Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Motels Part I


The Kozy Motel in Manchester, KY is a sagging platform of concrete and plaster that sits atop of a NAPA store my uncle Shorty has owned as long as I've lived. It was once a nice, clean, no-frills motel. It had been the only place to stay in town when my uncle owned it too.

When I was young my uncle drove my cousin and I to Lexington to see the WWF. It was the mid-eighties, and pro wrestling was at its height with heroes like Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant beating each other senseless on national television three times a week. In the back of the car my cousin and I talked about our heroes. I had a Jake the Snake Roberts poster that ran the length of my door, and my cousin had a foam replica of the championship belt which I envied greatly.

"Randy 'Mach Man' Savage, is going to be there with Elizabeth" my cousin said. "He hates Hulk because they used to be friends."

"He ain't a Macho Man," my uncle Shorty said. "He used to stay at the Kozy with his brother Lanny when they wrestled Smokey Mountain. I threw them out for stealing towels."

We loved the show that night because we had a first-hand account that the heel Macho Man was a real villian-- a towel thief.


At the Baptist college I first attended, there were rules for everything. There were rules against holding hands in public or kissing on the lips. There were rules against wearing the wrong t-shirt, against unnaturally colored hair or pierced noses. There were rules to keep students from running.

Students were given two overnight passes a semester which had to be signed by their parents and approved by the college. If a student left for the night without an overnight pass they could be expelled. The college had learned long ago it was easier to expel troublemakers (free thinkers, pregnant girls) than to reform them. It was a work/study college, so it didn't hurt their bottom line to send half a dozen home each semester. It sent the right message to those that stayed.

The night before finals I sat in a Denny's with a girl I had known for a week. We smoked cigarettes and drank coffee. I had met her in art class where she only drew dead trees and nursery rhyme characters. Neither of us had an overnight pass, and each time a police man came to the pick-up window we sank into our seats.

We spent the night in a motel which had been built on top of a former stripmine. The polyester comforter was stained with motor oil. Ladybugs explored the blinds. We made love as if there was no hope left for us tomorrow.


She had taken off her pants in the car as we crossed the desert because I asked her too. The car had no air-conditioner, and the heat had been growing since we passed an amusement park on the other side of Los Angeles. I had never driven a stick before so we depended on long runs. If I stopped at a light we were lost. Roadside flea markets bled into Barstow, and afterwards we vanished into the Mojave at seventy miles an hour.

Her feet dangled out the window, and sunlight bounced off half-painted toes. By the end of the day we had left the desert behind us, and found ourselves over seven thousand feet above sea level in Flagstaff, Arizona. I promised to get her off the road soon, and she asked if I wanted to go out later get a tattoo.

The lobby of the motel was decorated with statuettes of Hindu deities. Above the front desk curling blue arms spread out like a crab next to black bodied goddesses heavy with jewels. We checked in under fake names and paid in cash.

That night as she slept I sat on the floor in my underwear and watched a documentary about The Mississippi River. Hernado De Soto first laid eyes on it in 1541, when he was forty-four years old. I counted the days until I would see it for the first time. I was young. I too was an explorer.


Anonymous said...

Maybe we're both refering to different moments in different lives, but god it was hot & we never did make it to that back-alley tattoo shop... All the same, that was a really good summer.

Anonymous said...

Feel completely free not to approve that last comment, by the way. Maybe you're not even refering to that summer, but it made me think of it all the same.

Hope you're doing well!