By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
I made a trip to lecture at a small private college in upstate New York, and students had arranged for my boy and me to stay at the local hotel. Actually, what one student described as a "quaint, no-nonsense kind of place" was the only hotel in the tiny town where the college was. I pride myself on being high-maintenance yet flexible, and I'm always up for an overnight adventure in small-town America. We drove up to a large, white house with a painted sign that read, "Hotel and Restaurant." When I opened the door, I saw a staircase covered with a drop cloth, stacks of wood, and big buckets scattered around. Think Extreme Makeover: Home Edition on day one. There was no check-in area apparent, and no sign for one, but I heard music and voices to my left, so I wandered that way. Six people sat at a thick, old wooden bar, drinking tap beer from glass steins. Their heads turned in unison when I entered the room, and their looks conveyed that they all knew each other and knew I wasn't one of them. A woman walked through a swinging door behind the bar carrying a box.
"Hi. I'm checking into the hotel," I said, and it sounded more like a question when it came out of my mouth.
"Oh yeah, the innkeeper isn't here, but"she fished around for something behind the old cash register"here's the key to your room. Up the stairs and to the left, last door on your left."
The boy and I ventured upstairs to find sheets of heavy plastic, piles of sawdust, and other construction stuff. There was an intense smell everywhere. Have you ever inhaled the scent of the stuff that strips paint off wood? The chemical comes in various strengths, from least toxic (and usually least effective) to one with warnings all over the bottle. Whoever was doing the work on this place definitely went for the do-not-let-this-ever-touch-your-skin variety. To our left was a wall of plastic with no apparent opening. After peeling back some tape and ducking underneath, we found a short hallway and our room.
The room was small, with a double bed covered with a handmade quilt at its center and a bathroom. The chemical smell permeated every inch of the second floor, so I was happy to change clothes and head off to the college. When we returned at about 10 p.m. the place was hoppin'. Our room, it turned out, was directly over the bar that now featured really loud country music and what sounded like the entire population of the town (which, to be fair, was only about 750 people) partying. So much for peace and quiet.
Although our accommodations were less than ideal, they still inspired me. Plus, the closest alternative hotel was about 35 miles away, and we'd already driven nine hours that day. The music would keep us up, so why not make the most of it? My mind kicked into high gear. Should we be in an old-fashioned saloon, where I am one of those loose saloon girls, he's a wanted criminal, and he's paid for my sexual services before he leaves town? Or are we in post-world war ruins with destruction all around us, fucking like it's our last day on earth? Maybe we're at a secluded FBI safe house in the middle of nowhere, I am the star witness in a trial against the mob, and the boy is the agent whose job it is to protect me. So many possibilities! We settled on the old reliable hooker and john, and it wasn't until we really got going that we realized that the bed (or the floor) was dramatically slanted. We rolled off the bed. We laughed, of course, just climbed back in, and finally fell asleep to Willie Nelson singing "To All the Girls I Loved Before."
There's just something about a hotel that turns me on. I can walk into the lobby (that is, if there is one) and immediately feel my knees go weak and my pussy get wet. A hotel room is like an empty erotic stage, a completely neutral space without the clutter of my life: None of my stuffphysical or emotionalis there, no family pictures, no mail, no work. No one has the phone number, so I'm off the radar. It's the perfect setting for becoming someone else, for escaping the real world, for being really dirty and perverse. Hotel rooms cut to the chase: The bed is the focal point and that bed can be a conduit of reconnection, one-night passion, anonymous lust, fantasy, or whatever I want it to be.
Lucky for me, I've stayed in a lot of hotels. Hundreds in fact, in 28 different states. From five-star luxury hotels and quaint bed-and-breakfasts to woodsy bungalows and motels in questionable parts of town, I've checked in and out. I've stayed for an hour or several weeks. For a month, I lived in a West Hollywood hotel where George Hamilton was my neighbor; when my ill-behaved dogs jumped on him in the elevator, the tannest man on the planet laughed, "It's OK. Dogs likeme."