Revisions continue. Traveling across Central America now.
Another morning of huevos, frijoles negros, platanos fritos con crema y tortillas then off on the next chicken bus to Guatemala City to transfer to a main bus line (luxury travel with only three to a seat) – onward to El Salvador.
Enter Cindy Pilgrim, vagabonda de Idaho. Sharing a seat with Cary, one ahead of mine, passing road stories around like a bottle. By the time we get to San Salvador, we’ve decided to join forces for the night. The bus will continue on in the morning, with Cindy Pilgrim, bound for Nicaragua, but for now we will wander off to find the WORSTHOTELINCENTRALAMERICA.
Granted, there’s a lot of competition for this distinction. There are bad hotels. Seedy hotels. Run-down, ugly, blight-stricken hotels. There are grimy, gritty, grungy, gruesome hotels. There are disgusting, desolate, decadent, dingy, dilapidated, despicable, delirious, detrimental-to-your-health hotels. There are heinous, horrendous, horrible, hideous, hellish, honest-to-Dog-you-wouldn’t-send-your-worst-enemy-to hotels. There’s the Devil’s Dormitory, Satan’s Sleep, Lucifer’s Lounge, Antichrist’s Attic and Beelzebub’s Bed and Breakfast, but there is only one WORSTHOTELINCENTALAMERICA, and we found it.
It must have been a former warehouse, maybe for exhaust manifolds or broken doll heads, but it may also have served time as a slaughterhouse, a drug house, a whorehouse and a flophouse. In fact, it may still be all of those. The door opens into a cavern where a few naked light bulbs are losing their battle with the darkness. The reception desk is behind a barred window like an eastside liquor store. We slide a few colónes under the bars and a figure lost in shadow slides back a small key attached to a large block of wood. A finger points to a dank stairwell.
The second floor, where the “rooms” are, is an open space with a line a small windows on one wall. Through their grime-encrusted glass, I watch a cluster of chickens on connecting rooftops pecking through rotting garbage tossed from other windows, giving “urban farming” a whole new meaning. Opposite the chicken-viewing windows are the “rooms.” “Rooms” must forever be in quotation marks, and even then, it’s a stretch to use the word. Panels of particle board had been attached to vertical 2x4s and, since the panels are 8 feet and the ceiling 10, there is a one foot gap above and below the “walls” of the “rooms.” Inside, through a “door” of particle board, is the “bed,” a wooden cot with a Communion wafer-thin mattress, a wafer that had been chewed on and spat out by an ornery old Mother Superior who had finally had enough of the Church and realized she had wasted her entire life for a bad joke. Not even a good lie – just a tedious, bad joke with a cold, lonely death for a punchline.
At the corner opposite the stairwell is a single stall “bathroom” that hadn’t enjoyed running water for years, which didn’t stop legions of guests from using it anyway. Just to walk past its one-hinged door was to court a host of vicious and pernicious diseases that would leave one nastily maimed or, if lucky, dead.
Drinks are definitely needed if we are to survive the night.
Whiskey. Copious, heroic, monumental amounts.