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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Palisades Motel - a November travel tale

I think of myself as a seasoned traveler and one who does not need upscale accommodations. I have stayed in cheap motels across the country. I have camped in the rain. I am comfortable on my husband's 1947 sailboat (as long as I don't sit straight up in the berth and bash my noggin). I can eat cold beans out of a can. I have driven myself in and out of risky neighborhoods and gotten along fine with bikers, dopers, homeless hobos, truckers and hitchers who are off their meds, but I thought I had finally met my match when I checked into the Palisades Motel in Santa Monica, CA on Saturday.

This place seemed like a real dump but it was only a few blocks from my daughter's apartment.
There certainly weren't any other motels close by. When I saw my room my heart really dropped. I had never seen one smaller or less inviting. Margaret was with me and kind of shrugged and offered to let me sleep on her couch. Well, yes, that was the cheapest route but so right-in-the- face of her and her boyfriend. I preferred my own little nest rather than the couch in the living room with two dogs, so I paid for two nights and moved in.

Oh, it was such a tiny room with only a ceiling light. No comfy reading spot, no rug, no shampoo or pens. The medicine cabinet was a rusted out wreck and the tile floor was really cold. Thank goodness I brought thick slippers and a really heavy robe that I was delivering to Maggie. There was a TV but no remote. I unpacked a bit and tried to find some way to make it more hospitable.I got my docking station out and started up iTunes: Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach - haunting and romantic. Finally, I fled to Maggie's apartment where she cooked me a delicious fish dinner. When I returned to the motel, later that evening, there were no lights on in any of the rooms. I knew that the night manager was up front but it still felt eerie. My room was icy and I wore my pj's and my nightgown and a robe to bed. I was starting to hear the words "Bates Motel" sounding in my mind.

 The next day I met the owner, Sid, who showed me how to run the heating unit that was so high up on the wall I hadn't really realized that I could control it. I had to get on the bed on my tiptoes and I could just barely reach the controls.  Warmth turned everything around, but I still needed those slippers. How was I to know that it was going to be one of the coldest days of the year in LA and they would get 2 inches of rain? Sid gave me a rug for the floor by the front door. Maggie and I drove to Laguna Niguel in the rain to visit my sister and nephew. I left that heater on all day... on low.  It was toasty when I returned.

Two nights went by and I had to move or stay put. Bill had found a couple of places for rent near the beach through Craig's List but they either weren't available or were more expensive. Other motels were far away and more money.  Sid gave me a deal I couldn't refuse and I settled in for the rest of the visit. I still seemed to be the only tenant. The third night, a couple came in around 9:00 pm and checked into a room across the patio. Within 15 minutes they moved right back out with a bit of an argument with the night manager that I couldn't understand. Quiet reigned once again. I think I started feeling a bit smug about being able to handle this place. I had my knitting and I found an old Masterpiece Theater drama on the TV (after standing in front of it pushing buttons for 10 minutes). I also had a Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale and some chips. I am so glad that I did not think about ghosts until just now.

The rest of the week was sunny and warm unless you were in the shade. I walked the beach, I walked the bluff, I walked the Promenade, I walked the dogs. I took the bus to UCLA and saw where Maggie works in the music library. I did the Thanksgiving shopping, including at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market, which was incredible. I found a morning spot to have coffee and sit in a sunny patio. I never left Santa Monica. Each morning I visited with Sid and marveled at how he could come to this run-down little motel every day. I learned that it had been built in 1948, that he and I were the same age, that our children were all involved in the arts and that he was hoping to make a few renovations soon. It would take a lot. But, by golly, I will probably rent a room again the next time that I come to visit.


Maggie at her research library at UCLA

     Katy making the pumpkin pie custard

If you ever find yourself in Santa Monica, I can guide you to the absolute cheapest lodgings available. Just tell Sid I sent you and bring cash.  Palisades Motel - Ocean Park Blvd

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I am back at home, warm and cozy and looking forward to the holiday season. 

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