Sunday, April 4, 2010
At two in the morning, the silence was loud, and the late night darkness felt like a shroud. I looked behind me into the black, and I swear the motel was looking back. I quickened my pace towards the property's edge, and stopped when I reached the sloping ledge. As I prepared to hurl the fish into the marsh, I heard in the distance a sound most harsh. A snarling, growling horrid sound, as if from a pack of demon hounds. This caused my fish throwing to quickly suspend, and my three remaining scalp hairs stood on end.
Amidst the sound of this ghastly roar was another sound I truly abhor. I heard a piercing, shrieking of pain, as if some animal were being slain. The screaming continued, and the growling as well. Surely I was hearing one of the circles of hell. The fighting echoed from deep in the trees, and swirled around me in the chilly breeze. I could see the water from where I stood, so I threw out the fish as fast as I could.
It hit the water with an echoing splash, and towards the motel I made a quick dash. I ran to the front door as fast as I could, but before I went in I stopped and stood. The night air was quiet, the fighting was gone, and not a sound could be heard across the lawn. I went through the door and locked it up tight, and through the window, the half moon shone bright.
I sat on the couch to clear my head, and decided to finally go to bed. All I could think of was what I had heard, and wondered what it was that had really occurred. I pondered my fish and how it had died, and that only helped to keep me wide eyed. So I threw off my blanket and turned on the lamp, and felt that my room was cold and damp. I turned on the heat to warm up a bit, and in front of the desk I decided to sit. I looked at the time, and to my shock, it was exactly three o'clock. The eerie events still raced through my mind, and I knew there was only one way to unwind. I realized sleeping was a waste of time, so I turned on my PC, and wrote this rhyme.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Twas the night before Christmas and at the motel,
What I saw next was a cartoon cloud,
Friday, July 24, 2009
Anyway, my new guest asked what time checkout was, and I let her know it was 11am. She repeated that time out loud, took the key, and left the office.
This morning, around 11:30, I sent Jeff to room 4 to confirm the woman had checked out. He came back with a yes and no answer. She was gone, but so was the key. Still in the room, however, were some clothing, a hair brush, and a few toiletries. I made the decision to bag the items and make up the room for new tenants. That occurred without incident. The former tenant's items were placed with me, on a shelf in the back of the office. I figured the missing key as yet another lost item.
Later in the afternoon, I received a call from a young lady who was a former tenant. She and her husband had lived at the motel for a few months, earlier this year. They moved out about a month ago, supposedly into an apartment. That apparently didn't work out, and they were once again needing a place to stay. I told the wife I had a vacancy, and informed her that it was room 4. She remembered Fish, and was present here at the time of his death. She was a bit sketchy at the concept of moving into "his room", but I assured her that The Fish Tank was a very good room. She and her husband arrived earlier this evening, were grateful to have lodging, and eagerly moved in.
The rest of my evening went without incident. Jayson, my assistant, watched the motel while I went out. I had a follow up meeting with the eye doctor, ordered new contacts, and then visited some friends, who have a new puppy. I was back by 9:30, solved a minor WI FI problem, and was actually IN BED by 11:30. That's early for me, folks.
I was dreaming about something relating to bees in an outdoor cafe (???) when THE DOORBELL RANG. My giant wall clock said 1:45. Even though the "No Vacancy" sign was prominently displayed on the door, I was sure an individual with selective vision was looking for a room. As I opened the door to the office from my living room, I immediately saw an individual with a flashlight and a badge standing outside the front door. Oh goody. Police. Or, as the cry goes out, "We got cops!" It was officer Mallory, and some new cop who had to be younger than even MY younger friends. Mallory said hello and apologized for waking me. He then explained that they had received a 911 call from the tenants who live in room 4. He said the young woman who called sounded quite distressed.
No. It was my mystery lady, who decided, at 1:00 in the morning, that she needed her stuff back from her room of the previous night. Still having the key, she did what any insane person would do, and decided to drive on over to the motel and walk right on in to the room she had occupied. I couldn't tell you why, but for some reason, this disturbed my nice young couple, who were sound asleep in that very room. Anyway, the lone woman was apparently quite perturbed that someone ELSE was in her FORMER room, and was even more upset that her belongings were gone. An argument ensued, which resulted in the above mentioned 911 call.
