Room at the Bottom

When Eisenhower-era civic leaders drunk on urban renewal laid waste to the Gateway district, they forever altered the topography of this town's hard-luck hotels and shot-and-a-beer saloons.

My philosophy: You don't take quality, you take quantity. You get yourself less profit but you have more people. I can't retire. If I get old enough so I can't handle it, I'll sell it.

In this work, you have to be a psychologist. I don't prescribe drugs. And I don't have a degree in the psychology. It just comes with the experience. You never know who you're running in to. A person does not come in through the door and on his forehead it says, "I'm bad. Don't rent to me."

So. When you talk to the person, you know what to say to him. It's just experience. You can see it in the person when he walks in, the way he is acting. That's why we sometimes say, "Hey, we don't have any rooms. We're sold out." We see the person coming in with a boom box. Just one word: "Room." I'll say, "No vacancy." Some come in, "Hey, buddy--how are you doing, buddy." You know it's going to be trouble.

Wing Young Huie

But sometimes you feel sorry for the people, and sometimes you give them a break. A person working very hard, very quiet. Can't put them in the mission--it's a zoo. For a decent person, I'll wait for their money.

But I prefer not to make friends with them for one reason. When you get friends--how to say it nicely?--well, you give them fingers and they bite the hand.

Thomas Palmer lives at the Schooner Hotel.

I moved in here about six years ago. I had one room, and then I moved into another. You got so hungry facing Lake Street with the bakery fumes coming in the window.

The reason I moved down here is my mother had to go into the nursing home. She lasted three years. I turned the house of mine over to the nursing home. I owed 10 grand against it. Today it would sell for 79 grand.

The day after she died, the nursing home turned around and gave me 60 days to be out. It's their property. It was running me $3,500 a month for her just to lie in a bed. I think that's the cruelest way of anything. But you can't end a life, because the individual upstairs is only going to take that individual when he is ready. But nobody wants that. I would never want to go into a nursing home.

I worked down in the jail at Hennepin County, in the Sheriff's Department. When they brought them in for intake, I did fingerprinting, everything. I'd log 'em. Eleven to 7 in the morning, best shift there was. I had 14 years there, and then I had a big heart attack. I went off on medical from them. When I turned 62 a year ago they give me lifetime on medical.

I got married in 1965 and left in 1980. There's always a niche in everybody's heart. You spin it back like an odometer and pick it back up from there, things might be different. But it isn't. You just got to go, "You got today." And if you get up tomorrow, you don't care if there's a storm. You ain't going to cut it off anyway.

It's a nice building because everybody in the hallway or anybody renting a room, they get along real good. I do the cleaning of the hallway on the third floor. And people ain't messy. They turn around and if you go in and use the bathroom and if you leave a roll of toilet paper on the back of the tank--you know, in case a person didn't have one, or got in there and then decided to go--he can use it. It don't get legs. Because they all get a guilt trip. I just walk down the hallway: "I miss my toilet paper and it's only 99 cents at Rainbow for four rolls. And I'll roll somebody, I'll tell you that."

Now there's carpet on the floor where it was always the old tile. That makes it nicer when you get out of bed and you don't put your cold feet on something. I got one vacuum up there, and three people use it 'cause they got carpeting. It isn't the kind with the paper bag, it's the old one. You shake it out right in the paper basket in the bathroom. When you're done showering, the little mat, you lay it over the radiator. It dries it out for the next person that comes to shower. It's amazing. People ain't born to be messy. I'm not the neatest person, but I know where I can reach in the dark where something is, because I leave it like that.

You go to go out on a date. This works. A person's never been in here. So then we go out, come back, you want a drink? Bring her in here: "This is my game room." "Your game room?" "Yeah, it's in my basement. We have bartenders, and we pour a good drink. And it's amazing, even pool tables. How many people in their own home got that?" 'Til it dawns on them that this is a bar, and you live up there.

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