Sunday, October 27, 2013

Later, Nevada. Yo ! California !

 S and I climb into her CRV and drive out of the airport. I am still processing a very long, somewhat stressful day. My nerves are pretty keyed up and my heart is pounding like a paint-agitator. A joint is produced and gratefully smoked as we cruise through the city towards our hotel, Treasure Island.  Thanks to years of visual indoctrination, Vegas feels immediately familiar. The hotels and casinos of this surreal town are iconic. My thoughts turn to," This is a city built entirely for temporary residents. " I believe that is unique among all other global destinations. Paris is an example. The city existed long before it became the lazy person's idea of a glamorous, romantic getaway spot. Likewise Rome, London or practically any other location. But exists solely to take your money and send you home. People live there, year round, to work at the places that will take your money and send you home. It's positively mercenary. And I respect that. We avoid the infamous "Strip" and arrive at the hotel.

The elevator lets us out on the 24th floor and we find room 2411. S opens it up and I see a smallish room with a double bed and a long, low couch by the window. It appears to be a good size for me, so I toss my jacket onto it. I figure S should have the bed since A) she drove nearly 4 hours to come and get me and B) she's paying for the room. Completely fair. There is a door near the bed. S says, "I tried to get us a double room but...." and then she opens the door. There is an apartment sized suite on the other side. I have just been punked. Awesome. The suite contains two bathrooms (one with a huge shower, the other with a massive jacuzzi tub), what appears to be a king sized bed (I am not an expert on mattresses), a big sectional couch and a dining table. Upon the table is a jar of weed, rolling papers and other appropriate items. I walk to the window and peer into the heavily illuminated neon landscape that is Las Vegas at night. It's breathtaking. I am still dying to hear my Vegas theme song (Trouble Man by Marvin Gaye. See previous post.) S hooks my iPod up to the telephone (...there's a 1/8" jack for input), powers it up with a USB-wall outlet cable and I press play....fucking perfect.
After some time I begin to relax. I feel better already. My luggage is MIA, but, I am with a good friend, enjoying a nice buzz with a spectacular could be far worse. I am fully aware of my First World Problem status. S wants to take a bath and I sorely need a good shower. We head to our respective washrooms and I look forward to hotel hot water : constant heat and lots of pressure. My own shower at home has a hot-water tank that I estimate to be about the size of a three mug thermos. I once was able to have a ten minute shower before the water turned ice-cold and I still look back on that day with something approaching nostalgia. Seriously. 

17 minutes and a good scrub later, I climb back into my clothes and roll another joint.  "Are you hungry ?, S asks me. "Fucking famished.", I reply.  We peruse the room service menu and decide on our meals. A south-western burger and fries for me, chicken Caesar for her. Dial the restaurant and we are told that due to the late hour, the menu is reduced. Quick discussion and we order : regular cheeseburger (medium. They ask!) for me and a "Rustic grilled cheese" for S. ("Rustic" apparently means that it comes with a slice of tomato. S has this removed from her order). Steep price $37.85. S tells me that she won several hundred dollars playing video blackjack while waiting for me at the airport, so, the hotel and the meal are covered. While awaiting the food, she goes to take her bath, since it took a jeezly long time for that monster tub to fill. I dial up The Orb on my iPod and wait for the food. 

No more than 15 minutes later, there is a knock at the door. A man in a somewhat retro-looking burgundy staff uniform wheels in a cart with two covered trays. I hand him $60 and ask for $15 back. He exits and I decide to wait for S to finish her bath before I tuck into my meal. The food was costly but manners are free, fuckers. The burger, I should add, is massive. Easily a full pound cooked. A pile of shoe-string fries and wee bottles of Heinz condiments make for a fine meal. I manage to wolf down about 2/3of the beast and figure the rest will do for breakfast. We're both pretty tired and at about 3:00 am. I head to my warm, accommodating bed. 

And sleep for nearly four whole hours. 

