It was 86° in Miami when I arrived Thursday afternoon. Yes, I did arrive and the flights were uneventful, unless I count being on stand-by as an event. When I checked in at my gate at LAX I had no seat assignment and after most people were already on the plane the woman at the desk said, “Will stand-by passenger Jonathan Sadler please come to the check in counter.” Maybe I am not clear on the meaning of the word reservation.
But that little inconvenience was not an event compared to what happened when I got to Miami Beach. My hotel, The Henrosa, which I first thought meant red hen, and then I thought it meant generous, but it so happens that Henrosa is one of those words that cannot be defined with a single English word and must be described with a lengthy sentence:
Hotel that takes reservations but sells the rooms first come, first serve at the higher rates people are willing to pay due to the room shortage caused by the thousands of people who have come to take part in the art fairs.
Just so you don’t think I accidentally did not really make a reservation, the couple after me was met with the same, “we have no record of your reservation” as I was. The giggling young couple at the front desk generously recommended a hotel down the street. The Berkeley Shore Hotel was the floppiest flophouse in the South and time spent - or time served - in the room brought to mind the phrase lengthy sentence once again. Mark, the hotel clerk handed me the key and a roll of toilet paper then asked, “Did you bring a towel?” No. “You didn’t,” he asked with a tone of incredulity. Then he told me they were really busy and ran out of towels. In the room, I discovered the bathtub had about 4 inches of water in it. Back to the now deserted front desk. Eventually I found a woman whose job was not clear to me and when she looked in the tub she exclaimed, “Again!” On the way back to the lobby (I use the term loosely) she pushed the call button for the elevator and then said, “Fuck it, this fuckin’ thing is too slow.” It was then that I realized I had found someone I could trust at this hotel (I use that term loosely too). We eventually found Mark and after quite a bit of mental room searching that included sentences like, “no, that one has a clogged toilet,” and “no, that guy is still in that room,” he offered me a room with two beds for the same price. But when I got to that room, Hestor was in it and told me Mark was crazy and that the room would be $35 more. I tried to explain that one could not sell something for one price and then change the price and then I remembered that I was not in the U.S - I was in Miami Beach where our laws didn’t apply. Back at the loosely termed lobby, Mark and Hestor argued about giving me the room. Finally Hestor said, “I’ll fix it,” and about four minutes later he returned from the original room telling me and Mark that my room was fixed. I did not check but instead went out with friends Joel and Melissa from Illinois. When I returned at 2a.m. I saw that my tub was either still flooded or flooded again. I made up my mind to leave first thing in the morning. But first thing in the morning arrived with the sound of keys in my door. “Hello?” I called and hello was returned but the person did not stop trying to get in. I opened the door for what turned out to be a tiny guy with a snake... not a reptile but a drain snake and he proceeded to work on the tub while I read my book in bed. After him, the foul-mouthed woman from the night before came in smoking a cigarette. She joined the plumber and they spoke Spanish and laughed while looking at my tub. I went to the lobby and checked out. The woman at the desk was sympathetic and offered me the room that Hestor denied me the night before but the words of Abraham Lincoln were brought to mind, “Fool me once shame on you, fool my twice shame on me.” So I checked out. After wandering the streets for a while Abe’s words left my mind and I returned to the sympathetic woman at the Berkeley Shore Hotel Flop(crack)house. She told me she felt bad for me so she showed me the “best room in the house.” She smelled the towel before she handing it to me and said, “Nice and clean.” She confided in me the reason this room was so nice; “This used to be Chris’s room and Chris likes everything to be perfect.” As you may have guessed, Chris and I have different ideas of what constitutes perfection. In my perfect world the graffiti is completely covered, the horizontal artwork is not hung vertically, the blood* gets washed of the walls, there is no mildew in the shower or on the telephone and wastebaskets are available.
Things looked up when Alice showed up and to here credit she laughed about the room as much as I did. But after I left Sunday morning, Alice was trapped in the room while she waited for someone who was having some sort of fit outside the door to leave.
So if you go to Miami Beach and stay in the Berkeley Shore Hotel bring the following Items:
A towel or two
A light bulb
A lamp or flashlight if you read in bed
A gallon of bleach
Shoes for the shower
A tent might be a good idea too
And if someone invites you to “come up to my place,” and in Miami Beach someone probably will, you should take him/her up on that offer.
*In fairness, the blood on the wall was not that much and could have been from popping a zit – a really big zit.
P.S. When I see a person in his twenties on a BMX bike I think, “It’s time to get a grown up bike,” but in the Berkeley Shore Hotel there was a guy, at least in his seventies, riding a BMX bike in the hotel. He also had a baseball cap, cocked to one side hip hop style.