Wednesday, March 19, 2008

UPDATED: trick-trick-trickING, trickING, TRICKING.....

YES, UPDATED JUST FOR MJ, WHO IS A SPECIAL PERSON. Not special enough to rate amending the main body of this post, of course; just the footnotes. Smilie emoticon implied.

I'se back, ducklings!!!
Yeah, I had this one in the can. I knew I'd probably need a couple of days to get my shit together after I came back from my sojourn in parts exotic. Know that the whole time I was thinking of you and only of you, my darlings, every moment of every day, which is a lie. I was thinking of Tim Footman emerging from the wine-dark sea in tantalizing increments, a sardonic smile playing about his cruel yet sensual lips.

Once upon a time I got a job at a place that I'll call the Totem Inn, because it had a big scary totem pole jabbed in the middle of the parking lot.

Why did it have a big scary totem pole in the middle of the parking lot?

It is a mystery.

Also a mystery is why this totem pole included not only Frog, First Man and Thunderbird, but also Grumpy The Goddamn Disney Dwarf.

Swear to God.

I suspect this place had opened during the boom period of the Seattle Worlds Fair in '62. The 'shed roof, white rocks' architecture was in keeping with the era. Another distinctive feature of the architecture was how obvious it was that the place had gone up in a big hurry, and on a very low budget.

The rooms were divided into 'normal' and 'weird'.

...As you can see from this helpful chart, the distribution of 'normal' and 'weird' rooms was slowly blurring as time and wear overtook the fixtures and those were replaced with whatever happened to be closest to the storeroom door. The area on the right, in the middle of the surveillance zone, was anyones had run across the lot and check because nobody could remember which rooms were the weird ones. If it was a 'normal' one, the price went up 10.00.

I also suspect that one of the original owners must have been a plumber/bathroom contractor with a lot of return overstock. Everything was beautifully installed, mind; someone took a lot of pride in their craftsmanship - but the beautiful stopped abruptly at the installation method, in the weird zone. And in the completely jacked up zone...? Oh dear.

There were more than 70 units in this motel. Their most distinctive feature was the bathroom. A black toilet might have a bright yellow tank lid, or a pink seat. A jade green 1940's pedestal sink would have one red faucet. There were lavender tubs with bright red soap dishes. Avocado floor tiles with little coffeepots on them combined with shag carpeting.

Still, in the 'normal' section, the bathrooms managed to be mostly one red, or black, or pepto-bismol pink, say. (My favorite was this freaky hard lavender that turned into a strobing nightmare purple when the overhead fluorescent was turned on.)

In the weird rooms, things were quite a bit more mixed up.

As depicted in this colorful diagram, one half of a room would be, say, black and electric lavender, and the other half would be high 70's harvest gold. Lines of tile would stop abruptly and pick up again in a smaller size or a different color entirely.

The 'completely jacked-up' rooms were like a very depressed persons' acid trip. You could tell that someone had tried desperately to bring a little order out of the porcelain chaos...the blue tiles would all be in one section by the 1930's blue toilet, all the yellows in another around the 1970's yellow sink...grouped together despite varying sizes, shades and patterns...but it was obvious that there simply hadn't been enough of any given tile to complete a motif.

This chaos extended to the furnishings, carpets, drapes and paint. Any given 'jacked-up' room might hold a chunky swag lamp, a faux Louis dresser, black shag carpet, one red curtain, one white curtain... counters topped in turquoise formica with little satellite thingies on it, a baby blue refrigerator, and a fire-engine red stove.

The only bath-fixture color in abundant supply was fired this really ominous, arterial maroon. Only one room on the entire lot had a matching bath, and it was this color. I mean down to the brackets for the towel bars, kids. This room also had a bright red shag carpet, red upholstery, red drapes, a red velvet swag lamp and a red refrigerator. Guess what we called it.

