Wednesday, December 18, 2019

"Is This Place Haunted?" pt. 4

It's easier to notice things going bump during a silent night. 

December is typically a quiet time of year for the hotel. Hiking tourism is next to nonexistent when the Sierras are subfreezing with subzero windchill so, aside from the occasional holiday traveler and retiree passing through from Tahoe to Palm Springs, traffic is pretty dead when winter creeps around. It's the time of year for maintenance projects, cleanup around the front desk, holiday parties, and busy work to pass the time.

I was in the back office earlier this week when I noticed a flashing light from the security camera feed. A bulb in a hanging fixture was flickering at the end of the south ground floor hallway. Thinking I would need to change out an old CFL bulb or something, I got up, rounded the corner from the front desk, and started down the hallway, only to find the light on and steady as usual. I shrugged it off and went back to the office, mostly forgetting about it until it happened again the next night at the same time it had the night before. I posted a Snapchat about it, hamming it up and talking about it being #2spooky, and went back to my usual duties.

The night after that was the office holiday party, so I wasn't in the back to notice if the light was flickering in the security feed again. Because it was the holiday party, however, I was tasked as usual with cleaning up afterward. Once the furniture was back where it was supposed to be and the extra tables were put away, I went to take the trash out. There's a bin outside the door at the end of the south ground floor hallway, so I carried the big black bag of Christmas wrapping and paper plates to it, not thinking about the light. I tossed the garbage in the can, and made my way back to the front desk. 

A few paces away from the door, it felt like a hand grabbed my thigh. 

The hair on my neck stood on end, a chill ran down my spine, and I picked up the pace to the front desk, mumbling, "Okay, nope, alright, no, no thank you."

There might be a reason why that particular wing would be the place for all the "shadow people" sightings and the most common place for stories to stem from. During the early half of the last century there was a Catholic church next door on the south end of the property. According to the stories I've heard it was originally built 20 miles away and then moved shortly thereafter to be in a more populous area, then moved again in the mid-1950s to the north end of town. Between the energies that could attach themselves to a hotel and the spirits that might wander restlessly from a former churchyard, the south part of this place would have its fair share of ghosts should they exist. 

A couple hours ago I was walking down the south ground floor hallway on my way back to the desk when I felt something graze the back of my calf. I looked behind me even though I wasn't expecting to see anyone or anything. The light at the end of the hall was dimmer, though; not flickering, but dimmer. Maybe my leg twitched. Maybe the light bulb or fixture is wonky. It could have been my mind playing tricks on me while walking down the narrow, windowless, fluorescent-lit walkway, like something out of The Shining.

It could be the spirit of a long-dead parishioner reaching out from beyond the veil, seeking refuge in a church that no longer stands where it had, grasping for help in their afterlife.

Whatever it may be, it does serve as a contribution to revive the Victorian Christmas ghost story tradition.

(There are some more stories about spooky goings-on in the hotel aside from this one too if you're looking for further holiday reading. Happy holidays and a happy new year!)

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Best Part Of Waking Up

I wake up to an alarm on my phone that plays my favorite song every morning. After rolling out of bed and shutting the alarm off, I open the curtains in my bedroom, make my way to the kitchen, and get the coffee from my automatic maker programmed to start brewing five minutes before my alarm. I then make my way to my front room, sit at my dining table, and listen to the news while catching up on email and social media. It's boring, but I don't want anything too exciting until I wake up a bit.

While checking Facebook this morning I noticed five years ago today I'd posted a status that read:
If the best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup you might want to reevaluate the priorities in your life or, at the very least, try better coffee.
If you know me, you know I like massive burritos, good beer, and good coffee. I've been known to haunt coffee shops for hours at a time and have even amassed tabs in excess of $100-- just from black coffee-- so it'd make sense that I would turn my nose up at the notion of drinking anything brewed from pre-ground stuff in that red can. However, it wasn't that long ago that money was pretty tight. It was during the holidays and my finances were a little tied up, so some sacrifices had to be made, notably with my coffee budget, so I folded and went for Folgers.

It parallels my coffee drinking experience as a whole, really; when I was in high school I started drinking coffee (specifically Starbucks "Breakfast Blend" if I remember right). It was too bitter and hot for my liking, so I cut it with milk and sugar. As I went through college money started getting tight, so I opted to cut out the milk and just stick with sugar. After awhile, sugar became an expense I didn't want to maintain, so I started drinking it black. Even after my money got right I still took my coffee black, and after an independent coffee house opened not too far from where I lived I discovered what really good black coffee could be like. After that, I sought out the best I could get my hands on.

There's nothing wrong with having preferences, but it's pretentious to turn your nose up to something because it's cheap or assumed to be "lesser." It isn't like I had freshly ground, freshly roasted beans brewing a French press every morning so I can fully appreciate the oils and aroma of a particular roast. I also don't run up egregious tabs at my local coffee shop anymore either. I grind okay coffee ahead of time and normally use it within a few days, and it usually is made with a paper filter in an automatic drip machine. Folgers got the job done, especially when that job was being a warm beverage in the middle of December.

I guess having Folgers did actually help me reevaluate the priorities in my life. It was one of the best parts of waking up because I didn't have to fuss over it and it wasn't the focus on my entire morning. I like the process of making a really good cup of coffee, don't get me wrong, but sometimes all I want to do the first thing in the morning is wake up, and cheap coffee serves that purpose. I'm not a total convert to cheap coffee but I can at least not be an insufferable snob about what's brewing in my house when I wake up.