Now that I’ve recovered from my recent illness, I’m happy to say that I’m able to pinpoint the exact moment when I reached bottom…and then began to bounce back.
Things had gone very far south when, after several days of being on a fast track to the bathroom every time they showed a cheeseburger on the TV screen, which I couldn’t turn off if I wanted to take my mind off my misery (endless images of face-eating zombies or spiders crawling from black holed skulls were not a problem…the sight of grilled meat was an eruption bringer), I found myself pulling into the parking lot of a seedy looking motel in Decatur, Alabama.
To my knowledge I had never previously visited Decatur, which is somewhere up around the north end of the state. It was late in the evening, maybe past midnight. A rather nondescript clerk (short, dumpy, swarthy, grumpy) took my information and grunted a room number while he handed me a key.
I didn’t catch the name of the place.
Exhausted, I stumbled to the room and fell on the bed without really paying much attention to my surroundings.
At eight o’clock the next morning, I awoke, amazingly refreshed. Best night’s sleep I’d had in years.
When I looked around the room, I found that it wasn’t really so much a conventional motel room as a sort of lounge, not unlike the one my dad and I slept in the second year we traveled back from North Florida to paint the Orlando-Seminole Jai Alai fronton in the summer of ’76.
Lots of open space. A sort of lounge couch which I had slept on. Some books and CDs and stray articles of clothing strewn about.
After I oriented myself, I started gathering up the stuff, which all seemed to belong to me, though I couldn’t imagine why I was traveling with it, or why I had spread it all over the room like that. I was in the process of doing this when a chubby, Jheri-curled black kid in a janitor’s uniform peeked in through the front door, which I suddenly realized was made of see-through plate glass. I waved for him to come on in, figuring maybe he needed to clean the place, but he just smiled and waved back and then walked away.
Nonplussed, I went about gathering my stuff. In the process I realized one of the CDs I had brought with me was this one:
I looked around to see if the room had a CD player, and, naturally, this being a flea bag motel in Decatur, Alabama, with a flickering sign and a half-paved parking lot, they had a state of the art one. Standalone. With built-in speakers that beat anything I have at my house.
I immediately set about trying to discern how it worked, and, in no time at all, I had the Impressions blasting loud and strong.
“It’s all right, have a good time, say it’s all right…”
I kept gathering up my stuff, still in a humming, singing mood, though getting a little bit frustrated because it seemed the more I gathered, the more stuff there was. Eventually, I found some plastic bags and dumped as much in them as I could and started transporting stuff to my car, which was parked right outside the plate-glass door.
For a while, as I carted the endless bags, I noted that mine was the only car in the parking lot.
Somewhere in there, my eye fell on one of those clock/calendar things (Was it on the front of the CD player? An electric sign by the street? The memory hazes.) and I discovered that the reason I felt so good was that I had slept through an entire day and night and awakened on the morning of my second day at this little establishment.
“I’m so proud of be-ing…lo-o-oved by you…”
Very soon after that, I cottoned that this might be a problem, because I had no cash and, though I had enough gas to get home, I knew I only had enough money in my bank account to pay for one night at the motel with my debit card.
True, I couldn’t remember asking how much the room was. But I was sure it had to be more than twenty dollars a day.
The thought of calling someone to wire me the money crossed my mind, but I knew that, realistically, all my friends and family are even broker than I am, and, anyway, I didn’t remember any of their phone numbers and didn’t want to ask the office about phone usage, so that wasn’t really a good option.
After that, it was pretty clear that I had to make a getaway.
I’d send ’em a check, of course, once I was safely home and, you know, out of the state of Alabama.
I certainly intended to check the name of the place before I drove off. I had no intention of cheating anybody!
I would have headed straight out, but first I had to retrieve my Impressions’ CD from the state of the art standalone player that was still blasting away in my room.
“You must be-li-e-e-ve me, no matter what the people might say, you know, it just didn’t happen that way…”
Back inside I went.
There I found that the CD player had transformed itself into a cheap cardboard box that couldn’t possibly play anything, not even when I took the cover off and found a fake reel-to-reel tape player inside.
“But the music’s still playing,” I thought.
How could that be?
Because I had transferred the disc to the CD player in my car. That was how!
Back to the car!