Another weird feature of the place was that all of the rooms were skewed on the diagonal. Think of the 'boomerang' style that was popular in Vegas back in the 50's and 60's? Only in three dimensions. And the entire complex was that way. This made fitting standard issue motel furniture into them very difficult.

The rooms with the most ridiculous angles were the designated smokers...which in this case also meant 'cribs'.

The ones in the surveillance zone were set aside for the maids.

Who tricked during their lunch hours.

And brought back dates after their shifts were done.

Well, yeah...this is what you always suspect goes on in a sleazy motel, right? But I'm here to tell you that it was the exception to the rule. A lot of maids are former prostitutes -and they'll be the ones who are the most militant about making an 'honest' living - and some moonlight and trick on the side. This was the only place where I ever saw them shit where they eat.

Of course, 'tang was not the only thing you could buy at the ol' Totem Motel. No, like Alices' Restaurant, you could pretty much get anything you wanted. That was why we maintained a special 'party room' with a separate entrance that opened on the sidewalk, out of view of the front desk.* With a titty bar across the street and three more down the block in either direction, smack in the middle of affiliate territory in Southeast Portland, you were pretty much spoilt for choice when it came to vice. And this all went on beneath the completely uninterested eye of our manager.

My first day on the job he told me ' If you want to work the desk nights let me know and I'll give you a shift. If you need a draw on your pay try and tell me around noon so I can put it on the books. And please wait to do your business until you're off my clock.'

"Huh?" I said. I now know that he thought I was being terribly cute.

"I don't mind if you hook, just do it off the clock. I'm a motel manager, not a pimp, but I'm not stupid either. I mean that seriously, I hired you to clean rooms. Whatever else you want to do, you do. Just don't rip me off is all I ask."

"But I don't hook," I said, all offended and shocked. "Oh my God!"
He ignored me. "Lana can tell you where the working rooms are. And I'd appreciate it if you'd take a load of sheets up with you and try and keep the supplies stocked. It's just polite."

I wandered off with my poor blown little mind going oog oog oog. I thought about heading straight for the bus stop. I didn't.
I should have.

The housekeeping department was completely underground and the sucker was vast, like an aircraft hangar. We only used the four washers and four dryers nearest the door. The rest, possibly hundreds of them for all I know, disappeared off into the distance and darkness where the CHUDS and Morlocks partied.

The storage room was on ground level, and represented the other side of the black hole where the mutant toilets and furniture came through from their home planet. Ever see 'Phantasm'? Kind of like that.

Ah yes, and speaking of home planets...the staff.

At first glance the manager was a completely average balding middle aged man. He lived onsite with his wife and their five hundred annoying yappy pee dogs. The only times I ever saw his expression change out of 'neutral' was when he was acting the host as he checked in a lodger (all the while assessing them for how much weird they were willing to put up with) and when he told me about his last job. "I used to be a sixth-grade teacher. Oh yes, right here in town. Yes, I taught there for 12 years. You know what I came away with?" his eyes began to glitter. "I now know that you can't trust anyone in this life. No one. Nobody's word means a thing. Period. And you know what else?" his glittering eyes narrowed down to slits. "There is nothing worse-NOTHING" he hissed, "...than an eleven year old girl."
Gollum, gollum.

The head laundry lady was a bone-nasty human being, like some evil old gutter granny out of Dickens. She was also the first 'hard' steatopygic I'd ever seen...the fat, solid as chilled suet, began abruptly at the hips and was stacked in immense misshapen lobes from there to the floor. Her ass was the most un-ass-like ass I have ever seen. It looked like a huge sack filled with random sized potatoes. There was no symmetry whatsoever. Only her toes could be seen, because the fat drooped down over her feet...and it was scuffed raw and spectacularly infected from where it drug the floor as she lumbered along.

Her daughter obviously shared moms' diet; the only difference was, her chub hadn't hardened. When she got up from a chair or came to a stop it took all of that acreage varying amounts of time to get the message while it rolled around like an old-fashioned waterbed mattress. She moved within a large, noticeably warm, humid cloud of bad funky like a planet with it's own atmosphere. A salami planet.

