Motel Hunt in Denver
by Cynthia Gallaher
It never occurred to me that someone would name a lodging facility The Branding Iron Motel. There were no horses hitched to its railings, nor cattle wandering its lot. I had little idea of what was going on behind closed doors. Horseshoes, seeming signs of luck, swung from each doorway. I got lucky myself that night and kept driving down Colfax Avenue, looking for a more likely place to rest my head, one in which the pillows were more fluffy than a blacksmith’s anvil and white heat, red hot and blue flame images wouldn’t dance before my closed eyes.
I don’t remember if I turned a corner, exited a ramp or took a shortcut down an alley, but before long I found myself in front of the Bugs Bunny Motel. It was a relief to see a familiar name from childhood. But didn’t the bunny on its neon sign, unlit in the daylight, look more like a forlorn rat than a rabbit? Were the red-rimmed eyes of the motorcycle guys flanking the front entrance the result of drugs, adrenaline and rock-and-roll, or instead, from all-nighters of watching Looney Tunes on the motel’s free cable?
Tucked in a corner of Denver so convoluted that even Elmer Fudd would have had a hard time finding it, this motel must also have eluded the eye of Hanna Barbera’s legal department. Wasn’t it just a few years ago that Disney cracked down on the 24-hour hot dog chain called Donald Duck’s in Chicago’s barrio neighborhoods?
They were forced to transform Donald into a beakless mascot with a neck scarf and one eye shut like a pirate’s. They renamed the restaurant Duk’s (spelled D-U-K-S) which newbees to the establishment, unfamiliar with the name change story and who had a tough time reading anyway, pronounced Duke’s.
But let’s suppose that Elmer Fudd could in fact find this hapless Bugs Bunny Motel and blow the whistle on them. What could the motel owners rename it? The Bunny Hutch? Hopalong Hotel? Rabbit’s Abbott?
Just as every state has a default town of Springfield (ask the Simpsons), every town has its default motel — the Sleepy Hollow. It’s a safe bet for a good night’s sleep. I drove up and down every main thoroughfare of Denver as if the headless horseman were chasing me and I still couldn’t find the Sleepy Hollow. Finally realized that the Sleepy Hollow for that night would have to be the backseat of my car.
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Cynthia Gallaher is author of three full poetry collections and two chapbooks, most recently “Omnivore Odes: Poems About Food, Herbs and Spices” (Finishing Line Press, 2013). Her short fiction has appeared in the Santa Fe Literary Review, and her journalistic articles in The Chicago Reader and other publications. Most recently, Gallaher became a certified yoga instructor.