With two guitars and and an oversized red vinyl suitcase, myself and Pamela Littky—a photographer and documentary filmmaker—arrive at 5:40pm in Austin, TX on September 11th. We retrieve our baggage, find our rental car in Budget parking spot F22, and make our way toward Austin on highway 183. As we move away from the scent of jet fuel we see the city skyline and golden hour sun beaming through nimbus cloud bursts.
We arrive at the Super 8 Motel that is oddly reminiscent of a bird cage: turquoise and pink with long white bars lining the halls and facade. I park, walk into the lobby deafeningly close to Highway 35, and tell the young concierge the reservation is under Costa. Apathetically she informs me we have no reservation and notes that we might be at the other Super 8 a few miles north up Highway 35.
When I arrive back at the car, Pamela has her eye on the abandoned chain link fence-guarded pink supermarket across the street. She silently forfeits the idea to scale any fences and we make our way up the road to our hotel. We check into to our room upstairs, room 229. The mustard-colored bed covers and curtains in a non-smoking room still emanate cigarette smoke. The green-colored wall and plastic-covered lampshade add some strange, seedy classiness. The phone and remote control are stuck to the wall with Velcro for convenience, and the coke machine glowing out the window makes for comfort in a classic New Americana way. Luckily, we have black out window coverings because a vending machine is more ever-present than the sun in a motel. And why wouldn’t it be? Planters peanuts, Famous Amos cookies and Fanta never look more inviting than behind a pane off glass, albeit two counting the one looking out from room 229. But the most appealing of all vending machines is the Schwann home delivery vending machine.
Marvin Schwann in 1952 decided to take his homemade ice cream and deliver it door-to-door. 66 years later there are ice cream sandwiches pizzas and frozen dinners in Schwann’s vending machine on level 2 outside our door at the Super 8 Austin. Pamela and I admire the machine it’s a beautiful diorama of frozen, soon-to-be-microwaved hot heaven. I have two five dollars bills ready to make our late night craving come true. Thing is, it only takes one dollar bills. Hurriedly I rush down to the front desk and ask for change and eagerly rush back to put my ones in the slot. Here it is, the moment of truth. I unfold my one and try to insert. Nothing happens. I try again. Nothing! I look at the machine and see the plug is in a tangled mess off hair and other metal on the top of the machine.
The disappointment felt was extreme. I can only imagine the disappointment matched on a hot summer day when the devil, looking for an umbrella between cloudbursts, finds refuge at the Super 8 and wants a Schwann’s ice cream sandwich