This poor girl could barely walk. When she did a room she would first clean everything she could reach without bending, and then lie down on the floor and roll-yes, roll-around and finish up.

We couldn't let her clean the weird rooms or the cribs because she would 'get stuck' in the bathrooms. Accidentally on purpose, that is. It usually happened on Friday around 1 in the afternoon. The first two times it happened the fire department had been called and there'd been a lot of gratifying fuss. After that, everyone got a bit skeptical. And she just kept right on doing it, and suspiciously never calling for help. No, she'd simply lie there on the floor and take it easy while she waited for for someone to come. Then have sobbing hysterics in the office when she saw her check and realized she didn't get paid for her time!

One of my unpleasant tasks as the new kid was to work with her so I could keep an eye on this and figure out if she was doing it on purpose. Sure enough I busted her one day. We were working opposite ends of the floor, but she was easy to find; you just walked down the row-and these were outdoor units- until you smelled her. I stopped outside her room and looked through the window, and saw her just stop, sigh, look around, and then very deliberately back into the bathroom, lie on the floor and wedge herself behind a sink.

Lana was a pro, and she looked like a pro; a very hard-bitten little blonde with perm-burnt hair and heavy blue eyeshadow. She cleaned a full set of rooms and tricked during lunch...and sometimes after work she picked up a john across the street at the titty bar and brought him back. Her husband pimped her out on her days off. She had three kids, drove a Toyota, and was one of the hardest working people I have ever met. Also one of the most unself-consciously amoral.

The rest of the girls were pros, and they all worked half-weeks. I barely ever saw them. When I did, half the time they were waving to me from one of the balconies while their john unlocked the door.

The other people I remember best were the handyman and his wife, Chris and Clara.

Chris was a little person. A very skeezy, creepy, icky, foetid little person.
He had pycnodysostosis (the same thing Toulouse Lautrec had, and probably for the same reason) and this had left him bent into a variety of angles. Watching him scuttle across the parking lot was like watching a sack of scrap metal roll down a hill. I never actually saw him fix anything, although he wore a tool belt loaded down with every imaginable hand tool he could hook onto the thing. The tools clanged off the pavement as he scurried along, hitching up his pants every three or four steps as the weight of all that drop-forged steel drug them down.

Nope, I didn't have a lot of sympathy for the guy. I hope he got run over by an elevator. He was a degenerate. Not even an interesting degenerate; a stupid, mean, low-norm degenerate...a spitty, snivelling, dirty minded, creepy little perverted degenerate who always had dried food on his face and filthy hands, and who beat his wife.

Clara, his wife, was built like a pinto, although she lacked the vitiligo...very narrow shoulders, a huge butt, obscenely bucked teeth and no chin. Like her husband, she was also unwashed and skeezy, and also travelling along through life at about 72 mph. Every few days Chris would beat the shit out of her. I never saw her without a black eye and a swollen lip the whole time I worked there.

One day, sitting around the lunch table with the other girls, just casually, out of the blue, Clara invited me to a threesome with her and her husband. This was evidently a new low for the rest of the group because there was actually a pause in the conversation.

I declined.

Forever after that Chris referred to me as the 'stuck-up bitch'. As in "Hey, Stuck-Up Bitch, put that chair out on the sidewalk wouldja 'cause I hafta fix it."

Another thing I hated about Chris was that he ran to whores. He just could not stay off the sidewalk out front where the working girls pretended to wait for the bus. If the office wanted him they never paged him; they called one of the jacked-up rooms and had the maid open the window on the street side and yell down to him. He'd stop in the middle of a conversation and track every woman that crossed his line of vision like a dog. The first thing you learned about Chris was 'stay out of arms reach'.

