Mind you, I wasn't expecting a five-star stay. We'd booked a motel, after all, for one night, just an hour or so out of town. A city by the sea to which we'd never been, kind of just a lark, really, the man and the boy and myself. The room was small, but the price was right. The room smelled a bit funky and the other guests looked like they'd had better days. I want to go home! said Luke. I did too, though I didn't say so. Not then.
We rested a bit, decided on dinner plans, walked out to the main strip. The city advertised itself as a great family place, a less-pricey Santa Barbara. That sold us-- that and the cheerful website chock-a-block with fun, wholesome, family activities. But as we walked through town it quickly became apparent that we stuck out like three sore thumbs. Three sore, sober, home-having thumbs. About eighty percent of the population, at least this afternoon, consisted of meth addicts, stoners, homeless people, mentally unstable people, and/or some combination thereof. Every park we passed had at least five of these people sleeping/smoking/living/talking to unseen friends in it. It was like Santa Monica[note: incendiary article there], without the other 80% of the population.
It was like being in a zombie movie*, is what it was like. Which may have been slightly hilarious at an earlier point in our lives, but is markedly less so when vacations are few and far between, and the gorgeous crux of our very existence is less than three feet tall and wants to smile and say hello to everyone in the world, everyone. It was disturbing and gross and I just wanted to go home.
And so we did. We walked back to the place that was to have been our lodging for the night (being careful to walk around the man in his forties and a much younger man, perhaps his son, who appeared to have a mild version of Downs syndrome and who, along with the older man, was lying in the middle of the sidewalk next to the crosswalk). I told the nice woman at the counter that we'd been called back home unexpectedly and was there any way she could cut us a break on the room rate? She called her manager and voided the transaction entirely. We packed the car back up and got back on the road, heading south. Heading home.
*Adding to the weirdness: about a quarter of the otherworldly citizens of this fair shire were pushing wheeled wire baskets around town... empty wheeled wire baskets.