I found the sign in the plastic window quite funny. It said 'No refunds after 2 minutes'.
"Pay cash?" asked the man.
"No, credit card," I said. I waggled it.
"Oh." He gestured to a computer on the other side of his paper-strewn office with an open eBay auction on the screen. "I have internet connected. I have to disconnect the phone and reconnect after. Slow connection."
"Well...could you do that, please?"
He walked over, sighed, shut down the browser and ducked under the desk to plug in the credit card machine.
It was midnight in Norwalk, Connecticut, off Highway 1. Eighteen-wheelers rushed throatily past in light rain, and other motel signs glowed in a garish stack on the other side of the road. There was a reduced rate if you only required the room for a few hours.
I-95 was flooded and after two and a half hours in traffic, no end in sight (people were getting out of their cars to piss in the trees...and we're talking drivers) and the radio saying the problems were four or five exits further on, we made a break off the interstate and decided to call it a night.
So we found ourselves at a straight-out-of-the-movies seedy motel - a row of numbered tea-brown doors with a parking space in front of each one. Our room smelt of stale cigarettes. A mysterious round hole in the floor was covered with a square brass grille three times too big sitting on the carpet above it. A flushed toilet anywhere in the building seemed to come from the tiny bathroom with the bullet-hole style crazed mirror. The bed was a mattress stuffed with what felt like well-treaded tyres and it sagged at an angle of about 15 degrees when someone was laying on the right hand side. The sheets were old enough to vote, with a 70s wine/grape/leaf/vomit pattern on the overblanket. Crickets rasped in the rainy night. It was precisely the sort of place I imagined reading Bill Bryson's 'Notes From A Big Country', where, he says, you can generally count on being awakened in the night by a piercing shriek and the sound of a female voice pleading "Put the gun down Vinnie, I'll do anything you say."
I loved it. I even braved the shower.
We were both so tired sleep came easily, and Krissa, the angel, woke up with me at 7am and ran me to the nearest Metro-North station to try and make work for a reasonable time.
So THAT was interesting.
We went up to Rhode Island over the weekend to celebrate Krissa's birthday (coming up on Thursday) with her parents, and on Saturday, under a perfect blue sky we drove up to Gloucester in Massachusetts and went whale watching, setting out from the harbour in an exhilarating rush of sun and wind and spray.
We saw 20 in all, some in groups of twos and threes taking leisurely dives, huge tails arcing gracefully into the water, and some on their own sleeping at the surface and we didn't disturb them.
And just once, in a heart-stopping moment, off in the distance I saw a humpback whale, nine-tenths out of the water and slapping down in a huge cloud of spray. By the time I'd gasped, all Krissa could see was the white of the splash, but the boat motored over to the spot in the hope of catching some more 'breaching', which is what it's called when you have 40 tons of airborne marine mammal on your hands, but they were much more relaxed and chilled out after that.
The boat slipped up silently, propellers idling, to three or four different groups of whales, watching them dive slowly down to the depths, and rolling on their sides, basking in the sun and slapping flippers like giant white oak leaves onto the rolling surface of the sea.
It was amazing to see.
Yesterday both our minds were fizzing with the novelty of such a great experience that it was even worse when we hit the flood traffic, but the huge slice of trashy americana in the form of the Westport Motel made it up for me.
Not too sure about Krissa though.