Vegas 2018 —or— AM40

I.  Neck Willow.  

I’m an untapped resource.  I’m a gathering storm.

“Place the six and the eight for $12 each.”  My total investment: $24.  If either number is rolled before the next seven, I win $14.  If a seven is rolled first, I lose both bets.  If I hit a couple of my numbers, I deploy some of those profits as bets on the five and the nine.  Then I have five, six, eight and nine covered.  A seven still means I lose all of my chips on the table.

We took off.  A metal bird aloft in the dark blue.  Airport lights twinkling below like forsaken stars.  “Go to sleep now, folks.”  Now the clouds, too, are beneath us.  The sun has risen.  It has caught us fleeing west, again.

Led Zeppelin then.  “Gallows Pole”, off of III.  A grade school friend introduced.  Where the hell is he at now?  That was 28 years ago.  Is that even possible?  Doesn’t seem it.  “Stairway to Heaven” was on the overhead system at the grocery this week or last.  I haven’t sought that song out in years upon years, thinking it hackneyed.  As I slowly bumped along the aisles it struck me again how good a song it is.  The band’s instrumentation will stand up forever, or for as long as I’m around, at least.

E Vaughan with the laptop on the airplane.

Here’s one of those turbulence pockets the pilot warned us about—jump!

“I’m given her all she’s got, cap’n.  That headwind is a-blowin ferce.”

“At about seventy-five knots, would you say?”

“Right on the nose, cap’n.  No sign’s a-batin.”

Back behind us, in the east, exhalation of sunset, color of trout fly.  Spinner, minnow, lacewing, dace.  Wrinkled skin of cloud, dry to the touch, ancient and new.

Brian Jonestown Massacre follows.  I don’t want to say it too loud, they’ll toss me off this bird.  Shout out to my buddy in Oakland.  You know who I’m talking about.  What is this, Facebook?  Move it along.  Next chapter.  She’s taking orders.  It’s never too early for a drink on a flight to Vegas.

Turkey time!  “Is Wild Turkey alright?”  Did Bernoulli’s Principle get this bird in the air?  Were my earbuds tangled when I took them out of my pack?

I tap the passenger at my left, say

“Did you run water through the coffee before we left?”


“Did you unplug it?”


Now she makes a play for my neck pillow.  What’s a guy gonna do?

“Bron-y-aur Stomp.”  Can’t beat it.

“How many rocks?” asks the flight attendant.

Odd question.  Doing the math in my head.  One, two, three…


“I got yelled at one time for putting too much ice in.”

The clouds are coating themselves in the morning glow.  Warmth for these eyes.  We’re somewhere over Kansas.

Breakfast biscuits on the handoff, peanuts, recalcitrant pen.  Re-cal-ci-trant.

B is looking at this page.  I’m covering it with my hand.  She gooses the back of my left knee.

P Vaughan with the peanuts, in the lavatory.

This is a newer plane.  A 737 Max.  Up ahead in the cabin, an increase in light—an opening—caught my eye.  For a moment it seemed someone was opening a door, an exit row door.  Because you are reading this you know it was only a window shade, lifted unto morning.

The drink arrives.  Whew.  Wrinkle my nose, tentative sip.  I know what you’re wondering—I thought the same thing.  Is it the 80 or the 101?  There’s always a little mystery where the Turkey’s concerned.  I’m no expert but this libation packs the punch of the 101.

I kept the cup from the plane
I kept the cup from the plane

Plastic turbulence pain
Don’t want no acid in rain

They make a landfill profane
They are the future’s drink bane

I kept the cup from the plane

“Thank you, thank you.  That’s an old Jack Randall tune, written way back in the teens as you might have guessed, on a plane.  I’m not sure how people ever got onto those things….”

I believe E Vaughan is working on an appraisal.  No overhead light.  Eyes of adamantium, proverbial and bearded.

I am a little thirsty.  I happened to have a little Turkey before bed last night.  I don’t mind being a little dehydrated for a flight.  I’ll be hitting the fountain in McCarran.

With her fingers and sidelong eyes, mouthing the words, B asks me if I want the neck pillow back.  I demur.

“Stand down, soldier!”

