Lyn Lifshin
The Man Who Collected Postcards of Holiday Inns
Based on a Washington Post article  June 28, 1998

hundreds of them, in plastic sleeves - aerial shots,
parking lots, some with people like mannequins
around a pool.  A lady with a mink stole draped
over her chair in a Holiday Inn in Memphis.
He pours thru them after a long day of legal work,
alone in his office, smiles for the first time all day
remembers an L shaped building off a highway.
“It was the greatest trip of my life.”  Sidney Ohio,
July 1967.  The sun low as the mint green 1966
Plymouth Fury rolls out the gravel driveway at
7:23, a sea of corn and wheat flashes by.  A man
in shirt sleeves with a woman in a flowered blouse
sitting beside him, who will ration out the baloney
sandwiches on buttered Wonder Bread.  The
Plymouth makes a turn and thru the windshield,
a stretch of asphalt that reaches out forever.
Thursday, the 20th of July, the summer when
America had nearly half a million soldiers in
Vietnam.  Race riots like brush fires.  In a small
town: “Vacation Time Ladies slacks for 2.99.”
The car smells of hot vinyl.  No one has air
conditioning.  The car swerves thru Kentucky
and Tennessee into Georgia as the sun falls
behind them.  He remembers his mother saying no
to a small motel and wrinkling her nose and then,
up ahead, deep green emerald and white letters,
the curving yellow arrow: The Holiday Inn.  He
remembers pushing the door open and the heat
disappearing.  His lungs full of a mist that tasted
like snow flakes, remembers running barefoot
in the hall with an ice bucket to a huge machine
where he flips up the lid and his head jerks back
a couple of inches in surprise.  A field of diamonds,
that’s what it looked like.  Ice cubes clear as glass.
He watches his parents lounging in patio chairs,
drinking gin and tonics, his father lighting a Pall Mall,
his pale ankles in the moon light.  In the dark the 45
foot high Holiday Inn sign flickers to light.  836 feet
of neon.  Now, 30 years later, Marriott, Hyatts,
Hiltons and even Holiday Inns blur, just a shower
and a bed. Half the names in his address book are
crossed out.  He goes back to a box of photographs,
500 faded old motels: “delightful dining enjoyment
awaiting you at Holiday Inn of Worcester in the
Persian Room restaurant.”  It was just before his
father walked out. He hasn’t seen him for 18 years,
doesn’t know if he’s alive.  Like his father, he
works a lot, drinks his 4th Dewars that the waitress
keeps refilling.  He’s thinking about that first Holiday
Inn.  Smiles about jumping off the diving board, having
fried chicken.  His face lights up thinking how his
father, who never said much, cheered when he jumped.
If the motel is still there, it’s what he’d love to get back to