(parenthetically speaking)

a random gal’s random thoughts about nothing and everything in general

When I Check Out, I Like to Check In July 19, 2009

I love hotels. Love, love, love them. Like Tiny Tim—who I had the pleasure of interviewing from his Des Moines hotel domicile back in 1994—I think I could even live in a hotel.

Just think, they’d be no bed to make and there’d always be someone to pick up after you. You could crank the AC down as low as you like and use all the hot water you want and not have to worry about huge electric bills. And room service when you get the munchies at 1 a.m.? Hello! Not to mention all the free ice you want.

To me, there’s just something exotic about staying in a hotel. Even in the most rinky-dink, cookie-cutter chain hotels. It somehow makes me feel, um, international. Even when I’m just shacking up for the night in some hole-in-the-wall along an isolated stretch of interstate in Winnemucca, Nevada.

For one thing, I always sleep better in hotels. Maybe it’s those dark, heavy drapes they always seem to have that block out even the slightest hint of daylight—so much so that if you didn’t know better, you’d think the sun had exploded, enveloping the planet in a veil of black while you were busy dreaming about lollipops and unicorns.

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Here's hoping there's room at the inn.

The best I can recollect, my love affair with hotels started when I was 16, when my brother and I were driving in my old brown Toyota Tercel from Texas to Arizona to visit my aunt. I’d drive until I couldn’t drive anymore and then we’d stop at some cheap motel called the All-Nighter or something like that, and then start all over again the next day. Being that it was just the two of us, I felt like such a grown-up walking up to the clerk and saying, “I’d like a room for the night.” Actually, I can’t believe they didn’t look at the two of us and ask us where our parents were and refuse to rent us a room. Because, trust me, I didn’t look then like most 16-year-olds do today—like they’re 18 going on 25. I was lucky if I passed for 13.

In the years since, I’ve stayed in some really nice hotels. The Fairmont in Banff, the Peabody in Memphis, the Owners Suites at Signature in Vegas, to name a few. I’ve also stayed at some real fleabags. Like the time when my mom and sister and I had to scramble to find a room in Galveston, Texas, in the middle of the night after our tent blew down in a storm. I can still picture that tacky red velvet bedspread, the nasty, dingy brown shag carpet, and the live wires coming out of the wall. It was not in the least what you’d call exotic, but it did keep us from having to sleep in the women’s bathroom at our campground all night, where we had retreated after our Coleman SunDome took off in a whirlwind like Dorothy’s house in a Kansas tornado. It was such a pit, the three of us still laugh about to this day. So see, even the crappiest hotels can create lasting memories.

Another reason I love hotels is that they, at least for me, serve as a much-needed escape from the ordinary. I mean, don’t you ever get tired of sleeping in your same old bed night after night? Staring at those faded paisley sheets with the burgundy trim that you’ve had since your thirties?

Sometimes when I’m particularly down or stressed, or some frightening combination of the two, I want nothing more than to check into a hotel, pull the covers up over my head, and get away from the realities of the world. I did that very thing when my precious cat Harold, whom I’d had for 20 long years, got sick and had to be put down. I left the vet’s office, got in my car, and just started driving. I didn’t know, or care, where I was going. I just needed to get away. And rather than turning around and heading home at some point, I simply checked into a hotel for the night. No toothbrush, no night clothes, no nothing. And I think in some small way it may have actually helped start the healing process. (Now some of you will call me crazy for having such an intense reaction to my cat dying, but that’s another blog for another day. Besides, you never met Harold. If you had, you would have done the same thing.)

Anyway, the point is, that when it comes to hotels, it’s like Martha Stewart says: “It’s a good thing.” Of course, Martha would never be caught dead in a beat-up old motel room in Galveston, Texas, with a red velvet bedspread and brown shag carpeting. She doesn’t know what she’s missing.

To further prove I love hotels, check out the column I write about them at Examiner.com.

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Keep your butt in the car, dammit! February 6, 2009

Smokers S U C K! There, I said it.

Of course, I’m generalizing, and I’d be the first to complain if someone out there was universally disparaging all middle-aged white women with an unhealthy affection for Popeye’s fried chicken, but I see a pattern here. And enough is enough!

