Stuck at Motel 6. Now What?

motel 6
Photo courtesy of booking.com

Funny thing, after posting Red Beer and Ice Cream I got a text from an old friend (thanks, Amy) reminding me that I was a “pavement pounder” and failed to mention two short lived parts of my professional career during the transition between bartending in Hayward and working at Dreyer’s.  Part of my journey involves revisiting my professional career and I can’t believe I forgot this! I was a third party, in store merchandiser for M&M/Mars Candy & Airheads Candy in the east bay area. Just what this fat girl needed, free ice cream, M&M’s and taffy! Yummy!

I also worked as an on call nanny for an agency in Palo Alto, CA part time. I decided not to have kids but I love spending time with everyone else’s. You can learn more about that part of my story at To Parent or not to Parent? First I accepted a nanny job off of a private job listing for a recent widower with 2 small girls, infant and toddler, and it was a live-in position. I was single and renting a room at the time so I took the job but he kept coming into the common parts of the house in his underwear during times of day it was obvious I would be there with the kids. He also had a weird rule about not holding the 7 month old baby if she woke up crying. He was strange and I was very familiar with strange men. He gave me the creeps so I resigned and moved out. The whole situation was uncomfortable.

That’s when I applied through the agency instead. I got my first aid and CPR certification for infants, children and adults and passed the fingerprint scan and background check. That’s how my nanny career started. There were some family’s I worked for regularly and remember the first time I got to spend an afternoon with newborn twins, Finn and Ellie. Pure heaven. I watched them several times during the first 5 months of their life. Eventually, after interacting with the placement manager over the phone, she inquired about my work history and asked me to come in for an interview. She hired me in the office and I started placing nannies instead of being one. The job was awesome but the agency was owned by a family who didn’t get along. I saw the owner throw a tape dispenser, (in the middle of a screaming match) at her brother who was standing in front of a large window. That was the day I decided that working in family businesses with volatile adult relationships wasn’t my cup of tea. These people were placing nannies and acting like 4 year old’s. That’s when I accepted my position at Dreyer’s  where I stayed nearly 5 years. Then, I made the bad career move to an Area Sales Manager position which I talk about it Eye Shadow and Rock Stars which brings us back to my current post…

I took my post surgical instructions very seriously after Gastric Bypass. I ate what they told me to and I walked a little more every day as my body recovered. I had the surgery at 7am on a Tuesday (laparoscopic) and they released me on Thursday morning. The care team on the recovery floor at the hospital where I had my surgery was incredible so I have nothing but nice things to report about Sutter Health in Berkeley, CA. I do have a really difficult time with being in hospitals, though, and I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. You can learn all about me and hospitals in my blog post, Childhood. What’s that?  I do not like hospitals… at all.

In order to be released I had to have a test run to make sure I had no “leaks” in my intestines. I had to have a bowel movement (yea, it’s true. Girls poop.) and I had to be able to walk a full lap around the recovery floor. I had no control over the outcome of my test or when I would have the urge to hit the ladies room but I did have control over the walking part. The day of the surgery was rough because a couple hours post surgery the RN checked my vitals and my heart rate was too low. They were concerned it was caused by the morphine drip so they stopped it. I could not take any oral medication for 24 hours because of the procedure so they changed my pain medication to something much less effective and it still left me in misery. I hate taking drugs and I didn’t feel any better with the low dose they were giving me so I refused pain medication altogether after that.

I woke up sore on Wednesday. I was thirsty and would have danced naked in the middle of Times Square for a drink of water. My last drink was Monday night, 12 hours before surgery and those sponges dipped in water to moisten your lips don’t cut it. I cried because I was thirsty. Not kidding. I seriously boo hoo’d because I was so thirsty and just wanted water. This just pissed me off and made me want to go home so I wrapped myself in my floral pink robe which was probably the size of a California King flat sheet, and started taking steps. It was hard to move from the bed to the chair so I sat for a few minutes. I stood up and looked at my 5 incisions which were minor except for one and it looked like a 2nd belly button. Thankfully that went away. I have never been able to afford to have the reconstructive surgery required to recover from 230 pounds of weight loss but some day it will happen.  A girl can dream anyway. I’m just glad I don’t have a really ugly body AND 2 belly buttons. I can live with the ugly body but I am not ok with 2 belly buttons, lol.

