October 11, 2009

This type of place will break you down, man.


Update: This is a record of one recent night’s stay in a generic motel room in LaSalle, Illinois, where I was attending an advisory board seminar sponsored by a foundation I’ve been involved with for years and years.

The only time I watch TV is when I am in a motel room, and invariably, I regret it. This time I caught myself hypnotized (in a mode both agitated and agitating) by a televised documentary about Stateville Prison — excuse me, that’s Stateville Correctional Center — in Joliet, Illinois.

Stateville is a prison most everybody has seen in some American film or other, whether they know it or not. One of the cellblocks is on the panopticon model, with a guard’s roundhouse in the center of the circle and tier upon tier of cells stacked around it. That block has been used for location filming of scenes all the way from late-1940s noir movies to Natural Born Killers, and I even think that some of the editions of Foucault’s Discipline and Punish feature a photo from Stateville by way of illustrating the panopticon notion.

What appears on the TV screen in the photo is an image of the bars of a Stateville cell. The observation I quoted by way of a title (“This type of place will break you down, man”) was uttered by one of the men locked up there.


  1. jannx on October 11th, 2009 at 12:44 am

    Pretty fancy schmancy room. LCD TV, two bottles of San Pellagrino, nice ice bucket and hygenically wrapped plastic cups, all on a nice tray!

  2. Sheila Ryan on October 11th, 2009 at 12:54 am

    I’m in one of those Camp Fed minimum-security facilities.

  3. jannx on October 11th, 2009 at 1:19 am

    uh oh…. !

  4. Phil Bebbington on October 11th, 2009 at 3:46 am

    I thought this was a new Windows Vista screen saver!

  5. Daryl Scroggins on October 11th, 2009 at 9:31 am

    Just don’t drop a quarter in the slot for the Vibra-bed-massage while you’re drinking the bubbly water

  6. Coop on October 11th, 2009 at 9:56 am

    I too thought it was a computer!

  7. Phil Bebbington on October 11th, 2009 at 9:58 am

    I did once say yes to a room in NM that had a hot tub in the bedroom – I then proceeded to drink gin whilst sat in it – I was pissed in the twinkling of an eye and passed out. I don’t recall any warning about that.

  8. Daryl Scroggins on October 11th, 2009 at 10:35 am

    I can see the sign now: Don’t Piss in the Hot Tub.

  9. Rick Neece on October 11th, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    I saw it as the D@ys Inn in Pokey. Where Danny and I stayed a few nights, on different weekends, early in the summer. We’re going to stay there a couple nights just after Christmas to celebrate Christmas and my Dad’s 80th birthday with the family (he was born on New Year’s eve 1929). This travel spot is faincy, y’all. There’s wireless interweb and a big, brassy chandelier in the foyer. There are also the plastic cups from which we’ll sip our Smirnoff after a trip to the ice machine. Danny got us the suite with a jacuzzi.

  10. Sheila Ryan on October 12th, 2009 at 7:55 am

    Rick, they got them free breakfasts at the Daze Inn there in Pokey? With orange juice in itty-bitty plastic cups like at the methadone clinic? With biscuits and gravy drying under a heat lamp? A cereal-dispensing contraption? Maybe even one of them them do-it-yourself waffle-making set-ups that you just know somebody is going to mess up? That emits an ear-piercing alarm and there stands the victim, just paralyzed and staring? And nobody can hear what the man and the lady on the TV are saying about the footage of the high-speed police chase of the lady who had a child in the car? Until a housekeeper or maybe even the desk clerk has to come over and restore the peace?

    Does everybody get a free USA Today delivered to their door or only if you are some Executive VIP Club? Or is there just a little stack there at the registration desk and you need to get there early?

    I am going to look and see can I find me pictures of the Pokey Daze Inn on the interwebs.

  11. Rick Neece on October 12th, 2009 at 9:41 am

    I don’t remember anything warm on the breakfast bar.

  12. Justin McCormick on October 21st, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    I’m glad you updated this, Sheila. I actually just took a class last term all called “Political power, influence and control.” In it, we discussed the panopticon – I happened to find it pretty interesting.

  13. Sheila Ryan on October 21st, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    So Lucy was right to encourage me! Good. Thanks, Justin.