I was in the office one day taking a draw on my pay when he came scuttling in with the white showing all around his eyes and the color up in his cheeks. "I gotta have 15 dollars!" he says. "It's an emergency! I gotta have 15 dollars right now! Excuse me but this is an emergency!" So I stepped aside and let him take his draw. "Awright! I'm gonna go get a blowjob!" he announces. All delighted. "I am! Only fifteen dollars! I bargained her down from twenty! Wow! Fifteen dollars! Couldjoo believe that?"
Yes, Chris was mighty pleased with himself.

Once he'd gone, I just stood there and tripped. My jaw was just hanging. Meanwhile the manager counted out my draw and looked kind of annoyed. "Midgets got a dick too, you know," he said.

It was one of those moments when you look at a person and realize that not only are you not on the same page, there is no hope of you ever being on the same page, and it is time to simply pack up your tent and ride your camel off into the night.

Me and my camel lasted three months at this place, part time. While I'd been working there I also held two other jobs, both of them at different motels. (Lest you think I was some kind of super go-getter, this was simply the state of the employment market back in the late 1970's in Portland. People were fighting for jobs that consisted of working two days a week. It was bad.) I'd told them all that the one who offered me full-time first got me. I quit the Totem long before that condition ever threatened to become an issue. It was just too much weird, too much crime and skeeze and constant, daily fucking degradation. Most of all, I was absolutely sick to death of everyone assuming I was a pro. That was the worst part. I hated it. Absolutely hated it down to the bottom of my soul.

One day I just stayed on the bus instead of getting out at my stop. Two days later I got my check in the mail .

Two years later I was head of housekeeping at the downtown Hilton.


*the 'trouble room' was for accommodating guests that the desk considered 'suspicious'. In light of what went on every day I shudder to imagine what kind of criteria they were using to define 'suspicious' behavior, though.

That there is what the sapsucker looked like. Those are CLEARLY satellite thingies. I have never seen thingies which were more clearly satellites, in fact. Have you? No you have not.


  1. I know my formica and that turquoise formica with the little satellite thingies on it?

    I bet those satellite thingies were actually boomerangs.

    Am I right?

    Pink boomerangs, no less.

  2. AH MAH GAH. I swear I had a dream about staying in this exact hotel, in one of the WEIRD rooms. (No, I didn't know it actually existed until now. My weird brain created this from scratch.)

  3. Anonymous4:07 AM

    Did you have to mention the smells...... I can smell salami now...its following me round.

    I once stayed in the Bucharest Intercontinental , that had a similar bizzare colour sceme , when you turned the lights on in the bathroom the acid greens and yellows almost blinded you.
    The bath water was a lovely cold tea colour as well. The hotel was awash with hookers , you even got accosted at the breakfast buffet.
    You somehow expect a bit better from an Incon.

  4. Beast: I suggest you bathe more often to rid yourself of the salami smells.

  5. Anonymous7:24 AM

    thank goodness you're back,fn. i've been so boredi had to plan the annihalation of iv. did he survive?

    beast - it worries me how many places you've stayed at where hookers run amuk.

  6. Anonymous7:53 AM

    I didn't realize that Portland was a city of such variety.

  7. mj: WRONG. so very, tragically wrong. although we did have the boomerangs. also rhomboid things and amoeboid things. I liked the satellite things best; they cracked me up.

    w2: ...or could it be evidence of astral travel? makes ya think, doesn't it???

    beast: you sure you werent' in oregon? a lot of people in oregon speak bucharestese. oh yes. everywhere you go theres another person jabbering away all bucharesty like you're supposed to be able to understand them or something. thats why we own guns here.

    mj: you could bathe your salamis together, you know.

    pink: yes, I saw that. you and voices need to come back here RIGHT THIS INSTANT AND CLEAN UP THIS MESS. by the looks of what I came back to, apparently the Biker done stayed on the couch the entire time getting baked and reading 'Road Chopper' magazine. I hope someone dusted him off occasionally.

    joeVegas: Oh yes. Nothing to match your town, of course, but with a squalid charm all its own. (actually thats changed-tune in for the exciting adventures of Muk in Orygun!)

