09 March 2008

How many "sweepstakes" does it take to get to the center of a sucker?

Just over two months ago, I entered the latest "Publishers Clearing House" sweepstakes. I didn't buy anything, but that's neither here nor there.

I also didn't expect to win one thin dime. Nor one tarnished penny, either. I know there's a better chance that George W. Bush will grow a functioning cerebrum ... Hillary Clinton will grow a functioning heart ... gas prices will go back to beginning with a "1" ... or that we'd get a freeway connector from Rincon into Savannah ... but anyway ...

The other day I received in the mail an "official"-looking envelope. The return address read: SWEEPSTAKES CLEARINGHOUSE DEPARTMENT OF NOTIFICATIONS

To the right of the address window read: "OFFICIAL NOTIFICATION - PLEASE REPLY IN 10 DAYS."

In the words of Jack Benny, "Well."

Did I win? Did I win??

Holy shitzu on a swiszle, I tore into the contents faster than Puddy into an unattended garbage bag, and had a gander at said envelope's payload.

The cover letter -- "Official Prize Award Directive" -- indicated that I, Talmadge Q. Gleck, "have been awarded a consolation prize in the TEN MILLION DOLLAR SWEEPSTAKES CLEARINGHOUSE GIVEAWAY."

That's funny, I distinctly remember entering the Publishers Clearing House contest, but not the one for Sweepstakes Clearinghouse.

How in cotton-pickin' tarnation can somebody win a contest they did not enter??!!

What seems to have happened is that PCH has "sold", "rented" or otherwise "donated" my name to this outfit, which then goes into action notifying people like us that we've "won." There's no other plausible explanation; I haven't gotten these things in a long time. And I hadn't entered PCH (or any other sweepstakes) in a long time, either. The timing here is a little too suspect.

In any case, the enclosed letter -- oops, "Directive" -- went on to tell me the prizes I have "won." (I'll explain in a moment) And the 'Directive' ended by stating, "Prizes like this have the power to change people's lives."

Great McMahon on a can of Alpo, it sure as heck changed MINE.

Included with this letter were several "checks", six in all -- and, true to form, one showed up in the address window, with "PAY TO THE ORDER OF" clearly laid out in order to be visible within the window.

"Oooooh, a check!" *squeal*

Of course, what doesn't show up are the words to the right of all six of these "pseudo financial instruments": NON-NEGOTIABLE. NOT A CHECK.

They're all $400.00 vouchers, good toward purchase of six corresponding items in the mailing.

They are, as follows:
  1. RCA Home Stereo System with Surround Sound. $579.95 value.

  2. Dell® Desktop Computer with software and FREE internet. $699.95 value.

  3. "Masterpiece®" Matching Diamond Watch Set. $469.95 value.

  4. Dell® Laptop Computer with software and FREE internet. $779.95 value.

  5. Ultralite® 5-piece Expandable Luggage Collection. $479.95 value.

  6. DVC™ Megapixel Digital Camcorder Package. $549.95 value.
Good Mother Mary on a Marx Big Wheel, Seraphim and I were fixin' to be showered with some mighty quality merchandisin'. I felt like a contestant on Press Your Luck.

Only The Whammy was real.

Each of these items were represented with the aforementioned "vouchers" which took $400.00 off each of the list prices shown above.

Let's do the math:
  • RCA stereo system (curiously, the only brand name listed here without one of the ubiquitous trademark symbols) ... after the $400 voucher, it's being offered to me for $179.95.

  • Dell desktop computer .... after-voucher price: $299.95.

  • "Masterpiece" watch set ... after-voucher price: $69.95.

  • Dell laptop computer ... after-voucher price: $379.95.

  • Ultralite luggage set ... after-voucher price: $79.95.

  • DVC digital camcorder ... after-voucher price: $149.95.
Now let us review the above pricing. First, the RCA stereo:

This thing is little more than a "mini-bookshelf" system inside a fake-wood-veneer cabinet. I've seen these cheesy stereos selling for as little as 100 bucks, and the cabinet selling for $50. Go to Big Lots, and you'll probably find both.

First, it plays cassettes. What the hell are these "cassettes"? Oh yeah, almost forgot ... they're about the size of iPods, but they're also known for puking brown silly-string when they get sick. No, thanks.

