Yearly Archives: 2013

Fiddling Like Nero

The crash shift a wall, knocking the door from one of its hinges. Southwestern, North Dakota—It was a cold gray, quiet, day—until a woman crashed a car into Room 135. It happened around 3:30 p.m., when a thunderous bang! tugged me from the ether. It sounded as if someone had punched the backdoor, or the door in the office, so all what-the-heck-like, I tottered to see who or what was to blame, but wind-strewn litter was all I saw. No sooner had I returned to bed, where I was happy, when my girl dashes in exclaiming the lady from Room… Continue Reading

A Wife’s Revenge

A woman battered this truck after finding it parked outside a motel late one night. Western North Dakota—Night has fallen on a particularly grueling, but otherwise unmemorable rainy day. A man who assembles the steel skeletons of soulless commercial space each day beginning at sunrise decides tonight he’s going to kick it with a couple of bro-ish co-workers before returning home. He tails the bros to the motel they’ve called home for over a month now. Six-packs in hand, they plod up the wet stairs in mud-caked boots, to Room 143. After soaking up some warmth they sip eagerly from… Continue Reading

No Respect for Small Town Cops

Motel guests get harassed by the K-9 cop, who didn't locate any narcotics on the couple. Dickinson, North Dakota—Small town cops always get a bad rap, and rightfully so. Unlike their urban counterparts, small town cops receive far less training. And because small towns tend to have low crime rates, police tend to spend an inordinate amount of time enforcing traffic laws and responding to small disturbances, like people setting off illegal fireworks. Sometimes small town police seem averse to police work all together. Last month a man was stabbed on the property. The police wanted to view our security… Continue Reading

Motel Treasure Hunts

Western North Dakota—It happens often enough. A guest disappears for a day or two before stumbling, all weak and disheveled, back to his room to discover his key no longer works. Perhaps a stranger, hearing someone attempting to enter, answers the door. There’s someone in my room, complained one construction worker who’d gone missing for a day. We rented the room when you stopped paying for it.  It’s an oddly satisfying chain of events, from the moment I instruct the housekeepers to pack it up to when the confused former guest forks over the ransom on his belongings. I’m not… Continue Reading

Africans in North Dakota

W.B. shows off his warning for trespass. Western North Dakota—Last night a couple of the housekeepers, all of whom are from Cape Verde, stopped by the office to tell me about the racist man working at the gas station across the street, how the man, for no reason, booted them from the store prior to the cops doling out warnings for trespass. What happened went something like this: Kenny purchased W.B. the wrong kind of cigarettes. W.B. returned moments later to exchange the pack for the correct one. One of the clerks, an older man with a scraggly gray beard,… Continue Reading

Speed Demon

Western North Dakota—When I took over the motel a few weeks back, I had one housekeeper, hardly sufficient for 52 rooms. So I began asking for more help because I didn’t want to clean rooms. One morning, a highly energetic middle-aged woman showed up at the office. Hi, I’m [Suzy], she said. I’m here to help.  Three minutes conversing with this lady I was exhausted. She spoke fast as an auctioneer and had a tendency to complete my sentences for me. I speak a lot slower than she does. I later attributed it the gallons of Coca-Cola she pounds… Continue Reading

Ill Will in Williston

For entertainment, a one-man hairball fest comes to town and impersonates power-chord superstars like Brett Michaels, Alice Cooper, and Axl Rose. It's as close as you get to culture in the Bakken. Williston, ND—Ask folks around here about Williston and you’ll hear much lamenting about how far gone it is from what it used to be. In less than four years the town metastasized from an idyllic American town—one where you’ll find pictures of the Pope hanging in most businesses—to one that has succumbed to the corruptions of hedonism and oil money. Williston lost its soul, as one man put… Continue Reading

Wild Man Cometh

Western North Dakota—Running the cheapest motel within 100 miles attracts a not always savory clientele, a truth I allude to when a prospective guest of a more respectable class asks for a room. Not because I care, but so I don’t have to listen to them bitch about wanting a refund later. Motel and hotel rates in the Bakken are outrageous due to a limited supply and the endless flow of people pouring into the area. Because there is no mortgage on this motel, the owner can undercut everyone else in town enough that even the monied peoples’ curiosity is… Continue Reading

Crime in Rio Arriba County

Española police question a man accused of beating on his sister.
Rio Arriba County, New Mexico—These are a sampling of pictures I took as a crime reporter in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, between Santa Fe and the Colorado state line. « Previous Next » /* 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14Continue Reading

Shit Talk

Small Town, North Dakota—So this girl and her man come in yesterday, a cute little couple from Indiana. He looks All-American while she was some kind of bitchy little twat with an outsized attitude. They want a room and she wants it now, but nothing is available until two. They lounge on the couch in the office for awhile, explaining they’d driven 24-hours straight from Indiana, en route to Idaho. We relate, having made a similar 17-hour excursion last week from New Mexico to here. The drive knocked me on my ass for two days. Twenty-four hours. Sounds like hell.… Continue Reading
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