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CITYSCAPES / MONTE MORIN

Venice Beach Hostel Offers Cheap Sleep, a Place to Call Home

February 26, 2000|MONTE MORIN

However, Wurm said the main benefits of staying in a hostel have not changed--the ability to mix with others.

"If you stay at a hostel, it's a given that you will find someone to travel with, or rent a car with or go to a club in Hollywood with. Those are givens. But you'd be damned if you thought you could go to any hotel on Century Boulevard and have that happen."

*

For my own part, it wasn't long after I signed for my shared room at the Venice Beach Hostel that I realized my first experience with international living might well be a disaster. I feared that I would be cursed in tongues I did not understand before the night was through. I might be despised.

This idea took seed as I collected my hostel-issued pillow, linens and tattered blanket and trudged up two flights of stairs to my room. My dread blossomed fully, though, when I pushed open the door, peered into the darkness and observed five rough-hammered, closely spaced bunk beds, almost all of which cradled a collection of human forms, bulging rucksacks, shoes, laundry, crumpled sheets and other items.

Mind you, I wasn't bothered at all by the temperature of the room. All that humanity had boosted it to near tropical levels. And I paid little mind to the weathered old man who wore a knit cap and briefs and shuttled dolorously from bed to bathroom repeatedly. After all, what can a guy expect for $17?

But I was profoundly shaken by the sight of all those bunk beds and their peacefully sleeping cargo. I instantly recalled a conversation I had earlier in the day with a student from Finland. Communal living was quite comfortable and no problem at all, he told me--that is unless somebody in your room snored. "Snoring is a problem," he said gravely. "Snoring is very bad."

Since I am prone to snoring, I took these words to heart. Indeed, the volume of my nocturnal exsufflations has, in the past, driven college roommates to chuck hard-bound textbooks at my head. At Army basic training, I was nearly smothered in my sleep by an enraged squad leader. What, I wondered, would they do to me here? Did other cultures permit even greater violence in response to snoring? I wondered.

When it came time finally to sleep, I climbed into my bunk, placed a pillow over my head and prepared to meet my fate. At about 6 feet, I wasn't too uncomfortable within the bunk bed's boxed frame. But since the nearest window was directly at my head, I felt as if I could carry on a conversation with people at the bus stop below.

To my surprise, I slept quite soundly that evening. The rain of tennis shoes and obscenities never came.

Maybe my snoring days were over, or maybe these were all heavy sleepers. Whichever reason it was, I decided not to push my luck and stay another night. I checked out in a hurry.

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