II.  Put a Heart on It.

On the middle pane of what I gather is a triple-pane window, ice crystals branch out and flow according to the formula of fractals.  I’ll never forget the cover of that book Chaos by James Gleick.  High-school era.  Borders, or Library Limited.  With Ray.  He might’ve bought me a copy at one time.  I might’ve read it.  I definitely picked it up and looked at it a lot and thought about how awesome it was, as an object, a volume.  I loved those fractals on the cover, looking like Buddha.

That book along with The Coming Plague by … Laurie Garrett?  I’m not confident I’ve got that right.  Ray was big into Richard Preston then.  A book about the steel industry?  Or mining?  I was devouring Michael Crichton.  As a high school freshman, I can remember having Jurassic Park at an overnight retreat for this group called Lifesavers.  We were bunked in a cabin at some conference-getaway type venue.  Ondessonk?  If it was more than one night it wasn’t more than two.  After dinner we gathered in a big dining hall sort of room, maybe we folded all of the tables up, from circles into semicircles, and then wheeled them across hard, thin carpet to the edges of the room.  This allowed us to sit on the floor in a big oval.  There might’ve been sixty people, high schoolers of either sex, plus chaperones and counselors.  The lights were off.  We were invited to share our secrets or to share anything that we might’ve wanted to get off our chests.  It floored me how many of the students shared accounts of being abused or molested.  I didn’t say anything.  Someone else told a story about refusing to come to the phone when her grandma called.  Then her grandma died two days later.  I had nothing awful to share.  That’s how lucky I had been by then, still am.

The embarrassing part is what I did when the next Lifesavers retreat was scheduled.  I must’ve seen it listed somewhere, written on the chalkboard in math class or something. I was thinking, “Well, I’m part of this group, so I guess I’m going to have to get ready to go on another retreat.”  I packed for it.  I had my sleeping bag in the car when my mom drove me to school.  In the back of my mind I wasn’t 100 per cent sure I was invited.  I must have asked my mom to wait a bit in the drive out in front of old Belleville West  before she left me off, so I could confirm I was on the list indeed.  I went to the room of the teacher who was in charge of the Livesavers program.  She had to tell me that a whole new batch of students would be going on this retreat; that I wasn’t on the list; that Lifesavers was more of a one-off kind of thing, not recurring.

More water, more Brian Jonestown, Turkey down.

I just stabbed B with the red drink stirrer, the one with the Southwest luv heart at the other end.  On the staff part it says, “Please recycle”.  It’s a PS #6, polystyrene.  But I don’t think it’s really recyclable, not in practice.  I’d put it in the group with plastic silverware which—at least in University City—are among the list of otherwise apparently recyclable items that they don’t want you putting in the recycling bins.  Too small perhaps, gets stuck in the machine.  Or, at best, slips through the cracks, to the floor, to the garbage.

“Don’t stab me,” she says.

But it has a heart on it.

III.  The Mountains and the Planes.

We all piled into our room at Bellagio for a boisterous couple of hours late on a Saturday morning.  Drinks etc.  Eventually the other couples began to get texts alerting them to the readiness of their rooms.  Josh and Tab, Spa Tower 15611.

“No, man.  I don’t think you understand.  The fish are multiplying, man.  The sea is boiling!”

That looks like rain out there, over the patch of city east of downtown, between here and the mountains.  Those mountains are probably farther away than I would guess.  You can see for miles and miles in the desert, making distances illusive.  There’s haze out there at least, or dust kicked up by a little wind.  Immediately below us is the top rung of the Bellagio parking garage. An old blue Chevy pickup truck is leaving.  Because the mountains are obscured by casinos I want to see the more of them that much more.  Clouds lay above them, in gestures.  Planes steadily leave McCarran International, just east of the Strip at its south end.  Just as soon as they leave they come curling back in.  A slat running along the windowsill says, “For fresh air ventilation, PUSH.”  I do push, and I never let go.

The strike of the tower.  It’s Notre Dame Cathedral across Las Vegas Blvd at Paris Casino.  It’s 16:00 western standard time.

“Do flows cry backward?”

IV.  Upgrade, Bitches.

Tab sent a photo out via text, from the hotel looking west.  I saved it to my iPod and made it the lock screen.  It is a starker view than the one we have, clean of the Strip, in some ways better.  More Mojave.  As we readied to go downtown for dinner I told B about the serial shooter in Las Vegas.  Someone’s been going around shooting the homeless.

