10 February, 2012

An Ohio Valley Yankee in Virginia, Part 4: Of Mice, Of Men, and the Etiquette of Cheap Motels

We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. -- Joseph Campbell 

My only key... to a lock I don't have.
I'm writing this post from a cheap motel on the north side of the city. This motel has rooms that face Chesapeake Bay; mine is not one of those. My room faces the street, W Ocean View Avenue. There are no peaceful sounds of waves, though I have gone out on the beach to look at the water and think. Time and memories collapse the way waves crash into the break and pull back; I can here to see my daughter, my only child, blood of my blood. I came here, hoping to learn how to let go.

Against my better judgement, but in favor of trying to retain some bit of dignity in front of my daughter, I decided to find a cheap motel somewhere near her. In order to do that, I needed to find someplace to do some research; which meant, I needed a tour guide.

Luckily, Stella was able to give me bus instructions from where I was on the south east side of town to the northern suburbs near Ocean View Park. I went back over to the place where the bus had deposited me, at the intersection of Monticello and VA Beach Blvd, and crossed the big parking lot to the bus hub. I made my way through the crowd of mugs and thugs and thug wanna bes to the #1 bus, which would take me down Monticello, to Grandby, to Ocean View. Some of the landmarks looked familiar from the last time I was here. But the landscape is a different place when you're driving in a rented car and when you're riding a metro bus.

(It made me think about the last time I was here, with Melissa. We found the cheapest flights we could from Arizona -- which meant three different transfers. We missed the last one and had to take a later flight. We rented a car at the airport, found a cheap motel -- another Super 8 in another part of town -- and were able to spend a few days. On the way home, we weren't able to sit together on the longest leg of the flight, and Melissa cried because she was afraid the plane would crash and we would die not being together. That time seems so far away now. Another life.)

Riding by, I saw my daughter's middle school, so I knew we were close to her mother's house, where she lives. Then the bus rolled by her high school. Eventually, the bus got to the bus stop near the Ocean View Shopping Mall, and Stella was there waiting for me.

It was good seeing her; it had been two years since her last visit. That had been Melissa and mine's first summer in Mount Carroll. Stella normally visited us for at least month, sometimes six weeks; but that time, she could only stay for 2 weeks. 

We walked around a bit. She showed me Ocean View Park, and we talked. Updates. School. Grades. Her plans for the future... which by the way, are good ones. Boyfriend.

(Who, I might add, I haven't met. Yet. She did stop by tonight, on her way to a school dance and endured a a few pictures that I have since posted on Facebook. Her mother was kind enough to drive her over first, along with a few of the friends. Her mother looked mildly horrified and nervous about being in this part of town. The friends looks mildly bemused, having only heard about me in the 3rd person.I know I make an AMAZING first impression."Hey Gang. This is my Dad, the homeless writer. Don't stare too long.")

Then she showed me the public library, which had free WiFi, and I did a little research. The nearest motel that seemed almost within my price range was the Super 8 I'm currently staying in. Then we went to dinner; I sprung for KFC. This KFC, like a lot of them now, is combined with a Taco Bell. Whenever I'm in one... which isn't often... I wonder what ol' Colonel Sanders would think about that.

(If you're not familiar with the history of KFC, Col. Sanders, and Corbin, Kentucky... there' a rich history that includes both KFC and the KKK. But they do serve liquor by the drink now. And I think there's one or two blacks... which is as close to integration as it may ever get.)

Stella stayed home from school yesterday, but she was feeling better and planned on going to school today... because

  1. She's bored at sitting home; and
  2. There's a dance tonight she wanted to go to.
We parted after dinner so she could walk home before it got dark. And started hoofing the 1.7 miles up Ocean View to the Super 8. It was a long 1.7 miles, partly because I was tired and partly because my bag can get a little heavy. But I finally got there, checked in for the night, took a shower and tried to relax. My feet were killing me... the Achilles Tendon on my left ankle was throbbing like nobody's business. 

(That I have lousy feet is a matter of record. And that I refuse to stop walking simply because they hurt is a matter of stubborn pride. I like to walk, pain or no pain. And believe it or not, bourbon works just fine as a pain killer... though I am woefully short of even cheap rye.)

I find myself here a lot... not the Super 8 on W Ocean View, but in a cheap motel, running short of cash and options. I paid for another night, and bought my Greyhound bus ticket for D.C., leaving from the station -- on the complete opposite side of town, near where I was dropped off -- and I've got some finagling to do between now and Sunday morning. I may go ahead and blow what I have left to stay one more night -- which will give me more time with Stella tomorrow. I've got D.C. lined up, and New York after that... at which point, I'll swing back through the Midwest... as soon as I can, at any rate.

The funny part of this whole thing ... this whole trip that has no foreseeable end except for what finances allow... is that other than writing, this is the other thing I've done that ever made any sense to me. I don't object to cheap motels. I make fun of them. I make fun of the door with the broken safety bar that was clearly pried open. (I'd guess a squatter or a drug bust.) I like making fun of the television that can't be turned off and the heater that sounds like the engine of B-52.

And the truth is, the reason doesn't bother me is because I don't need much. I need a place to write. I need a place to sleep. I consider myself lucky to have friends who accept and love me in spite of my numerous short comings -- one of them being the fact that the only time I've ever really at peace in the world is when I choose to live outside of the prescriptive rules it sets.

That, in large part, is what inspired this blog to begin with... the idea that I can do what I need to do and make my way in the world without doing what other people want me to do. This isn't the first time I've sacrificed a life for my writing -- which, if I'm being honest, is a large part of what happened to my marriage. At least on my side. No one person can destroy a marriage; the only advantage of a decade long relationship ending/changing is that I get to carry my own baggage and no one else's. I don't envy Melissa hers.  But in order for me to process this whole thing -- this entire past 10 years that, when I reflect, was more good than bad -- I have to deal with my own baggage. 

I have to embrace the fact that my writing, and the ability to pick up and go are not mutually exclusive. I'm not saying it's necessary for everyone; I'm just talking about me. At some point, I'll probably find someplace to stay for a while... but in the end, I'll probably end up leaving that, too. 

[If you like what you read here, you can help by:
  1. Passing the link around.
  2. Graciously donating to the cause using the button on the right hand side of the screen;
  3. Contact Catherine Sellers at Greyhound, 415-331-6049. Tell them you are asking about a sponsorship when the operator picks up. Show them what happens when I don't write about them. Exert pressure. Remember: you are The People.

Thanks for reading.]