The speakers (yeah, they look big, but I'll betcha inside each one is a single cone no bigger than three inches diameter!) promise "full concert hall sound, producing music the way it was meant to be heard."

If that's how music is supposed to be heard, then go ahead and drive rusty nails into my ear canals, I wanna be deaf.

That RCA system is a descendant of the 1980s "Yorx" stereo systems. You know the ones, they had molded plastic on the front to make it appear like it's a stacked, matched component system. 20 slide controls gave the illusion of a 20-band equalizer. Guess again -- five of the slides are connected ... one for volume, another for balance, then bass and treble. Sucker.

And RCA? I mean, come on -- it's a long way from their days pioneering radio and color television. It's no longer a standalone company; today RCA electronics are made by Thomson, and their products don't exactly rate too well in Consumer Reports. Something pesky, like "high repair rate."

Next is the Masterpiece watch set. His 'n' hers with "gold, diamonds and onyx." Oh, my. The fine print says "one-point diamonds." Are we supposed to mistake that for "one-KARAT"? Now I'm no diamond expert, nor am I that much of a watch-geek, but even I know something's not quite right here.

And "made of genuine Swiss parts"??!! That's an insult to some of the world's finest people! I wonder just what the good folk of Helvetia, WV would have to say about this.

I believe I'll pass. Wal-Mart has better deals on watches by reputed names like Timex, which cost far less than the 70-buck price tag above. And they actually work.

Then we had the "Ultralite® 5-piece Expandable Luggage Collection." Expandable? Well, DUHHH!! EVERY luggage set is "expandable" -- you just buy more suitcases, genius!

And the way it looked in the flyer ... no fancier than the luggage set we bought in 2001 at Office Depot (of all places!) for, I believe, right at - if not less than - the stated net price of $79.95. What's more, our set is still going strong. I somehow doubt this "Masterpiece" set would've gone that distance. (that's a joke, son)

"Masterpiece" is an underrated 1973 Temptations hit song. Not a name I think of when I'm entertaining a luggage investment.

More electronics? You betcha. Here's something sure to swoon the heart of every videophile from Tiger Ridge to Tuscumbia: The DVC™ Megapixel Digital Camcorder Package. Click on the image for a bigger view .... this baby contains the astonishing amount of 32 MEGABYTES of built-in memory. Enough for 320 still images.

Ummmm, that does not compute. Inside our 8.3 megapixel Fuji camera is a 2-gig SD card. Big enough to hold just over 500 full-tilt pictures. I'd say 32 MEGAbytes (that's soooo 1999!) will hold maybe eight (8) pictures at 12 MP resolution. Ahhh, but the small print reads "max resolution." Hmmmmm...

Something else that does not compute, either: the brand name. I've heard of JVC, of course. But what in sam-hill is this DVC™ -- Diablo Valley College? Disney Vacation Club?

Yes, there seems to be a company called DVC™. "Imaging solutions for science and industry." It appears to be a manufacturer of digital cameras for medical and other professional applications. No wonder I'd never heard of it until I Google'd the name.

But what about this "DVC" camcorder? Is it a top-of-the-line "boutique" subsidiary of Coby? Or Broksonic? Names you see all over places like Fred's and Dollar General, places that make Wal-Mart look like a high-end stereo salon.

At the price of $150 after the voucher, I'd pass. It claims to be advertised in Popular Photography magazine. I can't vouch for that one, though.

Vouch. Heh heh ... um ... heh?

Do yourself a favor, and pick up an entry-level brand-name camcorder at Best Buy, which usually start at around $250. Another $100 spent, and you save a lot of heartache and lost video.

And the "$400 in software" I don't even want to think about. Most of 'em look like freeware programs, outdated, unsupported versions of established applications, or, worse, "teaseware."

Then there are the computers. Dude, you're gettin' a démodé Dell.....

$300 for a desktop, and $380 for the laptop. A "hither-and-yon" computing package for less than 700 bucks out-of-pocket.

Sounds too good to be true, right?

Well, it is.

These ARE computers. One's a desktop and the other a laptop. ("One of these things is not like the other" / "C is for computer, that's good enough for me")

But, just for grins, let's examine the small-print.