I was sitting at the desk jotting down information or things I wanted to remember.  I wasn’t carrying a phone.  “Get photos from Eric,” I wrote to myself.  He had taken some photos of me and Michelle and Anne Marie in front of the sparkle pony—the disco donkey—down in the Bellagio lobby, under all that Chihuly glass.

I made note of a few bars downtown.  The Downtown Cocktail Room, at 111 S. Las Vegas.  Artifice at 1025 S. 1st Street, where they have house music starting at nine p.m.  The Griffin, on Fremont between Las Vegas and Sixth.

It was later, at The Griffin, when I pulled out this pen and paper.  Pat introduced the comic thread about “Jack’s getting out his cell phone.”  He made me smile.

“Don’t make me get the Rio de Janeiro out,” I said.

He said, “Downtown’s dirtiest sports bar.  Will you CC me on that?”

I’m sending an email, I’m doing ApplePay—all with this pen and paper.  The double is really only a single but for a single it’s still a generous pour.  The music is loud and sporadic.  Wood, gas, flame, low-slung couches.

“Thrift store paintings on the wall.”

I’m writing this surrounded by seven folks.

“People keep talking about the Denny’s on the Strip,” someone says.

“Jack’s writing a Yelp review of the pizza place.”

I was just about to send you a text.

V.  Which Tall Guy?

I say strong finish, a nod to the ice dancing team from Japan.  She’s out cold, clean.  The tall guy, a slight nod, assignation.

Which tall guy?

Japan takes the lead.  62.15.  Now the Shibutanis, from Michigan.

Alternating, rotating, ephemeral.  The blue sub-balcony lights of The Cosmopolitan.  We have that fresh air ventilation slat still cracked, it’s whistling, portending the gusts, white noise, fresh air, acceptable temp with covers.  Tomorrow perhaps another story.

I’m sending you a text right now.  Are you getting it?

VI.  Sunday Morning Sidewalk.

What I didn’t bring that I wish I would’ve:  a watch and a tube of Vaseline.  We’ve gotten americanos.  It’s not yet seven, pacific standard.

Budget time.

Sun spend:  SBUX cash tip $2.

Swatch store check.  That’s confirmed, ma’am.  Up in the shops across from The Wynn, past the Venetian.

Later, dateline Eggslut, Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.  The other item I wish I would’ve brung (brought? brunch?  brush?

VII.  Doodle.

Back at Bellagio.  Artwork vending machine in Cosmopolitan, $5, pull the knob, like a cigarette machine.  This machine, at one time, must itself have been a cigarette machine.  I pulled for a “Doodle” by Kitty Russell.  It’s “black archival ink on Bristol vellum, with a bit of color added.”  More than a bit of color, I’d say.

The clock of Notre Dame strikes nine.

“How many eggs does that place go through?”  I asked.

“Are you going to the buffet?” she replied in non sequitur, “because that one was tasty.”

VIII.  I LV LV (2012)

We are back in The Cosmopolitan.  This time we arrived via the walkway to Vdara.  Once in Vdara we exited its front before walking to the left down a long outdoor staircase to the back/oblique of The Cosmopolitan, which we entered through its garage/pick-up area.  We saw three of our group up ahead of us once we took an escalator up a story and exited the gaming area.  My favorite part about this place is the sprawling, winding area connecting the restaurants and shops with the second-floor casino.  There are myriad seats and sitting areas, along with old photos and five large dog statues that are really quite awesome.

There are a couple pieces of art in the restaurants area, to the left of the juice bar, each by the same artist.  They’re the same size, large, 6′ x 10′ rectangles, portrait as landscape, portrair.   Oil on canvas?  Colorful.  Not too crowded, with energy.  They are suggestive of landscape or fauna—oyster shells, a lobster tail.  Mountains, sky, a field, a waterfall, a creek.  Now a gal’s getting her photo taken in front of the painting I’m describing.  I did the same a few hours earlier!  Orange, blue, purple—black.  Excellent use of black.  For form, and edging.  The gal is back in front of the painting for round two of photos!

The artist is Curtis Kulig, of New York, New York.  The painting was done in 2012, “I LV LV”.  I love Las Vegas?  The plaque referenced his “Love Me” campaign.  B is looking him up—these could be some of his (her?) best paintings.