What burns me up about smokers (no pun intended) is that they seem to think that cigarettes are somehow invisible. But let me set you straight. Not only can I smell your noxious cancer sticks 100 yards away, but when you carelessly toss your cigarette butt on the ground, it’s called littering. And it’s just plain disgusting, thoughtless, and rude. 3212564613_52f91d950d_b1

And I’m not afraid to tell you so. I mean, I will go Christian Bale on someone if I see them even think about not properly disposing of their nasty little habit. It’s literally my biggest pet peeve. And believe me, I have a lot of them. (Which may help explain why I’m over 40 and still single. That and the Popeye’s fried chicken.)

In fact, I’m sort of surprised I haven’t gotten a beatdown after one of my outbursts. For instance, one time my brother and I were in downtown Atlanta at a Thrashers hockey game, and after the game, as everyone was filing out into the MARTA train station (which is already a little sketchy in and of itself), I made a comment to this big, older dude who shamelessly tossed his butt on the ground not five feet from a trash can. Well, let’s just say it’s probably a good thing there were a lot of people around that night. (Too many witnesses, if you know what I mean.) P.S. My brother never said anything, but I think it’s safe to say he was horrified, and probably embarrassed, by the whole incident, but when it comes to this, I just can’t hold my tongue sometimes. It just blurts out.)

Another time, as I was getting out of my car to go into this Blockbuster store in Austin, a woman in the SUV next to me stuck her hand out the window and flicked her lipstick-stained cig onto the pavement right in front of me. So I bent over, picked up the butt, handed it back to her, and said, “Excuse me, ma’am, I think you dropped this.” Like it had been all accidental on her part. Because if anyone is smart enough to know better, I figure it’s supposed to be the people of Austin, Texas.

And then there was the infamous scene at the movie theater in Fort Worth, when my mother and sister and I were in line to buy tickets, and my mom made the mistake of not walking over to the trash can to properly dispose of her half-smoked Virginia Slim. (Which was only half-smoked because we were bugging her about smoking in such a crowded place anyway.) But it wasn’t me who went off this time. It was my sister. And all I can say is that I wouldn’t want to be a smoker and run into my sister in a dark, butt-filled alley.

What brought this whole rant on took place as I was driving in to work yesterday and I saw this guy toss his Camel stub out the window. (At least he looked like a Camel smoker—all hard and sallow and stubby.) And it got me to thinking that I hadn’t actually seen anyone littering like this in a while (relatively speaking, that is). Were smokers becoming more conscientious? Were my dreams coming true? Was the world becoming a better place? Sadly, no. I realized it had just been so cold out lately that no one wanted to roll down their window to flick their butts.

Except this guy. Who, I can only hope, will get his someday. Until then, people, don’t be a butthead. Keep your butts to yourself!

 

the write stuff January 21, 2009

I spent some of my formative years in a little town north of Dallas called Lewisville. (Well, at least it was little then. It’s since suffered from full-on urban sprawl, making it indiscernible from every other strip-center-filled suburb across the state.) Lewisville wasn’t exactly what you’d call cosmopolitan (our high school football team was called the Fighting Farmers, for christ’s sake), and, well, it just wasn’t the sort of place you’d except to find a lot of future rocket scientists or Pulitzer prize winners. But there is one former resident who’s making quite a name for herself. Her name is Andrea Buchanan, and she was a friend of my sister’s while we were growing up there. She’s since gone on to become a respected filmmaker and also, just recently, a best-selling author.

51ubyr6lvdl_sl500_aa240_3Her new book is called Note to Self, and in it, 30 notable women, including singer Sheryl Crow and actress Kathy Najimy, talk about some of the defining moments of their lives and the lessons they’ve learned from them. Reviewers have called it “deeply moving, incredibly inspiring and uplifting” and “a book every woman should own.” I’ll be reading a copy as soon as my sister-in-law finishes with it. Given the buzz and good reviews, though, I think it’s safe to go ahead and offer my congratulations to Andrea (mixed with a healthy dose of jealousy!), and to say keep up the good work.