For one thing, these are "open stock." Meaning, people have returned 'em. Ahhhhh, but also there's potential lurking in those hard drives .... passwords ... online banking logins .... illicit e-mails the wife sends to her online boyfriend who fathered her chil ..... um, er, anyway ... these are returns. Not new items. But think of the financial/blackmail bonanza that awaits the lucky recepient. [provided the recepient actually gets to BE the recepient.....]

Now, if all that doesn't faze you, consider the specifications:

1.6 GHz Pentium-4. If that's not enough retro for you, then you'll just thrill to the 3.5" disk drive (holds an amazing 1.44 MB of data), and -- get ready to have an orgasmic thrill -- A 20 GIGABYTE HARD DRIVE.

Good gravy, the computer we bought in 2000 -- eight years ago, for those counting -- had a 30-gig hard drive on it.

But the speakers. FULL STEREO SOUND. Folks, I'm drooling ... I'm getting rather fatigued with the "mono reprocessed to simulate stereo" output from this 14-month-old HP Pavilion desktop.

And with 256 MB of RAM, you'll be stuttering your way through at least two multitasked processes.

Oooooh, then there's also the free internet. Free. Internet. Yeppers, 1,000 hours/45 days of free AOL. Sheyettfahr, I didn't know AOL still offered dialup service for new customers. Good night, and pleasant dreams; that 2 MB picture might be all downloaded when you wake up in the morning.

All right, already, here's something positive: it has Windows XP. That beats the fool durn out of Vista (one BIG reason I replaced our desktop a year ago December was the impending release of Vista -- I wanted XP Media Center 2005 while I could still get it. XP MC05 is a surprisingly stable OS for a Micro$oft product).

Now, here's the boilerplate for the laptop:
The Toshiba laptop that we got for Seraphim back in August '06 has a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor. This thing has a PENTIUM-3 ... I think they were selling those when I was still living in Troy. And check out the hard drive size on this thing: TEN WHOPPING GIGABYTES. (our laptop has a 120 GB hard drive on it .... and, for that matter, our HP desktop has a 250-gig HD onboard).

Both of these things have "CD-ROM included", but nothing is said about a burner. This isn't 1998, people; a CD burner - at the very least - is crucial to a computer system in 2008.

You'd be way better off taking your chances with Blue Hippo. A scary thought in and of itself.

Wholly Mozzes, the levels some people will stoop. It's a fishing expedition, and the sobering reality is that there are enough "stupid people" who fall for these things to more than pay the freight of sending all these mailings.

One clue to look for, in the event a "stupidperson" happens upon this blog: the postage. It was metered "pre-sorted standard" at a postage rate of 18.5 cents. Contest winners are never notified via pre-sorted mail, people. Get a clue. Buy two vowels, and then guess C and L.

This outfit has a website, too. Take a look at some of the "winners." Yeeeeeeesh.

I said it recently, and it bears mentioning again: the movie Idiocracy is getting dangerously close to life imitating art.

For some reason, I have a craving for some Carl's, Jr. EXTRA BIG-ASS FRIES!!!!!!

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "The sucker stops here" Gleck

11 January 2008

More from Out West, circa 1977 (XXXI-YAT)

"And away we go, like a herd of turtles!" -Dad Gleck

"The Deviled Ham Chronicles", part two

Continuing with our trip diary from July 1977, we left our no-phone, no-pool, no-pet, but otherwise dandy ol' Kayenta, Arizona Holiday Inn room, and resumed our journey. Our next stop: Four Corners National Monument. It was neat seeing four states coming together in a single spot. The monument itself is an elevated slab of concrete, with a survey marker embedded which marks the exact spot. It's not on the main drag; one has to turn off the highway northward onto a county road. It's about a mile or so away.

And yes, there's a picture of me, on all fours, so I could have one appendage in each of the states. Hardly original, but at age 12 I felt like I was so witty.

Or something which rhymes with that word.

Back on the main slab, we crossed into Colorado, and wound our way back into Utah. We found ourselves on U.S. Highway 666 (why this number was allowed by the National Highway Administration is beyond me!). A stop at Arches National Park was pretty cool, if not the deviled ham sammich consumed therein. We picked up I-15 at Provo, and drove through Salt Lake City at rush hour. Joy.

