T u c s o n ' s   t a c k y  t e m p t r e s s

She was a temptress batting her eyes done up in the turquoise and coral hues that had been fashionable decades before. Her come hither murmured through the fronds clattering in the squat Mexican palm trees. For forty years, she kept her back to the city, her two-story arches facing the Air Force base at the butt end of Tucson, Arizona.

She was the Lamp Post Motel, so proclaimed to South Craycroft Road by a big yellow sign with only slightly less subtlety than a casino. An animated arrow of moving light moved around that sign, pointing to the entrance, electrically beckoning one and all for private pleasures. Every night, she offered forty-two chambers of sanctuary, forty-two locked doors, forty-two clog-prone toilets. Every night, the anonymous came to hide out, shoot up and party down.

She wore a reasonably fresh coat of turquoise paint, but on close inspection, the panels below her windows were warped and blistered. Her carpets were stained and cigarette burned, but fairly clean of the beer, booze, semen, urine and blood spilled on them regularly. Most of her easy chairs managed to hold together.

A man from New Jersey named Max Zorn built her in 1970 on a sliver of land on South Craycroft. At ground level was the institutional icon that Zorn picked up in for a few hundred. The object was eight feet tall, painted turquoise and coral to match the architectural motif, mounted on a three-foot high pedestal at the edge of the driveway. It was almost elegant with Victorian swashes in an aluminum candelabra topped by five plastic balls filled with light: a true lamp post. The motel

The property was surrounded by bars, pizza shops, an Italian restaurant, a convenience store, a few vacant storefronts and Phil Stein’s pornographic equipment shop. Across the street, what had been built as a bowling alley was the new home of a fringe religious group. On the next block, the topless bar was conveniently located next to the pawnshop and the used car lot, with plenty of dusty parking to serve those pillars of commerce.

The neighborhood wasn’t all that bad for the fringes of a military base. Kids had smashed only one window and shot b-b holes in but a few more. Mostly they tried to hustle quarters they swore they lost in the Coke machine. The customers were more of a problem, stealing anything from a one-dollar smoke alarm battery to the battered furniture, and clogging the toilets with all manner of debris.

A slightly irregular science fiction novel by
Joe Gold


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