TT and I made a beeline for Shelter Island and found a run-down mecca of 60’s and 70’s drive-ups that have gradually become “Patel hotels” (thanks Loris) Grateful for the possible reprieve from a hard floor, we walked around, doing some room-visiting. Lots of vacancy, if you don’t mind your hotels old and a little musty. The prices weren’te quite what I was hoping for, but at around $120/night, it was still beating the pants off of “no vacancy” or $185/night. We were really close to biting at a run-down Ramada; They had a two-queen room seemed ideal for our expected accomodation of three (Super Kate on the way from LA, to augment to belly dance contingent) but the manager was driving a typically hard Bombay bargain. “My boss, she has the final word,” he pleads, with one ear to the phone, the alleged price-fixing boss on the other end. Negotiations broke down at $129 plus tax, and as TT and I walked away (part of the strategy, right?), these two—blast!—Indian gents—these…interlopers— appeared out of nowhere, wanting to see a room. I watched in minor horror as he showed them our room.
Damn!—surely that option was gone. But never mind—After a couple more lackluster inquiries, TT and hit the motherlode—a place that I first reacted to saying “I don’t like it. It doesn’t have enough windows.” Indeed, one wall seemed windowless. But this turned out to be a magnificent misconception. Upon closer inspection, the place was swimming in scratch and dent So-Cal style: style: Pink trim, aqua doors, kidney swimming pool, partial stone walls like yr. uncle’s den…
We popped into the front door and behind a thick glass, and even thicker glasses, we met Carlos, a retired fisherman, on the far side of 80, maybe. TT asked—with what was at this point understandable reluctance—if by any chance they had any rooms for rent. Carlos, smirking a little, and replied “No, no…we don’t have any rooms…” as he reached for some keys. I knew we were in good hands immediately This old wise guy was already bustin’ our balls.
The next thing he said, I don’t think was a joke. With no small labor, he scanned down a piece of paper that he held in his monumentally arthritic hands, and sighed enormously through his stooped shoulders: “I’ve got a three-bed room. But it’s expensive.” He paused and looked at us with great remorse: “It’s eighty-five dollars,” he confessed gravely.
I stared at TT. TT stared at me. We tried to act natural. “We’ll take it!” I screamed. Reaching under the security glass, I tried to grab Carlos and shake him forcibly, to make my point more clearly. Just then the Indian Iinterlopers—remember them?—walked in the door, and struck up a conversation with Dinora, Carlos’ wife.
Then, I saw it: The Approaching Checkmate: “Now, it’s okay for us to stay here tomorrow night, too?” I asked quickly. Dinora looked at me and her face lit up. She said: “Oh, you want to stay tomorrow night, too?” to us—and then to the Indian Interlopers—a sympathetic shrug: “I’m sorry!” They were polite, good sports, and hit the door, banished to whatever inferior dive would take their sorry asses, the losers.
And we were in like Flynn at The Sportsman.