John Kingston is guest posting today with his memories of a Gallup (NM) motel. In this post, John illustrates how preserving a memory can allow you to take your readers back in time and space.
Roaches. I open the door to my unit in this dingy “U”-shaped complex just off the highway and they greet me like housekeeping staff; guiding me from bedroom to bathroom like hopeful little home sellers. I do a quick walk-through, turning all the lights on, peeking behind a shower curtain that’s as yellowed and tattered as ancient papyrus. Smelling the air. A man’s Colorado driver’s license has been left inexplicably inside the bathroom vanity. I go to set my bag down onto a table but notice what looks like congealed sweet and sour sauce smeared across its surface. So, I’ll loop the handle of my bag around the closet bar instead which, after all, seems a much safer bet for keeping out stowaways. Seven states in two days. Through the winding Missouri hills and miles of Oklahoma flat-line. Across an Amarillo backroad lined with roadside crosses, then needling through the gaping, Jupiter-colored New Mexico canyons. And for the next seven hours, this matchbox efficiency room will be the place I’ll call “home”.
It’s midnight in Gallup and in the parking lot outside my room people congregate, their faces jaundiced in the glow of bug lights. Laughing and swigging beer out of the back of pickup trucks that even at this late hour blare Norteño music. The road from Albuquerque to Gallup is best traveled by night, driving beneath a celestial amphitheater that rouses all the philosophical connotations of self and existence. There’s also a certain element that summons the old drive-in movie theater musings of flying saucers and alien abductions along lone desert highways such as this. After all, the kitsch is never far, even this far north of Roswell. But in Gallup, something more insidious seems afoot, for Route 666 is just up the road, and driving along the town’s main drag, it’s easy to imagine backroom card games that pit the souls of weary travelers against the Devil himself.
If I weren’t so exhausted, I’d have taken one look at the state of this room and checked out. But a nefarious sandman has stalked the streets of this town, blowing from his palm the magic sand of sleep that laps over me like waves against a shore. And the local tweakers, too, will be crashing soon, crystal methamphetamine visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads. In the meantime, here tonight, in a room that teems with roaches that will slosh their antennae like bullwhips as they creep over me, I’ll sleep until the roosters crow. And by nine o’clock, I’ll be in Arizona, passing westward through Winslow where I’ll no doubt stand on a corner, then into Phoenix’s homestretch where I’ll be meeting up with some friends.
Crescit Eundo, New Mexico.
A Land of Enchantment, indeed.