respectful nod, and keep
walking past.

Usually, when walking across the
second floor terrace, after toting your
luggage and a half way unfurled sleeping
bag up the stairs, you pass a window, with
the curtain left open, probably on purpose,
and some guy is naked, on one knee, at the
end of the bed, which is still made, going
down on a woman, who’s back is arched
and never as pretty as the women you saw
in the movies. Everyone sees it, no one
wants to look, and no one can look away,
nothing is ever said until we are inside the
room, but everyone’s shoulders raise in
quiet laughter, as they pass, trying not to
get caught peeping. “Did you see
that…?!” …of course we all did.

Once we end up in the room, sleeping
spots are claimed, not surprising, no one
is too concerned about getting a bed, and
NO one gets under the covers. A quick
scan of the room, under the flickering of
old florescent lights, you notice the
brown dried blood spatter on the wall
near the bathroom, that doubles as an
open air closet, which will soon be a bike
rack. When the TV clicks on, it’s always
a cerebral crime drama, and you are
thankful you don’t have one of those
ultraviolet black lights the detectives use,
because where we are staying is
DEFINITELY a crime scene, whether it’s
some deviant crime against nature,
something violent, a place for gun and
drug transactions. The less you are sure
of, the better you will sleep. And no one
ever really figures out what that stain on
the carpet is from.

As you wind down and try to
decompress, usually whipped from a long
day and a longer drive, giving your
surroundings a second glance, you’ll notice
the shadow where the wallpaper seams
meet, as they curl down a little bit where the
walls meet the ceiling. The shadow is only
ever there as long as the strobing fluorescent
will cast it, and you will almost always think
it’s a bug crawling on the wall.

Once the bags are dropped, half the
group you are with usually wanders off to
find cheap beer, and weed. By the time
people reconvene on the balcony
overlooking the seedy parking area, with
brown bagged bottles of Falls City, Steel
Reserve or worse, somehow someone
always just found a drug dealer from the
eastern block of Europe or Boston, that
offered to sell them women, weapons,
drugs or electronics. Of course they were
in their room, and there was a baby in a
makeshift play pen, and the Mother’s
sister or friend on the bed drinking cheap
wine and wearing pink pants. Even the
Gideons can’t save these people.

If a cop or security guard wanders by,
because someone lit off fireworks, they
almost always tell you to stay in the room
after dark, once they’ve sized you up. The
idea that we are the least fucked up people
on the premises is mind blowing, but so
is the fact that no one confused the sounds
of lady fingers with the distant gunshots
that are all too common.

By the time you decide to actually get
some rest, you are probably too rattled by
what you have just witnessed in the last
two hours. It’s hard to relax. In your mind
you replay the twenty nine dollar
rollercoaster ride through the cheap motel
parking lot and the dregs of society, and
wonder which side of the tracks you are
on. It’s a five dollar and sixty cent thrill
ride to sleepy town, but at least they left
the light on for us, in this dark corner of
Americana…

Steve Crandall

Coffee sipping pilot of a red FBM frame and a Nikon camera.