Arizona Desert

He sits in his chair, and he rocks. On each swing forward or back, the chair stutter steps over the crack in the ancient concrete slab. A scrawny hound sprawls near his feet, half under the jacked up trailer soaking up shade. Both man and beast have been rescued more than once in their lives.

He’s a Nam vet, with a chest full of medals outside and chemical damage inside. He’s spookier than most old men unless they are vets, too. There have been years of drugs, cheap booze and cheaper women, between periods of sobriety, family and wives.

He might have been happy repairing motorcycles or even screen doors, but he was blessed, or some might say cursed, with an ability to push colors around on canvas until he came up with art. Glorious, heartbreaking art. But art doesn’t pay, and it so often disappoints the artist.

Now he’s losing ground. He doesn’t rant so much anymore or flip off jerks that get in his way or, you know, that kind of thing. He doesn’t have the breath. He’s sick and old, and what little money he had tumbled down some Wall Street manhole years ago. He rocks on this old patio, in front of this ramshackle trailer. Their travel days are done.

He picks up the M14, the one resting across his knees. In Nam, the wood stocks of battle rifles like this swelled with jungle moisture, but the arid desert air won’t bother this one. Its accuracy will not be affected.

Coyotes would have found the dog and the man first if a passing Statie hadn’t heard the blasts and stopped to investigate. The officer was amazed by the war medals now soaked with the old soldier’s blood. “How symbolic,” she thought while she waited for the dispatcher to reply. “Guess nobody can say he didn’t do his bit.”

All in all, the old man couldn’t have hoped for a better eulogy.

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Motel Hell

Sis and I will soon take another cruise out of Fort Lauderdale. Here is a post from the last time we went there to board a ship. Hope you enjoy it more than we did.

It’s spring break in Fort Lauderdale. Due to the anticipation of wet T-shirt contests and shoe puking, our Delta flight is packed. Sis and I arrive at midnight along with a jillion college kids. The plan for us is to spend the night at a resort hotel, then escape via ship the next day.

So. Midnight at the airport, right? The hotel has lost our reservation. There are ten cruise ships leaving the next day. There are no hotels. The ones with direct lines to the airport are no longer even answering the phone. Sleeping on the beach is out (see the above referenced jillion college kids).

I become an oversized pile of spinelessness, akin to The Blob. Sis tackles the one cruise employee she can find; his job is merely to welcome customers, or so he thought. But now his job is to “find us a fucking room or your Floridian chads will be dangling from the traffic control tower.”

Turns out he has a list of no-name hotels. Honest to God. Have you ever wondered who stays in those motels that nobody has ever heard of? Old lady cruise passengers probably aren’t at the top of your list. Nonetheless, we find one hovel that actually has a vacancy. I’m not naïve, here. I know it won’t be a pretty site. But it’s just one night, right?

What we don’t know was what a fiasco getting a cab will be. By the time Mr. Cruise Guy negotiates a fare and we get in, the cabbie revises the fare. We get out in the middle of airport traffic. She screams at us in some unknown language. We scream back in some seldom used language. Other cabbies have to separate us before fists and luggage fly. No kidding. One drags her away. Another finally takes us to Motel Hell.

How many 1940s detective books have you read? Or film noirs have you seen? This is the prototype motel location for them all. The neon sign buzzing, the ice machine humming, the slowly circulating fan, the fat lady at the desk. We’re in our blingy cruise garb, right? “Want that Manny helps wid da luggage? I’ll go unleash him.” Jesus God no! Not Manny! Not at 1 am! Wouldn’t want to be a bother. We’ll haul our own bags, thank you kindly.

We get to the room and as we are unlocking the door, our next door neighbor steps out clad only in baggy plaid shorts and blows his nose. Snot right there on the sidewalk. We trample over each other to get inside.

Then we are faced with the problem of where to put stuff. Neither of us wants to set anything on the carpet, including bags or feet. The room has no glasses, although there is an ice bucket. There is no toilet paper, not even a toilet paper holder. There is no Kleenex (see nose blower above). At least there are plenty of toe nail clippings lying about.

We strip the beds of spreads and blankets … anything likely touched by the hourly trade. We lie down on top of the sheets stiff as stiffs, trying to draw breath in that wet, thick Florida air. For the next five hours neither of us actually moves, hoping not to disturb anything that might be living in the room other than ourselves.

Before sun up, we haul ass to the waterfront Marriott and pretend to be guests. We hang out in the restaurant, the lobby, the business center until it is time to board the ship. And, while using their internet, I actually see a roach crawl away from the vicinity of my tote bag, and scuttle down the hall.

I can’t be sure, but I believe I have just delivered another Bates Motel guest intent on movin’ on up.

Posted in Aging, General Stuff, holidays, Travel | Tagged , , | 4 Comments
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