I: Getting There
The night before we left, I had Henry look up lodging for Corey and me while I was at work, since I am helpless and had more important things to do. My only criteria was: close to venue and cheap.
He sent me info for Red Carpet Inn, which had rooms for $49+tax. It was located in New Jersey, and it was only 3.5 miles away from the Wachovia Spectrum, where the Cure was playing Saturday night.
I quickly emailed him and said I’d take it.
“You realize this place isn’t going to be nice,” Henry chided in his reply. The user ratings all said, “You get what you pay for,” and I was OK with that because the more money I saved, the more shit I could buy throughout the trip, like Slim Jims and crack.
“Don’t you dare even think about calling and complaining,” Henry said the next morning, as he armed me with directions and SoyJoy bars.
Corey arrived at my house at 10:00 and, between filling up the gas tank with liquid gold and taking out some cash for the turnpike, etc., I managed to spend $71 before we even left Brookline.
For the 300+ miles on the Pennsylvania turnpike, Corey and I mainly reminisced about past displays of family dysfunction, which included Corey’s favorite Father-Daughter fight in which I screamed in my step-dad’s face that I wish he’d get his head cut off by the log splitter we had in our backyard. Corey was laughing, and I was too but the whole time I was thinking, “Yeah, but this was a stepping stone in the rickety path of dropping out of high school.”
I forced Corey to listen to a special mixed CD I made just for the trip, and he sarcastically cheered every time Chiodos came on. However, he is now obsessed with Dance Gavin Dance, which is more than I could have hoped for. However, I ridiculed him every time he disagreed with my musical tastes, you know, like every other obnoxious music snob does.
My favorite moment was when Corey told me he was going through my step-dad’s cell phone and discovered naked pictures of my step-dad’s girlfriend all bent over the back of the couch. Ten minutes later and it was all, “Remember when you found naked pictures of Daddy’s girlfriend?” and then we laughed all over again.
I’m not used to being the responsible one in these trips. My role is usually to wedge my fat ass in the passenger seat, armed with my vacation journal, beverage and snacks, switching up the music like it’s my destiny. Also, flirting with truckers and being Annoying: Road Trip Edition. But this time, I had to pay attention to shit, like how the car was doing on gas, if all the tires were intact, all while keeping a general sense of where the fuck we were. Oh, the pressure. Corey was in charge of the directions, but every time I would ask him where we were, he’d stare ambivalently at the map and kind of shrug. So then I would call Henry and ask, “Hey, how much farther do we have?” and he’d get all mad because I wouldn’t be able to tell him where we were since I can’t read a map and then he’d have to go and turn the computer on (he was letting it rest while I was away) and by that time I’d be all, “Oooh we’re going through a tunnel! Bubbye!”
Directions-wise, it was smooth sailing until we made it to the Philly exits and had to get off the turnpike. Corey would play with my emotions by saying things like, “We need this next exit, No wait, next one. No wait this one!!” leaving me mere seconds to swerve onto the ramp. I screamed the whole way across the Ben Franklin bridge and somehow managed to take the wrong exit, which dumped us blindly into some small town called Gloucester.
We stopped at Coastal to get gas and when I started to get out of the car, an elderly employee came over and started pumping it for me. I learned later that night that it’s like, some weird law that all New Jersey gas stations are full service, and you would think that with me being such a fucking princess, I’d have really embraced this small display of pampering, but instead I panicked because I didn’t know the protocol — was I supposed to tip him? Cheer him on? Wait silently in the car and pretend it’s not making me feel like an entitled White Person to have a Mexican work for me? I kept asking Corey but he was all, “I don’t know, this is weird and I think he hates us and I want to go” so we sped away when he was through.
I had to call Henry once again so he could get us to our motel (at this point, I didn’t even know the name of it) and our conversation went something like this:
Henry: What are you near?
Me: A black lady in really high boots.
Henry, sighing angrily: What are you near?
Me: A chocolate covered pretzel store.
