Close up Hands Tea x

Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

The Fallon Hotel… is a real place.

The Fallon Hotel… is a real place.

Fielding some questions from people about the Fallon Hotel, I’ve decided I should take a moment and explain that it is a REAL place and the book I’m writing comes from a kernel of truth, something that happened to my son and I years ago – shortly after his diagnosis of autism.

The Fallon Hotel... is a real place.

Here’s the explanation:

Walking into the Fallon the first thing you sense is how small it really is.  Some might say cozy, but I calls ‘em like I sees ‘em.  Small is small.  There are 15 rooms for occupancy in this turn of the century hotel and strangely enough, room #13 is reserved for the night watch staff/caretaker.  This leaves 14 other hotel rooms which can house 1-2 people at a time.  Most of the rooms have a shared bathroom, bringing you into even closer contact with the occupants of the Fallon Hotel.  The tiny lobby has a few scattered chairs and a loveseat which curves in the middle allowing lovers (or complete strangers who have no issue with personal space) to sit and face each other.

If you look closely at the artwork lining the wallpapered walls, there are the usual old paintings of landscape and scattered photos from long ago.  But, look even closer and you’ll spot a couple of bizarre, out of place images – one of a sinister raging forest fire and another of a bug-eyed, slightly demented looking woman.  These two images, tucked away among so many ordinary framed pictures let you know that there is more than might actually meet the eye, deep down, under the surface of the Fallon Hotel.

Despite the compact quarters, the Fallon Hotel has an air of distance to it, as though you will never really come to feel at home at the Fallon.  I believe that it has more to do with the unseen occupants than those that walk the narrow halls during the day, but that’s just my opinion… or perhaps more correctly, my experience.

When my son was 6 years old, during a warm autumn visit to ColumbiaHistoricState Park we decided to cap the day off with a sweet, cold treat for Grandpa Will, my daughter and my son and popped into the ice cream parlor adjacent to the Fallon Hotel..  I was opting out of the ice cream deal, as I was still in the process of shedding 5 unwanted pounds before the upcoming holiday season binge fest.  Oh, little did I know that the day would still deliver a shivery treat, nonetheless.

Jordan was a limitless bundle of energy with almost no speech at 6 years old, due to his high functioning autism that was diagnosed when he was 4.  Nearly all of the speech that he did posses was echolaliac, a fancy word which meant he was a pintsized walking-talking-parrot, repeating what other people said, usually copying their exact pitch and intonation.  He had only uttered a handful of self-expressive sentences and those were only 2 to 3 words in length, things like “Me go horsey!” when he was preparing for therapeutic horseback riding or “No go!” when he was afraid of something in an unknown place (mostly vacuums and houseflies).  So, it came as a great surprise to me when he pulled on my shirt at the ice cream parlor and starting shouting, “That boy!  I go that Boy!  Now!  Please!  I go play that Boy!”  I looked down expecting to see another small child at the counter, but the ice cream parlor was empty.

“What boy, Jordan?  What are you talking about?  Where?!”  I opened my arms up and gestured around the building, hoping that a child would appear.  Not because I didn’t believe my son, that there was a boy to play with, but because my autistic son had never expressed interest in another child before.  His autism had made him impenetrable to any sort of playmates, despite years of social intervention and attempts at co-play with peers.  My heart swelled at the notion that my lonely little guy might finally connect to another child, but there was no child in the room.  Despite this, Jordan continued to yank on my clothing insisting, “I go that Boy!  I go play that Boy, now!!”  His tugging was insistent enough that I found myself being pulled down a ramp to a darkened theatre which behind the ice cream parlor.

“Stop, the theatre is closed until this weekend’s performance!!”  A young girl in a long dress and frilly apron stepped out from behind the ice cream counter.  She held her arms across the entrance, but Jordan took off like a shot under her and ran into the dark theatre.

Apologizing, I ran behind him to try and grab Jordan’s arm.  I caught him before he could get into the blackened auditorium.  Suddenly, he shouted, “And the dancing girls!  Go see dancing girls… play the Boy!”  A smile came across my face at the words, dancing girls.  “What dancing girls?  Where did you even hear the words ‘dancing girls’ before?!”  I looked all around to see if there were posters advertising French Can-Can or some other image that would’ve prompted his remarks.  There were none.

Jordan looked up at me with his big brown eyes, another first for the boy who despised eye contact and said, “The Boy.  That Boy told me.”  He pointed into the dark and repeated, “That Boy.”  I turned to look where he pointed, and saw only a dark doorway and a completely empty and pitch black auditorium.

Just then, another woman came around the corner dressed in the same old fashioned outfit that the ice cream girl was wearing.  She walked down the ramp with complete authority and switched on the lights to the theatre.  The room filled with a warm golden glow revealing plush velvet seats and a great wooden stage with its voluminous curtains opened into the wings.  There was nobody in the room.  The woman who was obviously in charge spoke up, “You can see that there’s nobody here, young fellow.  But that doesn’t mean it’s empty, does it?”  She gave Jordan a sly, conspiratorial grin.

Never looking at me, the woman stuck her hand out in introduction.  “Hello.  My name is Gwen and I’m the Assistant Manager of the Fallon Hotel and Theatre.  Kindly follow me.”

Our party of 4 walked out of the ice cream parlor through a small door into the lobby of the Fallon Hotel.  Gwen stepped briskly behind the registration desk and began shuffling papers, never looking up as she addressed us.  “There have been many stories about the ghost of a boy who inhabits the hotel, and I’ve only heard one other person mention the dancing girls that your little boy spoke of.  I would be interested in asking him some questions, with your permission.”

“You can have permission, but I can tell you it won’t do much good.”  I went on to explain Jordan’s autism and how that meant his communication skills and ability to process language was poor.  “Therefore, any questions you might ask might not be understood.”

Undaunted, the woman leaned down to Jordan and caught his gaze.  Again, I was surprised by my son’s ability to make eye contact so easily and equally amazed at this quirky woman’s ability to do the same.  She put her hands on Jordan’s shoulders (another no-no for him, who didn’t like touch) and said, “What color is the boy’s hair?”  Without hesitation, Jordan replied, “Yellow.”

A short series of questions revealed that the boy was blonde, approximately 40 inches tall and smiling.  Jordan insisted that the boy wanted him to come and play and go see the dancing girls in the theatre.  During this entire “interview” process Jordan was calm and “present”, never once displaying his usual autistic behaviors of stimming or tantruming.  Whenever agitated, he would stiffen his upper body, bend his elbows and wiggle his fingers madly in the air – stimming is what the experts called it.  The tantrums would often follow the stimming, once Jordan could no longer appropriately process what was happening at the moment.

As quickly as the period of calm came over Jordan during his episode of seeing “The Boy”, he started to stim and tantrum saying that the boy had gone.  He wanted nothing more to do with the Fallon Hotel and Theatre and insisted, in his own autistic Now or Never way, that we leave.

Once outside the building, my 10 year old daughter turned to me and said, “What just happened?”  I had no answer for her and needed time to process it myself.

Out of that experience… comes the story of the Fallon Hotel.

xo – t.

For more information or to visit the Fallon Hotel: http://www.columbiacalifornia.com/historicstructures_files/fallon.html

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About TKatz

An absorbent observer's view on life. Opinions served up strong, but never bitter. T. and observation -- For tea and conversation. Actress/Singer/Writer/DJ: Words for Sale (Spoken, Sung, Scrawled) KHTS AM 1220 Fridays at Noon & Drive Time 3pm to 7pm. MWF

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