I chose the La Kiva Hotel because it wasn’t the Castle Inn. The Castle Inn, advertised at $29 a night in large red neon lettering, looked like it was made out of papier mache that hadn’t yet dried. In the parking lot outside, a skinny man in a long black hoodie was walking in circles, throwing his fist out repeatedly, like he was casting a pair of die. I craned my neck to the other side of I-40 and saw the La Kiva, advertised at $39 a night in large red neon lettering. This lettering slowly slid to the side to reveal another message. Indoor Jacuzzi and heated pool. Boo-yah. I was living the high life now. Humming along to Warren Zevon, I swung into one of the many empty spots in the large lot. Surprisingly, only a couple other trucks and a long black sedan that looked suspiciously like a hearse were parked in the lot. I would’ve thought a Jacuzzi would draw a bigger crowd. I hopped out of my car and landed directly into a large puddle. It was a puddle of the thickish consistency, the odd consistency where one cannot be too sure if what they have stepped in is water or mud. I cursed and grabbed my backpack, shaking the gunk off my shoes.
The hotel was massive inside. The main concourse extended for at least a hundred yards, and two floors of rooms lined each side of the concourse. Leafy trees, bushes, and vines wound around the interior, reminding me of the Rainforest Café restaurant we’d gone to when I was a kid. An ornate fountain stood in the center of the concourse, and further down was what appeared to be a restaurant. The entire place looked empty. The main lights were dimmed, and I didn’t see a single light on in any of the bedroom windows.
The bellhop emerged from a curtain behind the front desk after a moment, rising to her feet like a bear awakened from its slumber. Perhaps bear is an understatement, behemoth may be more accurate. This woman was massive. Her arms (tattooed with what I believe was a Forever 21-esque version of an Egyptian ankh) were larger than my torso, and her enormous head squatted on her shoulders like a pumpkin on a slab of meat. She grimaced at me expectantly.
“I’m looking for a room for the night. One bed.”
“You got a girl with you?” she asked.
“Nope, just me,” I responded, before thinking about the odd nature of that question. “Is there an extra fee for girls?”
No response to this. After a moment of mashing keys on her computer, she handed me the bill. I paid my fees and proceeded to ask her the whereabouts of the Jacuzzi.
“It’s being fixed. It ain’t here.”
“Ahhh. Bummer,” I shrugged, slightly more crestfallen than I let on. Perhaps an imaginary dice game over at the Castle Inn would’ve been fun.
“So what’s fun to do in Amarillo?” I asked.
She looked up and paused, as if she was working up to something. “We got a movie theatre.”
Wow, no kidding?
“I’ll have to see a movie then,” I said, grinning, not sure if she was joking or not.
Her face remained impassive. She shrugged as if she didn’t care one way or another and handed me my key. The cover of it advertised a FREE 72OZ STEAK DINNER, then in smaller print, if finished in one hour, at a place called The Big Texan. The cartoon caricature attempting to eat the steak appeared rather optimistic about the endeavor, especially given the fact that the steak pictured was larger than his entire body. I wondered what sort of soul sucking debt one would be stuck with should they fail in their 72oz quest. A steak that large had to be more than my room at the La Kiva.
I made a mental note to avoid The Big Texan and walked through the dimly lit concourse towards my room. I still hadn’t seen a soul save for the lumbering bellhop, but as I stuck the key into my door, the curtains of the room next to mine parted. A wrinkled, smiling head adorned with a yarmulke pressed against the glass. The glossy-eyed old man waved at me, his face no more than two feet from my own. I tried to smile politely, but was caught so off guard that it probably came out as more of a grimace. I jammed my door open and tossed my backpack, and myself, inside.
I flipped open my laptop, did a quick Internet search. The movie theatre was closed. I went to sleep early that night.
Amarillo, Texas 1/27/17