My name is X. I write all the time. I don’t get out much. So when I got the opportunity to go to Las Vegas, I jumped on it, hoping to have a good time and gain some new experiences.
Well, what happens in Vegas can stay in Vegas for all I care.
You wouldn’t know a diamond if you held it in your hand
The things you think are precious, I can’t understand
—Steely Dan, “Reeling in the Years”
I am shitting in a room larger than my kitchen.
There’s room to move here. It’s a place where one can really stretch out their legs. I do precisely that, and I can’t even touch the glass-walled shower directly in front of me. To my left is a giant tub, big enough for two people, maybe three if one has an eating disorder. There would be no room for vomiting models to purge right now, though, because I am shitting. We’re going to have to move this threesome back about fifteen minutes so I can take care of some terrible business.
My guts are in a goddamned knot. Not only have I taken the first two commercial flights of my life just to get here, but I’ve taken a shuttle bus from the airport that made the Night Bus in the Harry Potter movies seem like a stretch limo. The Moscato Spumante at the airport liquor store was the right price, though, as was the fifth of shitty vodka and liter of Coca-Cola. Enough to get through the night, or at least the first couple of hours in Las Vegas.
I guess I should back up.
My wife is here on a business trip. Seminars, lawyers, suits, and ties. The company offered to pay for me to come along. Of course, I said yes. That’s a couple nights in a posh hotel with my hot wife. If nothing else, the candid photos alone will be worth the trip, right?
My wife is good at her job. This is the job she’s been waiting for, the one she can shine at and people will notice. She’ll stay here until it’s time to go, retirement, with a hefty pension and a lifetime of experience under her belt. I am all for this career path.
I am a writer, and I have to carve my own way every day. She has always been on my side and the reverse has always been true. We’re one of those disgusting couples who actually enjoy each other’s company, kiss in public, make veiled allusions to our fantastic sex life. You would hate us. I would hate us.
Neither of us have ever been to Vegas before. Why would we? We’re small town folk. She was raised in East Knoxville, where it’s still rural and real, despite that shambling wreck of a mall they built 30-some-odd years back. Smart she is, and savvy, but she is nonetheless a country girl at heart, with the accent to show it.
I’ve lived in Tennessee longer than I haven’t, and I moved from Kentucky, so what’s that tell you? High-tech redneck, perhaps, but definitely a small-town loving person. I like having everything I need for everyday life stationed within a five-mile radius of my apartment. I like knowing my neighbors just enough. I like understanding the hypocrisy of my own local government, and knowing that it’s never going to change, regardless of who we vote for.
Forget it, X. It’s Scruffy City.
But this place! Las Vegas! The Mega Cities divided into Mega Blocks and outside that, the desert, the Blighted Lands, where the Law must still be taken to the Lawless.
My first full day of flying seemed like a dream. Being a grown American who has never flown is rare. When I told people I had never been up in the air like that, they acted like I was a virgin, a leper, a retired rodeo clown.
“You’ll love it,” they said. “It’s so much fun.”
Nope. Not so much.
I actually enjoyed take-off. That sudden rush of speed, waiting for the lift, was like the purest physical re-enactment of diet pill addiction ever. Pressed back into my seat with the G-forces, I thought, just briefly, “Okay, this is cool. I can dig this.
Then the noises began.
Think about your car. There are sounds your car makes, weird little grumbles and clicks, and you know when your vehicle is making a new sound, speaking in mechanical tongues. Something’s gone wrong. You know it by the sound. The new noise is saying, “Help me.”
Aircraft have a speech pattern all their own, and it is foreign to me. It sounds harsh, like a mixture of German and that clicking speech the Bushmen use. The landing gear getting sucked up into the belly of the plane, like testicles receding into the warmth of fear’s abdomen. The sound of the engines slowing (why would you do that?) at 36,000 feet in the air. The horrible doom sensation of turbulence as it rumbles and shrieks through the floor of the airplane. The worst sound of all is the one in your head. Have I told all the important people in my life how much I love them? Will it hurt when I hit the desert floor? Will someone make sure my fiction gets published? Will I sell more books after I’m dead and, if so, will the kids get the money?
The shriek of the wheels on the landing strip is a sigh of relief, especially from my wife, as I finally released her inner thigh from the death grip I had it in all during the flight.
The pilot came on the intercom system. “Thank you for flying Delta, and especially thank you to Jeff, in seat 41-C. This is his first time flying. Don’t know why he waited so long. . . ”
Thanks, Captain. Thanks, everyone for turning and looking at me. I’m at a pizza place, and it’s my birthday. I’m a virgin. I’m a leper. I’m Darkman, dancing in his ruined lab. Come and see the freak! Only five bucks! I wave meekly and sink down into my seat.
McCarran Airport in Las Vegas is where the Minotaur lives. It must. There can be no other reason for the miles of dead-end corridors and underground maze of tubes. The tram that carries weary travelers from terminal to terminal is a sweat crush of stink. I accidentally touched a woman’s hand on the pole you hang on to for dear life. It scared me and I jerked it away, then looked at her and said, “You know nobody renews, right? There is no Sanctuary! Let me see your life-clock.”
She was happy to get away from me. And that’s fine. Any woman I can’t talk about Logan’s Run with is a woman I don’t want to know.
There are no lines on the road in Las Vegas. It’s just five lanes of chaos. Every zone is a passing zone and the Angel of Death hangs over every intersection just as surely as the signs advertising the Britney Spears shows do. And the people who drive the shuttle busses around this town are brave, insane bastards, who do not give a fuck if you live to make it to your destination.
It’s a terrible whirl around Vegas, our first glimpse of it, where shitty efficiency apartments encircle the casinos and resort hotels like tent cities. I think of the Gaza Strip. I think of the makeshift community Nada lived in for the first act of John Carpenter’s They Live. I think of the aftermath of Katrina. There is desperate poverty here in this Christing dry heat, and the disenfranchised don’t even have the energy to hold up signs. They sit beside the incongruous palm trees, staring down at the ground, almost meditative. There are no alms for the poor in Vegas, only chips, redeemable only in places they would surely be ejected from.
When will the revolution come for these poor fuckers? Gods, I look forward to the day when they swarm over this town of gilded shit-box skyscrapers, demanding their free drinks while playing the slots, setting fire to the idols. Burn, Gordon Ramsay! To hell with you, Celine Dion! Drag Siegfried and Roy from their retirement mansion and beat them to death with a tiger! Dig up the corpse of Frank Sinatra and parade it up and down the strip, strapped the hood of a goddamned shuttle bus! Grab the skeleton of Peter Lawford, too, to bring us all martinis! It’s our town, now! Bread and circuses! Gladiatorial style class warfare! This motherfucker from St. Louis who just sold his sign company versus this stupid shitheel from Nebraska who just put four more oil wells on his property! Thumbs up? Thumbs down? If you want blood, you’ve got it! Let it roll! Let it all come down in fire, sweat, and Fendi bags!
All this before we even got to the hotel.
. . . to be continued . . .