I was still partially doubled over in pain but I took a couple steps toward the door and stopped. I remember my knees shaking and the deep ache in my gut. I had no pain medication in my system so I was biting the inside of my lip with every step. It took me awhile but I made it around the floor once and went back to bed. About 2 hours after they took me to have the tests needed to check for leaking or intestinal tears. As soon as I passed that I could have water… teeny, tiny sips. I passed the test and drinking slowly was HARD. I was so thirsty, OMG! That was definitely the worst part of surgery for me.. the after thirst. I think that means I’m fortunate so I’ll be grateful for that little blessing 🙂

Now that I passed the test they were able to give me an oral liquid pain medication that took the edge off the pain enough that my laps around the recovery floor were easier. I was up to 4 laps and they said I could leave the next day. I left the hospital on Thursday morning.

When I got home and stared at the stairs to get to my apartment, my pain level increased just thinking about climbing those steps. It took me a long time to get up there. Any time in life that I feel too tired, sick or pained to walk, I remind myself that my dad is a quadriplegic and physically can’t walk. He doesn’t even have the choice. That means I put on my big girl shoes and I take double the steps because I CAN. It’s just really, really hard and I don’t want to. Those are the times that I know I need to.

Once I was home I did not want to over do it by climbing the stairs daily to take walks so I paced back and forth on the short common balcony I shared with 3 other apartment units. I got to the point where the stairs weren’t an issue which took about 7 days and I was on the move after that. I started taking longer and longer walks and the weight was falling off. My recovery was coming along nicely and while I don’t have a lot of positive things to say about the man I was in a relationship with during that time in my life I am grateful to him for his help through my recovery. I would have been alone without him and he did his best to take care of me which came with a wealth of difficulty some days.

He was taking care of me physically but as I shared in my previous post, Eye Shadow and Rock Stars, he was not contributing financially to our household and had no intention of doing so. I was fired from my job weeks before I had surgery and I was not sure what my next step was. That’s how I ended up in Washington, again. The northwest seemed to be my “go to” place for a reset in my earlier life. I’m not sure why. I talk about my first move to Washington in my blog, 19 Years Old and Free!

In 2006 I was renting a small apartment in a shady neighborhood with low rent in San Leandro, CA and it really wasn’t very low at all. It was all I could afford and it met my basic needs.

At 6 weeks post surgery I had lost about 50lbs. I felt good and needed to get back to work because my bank account only had one month of rent in it and only a disability check to rely on.

During the time I anticipated losing my job at the cosmetics corporation, I touched base with my friend and former employer in Washington. We were typically in regular touch but some months had passed since we’d spoken so I had no idea what was going on in her life. When we connected she shared that she was doing well selling Real Estate and was in the process of purchasing a busy Italian Restaurant and bar which was turnkey operation and she needed help to run it if the sale went through. Her intention was to buy it as a business opportunity for her kids. They were 19 and 21 and I’d known them since they were young so I did not hesitate to help. I had background in hospitality, management, and was comfortable behind the bar. She had previous restaurant ownership experience and the financial backing. I told her if the sale went through I would consider re-locating after my surgery recovery.

Everything seemed to be lining up with the sale and I felt really good so I flew to Washington in the end of October to visit and see the restaurant. During my visit, escrow closed and she formally offered me the position. She shared that they intended to turn the bar (it was a large 2 story space) into a night club and book entertainment, sometimes big names. She wanted me to run the nightclub side and work with her son to teach him how to bartend, manage inventory, cost, etc. She intended to run the restaurant side and work with her daughter. She was really focused on building the entertainment part of the nightclub and inquired about my boyfriends contacts to book music, etc. This was a perfect situation because not only did I have a job opportunity, so did he. After they talked on the phone about expectations, etc. she offered him a job too. Our salaries were favorable and exactly the same. Yay! For the first time in years this man would be employed with a livable wage. I hoped I wouldn’t have to support him ever again.

I flew home and packed my necessities then returned to Washington in mid-November to help with the construction and opening of the restaurant. He stayed home in California because he’d made commitments to guitar tech for a local band throughout their holiday party gigs in December. The night club wouldn’t be booking until the following year so she didn’t need him prior to opening anyway. He stayed behind to pack the apartment and finish his commitment to the local band he worked for.

My friend lived in a beautiful home on the Kalama River in Kelso, WA. It was about 25 minutes from anything close to a “town” and the nearest gas station or services of any kind were 15 minutes up a narrow windy road. If it snowed we were stuck, period. It was too dangerous to drive. There was a 1 bedroom, 1 bath cottage that sat on her property right next door to her house. It was furnished and cozy and she mostly used it as a guest house. She offered to let us stay there as part of our relocation agreement. It was intended to be a permanent arrangement unless I wanted to live somewhere else.

