Sunday, June 01, 2008

Knight into Day...

I was recently on tour in Ohio and to alleviate
some of the stress from my bookers, had taken it on myself to book a hotel room. Looking over, one thing was aparent, was that accomodation in Youngstown, Ohio was reasonably priced. Looking over the choices, I decided to go with a Knights Inn. It was a chain I've seen before, but had never stayed in (and at this point, I've seemed to have done them all, except something such as the Hilton). Again, it was MAD CHEAP. Not too far from the interstate, I was expecting the usual I would find at roadside motels.... Out of state travellers, truckers, people there for such and such a conference... the usual.

After driving through the peacefull roadways of Pennsylvania state, I switch over to Ohio, and eventually find the turnoff for my motel. Coming off of working seven days straight at my day job, and having to plan for a television interview the next morning, I was EXHAUSTED. Down the road on Motor Inn drive, I pull in to the Knights Inn. The adventure started.

The woman behind the counter seemed to be baffled by my reservation. "Is this being billed to your company?" as she glances over my online reservation. "Sure" I say. One thing I do like when I'm out on tour (and driving) is a fridge, so I request that then head to my room, finally after a long day on the road.

Pulling into my room, a guy with some scrappy looking people shouts over the balcony "Oh Canada!" then proceeds to tell me that he's been to Canada to see "Phantom of the Opera" in Toronto (they must have had a HUGE marketing campaign for Phantom down this way because I've met TONS of people in Ohio that had been to Toronto to see "Phantom"). Smiling, I open the door to my room. It's devoid of artwork and painted white with the typical ammeneties you would get in a motel. But the beds were clean and cozy, so it was what I needed. The maintenance guy knocks on my door and tells me that the fridge they have is missing the door, so sorry, no fridge. I call my booker and tell her I'm in town and where I was staying "Dion, you jump right into Youngtown culture! Damn!" As we chat I lay on the bed and look up and some weird speckle on the ceiling. Blood spatter comes to mind, but more than likely it's my active imagination. Mentioning it to her, she mentions that Youngstown was featured on the A&E crime program "City Confidential".

Settled in, one can get thirsty on the road (and the fact that Toyota Yaris' don't have drink cups) so it was off to the gas station up the street for a drink when I exit my room a tubby guy with a crappy rust colored sweater and baggy raver jeans approaches me drinking a beer. "I hope you don't mind me bothering you" he says with his distinct Ohio accent and continues to rattle on asking why I'm there with his eyes lighting up after telling him I had a show at the Butler Museum of American art. "I'm a pretty cultured guy" he explains and then tells me about how he lived in San Francisco, how he was drinking beer that the whinos drink, and how it's hard for him to be gay in Youngstown. "Are you gay? Because you're beautiful. You look like David Beckham." He says, then quickly afterwards says, "Oh sorry, you're a minister arn't you? A man of the cloth" this being possibly, the most baffling thing anyone might have ever said to me. I then get an invite to his room to do some drinking and told he has a fridge which I could put my ice pack in. I decline telling him that my evening should be spent preparing for my show the next day, and also doing some prep for an interview I was to do with a local NBC station. After that, to the store.

The pitter pat of feet and shouting upstairs. Nodding off to some CNN, I get a knock on the door around 1:15 in the morning. Do I answer it? Would you?

Morning comes, and after a coffee (which I got from the gas station, NOT the front lobby) it's off to the TV station. With some nice banter with my interviewer getting ready to depart she asks where I'm staying and I tell her The Knights Inn. Her cheery expression dissolves from her face. "Oh God. (sigh) Be careful! And please don't talk with anyone!" Well, there was no need to worry about that as they would talk with me. After getting a little lost, and stopping off at some bargain stores with vast desolate parking lots, it's time to head back to the Knights Inn to get ready to have lunch with my bookers. There as I pull up by a vehicle with a smashed window storing wooden dressers I return to my room. Outside again was the 300+ pound guy with his shirt off, sitting on a towel on the cold pavement 3 doors down from mine, and yes, my little admirer with his cousin (who also lived there). They said they watched TV all morning hoping to see me. I share my stories with my Youngstown bookers over lunch at my fav restaurant, Ponderosa. But back to the motel I go to prepare for our screening that evening.

Realizing I forgot something in the car, I go out throwin on some jeans, my tims, and a white t-shirt. The housecleaning staff was in the parking lot with, you guessed it, the gay guy with the bad sweater. "Yo homeboy!" one of the girls shout.

"What's up?" I say

"You single?" says one of housekeeping.

"Yeah, and Canadian. (laughing). Who wants to know?"

"She does" where the girl points not at the toothy gay guy, but at well, a homegirl. She was kind of a Kim Mathers knock-off who hung around with the other wigger girl and her home-boy boyfriend (who gave me snake eyes a couple times going to the ice machine). I smile at them. Gay sweater looks like he's going to gouge out the girls eyes.

Upon leaving for the evening, I'm approached by another guest asking me about jobs in Canada. "Our economy is very good right now" I tell him. He proceeds to tell me he worked in a factory, and his kid got Leukemia, treatment was a million dollars, which was why he was living there now. It's a sad story, and afterwards Michelle (my booker) tells me "it's sad, but more than likely maybe 50% true).

The evening I return. There's nobody in the parking lot to greet my return, which in a way kind of gives me a "shuckers" type feeling. I nod off to sleep with no thumping on the floor upstairs. It's eerily quiet.

Next morning: knock on the door. The homegirls are there. "Are you checking out today?" one says as they both eye me up and down with an oh-so-obvious twinkle in their eyes.

And I was. Upon exiting the building I surveyed my surroundings. The back units of the building were all closed off, with their windows and doors boarded over for tourists and visitors that would never fill the rooms. The host from the TV station calls and as we chat she says, "The next time you come down, I'll pay for the hotel!" Leaving the Knights, to my left is a downed Holiday Inn sign.

Maybe some people when they tour have to have a 4-star hotel but y'know, for me culture is always richer than some hoitey-toitey hotel. Our lives are always enriched by those around us, the ones we encounter, no matter what side of the tracks they come from. We always need a reality check, a people skills tune-up. From the Knights Inn, to my bookers, to the friendly people at the screening sharing their stories of Canada, Scandinavia, and of course film, I drove away from the Knights Inn truly liking Youngstown and left meeting truly great people, no matter their background, and good people are never a bad thing!

Would I stay there again? Yeah. But if I wanted to take the host from the TV station up on her offer, I'd be down for that too!


Blogger Mike White said...

>clears throat<

1:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting to know.

4:33 AM  

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