Monday, April 25, 2016

When In Scenic El Paso Pancho Villa Makes Sure To Stay At the Beautiful Motel 6: Story and Photos By William C Crawford

My Late Night Rhapsody: Catching Up with Pancho Villa at the Motel 6
By William C. Crawford
Jimmy Pro delivered; he always does. He promised clean, cheap lodging. But no gurantees of peaceful, uninterrupted sleep. We could save some big bucks booking by the week, the length of our West Texas photo shoot. Hard by the interstate, nestled in by the sprawling railroad yard, the El Paso Motel 6 was legendary in Jimmy Pro’s mind. And this was with good reason.

Urban skyline. Cheap, centrally located lodging. All night train traffic from adjacent sprawling rail yard. Rumbling, clanging  trains were part of the late night rhapsody. Golden hour sunshine that soon gave way to a howling West Texas wind. But on this Saturday, we just sucked on Tecates in our shirt sleeves.
He stayed here in relative solitude countless times. This dated, gritty sanctuary helped to launch his plodding photographic forays along the nearby Border and beyond. He swilled plenty of early hours coffee carried upstairs to his habitual third floor haunt.
He stayed here on holidays so slow that his rental car was the only vehicle in a deserted parking lot. Jimmy relished the empty motel when it came to pass. He never really got lonely,  and after all, there was the teenaged Latina desk clerk who was always good for an impromptu rap.
My jet lag left me and I lit up with excitement. I toted my ponderous photographer’s bags up to my third floor room via the worn, outside concrete staircase. I slid my key in the door which swung open to reveal a spartan, plastic appointed room which looked like it had been frozen there in 1974.

Room 309 as I swung the door open. Stephen Shore might have shot this in 1974. Would the obligatory Gideon Bible yield an inscription from the the trailblazing photog?
The acclaimed pioneer, minimalist photographer, Stephen Shore, could easily have shot a classic, color pic here. The caption might well have read “Racine, Wisconsin, 1974” instead of “El Paso, 2015.” I half expected to find a Gideon Bible with “S. Shore” inscribed inside the cover squirelled away in the ancient night stand.
I hurriedly pulled out my Nikon wide angle and grabbed three quick perspectives leaving my bulging luggage outside and out of my shots. I was checking into a funky museum outfitted with a sleeping bed!
We shot hundreds of images around El Paso barrios plying the expansive Border underbelly for the funk which we revered. The forensics here were highly favorable. The tricky January weather alternated between the Sun Bowl and the howling winter wind of West Texas.
As the weekend arrived the Motel 6 filled with shoppers and revelers of various persuasions. We turned in early after long days of desert shooting. Well after midnight, the unmistakable clicking sound of high spiked heels echoed off the concrete veranda outside my door.

No Ladies Of The Night in this late afternoon shot of the infamous veranda.
A wry smile creased my sleepy face. Lady of the Night, I reckoned! Nobody else up at 4:00 a.m. on Saturday. The sharp click, click, click stopped just beyond my door at the next room.
Sleep for the next few hours came hard. The dude next door was putting the Lady of the Night through her paces! He alternated between loud groans of ecstasy and shrill squeals of agony. The Lady was, however, stone silent. All the audio was wildly masculine.
Along about daybreak as I finally dozed off, I heard the sharp spiked heel strikes of the departing sex worker. Click! Click! Click! I mused that a good time was had by all next door, but over here in 309, Crawddaddy had lost plenty of sleep to the boisterous frivolity.

Later in the trip we foraged in Columbus, NM. This drug ravaged burg hard on the Border was once the home of the real revolutionary & bandito, Pancho Villa. Note signage.
After a few more minutes of fretful dozing, I struggled down to the far removed office to grab some free java. I immediately encountered the bleary eyed Latina desk clerk who was also just waking up. As she fiddled with her ever present smart phone, I posed a not so subtle question. “Who is that guy up in 310?”
I caught her off guard for just a moment and only half awake. She stumbled straight to her computer terminal and tapped in a query. “Pancho Villa,” she mumbled sleepily, unaware of the uncanny absurdity of the terse response.
I turned quickly away juggling my two cups of steaming coffee not so carefully balanced. I wanted to come back with an equally inane, historically related retort like: “Yeah! I just saw Davy Crockett up in 319!” But I settled for muffled laughter as I controlled both my unsteady coffee and my disbelieving reaction.
The next night served up a reprise of romantic gusto in Room 310. I noted that more frequent, intermittent clicks of dangerously high heels seemed to signal the goings and comings of three separate Ladies of the Night. A near traffic jam was building just outside of my door!
The previous night’s script otherwise unfolded remarkably the same. My sleep went by the bedside as I again enjoyed the edgy dialogue of masculine groans and squeals. Three rotating Ladies of the Night offered up no discernible audio. Maybe Pancho Villa was gagging his lovers, revolutionary style? You know-a bandito thing for the flashy dressed hombre!
Later, as I swilled my early morning coffee in Jimmy Pro’s room a few doors away, the subject of Click! Click! Click! happened to come up in a casual conversation about onomanpoeia. Jimmy had heard and immediately identified the origin of the passing nocturnal cadence. Moreover, his room was too far removed for him to savor the enthusiastic sounds which I enjoyed.
I relived my previous inane dawn exchange with the senorita at the desk. Jimmy remained stoically nonplussed by the senor’s creative choice of a nom de plume.
However, when I posed the nagging questioned as to why I only had heard male audio from the busy room next to mine, he responded with laser like clarity. He regarded me with keen intensity. Then he answered firmly with his thick Maine brogue still present after decades Down Under. “Well Crawdaddy, it might just be that Pancho is doing all the hard work in there.”
The simplicity of his brief reply was unnerving. Hell, I should have figured that out on my own! Jimmy Pro had delivered again; he always does.
Pancho checked out at Sunday noon replete in resplendent vacquero’s garb! My late night sleep soon settled back to normal. And Jimmy Pro didn’t have to answer any more of my dumb ass questions.
When I checked out a few days later, I noted wryly to the shy senorita on duty that it was great to have seen Simon Bolivar outside at the vending machines. She looked away and cooed some soft Spanish that was above my pay grade.
She regarded me further with polite but obvious disdain. Then she retorted, “That was General Santa Anna out at the vending machines. He is a chocolate freak.” Loosely interpreted I think  she meant something like: “gringo imperfecto!”

Plenty of spectacular views like this from vantage points around the 6! Oz Travel, Jimmy Pro's mythical booking agency, ensconced us here for $35 a night! Weekends were a bit more, probably to cover the late night entertainment. I paid extra for high speed internet. A photo I mailed out the first night was still uploading a week later when I checked out. And I ain't bullshitting!

William C. Crawford is a writer and photographer from North Carolina. He longs to become a spokesman for Motel 6.

1 comment:

  1. I have stayed in Motel 6s with the likes of Bill "Crawdad" Crawford, James "Jimmy Pro" Provencher, John "Jack" Ford and his wife Susan--and I swear, I'm the only sane one in the bunch!