Six years into our marriage my wife and I decided it was time to take a get-away-weekend to the gulf coast, just the two of us. We continued a tradition her family started, and stayed in a quaint little hotel called the Alamo Plaza on Highway 90 in Biloxi. We were excited to get away from the kids and have some time just for the two of us. Reservations were made and we arrived about noon on Friday.
The first thing we noticed was the hotel had been painted pink. Who in the world would paint a hotel pink? It didn’t matter too much for the old fashioned charm was still inviting and we overlooked the upgrade.
Parking under the plaster entrance I walked inside to register and found new management. The older couple we had grown to know as Pop and Gerdy had retired several years earlier. The new management did not speak very good English and granted us the first indication that things would be a little different this stay.
When you drive through the entrance there are two rows of rooms on either side. We unpacked the car on the right side and got settled in. My wife put on her swimsuit.
“Let’s go to the beach,” she said.
“Already?” I answered with a slight attitude.
“Come on,” she said, “It will be fun.”
Now I am usually a peacemaker and don’t say too much when it comes to things I don’t like. However, you need to understand. I love going to the coast, but I am not much of a beach person, especially in the middle of the day. My idea of fun on the beach is at sunrise or sunset, a time I can enjoy the Mississippi Sound in peace and calm while watching the sun rise and set. There is something about fewer people and less noise that creates freshness about this time of day.
We made our way across treacherous Highway 90’s busy four-lane boulevard. Stepping into the hot sand told me I was here because I loved my wife and for no other reason. We laid our beach towels out, sat down and began rubbing on the sunscreen. The experience of sun poisoning was not a happy moment many years earlier. For me the only thing I wanted was a suit of steel armor. Since it was a hard commodity to find, and it was definitely not a floatable device, I chose the next best thing, Coppertone SPF30.
It was a dull day for lying in a gritty pile of sand and feeling the heat of the sun as ultraviolet rays charbroiled each of my cells, one at a time. I knew that in a few days I was going to look like I was covered in dried red wine and rolled like a truffle in dehydrated coconut flakes. Like I said I don’t enjoy the beach in the middle of the day and I was anxious to leave for the air-conditioned room.
The day did become a little more exciting however when my wife stood to walk in the direction of the water for a quick swim. Before she could reach the shoreline a seagull began to attack. He instigated a flurry of other birds to join in pecking at her hair, her shoulders and anywhere they could peck her. She screamed and I jumped up and swung my towel at them. All that accomplished was for one of them to fertilize my tee shirt with a little slimy excrement. It was obviously time to leave the beach. She ran toward the hotel holding her towel over her head. I picked up our gear and ran with her, swinging and shouting at these flying persecutors. Before she could reach the highway there were so many seagulls attacking her you would have thought she had a loaf of bread attached to her head. She hit her knees and began to crawl toward the highway, screaming and crying. No matter what I did to protect her I found they were not after me, but her and kept up the assault.
Once we reached the highway I turned to see the birds fly back toward the shoreline. Even though we were both a little upset I managed to smile toward the sky and whisper thank you. I did not have to suffer the sun any longer. Once in the room she began to calm down. I checked her head for wounds. Mostly red, but no broken skin, I ran a hot tub of water for her to relax and recuperate.
A blood-curling scream came from the bathroom. I ran to see what was wrong and found her standing on the toilet lid, wrapped in a towel and pointing toward the floor. We have all heard of cockroaches, but this was the cockroach king. I tried to hit that bug-eyed, antennae horned, prehistoric demon devil with my size nine flip-flop. I think it just looked at me like what is your problem dude? I hit him again, and again. Finally he crawled under the sink cabinet where I couldn’t get to him. I still don’t know if I killed him, but he had to have one huge headache. I did, that’s for sure. His appearance was the first sign of our intrusion on a community of giant creatures from behind the walls.
“I’m ready to go home,” she said.
“What? We just got here,” I told her.
