I recall the surreal scene of driving through wind blown sand coming from the beach while we both silently pondered the permanence of what we had just done. The silence was interrupted only by the buffeting wind and the sound of Chicago III on the tape player. This was our wedding night and following the reception, we were going to honeymoon on the Gulf Coast.
Driving from Gulfport through Biloxi, Sweet Mom and I passed numerous motels all displaying, Welcome Mississippi Bankers Convention and No Vacancy signs. With the coast running out we had little hope of finding a room. At the very end of Biloxi, near the bridge to Ocean Springs, we discovered our last chance, the Tradewinds Hotel. A stately building from a bygone era, the Tradewinds is where we at last found lodging.
Settling in for the night, we were startled by the door to the adjoining room rattling as if someone was trying to enter. After the rattling stopped, we heard no signs of occupancy. We checked from the hall and there was no sound and no light from under the door.
The following morning, we left our room. Passing the ground floor restaurant, we observed only a single family eating breakfast. Strangely, other than the nearly empty restaurant, I have no recollection of the events of most of that day. In the evening, we went to a seafood restaurant where I dined on an awful stuffed flounder. Returning to our 4th or 5th floor room, we realized that we had seen no other guests.
That night, we decided to explore this grand hotel. We first discovered that be it day or late at night, the same operator staffed the elevator. Upon entering this conveyance, we would be greeted with “and how are you this evening?” by this man every time. It seems possible that he was also the desk clerk.
After a full day, we realized that we had seen no other guests or even housekeeping staff. We explored the empty ballroom. On the second floor was a strange windowed room that appeared as an empty hospital nursery. Next to the nursery was a public bathroom with continuously flushing toilets. Roaming the empty halls, we did hear two men conversing behind a closed door. Floor to floor and hall to hall, we traveled until we heard a sound from behind a closed door. It was the voice of a parrot squawking “Get out of here, get out of here”. Continuing along, we encountered an elevator with open doors. Often I remember it as open to an empty shaft, but actually I believe the car was there, filled with stored televisions.
In order to avoid the strange man in the other elevator, we decided to take the stairs to our room. Upon entering the stairwell, the faint sounds of Roberta Flack’s song “Killing Me Softly” wafted up from some distant location. Following the music to the ground floor, we discovered a red velvet lounge. Though elegant, the dimly lit lounge was occupied by only the bartender, one woman, and a jukebox.
Well after midnight and not quite sure what to make of our surroundings, we heeded the parrots warning and we got out of there.
Over the years, we have occasionally passed the Tradewinds to make sure it actually existed. Once we took the grand tour. Everything was the same. Roaming the ballroom and empty halls, it is inconceivable to me that we took no pictures. Perhaps this was some sort of manifestation that allowed no photographs. Our last pilgrimage found the building finally closed. I presume this mysterious hotel was finally destroyed, as were the surrounding structures, by Katrina.
To this day “Killing Me Softly” remains Our Song.