Thursday, January 22, 2009

CHAPTER 6

I couldn’t reach my keys to get back in the room so I knocked on the door with my head, and a noticeably less frazzled Leroy pulled it open with a big greasy smile under his mustache. He was happy to see the beer and immediately pulled one from my hand and started downing it. I popped mine open as well and the cold liquid going down seemed like the sweetest nectar in the world, and for only a dollar too. What a deal.

So we sat around for a while drinking our beers. I’d put the Jameson in front of the mediocre and deafeningly loud air conditioner before I’d left the room earlier, and it had cooled down a bit. Soon we were filling the plastic cups with the quickly melting ice cubes and pouring ourselves whiskey that was slowly becoming a more drinkable temperature. We lit up some cigarettes and finally lay back and relaxed in our beds. There’s just something about being in an old hotel room, smoking, having a drink, and watching the fuzzy reception of one of the only three channels on a 1982 television set that makes you feel good about life. I smiled and lay there smoking, waiting for our adventures to begin.

It didn’t take long for us to start in on the blow. A few more Jamesons on the rocks in my plastic cup and I was revitalized from the long drive. It was almost sunset. I went to the window, pulled the thick curtains opened, and stared out at a thermometer reading 105°. Clouds like strange cauliflower floated by in the now cupreous tarpaulin of purpling sky. I thought of taffy being stretched out and cotton candy and thin wispy strands of toilet paper dangling from trees in some unlucky bastard’s front yard. All the light coming in the room must’ve roused Leroy from his stupor and he began cutting up lines on the knee-high table by the TV. I watched the sky for a little longer as the sun sifted down the hazy edges of the horizon and slipped like a drowning golden apple into a pit of smoldering lava. I felt triumphant for some reason and wanted to celebrate. The cocaine was all cut-up into fives lines on the table.

I’m very affected by drugs. I say this full well knowing my affinity for them, and my lapses into the extremes of over indulgence when it comes to a binge. But then again I’m very affected by music, the weather, the sound of birds in the morning, car alarms late at night, cop cars, black & white movies, the people whom I happen to be around at any given time, popsicle sticks, rust spreading on old metal things, wind thrashing tree branches, talk radio, cats sleeping on a couch in the afternoon, fog horns mooing, bombs exploding, that particular pale inky heartbreaking blue the sky becomes just before sunrise, and, well, whatever else seems to be happening at any given time in this holy, diseased, beautiful, rotting, dead world of ours.

I sucked in some cool air from the air conditioner, walked over to the table, bent down, put a straw up one of my nostrils, held the other closed, and quickly inhaled a line of cocaine. I leaned my head back and screamed, “God damn!” I’m not sure why I did that. Someone once told me that your first line of coke of the night makes you feel like God for fifteen minutes. I disagree. It makes you God for fifteen minutes. I was pulsating with recrudescence to newfound internal rhythms, grinding my teeth and doing my jaw twitch, which is when I constantly push out my lower jaw like I’ve got an under bite, and talking and not listening and talking and rolling my unlit cigarette around between my fingers and looking for a light and then forgetting about it and then talking some more and then remembering that I wanted to light my cigarette and thinking just a little more just another tiny line and I’m done that’s it no more for tonight save it for to-morrow because tonight I’ve got to sleep and damn I need a drink I’ve got to calm down and where the hell’s a lighter in this place oh there’s one in my pocket that Leroy gave to me that’s right damn I’m a fucking idiot I just want to sit in this chair and smoke and slowly drink the whiskey with all this melted ice in it and shit Leroy stop doing all the lines maybe I’ll just do one small one now and then it’ll keep me going for a while and my great grandfather was a whiskey bootlegger and I want to sing in a Ramones cover band right now get me some fucking tight jeans and a leather jacket inhaling this cigarette smoke feels so good right now give me an air guitar and I’ll tune it to whatever song’s stuck in my head and I’ll start a band called Davy K and the Four Squares that plays weddings and covers old standards and Sinatra songs and I’ll croon like Elvis over it all.

