Sunday, March 20, 2016

Saturday Night at the Motor Lodge

A vast pitted parking lot spreads across a small rise topped by a long row of dark rooms. Each room window is half-covered with what appear to be drapes made from chocolate-brown vinyl shower curtains. The office/lounge is positioned in the exact center of this building. "Open" says the neon sign. However, upon entering the empty lobby, a visitor immediately confronts a front desk with a sign that reads "I'm not here." Simultaneously she is overwhelmed by the scent of chlorine. And sure enough, she notes the presence of large tarp-covered swimming pool. The mixed signals are confusing (chlorine suggests "swim"? tarp suggests "don't swim"? wide-open doors between lounge and pool suggest incipient chaos?).

The lounge itself is a cavernous low-ceilinged room finished in knotty-pine paneling and heavily decorated with giant Twisted Tea bottles, reproductions of catchy 1950s-ish drinking comedy ("Beer is why I wake up in the afternoon!"), as well as a Dustin Pedroia® baseball glove signed in Sharpie by someone whose initials are clearly not Dustin Pedroia's. There is an Austin Powers-themed pinball machine and a video game in which you can pretend to hunt bunnies. The bulletin board advertises an upcoming gun show/potluck supper. Four large TVs hang over the bar. When I arrived one was showing Fox News, one was showing the Kentucky-Indiana game, and two were showing UFC fighting. Over the course of the evening the channel choices simplified into three showing UFC fighting and one showing motocross racing.

As soon as I walked in, the barmaid said, "Do you know what you want to eat or can I go back outside and finish my cigarette?" I assured her that I was very happy to let her finish smoking and looked around for my band members. They were setting up equipment over by the back door, in front of a putative dance floor marked out with safety tape. Later, after we started playing, the owner turned on a few disco lights. During the course of our show only one couple and a dog were ever seen using this dance floor.

Interestingly the acoustics of the motor lodge were quite good, and this also meant that we could hear each other very well. Thus, our rhythm was tight and we played confidently. The six customers who arrived early in the evening enjoyed the music very much. However, after our fans left, the remaining fifteen patrons paid almost no attention at all for the subsequent two and a half hours. Their attention was absorbed by (1) UFC fighting, (2) cigarette breaks out back, and (3) something furtive going on in the unlit Event Room next door, which at one point required a mop.

At the end of the show, while we were packing up our equipment, the owner assured us that he had enjoyed the music. This was unclear but it was nice of him to say so. Then we started carting our stuff to the van, which required us to go out back, where all the cigarette activity had been happening. Here we came across the barmaid, who was sitting on a picnic table and smoking. She said in a friendly manner, "Too bad nobody came."

The out-back area consisted of a long concrete strip running along the backside of some of the motel rooms. It featured a number of rough tables and benches that might have been quickly assembled with the aid of a chainsaw. In the center was a rusty brazier filled with strips of chipboard, all ready for a cozy fire. The concrete itself was ominously smeared with dark red stains, which probably weren't old blood since the dog was paying no attention to them. At the very end of this concrete pad hulked an enormous logger-sized brush pile clearly dragged and dumped by a skidder, though the choice of position did seem odd as it was blocking the entrance to the parking lot. It complicated our van-loading project; we had to be careful not to overlook any of the amps we had stacked behind the pine boughs.

All in all, it was a memorable evening and we all enjoyed it. Compared to many poetry readings, our "audience" was almost a crowd. There were no brawls, and no one tried to pick me up, which I guess is a good argument for the existence of three TVs tuned to UFC fighting. Also the dog was very good looking.

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