Making this move was a great chance to build myself up financially since I had a place to live and a decent salary with minimal expenses. I had already decided to talk to my boyfriend about the need for him to buy himself a car and contribute because I could no longer continue to support him. Looking back, I think I wished deep down inside that he wouldn’t follow me at all. I wished that he would find a reason to stay in California but, he didn’t. He followed me.

I went home one more time for New Years Eve to celebrate with him because he was working at a New Years Ball in Monterey, CA. Once he was done with the show, we left for Washington to start out the new year in 2007, running a night club together.

The first part of January was spent learning the overall current operation of the restaurant. It was an Italian Steakhouse and the food was absolutely delicious. They had a specialty martini menu that was a mile long. I was so excited that she decided to keep the food menu intact… that was the intention anyway.

I noticed very early on that things were not as they seemed and intentions were only…intentions. I noticed that when I really got in and started working in the restaurant there were some obstacles and holes in the story about what the actual plan was. I felt sick inside because I had been friends with this person for about 12 years and worked for her many times before with no issues. This time felt different and I felt insecure about this job I just moved out of state for. Even worse, when my boyfriend arrived in early January he started working every day, just like me.

When the first payroll period came she paid me and not him. Prior to this, I had been working since November and receiving regular paychecks so I had no reason to think this would be a problem. She apologized to him and said they had to wait for money to come through on a real estate transaction and she would take care of it in a couple of days. That turned into her asking him to help with setting up the club without a salary until she could afford to pay him in February when it was open. She gave him some cash for “pocket money” to hold him over. I think it was $100.  He agreed.

She was providing us a place to live and since he had been living off of me for years, I made it clear that I expected him to help out because it helped me, even if it meant not getting paid at first. We had always survived on my paycheck until now anyway and I wasn’t stingy about what he spent. She wasn’t going to book entertainment until the club re-model was done and the revenue from opening on weekends as a night club with a DJ simply wasn’t there.

February came and on the first payroll period she just said she flat out she could not afford to pay him the salary they discussed and she was sorry. She offered to do something on a commission basis for booking entertainment in the future. He was pissed and I don’t blame him for that. The thing is, the guy was making MAYBE $150 on a good week in California and he had never contributed to my household in the past. I supported him for years when I could not afford to so quite frankly, I needed my salary to continue. I didn’t have time to care that he wasn’t getting paid. His income never benefited me anyway. I’m not usually selfish but this time it was in order. Call me insensitive but I encouraged him to help as much as possible on a volunteer basis just to get the club running so we could bring in more revenue. He refused and pouted instead. He stopped coming to the club in the beginning of February. I suggested he remedy the situation by getting a job, even if it meant McDonald’s. He was 29 and this business of expecting me to support him was bullshit. He was free to go home to California or find another opportunity but I was not going to throw my hands up because he was unhappy. Quitting was not an option. Where the hell were we going to go?

The salary he wasn’t receiving didn’t hurt me because he never shared his money before so it was hard for me to have sympathy for him because he got screwed in the situation. My train of thought was changing to cater to him less and my inner strength was building. I had to take care of myself. I continued to work and get paid.

The restaurant ran a marketing campaign to book Valentines Day dinners and they had these awesome specials. I agreed to help serve that night because we had a ton of reservations and intended to be busy. To this day I am not sure what happened but it was the most unorganized shift I’ve ever worked in my service industry career. We ran out of food. The kitchen cooked and plated the wrong items for the wrong tables. The service was terrible because she was not equipped to meet the demand this radio ad brought in. I don’t think she understood the restaurant, the menu or the equipment required to run it. I realized that she didn’t know anything about fine dining service. She owned a breakfast cafe years before but this environment was different. I was baffled. I had always known my friend to be organized and reliable. She was always truthful with me in the past and that is not at all what was happening this time around. The original restaurant staff who worked there before the sale was pretty much done after Valentine’s Day. I wonder sometimes if they were pissed at her for her poor decisions at the restaurant so they sabotaged dinner service. I can’t prove it either way but anyone who ate at that restaurant on Valentine’s Day had a terrible date and that sucks!

Valentine’s Day was the first of many failures in the restaurant. Bad decisions were made on a regular basis and she kept promoting specials she could not deliver on. She purchased a large amount of equipment to start a Sunday Brunch which she had me create menus and marketing ads for. The whole thing was done on paper so I’m not sure what happened after that but it seemed to be the first of the financial domino’s to fall. She told me she bought the equipment but it never actually arrived. Looking back, I think she was denied the financing. She ran an ad for a brunch that we didn’t even have the equipment or food for. I felt like everything I was being told on a daily basis was a lie to keep me coming in to work. The sale was not done in a traditional way so there was a conflict over a balance due to the previous owner(Or something of that nature) and there was a potential lawsuit involved. The bills were not getting paid and they started cutting corners on the food and menu. It went from a booming, popular restaurant to an empty steakhouse on a Saturday night in just 2 months.