IX.  Eric Gets the Blues.

The Braves are at 150/1 to win the 2018 World Series.  The White Sox are expensive at 40/1.  The Cardinals are 10/1.  The Blue Jays at 40/1 look alright.  Same for the Diamondbacks at 25/1.

Eric has a bet on the Blues game.  It’s 1-1 them and Pittsburgh.  We’re in the Bellagio sports book, sitting in cushioned chairs reminiscent of recliners.  I’m sipping water.  I’d buy a drink if asked.

I’ve been reading the craps book a little but I’m still daunted by the prospect of walking up to the table and trying to play.  The lights are low in the sports book.  My eyes are strained and my poor head is taut and pressing behind them.  Over the speaker above me is audio for a professional basketball game.  It’s not quiet but the mood is subdued.  It’s a heckuva nice place to sit.  “Do you want soft skin with five times the moisture?”  Actually,

The third period begins.  It’s still 1-1.  I love being here thinking my dad is also watching the game.  He would love to watch it here.


St Louis Blues defenseman Pietrangelo scores on a floater.  Perhaps the shot was tipped.  With too high a stick?  The referees are looking at the replay.  They have now waved it off.  Eric curses.

I’m thinking about ordering that double vodka last night.  Now the Penguins score.  My dad would say, “You knew it was gonna happen!”  A Blues power play fizzles.


“That was ugly.”

The Winter Olympics are not featured prominently on any of the many screen in here, though.  It appears there aren’t any Olympics bets available.  There are ten minutes remaining in the hockey game, it’s still 2-1 Penguins.  On one small screen is some cross country skiing, dominated by the Norwegians.  Behind me, a couple of patrons are talking about curling.  Pittsburgh scores again, 3-1.

I order a vodka on the rocks.

“Do you have a drink card or do you want to start a tab?”

“I’ll pay cash.”

The horse racing is from Gulf Stream.

Wow, was that an expensive vodka.  The price is so high I’m embarrassed to admit it.  Could be Tito’s.  Less than three minutes remaining in this hockey game.  I’m thinking back to the lunch I had on Friday at my parents’.  Mom made BLTs.  I sat there and ate.  We talked about the Super Bowl.  Pittsburgh scores again.  Eric throws in the towel.  It all fell apart after the disallowed goal.

X.  Stars and Bars.

I’m on the slots, baby!

Three Quick Hits, you get a credit back.  I plan to rendezvous with Eric near the blackjack tables, a little later.  That’s a $15 minimum.  We talked about hitting the craps at Casino Royale after that.

Free games bonus!  They’re spinning along, there’s a quad Quick Hit.  More bonus games.  I still have a dozen free to chew through.  …  That lasted a while but I don’t have much to show for it.  I’m back up to 96¢.  I’m scratching this out one red cent at a time.  There’s a Quick Hit quad—five cents.  Four sevens, 50 credits, my biggest win yet.

What’s the price of anonymity?  Better: what’s the cost?  “You offer me something but you want to know me.”  I demur.

Bonus games.  Fifteen free.  Here we go.

Now I’m just under two bucks.  Let’s grind.

Free games!  3x normal play.

Six Quick Hits.  Now I’m at $3.47.

Six Quick Hits again.  Three bells, five cents.  Games!  Seven free.  Uneventful.  I’m at $3.74.  The cocktail waitress has been by several times for drinks.  I did check to confirm that there wasn’t any cost, just the tip.

C’mon, seven.  Grind and grind.  That’s the only tenable strategy.  Posture, posture.  Shoulders can’t drag me down.  Games.  This slot machine is called “Stars and Bars”.

Twenty free games.  The payout on credits won during the free games goes from double the normal to triple the normal when you get twenty free games.

Bars across the board, 75 credits. Honestly, I thought it’d be more.  Two quad Quick Hits in a row.  I’m at $4.49.

I’m live blogging this, Pat!

Five Quick Hits, pays ten.  I’ve been at this a little while now, after watching my first foray—a single quiescent dollar—evaporate suddenly in one spin (on a different machine, that piece of shit!)  I think when I sat down the spin button was set to play twenty lines at five credits a line, 100 credits, instantly down the drain.  That’s why I grind it out.

XI.  Limes on the Staircase.

“Do you want any fruit?”

