A motel parking lot is designed to invite and efficiently draw weary vehicles off of the highway and to deposit them within brightly-painted parking spaces. We don’t expect the natural world to be there, a field rising to its own surface. The lovemaking, the fights, the children’s cries, the overindulgences; the spirits of ardent, ugly, exquisite lives blooming as something verdant and permanent. Wild now in a different way.
Manicured plantings, flowering shrubs, and ground cover are the hallmarks of a nice motel. But when shrubs grow unchecked they threaten the organizing principles, redefining parameters by erasing them. The cool, regulated commerce of the 7-Up and Pepsi machines is crowded now by a countrified revolt. What’s become of our pleasant view, our casual meeting spot? We’re in an unexpected greenhouse.
If you look long enough, the poured concrete and the nature-echoed curves of the pool drift, and only the metal ladder remains as an unnatural thing, a rusting toe-hold. I look long enough and imagine the pool softening a bit at its edges, the fading blue paint turning cerulean, the depths blurring into a swimming hole lucked upon by a wandering kid in the woods. What’s man-made and forgotten begins to give and loosen in the sun, the unnatural taking on organic rhythms. In the quiet of a very hot afternoon I listened to the cicadas and frogs and birds doming their loud buzz around me. I felt a pull back. I was too wary of having walked beyond the NO TRESPASSING sign.
A resting area, a shady patio off of the room, has been obliterated by hoods, a tossed rock, or nature. The two lounge chairs are long-gone, stolen or blown away, probably lying somewhere near the interstate. The cut branches? Early Twenty-first century tumbleweeds.
“Things fade into the distance faster and faster in the rear-view mirror of memory,” Jean Baudrillard, America.
Doors provide the illusion of privacy. Removed, their absence reminds us of how thin they really are. An empty bedside table, a tottering lamp, ugly things caught with their clothes off. What’s missing: an eye-hole, a chain-lock, room freshener; things we hide behind. When the elements strip away a motel’s comfort and protection, what’s left but brutality and ugliness, a regression back to the true nature of the place: a temporary stay against chaos and disorder.
“At times, the simpler the image, the vaster the dream,” Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics Of Space
You and your tired, hungry family can relax knowing that a full-service, high-quality restaurant awaits you at your motel. A top-rated chef will prepare fresh, delicious meals to help you wind down your fun-filled days of touring and exploring. And when the kids are asleep, dad and mom can slip down to the cocktail lounge and enjoy a drink or two, unwinding with new friends and pleasant strangers. Then it’s back to your comfortable room for a night of blissful slumber, dreaming of tomorrow’s drives to new places, and new possibilities. Have a good night on us. We hope you return.