I have just hot footed it out of my hotel that I had booked through the budget section for beautiful Santa Barbara in Lonely Planet. OK. My Lonely Planet is a little out of date... 4 years to be precise but I cant see how the dreary floral grunge hutches that I nearly spent my last weekend in California, could have been considered anything near decent apart from the lovely Indian lady manager who gave me a cup of tea but cant clean to save her life and had gravy stains down her house coat.
The Lonely Planet said something like 'You cant get a fun and funkier place than this snazzy little hostel with origami hanging from the ceiling.' Of course, you guessed it, I was sold. One mention of folded paper swans and it was booked.
What they didn't mention that was that the 20 year old origami swans on string are dotted in each corner of each greying polystyrene ceiling tile, the putrid mint green and electric blue, or should we say, azure, floral polyester decor topped with transparent plastic chair covers and the eclectic array of weirdos wandering around the lobby grunting were not exactly what I had envisaged in my enthusiastic and colourful mind.
I was absolutely knackered when I arrived after driving for 4 hours having been on a little detour to see another farmer's market. I arrived at 8 and knowing that it was a very busy Independence weekend in Santa Barbara, a bustly and beautiful town near LA. I was a little slow off the mark and just paid at the desk before seeing the room, hoping like hell my first impression of this strange and grubby fusion of Indian sitting room in Birmingham meets Alcatraz, was wrong.
I lugged my stuff upstairs and found no 203. It was right next to the men's bathroom ... for the whole floor .... some 20-30 rooms, it was also right next to the train station and those train warning things by a road that go DINGDINGDINGDINGDING as a train approaches and screams past. There were polyester sheets on the blamonge like bed and when I sat on it my legs gave way and I landed some where in the middle of hell. The peep hole in the door had been removed and there was tissue stuck in the hole.
I went to the lobby to find the wi-fi, trying to prepare some work for New Zealand but the suffocating smell of Glade air-freshner became suppressive, the paper swans started spinning around, looking at me. A guy with a crutch, one eye and a shopping trolley full of blankets started explaining to the woman at the desk that he had a friend coming to stay with him tonight, as he tended to get freaked out on his own, like he did last night and he didn't think he could stand it again, those dreams.....and the woman on the table opposite kept jigging the change lever on the vending machine again and again.
The train rattled past the crossing ... DINGDINGDINGDINGDINGDING!!! like the ones you hear on old B & W American films and the whistle blows as someone gets murdered. I was sure I heard someone scream. Although it could have been someone in Subway sandwich shop next door.
I couldnt do it. I have been to Glade hell before, often through teaching and I am not going there again, no way. I have my limits.
I was out of there!
I am safe now in another hotel, I got here at 11pm and I am so relieved I cant tell you.
Still Living Lou.