Stories From The Loop Loft Vol I: Hotel Room Hijinx, Phishing Trip, Late Night Negotiating
Each week of 2024 I am going to be posting a blog about different experiences I’ve had as a musician. This won’t be the glossy social media savvy posts or even about what happens onstage (most of the time). These will give you a behind-the-scenes look at the humorous, irreverent, and ground-level look at the musician's path. All of the stories that make up the hours in the day you’re not onstage. Some names have been changed to protect people, places, egos….but generally speaking this is my version of the truth. Enjoy! -JA-
One morning years back, my (now) ex-girlfriend and I shoved off from Las Vegas on our way to Seattle for a festival I was invited to perform at. We slogged our way through the early morning traffic, dodged an array of traffic cones that littered nearly every foot of freeway across town and finally pointed our rental north to the Oregon state line that (as the crow flies) lay nearly 400 miles north of us. Upon the last turn onto the freeway that would lead us north, the reality of nearly 2000 mile commitment sunk in. We loaded the playlist, checked the gas levels once more, and hurled ourselves north into the vast expanse of the Great Basin Highway.
Flat desert gave way to desert hills. Hills gave way to mountains. Mountains gave way to high desert plains and isolated mining towns that had smaller populations than the inside of our rental van. Merrily we chatted through all of these places that despite being a native Nevadan....I had never seen. For those who may not know, Nevada ranks 7th in overall size. Much of Nevada is open land and at night has some of, if not the darkest skies on the west coast.
We crossed into Idaho at a place called Jackpot, Nevada and gassed up to make the final push for Idaho Falls. The last of the desert made way for farmland and at dusk we entered Twin Falls and slid into a booth in a local restaurant. Raised in Vegas and usually based there, I've come accustomed to a break neck speed of people, driving, service and life. The ten minutes of waiting for our server to arrive let me know the Vegas service standard is exactly that....Vegas'.
Bellies full, newly rehydrated we head to our hotel. Double-checking our confirmation email we headed inside. The hotel clerk looked like.....well imagine you go to a Phish concert....the dude you pass in the parking lot who may be with the band....or may be a vendor....or may be a fan, he looked like that guy. We load up the luggage cart with suitcases, PA, my rig and a cooler. (I'd read too many stories of bands on tour who left their gear in the van only to find it gone in the morning).
The elevator bell dings and we exited the elevator and turned toward our room. By this time it was nearly midnight, the miles were long and a shower and bed was the only thing on my docket. I'm handed our hotel keycard and open the hotel room door with a dry creak. It wasn't the late-90's blue-green carpet that caught my eye in less of a second, nor was it that the room smelled of stale cigarettes.
No, it was something a little bit more....... alarming.
It was the dude laying in the bed sideways in construction boots and jeans.... completely passed out and oblivious to our presence in "his"...."my"...."our" room.
We head downstairs and find the clerk pie-eyed on his cell phone, feet on his desk. He looks up from his phone and over the top of his wire-rimmed glasses.
"Can I help you sir?"
"Yeah. Uh....theres a dude asleep on my bed."
The clerk asks me to explain what happened, so I do. His only reply:
"Well, did you explain to him that it is your room?"
Time freezes. I look at the clerk. He looks at me. A second or three creaks by on the analog clock in the hotel lobby. Stale donuts lay forgotten under glass that needs a towel taken to it. Brochures litter the foyer floor. Diesel trucks groan down the freeway just outside to far-off ports of call. The clerk's beard looks somehow messier than it was three minutes ago I was just here. The ice machine kicks off down the hall.
"No." I reply. "I figure that between keeping my girlfriend safe. The thousands of dollars worth of music gear and not to mention my own safety, I figured me trying to negotiate a newly awakened grown man in the middle of the night in full construction kit wasn't in my best interest or in his scope of negotiation tact."
The Phish-head stares at me. The collar on his tie-dye tee shirt sags. His sandals sit beneath the neighboring desk....unworn. The man with the fully loaded luggage cart has interrupted his late-night loafing session and for some reason wants a hotel room that is clean, affordable, and apparently....unoccupied.
We are given another room, on another floor..that still smells of stale cigarettes. The next morning, I relayed the previous night's proceedings to the daytime manager and was given an envelope with her business card taped to the front and an apology as we departed.
We left and loaded up on juice and split a bagel two-ways as I stood on the accelerator until Idaho Falls disappeared from view.
Late that afternoon, the vineyards of southeastern Washington filled the van with a sweet aroma.
"So what was in the envelope the manager handed you?" the ex inquires.
Long forgotten, I pull the envelope out the glovebox and hand it to her.
The late afternoon shadows run long across her eyes as she examines the contents of a letter tucked inside the mystery envelope. Upon reading it, her eyes find mine.
"It's a gift certificate...for $200 to stay there again."
I sigh and mutter a reply as a sign welcomes us to Yakima, Washington.
"I'd pay $201 not to stay there."