In Nevada, Hotels Are Not Actually Hotels
I had no bed for the night. I was really stuck for somewhere to sleep, but the idea of sleeping rough was not an option I ever wanted to take. I had done it before, but it was always far from ideal. Especially round here, on the side of a highway with not even a blanket to my name. My last motel had thrown me out for not paying rent, which had increased by the day, and I had no way of keeping up with what they were asking. I packed up what little belongings I had, which all fitted into a small backpack, and hit the road. Again.
It was already dark, and the highway had a sickly sweet aroma. It was obviously harvesting season, as the air was full of the scent of weed clippings. Either that, or a car ahead had been set fire to by a rival gang whilst smuggling a shipment across the desert into Las Vegas. I was absolutely shattered, I had been walking since morning and it felt as if I was getting nowhere. Just as all hope was fading, my eyes hurting, ready to fall to the floor and sleep where I was, I saw a light coming from a building in the distance. Salvation! I hurried along the road as fast as my feet would take me, wincing in pain. I had taken my heels off partway through the day as I kept falling over on the uneven desert road, and I did not want to break either heels or ankles. Maybe there was a hangover lurking from the night before too, or maybe that was only just approaching. I could not tell, all I knew was the whisky I had bought with me was all gone and I needed more. As I approached the light, I could see that the building was an old church, abandoned for many a year, with a small bell tower, bell intact. This did not please me, as religion in general frowned upon my profession. But if they offered me a bed, I’d take it. I would leave in the morning, it was not as if they were going to force me to become a nun against my will.
I knocked on the door as the breeze picked up again. This caused the mission bell above my head, in the tower, to ring out slightly. It all felt slightly ominous, but still, all I could think of was getting a bed, and then in the morning, finding some more work. The heavy door creaked open slowly, and a woman stuck her head out of the gap. She did not look much like a nun. In fact, she looked positively like someone I could get along with. She was one of me.
“Yes?” the woman said.
It looked as if I had pulled her from doing something more important. The odour of vodka surrounded this woman, mixing with the smells already in the air, creating a heady aroma of what a good night should be.
I explained my predicament to her, and she seemed more than willing to oblige. She opened the door wide, and I saw the inside of the building was nicely decorated. There were drapes from the ceiling, and carpet on the floors. This was definitely not a home for a nun. I followed the woman down the hall, which was lit delicately by candles, one of which the woman was carrying. It was flickering, creating dancing shadows on the walls and curtains. There were muffled sounds coming from the other side of the walls, but I could not clearly make out what they were. They appeared to be voices, but I couldn’t be certain; these old buildings were built with thick walls to last through weather and defend against desert winds. She led me to a door, and signalled to open it myself. I walked through to a bar. This was going to solve my need for alcohol, but how was I to pay? The barkeep explained that I would pay it off in other ways.
Then it dawned on me – I had entered an organised brothel. How did the woman at the door know? What if I was an innocent passer – by? It always confused me how people could tell just from looking if you were a hooker or not. Ah, well. I figured I could stay for a night, work to pay it off, and then look for somewhere better to work from. These places always get found out sooner or later. I asked the barkeep for some wine, thinking I would take it easy for now. I really needed something just to take the edge off and help me sleep.
“We haven’t had that here for years, lass.” the barkeep replied.
Which was a bit annoying.
I looked round at what he did have, and it looked as if there were only spirits or beer. I suppose I’ll be back on the whisky for the night then! I had a few measures, and then asked where the woman had gone, so I could find out where it was I would be sleeping for the night. I found her, and she led me to a room. It was obviously a working room, but I thought nothing of it. It was a brothel, most of the rooms were going to have mirrors on the ceiling and kinky stuff by the bed. They were not going to do it up just for me. She left the room, and I fell asleep.
I was woken up by a knocking at my door. Was it already morning? There was no window I could check for, but there was a clock on the wall. It read three – thirty. I wonder why someone was knocking at my door? I answered, and there was a man in front of me, swaying slightly. He lurched at me. “Such a lovely face you’ve got!” he grinned, grabbing my chin to get a better look. From there, it appeared I was working for the roof above my head. There were a few men that night, and I slept in fits and bursts, sporadically being awakened by knocks at my door. There was a constant stream of men through the front door, some were sent to you and some chose you personally. Some were also there to kill the beasts of their addictions, but some were much closer to killing themselves. I stayed for a few days until I decided I wanted to leave. The woman on the door gave me my earnings, minus their very generous cut and my expenses, and it left me with near nothing for my time. She was very understanding as I left the building, but as I walked away, I heard her say -
“You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”
Copyright – Don Felder, Don Henley, Glenn Frey of The Eagles, 1977.