Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Sandman

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.

Stay chill.


  1. I hate the cookie cutter look that is so prevalent now.

  2. Ditto, David. There are a few decent looking motor courts left down here, as I'm sure there are in other parts of the US. I even think there are one or two left on Route 66. Suppose there always will be, as people are nostalgic.

  3. That photo is one of the reasons why I love American films. Yes, over here we have the dark, Brit Grit movies but those neon signs have a character all of their own. BTW, your factual posts read like quality fiction pieces too. Great post, my friend!

  4. Yeah, it's really too bad neon signs aren't as prevalent as they used to be. Whenever I'm driving around and see these old motor courts and their signage-there are several within a few minutes of Casa de Wilkerson, I'm always intrigued. What were they like 50 years ago? What goes on in them now?

    I'll post some more pictures in the future for ya...Tina's Angels is right down the road, as are plenty others. 34th Street is loaded with 'em.

    Thanks for the kudos on my posts, man. I was always taught that if you're going to do something, learn how to do it well or at least the best you can.

    Later gator and thanks for stopping by.

  5. We had a place like that here. Actually we had several but the one that springs to mind was just like The Sandman. But several murders later and after years of sitting condemned they pulled the plug on it and brought out the bulldozers. I was kind of sad to see it go and at the time I didn't know why but now, yeah, you nailed it. It was the history and though shoddy in the worst of ways it was a part of downtown that felt well worn.

    They're knocking down the old places now and putting up new ones to make everything look uniformed. Sure the city looks better but it feels less authentic. You can't walk down the street and feel a story of any great magnitude took place there anymore. Just a bunch of empty lots or more goddamn mini-malls because, you know, the world doesn't have enough of those already.

  6. JD- Good seeing you over here, sweet thing. You hit the idiot in the face with that last sentence. Another CVS. Or Walgreens. Don't even get me fuckin' started.

    A few blocks down from us runs 34th. street- loaded with these old hotels and motor courts. Tina's Angels on 34th is real close to us. Tina's still has the hotel rooms you can flop at for $35 a night, but has a seedy strip club in the front. Saw a chain link fence around the whole enchilada today. If they tear it down and put up a Dollar General store, then I'm going on a bloody fucking rampage!

    See ya around, slick.