As my groggy eyes focused on the dark parking lot, I could see three squad cars. I could also see the newly named crazy lady being "detained" by a few officers. One of the officers appeared to have long blond hair. Damn! It was Officer Tracy! Oh well. I informed officer Mallory that the crazy woman's belongings were safe, and I quickly fetched them. I also inquired if she could be politely asked to NEVER return here. Mallory brought the items to the woman, and then returned with the missing room key. I then watched as Lady Twilight Zone drove off the property. My nice, young couple were apparently tucked back safely in their room, so I was unable to apologize to them for the mishap. Finally, as protocol dictated, I gave Mallory my info (full name along with middle initial and date of birth) and bid the gentlemen good night. Officer Tracy sauntered into her squad car on her own.
And I was then left with the quiet, dark parking lot. I was also left with urge to be WIDE AWAKE for a while.
I knew there was a reason I started a blog.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Today had concluded nicely, or so I thought. Actually, the last two days have been really productive. We've replaced some doors on some long vacant rooms in the two story building. Once painted, we will have new rooms ready to rent! We've just about gotten a Kitchenette ready for new tenants, and have done some much needed plumbing repairs. Also, I had two tenants move out unexpectedly, only to find that their room was FILTHY AND they had been keeping a cat in there, which is a big no no around here. It took most of the day to clean it. So between dealing with that, hanging and painting doors, and working the grounds in general, we've been busy.
And oh yeah, the property owner came by today to negotiate with an asphalt company about repaving our entire parking lot.
By 6:30, we were all pretty exhausted.
Jayson, my assistant, announced he was going to his room and passing out. I told him that sounded like a good idea, and announced that I was going to lie down for a bit, myself. I had planned to call Meredith later on and figured I would have just enough time for a short nap before calling. I put the "Please ring for assistance" sign on the front door and locked it. I proceeded to the couch, and dropped.
As I was JUST drifting off, the doorbell rang. Ugh. I got up, wondering who needed towels or toilet paper. As I looked forward, through the door, I clearly saw two uniformed police officers, and two marked squad cars behind them, in the lot.
Never a dull moment. There was no chit chat this time. No "Hi, Chuck, how's it going?" I opened the door and was immediately asked if I knew of a specific 15 year old girl. I replied that I did not, and was then asked if there were any tenants who I thought might know someone of that description. The cops were not smiling, and seemed a bit agitated. I went through each room in my head, thinking of the particular occupants:
Room 1- Scotty, the polite, functioning alcoholic, room 2-Laurie the sleepwalker, room 3-Dave the business man/biker/getting divorced/has a hot British girlfriend from Tunisia (I don't make this stuff up), room 4- the still empty and not rented ex "Fish" room, room 5- recently damaged by the bizarre guy who pulled the bathroom door of the hinges--You know, I don't need to go into all the rooms here. Let's just say I continued going through them until I got to the room with the Lollapalooza couple. I call them that because, well, it fits. (If you aren't familiar with Lollapalooza, find someone in their 20s and ask them). Anyway, the couple in question here are both 20 years old. She has an interesting array of tattoos up and down her arms, and an equally interesting array of piercings all over her face. He dresses all in black, has the black rimmed glasses, and could easily sit in the corner booth at Around The Clock with his emo buddies, drinking coffee.
I brought this particular couple to the officers' attention, and off they went, at a brisk pace. I walked back into the office to grab my cell phone and heard the bell ring again. It was another cop, who quickly asked "Where'd my guys go?" I pointed him in the direction of my young couple, and off he went. Within moments, a fourth squad car pulled up.
By now, the rest of the motel population was curious and coming out of the proverbial woodwork. At this point, I was forced to enact the "We Got Cops!" plan, which involves calling Jayson and Jeff, my maintenance guy, and having all three of us stand outside, making sure the overly curious tenants don't start over-mingling.
I also thought, just then, of our recently deceased Fish. This would have been the scenario where he would have popped his head out and said "Chuck! There's cops here!" I kind of miss the guy.