Only the car wasn’t there.
The music was still playing…the Impressions were moving right along through the sixties. “People get ready, there’s a train a’ comin’.” But my car was gone.
In its place was a monster pickup which was hauling an Airstream trailer that stretched across the whole parking lot. I had to walk around the back end of it to see the office and whether or not my car had been moved in that direction.
It had not been. It was gone.
Just then, a man with a long red-haired pony tail came around the side of the pickup and I asked if he had seen my car.
“Little black one?” he said.
“Yes, that’s it.”
“Oh yeah, I moved it down to the other end there.”
Right about there, things started to get a little strange.
I wasn’t worried yet. Just a little disoriented. It didn’t seem like that parking lot had been so big that I would have missed my car if it was there.
But, sure enough, when I walked back around the Airstream, I saw that the rest of the “parking lot” was lot bigger than I had previously imagined because the end of it ran off into a sort of half-hidden junkyard, not unlike a few I visited back in the late seventies when I was scavenging parts for my ’71 Maverick.
Well, that wasn’t too intimidating. Surely, my car wasn’t so old that it wouldn’t stand out amongst all those junkers.
“I’ve been trying…to understand why…can’t I be your only man…”
So I set off to track down my car. The music had gotten really loud and I started wishing it was a little softer, because then it wouldn’t sound like it was coming from all directions and once and it would be a lot easier to locate my car via the CD player.
I kept thinking about that a lot as I searched fruitlessly through the ever-expanding junk yard, which turned out to have a lot more than cars in it, but nothing resembling my car.
Before I got too involved, I went back up and fetched Pony Tail, who professed bewilderment in the snatches of conversation we were able to exchange over the volume of the music–“The woman’s got soul and everybody knows”–which was now so loud we could hardly hear each other.
Got to be here, he kept saying, as he led me through a maze of ever more industrialized wastelands, which began turning from junk yards into chop shops. Not chop shops for cars so much as spaceships. Spare parts anyway.
I kept thinking, Jesus, if the music just wasn’t so loud, we could at least figure out if we’re going in the right direction.
“I’m trying hard to forget, that you been cheatin'” was making my ears bleed!
Pony Tail finally ran off with some dudes who were playing football with a small, metallic spare spaceship part that developed a second skin while it was being thrown. I couldn’t figure out the purpose of the second skin but it was clear Pony Tail’s new friends didn’t want me to play and were starting to kind of sneer at me in that “We’ll at least we ain’t lost” manner that you sometimes find in hillbilly places when you are looking for your car in a junkyard where you clearly don’t belong.
I did some calculating and managed to find a path back to the parking lot. I had to step across a pile of dry manure and wedge myself between a wire fence and a concrete wall, but the roaming band of rough boys who were patrolling the outskirts of the more conventional open field approach gave me the proper incentive and I soon found myself back in my room, which had now been taken over by a group of middle-aged cleaning ladies who called me “Hon” and swore they hadn’t seen my car either.
I asked if I should maybe call the law. They gave me a very sad look that said I definitely wasn’t from around there and fully qualified as a certifiable Poor Thing.
I could still hear the music, but it wasn’t as loud.
“I can’t satisfy, your love…”
I could almost hear myself think again.
Well, whatever happens, I thought when I was back in the parking lot, still wondering if it would be worth tackling the junk yard again, “I’m gonna need to know the name of this place.”
Hey, my car had to be there somewhere. I mean, “We’re a Winner” was starting to pound.
I walked around the other side of the office and finally found the motel sign.
Ladiez41NightOnly it read.
Just then I looked up and saw an Alabama Sheriff, complete with broad-brimmed hat and mirror shades, approaching with the clear intention of making polite inquiries into my status in his town.
He was just about to speak, when it hit me.
Oh, Thank God, I thought. This has GOT to be a dream!
And when I woke myself up, this was playing in my headphones…
…just as it should have been if I’d drifted off to sleep with The Anthology playing half an hour earlier.
Look, this used to happen to me about three times a week. These days, it takes sixty loose bowel movements in seventy-two hours to make me dream this way.
I call that progress.
And I note that the music had kept me sane through it all. So it was kind of a metaphor for my entire life.
I started getting better from that hour.
Regular blogging to resume soon.