11.10.04

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How many off-white patterns & surfaces can exist in one tiny bathroom?

We're starting to get a tad worn out from all the cheap motels. You can tell because I actually started to muse out loud about what differentiates a Days Inn from a Comfort Inn. Comfort Inn is usually anywhere from $10 to $20 more than Days Inn, but the reason for that difference is not always apparent. A wallpaper border is not worth $10 a night to me. A refrigerator, maybe. Wifi? The Days Inn in Greenville had wifi & the Comfort Inn didn't.

See? I told you it's getting to me. Amidst all of this, the Shack Up Inn was a breath of fresh air. If you ever go to Clarksdale, you definitely need to stay there. We stayed in one of their spanking new (the bathroom mural was dated July 2004!) "bins" in what used to be a cotton gin building.


But I digress. We're in Birmingham now. The rain that fell on us the whole time in Memphis has paused, at least for the time being. On our way out of Memphis we encountered what may well be the most depressing Chinese restaurant I have ever seen (which is saying a lot at this point). It was so run down & poorly kept, & so terribly tacky to begin with, that I almost wondered if it was somehow wrong to be taking photos of it. That it was below the belt or something, like I would be participating in further humiliation for this establishment, which humiliates itself daily. In fact I wrote a long description of it that I decided not to post here, because anyone who had ever seen the restaurant would recognize it from the details. I felt that there was a sad story behind this place, that the owners might be awfully depressed or awfully mean, or maybe both. The soggy weather only contributed to my overall dismay. I photographed it anyway, wondering the whole time about artistic ethics & whether I'd end up wanting to use the photos. I don't know. I have to think about it when I get home & look at how they come out.

Today between Tupelo & Birmingham we saw a completely different restaurant, the only Chinese restaurant in the small town of Jasper, Alabama. It was closed for the mid-afternoon between lunch & dinner, but I peeked in & saw a man sitting there. I knocked lightly on the window, he looked up, smiled & came to the door. He had an open, honest, kind face, just like his restaurant. He said he'd been there for about 13 years, but the building looked like it could have been just a couple years old. The pink-flowered shrubs in the parking lot were all healthy, nicely pruned & mulched. I didn't talk to him very long, just explained the project & got permission to photograph, but I came away from there feeling much more cheerful than I had been ever since I saw that other awful place in Memphis.

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