“This is a horrible weekend and I am ready to go.”
“I don’t know what the problem was with those seagulls, but it has never happened before today and will, most likely never happen again. Okay?”
“What about the roach?” she said still whimpering.
I wrapped my arms around her and told a little white lie. “Honey, that old roach is dead. I killed him with my flip-flop.” Of course I didn’t know for sure. I wanted to stay because there was so much more to do. You know like the shopping and restaurants?
Mary Mahoney’s Old French House Restaurant was first. We loved to patronize this place. On our honeymoon we actually met Mary. She was in her ninety’s now and celebrated out marriage by providing champagne and two wine glasses. I’m not a drinker so I sipped a small amount and left the rest. The ambiance provided a romantic and intimate setting for two and the gulf seafood was unmatched by any other place.
Returning to the room we were prepared for a good nights sleep and climbed under the covers. After snuggling for a while we fell asleep. The terror began. I was awakened to something crawling across my face. I swatted it away and tried to go back to sleep. Then I heard a fluttering noise that ended in a thud. Then another flutter, and a thud. By the time I reached for the beside lamp, my wife was awakened. The light illuminated the room. I don’t know if you have ever heard of Zepar, the Grand Duke of Demons who appears as a soldier commanding some twenty-six legions, but I swear he was here with at least one of his legions of cockroaches.
I’m guessing the four-inch roach I attempted to kill in the bathroom earlier was Zepar who had returned to the nest and announced they had visitors for the night. Celebrating party-time hundreds of these little terrorists buzzed the room and persecuted us. Flutter, thud. Wipe one off the covers. Flutter, thud. I couldn’t talk my way out of this one so we grabbed our things and ran out the door. Since no one answered the bell at the night desk we slept in the car. I was not in an good mood, at all!
“I want a refund on my room last night, and I don’t want any apologies,” I all but yelled at the clerk behind the desk.
“What wrong, Mita Oldham,” the foreign clerk said.
“We had a horrible night. There were ten gazillion roaches and we slept in the car. Now I want a refund.”
“So sorry, Mita Oldham. How ‘bout I give you one free night in room on other side where no roaches?”
I chuckled. “No roaches?”
“No roaches’ sir, we spray there last week.”
I thought for a second. As long as there is no chemical smell and there are no roaches, why not? “Okay,” I said. “Let me have a key and I’ll go check out the room. If my wife approves, we’ll take the free night.” It did mean a savings I could spend elsewhere.
The wife was not happy but I convinced her of all the benefits of the free nights stay. After scouting the room she approved and we settled in on the far end of the left row of buildings. It was actually a very nice room. All the other rooms were filled toward the front of the complex. Being on the far end we were away from everyone and we would have a cozy and quiet room with no one slamming doors and talking outside in the middle of the night.
We ate a wonderful breakfast buffet at the Beau Rivage and gambled some of our motel savings on a slot machine. I won about thirty dollars but lost it before we left. It was the typical lose, we got you, win back and snicker situation for the casino. It was still fun and I could rationalize my loss by remembering that I lost more than that at the fall fair in Jackson every year trying to win a stuffed animal.
“Ready to go to the beach?” I cannot believe I asked my wife to go to the beach in the middle of the day. Am I nuts? Did I forget I hate the beach?
“Nope,” she replied.
Yeah! I thought to myself. “W…what? I thought you loved the beach.”
“Don’t you remember what happened yesterday?” She snapped at me.
I didn’t answer. I sat in quiet, thankful solitude that I did not have to sit in the sun.
“Let’s go to the Beauvoir,” she said.
The southern home of former Confederate President Jefferson Davis was a beautiful home with a museum and library. The two of us enjoyed visiting this home each time we went to Biloxi. When we left the Beauvoir a woman offering special gifts if we would go to the D’iberville Hotel and listen to a short seminar approached us in the parking lot. We were short on things to do so we took her up on it. After listening to a 15-minute presentation on why we should pay seven thousand dollars for one of their special rooms for a single week each year, and a grand tour of the rooms, we were escorted to a boardroom where they had a list of open weeks displayed on a huge blackboard.