Anyway, as we were standing outside, watching the proceedings, we noticed a nice, late model Volkswagen Jetta pull into the lot, with a 40-ish woman driving. She seemed very agitated, and was talking on her cell phone as she pulled in. Just as we were wondering what her deal was, we saw one of the cops walk up and start talking to her. We wondered if she was the mom of the mystery girl. Within one minute, our question was answered.
There, from behind the building, emerged a police officer. This wasn't just any police officer. This was Officer Tracy. Officer Tracy, the blond bombshell officer, who upon arriving on any scene, causes most men to use the cliched line of "She can arrest me ANYTIME!" Officer Tracy was escorting an obviously teen aged girl, who looked more annoyed than upset. She brought the girl right up to the driver side of the Jetta, at which point a verbal altercation between the obvious mom and the girl ensued. I would like to now paraphrase, as best I can, what I sort of heard:
Mom (waving finger at girl, from behind the the wheel):
"I can't believe you just.....without....how dare you....!"
Girl (attempting to defend herself):
"It wasn't what you.......I never..........You can't.........!"
"Don't EVEN..........I'm never going to.............you better.....RIGHT NOW!"
And then the ambulance arrived.
"NO! I'm not going to........PLEASE!!!"
The girl was actually escorted to the back of a squad car, and much quiet discussion ensued amongst the cops. I think the male cops just wanted a chance to chat with Officer Tracy. Within two minutes, all the vehicles quietly pulled out of my lot, and left.
At this point the general population of the motel had lost interest and had gone back to their rooms. Even I could see the show was over, and headed back in. It's rare that the cops ever need to talk to me, anyway.
I really have no idea why the ambulance showed up . Also, I never saw any sign of my Lollapalooza couple.
Oh well. I got my phone call in, and assured Meredith it was just another evening at The Old Motel.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
How car shopping got pushed back four hours
(Blah blah, recent accident, teenage driver ran a stop sign, no injuries, just crumpled metal).
So at roughly 9:15 am, we headed out of my residence, through the motel front office, and towards the door.
Unfortunately, standing directly outside the door was Dan, a tenant. He looked distressed, and was motioning with his finger for me to quickly follow him. I was not in the mood to be distracted by the pettiness of whatever I was convinced he needed me to see. I did notice, however, that he was very agitated, and was speaking very fast. He was talking about Fish.
"Fish" does not refer here to our scaly, gilled, underwater friends. Fish refers to FISH, a.k.a. Mr. Fischer, a long time tenant of the motel, and one of our most colorful, amusing, friendly, and REALLY annoying ones. A good man, but one who's life had clearly been derailed by Demon Alcohol. Fish was a former printer, 58 years old, going on 75. He was a physical wreck. Aside from basic alcoholism, he also suffered from a number of related ailments, most notably pancreatitis. He also claimed to have a pancreatic tumor, and a steel rod in his leg from some poorly explained past "incident".
As I followed Dan to Fish's room, I began to have an unsettling feeling. Nothing Dan was saying sounded good in any way.
"He's not movin', Chuck. He's not doin' anything. He won't answer! He's just sittin' there!"
I reached the room and saw that the door was open. I slowed down and peeked inside. I saw Fish. I didn't need to see any more.
Fish was an outgoing, talkative man. He enjoyed having visitors, and prided himself in being a gracious host. Unfortunately, at the motel, being a gracious host also meant that everyone would hang out at your place and mooch off of you constantly. And they did. Also, Fish loved his Cubs and Bears.
"CHUCK!", he would yell, while pounding on the office door.
"WHAT?!?", I would yell back, dropping everything and rushing to the door, wondering what horrific event was unfolding.
"The Cubs are on! Later tonight! CHANNEL NINE!"
"Thanks, Fish. I'll check into that. Right after my heart rate returns below 200."
He also found it of critical importance to inform me of breaking news in and around the motel. One weekend, during torrential downpours, the motel suffered some serious flooding. Rain water and melting snow were running from the sloped ground, directly into some of our basement apartments. Myself, my maintenance guy, and a couple tenants were feverishly bailing water and sandbagging at the same time. It was cold, strenuous work.
And there, around the corner, watching , was Fish, weather radio in hand.
"CHUCK! CHUCK!", he screamed.
"WHAT!? WHAT!?", I screamed back.
"It's really flooding here!"