Night #5:
Ogden, Utah. I think it was another Holiday Inn, but I'm not certain. Now that I think about it, perhaps it was a Best Western. Whichever it was, or wasn't, it had a helluva pool. I guess I shouldn't say "hell" -- we're in Utah now. Let me rephrase it:
Gosh! That was one flippin' great swimming pool. But what the fruit was up with the all the klieg lights? Oh, silly me, that's the reflection from the Osmonds' toothy smiles.

Night #6: Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Wagon Wheel Village Motel. Did I mention it too had a black & white television? Rustic, log cabin style living. Yeah, boy.

Eh, at least the telly didn't have a coin box attached to it.

One very notable event occurred this evening: it was the big NYC blackout of July 13, 1977. I remember this because it caused all the network affiliates to lose their feeds. The TV stations all had to think fast and rack up a fill program. Back in those (good ol') days, when infomercials were verboten, said "fill program" would likely be something watchable. The station we had on plugged in an episode of the game show Break the Bank. Too bad we weren't close enough to Flyspeck .... *sigh* Those people didn't lose network television, y'know.

The next day we spent touring Grand Teton and Yellowstone parks. And, at a picnic table somewhere, it was yet another can's worth of Diablus Spamibus between slices of Home Pride Butter-Top Bread. ("we add the butter, and let it bake riiiight in")

It was very, very late in the afternoon when we left the Yellowstone area. We stopped in Cody for supper on the run: Kentucky Fried Chicken. It was another 80 mile drive to our next destination ... I ate my three-piece finger-lickin' good box meal as we continued through the Wyoming darkness. Which looks little different from Wyoming daytime. To say, there's not a flippin' thing to look at. (gotta say "flippin" -- Utah isn't that far away)

Night #7: We arrived at Thermopolis, Wyoming about 9:00. Don't remember the name of the motel, but - like back in Gallup - it was old and beginning to show its age.

I was so ready to get the hell out of Wyoming ... it makes I-16 look fun and exciting. Our next state was "colorful Colorado."

Night #8: Estes Park, Colorado. Hobby Horse Motel. Had a really big area in the back, complete with a playground and pond. And geese. One of them decided he didn't like this Talmadge person, and began chasing me all over creation.

I hate geese.

Mom left her nightgown in the room. That much I remember, too.

After a wonderful drive through Rocky Mountain National Park (even thinking about it today, it feels strange to see patches of ice in the middle of July!), we meandered our way back to I-70 to go eastbound. Through Denver and toward Kansas. We turned off of 70 at Oakley to go southbound on US-83 toward Garden City. Our destination was Dodge City -- Festus, Miz Kitty and Matt D. himself, I'm sure.

We'd turned back eastward at Garden City, and were no more than 10 miles out of town when, suddenly, BANG!!-thumpthumpthumpthump.... The left rear tire shed half of its rubber along the hot asphalt of U.S. Highway 50. Nice. Dad got out and put the spare on the car.

Then we backtracked into Garden City, where - lucky for us - there was a Sears store, with auto service building out front. And it was still open.

After a new tar was procured for our Grand Safari Truckster, we resumed our trek toward the wilds of Dodge City.

Once we got the hell into Dodge, we ran smack into a major problem. There was a convention of some sort going on, and most of the motels were booked solid. Was this Karma from Dad's leadfooted passing of that poor family back outside of Kayenta?

Night #9...#9...#9...: One motel had a room available, and it was called The Bel-Air. A simple Google shows it still in business. I remember it being small, and brother is it small -- nine (9) rooms.

It still puzzles me how Dad badmouths Motel 6 after experiencing The Bel-Air Motel. It wouldn't be as bad as Bob's Motel. Yeah, Bob's Motel. It's in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and we stayed there one night during our Trip Up North in 1979. Anyhoo, the Bel-Air was nasty. Very, very nasty. As in, the carpet was more animated than a "Tom & Jerry" cartoon. It was the first time I'd ever seen so many cockroaches in my life. Yes, it was that bad.

Y'know, I've never seen vermin in any Motel 6 where I've stayed.

After that experience, we shook the roach eggs out of our hair and embarked on a tour of Dodge City. I found it lukewarm; this was mostly Dad's thing, him being a big fan of westerns, and all. (If Marshal Dillon were real, HE would've done something about the bugs in that motel)

After a lunch of Underwood deviled ham, Wonder bread and Lay's Potato Chips, with Shasta Cola (*cringe*) to wash it all down, we were back on the road.

