My Weekend at Hotel Terrible

I read the reviews of the Ramada Plaza & Conference Center by Wyndham Louisville before I went there, so I knew I was in for … something. “Nasty place STAY AWAY,” one review read. On the other hand, one of my author pals said that the writing conference being held there was not to be missed, so, hoping as ever to sell some books, I went despite the abysmal reviews of the hotel.

How bad can it be, right? I’ve stayed outside lots of times. I’ve slept in freezing cold, clouds of bugs, even a flooded tent in which my tentmate feared I might drown due to partially-submerged snoring. Speaking of which, I considered packing a one man tent to set up in my Hotel Terrible room in case of bugs. I decided against it because I didn’t want the cleaning staff thinking ill of me. Besides, none of the bad reviews mentioned bugs. Well, not bedbugs anyway.

The gentleman who checked me in was professional. He informed me politely that the internet might or might not be working. Either way, he said, the internet was locked in the manager’s office. It could be reset tomorrow, maybe, but not before. I wasn’t expecting walls or a roof, so an internet problem was no trouble. After all, a lot of big-name hotels still charge for WiFi in 2018, a practice for which they are invited to go and fornicate themselves.

And really, who needs the internet anyway? Why look up reviews of local restaurants on Yelp when your in-room guide has gems like this in it?

It is my long-held contention, based on the world travel I’ve been lucky enough to do, that showers are the one thing that we, the United States of America, unquestionably do best. No, the shower experience at Hotel Terrible was not as nice as I might expect at my own house, but warm-ish water did eventually splurt onto me in a relatively predictable torrent. That’s more than I can say for most other supposedly-developed nations.

Once I completed my shower and “toweled” myself off with the handy cloth-based sandpaper supplied by Hotel Terrible, I realized it was impossible to turn the shower water off completely. It dripped for the rest of the weekend. Presumably, it drips to this day.

Mind you, rich people pay money all the time for in-home water sculptures and zen rivers and so forth. My wife occasionally listens to recordings of babbling brooks to help her fall asleep. Hotel Terrible provides you the sound of running water free of additional charge. What luck!

Hotel Terrible has a convenient entryway feature. The doors, as originally designed, require guests to unlock them with a keycard. Luckily, though, the doors are so poorly maintained none of them shut, let alone lock. The result is that if you have stuff in your hand as you approach — a weapon, e.g., or burglary supplies — you can just nudge the door aside with your murder boots and waltz right in.

To be fair, the open doors might be a feature meant to ameliorate the smell inside Hotel Terrible. Though I am a great lover of wine I must confess that my palate and sense of smell are far from the most refined. Still, I would describe the general bouquet of Hotel Terrible as a heady mixture of uncle feet, Funyuns crushed into ancient carpet, week-old jean shorts, and hastily-Febreezed mold.

In short, it smells like the horror of a 1980s family trip; the kind I was forced onto in my own childhood. Three back seats. Four kids. Unchecked aggression. In short, the smell of Hotel Terrible is one of those rare experiences that makes a person glad to be an adult, because adults, usually, are free to leave.


My hotel information booklet still had a few pages that were clipped into its 3-ring binder. One of them mentioned that somewhere in the hotel was a coffee shop. Might they have an espresso machine? I had a few moments to kill on Saturday, so I went looking.

Hotel Terrible is big. There are two huge parallel corridors with rooms on either side and a pool in the middle. If you have the stomach for it, you can stand at the far end of Hotel Terrible and look for a long way down the corridor. If the kid on the Big Wheel in The Shining turned the corner into this corridor, the scary twins would be haunting the end of the hallway perhaps 100 yards away, thus somewhat ruining the effect.

The route I took in search of coffee brought me through the pool area, which, for reasons completely their own, the evil geniuses who designed Hotel Terrible have termed “The Tropidome.” If you uncultured clods think you can vape inside the Tropidome, you’d better think again. This is ironic because only someone who is drugged nearly to the point of percussive heart failure would want to be in there at all.

