Los Angeles, CA
Where to begin?
I have too much to say and not enough time to say it. Shit, it's 2:13am and I'm racing against time in so many variables. I could ramble on and on until sunrise but that's what I did yesterday. I didn't post a single word even though I cranked out a good 3,500 or 4,000 words in a short period of time in between beating Angry Birds and listening to a Coltrane bootleg.
I guess that's the most pressing thing on my mind -- I'm overloaded. Overflowing is a better word. My mind is like an overflowing sink with internal content that needs to be worked out on the pages (and the pages being the blank spaces on my laptop which I did last night). I can't recall the last time I actually wrote on a typewriter -- I think a poem or two in the wake of the 9/11 era of gloom. But that was the last time. It was like trying to recall the last time I actually loaded a VCR tape -- that was not a porno. Sweet Jesus, now we're going back almost ten years. Times are a changing, especially the means to which you slap your salami.
So, where to begin?
Las Vegas. Sixth summer in a row when I lose myself and my sanity and my identity in the meat grinder of Sin City. I survived, barely, but managed to come out of this with a shred of dignity, unlike so many other souls I saw get decimated along the way. I dunno why I subject myself to the grind. Well, I know why and if you don't know I'll give you a clue, it's two words. First word is Lost. Second word is Vegas.
I'm a glutton for merciless torture that I volunteer to do year after year. I don't even do it for the big paycheck anymore, which is freeing in so many ways, but I often wonder why the fuck am I fighting a senseless war that can't be won? I could justify my actions if I was a brainwashed grunt in the field because he doesn't know any better, or actually savored the Kool-Aid so I'm following in line with everyone else. Perhaps if I was just a thug for hire and a true mercenary going where the money flows, but then and only then could I justify wandering through the killing fields of Las Vegas where the mindless get ambushed every few minutes and lose every single dollar in the pocket by any and every means necessary.
On a positive note, I only lost a few hundred playing Pai Gow in the pits, but hit a couple of clutch World Cup bets on Spain and Holland which covered any of those degen gambling loses. If anything, most of the money I spent was on overpriced (blah-quality) food and water at the casino because I'm stuck there during work hours. Casinos are built to keep you trapped inside and they gouge, so I take it in the ass. Every fucking summer. I do what I can to reduce my expenses by eating 'off campus' and bringing my own bottled water instead of the inflated mafioso-type prices, but I still cringe by just looking at my American Express bill.
Despite those headaches, I experienced new highs, had the pleasure of meeting new people (and hanging out with old friends), and engaged in a couple of powerful and meaningful conversations in those two months in exile. The conversations about writing are always the ones I cherish the most, and I was lucky to have a few with Shamus and Jesse May. I guess that's part of the reason why I do what I do -- the people. The sad part is that I gotta deal with 99 asstards in order to get a chance to cross paths with one genuine soul. But it's worth the hassle.
But yeah, people suck, especially weak-minded people who are unable to handle the grind of Vegas, not to mention all of the fame whores, career liars, and other psychopaths. The worst moments of the summer were times when I got bogged down in the drama of others. That's the hardest thing for me to admit -- that I could have avoided all of those pitfalls but for whatever reason (usually stubbornness and my inability to underestimate those around me), I got suckered into the quagmire.
I lost my shit a couple of times, as expected, with some newly added pressures and a couple of uncontrollable run ins with inept dipshits. I had one ugly incident that I'm sure I would have handled in a more professional manner if I was better rested and not at the tail end of a five-day binge. Alas, I flew off the handle, and let that Irish temper get the best of me. On the positive side, once I realized my mishandling of the situation, I was able to funnel all of that energy into a specific goal -- not worry about others and focus on writing the best stories that I can. As much as that incident sucked camel balls -- it really lit a fire under my ass. Instead of coasting through the last 2 weeks of the WSOP, I pushed myself. I got a couple of decent pieces out of it, so it all ended up coming out good.
OK, enough of all of that nonsense. The summer assignment in hell is in the past, and behind in Las Vegas. I want to leave it there, which is perfect since I'm in LA and it's a good 40 degrees cooler. That's the toughest aspect of the summer assignment -- t he fucking desert heat. You can't leave anything in your car. Weed will get vaporized. Pens explode. I had two copies of Lost Vegas get ruined when they stuck to the bottom of a gym bag. It almost melted in the trunk of Nicky's car. Forget about anything electronic. We have to hide iPods elsewhere otherwise they get fried -- and this is with a carport in the condo and a sunscreen in the car.
The condo in Vegas worked out well. The location was optimal because we were located near two of my favorite breakfast joints. Quality non-casino-industrial food to start the day was essential for me. The drive to work was average due to traffic during the day, but we zipped home at night. Any problems at the condo were minor (like the mailbox key not working because the lock warped by the searing heat and our loud upstairs neighbors). The AC was deafening loud at times, but it worked. I never felt uncomfortable at all -- like we had to endure last summer when the AC went out at our place and we had to spend the last two weeks holed up in a hotel.
I always want to stay in Vegas for a week or so to play cards and catch up on meetings with people I never got to see because of the intense workload. But after the WSOP ends, I always feel the same way -- get me the fuck out of town. Nicky also feels the same way, which is why we bailed as soon as we could. I know that I've been in Vegas too long when I can't wait to see the plastic hills of Hollyweird and I imagine driving in slow motion down my pal-tree lined street with the sun shining ever so brightly while something from Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy blasts on the radio.
I'm back in California and I'm still shaking out the Vegas cobwebs.