Stepping into the R.K. Hostel in San Diego was a bit like stepping into a parallel universe, where none of the characters we encountered were quite what they seemed and you got the feeling the majority of them were harbouring a dark dark secret, or at least an incredibly interesting and complex back story. The hostel itself is in a residential area within the city’s Little Italy, and appears from the outside to be a very lovely old house complete with porch running all the way along one side; apparently in the 1920s it was a hotel, and became a gay club shortly afterwards named the Moby Dick. So there you go.
Upon our arrival at around noon on a glorious sunny day, we climbed the steps to the front door and proceeded to knock on just about every surface we could reach when we were greeted with silence and not much else. All we could hear was the swaying of the odd palm tree and every now and then the passing of a car or tram in the distance, but nothing from within the building. Our situation reminded me too much of that classic horror film scene, where a bunch of kids dare each other to go and knock on the neighbourhood haunted house’s door; I was not up for getting eaten, or cursed, or even just mildly freaked out- and we began to consider the notion that the whole place had actually closed down years ago. We were on the brink of giving up and resigning ourselves to sleeping on the beach (this was the only place within our budget that wasn’t fully booked), when frantically huffing up the front steps behind us, entered Character Number 1: a guy closely resembling Jack Black.
For the purposes of this excercise, I shall refer to him as:
Jack Black had the physique of Jack Black, the gestures of Jack Black and even the facial expressions of Jack Black. I would not be surprised if he was, in actual fact, THE Jack Black. The only differences were that he had floppier hair which he would flick out of his face by using his head alone, and that his eyes were more awkward; beneath those specs of his he was very partial to a nervous sideways glance.
He completed our hostel check-in for us by taking our money in cash and scribbling a hand-written receipt for us on a scrap of paper, then leading us in a bit of a tizz to our separate dorm rooms even though we’d booked a shared one. He helpfully moved us to a shared room a day later, because despite always having this ‘bit of a tizz’ sense about him, that’s the kind of guy he was- a helpful good’n!
Mostly he just seemed to hang around the hostel playing table tennis, listening to Florence and the Machine (I like to call her Flozza and the Mash for short) and being in a tizz, but after a few days I began to have my suspicions that there was something going on between the lovely Jack Black and…
Annie seemed to be a permanent resident of the R.K. Hostel; she was a divorced mother of four who slept in a bunk bed piled high with teddy bears and with a large cardboard box containing cereal boxes and canned food next to her. I was a real fan of Ol’Annie (she wasn’t actually old, probably early forties, but she spoke like she was Annie of Annie Get Your Gun fame and had manic reddish-brown hair that made her look like she would take no rubbish from anyone who crossed her path.) She was a fan of drinking wine and giving slightly extreme and off-kilter life advice, but in hindsight I think she’s probably a good lass with good intentions.
What a guy. Another floppy-haired one, Mr Greenpeace is one of the people from Greenpeace who approach you in the street armed with a clipboard in order to persuade you to give money to help save the world. I really appreciate Greenpeace, and the world, but it has to be said that in general I’m not such a fan of the clipboard people who run after you in the street. So: it was actually pretty nice to sit down and have a chat with someone that I’d normally run away from…upon closer inspection he was a really good lad with really great morals, and it’s a real shame we can’t get to know more people that we’d normally run away from as I think the world would probably be a way more awesome place.
THE USNAVI TEXAN
This guy kind of reminded me of the Grandad from Little Miss Sunshine, if you’ve ever been lucky enough to watch that film (and if you haven’t, then I highly recommend it because it’s da bomb). Had a good heart but with a dark side. Bald and extremely tanned, he was maybe in his fifties and seems to have had several jobs after coming out of the US Navy..at this particular moment in time he described himself as a ‘graphic designer’ though I think that’s possibly because he was attempting to redesign the hostel’s website for them in exchange for letting him stay.
The Usnavi Texan was another who enjoyed dishing out life advice whether you wanted it or not- maybe down to his Navy days, he definitely saw himself as a man of wisdom and I quite enjoyed listening to the advice even if I was unsure about whether to actually take it. No offence to him. The downside to the Usnavi Texan was that he was a real fan of, in his own words, ‘blowing people’s brains out’ and personally I find that a bit offputting in a person, but he was so helpful that I thought- ‘well, he’s probs got a good heart underneath it all.’
