Thursday, May 19, 2011
The other day my wife and I were rolling by one of my favorite remnants of old time St. Pete, The Sandman, when she pointed and said: "Huh. Looks like they're finally shutting that place down or something." The windows were boarded up and the place looked gone. Even the usual bums, junkies, prostitutes, wayward families and transients weren't hanging around. Kind of a drag.
The Sandman is an old motor court, one of probably a hundred in the Tampa Bay area. And to be honest, a few of these joints still look pretty damn good, enough so as to give you a glimpse of a bygone era, a blip in time when Florida had a kind of a romantic style. Only now, due to the dernier cri of cookie cutter chain motels, many of these places are nothing more than run down shit holes. Flop houses. Squalid efficiency apartments- where you go when you've been driving your life in a south bound lane heading north, gas pedal nailed to the floorboard. Lost it all to booze or drugs? Hey, refuge is right down the street- a bed and a head for only $25-$35 a night. Probably less if you're slick and know how to work a deal.
And brotha, every town with a pulse has a Sandman. Most have dozens.
I stone dig 'em. Especially the neon signs which are retro cool, even if most of them haven't pushed a watt for the last fifteen years. Those signs are a reminder of more innocent times, even though such a time never existed.
But for me, as a burgeoning writer, the money shot is that my imagination is able to glimpse a frame of the freaky deaky shit that goes on behind the closed doors of these sagging landmarks. These mental images are just so goddamn real to me. I even used The Sandman as a sub-character in my story, Five Kilos, because of the in-the-gutter feeling I get when only driving by the place. Hell, just look at that sign. A picture is worth a thousand words and the individual stories developing behind the scenes are worth millions more.
The lonely side of paradise. Here's hoping we never lose it.