American Shithole #52 | Vacations, Part Two: LA Waste
By Eric Wilson
In the first installment of this series where I clearly suck at travel (American Shithole #20 | Vacations, Part One: Camping is for Masochists) I mentioned this follow up to the story:
Part Two of this series is a piece I wrote before American Shithole. It was to be my first feature for Literate Ape; one in which I found myself on a miserable LA weekend getaway for an Eric Clapton show. Unfortunately, the night before I submitted my draft some asshole murdered 58 people at an outdoor concert just down the street from where I live, and I didn’t feel it was an appropriate time to share that story.
I figure at this point, if I let mass murder dictate my schedule, I’ll never submit anything else ever again; besides, when a weekend trip to see Clapton is on your friend’s bucket list, it doesn’t matter how much shit you take (or wade through) in order to make that happen. Also, it’s been a rough week for everyone, so it seems a fairly good moment for some embarrassing tales of vacations past.
Late September, 2017
I like to travel light, and I used to be kind of smug about it. “This is small bag territory,” I thought. Two days, in and out by car — this is a weekend trip from Las Vegas to Los Angeles that should require no more than two pairs of pants. I figured this was a no-brainer.
The City of Angels has educated me, laying bare my ignorance in these matters.
I hadn’t been in LA for forty-five minutes before I was forced to risk either soiling my only pair of clean pants left, or letting Southern California’s downtown Inglewood drown in overflowing sewage.
That’s right, it was the mighty western metropolis or my pants, and in retrospect I think I saved the wrong one.
As I briefly contemplated wading into our hotel bathroom in order to deliver the Holiday Inn Express from a possessed toilet in need of an exorcism, I realized once again, that I truly suck at vacationing.
Less than an hour, and this was already my second encounter with high volumes of liquid shit.
Not a man of faith, and having left my prayer beads and plunger behind (who knew I would need them, this being barely a weekend vacation a scant four hours from home), I had only seconds to decide — and when the foul water broke past my makeshift towel levee protecting the rest of our modest hotel room digs, I reluctantly sprung to action.
Also, I have needlessly started this story in the middle.
Not thirty minutes earlier, we had pulled into the small parking lot at the Holiday Inn Express, off of lovely Airport Road in Inglewood, California.
The parking lot was packed, and the atmosphere was more war-zone than party-zone but there was no cause for immediate concern — or so I thought.
My first mistake was attempting to cross the river of industrial waste and raw sewage (a mighty one had formed a moat around the entrance) in order to reach the gleaming castle-like structure that is the Holiday Inn Express in Inglewood, California.
As I measured up the crossing, a man with a giant hose protruding from a nondescript truck-of-many-hoses was busy sucking/blasting an area uphill from the entrance at what seemed a safe distance — and he was far enough away that I couldn’t quite see what he was doing.
Returning my gaze to the fore, my travel companion navigated the murky waters with reckless abandon while I admired her courage from behind.
One, two, three, she crossed the hazard with expertly-placed steps on a series of islands.
Not to be outdone, I stood at the edge of what had rapidly become a steady stream of brown, flowing sludge, readjusted the bags I was carrying, hiked up my brand new linen pants, got on my tippy toes, and crossed the Shit-Potomac — and just as I did, the man with the giant hose unleashed a tidal wave of sewage in my direction.
My first word on Los Angeles asphalt was a despondent “fuck.”
I tried to get across before the wave hit me, but I suffer from middle-oldness, general stupidity, and a degenerative bone condition; so I move about as fast as a fart on a train. I raised my arms like Moses in attempt to part the brown sea, but waves of shit have no respect for the power of the lord.
I was deluged with some combination of fecal matter and industrial sludge before I had even set one (befouled) foot in the hotel.
Needless to say, I was super-miffed.
Thankfully, I reminded myself that this wasn’t my vacation, I was only along for the ride, and I needed to be cool no matter what happened — as to ensure my friend enjoyed her bucket list desire to see Eric Clapton, before he’s kicked his own bucket.
I kept the grumbling in the lobby to a bare-minimum.
I sped to our room (room 311 of minor emergency fame), stripped down, and tried to save the pants with soap and warm water — the only cleaning agents I had at my disposal. Thankfully, my brilliant traveling companion (who knew some sort of ninja shampoo fabric trick) came to my rescue; succeeding where I was failing miserably.
It was fine. Everything was going to be fine, I told myself. I had backup pants. She was going to take a nap, and I was going to brush this off as a minor inconvenience, which up to that point, it was.
Another forty-five minutes later and I had cleaned myself up, and changed into my other pair of new linen pants (both of which I purchased specifically for this weekend trip as I wanted to look good for Eric, y’know?).
My friend hoped to take a much-needed and well-deserved nap after a morning dealing with dog hotels, the drive from Vegas to LA, and her hapless, turd-magnet of a traveling companion.
Her hopes were dashed.
The thing is, I really needed to take a shit before the Eric Clapton concert. I was constipated that morning (information I probably wouldn’t normally include in a tale, but for this story it is pertinent, and American Shithole is inherently scatalogical) and I really didn’t want to be stuck struggling to drop a deuce in the LA Forum, whilst listening to Clapton muffled in the distance playing “Tears In Heaven.”
What’s worse, I could only imagine the mistake it would be, banking on a regular number two in the literal wake of what I had just experienced.
Here is what I can piece together in the aftermath.
The toilet clogged (unbeknownst to me), the chain broke, and (most importantly) the flush valve and/or the fill valve stuck open in an almost impossible manner. When I finally waded into the overflowing sewage (once more unto the breach), I managed to get the lid off and un-jam the flush valve before the repair crew arrived.
Again, I am pretty sure I saved LA.
I am also fairly certain I am getting the toilet terminology wrong here, and fully expect a talking to from the plumbing community.
While taking no interest earlier in the overflowing sewage outside of the hotel, or my damaged property (I was directed to a dry cleaner two blocks away, then hung-up upon), the front desk was very concerned when I informed them I had brought the problem home to roost on their carpeting. (I told them that I knew of a cleaning establishment two blocks away that might be of help.)
I can easily imagine my companion’s conversation with a friend:
“We’ve just gotten to LA and it’s already a disaster. He’s got shit all over him.”
“You mean like, actual shit?”
“Yes actual shit, and… hold on. My lord, he’s done it again. It hasn’t been an hour, and this fucking idiot has shit all over him, again.”
“Why do you live with this bridge troll?”
It’s a fair question.
We enjoyed room 431 for the rest of the evening without further cause for alarm; although the repair crew looked at me like I was the fucking Antichrist.
Clapton was brilliant, my friend was happy and sad to check this one off, and I was satisfied that technically speaking, you only need two pair of pants on a weekend trip from Vegas to LA.
For my sake, I hope the rest of her bucket list is local.
Unless it’s New Zealand. I think we should all visit New Zealand.