I’ve been asked that question at least three times in the last twenty-four hours.  It’s not a bad question to ponder but I haven’t ordered another vodka, rocks, lime because I’ve run out of singles.  I should’ve carried all I had.  Vegas—you can never have too many singles.

Back to the grind though I admit I’m starting to have trouble focusing.

I’m out at $4.  Ticket printed.

XII.  Vegas, At Elevation.

Things with pockets:  pants, a cardigan, a pool table.  I have an order out for another vodka.  I cashed out my $4 gaming voucher to reap some singles but I’ve moved.  It’s a different waitress and I’ve left my good machine—mistake.  I did locate Eric at the blackjack tables.  He looked mid-game.  Maybe he saw me, probably not.  I’m a ghost, I’m a whisper, I’m the specter with the fanny pack.  I left him be.  I put a dollar into this machine, start anew.  I’m down to seventy credits.  Twenty free games led to nothing.

Drink is here.  I’m sucking on the slice of lime.  Lady sat down on the slot to my right—she’s killing it.  Now she’s leaving, quick as a tic.  Oh, she’s only moving down one machine—shifty!  Just when I started to profile her she gave me the stiff arm.  She knew.  She hits again!  Pretty good vodka pour.  Free here versus $20 in the book!  She hits again.  Her posture says: no big deal.  Her payout continues, the machine’s ecstasy escalates, ding ding whir, bells and whistles.

I’m cold as an airplane here.  Her machine continues to giggle and grabass.  This machine hates me.  She’s out.  That was a robbery.  Stone cold!  I’m looking at her screen.  I think she won $60.  At least.  I’m on the moon here, eating lunar rocks.  41¢ and sinking.  Five Quick Hits is ten cents.  This is the worst machine ever.

A group of Flyers fans is milling around, casting off some pretty damp juju.  Three are in sweaters, one in an orange suit.  Not an orange jumpsuit—an orange ‘business’ suit.  They’re excited about something.

I receive an offer for another vodka.  Every stitch of my wants me to say yes but I decline.  I’m at six cents.  Max bet.  That’s it.

XIII.  Mid Upper East Side Casino Tour.

Casino tour for craps tables.  Just lookin’.  Now for fish and chips at Gordon Ramsay’s.  Me and Eric.  I am wishing my dad was here to reintroduce me to the craps tables.

Casino Royale, Harrah’s, The Linq*, Flamingo.  Then I mentioned food.  We abrupted an In-N-Out mission and beelined for the fish and chips.  I am number 248.  I thought he was saying 228.  He just about pulled it back.  I’ve got it now.

XIV.  Hotel Room, Before Dinner.

The churchbells of Notre Dame sound five.

“You gonna Übe it up
        or do a little Lemon Lyft?”

It’s been, pretty much, a raging success.

Not that there’s animosity—but there’s also no rapport.

“Pat wanted me to to take a photo with my phone and then go over to Walgreens to get it printed and then give it to you and say it’s an Instagram.”

XV.  Firefly.

This is before the second sangria pitcher, before we receive at the table three paella.  I’m thinking it is going to be very bad.

There are eight of us there at Firefly.  Goat cheese and dates.

“I think maybe we should’ve ordered two of the paellas.”

“I think we’re good.”

“It’ll hold.”

Shashitos, tartare, winter salad.

“I’m your goddam brother.  What happened to bros before hoes?”

XVI.  Analog Slot.

I’m back on the Stars and Bars.  It’s about midnight, February 12, 2018, Anne Marie’s fortieth.  Are we going into Lily?  I’m nursing a vodka.  This machine is cold.  The shoelace of my right-foot shoe is come undone, again.

Games!  Only five free.

Three bells.

Quick Hit in the night.

Dollar drink ordered.  How long will they continue to offer these drinks?  That’s another way of asking the classic question I stumbled upon one night: how long will they go on selling us bread?

Josh is a couple machines over.  Now he leaves.

I wonder about the beer he ordered.  Eleven free.

Looking over to my right I see the couple from the tram.  The wife was the driving force behind the impromptu singing of happy birthday for Anne Marie.  She blushed, she loved it, we all did.

A bar followed by three sevens pays.  That’s the Stars and Bars.  Five credits.  My vodka has arrived.  Ten free games.

