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Dead Ducks and Dive Hotels: A Night in Baltimore

He’s off to play a comedy gig in Baltimore this week and already wondering who’ll be staying in the next door room - and keeping him up all night - when he books into a crummy but characterful hotel

I’m off to Baltimore this week to play a room out the back of a Chinese restaurant where the carcasses of ducks sit in a line in the window and the staff scream at you when you’re ordering food.

If there’s a full house for this gig nobody will be more surprised than me, though I’m not sure putting dead ducks in the window is a good advertisement for putting bums on seats for a comedy show. Do you look at dead ducks in a window and think, let’s go inside and see if there’s a show on tonight? I doubt it. Neither do I.

But then there are probably more people in Baltimore who eat Chinese food than go to a comedy show. So who am I to judge? Supply and demand, I suppose.

The last time I played Baltimore I stayed in a dive hotel and America is full to the brim with those. Incredible places. The bathroom is always out of toilet paper and there are never any clean towels. The microwave in the room (why?) is always broken and the coffee machine hasn’t worked for ten years. Out in the hallway, cigarette butts lounge around in the pebbles of plastic pot plants and stains linger on the carpet. But the real issue is the paper thin walls that serve to separate you from the people staying in the room next door.

Yes, the last time I stayed in Baltimore I had to endure the antics of a couple in the room next to mine having very loud sex. It might well have been good sex, but I doubt it. It sounded like it was coming from cattle.

Perhaps even worse than the sounds of people having bad sex is the sound of a screaming baby child coming from the room next door. Sex noises tend to stop every once in a while but babies can just go on all night. But then who can blame them? I’d rather stay in the warm comfort of a womb for nine months than a week in a dive hotel in Baltimore, believe me.

But I like the dive hotels because all the interesting folk tend to stay there. You don’t meet real characters in five star hotels – even the staff there are totally void of any personality – unless they’ve lived, say, ninety years and still have all their faculties and want to buy you whisky in the hotel bar until two in the morning while they entertain you with tales of fighting in the jungle or being captured by the Japanese or escaping a death camp or whatever but you get what I’m saying.

Yes. Dive hotels, dead ducks and half empty seats at comedy shows it will be this week in Baltimore. But I’m a sucker for travelling and I just can’t sit still, even for five minutes.

What a life this is. Yet somebody has to live it and it might as well be me.

Matt Roper is a British comedian based in New York City. His relationship with Lush goes back to 2011 when he performed for the muddy festival-goers of Lushfest, returning the following year to curate the line-up of the comedy stage. As he travels around the world, he shares his musings with us here in a series of writings – a sifting of thought from a restless but always seeking imagination.  

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I like the dive hotels because all the interesting folk tend to stay there

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