SPX doesn’t begin in ernest for a few hours yet, but I’m here in “North Bethesda”—AKA Rockville, Maryland—the new location of The Small Press Expo. If you’re one of the three or four people who regularly read my ramblings here, then you’re likely already familiar with my trepidations about the current state of this event, as discussed a while back in my essay, “If I Were King of SPX.” So far, I’ve experienced nothing to assuage any of the concerns expressed therein.
My journey began yesterday morning at the beautiful and historic Greensboro train station. I took the Amtrak 80 Carolinian from there to Union Station in Washington D.C. Despite Amtrak’s well known foibles, found the trip vastly more enjoyable than being on an airplane and better than driving—which, although it would have taken less total time, wouldn’t have afforded me nearly a solid six hours to do some freelance work on my laptop…and then retire to the food car and grab a few beers which I could drink sitting down at a table like a civilized person. At any rate, after arrival in D.C. and another train trip—this time via the Metro system—I eventually arrived at the hotel.
Make no mistake: the hotel at which SPX will occur couldn’t be in a less exciting location. It’s purported location in “North Bethesda” is really smack dab in the middle of the most drab portion of the Rockville Pike. Gone is the dense square mile block of ethnic restaurants and bars of the old locale; the view from my hotel room comprises one vast strip mall parking lot after another. Maybe after the show’s over we can hit the “Babys R Us” for a few beers, then wander over to the Linens and Things?
While the Marriot in question is far better appointed aesthetically than the somewhat dumpy Days Inn of old, in the basic services department, it ‘s somewhat lacking. I’m glad I don’t have a car with me since apparently you get charged to park your car here even if you’re a paying guest of the hotel. I’ve never heard of such a thing. Is this a standard practice in big cities? Additionally, the only way you can get internet access is by paying $10.00 a night for in-room access. And if you want to use the wi-fi in the downstairs common areas, that’s another 10.00 a day (despite the hotel’s website’s claims, which specify in-room at $10 and “wi-fi in common areas,” wich I suppose is technically true, but pretty deceptive). Is it just me or is charging for internet access in the year 2006 just really tacky? In this day and age this seems almost akin to charging for running hot water, particularly at this “business-focused” hotel.
Last night I was invited over to a pre-SPX comics jam with the Elm City Jams guys (Isaac Cates, Mike Wenthe, etc.) in D.C. The Metro’s last train back toward Rockville runs at about midnight, so I couldn’t stay long, but we did pull off a surprizingly successful “shufflufugus” jam, which I’ll post if/when Isaac scans it and sends it my way.
A small consolation in the case of the Hotel’s location seemed to be the just-across-the-street 7-11, which would have afforded convenient beer pruchasing. Alas, I wandered in on my way back to the hotel and found the place entirely beerless—not as in “out of beer;” as in “they just don’t sell the stuff.” I have no idea what the deal is with that, other than the generall crappiness of it. Fortunately I wound up hanging out with Chris Reilly, who had better luck getting a hold of a 12-pack, for the remainder of the evening.
I’m making it a personal mission while here in Maryland to have as many of my meals as possible involve crabcakes. So far I’m batting a thousand: last night, crabcake sandwich, this morning: crabcake and corn omelette.