Bar, seven, cherry.  Bell.  Games!  Sextuple Quick Hitter.  And games.  This is a bonanZa.  I have not see the six Quick Hits before.  There’s a quad.  I’m back over $17 after having started at $20.  Games.  Eleven.  The games icons don’t have to be all lined up in the one row that my bet is restricted to.  That’s the arbitrage play in this game.  Even though I’m only paying for one line I can still reap some payouts from other lines as long as they are “visible” among the user-facing.  There’s a fiver.  A trio of Quick Hits, the minimum, my 1¢ back.  Nor do the Quick Hits have to be all in a row on my one paid line (my main street).  I can still win on them even if they are slightly off kilter.  They’ll get rid of these machines before long, same time as they take the free drinks out back and leave them in the dumpsters.  This machine is an analog.  It has wheels that spin, like a watch.  The slots that are nothing but computer monitors are not my thing.

XVII.  The Beat Paradox.

They’ll definitely get rid of the limes.  Poor old lime rinds on the analog stairwell.  Dropped there last night, last week, last year?  One looked pretty old, broke-down and wasted.  Scurvy patient would’ve eaten it.  I’ve hit a lull here, you probably noticed.  Hey, the slot machine hard rubber forearm rest makes a decent writing desk.  Who holds a pen to paper and plays slots?  Who grinds it out, one line, one credit at a time?  Who sucks on limes?  Who gets games?  Seven of them.  Wins nothing as a result.

Two sevens and a bar pays two.  Don’t deny me free games!  I guess I will be writing this trip up.  I’ve gotten a decent amount.  It’s a fine line to walk on a trip.  I need to sit still to write but I need to do something fun/interesting/memorable in order to have something to write about.  That’s the Beat Paradox.  If I don’t write something down right away while I’m drinking, I’m probably not going to be able to remember it or at least not sufficiently so as to render an account the next day.  This makes things difficult.

I nearly told my Down Undah joke outside the restaurant after we ate but I abstained at the last moment, the scent of reefer wafting in the air.

“How you doin’ hon?”

Oh, let me count the ways.  Another vodka is on its way, another lime.

Recycling in the Linq.  Did I mention that already?  (No, but that’s what that * was for, to remember about seeing receptacles in the Linq explaining that all of the trash gathered at the Linq is sorted for the purpose of culling recyclables.  I took a bag of recycling there the last morning of the trip, plastic bottles and cups, a few Busch cans, mixed paper….)

I’ve not had a drag of a cigarette today, though my lungs will say they’ve had plenty of the secondhand.  And now I realiZe I am out of paper.  How did I let that happen?

XVIII.  Sleeping in the Bathroom.

I’ve now got paper.  And a buZz on, seems a shame t’waste it on sleeping.  But I’m slogged the wet noodle—another paradox, the climbing drop of a bodily trade in drinks.

I’m outside or just opposite the guest elevators to Spa Tower, top floor 26.  There is no floor two or three.  Where didst they go?  Didst they ever exist?  Neo-today mix of ‘California Dreaming.’  Otherwise quiet.  Security hawks checking cards—human labor.  No slot to stick your card in only to have it reject you infinite times, get a new card.  Hello, human.

Scratching on this little pad of paper.  My ears are a mailbag.  I pick up a discussion about how a guest can get people up to her room in Spa Tower.  We’re on the tenth floor.  View of the Strip:  Paris, its Tower, the Arc de T.

“I think my friend’s wife might be sleeping in the lady’s bathroom.”


“The possibility’s pretty high.  She went in and didn’t come out.”


“You didn’t see her pass this way?”

“What does she look like?”

“I tried to tell them and they didn’t want to listen to me.”

XIX.  Nice and Bright Down Upon this Paper.

It’s nearly 2 am, Monday, February 12.  Door clattering noise in the hall.  I’ll have to plug up.

I’m not exactly wasted right now but I’ll pay tomorrow for today, no way I know of pushing it any farther.  Not enough time.  I hope B sleeps in some or maybe this’ll be me going out to breakfast, coming back to sleep again.  I see Cosmopolitan, I see Aria.  We took a tram all along there—an undersold feature for sure.  It was a Monorail Lite and it was free.  It runs from Bellagio to Monte Carlo, which would be a crowded jaunt on the Strip.  Monte Carlo, though, was a shell of its former self.  We enjoyed playing the slots at Monte Carlo in 2010 but it was not the same place today.

