Life In A Northern Town

Chris and I pulled into the Richmond Airport Hotel & Convention Center just after midnight.

We were bone tired from our full day at the Human Kindness Foundation, not to mention our three hour drive up to Richmond. The shoot (click here to read all about it) was intense; a thousand times more difficult than interviewing Michael Stipe, and at least that many times more rewarding. We dragged our six bags (clothes, computer, camera, lights, matte box and cables) through the mechanical sliding doors, more than ready for our four-hour slumber prior to our six o’clock flight. Alas, it was not to be.

Check in took ten minutes, despite having booked and paid in advance. When we got upstairs, our keys didn’t work. We trudged downstairs, got a new key, and tried again. No luck. When I asked for new keys and a new room, we were granted both.

“And where’s 144?” I asked.

“All the way at the end in the back,” she replied.

So we dragged ass back down the block, and stepped into the hotel room from hell.

Listen, I’ve slept on desert pavement without a tent. I’ve slept at fourteen thousand feet. I’ve traveled across America numerous times, plus Europe, Central America, and The Caribbean. I’ve stayed at Holiday Inn, Motel 6, Travel Lodge — you name it. But this room took the cake.

First: It reeked of cigarettes.

Second: There was a dirty sock under the bed.

Third: There were toenail clippings on the floor.

Fourth: The walls of the shower looked beaten and scuffed as if they had endured a murder straight out of “Psycho.”

Fifth: I passed two free porno channels en route to CNN.

And the Sixth and final reason why this was, hands down the worst hotel ever: Chris spotted a crack pipe and foil behind the headboard.

At that point, I begged him to stop poking around. We laid a towel down between the beds, stripped them of their spreads, and lay down fully clothed and mummy-like (but not after a careful scan for bed bugs). The room was so dark, and so spooky, that I left the TV on (and when I needed to use the restroom in the middle of the night, I wore my shoes).

Three short hours of restless sleep later, Chris and I were up. The room was freezing. We skipped the shower (see above), gathered our bags, and stepped towards the door. I paused before stepping out, scanning the periphery for muggers, murderers and the like.

What’s especially odd about our strange and brief and most uncomfortable night is that it came so close on the heels of such a special and sacred day. But I think maybe there’s something to that, the “sweet and sour,” as Cameron Crowe calls it. Example: Abbi calls to tell me her sister’s boyfriend has been killed. Five minutes later, my friend Dan calls to tell me he’s just gotten engaged. Example: My colleague Rahman spends Saturday celebrating his sister’s graduation from college with his entire family. His aunt dies the next morning. Example: Chris and I find gracious hosts and hostesses welcoming us all over the south, then spend a night in a hostile, inhospitable environment.

Nobody said any of this was supposed to be easy, or make any sense. All of life’s richest answers come from its deepest mysteries. So I guess I’ll just keep asking, and stay tuned…

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