  8. FN, Welcome back, things were pretty boring around here.

    My gawd, like I've told you before, you need to write a book! Or several books! You are a better writer than even Gabriel Garcia Marquez! And the diagrams! Laughing MAO over here!!!

    I've been in places like the Totem, so I feel your pain. Awesome post.

  9. Wow - that was amazing. I could see, hear, feel, smell everything - like watching a film. I stayed in a similar dog-themed motel - I was in the Alsatian Room. Don't ask. xx

  10. Oh Jaysus I wouldn't have drunk those last two glasses of wine if I'd known I was going to come over here and have to testify.

  11. I'm gaga over Googie.

  12. You know what I'm gonna do when the Aliens land, and say 'WE. WANT. TO. KNOW. ALL. ABOUT. THE. U. S. OF. A.' I'm gonna point them right HERE and say Read. Mark. And inwardly digest.

  13. carmentza: gawrsh *blush* i guess theres a place up in wisconsin that puts them all to shame. its built to resemble a turkey, for starters...

    rocky: THE ALSATIAN ROOM???????? the mind reels!

    mj: Googie is glorious! didjoo know, formica still makes the boomerang pattern? comes in coral, turquoise and pink!

    mangonel: now don't go making me responsible for representing our nation intergalactically. and how do we know that the Totem was not actually run by aliens, like the post office? hmm?? Men in Black was a DOCUMENTARY.

  14. I have two, count 'em, TWO Boomerang formica coffee tables.

    In turquoise and pink.

    Marry me.

  15. mj: I am yours, tender cheese-nymph of the north and slightly west! I suppose you have the picture of the oriental lady wearing the high collar, who has the green skin? huh? and a kit-kat clock? and barkcloth draperies lush with plumeria and monstera leaves? you have won me with your taste in retro furnishings you neufchateline seductress!*swoons*

  16. If by "the picture of the oriental lady wearing the high collar, who has the green skin" you mean the Tretchikoff, yes, I do.


    Kit-kat clock? Check. Although the black one broke so I have a red one now.

    The barkcloth draperies lush with plumeria and monstera leaves were discarded when I moved west as they had worn out.

    Would you like to finger my Bakelite cherries?

  17. mj: please...please stop; my heart cant take this. take me!

  18. Shall I mix you a highball and we'll dance to my cha cha records?

  19. Mj: only if we can play "Ladies and Gentlemen: Liberace". OO! I just happen to have that right here! 8gets ready to cut a rug*

  20. uuuhhhh, so you noticed the mess... and "that guy" on the couch never moved... and pink made me do it... i feel used...

    so wtf is up! how was your trip to the sonsland? was the dirt as good as you expected or wot??! lets hear some of it already...

  21. voices: he vaguely mentioned something about a man with a feather duster, but he said there was a live monkfish duct taped to your back and you were wearing a snaffle bit.
    fine, bitch whine moan complain. your every wish is my fricken' command. here ya go.......

  22. Anonymous5:44 PM

    my powers of persuasian are enormous. and the ability to convince iv to do my bidding is fantastic, too.

    as far as yb goes - i wondered why there was a dead guy on your couch. i just figured you knew he was there and was letting him decompose for your compost bin. if i had known he was alive, i never would have made iv do all those things to him.

  23. You know what, the Coen Brothers need you to write them a quirky character driven screenplay.

    You are the greatest writer out here..seriously your descriptive analogies of these people are unbelievable. Thanks to your explanations I can see them in perfect detail... even inside their heads.

    I am totally serious. You need to write a screenplay set in the 70s and send it off to an agent.
    This so excellent. I loved reading this.

  24. Anonymous9:31 PM

    i agree with don. but have us (your blog friends) play certain characters. i can see it now. i wonder who would play me?