Earplugs in, mouthguard in, legible scrawling.  I’ve my headlamp on.  Nice and bright down upon this paper, allowing my poor eyes a respite.

The vertical blue under balcony lights of Cosmo appear, then fade, then they’re gone forever.

XX.  The Cashout Voucher

The balconies at The Cosmopolitan are pretty high up there.  From one balcony drops a cashout voucher.  It’s very windy.  The voucher floats, flips and twists.  Moves like that would win a gold medal in half the Olympic Games.  The voucher alights, we’re right there, we’ve been watching it the whole time but … some random schmo steps into the right place at the right time, snags it.  He never even sees us.  Doesn’t care.  How much was on the cashout voucher?  How much was it worth?  But now we don’t even want to know.  The wind whips silly in our ears.  We press on, never to hear him exclaim, never to hear him silent.

Everyone has enemies, everyone has skeletons.  Here the casino is your enemy, and they’ve got the keys to your safe.

XXI.  High Limit Pocket Pool.

I should’ve just sat with my sixes and eights.  It’s boring but it lasts longer.  It made me think of that scene in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves where the flunky asks The Sheriff of Nottingham, played by the late great Alan Rickman, why it is that he wants to carve Robin Hood’s heart out with a spoon.

“‘Cause it’ll hurt more!” 

The trick is to figure out how to make these casinos hurt more. 

I had to drop $20 to press the place bet strategy to the fives and nines but a seven is rolled soon enough and that $20 disappears quickly.  I wanted, tried to place $5 each on the five and nine—rejected.

I feel like I have to have some free games coming up here.  If the choice is love yourself or hate yourself you better choose love yourself because if you decide to start hating yourself you’re not going to be around for much longer.  I’ve been live blogging this whole trip, only nobody knows it.  I’m back on the machine I ended on last night.  It’s probably eleven o’clock.  To my three o’clock is the poker room, packed.

Immediate games.  A mere seven free.  It is busier in here than last night as last night was busier than the night before it.   So Saturday was the off night?

Eleven free.  Games within games.  Cirque de Soleil high-interactive slot (it has a loveseat) is paying out big.  Yet, the two folks sitting in that loveseat are not aroused.  In the birthday card to Anne Marie I did spell Lionel Richie’s name incorrectly—there is no ‘t’ in ‘Richie’.  I’m also unsure, now I realize, whether she uses a dash in her name.

XXII.  Monday, 1 of 2: Red Box Tomorrow.

I’m getting no drinks over here at all, though.  My $36-plus of last night is at $30.45.  Not that I need a drink.  Tonight is fragged, defrocked, decommissioned.

Pat described me to the lyfter as being “self-employed”.  There was grace in that description—magnanimity and love.  If Patrick Vaughan isn’t the decent guy I think he is then I am a fool and not interested in this world.  Okay, he has to take his newsboy cap off as we enter the restaurant but other people’s t-shirts and Notre Dame sweatshirts are OK?  Please.

There were four of us, not counting the driver, crammed into a MaZda-3 on the way home from Fremont.

“So, what do you guys do?”

“Real estate, finance, self-employed and I’m a motion graphics editor.”

I think that’s how he described himself—in motion graphics.  His burly brother was sitting between us.  Josh was up front, talking in lines of reminiscence.

Cigarette smoke, hub-bub, fin.  I’m at the end of this link in the chain.

How were we overdressed?  How were B and I the ones overdressed on Fremont?  I have one good outfit, I wore it, and it was all wrong.  A black man, was he a bum, I paid him no mind, asked me if the jacket was cashmere.  It is not.  I knew then the score, and I was on the losing end.

Now I’m at a table toward Spa Tower from the main lobby back at Bellagio.  At one point before the trip I was worried we made a mistake not staying down on Fremont.  I don’t have that worry now.  It’s not my crowd there.  It’s loud—why, how is it so loud?  I was down $44 on craps at the Golden Nugget.  I was placing on 8 even when it was the shooter’s point.  I neglected to mind the on/off button the croupier slides around.  The dice are rolling, one caroms up, off the inner ring, and out of the table altogether.  Dice down.  I went to the cashier to buy the chips.  Nope.  “You buy the chips at the table.”