“Now, Mr. Oldham, which week can we sign you up for.”
Without hesitation my wife said, “I don’t like being confined to the same week every year. What if I wanted to purchase the entire summer?”
The ladies jaw dropped so fast she nearly had to stop it with her hand.
“Well, we can certainly do that,” she said with great anticipation.
I looked at my wife and thought, have those seagulls pecked your brain so hard it’s full of holes?
She looked back at me like have you lost your sense of adventure.
“Let me and my husband discuss this over lunch and we will be back, okay?”
The sales lady was so excited she gave us two gifts. One was a cheap Polaroid camera and the other was a free lunch at a very respectable restaurant.
“What are you doing?” I asked on the way to the car.
She started laughing and said, “Just having fun. There is no way I am buying one week let alone the entire summer. I just wanted to see her reaction when I asked her about it. Besides we got a free lunch they promised for listening to them, and a camera to boot.
Of course, later, we discovered we actually had to buy one of the time-shares to get a camera that worked. I know that poor lady was so excited she probably skipped lunch waiting for us to return with good news for her commission check. It didn’t happen.
After lunch we returned to the Alamo Plaza. I inspected the bathroom, checked around the walls and even searched under the bed for any signs of Zepar and his cronies. Thank the good Lord I thought, we were going to get a good night’s rest. We nestled under the fresh clean sheets and drifted in to La La Land. Sleep in Nirvana was so peaceful. Snuggled up next to my wife and feeling her warmth against me. I was truly enjoying what I had come to Biloxi for, rest.
“I don’t care what you say! This world is the pits and I’m tired of living in it!”
Startled, we both jumped up when anxious words interrupted our slumber. I looked at the clock and it flashed a good morning to you at 1:30am.
“What was that?” asked my wife.
“People next door coming in.”
The springs started squeaking and banging against the wall. We lay in our bed and listened to moans and groans as each one worked its way through the wood paneling.
A temporary gratification was achieved and we were able to drift back to sleep.
“I hate this world! I’m going to kill myself!”
The neighbor’s words reentered our room with intensity.
“Oh baby, it’s gonna be okay,” his lover cried.
The bedsprings commenced their noisy protest of squeaking and squawking. The headboard resumed pounding our wall.
Fulfillment achieved, a second time of quiet arrived and we drifted back to paradise.
“I’m gonna shoot myself! It’s not worth living!” Several more of these threats were spoken throughout the night.
By 4:00am I had enough. I didn’t know what to do so I got up and walked around the room. I questioned whether cockroaches or people were the worst pest. My wife was agitated enough from seagulls and legions of bugs to stand and fight. She stood up on the bed and beat on the wall.
“Either kill yourself or shut up!” she shouted.
Shocked, I didn’t say a word. She lay back down. No springs squeaking, no crying–nothing. I got back in the bed, pulled the covers up and waited for the man to beat our door down and shoot us. Her words must have worked. The couple slamming their car doors and leaving at dawn awakened us. I didn’t even want to look out and see what this chump looked like. I had a vision embedded in my brain and I surely didn’t want to ruin it.
Words were left unspoken while we got dressed and packed our bags to leave. We didn’t get much rest that weekend. Mind portraits of great times are brought home that are still laughable to this day.
We are saddened that there will never be any more memories born and enjoyed from the Alamo Plaza Motel. On August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina wiped it off the shoreline of Highway 90. We pass by now and look at an empty lot and carry our smiles on down the highway to a new tradition.
Note: The stories in this memoir are all true. There is actually only one issue that makes it fiction. This writing is a compilation of several happenings at the Alamo Plaza over several years in our travels to Biloxi. I felt it easier, this time, to put them all together and make one story rather than try to write several different stories. Hope you don’t mind.