While Henry was busy trying to find out where we were, I pulled over and Corey ran into the chocolate-covered pretzel place to ask a local for help. Henry kept asking me for street names, and I would answer him with very important information, like:
“Ew that guy just looked at me!” and “I hope Corey buys some delicious confections while he’s in there. The sign says they’re the best.”
Corey returned with directions at the same time Henry found us on a map. To keep Henry’s ego from deflating, I chose his directions and proceeded to doubt him the entire time, saying that I should have listened to the pretzel lady’s directions instead, which caused him to yell back and say things like, “I AM NOT THERE. I AM IN PITTSBURGH. I CANNOT SEE WHAT YOU ARE SEEING.” Then he was all, “Fuck you, find it yourself,” and hung up on me.
Both sets of directions ended up being right. The pretzel lady said we’d know we were there when we saw the Pennant night club and Weber’s burger stand, and by golly she was right.
II : Red (from blood stains) Carpet Inn
“It looks like a concentration camp,” Corey groaned as we pulled into the Red Carpet Inn. It was the kind of place that people retreated to after their slum lords evicted them; the kind of place where people crept off to have lunch break affairs; the kind of place that had mattresses broken enough for people to appropriately OD on. Corey and I just may have been the only legitimate travelers staying there.
If you can, try to remember back to the last time you emptied fifty-eight ash trays in the center of your living room and then steeped it with Pine-Sol and the musty stench of your Aunt Mary’s baby doll collection. Yeah, you remember? Well, that’s what it smelled like it in the closet-sized check-in office.
We had to wait for a man in front of us to check in, which provided us with the idle time necessary for a complete giggle breakdown. It started with Corey, who had to bring a fist to his mouth to stifle the laughter. The old woman on the other side of the bullet-proof windows shot us dirty scowls and I tried to bury myself in a Chinese take-out menu that I lifted from the counter. Corey tried to hide his laughter by turning to look out the window, nearly knocking over the “Free Use for Guests” 1980’s-model microwave off it’s shaky stand.
After receiving no pleasantries from the clerk, not even a nicotine-ravaged “Welcome to New Jersey,” we had our key handed to us and found that our room was the last one in the row, and luckily for us the door wasn’t visible from the lot. A small vestibule with a flickering overhead light had to be entered to find our door. It was the perfect setting for a late night mugging, stabbing, gang rape, tranny hooker wardrobe change.
Once inside, I was relieved to find that the room itself wasn’t too bad. It seemed to be clean, as promised by the hand-written note left on the desk, declaring that some broad named Lillian cleaned it with her own bare hands. There were some stains on the towels and sheets, along with the standard array of cigarette burns dotting the shower curtain.
The lone window in the room gave us a view of the lustrous grounds behind the motel. I looked out and, oh good, saw two shacks — just perfect for stowing murder victims, a troupe of Romanian sex slaves, and bricks of cocaine. Personally, I liked to hope that the Holy Grail was in there somewhere, shoved in the anus of a drug mule.
The bathroom light seemed a little short-winded, so I walked back to the front desk to request a new bulb. On my way there, one of the residents — a young guy in a brown t-shirt — emerged and sat in front of the door, lighting up a cigarette and staring me down. Probably he was trying to gauge if I was a potential client, maybe trying to size me up for my preference — coke, pot, meth, grande-cocked Mexicans. Hopefully he was checking out my boobs, too.
Back in the office, I had to ring the bell multiple times, praying that I wasn’t interrupting some underground cock fight or sex party, before the no-nonsense old desk clerk came out of the back room. When I told her the bathroom light wasn’t working very well, she impatiently shook her head and said, “No, it works. You gotta leave it on for about five minutes, let it warm up.” I started to thank her, but she had already turned her back on me.
“I don’t think that old lady in the office likes me,” I whined to Corey, chaining the door shut behind me.
“Well no shit. We were practically laughing in her face when you were checking in.”
A few minutes later, a domestic dispute broke out in the parking lot.