Motel Hell

The Regency Hotel has had its ups and downs -- way downs.

The stall doors in the basement men's rooms at Los Caporales have been removed, possibly to discourage cocaine snorting. If so, it's not working. Those who wished to indulge simply posted a lookout at the entrance while they dipped car keys into tiny bags of coke. When the lookout saw the cop coming, he barked an alarm, and men flocked from the stalls, sniffling and thumbing glistening white crumbs off their upper lips.

Watching them, I realized I was in Tom Tancredo's vision of hell. Cinnamon-skinned men speaking Spanish, wearing thousand-dollar outfits and doing cocaine in bar bathrooms like they think they're white professionals in LoDo or something, all set to the soundtrack and bouncing accordion riffs.

"Do you like Spanish music?"

The question snapped me from my reverie.

An urban cowboy was in my face. He had one friend behind him. They were drunk and grinning.

He repeated the question.

"I said, do you like Spanish music?"

Sure, I said. I like Spanish music.

"Do you like to get the heinie?"

I gave them a look that said, "The what?"

"The heinie, bro. The beautiful little Mexican girl."

I wasn't sure how I should respond. On the one hand, I didn't want them to think I was there to pick up Mexican women. On the other, I didn't want them to think I didn't like Mexican women.

I settled for "Maybe not tonight."

"Are you a faggot?"

I didn't answer.

"Do you like to dance to Spanish music?"

Oh, shit, I thought, is this guy asking me to dance?

"I'm not very good," I said.

"That's because you don't have a hat."

His friend chortled.

"And you don't have a belt," he continued. "That's why I asked you if you're a faggot. Faggots don't have belts, so you can take their pants off easy."

My interrogator had on a hell of a belt -- embroidered cowhide with a silver buckle the size of a serving tray. He kept up his critique of my fashion sense.

"You need new boots."

I was wearing scuffed-up Doc Martens. He was wearing full-quill ostrich-skin shitkickers dyed flaming orange to match his pearl-buttoned shirt. He pointed down at his feet for emphasis.

"Five hundred dollars," he said. "You need to get some of these if you want to get the heinie."

He and his buddy left, laughing all the way. I had just been thoroughly dissed by a dude with flaming-orange cowboy boots. I took this as my cue to go back to the hotel. There are stairways and passages that lead from the lobby of the Regency to the gold-domed conference center, but on weekends, they are roped off and guarded to keep out the riffraff.

So I walked outside, through the snow, transitioning between the Regency's dual universes of hot spot and squalor. Back in the pool area, I crossed paths with a kid who looked like Eminem come back from the grave -- buzz-cut, peroxide-blond hair, pale, gaunt face, dark crescents of lethargy beneath dull blue eyes. He asked me if I had a "point," a needle that I would trade for a taste of black-tar heroin. Then he asked for fifty cents for the bus. Then he muttered about searching out the syringe a traveling companion had stashed on the tower's tenth or maybe eleventh floor.

I gave him the only good advice I thought he might follow: Take the stairs.

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