I'm up early and look out of my window. Vegas is much quieter and there is minimal morning traffic,  S is still asleep, so I turn on the TV in my room and surf channels until I come across a mini-marathon of Law & Order. Remember when TV stations only showed one episode of a show per day ? Weird. I also note to myself that it's pretty much the first time I have watched TV in at least a year and a half. Maybe longer. Well, fuck it. I'm on vacation, so, a break in routine is not out of the question. Around 10:20 I hear movement from next door. I move into the adjoining suite and greet S. She tells me that checkout time is 11:00, so she's going to call the front desk and ask for a late checkout. The desk person tells her that they can't offer us a later time, since every single room in this massive hotel is booked. Wow. We begin to pack up our few things and then we call the American Airlines baggage service, to see if my luggage has been located. Two very quick phone calls and we are told that it was in Chicago, placed on the first flight out and should arrive at McCarran by 12:49 pm. Less than twelve hours after I arrived. Holy fucking shit. Talk about efficiency. The people who take our calls are fast and very courteous. I observe that the one upside to a shitty job market is that people fortunate enough to be employed tend to want to stay employed, hence the friendly phone manners. Well,maybe not...maybe they are genuinely nice people....I can only imagine what sort of abuse they have to put up with from irate passengers who hold these poor people personally responsible for luggage that they have never seen or touched. 

The plan is to make a quick visit to the Hard Rock Hotel, have a look around at some of the musical artifacts, grab my luggage and head south to Joshua Tree, stopping at the Gold Strike Casino/Motel. It's one of S' favourite joints in town and the last of the real, genuine coin operated slot machines. The HRH is only minutes away, we park and head inside. I notice that all of the machines, and there are a powerful fuckload of them, all emit noise in the same key. C major, if my ears and memory don't deceive me. Makes sense, of course....that many machines playing music and sound effects in a variety of keys would be a cacophony. There is a small Beatles exhibit which catches my eye.
And this classy sign:

We drop a few shekels into some machines at a circular bar in the centre of the main floor. I sip my English Breakfast and S has a couple of French Connections (brandy and Grand Marnier) and we pass some time before heading back to the airport to retrieve my luggage. 

We are leaving town, driving south to Joshua Tree. First, however, we stop at the Gold Strike Casino & Motel. It's the last of the coin-op slot casinos in Vegas, possibly Nevada. Two things are going to happen. I am going to lose money and eat my own weight at a buffet. 
The buffet is a no-frills assembly of Salisbury steak, a gloomy looking fish floating in cloudy warm water, fettuccine noodles, mashed potatoes, crispy fried chicken, rice and three types of gravy. There is also a pyramid shaped pile of chili on a tray that I use on my noodles. Oh...and corn. Lotsa corn. The salad portion of the buffet looks especially, erm, dangerous. The chicken is the real highlight. Super crispy skin and incredibly moist and tender underneath. I make two passes and we decide to hit the road. 

The sun is laying an almighty smack-down on the highway as we pull out of the car park and onto the highway south. For the next four hours we will be driving through the long, flat expanses of Nevada. A state that is practically empty and unchanged once you leave the urban sprawl that is Vegas. There is a long, spiny crest of rock ridges that lays down along the side of the highway, like the skeleton of an enormous dead reptile that helps to navigate the way out of this desolate, arid place. 
The drive is largely uneventful, although the land is quite hypnotic and for at least a good hour, we are pursuing the moon as it arcs to the west.

We pull into Joshua Tree as the sun has already set. It is the evening of September 19th, 2013. 40 years ago to the day that Gram Parsons died in his room at the Joshua Tree Inn, where S & I stayed last year in preparation for her birthday. I didn't plan this date, per se. It just happens. I don't believe in omens or portents, but, I am pretty pleased with the coincident. Like arriving in Boston on St. Patrick's Day ( only with less violence, vomit and latent racism...), if I had to pull into Joshua Tree, which I did, since I'm staying here (d-uh....), this feels like the right day to do it. And I am in the best company to do so.

From this point forward, I am abandoning the standard narrative. Instead, I will post a series of essays dealing with various experiences and features of my visit. Not in a chronological order, but, as a series of sum experiences.....

Relax, after this fucking beast of a page, the rest will flow more gently.

I promise.

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