The last week before I migrate to Las Vegas is always peaceful, yet stressful, and I waiver back and forth between moments of tranquility and utter depression. I've been through the Las Vegas meat grinder five summers in a row. I nearly died a couple of times. I've lost weeks of my life trying to recover in the ensuing months from the intense workload. In short, the last five summers have been hell -- which is the price I pay in order to have a pleasurable ten months.
Lost Vegas is about four of those summers.
My summers in Vegas are so crucial because I generate the majority of my income in those two months. That's also the prime time to make deals and set my freelance schedule for the rest of the year. The hallways offer up tremendous opportunity -- job offers, project collaborations, out-right exploitation, and the occasional bids to sell Tao of Poker. Yeah, the summers are the time of the year when I can't afford to make any fuckups creatively or on the business end. No wonder I'm so stressed. When I first started out in 2005, I had nothing to lose and I just focused on writing and getting to the end. Each year, I find more and more responsibility and expectations padding my summers when I've come to a point when I want less and less of that sort of stuff and want to return to the fun side of the equation -- writing.
So tough to walk that fine line, especially in a city like Las Vegas that tempts all of weaknesses. It's tragic to say goodbye to the people who love in your real life and then they get blocked out of the Vegas black hole. That's why I equate the summers to a stint in jail or shipping off to war. You hope for the best but you always come out of it changed and usually not for the better.
I feel helpless every summer when I see my girlfriend and my friends slowly turn into zombies and suffer multiple breakdowns. It happens to the strongest of minds -- a mental freakout -- because it's impossible to be inside a casino for seven straight weeks without losing your mud. And when you fall, you fall hard. Since I'm always trying my best to keep my shit together, I overlook everyone's anguish. I never realized how ugly it got until last summer. After 20 days away, I returned to Las Vegas (in a manner that Mean Gene aptly described in a recent post) and saw my friends souls sucked out and their life forces utterly demoralized. I was wrought with guilt because I was helpless and couldn't help them -- they had to help themselves and gut out the last three weeks.
I did what I can to prepare for the summer, and read books to give my mind a thorough work out. Nicky and I went to Zuma beach and soaked up the sun, enjoying the last bit of nature before we're huddled inside a casino. I also attempted to sleep as much as possible -- to rest up before the firefight.
I also didn't write much and attempted to unplug, which I did for the most part. I slipped here and there, but I was pleased with my overall effort to reduce all that time handcuffed to the machine.
I was packed and ready to go 16 hours before launch time. I don't have much stuff, but definitely a lot more than the first time I moved to Vegas. The morning of the journey, I woke up early, packed the car and was pleased to see that Nicky had packed lighter than ever. We actually had more room than I anticipated.
The drive is the same drive we've done too many times to count. We made good time and did the run through bat country in less than four hours. We met the leasing company rep and we finally had our summer home. The entire process was more stressful than I desired due to a couple of major snafus, which had me on edge for a week or so. Once we got the keys to the condo -- a huge burden was taken off my shoulders. We had our home base. And it felt like it was going to a positive place to write the next two months.