Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Homeless Hotel

Austin Texas is notorious for its climate. Wicked hot summers, lovely springs/autumns, and mild winters. Due to the agreeable temperatures, Austin has a relatively high homeless population per capita. Nothing like the problems in Los Angeles and Vegas, but there are still many people here with no place to hang their hats. I proudly count myself among them.

I'm trying to sell my home in Utah, but until I do I am on my own...quite literally. My family can't join me in TX until the house sells in Utah and I can't be in a house here because I still freaking have one there. Before leaving the Beehive State, I jumped on Craigslist to try and find a place to crash for a month or two while everything processed. I quickly learned that it was impossible to button anything up because I was still physically in Utah and no one would commit to hold any available rooms for someone that wouldn't be in Texas for three weeks and STILL could cancel at any time. So I had to get to Austin and hope for the best.

The only available room I could find that didn't require a 3+ month lease, contain multiple evil allergenic "kitties", or have giddy college girls running in and out of it, was in an old nursing home that had been converted into a "commune." $550 per month (all bills paid) gets you a room with a shared bathroom and communal kitchen/living room. I figured, "what the hell...I can sack up and handle anything for a month", so I made the call and scheduled the tour.

I entered the ancient building and was greeted with the mixed scent of ammonia and dying skin cells wafting through the halls. The floor was hard polished tile similar to what you see in old hospitals or elementary school gymnasiums. There were three hallways with four doorways on each side; an old 10-speed rusted bicycle parked outside each door. The "front desk" had several faded 8x10 signs with random rules and one large poster that said "POSSESSORS OF ILLEGAL DRUGS WILL BE EVICTED."

The tour began in the communal "living" room, which more closely resembled a "dying room" where old people would go to slowly extinguish their inner light playing cribbage. There were several folders attached to the wall with everyone's name on a folder. It was explained that this was the "chore wall" and that tenants rotated a different chore each week. Chores ranged from cleaning stove tops to emptying garbage to scraping bong resin from the landlady's 4-foot hookah. On queue, a clearly insane homeless-looking girl walked past carrying a basket full of cleaning supplies, most likely the source of the ammonia potpourri, muttering something about laser beams and llamas. There was a 19" television with "extended cable" on a table and several armchairs that had to have been holdovers from the now-defunct nursing home. They still smelled like tapioca pudding and prunes.

The kitchen was small for a communal facility and the fridge contained two dozen ziplock bags with tenant names scrawled on them in sharpie. This way Moonlight didn't mistake her string cheese with Buck's yogurt. An older gentleman was wiping down the cutting boards and greeted me with a huge grin and a nod. Nice lad. I think he was proud of his tooth.

The general tour ended at that point and I was escorted to my room. I instantly knew which one it was. It was the only door sans 10-speed.

The room was huge. I think it was where they caged and tortured unruly geriatrics in the 60s. The floor was the same glistening tile and the walls were cinder block, shabbily painted a light custard hue. A painted pipe ran the length of the room, right in the center of the ceiling, hanging down 18". I'm sure with time I would get used to the incessant "zzzzzzzzzzzzzz" sound of hot water coursing through the tube. My bathroom-mate was clearly female; cotton balls and toiletries were strewn from hell to breakfast.

There ended the tour. I wanted to take pictures of the entire facility because A) no one would believe my tale, and B) I'm sure the authorities were looking for most of these people. But I didn't dare. I was afraid that Tami (the landlady) would set The Gimp loose and I'd be relying on Butch to rescue me with a Samurai Sword. I thanked her for her time, walked out of the building, sprinted to Zed's chopper, and tore off into the sunset. Homeless. Again.

I found a pretty good deal on a room at an extended stay hotel. I have my own little kitchen and a full-sized fridge for my hot pockets and corn dogs. I have my own bathroom and the luxury of slinging my own sundries all over the place. I quickly made friends with Stephanie at the front desk and the manager, Kenny. He's an Oklahoma fan but a nice guy nonetheless. I have free Wi-Fi access so I can work and blog to my little heart's content.

Remember Rambo II? If you don't you should hang your head in shame all the way to Blockbuster. Essentially John Rambo is pardoned from prison to go to Vietnam and photograph old POW camps that were believed to be vacant. He was chosen because he was once a POW in the camp. When he arrives he learns that the camp is NOT vacant and instead houses a couple dozen ragged and filthy Americans that have been there for decades. He isn't able to rescue them at that point, but returns in all his glistening glory with a compound bow and a vengeful heart.

One day I'll return to the Homeless Hotel and free the victims languishing in squalor inside. I've been there before. And they need a Rambo.

1 comment:

ZAC said...

BAh! Way too funny. This is one story that must make it into the Tyler archives. GOOD LUCK!