Several hundreds went down that slot.  I brung one hundred, my dad’s, it’s up in the safe.  I have so much reverence for that bill, and now I’m out of time.  AM and Pat are on to Seattle.  Three nights in Vegas, over and out.  My gaming voucher for “Bellagio Resort” is worth $30.42.

“Red Box is tomorrow,” says someone in passing.

XXIII.  Monday, 2 of 2:  The Williams Wash.

I am scattered and sodden.  Upbeat, acceptable music plays over the speakers.  Looking out the window I can see one of the large pools, translucent and blue.  In the Lyft Josh was talking about living in Las Vegas for a short time when he was young, 5 or 6 years old.  He had a stuffed-animal monkey that he kept throwing out the window, pissing off his mom.  His dad traveled a lot, he said.  He was nostalgic for what he knew as the Vegas of old, when Fremont was the Strip.

Our Lyfter, of Laguna, California, did he say he lived in Vegas while younger, as well?  He was saying he could remember when Caesar’s was “out here all alone”.  Pushing the Strip outward, southward.  This dance music isn’t bad.  I wish we could have spent a little more time in one of our rooms, hung out there—had a hang sesh.  A hotel room is a great place to drink, listen to music, and chat.

I played right into the Williams Wash this trip—I moved, I walked, I traveled, and, yet, I rarely really talked.  Not as part of any conversation.  What talking did I do?  I am aware that I—as is the case for anyone—have the ability to set or at least to influence the tone of an evening.  But I get bashful, timid, shy.  Aloof is not unfair.  I wasn’t even anxious today!—no gummies.  Not too rundown by booZe.  Yet complacent, maybe a little tired, and just … held back.  I want to be known yet I restain myself.  I am unsure how to take the first few steps.  At least I bellied up to that Golden Nugget craps table.  But at a $10-minimum, heck, I could have had that here at Bellagio.

It’s a language, a fluency to reach for.  “How many languages do you speak?”  That question lay in the book I was reading this trip, Don DeLillo’s The Names.  It is one of his better books.  How many languages do you speak?  It’s a question to which my answer is a shame to me.  Ta onómata.  The names.  Being at the craps table proved my ignorance, roiled my belly, felt necessary.  I’ll never go to a cashier for chips again.  I don’t think the croupier even liked where I was placing my chips when I was setting them on the layout.  I had one roll.  It was not hot.  There’s got to be an alternative strategy for $10 minimums.  I’m not sure when I’ll be back here—when I might test that strategy is anyone’s guess.

XXIV.  Ventilation Strip.  

It’s not quite midnight, February 12, 2018.  I am back in the room.  I like getting the ambient noise via the ventilation strip on the window.  I keep mentioning it, so it must be true!  I am savoring this downtime in the room, still high on secondhand nicotine.  I don’t even have to chew gum to get my fix on the floor.  Secondhand smoke was the original vaping.

“You vape?”


“I just go to a smoky bar and sit there.”

I have yet to play my mom’s keno numbers.  That is tomorrow morning’s top priority!

It looks like it rained out there a little.  Spots are suddenly reflective down across the face of the parking lot.

As I recline in the bed, the Aria marquee peaking out from behind the East Tower of The Cosmopolitan hits me with a brilliant LED flash.  I should close the drapes.  I should at least deploy the sheer.  But I can’t close my eyes to the Strip.

XXV.  Epilogue:  The Bus Home.

B was looking at me, no not at me, over me.  Glare on her glasses.  With my eyebrows I ask her.

“The mountains,” she says.

We are at the airport, gate C7.  We will board in roughly thirty minutes.  I had an idea for a hobby, and maybe a blog or a site.  Dump your phone.

Good news: our flight to St. Louis—the Tulsa leg—will be only 80% full.

The blog will have stories about not using my iPhone—the unvarnished truth.  Maybe I will end up concluding it’s a bad idea.  I need to check some URLs.  I’d put tips and tricks on there: how to use pay phones.  I saw pay phones at Bellagio—there aren’t any coin slots anymore, you have to use a credit card.  As a hobby, it has real potential.  Über and Lyft would be out.  Taxis would be big, as would public transport.

Thinking back on this trip, I can say it best by borrowing a sentiment from DeLillo, to say that I was happy in a certain way, as someone is happy who learns that his motives are not complicated after all.  I’m a filthy lucky son of a saint.

—Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

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