Odds on eight, sucker, and twenty on the hard six

The phone rings, it’s 8:30 and I’m deep asleep.

Regina: “Hey there. Where are you?”
Me: “Gurgle. Muffle.”
Regina: “Are you there, Trevor?”
Me: “What? Whatthefuck o’clock is it?”
Regina: “Where are you?”
Me: “The couch.”
Regina: “What couch?”
A fair question, I suppose.
Me: “I was on the border of… well fuck. Let me do some research and call you back.”

Click.

So I wandered across the room and split the shades, letting in that hateful Nevada sunshine. A pyramid, New York, the Eiffel tower… Oh christ, I’m in Vegas.

A hard thing to fathom so early in the morning, looking down on the strip from the executive suite’s panoramic window.

The fog in my mind started to clear, and things became more manageable. The pieces began to fit. Craps tables and hard drinking till 3:30 or so. Laura must be asleep in the other room. Bruce? Who knows.

Vegas. Huh. Well, Trevor, you’ve woken up in many more questionable places than the executive suite. Just assess the situation.

No dead bodies. No visible wounds. No open flames.

It’s cool. Be cool.

I called downstairs. The little notepad read Bally’s. An important clue!

“I need two boxes of Dayquil, a handle of Southern Comfort, and a half-gallon of Diet Mountain Dew, with cherries. To get my bearings.”

Click.

Now, only one thing remains.

I’m flat broke, my car keys are missing, and all I’ve got with me is a fishing vest, my guitar, and two Vonnegut books from the Hayward Public Library. (Deadeye Dick and Galapagos)

What the fuck am I doing in the Bally’s executive suite in Las Vegas?

************************************************************

A week ago, penniless and weary, I skipped town in a rented white Jeep Cherokee headed for Idaho.

Two weeks of unemployed sorrow, lolly gagging, and spiritual decay had taken their toll. Watching the phone like a starving cat watches a gopher hole, waiting for a call back… Being unemployed is god damn miserable, friends. Here’s a simple mathematical equation for all of you who think work sucks. No money = No fun.

So when my neighbor told me he was bound for Montana to catch up with my family on their perpetual vacation, I said hell yeah I’m coming. Flyfishing and relatives are just what I need to combat vagrancy and depression. Let’s blow this joint.

We drove east at top speed, headed for Salt Lake City. Surrealistic Pillow blaring and a car full of fishing gear, booya.

Booming out across the cadillac desert is, to me, always an adventure. All those whacked-out desert towns… They’re places beyond description, outside the normal scope, timeless and insane. Elko… Lovelock… Battle Mountain… Deeth Starr… Who inhabits these places? Why? Every one has the same ingredients; Dusty streets lined with crumbling buildings and rusty double-wides, signs riddled with bullet holes, a ratty diner staffed by weary, soulless old women. The streets are haunted by tumbleweeds and broken dreams. The Nevada desert is beautifully tragic in a very real and tangible way, a way that’s hard to comprehend and harder to communicate. Abandoned strip mines, impoverished Basque farmers, gas stations full of broken slot machines. What a fucking place. I love it.

We stopped for the night in Wendover, a town which straddles the Nevada – Utah border. A bumpin place on a Saturday night; all the sinners from SLC (And there are more than you might think) head over the state line for booze, gambling, CCR cover bands, and various other forbidden diversions. Blue-collar border casinos rule, there’s simply no other way to put it.

A sandstorm blew in from the Utah flats, assaulting us with grainy, hot wind. We were trapped inside. Nothing to do but hit the craps tables, and hit them hard.

The people that patronize places like the fabulous Peppermill Casino are just tops. Absolute quality folk, let me tell you.

Your typical Wendover tourist has at least two of the following four characteristics:

1) Serious geriatric (90+)
2) Multi-generation Inbred
3) Untreated Syphilitic
4) Methamphetamine User

Now, just for variety, I’m going to write a song about people in Wendover casinos. Sing along if you know the words.

Oh, Art from Provo, you should have finished high school
Soulful backup singers: “High schooooooooooooooooooooool”
Then your pastie thighs might not be stuck to that bar stool
SBS: “Bar stoooooooooooooooooooool”
I know life’s been hard, I know your wife’s a lard
SBS: “Ooooooooooooooooooo”
and that the only thing you pray for is another high card
SBS: “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa”

Chorus:
SBS: *clapping*
SBS: “Dooooo wop doowop”
But ooooooooo don’t you fall under Wendover’s spell
We both know it’s the fifth circle of hell
Don’t order shrimp cocktails, you’ll get dysentery
Don’t get your steak rare, and stay away from dairy
Just smile, read your cards, and drink to Lady Luck
And try not to think about how much you suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck
SBS: “You suuuuuuuuuuuuck doowop”