I was struggling to help her son understand why his friends under 21 couldn’t drink in the bar. It was “his” bar but I was the one responsible for everyone in the room by law. I was serving the alcohol. He didn’t care that I asked him not to serve minors. Eventually I was working in the office all day and running the night club at night until it closed, all for salary. I did not get paid for any extra hours but I was there all day and all night. I did not complain and saw it as my contribution to building up the business for my future and theirs too. I had a safe and free place to live so I  had my basic needs met. My boyfriend was bitching and refused to help in the club. He made an appearance here and there but that was only to socialize with his new friend, a waitress from the restaurant. He also refused to look for a different job. He turned himself into the victim.

During the time he was pouting at home there was still potential for him to get involved in the club. Her intention was to open with a “Battle of the Bands” and have a headliner on the last night of the series. She told him he would receive a % of ticket sales if he could help her book it. Since he had control over his income in this scenario, he agreed to research talent fees and determine her booking options. She chose, “Great White.”

In 2007, The band “Great White” booked a “25th Anniversary Reunion Tour” with original members (Jack Russell, Audi Desbrow, Sean McNabb, Mark Kendall, and Michael Lardie). She wanted to book them for their opening date, June 1, 2007. The agent put a courtesy hold on the booking as a favor to my boyfriend and gave a 30 day window to pay the deposit on the talent fee. In that 30 days the writing was on the wall. The construction of the club was a mess and she didn’t consider occupancy/fire code laws. Her expectations were not realistic. She thought her restaurant employees should “volunteer” their time to doing the demolition and reconstruction of the night club and that included hard labor. She had family members and her own kids working, all on a volunteer basis but she insisted her employees “help.” When some refused, she retaliated or just treated them differently. She just thought we should all pitch in. This wasn’t Sunday family dinner. It was a business. I can demolish walls, rip out a stage and hang sheet rock now, though. Need your cement floors stained or baseboards installed? I’m your girl!

The construction was very costly and depleted the funds she had to invest in keeping the club running. By the middle of March, she stopped paying me too. She actually wrote me an “IOU” and put it in an envelope on my desk instead of my payroll check. She didn’t even talk to me face to face and we lived on the same property. It was a chicken shit move. She also stopped paying her daughter. Her son continued to receive a paycheck which was puzzling because he was already a Real Estate agent with a steady income. His sister had just turned 20 and had a 3 week old baby and a house payment. He got paid, her and I didn’t. Neither did her fiance who had been working with us as well. Technically, they were all business owners and should have surrendered their paycheck long before they stopped paying outside employees but apparently they didn’t see it that way.

The 30 day courtesy hold to book the band at the club was down to 2 days and she could not give a straight answer about whether or not she was going to have the money she promised to pay the deposit. The club was still torn apart and it was questionable whether or not they were going to have an appropriate venue to meet the rider agreement. Regardless of what we told her, she was convinced they would compromise on stage size and backstage dressing room amenities. It was so frustrating because her expectations were ridiculous. Both he and I had been at the local radio station lining up advertising campaigns she agreed to pay for and didn’t. At this point, I just felt like we were the face of this fraudulent scam and I was embarrassed to represent them. My boyfriend directly asked her about the deposit and she exploded on him and didn’t show up at the club for several days after. I couldn’t seem to cross paths with her at home either. She continually stayed at the private lake/resort/motel her husband ran. It was another family business. It gave her a place to hide because she was blatantly screwing me over after 12 years of friendship. I was angry and heartbroken. If she would have just been straightforward about the situation, the drama could have been avoided altogether and what happened next was exactly that, DRAMA. I really, really dislike drama, especially when it’s topped off with lies.

The payroll period came, and again, there was no check for me. This time I didn’t even get the courtesy of a chicken shit note. I left her several messages and she did not return my calls. At this point I was in a bind. I relocated to Washington for this. I had not been paid now for 3 pay periods. My boyfriend had no income for 3 months and we were relying on this arrangement for a place to live. Working my way through difficult situations was not something I was a stranger to and I had been homeless before so I knew how to survive that. I just didn’t want to.

