Today we heard a tale of America's dirtiest hotel. It's pretty damn dirty! Which wonderful motel might be the next lodge down on this illustrious list? Well, one commenter submitted a nomination.
Last summer I did a free-lance commercial real estate photography gig. As anyone who's ever done real estate photography knows, the challenge for exteriors is to schedule shoots around the location of the sun. The last shot I needed was a wide exterior, lit from the east to emphasize the modern facade and conceal proximity to lesser properties nearby—such as that of the best vantage point to shoot from—the roof of the #2 Dirtiest Hotel in America, the Jack London Inn in Oakland, CA.
I walked into the lobby just before dawn, hoping to slip the clerk $20 for roof access.
Because the Jack London Inn has that mirrored film on the windows, I didn't notice the 4 VERY salty cops in the lobby conducting an investigation of what sounded like a murderous brawl until I was standing among them in the cramped lobby. A person I inferred was a WITNESS was handcuffed to a chair. The cop was basically telling a nervous young man in a ghetto fab ensemble, "Look, if we take in we'll have to process you for this huge, no-bail, extradition warrant out for your arrest. Or, we can take you in the back and you can give us GOOD INFO about what happened up there and you can handle your business before you get arrested again, 'cuz next time you go away, it's gonna be for a long time." I was kind of surprised they would be doing this in a publicly accessible area, but they seemed as surprised to see me as I was to see them. This shit was straight out of "Training Day."
I decided that this place was in that nether state that establishments which host criminal activities inhabit when the cops are afoot, and all the dirtbags were either gone or deep in hiding. I walked past them like I owned the place, giddy that I wouldn't have to spend a dime on "fixes" and that I wouldn't likely be robbed of my photo gear if I got out before the investigation concluded.
I imagine they thought I was press, or perhaps even a criminalist.
The stairwell door was propped open so I walked toward the top floor, past some cops who were controlling access to the 2nd floor. I could smell vomit and feces—I didn't bother looking through the door they were guarding. I got to the top floor. No roof access that I could see. Damn. Most hotel stairwell doors lock from the inside, but the latch hole had been stuffed with cigratte filters so I could check the top floor for roof access without retracing my footsteps.
As I walked down the hall a young woman with that stripper/sex worker vibe—clad only in a pair of white platforms—was pulling an elderly man by the hand from a room in which several people were LOUDLY entertaining themselves to another room, where she slaps the door several times and screams "HEY IT'S CRYSTAL LEMME IN I GOT A TRICK!" As I take in this scene she gives me that "What the fuck are you looking at, you wanna piece afterward?" hooker look. The door opens, filling the hallway with pungent dirty south rap and high-quality medicinal marijuana as they slipped into the room.
I get to a door marked "ROOF ACCESS—ALARM WILL SOUND." So I turn the knob, open the door and catch a warm, fetid blast of urine-scented outside air. But no alarm. Short glass tubes, plastic baggies, used condoms and wrappers litter the landing. I fold a BART ticket in half and jam it into the latch mechanism behind me.
As rooftops often are, it was strangely calm. The seagulls actually do a great job of cleaning rooftops of the paraphernalia of desperation in exchange for bathroom privileges. I set up my camera and tripod and reflected upon what I had gone through to capture the sun's rays dancing across the gleaming brushed steel and glass panels of my client's prime property.
So yeah, Jack London Inn. Discreet staff. Not the cleanest common areas. Cops don't harass you if you maintain a polished demeanor. Varied, novel approaches to in-room entertainment. Allows smoking—of pretty much anything. Look for it on Hotwire or Priceline.