Thank you, Captain Obvious.
Fish received a monthly pension, and on the third Wednesday of every month he would need a ride to the bank. I ended up taking him each month so the other tenants wouldn't cajole him into giving them gas money for the one mile round trip. Also, he liked to stop at the liquor store on the way back to load up for the next few weeks. The other tenants would also convince him to buy THEM some booze, as well. I figured it was easier for me to take him. Also, it guaranteed I would get his rent right away. He always paid a month ahead. He really appreciated that I would take him, and I always refused his offer of gas money or beer. Each month we had our routine. It was always the same: Leave at nine, drive to the bank, drive to the liquor store, back to the motel. I would always park in the same spot of the completely empty liquor store parking lot and wait for him to emerge with the same exact stuff EVERY TIME. I found this amusing. I also like to play with my phone.
FEBRUARY MARCH APRIL
And so it went. Fish would pay his rent, be set for the next month, and then drink heavily. It was what he did.
But beneath his alcoholic exterior was a talented man. He owned a guitar, and he played it quite well. One evening, when the weather was warm enough for the window to be open, I heard an Emerson, Lake, and Palmer song. It was "From The Beginning", a great acoustic track. I went outside to see who was playing the record or tape or CD, and was stunned to find that it was Fish, playing the actual opening himself. It was beautiful and flawless, and I was speechless.
Unfortunately, this was a rare moment. It was a moment when, for some reason, Fish was actually sober. It made me realize how totally debilitating
alcoholism is, and why so many talented people were not fully realized because of it.
But as for Fish, Jack Daniels was not his only demon. He was also on some serious pain medication. Too many times, he would take his meds AND wash them down with a bottle of Jack. On a number of occasions he would be found, passed out in a sitting position, on the side of his bed. He would sit up near his pillows, so that his night stand was directly in front of him. That way he could smoke his cigarettes, drink his drinks, and look directly up at his TV, which was on a dresser to the side of his bed. To the casual observer, he would appear as if he were just meditating. He often left his door wide open, so a passing tenant would see him, and get him into bed. Sometimes they would panic and think he was dead, only to be relieved when he would cough or snort in some startled way. I had remarked a couple of times to my assistant that one day we would find him dead in there.
On a few occasions when his medication ran out, he would claim that he couldn't go on, and he would convince someone to call an ambulance. Someone always would, and off he would go. He would always return two or three days later in a great mood, and looking like a million bucks.
"Chuck, I'm never drinking again! "
"The Bears are playing the Packers on Sunday!"
"Yes, they are."
Every month was the same cycle. He'd get his money and live it up for a couple weeks. Then he wouldn't look so good. Then he would complain about being broke. Then he would look and sound absolutely horrible. Finally, during the last week before his new check, he would be so miserable, that he'd call 911. The ambulance would come and take him away. He would return feeling great, get his check, and do it all over again. Everyone became desensitized to the site of the ambulance. It became known as the "Fish Taxi".
Very recently, after a visit to his doctor, Fish obtained a prescription for Fentanyl patches, which deliver constant pain relief in the form of a nice, tidy opiate. Really similar to morphine. Basically for people who have developed a strong tolerance to every other pain killer. Fish got the box, which contained ten patches. He asked me if I would hold on to the box for him, so that "they won't steal them from me". I figured that made sense. Initially, the plan worked well. Fish would ask me for a patch and I would give him one. Then, a couple days later, he would ask for another. Unfortunately, I started to notice a deterioration in his overall demeanor in the days preceding May 9th. I also noticed that he was asking for a patch EVERY day. Being that I am not his doctor or guardian, I had no ability or right to question or deny him. He eventually told me he was wearing several patches at once.
On the evening of May 8th, Meredith and I returned to the motel after a nice dinner out. She had come up in advance of our planned car shopping the following day. As we approached my door, I was greeted by Fish, who was clearly inebriated, and clearly unhappy. He sounded terrible, and was really not very coherent.
I walked him back to his room, more annoyed at him then anything else. I was not in the mood for any tenant idiocy that evening. Thankfully, the rest of the evening finished without incident.