The radio station kept calling the restaurant to find out about payment for the ad space she purchased and I did not know what to tell them. They left message after message.  I’m the one who made the commitment on her behalf and the building to the radio station was directly behind ours so rather than call them, I walked over to talk to the sales person. I was not going to walk away and leave them hanging without explanation. This put me in the right place at the right time. Since I believe in karma, I think this was my reward for doing the right thing…

I went to tell the radio sales person the truth about what was going on with the payment and it connected me with the owner of an off-road raceway about an hour away. He was planning to build a stage and wanted to put on a concert at his outdoor venue. This meant we didn’t have fire code or capacity issues! We also didn’t have to rely on line cooks to rip out sheet rock.

He already held a large annual biker event and races every weekend. He had acres of space along the Toutle River. He heard the local buzz about Great White coming to the area (it was a small town, word traveled fast) so when I went into the station to talk to the sales manager, he overheard me and inquired about what I was doing. He didn’t have any background in entertainment but he had the space and financial backing. I called my boyfriend and put them in touch. He ended up making the payment to book “Great White” instead and suddenly the universe shifted gears. We moved the concert to “Riverdale Raceway” in Toutle, Washington and a new adventure began. Battle of the Bands with Great White as a headliner!

It had been about a week since I had seen or talked to my “friend” and I’d given up on tracking her down to discuss the situation. I continued to go to the club every day, hoping to connect and I had a few catering events on the calendar. No matter how bad I was being screwed, I made commitments to these people and I was going to keep them.

I got home from the club late in the afternoon to find a hand written note taped to the door. It was full of rage and mixed information, a 72 hour eviction notice and some garbled nonsense letter from her attorney about trespassing. I assume this is the same attorney who was helping her with all her successful business endeavors, ughh. She flipped out because she found out we moved the concert to make good on the deposit and keep the commitment that was made to the booking agent for the band. We weren’t hiding it from her. The woman was hiding from US and HER RESPONSIBILITIES. I would have told her directly if she hadn’t been hiding from me.

I was sick. I called her and the call went to voicemail. I called her husband and he told me, “just shut up and get the fuck out of our lives.” He wouldn’t even hear me and he didn’t care that we had no money to go anywhere. They owed us thousands of dollars! This asshole had known me since I was 19 and called himself my friend many years before. Now he was just a grumpy old bastard living on a lake and not man enough to make good on the promises kept. I feel bad saying that because I love his children and they love him but he was awful to me. He was very well aware of our business arrangement. Looking back,  they had a challenging marriage and I’m sure I was the brunt of his frustration with her. They were both wrapped up in a lot of residential and commercial real estate and this was right before the economy crashed. I do know this was the start of their financial decline and it crumbled for years to come.

When I think about this man, I get infuriated. He wasn’t very kind to me from the day I arrived to help with the club and I didn’t expect that from him at all. It was upsetting because the last time I saw him we were at a family wedding, dancing and having a great time. He was a self proclaimed Christian, touted the bible, and I watched him speak in tongues while baptizing one of his relatives in a swimming pool. Creepy. Please, tell me again about the moral code of Christianity? Tell me how a man who quotes the bible in between drags of his 3 packs of cigarettes a day can put 2 people out on the street knowing his family business owed them thousands of dollars and was ripping them off? Hypo-Christians are my least favorite people. If you talk the talk, walk the walk. Church Makes Everything Better, Right? will help you understand that I love and respect human beings and their right to their own spirituality and religious practice… as long as it doesn’t mean dictating my life or anyone else’s.

I tried to call the son because I was in his life since he was 11 and he basically told me blood was thicker than water and it was best if I just go. He was as loving as he could be about it but what else could he do? His name was on the business but Mommy had the bank account.

So, I packed what I could fit in my car and got the hell out of there. We had absolutely nowhere to go but I didn’t see anything good coming out of fighting. We checked into a Motel 6 in Kelso, WA. Me, him and our little dog, Trixie. She was a little white fluffy ball of terror that we rescued a year prior and she went with us on this crazy adventure. The room was paid for for one night and every possession we owned was in the room with us for security. I was afraid to leave my car packed because of the activity in the parking area. My gas tank was full and I had less than $200 to my name. I promise, he did not have $1… or any ideas of how to fix it either.

I did not have anyone to call to borrow money to go back to California and nowhere to go even if I could get there. When I left home as a teenager my dad told me I’d never make it. That’s the best thing he could have ever said to me because I am a stubborn redhead.  It made me angry enough to promise myself that I would always make it in life without help from another human being and to this day I am fully capable of that, even during times of tragedy.

I didn’t call home for help. I called the guy who owned the Raceway instead. We made a handshake business deal weeks before and I wasn’t going to let being stuck in a Motel 6 stop me from keeping my word. We were going to put on a concert in 7 weeks! There was work to be done!

That man saved my life that day…

2 thoughts on “Stuck at Motel 6. Now What?

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