Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Bates Motel?

We check in periodically as James Lileks continues to update his tour of old motels:

Nostalgia for old motels, like most forms of nostalgia, is selective and dishonest. We like to imagine a pure world before the soulless hotel chains took over, a landscape of lovely neon, local charm, and individuality. No doubt this was the case, occasionally, in the 50s and early 60s, but it was only part of the story. Standardization has its benefits. Franchise outfits have their rules. Every Holiday Inn may feel the same, look the same, but you're reasonably sure there won’t be bugs in the mattress or Norman Bates peeping through a crack in the bathroom tiles.

A motel was only as good as the fellow who ran it. I’ve spent a lot of nights in cheap motels; I remember scratchy sheets, creaky beds, TVs that wobbled on their stand. Old soap. Nubby blankets. Pillows as thin as a small-town Sunday paper.

But. There’s something to be said for these humble places. Not because they were better, but just because they were the norm. This is the way things used to look, and that’s reason enough to pay attention.

Prepare for a flashback and click here to see his collection of motel postcards.

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