There was Fish, in his passed out position. I'd seen it a number of times. However, this time was immediately unlike any others before. First of all, he was completely slumped forward. His forehead lay directly on the surface of the nightstand. His arms were both limp, and hanging straight down. And more importantly, he was blue. Not the blue of a former roommate of mine, who was allergic to cats and ended up in the hospital once, but bad blue. Freakish, Halloween makeup blue. The veins on the side of his head were an even deeper blue, making them quite noticeable. A nearly empty Jack Daniels bottle sat on the far end of the nightstand. I yelled one time:
I knew without question that he was dead.
Within one minute of my 911 call, the first squad car arrived. The officer who came out walked into the room, took a look, and immediately walked out. He knew. Then, as if knowing he HAD to do his job, he took a deep breath, and went back in. He then emerged, stood outside the door, and waited. There wasn't much for the paramedics to do, except call the time of death. The next several hours were all policy and procedure. More police, the departure of the ambulance, and the arrival of the coroner. Once it was determined that I was no longer needed, I placed the motel in the hands of my able assistant. Meredith, with the patience of a saint, put down her book, as she and I finally left the property.
Our car shopping went as planned, without incident. But the rest of the day continued for me with the surreal image of a deceased man on my mind.
I don't know much about Fish, except that he had two daughters. They arrived the following day to gather his belongings. They were understandably sad, yet seemed resigned that this was to be their father's inevitable fate. I was relieved to know there would be a proper family service for him.
Now comes the task of cleaning the room and preparing it for a new tenant.
I guess that's what I get paid for.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
It had been a long time since a man and his son had seen potential in a fledgling truck stop. That man had long since passed away, leaving his son, now himself an old man and owner of a large apartment management company, to step in and deal with the morbid disaster that was his father's former pride and joy.
The old man, who shall be referred to as "Mr. K" (as I would like to continue my vocation here lawsuit free), had, for decades, allowed the motel and its property to run on its own. It had really been quite the cash cow. Although revenue had recently been on the downturn, he had always had extreme faith in the Johnsons. Moreover, he felt saddened by Mrs. Johnson's misfortune, and believed Mr. Johnson would eventually handle everything. However, with the bereaved husband's untimely death, Mr. K was left with no choice but to leave his Chicago office, and drive out to the old motel.
It had been years since he had seen the place, and what he now laid his eyes upon bore little resemblance to the quiet, country retreat he remembered. What he now saw resembled a cross between a run down country shack and a carnival act gone horribly wrong. The toothless couple, Al and Wendy, were still presiding over the decaying kingdom. Wendy, in all her toothless glory, sat in the office chair, clad in a bathrobe, hair disheveled. Along the front wall of the office were the now very dusty display cases that still contained the ultra creepy, life size Mrs. Johnson dolls. Al lay in his room, drunk, playing video games, utterly oblivious and unconcerned with the drug dealing and debauchery that now consumed the old motel. And there, back in the main residence, safely tucked in the master bedroom, was the actual Mrs. Johnson, blissfully unconscious, and unaware of all that was unfolding around her.
Mr K felt sick. He felt emotionally sick over the sadness that was now the once proud Mr. and Mrs Johnson, and actually sick to his stomach at the disgusting nature of the motel, and its even more disgusting toothless managers. He was also highly disturbed at the sight of the horror movie-esque dolls that graced the front office. In short order, he fired the toothless duo, threw out the dolls, and arranged for Mrs. Johnson to be transferred out of the motel, and into a proper facility.
Mr. K 's children, now grown and working for their father's management company, urged him to sell the property and be done with it. But he simply couldn't. The motel had been his father's baby, so to speak, and he still believed in its potential. Mr K brought in a management couple from one his apartments in Chicago, and set them up at the motel, hoping they could clean the place up. Initially, the new managers, Larry and Carol, did a decent job of cleaning up both the clientele and the property, but that didn't last long. Carol, at 300+ lbs, was more content to sit at the front desk, take in rent, and eat double cheeseburgers from the McDonalds down the street all day long. Larry, who was the encyclopedia definition of --well, I'm not sure there's actually an encyclopedia definition of semi-alcoholic, redneck womanizer, but if there was such a definition, his picture would be next to it.
