I’m a regular at Motel 6. My dad likes to go there, too.
I’ve spent years scrutinizing my dad, looking for any sign that we are the same species of creature. To date, there is little evidence except our shared affinity for seedy motels. When I go to Motel 6 I park in the back because I don’t want my husband – or anyone else for that matter – to catch me fucking the guy who, coincidentally, is my mentor in all things considered socially taboo and just plain wicked… While I’m there I coerce the girls at the front desk into admitting that they steal towels and get told stuff like “you know when check out is…” When my dad goes to Motel 6 he makes a thermos of instant coffee with hot water from the sink. No, we’re not hardly the same kind of creature.
My dad’s not a bad person but he’s got damaged goods. He fancies himself to be a highway man, traveling the country as a character in a Tom Waits song, eating in truck stops and making small talk with guys named Big Joe. The problem is that Big Joe has no idea what they’re talking about because my dad speaks in riddles. If my dad asks you a question/statement and you don’t know what the fuck he’s talking about, the answer is most likely one of the following things: Ford Motor Company, Michigan State University, or if the riddle contained the reference “smokey bear” then it’s about the police. Once, when my dad was visiting me in Boulder City, we somehow got shafted into going to some time share interview bullshit so’s that we could get free tickets to see Splash at The Riviera. During the interview I kept my sunglasses on in hopes that if I ever ran into the interviewer again she would not recognize me. The poor lady asked my dad if he had flown in to Vegas, he said “no” and so she asked “well then, how did you get here?” He tells her the turn for turn driving directions all the way from Bowling Green, OH. She gave him the praying mantis stare and I pushed my sunglasses further up my nose to better conceal my identity.
My dad’s wife’s name is Deborah. I call her “Pissed Off Deb” cause she’s always pissed off, plus she apparently has Tourette’s. She will say any ole’ rude shit that pops into her little midwestern head. Not that I entirely blame her. My dad, he’s an irritating guy. Every couple of months he decides to pack up the car and take the poor, reluctant, Pissed Off Deb on a road trip across the United States which will no doubt include stays at Motel 6, thermoses of bathroom sink water instant coffee and awkward riddle ridden dinners at truck stops. His other hobby is taking pictures of Pissed Off Deb in front of iconic national treasures and then sending them to me. I have pictures of Pissed Off Deb in front of Mount Rushmore, Niagara Falls and the Lincoln Memorial.
On another memorable occasion I was visiting my dad at my grandpa’s place in El Rito. I’m not sure where Pissed Off Deb was but I think she begged off and stayed at home for this hurrah. My grandpa’s accountant had alerted my dad to the fact that my grandpa was losing his grip on reality and that if he didn’t take immediate action, the state was gonna step in and seize the assets we were all counting on inheriting. My dad jumps on a plane and calls me up to inform me that my that my plans for the weekend have been replaced with mission Save The Family Fortune. I drop my plans for drinking jager and writing pointless shit and drive my ass to El Rito. When I get there my dad is talking a blue streak and I am left speechless and staring just trying to solve the riddles fast enough to keep up. One minute he’s talking about a lazy union janitor at Ford Motor Company and the next he’s saying “when mom died, everyone was consoling pops, but she was my mom too”. That made me sad but my empathy is trumped by the need to suppress my gag reflex because while he’s regaling me with this hours long monologue he is also slurping Psyllium fiber mixed with not enough water from a coffee cup and it has congealed into a wildly disgusting gelatinous slop that is dripping from his mouth back into the cup every time he takes a swig. The next day I was in my room, having just got out of the shower and sitting on the floor in front of my suitcase. I was naked and looking for clothes when my dad just walks right in, doesn’t knock or anything. We were both mortified, and in keeping with family tradition this instance was never to be spoken of again. Later that day I drove my dad to Wal-Mart to buy silk flowers to put on on my grandmother’s grave. At the cemetery transpires the weirdest shit, ever. Ever.
We’re at the cemetery observing all the family grave sites. I see the headstone of my dad’s brother, Harold, and note that there are fresh flowers in the flower cup. My dad, tipped off by the flowers, starts to sarcastically speculate that Harry is conducting an affair with the living from beyond the grave. He always loathed his brother. I am feeling brave so I say “didn’t Harry die of some kind overdose?” and my dad replies “somethin’ like that.” No remorse, no emotion, no nothing, just “somethin’ like that”. Maybe now would be a good time to bring up the fact that, when he was a young man, my dad was the primary suspect in a murder investigation involving the deaths of three of his family members. A couple years later Harry was found dead in his car having overdosed on a prescription epilepsy medicine that no one knew he was taking.
We locate my grandmother’s headstone and deposit the silk flowers from Wal-Mart. While we’re doing this my dad starts to tell me that he has a pre-paid plot in this cemetery but doesn’t want to use it because he intends to be buried in Ohio next to Pissed Off Deb. For some reason this issue has grown to be a point of contention between he and my grandpa. My dad tells me that he would concede to my grandpa’s wishes and be buried in this cemetery only if my grandpa agrees to pay the shipping charges associated with transporting a corpse across state lines. Then he tells me that I should write a song, because he thinks I’m a musician, about a funny scenario that could unfold upon his death and playing upon the fact that both my grandpa and Pissed Off Deb hate to spend money. The song, he tells me, should tell the story of how, after he dies, Deb will send his body C.O.D. to El Rito and my grandpa, being just as big of a cheap skate, will refuse the charges thus sending him back to Ohio where Pissed Off Deb will also refuse the shipment and this will go on indefinitely leaving his body traveling the highways of America in a big black hearse with shiny black windows for all eternity.
I imagine one day I’ll meet up with my dad at the great Motel 6 in the sky. Reckon he’ll leave the light on for me.