Oh Mary from Wells, you need to treat them herpes
SBS: “Herpeeeeeeeeeeeeeees”
You smell like the rest home, don’t sit so close please
SBS: “Close pleaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaase”
I know life’s a disappointment, but please please get some ointment
Your AA sponsor called, said you missed another appointment
Ooooooooooooooo
Aaaaaaaaaaaaa

Chorus

Harmonica solo

What the hell am I doing here, with these hustlers and tricks
SBS: “Hustlers and triiiiiiiiiiiiiicks”
It’s 2 AM in the desert, and I can’t roll a six
SBS: “Can’t roll a siiiiiiiiiiiiix”
I’ll just try not to think, about how far one can sink
I ordered a half hour ago, where’s that bitch with my drink
SBS: “Bitch, where’s my driiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiink”

Chorus

You suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck doowop

Violate your parole! Escape this hole!
The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem!
SBS: “You’ve got a problemmmmmmmmmmmmmm”

*Fade out*

Platinum hit, friends. Platinum hit.

***********************************************************

I have a theory about why people live in places like Battle Mountain. Towns in the desert are riddled with abandoned cars, trailers, and rusty junk. There are those people, traveling westward in search of a better life, who never quite make it. Their car, their truck, their spirit… something breaks down in the remorseless heat, and they don’t have the money or the character to fix it.

Looking into that 16 year old waitress’s eyes as she brings me my Teriyaki Chicken, I know despair. Caged by five hundred miles of fractured wasteland and empty gray sky in every direction, hope dies a quick and dusty death out in the sagebrush.

What a fuckin place.

*************************************************************

The next morning, I wandered the corridors of the Wendover Days Inn, searching in vain for my Complimentary Continental Breakfast.

I huddled silently in the corner of the elevator, eyes averted and breath held, whenever other… guests… were aboard.

Each unmarked door I opened, I felt nothing but pure, unrefined terror. Wendover is a horrible place, in the sober light of day.
At the turn of each knob, I expected to stumble into a room full of dangerous Mormon separatists. Every door could lead to an armory full of blueprints and hunting rifles, fertilizer bombs and Zionist propaganda brochures. These bastards wouldn’t hesitate to murder a heathen like me and toss me in a ditch somewhere, to be devoured by the heat and the buzzards.

I tensed and prepared outside every tan door.
It’s cool. Be cool.

“Oh, excuse me gentlemen. I didn’t mean to interrupt your plotting, I was looking for the free continental breakfast.” I’d say.
“SLAY THE INFIDEL!” The one with LDS4 tattooed on his left knuckles and LIFE tattooed on his right would scream.
“Whoa there son, I’m not a Fed, just a hungry sinner in search of stale muffins.” I’d reply.
Out come the knives and the rifles, and I’m out the door at a full sprint with a half dozen fanatics in hot pursuit.

We’d flee across the salt flats, our Cherokee followed closely by a rusting, smoking Chevy Caprice bristling with guns and screaming white folks.

“You’ll never take me alive you swine!” I’d scream, throwing Altoid boxes and used double-A batteries out the passenger window in a futile attempt to return fire.
“I’m Jesus Christ with a laser gun, and you’re gonna die!” I’d quote.

Years of methamphetamine usage and proximity to uranium mines has left my pursuers snaggle-toothed, impotent, and insane. They are woefully unable to aim their shotguns, and blast away wildly into the salty dust.

Swerving and sliding our Trail-Rated rental Jeep, I’d lead the bastards right to the lip of the abandoned copper mine before slamming on my breaks. They’d squeal right by, shooting and condemning my sinful California soul to all manner of eternal torments. The Caprice, suddenly bereft of the sandy flats, soars gracelessly out into the void before exploding dramatically in the pit mine below.

“Booya, motherfuckers. Booya.”

*******************************************

Nothing was open in Salt Lake, of course. It’s Sunday, the Lord’s Day. I can’t remember the passage exactly, but I surely do recall Jesus damning all those who would keep their Del Tacos open on Sunday. We retrieved Laura from the airport, where a terrorist situation was in progress. Something to do with a van with suspicious wires and anti-American slogans. Luckily the SLC Airport Security Division is at the peak of their girthy vigilance, and so strung up orange tape around most of the terminal and barked at people. Although I was unable to get a clear answer or view the entire time, I suspect somebody parked their Caravan with a Kerry sticker on the back in a red zone. Regardless, in the Global Struggle Against Extremism (formerly known as the War On Terror) one can NEVER BE TOO CAREFUL.

NEVER.

NEVER.

Laura, Bruce, and I left the airport profoundly thankful for the deep paranoia and rights-trampling that keeps Our Nation safe from The Terrorists.

We found a Wendy’s on the edge of town, staffed by a skeleton crew of hunchbacked Mexican women, presumably non-Mormons like ourselves, and headed north to Montana.

To Be Continued.

-T.

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