Friday, 26 September 2008

First Monday

Twelve Mondays a year, always on the first Monday of each month, was the Scottsboro trade-day. I know this, because my dad took me there dozens of times. I haven't been to a trade day there, since 1977.

About once a year, this memory pops up. I can remember the breakfast plate at some local grill where you got a mess of eggs, hash browns and sausage, with toast....all for $1.

I can remember the World War I cannons on the far end of the court house parking lot.

I can remember the smell of roasted peanuts in the fall.

I can remember comic books laid out by the thousands....and I'd buy two or three dozen for barely $5.

I can remember buying my first Swiss Army knife there.

I can remember buying the best grilled burgers on the face of the earth there.

There would be at least five thousand people walking around on the first Monday of July or August.

My dad commented a couple of years ago that the entire day had evaporated over the past twenty years....with a lesser crowd showing up and nowhere near the excitement.

As I grow older....these memories stick...and I sit and ponder those moments of walking the square....a thousand times. Its a vivid memory, which doesn't lessen.


I recently blogged the Knoxville disappearance of a Bama gal....and how picking the right hotel to stay in.....really does matter. For the past day or two.....I pondered my pick of hotels in life. I came to think of five great picks and five lousy picks. I also remember the pick that I didn't ever accept.

I once went to Ireland....flying into Shannon and having done some research....I was going to stay downtown at a nice hotel. The price was right and the hotel appeared on the internet to be ok but I never went to other sites to "dig". It was nine PM and raining as I took the rental car....right-hand drive....and left the airport. I turned the radio on, and here was George Harris, the Irish actor in a interview. I like George.....a wonderful character actor.

So onward I was a 25-minute drive. Somewhere around the city limits.....its a small town really (Limerick).....George acknowledged that he grew up in Limerick, and then mentioned it was the "stabbing" capital of Europe. I got a bit nervous.

Three minutes later, I realized that I had to turn and here was the hotel. Up and down the street....pubs. And here were guys fighting on the street. It was kinda like East Memphis. It suddenly hit me...I just didn't feel safe. I took a big circle and drove back toward the airport. Somewhere around the end of Limerick....was a nice roadway lodge. I stopped and rented a quiet room at the end of town....double-locking the door. Its funny. If I hadn't had the radio on....and listening to George.....I would have stayed downtown.....maybe been dead that night.

My five worst picks in life for a hotel?

I stayed at a rat-hole place.....barely one Loret Del Mar, Spain. It was cheap and near the beach. It was safe. The bed was a steel matress bed, with one chair in the room. The window looked out into another wall.

I stayed at a terrible hotel in England, where the heat barely worked in November and the whole room smelled of mildew.

I went to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey where we were required to stay on base. The billeting office put me into a quansat hut facility. It was a simple room, with a bath.....and even AC. The problem was the 44 cockroaches that I noted in the bathroom the very first minute I walked into the place. I went over to the BX later and bought a big container of roach spray. I sprayed and sprayed.....then discovered that the room smell was going to kill then that night I opened the have 500 mosquitoes bite me.

I stayed at hotel in Springfield, Missouri once where the cockroaches were plentiful and the AC just never did work in July.

And I stayed at the Firstenhof hotel in Wiesbaden....which really was a 3-star joint....but the 20-foot ceiling and the ancient furniture made me sit and laugh constantly. The room was barely 20 feet by 20 feet.....but was 20 feet tall for the ceiling. The chairs must have been manufactured in the 1800s....and smelled like it.

So my better choices?

Once upon a time, outside the gate at Mildenhall....was the Smokehouse Inn. It was the best travel lodge that you'd ever dream of. Business went bad, and they eventually tore it down.

The Roosevelt Hotel in New York City.....where Delta stuck me for 24 hours....probably was a dream hotel. And the breakfast....easily four-star.

I was sent TDY once....down to Florida...near Pensacola. They stuck me in a Howard Johnson. The lady at the desk was fairly nice.....I was late arriving and she found this suite....which the Air Force had to pay for.....and I ended up with a terrific view of the bay and best tubs you could ever ask for.

I went to Vegas around 2000 and stayed at the Pyramid. I was shocked at the terrific room I had and the reasonable cost.

Finally, I found myself in Coos Bay, OR around 1980....and ended up staying two days at a hotel along the beach there. It wasn't a really remarkable place, or a fine bathroom, or even anything to say about the bed. But you could slide the real door window open and look at the beach. The view was a million dollar view.

There are still decent hotels in America and the world to stay at.....and be safe. But you got to do your research.