Motel: Lake Fun

Rebecca Bengal
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Lake Fun is, or was—it’s hard to decide which is the appropriate tense—a motel in Lago Vista, Texas. It was, or is, located on the shores of Lake Travis, an 18,000-acre man-made lake in the hill country surrounding northwest Austin, on the grounds of the charmlessly named Lake Travis Resort. Much of the resort remains, but the way there is circuitous and deceptive. You may feel as though you are looking for Shangri-La itself. No one seems to know where, or if, Lake Fun truly exists.

Ask in town and you will meet blank stares. The Lago Vista liquor-store proprietor won’t know, even though he reckons he should, seeing as he’s lived in town for the past thirty years. Next door the two tanning-bed-worshipping pharmacists on duty will claim ignorance—after all, honey, we don’t really live in Lago Vista, we live in Austin. Even the local fishbait-and-beer grocer across the street will not quite understand what you mean and will interpret your request abstractly. “Lake Fun? A-ha. Go about two or three miles down the road. Then turn left. There is the beach. There is the lake. There, you will find lake fun.”

Despite being shrouded in misinformation, the resort manages to soldier on. At the entrance, Eddie’s Talk of the Town, the house restaurant, still serves catfish lunches Wednesday through Sunday.  The motel at the end of the road, however, is another story. Here, the pavement begins to crack.  The trees are scraggly, wild, and windblown. A lonely-looking, boatless dock juts out onto tall meadowgrasses and, of course, the lake itself.

The motel at Lake Fun is still standing, but from the looks of things, the Fun ended suddenly, and quite some time ago. It is comprised of  twin two-storied buildings, both painted an unmemorable shade, the middling color of an office telephone, somewhere in between gray and beige. They meet in a swimming pool, which is mostly drained and heavily bedded in fallen leaves. Plastic deck chairs,  beer cans, and other unidentified objects float in its shallow, mucky green waters.

You will not have the satisfaction of being the first trespasser to enter Lake Fun. Signs  are that many have come before you. A few of the boards shielding the concrete balconies have been pried away: inside are forty double rooms where spiders crawl over thin pastel print bedspreads, where the complimentary Gideons Bibles still nest in nightstand drawers.

Once upon a time there was a lounge at Lake Fun and today it, too, has been ransacked by local vandals, who have thoughtfully left the door open for you. Your shoes will stick to the floor. Bowls of dried-up salsa and queso line the destroyed bar; salt shakers runneth over onto the floor. But these were thrifty vandals, for not a drop of alcohol has been wasted; emptied liqueur bottles are everywhere. Apparently, the latest wave of destruction at Lake Fun was fueled by little more than grenadine, Kahlua, and Bud Light. The upstairs lounge looks like New Year’s Day: here, through a doorway of smashed glass, rests an out-of-tune piano on a parquet stage.  Anarchy signs are etched in the mirror. Pictionary cards and paper party decorations festoon a glittered carpet floor. Ceiling panels hang askew, artfully suspended in the air. The bar receipts provide a clue: according to the dates on the charge slips stacked by the register, Lake Fun has remained in this perpetual state of party since November 1999.

Would that it could forever. Rumor has it, after four years in the hands of the IRS, and at the mercy of Lago Vista’s teenaged thrillseekers, the Fun has started up again, and the motel will soon resume operations under new ownership. But just you try to find it.

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