Monday, November 22, 2010

It's late. It's dark. I'm alone.

More tales from America's desolate blacktop.

Somewhere in Pennsylvania I steer off the wet road and coast into a dim Motel 6. There is an old Ford truck opposite the parking lot that was dropped as a baby. It feels like I just walked into a bar without music. Although there is a canopy above me the rain has puddled on the uneven ground. I open my door, and deciding where to step I get out. Water drips beneath the lame shelter. I throw my hood up and lock the car. I use the spare key. The car is still running with the master key. To risk turning this car off isn't worth it, you wouldn't understand. Standing at the entrance I stare through heavy glass at a retarded looking man who buzzes me through the first barricade. It's like I'm visiting my cousin in prison and I'm ready for anything.

One would expect to pay loads more than $45 per night considering the entertainment these establishments provide.

In true form, Of Mice and Men's Lenny is working the front desk and the freak show begins. From behind the bulletproof glass Lenny says, "Computer problems sir, system's down." I sit down on my old suitcase and inhale the diesel fumes wafting through the door. That last coffee has made sitting still irritating. While Lenny allegedly fixes the printer I sit quietly and wait. Nearly 10 minutes pass before he eventually sends me to room 204 without paying. While collecting my baggage he hits the glass with the palm of his hand, almost like he's begging to be let out, and says, "Five years ago the property was treated for bed bugs so there's nothing to worry about." "Thanks," I say, and since bed bugs are the least of my worries I guess he's right. Fuck, now I have bed bugs to worry about.

I re-park my skiddish car and shrink as the motor goes silent.

I head upstairs and stand at the first landing trying to figure out a system of arrows and numbers that make absolutely no sense. How did they over complicate this? What smells weird? I walk down the hall, insert the key card into room 204, but the door won't open. I do it again. Nothing. I repeat the process and continue pressing down on the lever, but nothing. It's stuck. Something is wrong. I go back downstairs and greet Lenny through the bulletproof glass (if you've read the book the irony is hilarious). He looks at me like I'm retarded because he's retarded, and I feel retarded for what I'm about to ask him:
"Excuse me, I think my door is broken?"
"Broken?" (his voice sounds like it's being tarred to a roof)
"Yes, I inserted the key card and the light turned green, but the door won't open."
"Did you lift UP on the lever?"
"Did I lift UP on the lever?"
"Yes sir, UP?"
"Try and lift UP on the lever."
"O...K......I'll try that."
I don't have long to process that Lenny from Of Mice and Men just told me how to open a door when the Motel 6 Feature Attraction begins. I turn around from the bulletproof glass to find the drunkest man ever left standing. He's trying to open a locked door, a door with a lever I might add, a lever that you push down to open, just like every other levered door handle in the fucking galaxy. Anyway, as Lenny buzzes us through the door it occurs to me there are 3 barricades to this place so far and I'm still standing in the lobby. The buzzer explodes like a level 5 tornado is about to hit and my initial inclination is to trample this drunk fucker and save my own life. I feel like I'm being electrocuted by sound. While the alarm blasts, Drunkest Man is depressing the lever DOWN and the door swings forward. He is about to break his collar bone when I grab and lift by his arm, steering him through. I let go at the stairway and head up. He wobbles away like a dropped football, lopsided and sorry with his shorts falling off. I'm halfway up the stairs when I hear him yell, "PAY DAY!!!"

I arrive back at room 204. I swipe the card, the light turns green, and I lift UP on the lever. What the fuck is going on is all I can think as I navigate my shit through the doorway. I'm certain this entire place was designed by the same reject when I can't figure out how to turn on the goddamn lights. How is this possible? I've finished Sudoku puzzles faster than this. Anyway, I set my old suitcases down, one on the desk, the other on a small round table, then I sit atop a bedspread like Aunt Rhonda had in 1988. I pick up my journal. It opens to an entry from July, 2009 which describes a night from April of the same year: "It didn't matter to me that I was dying because death no longer scared me; living did. I had experienced enough love at that point to believe that the cycle of hope might save me again. Hope is the one thing that on terribly extraordinary occasions is more powerful than love. I envisioned a scorching knife burning the red hot word into my neck; HOPE. The feeling was shackled to my skinny ankle like a sunken ship..." I remember that night in a way that makes me question how I only lived it once. "Fuck this" was my new mission statement. With the determination of a thousand underdogs I was standing at fear's shore wondering just how far I could swim. A rematch was in order.

While still sitting on Aunt Rhonda's bed at Motel 6 I begin to think of all the weird shit that has probably happened in this room. Ice skating bears and killers come to mind. I pull the bed away from the wall to search for an outlet; I need to charge my phone, my camera, my video camera, my laptop, my iPod, Jesus fucking Christ what kind of life is this? Nothing is behind the bed but two condom wrappers and a Diet Coke.

It's Thursday night at Motel 6 somewhere in Pennsylvania and life seems to be painfully normal.

I wake up the next morning to recall something I've recalled a thousand times in my life. My friend Sean's Mom once told him, "There are no free lunches in this world, Sean." Sean and I have been proving Janet wrong since 1992. I just paid zero dollars for a great night's sleep and attended what can only be described as a post-apocalyptic Russian Circus. Let's roll!

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