Night #10: Fort Smith, Arkansas. In a fit of hysteria and lapsed reason, Dad -- get this -- made a reservation. We had a room waiting for us at the Holiday Inn. Strangely enough, it was located on I-540 .... very out of character for my Dad, I have to say. He hated and hates going one mile out of the way for anything while on a trip. He has no appreciation for anything historical, offbeat or anything ... unless it has something to do with John Wayne, the Old West, or "The War Of Northern Aggression." So why he left I-40 (which skirts Fort Smith to the north) is a mystery to me. Certainly there were motels along I-40 ... I mean, it's not exactly an abandoned two-lane!

Well, we checked into the Holiday Inn. It was a second-floor room, and not a "down-and-out'er." We opened the door, and the smell just about knocked Mom clear over the walkway in a backward flip toward the parking lot below.

It was m-o-l-d-y ... and the water stains on the ceiling told the story. Swiss cheese roof. Aye-yi-yi.

Fortunately, we got another (and better) room in that motel, but that experience was a brutal wake-up call: Kemmons Wilson's great creation was beginning to show the ravages of age. Many of the first-generation Holiday Inns had clearly jumped the shark, and with increased corporate control of the chain, and less hands-on by Kemmons, quality control was going into the toilet. The late '70s marked the decline of Holiday Inn as an institution. Too many properties were allowed to deteriorate without any real accountability.

(That's why I love Drury Inn so much -- no franchising, and that family wisely knows what happens when you sell your good name for untold fortunes and explosive growth)

After we ate supper, Mom picked up one of Holiday Inn's 'comment cards.' In 1977, they used the (ironic) slogan "The best surprise is no surprise." Mom began writing, "Well, you sure surprised us!" She mailed the postcard after we got back home.

Unbelievably, we actually ate a real lunch on our last day of traveling. No deviled ham. We stopped outside of Little Rock at a Minute Man - a now-defunct hamburger chain ("When you're hungry, it only takes a Minute Man"). And............

Night #11 -- back home to the salt mine of Tupelo, People's Aryan Republic of Mississippi. Vacation time's over, back on your heads.

One important lesson I learned, both from this trip, and the Canada vacation two years later, was the wisdom of making reservations. While you give up a bit of spontaneity, there's the peace of mind that comes with knowing 1) where you'll be staying that evening, and 2) that you'll have a room waiting.

4,000 Bel-Air cockroaches can't argue with that logic.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Backseat Turtle" Gleck

Irrational lampooned vacation

Two posts down, I referred to our stay at Motel 6 in El Paso, Texas. It was part of a big family trip in the Summer of 1977. In family lore, it's come to be known as "The Trip Out West." I was 12, and my brother was 8.

Said trip was quite the adventure. It was taken in a 1974 Pontiac Grand Safari station wagon, yellow, with - yes - faux wood grain side panels ... our own Wagon Queen Family Truckster! Clamshell style back gate (with power glass), AM/FM radio with the infamous GM in-windshield antenna (read: piss-poor reception), and power windows. Oh, yeah, and - standard equipment on a typical Degenerate Motors vehicle - an oil leak. ("Where's the drip?", I can hear Dad saying)

We picnic'ed at roadside parks for lunch, and every day it was the same golldurned thing: Potato chips and deviled-ham sandwiches. Every golldurned day. And since that trip, I cannot even stand the look, sight or smell of deviled ham. I revile the stuff. I'm feeling queasy just thinking about it, I tell you.

More than three decades later, I can still remember the exact route we took, where we spent each night, and - in most cases - the name of the motel.

We left Tupelo, Mississippi some time in the afternoon, and headed up US-78 toward Memphis, then I-40 into Arkansas. It was already dark as we left Little Rock, and picked up I-30 toward The Big-Ass State That's Like A Whole 'Nuther Country.

Night #1:
The Sands Motel in Dallas, Texas. Outside, I sat on the grassy knoll while my brother Zaprudy ran the Super-8 movie camera. Mom and Dad came along in their Grand Safari Truckster. Mom was wearing a pink dress with pillbox hat, and Dad ....

