Motel Hell: My year of living amongst the down and out | Street Jazz

Motel Hell: My year of living amongst the down and out


Looking over real estate offered for sale in Fayetteville, I noted that Motel 6 on North College is or sale. Reading that, a flood of memories came rushing back, to when I lived there for a year in the 1970s, back when it was known as the Mid-Continent Inn.

Before that, folks who have lived in Fayetteville for a appreciable amount of time may remember it as the Scottish Inn.

After my brief first marriage ended - after seven glorious months - I looked around for a place to live. Being a bachelor, and not needing much at the time, I chose a place close to my job at Payless Shoes (which is an auto parts store now, I believe), Mid-Continent Inn. For $180 a month, it was a pretty good deal.

For $180 a month you got a room with two beds, a bathroom, a couple of chairs, a desk and a black and white television.

That part always sort of bothered me, actually. I mean, I would have trusted those who stayed for a night or two much less than I would have those who actually lived there, but that’s a minor quibble; it’s not like it keeps me up at night wondering about it.

Just a couple of nights a month.

No cooking in your rooms either, but most of us had hotplates or toasters which we kept hidden from the cleaning staff. Even so, I think most of us lived on sandwiches.

No mini-fridge in motels in those days.

It was an important year for me, particularly after I left Payless Shoes and moved on to a job as Night Manager at 7 Eleven, as I got to meet folks from all walks of life. I have always considered it intellectually and spiritually wasteful if a person spends their lives surrounded mostly by people who live and think as they do.

What can such people really learn about life?

Well, I learned a lot about life during my year at Motel Hell - which it was, really. It wasn’t an apartment, you couldn’t put pictures up, and you lived a sort of static existence. And living on peanut butter sandwiches several times a day?

But life in all its rich diversity played out before me throughout that year. I got to meet all sorts of people, between my 7 Eleven job and living at the motel a block away.

Drug dealers, pimps, prostitutes, petty criminals, delivery men, private security cops, couriers, restaurant workers, the well-off and those down on their luck and just grateful for a place to hang their hat at night - these were the folks I met and struck up friendships with.

It was an invaluable experience, especially when it came to learning about the parts of the community who don’t make it into the newspapers, unless they have been arrested or have died.

Actually, I’d recommend the experience for anyone interested in seeking public office. I learned more about Fayetteville from the folks I spent time with during that year than I have ever learned from a gaggle of developers.

I suppose this is one of the reasons I get so irritated with folks who are so willing to write the poor off, or simply see them as some amorphous group, to be talked about, or represented, without actually taking the time to know them on an individual basis.

To a large degree, the folks I lived amongst would be in the same category as “trailer trash,” the slur hurled at folks on the lower levels of our economy.

I learned a lot that year, and it has influenced much of my writing and personal philosophy since then.

But even so, after a year, I found myself climbing the walls, suffering from a form of claustrophobia - as well as the need to eat decent food on a regular basis.

And so, I moved to the old Chateau Apartments on Leverett, which is a story for another day.


Today’s Soundtrack

Just me and Sinead O’Connor’s excellent album, “I do not want what I haven’t got,” this morning.


Now on Youtube: Public Access in Fayetteville

My interview with the producer of a documentary about public access television in Fayetteville.

"On the Air with Richard S. Drake" celebrates 25 years on the air in 2016.


Quote of the Day

We still talk in terms of conquest. We still haven’t become mature enough to think of ourselves as only a tiny part of a vast and incredible universe. - Rachel Carson (June 1962)

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