Hotel Reardon – Clifton AZ

by Mark Hahn

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The Hotel Reardon lies at the south end of Clifton, on what was originally US Route 666 — the devil’s highway. The rugged landscape around Clifton make this one hell of a road, especially if you continue north past the Morenci mine. The Reardon Hotel looks sad and menacing as it looms large behind overgrown trees in its drab grayness with its broken and boarded up windows. No Trespassing and No Loitering signs are unceremoniously affixed across the front of the hotel. The original sign is now hidden behind the trees. I was put off by all the No Trespassing signs and the cop who slowed down to give me “the eye” as he drove by — obviously noting that I was no local and probably wondering what I was doing on foot in this battered old Arizona mining town.

In the back of the Hotel I found that someone had kicked in the second floor door and stacked up an assortment of cinder blocks as a makeshift ladder. We had to climb the ladder to reach the threshold of the remnants of an oak doorway from which to pull ourselves up from. Once I saw the back hall open up before me and all the promising doorways — leading to who knows where — there was no turning back. The cop hadn’t circled around to see what we were doing yet and the Hotel seemed reasonably intact. It was all ours. The sun was setting fast and we had to rush to take photographs before we lost all our light.

Hotels are nothing but spaces where people stay. It felt like the good, the bad and the ugly had all stayed in the Reardon. You could feel their presence in the walls. Their spirits were on the doors and rising up through the holes in the floors.

Clifton was a tough town with a tough history and tough working conditions. When times are hard, people get harder. Many bad things must have happened in the Reardon — rape, murder, sorrow, insanity and love all probably found their way into these rooms. Walking into each room I felt all these harrowing and exhilarating pasts. I could be a thousand people looking out each window — out across the crumbling town to the crumbling rocks thrown up from the mine that surrounds it.

It felt like you could find everything good that you ever left behind within these walls, within these rooms. It also felt that everything bad that you had left behind was closed in one room down the hall, only you didn’t know which one it was. Opening each door meant opening another memory. I’ve lived in transient hotels that had this same feeling — the Reardon bought all these mixed memories back to me.

Things that happen in hotels happen everywhere, they are just more open because of the shared walls and doors that lead into the common hallway where everyone has to pass each other in the morning. For some reason, I remembered in eighth grade when my family moved to Grosse Pointe. The kid living in the mansion across the street secretly showed me his parent’s BDSM sex toys. I didn’t know what to make of them, especially given the apparent normalness of his parents. Two days later the father blew his brains out. The gunshot woke me up.

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