Never mind, that's getting a little too morbid. And does that look like Jack Ruby's ghost coming over here to pistol-whip me?

I'd better hurry up and grab my textbooks from this "depository" before they run out of the one for my Antisocial Studies class.


Night #2:
After a long haul across Texas (borrrrrrr-innng!), we found ourselves in El Paso, and the tiny confines of our Motel 6 room, coin-op TV and all. The next morning saw us doing a tour of Juarez, Mexico.

Night #3:
Gallup, New Mexico. I do not remember the name of the motel, but what I do recall was that it was an older property, a tad bit run down, there was a Texaco station out front, and it was on the left side of the road. The interstate ended on each side of town; Gallup had yet to be bypassed. What I didn't know at the time was that the Gleck family was staying in a gen-ewe-ine Route 66 Motel. Ever the crazed road geek, even then, I had no idea the magnitude of roadside history we were part of. In 1977, US-66 was still a real highway (it would be decommissioned in 1985).

Night #4:
Kayenta, Arizona. After a fun-filled day exploring Meteor Crater, and experiencing the Grand Canyon, we were heading toward Four Corners -- the only spot in the U.S. where four states meet. It was getting dark, and we were on a two-lane desert road, the kind where you can see the town damn near 20 miles away before you actually reach it.

There weren't many lodging options in the northeast corner of Arizona, and we had no reservations of any kind. Dad was rocketing along the highway, and passed another car that was slow-pokin' along at a leisurely 80 MPH. This becomes important in a minute.

As we got toward Kayenta, we noticed that there wasn't much to this settlement. It was a small junction in the road, with a collection of houses, stores ... and a certain motel. We could see the Holiday Inn "Great Sign" miles away -- THIS, FRIENDS, IS WHY HOLIDAY INN WAS STOOOOPID TO GET RID OF THAT THING!! It was a beacon. Dad began rejoicing! That pulsating Great Sign was functioning as it should: a siren call of the roadside.

Dad pulled in and got out to see if any rooms were available. There was one. And only one. "But the phone doesn't work", the clerk told him. Dad replied just as I would have had such a scenario presented itself to me: "I DON'T CARE!"

As Dad walked out with the key ("she said give it to me, and I'll unlock the door" -er, um, anyway), the car we'd passed earlier pulled into the breezeway right beside us.

Sorry, no room at the inn.

Kayenta was a weird one -- it looked like a tiny place, no bigger than 1,000 people ... but by golly they had their own Holiday Inn!

Had there been no vacancy, we'd have been on the road for at least another two hours -- Durango, Colorado was the next evidence of civilization. And we would've missed the opportunity to see the Four Corners monument the next morning.

The room was good, the TV worked (if memory serves, it could pick up just one channel), the Holiday Inn restaurant didn't disappoint, and then we all slept nicely.

* to be continued *

Flavor #6

"From a Buick 6" -Bob Dylan
"From a Motel 6" -Tom Bodett

A couple of thoughts, as they pertain to Motel 6.

1) Motel 6 really came into its own after Tom Bodett was tapped as its spokesman.

2) His commercials, which ran in the late '80s and into the '90s, were things of beauty. Another "lost composure" moment on the radio involved one such advert.

It was the last commercial coming out of a network newscast. The chain had just begun offering a reservation number (curiously, not toll-free), and Bodett was doing a parody of the singing number jingle popularized by Sheraton and Best Western. Bodett began 'singing' the phone number in his classic monotone, and terribly off-key. His close? Instead of the usual "...we'll leave the light on for you", he said "I'm Tom Bodett for Motel 6, and ...... boy, am I embarrassed." I was already having fits of laughter, but that curve-ball at the end sent me over the edge. Thank all that's holy I didn't have anything live to read, that it was straight out of the newscast, into a legal ID (carted jingle) and then the first record. Phew!

3) The 'man' shown in the car from the artwork in that 1977 Motel 6 Directory looks an awful lot like a plumped-out, blond George W. Bush.

I'm Talmadge Gleck for Flavors 5, and .... boy, am I sick.

Ciao for niao.

Mr. Bodett didn't kill the lady ... it was his mother.

Motel 6. Budget lodging chain. Perennial punchline. So named because, upon its founding in the early '60s, all rooms went for $6.00 a night. Logical enough, yes?