“Tropidome” is, apparently, a word that Hotel Terrible’s designers made up. Google searches for “tropidome” return links to reviews of Hotel Terrible. In their vast, reptilian imaginations, Hotel Terrible’s designers probably intended the Tropidome to be a lush green oasis in the middle of the hotel, where guests could relax among plants, take a dip in the pool, and possibly even enjoy a slice of pizza or a cold beverage. (No vaping!)

In practice, however, when one enters the Tropidome, one is hit by a blast of hot, humid air the like of which can only otherwise be found exiting a demon’s gaping maw a split second before it bites off your face. I do not exaggerate unduly about the heat in the Tropidome. It is not just sauna-hot-and-uncomfortable. It is custody-battle-inside-a-sauna-hot-and-uncomfortable. I can’t imagine what the guests whose doors open onto the Tropidome do at night other than roast in their beds. These unfortunate souls are probably the reasons why the outer doors no longer shut. They’ve damaged the exits in their blind haste to escape the Tropidome.

There are some “green” “plants” in the Tropidome, but I think they’re fake. If not, they should all be rescued. They are certainly doing whatever equates to the plant version of screaming.

Upon leaving The Tropidome I found myself in an abandoned Godfather’s Pizza. All the lights were on. The TVs were cackling and babbling to themselves on the walls. There was a bright serving counter where pizzas were certainly once handed to hungry customers. But the place was stripped of everything that would make a restaurant except the tables and chairs. All that remained of the once (probably) bustling pizza restaurant was these photos.

I believe the actor in this photo to be J. William Knoll, mentioned here in the Toledo Blade from Nov. 14 1983. The tale indirectly told in that article is of Italian Americans rising up against Godfather’s Pizza for associating their heritage with gangsters and criminals. Fortunately for Knoll, Godfather’s made an arrangement with the Italian groups and he was allowed to continue work as the Godfather. The Godfather’s website bears photos of a man I believe to be Knoll, still presenting himself as The Godfather. I kind of hope it’s him. Congrats on a long-running gig, buddy.

Godfather’s Pizza killed off a huge amount of its stores in a 1990s restructuring under the leadership of Herman Cain, who would later run for president as a Republican in the 2012 election. Cain suspended his bid for the presidency on December 3, 2011 after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced. How do you think Cain’s feeling now, in 2018, watching all these Republicans get a free pass from their party on sexual misconduct? I bet he’s pissed.

One of the wading pools off to the side of the lake of bizarre that is the abandoned Godfather’s Pizza in Hotel Terrible is a small room with two ancient computers and one tiny printer. I pity the traveler who attempts to print anything in this room.

You can tell that someone has experienced some form of violent anger here because they’ve taken their anger out on one of Hotel Terrible’s terrible terminals. One can only guess at why the hotel leaves the broken machine plugged in. My guess would be that they consider it to have been inadvertently elevated into a piece of digital art. That, or they’ve left it as a warning to the other machine.

In my mind, I am a brilliant and well-respected author whose work is enjoyed the world over. This is a delusion I recommend all writers manufacture for themselves in order to survive the long years between starting their careers and anyone else noticing they’ve done so. If I had been a therapist instead, I might guess that my dissatisfaction with Hotel Terrible has a little to do with its terribleness inadvertently bringing the actual status of my career into sharp relief.

You probably won’t die if you stay at Hotel Terrible. Sure, any passing murderers will be able to roam the halls freely, but the room doors appear strong and the metal locking loop seemed in good order. The spots on the sheets were small and probably not all blood. I did not get a rash, as some other reviewers of the hotel said they did.

I was reminded, though, of what it was like to grow up in the 80s: horrible. But I was also reminded that I am now an adult, which meant I was free to leave. So, early Sunday morning, I did. And I even got some good career advice from a license plate in the parking lot as I left.

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