Larry had hired a housekeeper named Kathy. Kathy was no prize, herself. She was a 60-ish Marlboro chain smoker, who had a leathery face, and probably not much more than an 8th grade eduacation. She had the same voice as Marge Simpson's sisters, Patty and Selma. (If you don't know the voice, you'll find plenty of examples on YouTube).
Anyway, Larry apparently decided that Kathy was a sweeter catch than his current cheese burger gobbling wife, and decided to make advances towards her. Kathy was not impressed, and somehow knew that Larry was pocketing some overnight rental cash. She managed to send word back to Mr K in Chicago, who then quickly set up a "sting". Larry was caught not reporting rent, and he and his wife were summarily fired. Kathy was given the managerial position on a temporary basis, until a proper, full time manager could be found. The plan was that Kathy's son, a man in his 30s, would move in and help her . He moved in, alright, and preceded to live the life of a demanding hermit, ordering his mother to cook for him, and provide him with anything he wanted. Kathy had apparently spent her life being ordered around by men, and had no means to stand up for herself.
Approximately three years had passed since Mr. Johnson had died, and since Mrs. Johnson had been moved back to a nursing facility. The following obituary appeared in the local paper:
"..... Johnson, died Monday, Feb. 28, 2005, at the age of 57.
The motel continued to stagnate, and Mr K found himself under increasing pressure to either make the old motel successful, or dump it once and for all.
Meanwhile, a decently educated guy, who lived in the same town, was really sick of the brutal sales company he had been wallowing in for the past six years. He was divorced , in his 40s, and wanted something stable and local....
Monday, May 4, 2009
For all their idiosyncrasies, the Johnsons ran a tight ship at the old motel, and loved each other very much.
One evening, while celebrating their wedding anniversary, Mr. and Mrs. Johnson ordered in some Chinese food from their favorite local place. Unbeknownst to them, the restaurant had recently changed some of its cooking methods. One of these changes included a switch to peanut oil, to which Mrs. Johnson was severely allergic. The first thing Mrs. Johnson bit into was her favorite, an egg roll. Shortly after swallowing the first mouthful, her throat began to swell, and her breathing became labored. Mr. Johnson quickly called for an ambulance, already familiar with, and recognizing, his wife's symptoms of allergic reaction. Her situation quickly deteriorated as the ambulance took an inordinately long time to arrive. By the time the paramedics reached her, she was unconscious.
Mrs. Johnson lapsed into a coma from which she sadly would never recover.
After a lengthy hospital stay, she was transferred to a long term facility. Mr. Johnson did his best to continue running the motel, but needed to divide his time between that and visiting his comatose wife. He decided to hire on some additional motel staff to keep an eye on things while he visited his beloved. He chose Al and Wendy, a lovely couple who, between the two of them, almost had a full set of teeth. Al and Wendy took a room at the motel, and effectively became the managers. Al handled most of the maintenance duties, while Wendy watched the office. They brought in plenty of guests, with the main requirement being a pulse.
The quality of the motel clientele began to diminish.
After roughly a year of this arrangement, Mr. Johnson decided he could no longer keep up the back and forth traveling between the nursing facility and the motel. He decided that he could best care for his wife himself, and arranged to have her transferred permanently back to the motel. He set up their bedroom as a pseudo hospital room, complete with I.V.s and a hospital bed. He was convinced his wife would awaken one day, and he wanted that to happen at home.
Thus began a short, but macabre period at the old motel.
Once Mrs. Johnson was moved in, Mr. Johnson determined that a return to the old routine would be best for her. To keep things "normal", he would often bring her outside and set her (and her wheelchair) on the grass outside the main office. Occasionally, he would comb her long hair, and tend to her while passersby and guests would observe. Often, they could see the couple sitting side by side on the lawn; he talking to her, and she...not talking.
And so this routine continued.
The toothless couple effectively ran the motel, and Mr. Johnson tended to his beloved wife. During this time, there was a basic lack of upkeep, both structurally and cosmetically, at the motel. It also began to achieve a not so glorious reputation around town. The motel became known as THE place to purchase a variety of "under the counter" prescriptions, from the smoking kind, to the snorting kind, to the sticking in your arm with a needle kind. It began attracting less than savory tenants, and as a result, many would-be, decent travelers began to seek lodging elsewhere.