The first time I'd ever stayed in a Motel 6 was during our family trip out west in July of 1977. It was in El Paso, Texas, and by then inflation had caught up with the 6'ers: rooms now went for $8.95 a night ($10.95 double). No credit cards or checks of any kind were honored, either. Cash only.

The above scans are from the 1977 Motel 6 directory, a copy of which I procured while here.

The two things I remember the most about the room were the TV and the "Magic Fingers" box on the middle table, next to the phone.

By the '70s, nearly all motels offered color TVs without extra charge. Never mind that the color on those sets boggled the mind -- we're talking purples where reds should be, oranges where you'd expect a nice yellow shade. I remember seeing a magazine advert for Motel 6 in the late '70s, lampooning the off-kilter nature of the lowly, abused motel color TV. Motel 6 had a novel solution to this problem, too: they didn't have color sets. As late as 1980, Motel 6 had BLACK & WHITE televisions in all of their rooms.

But wait, there's more. Mounted to the side of these B/W Admirals was a coin box. And that's why Motel 6 could get away with charging such a low nightly rate. You had to pay to watch the TV (I seem to recall it being 25 cents per half-hour), and unless you wanted to miss the first minutes of The Bob Newhart Show, you had to feed 'er another quarter before the end of Mary Tyler Moore. Dad was not a happy camper.

Dad parted with a 25-cent piece, and the TV sprang to life. It was tuned to a station from across the border, and suddenly another language filled our teeny-tiny Bodett Boudoir. I looked up, and saw a commercial for Kent Cigarettes. Obviously, one could still advertise coffin-nails on TV stations in meh-he-coh.

I had a quarter on my person, but I was more fixated on the Magic Fingers machine. I wanted to make that bed shake, rattle and roll like two people screwing each other silly as if they were hyperactive weasels in a Cuisinart. But I wanted my brother off the bed before I did that. I might be from Alabama, but I ain't that perverted.

I dropped a quarter into the box, anxiously awaiting a fate that would soon befall Clark & Ellen Griswold. The quarter dropped. I heard a hollow *clunk!*, as if it were a piggy bank. That thing had no freakin' innards! So I had to eat my Arby's roast beef sandwich (yes, I remember what we had that night) on a static mattress with more lumps than Wile E. Coyote after an ACME product backfired.

Here's a picture from the next morning, as we were about to make a side trip into Juarez, Mexico (bought a wooden chess set down there, which I still have ... in a box somewhere ...). I'm the one on the right.

Amazingly enough, Motel 6 locations had swimming pools. Although I'm surprised they didn't have coin boxes, either. I think you had to pay 25 cents if you wanted to pee in the pool -- very astute bidness folk these Motel 6 innkeepers, they wanted to cash in on the "pay toilet" craze. How dare you circumvent the regular bathroom rate??

Yes, Motel 6. After that experience, Dad refused to go near another one. 31 years later, you can't drag him within two statute miles of a Motel 6 property! It took me awhile myself, but I eventually gave it another chance. In 1990. By then, the TV was color, and there was actually more than one set of towels in the bathroom. Motel 6, indeed, is spartan -- which is the whole point, anyway. When I'm traveling alone, I'm an incredible cheapskate about lodging. I ask of nothing from a motel except a clean bed, a clean shower and a clean set of towels.

I must say that I haven't had a bad experience at a Motel 6 in my adult life. And it should be noted that most of 'em are company-owned. Meaning, no corner-cutting by a staff seemingly more interested in brewin' another container of curry than making sure their paying guests are comfortable and happy.

So, what got me thinking about Motel 6? It was an old e-mail which I found this evening. It's called "Top 10 failed slogans for MOTEL 6" .... (my favorite is #5). Here we go:

10) Because you deserve better than the backseat of a car

9) As seen on "COPS"

8) If we'd known you were staying all night, we'd have changed the sheets.

7) We left off the "9" but you know it's there.

6) Sure you could stay at a nicer place, but then you wouldn't have money for the hooker.

5) We'll leave the Lysol for ya.

4) Not just for nooners any more.

3) It's hookerific!!

2) Blurring the line between stains and avant-garde sheet art since 1962

And the number one failed slogan for Motel 6?

1) We put the "HO" in hotel.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Light done burned out" Gleck