Again, that’s not his real name, just what I liked to call him as he really gave off a Larry kind of a vibe. The boss man with the big moustache (walrus-style), he was another real kind-at-heart soul. Larry saw that we were making pasta one day and decided he needed to help out by giving us some garlic and herbs to use for the sauce which basically MADE MY ENTIRE WEEK. (On a side note, if you’re going travelling and want to still eat food with flavour, take a couple of sachets of herbs with you as they can really brighten up the blandest of meals)
Lovely Larry was convinced that my accent was exactly the same as Queen Elizabeth herself…no way Jose, my accent is common as muck in comparison to old Lizzie, that’s for sure. But I liked that he was so adamant about it despite my protestations and questioning whether he’d actually ever heard the Queen’s accent? For a while he even had me doubting myself, that’s how strong his conviction was.
Bucky is a mildly hillbilly-style lad; a really friendly guy who was almost like a sidekick to Jack Black, finding most things that he said full on hilarious. His signature dish is called ‘Shut-Up-And-Eat-It.’ It consists of a combination of leftover takeaway food from the last few days, be it burgers, pizza, Chinese or Indian, all put in a pan and fried together. The name of the dish derives from when people ask Bucky- ‘…but what’s in it?’ And Bucky replies ‘just shut up and eat it.’ Jamie Oliver eat your heart out.
…the greatest hero of them all!!
I would say that Action Man was probably the most normal of the bunch, and if a sitcom was ever made about this hostel Action Man would be the main character, just trying to survive amongst this ragtag band of misfits. He is a healthy stealthy man who works out a lot and eats a diet consisting mainly of cereal. He was in San Diego training to teach English, and was good for a normal conversation and an admirable attitude of wanting to get the job done. You know that sort. A good guy.
THE OLD TIMER
The Old Timer was my favourite of all the people at the R.K. The friendliest most charmingest old lad I’d met in a long while, he was at least in his early seventies and could often be spotted sporting a shirt and baseball cap whilst enjoying a casual beverages and watching sports on the tellybox. That is to say, the television. He lives in San Diego- at the R.K. Hostel- during winter and returns to his home (which may or may not have been Chicago, don’t quote me on that pals) for Summer. What a bloody marvellous idea!
THE LONE RANGER
Not much is known about this one. He enjoys staring into the distance and greets everyone with a slow, solemn nod. I would say he’s the only one of the characters we met who was potentially not a good’n. Hmm.
LOGISTICAL STATISTICALS: THE ACTUAL PHYSICAL HOSTEL ITSELF
In Little Italy, fairly out of the way from the busier centre of the city but walkable within half an hour. Opposite a beaut Italian deli and close to a Starbucks, but pretty far from any kind of proper supermarket which was a slight issue.
Dorm rooms are a beaut size and divided into male or female, and privates are also available. We were moved into a room for two (with bunks), and double private rooms are apparently also available. Having a shower’s an adventure. The shared bathroom is really more of a communal shower room with mainly broken showers that feel like angry rain that really wants to do you some damage. And the lock on the door concerned me. I wasn’t sure it was 100% locked so my BF had to stand outside on guard. But I made it through and lived to tell the tale, so it was overall a success.
The R.K. Hostel provides you with breakfast and coffee if you fancy it, and proudly introduced me to Froot Loops for the first time in my life, EVER. I was quite a fan.
The kitchen is very tiny but it’s definitely possible to cook in there (much to the surprise of everyone in the hostel- ‘YOU’RE COOKING!!? WHY DON’T YOU GET TAKE OUT!?)
There’s a TV, one computer, an old bar and a ping pong table which I got slightly addicted to, and that’s about it. For me the lack of organised activities wasn’t a problem at all as we were wanting to get out and about doing our own thing, but I know a lot of people have exceedingly high expectations of what their hostel will provide.
Rates start at around $23 a night, although you can expect to pay more for a private room (around $60 for a double per night, although Jack Black very kindly moved us into a double room for no extra charge, what a legendary fellow. Also something to note- tax isn’t included in the room rate and adds on an extra 11.05% to your final bill. Cheeky, cheeky San Diego.
Overall, our stay at the R.K. Hostel could be considered a little odd…it did feel like setting foot into a sitcom with slightly Napoleon-Dynamite style vibes, but the atmosphere was very chilled out and everyone we met (aside from The Lone Ranger, obv) was downright lovely but in their own special, quirky, way.