ROAD TRIP : $25 MOTEL

In 2006 I took a Road Trip from San Francisco to New Mexico and back over the course of a month, writing and taking photos all the way. Two years later I had a show of paintings based on those photographs. This is one of a series of twenty-nine posts of those paintings accompanied by the relevant diary entries.

013 25 dollar motel, ashfork, AZ

$25 Motel, Ashfork, oil on board, 9 x 7 inches (approx.)

11.May 5th -6th, 2006

I am in a shitty $25 motel room that smells of piss and concrete. I think my love affair with motels is over. There is a TV with no remote and only one watchable channel. Can’t wait to leave and its only 6:30 pm. Somehow the smell of piss is getting stronger. The motel last night was so cool and this is so yeuch. 

The thing I am noticing about my diary are the things I left out, details that weren’t special but which have stuck with me. It’s true that memory changes over time, but I don’t think I have invented anything. I just wasn’t recording the things I assumed I would remember. Also I probably wasn’t that good at even identifying the things that would stay with me at any great speed. And, after years of writing in notebooks, I was relying more and more on my camera. Eventually I abandoned notebooks altogether but being in college and blogging has brought me back to it and made me a better observer.

The first thing I didn’t take note of but which you can see in the painting is the inspirational poster on the wall of this breeze block, piss smelling room, which rather tickled me. It was something about travelling towards your goals, mine being to get out of that room. The second was the motels’ receptionist.

In my minds’ eye, I enter the run down reception, painted white with a white formica counter it still managed to look grubby. There was a room behind the counter from which the light of a TV flickered bluely. The receptionist eventually struggled into view. She was an elderly woman with long grey scraggly hair and large glasses. Her body had melted into a shapeless heap under her blouse which had food stains down the front. She was utterly disinterested in my existence, took my money, gave me a key, and staggered back to the TV.  More or less. But because I didn’t actually write it down, in my mind she has merged with a landlady I had in Amsterdam, a short rotund sagging lady with the same long grey hair and glasses. She was a nice woman but as she had emphysema she spent nearly all her time in her room, dressed in a long white nightie, attached to her oxygen bottle, gasping. Sometimes she would stagger to the kitchen and I would have to be careful not to trip over her tube.

Drove along Route 66 from Kingman to Seligman, which was packed with people and vintage cars, which is why I am staying here and not there. I forgot it was the weekend. But the drive was great, some of the old ’50s cars passed by-a beautiful cream, green and silver one caught my eye-and there were oldies on the radio and the road going on forever…

This place (Ashfork) is scary. I cruised around the town a bit and decided I’d rather starve than risk the local cafe. Lots of threatening looking males around, baseball caps…

I don’t know why the baseball caps were the only thing I mentioned here. Maybe in another sort of town they are something a sports fan or a tourist might wear. Here they seemed to signify the type of small town good ol’ boys who, in a courtroom movie, would make up the mob in a who would try to storm the jail where some uppity gal who needs to be taught a lesson is being protected by the steel-eyed new sheriff who ain’t from around these parts. OK, I am in the wrong time zone, generalizing outrageously and making wild and possibly racist or classist assumptions but when travelling alone, better to err on the side of caution…

Every bit of paint is cracked and peeling and every sign rough and falling apart. And it could be a nice wee place. You could see how one energetic business could make a difference.

The whole town, including my motel, seemed at odds with other towns I had stopped in as if some great evil had befallen it. Or maybe everyone was related. Later the motel began to fill up with late comers who were obviously unable to even find a rock to sleep under…

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Some beautiful vintage cars have arrived…all gleaming chrome and primary colours…

I’ve sprinkled patchouli everywhere and it still smells of piss. No tip for the cleaners.

I was probably naive to imagine there were even cleaners…

The sky was so lovely today-crinkled clouds all rain smudged, hanging over the mountains. They look like they had soft straggly beards. School of Rock is on the TV.

The room still smells of piss. The TV is screwed down. You can’t run the tap because as soon as you let go of the handle it spins closed.

Next, Flagstaff…

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