Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Gone, gone, gone

Held up at work and a moment too late I have missed the last express bus. I'm a refugee relying on the light rail to move me over to Mesa. It drops me onto Main street. Nearby is an old shell of a building that used to be a Walmart. You know it's bad when Walmarts start going under. Moving down another mile I am approaching downtown. Downtown Mesa is an area they have tried to keep the 1950's mainstreet type atmosphere going. I am pleased to note that though the atmosphere is supposed to be quaint they are not above including a bike lane.

I pass a paper boy and look to see what he is so excited about. The cynical side of me says that back in the day this poor boy was probably expected to go collect the money for the newspaper putting him in danger as he knocked on the doors of the various strangers of society. If he didn't keep up with the daily changes to his route he likely lost his shirt. Lets just say I know whereof I speak and the image of the paperboy holds painful memories.

At the other end of town are three fat ladies on a bench. These hold no painful memories for me. I can't say I have ever had the experience of hanging out with 3 large naked fat ladies before so how can it be a painful memory? Except maybe now, but statues aren't that traumitizing for some reason I guess. The fat ladies are moody and one seems downright depressed.

I put my arm around Maggie to let her know it's ok. There's lots of fat statues in the world and it's much harder for lady statues to lose weight than men statues. I tell her I hope she doesn't get too cold sitting out in the cold and damp tonight without anything on. She says it's nothing. She's sat here on many an icy morning with hardly a shiver and even an epic rainstorm doesn't frighten her.

Moving on down mainstreet we are into the late 50's early 60's. Before us60 was the Superstition Freeway it was the southern sibling of route 66 and was Mesa's Main Street. Once upon a time Mesa Arizona was probably pretty exotic sounding to some folks from back east and they would stop and stay in any one of the hotels along mainstreet with large neon signs towering over the burning desert asphalt beckoning the travelers to come on in and rest the them tired dogs for a piece.

Many of the buildings are nearly identical to the hotels that line route 66 in Flagstaff. At least the ones that haven't been ripped down and built into new hotels. In the 80's the 50's to 60's era route 66 hotels were out of style and many were torn down or abandoned. You can still find them in Flagstaff though as you can here in Mesa. Some have been made into economy studio apartments, some are still motels albeit run down.

The king of this ilk in Mesa is the Starlight Motel with it's eternally diving woman, ever jumping off the sign into the refreshing pool.

Alongside the old motor lodges are the rv parks. Once upon a time an RV was THE way to see the country. Chain up the old trailer to one of them old cars that were as big as whales that were still made out of steel and could tow more than many trucks can today and head out into the wild country.

Motel westernaire. I'm getting to the further east end of main street now. There are not too many old neon signs past Power road.

At nearly all of these motels there are maybe 2 or 3 vehicles in the parking lot. How these people stay in business is a mystery. Perhaps they own their properties and this is what they pictured retirement being like in their old age?

I wonder if most of these hotels had weekly rates 40 years ago?

Further east the signs get a little more rundown. Back in the day these signs held off the darkness of the wilderness and desert to the east. Now it's just a continuous city all the way out to the Superstitions.

The circle rb guest lodge motel is the last one of the neons left on my commute tonight. It's light still flashes in warm friendly color to passing travellers. Next door is a hotel that is not so lucky.

The Motel San Dee is dark. Chain link fence surrounds the hotel and the office door lays on the ground. Standing on the road you can see the roof has burned right off the top of the hotel. Perhaps it had a meth lab in it, maybe it was just some smoker falling asleep. The hotel is dead now. In the coming months it will likely disappear. Elsewhere on similar roads hotels like this stand with empty windows on the sides of highways for decades watching forlorn as travellers speed on by in search of more hospitable lodgings.

At Power and Main Street I mark the end of this evenings diversion and turn for home. The rains will start soon and a cyclist should get inside or else prepare for a long cold night.

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