Leroy ’s voice intruded on my inner monologue, “Hey. What the fuck’s going on with you? You keep fidgeting and mouthing words and mumbling. Are you playing air guitar?”

“No. I’m just…Wha…Is there another line or did you suck them all down?”

“What? No. There are three more right there on the table. What the hell are you talking about?”

“Nothing. Just one more small one. That’s all I want.”

I went over to the table and snorted up a thin line through my straw.

So there we both were sitting in our cheap hotel room in Las Vegas all coked-up and getting a little drunk and talking and talking and talking and starting to feel everything about what time really is and all its manifestations and machinations melting into the so-called now that we found ourselves swimming in.

“Hey man look at this.” Leroy was calling me over to the lamp on the nightstand between our two beds. He lifted up the lamp shade saying, “This bulb is like fucking melted and falling over.” It was hanging on by some miracle, one last thread of metal connected to the glass, the filament still glowing incandescent as the bulb lay on its side. It looked like some kind of trick photography. We both poked at it for some reason. Luckily it didn’t fall off and leave us in darkness. I told Leroy we better leave it alone.

I went back to talking. “So the whole reason Vegas was ever settled at all, I mean after the Indians left, was because of these Artesian springs that some explorer found here in like the 1840s. I forget his name. You know I’m not good with names, but, so they found this place with a good water supply in the middle of the fucking arid desert climate and they camped out here, and they started calling it Vegas and then Las Vegas which means ‘The Meadows’ in Spanish, and so eventually more people started stopping by and then the railroads came and that really busted the place open. This was a good stopping place for a lot of people taking the train from coast to coast around the turn of the century—shit, I need a light. Thanks. Damn good cigarettes. Are these Luckies? Anyways. Yeah. So that’s the last turn of the century, not this one, around 1900, you know? So the place started growing with all theses camps and saloons springing up and all the railroad workers started gambling in these place and drinking and doing all their wanton business, but eventually, around nineteen hundred and ten I think, Nevada made gambling illegal. I know. Fucking weird. So then, shit, I need another light. This fucking cigarette keeps going out. Somebody’s thinking of me. Thanks. This Jameson’s actually pretty good now. It’s getting back below room temperature. Um. Oh yeah. So at some point, I think in the thirties, gambling was legalized again. The state wanted all that tax money it had been going without for twenty some years. And during the great depression they started building the Hoover dam out here, and this place was really booming during a rough period for the rest of the country. So again Vegas becomes a kind of boom town, and I’m leaving a lot out, but eventually you get some gangsters like Bugsy Sigal coming out here to build resorts, and places like The Sands and The Dunes start popping up. I can’t remember the name of the first one but it was El something I think. All these former racketeer types started coming out from L.A. too, after the whole Clifford Clinton expose, the busting of this scoundrel Kynette who was head of the Police Intelligence Bureau and the corrupt Mayor, his name was Shaw I think. Have you ever eaten at Clifton’s Cafeteria? Indoor waterfalls…slide your tray along…on Broadway. Great place. It might not still exist. Anyway. And then in the forties you get all these hotels getting built and all this money coming in from gambling and entertainment and Vegas starts to become a kind of vacation destination. During the sixties a lot of corporations started buying hotels, I think Howard Hughes had something to do with this, and started calling gambling ‘gaming’ and looking at it as a legitimate way to make money. Then you start getting these mega resorts and things just start to explode from there, and then eventually… damn this is some good shit. Where’d you get it? I don’t think I want any more right now, but maybe later tonight, yeah. Bring it along.”

I took a breath.

Leroy was laughing his ass off. “Man. What the fuck are you talking about?” He fell down on his bed and started writhing with laughter. He kicked his legs up in the air and shook them like a beanbag man being electrocuted.

“Leroy. Let’s go. Shit. Let’s get outside. I’m getting a little claustrophobic in here.”

“Ahh. Fuck. What the hell? Okay. Let’s go. Let’s walk around or something.”

“We’ll go down to Freemont Street. I had a good time there once. I was on Ecstasy. It was like ten years ago. A bunch of us took it and wandered around the whole ‘Freemont Street Experience’ and had our own kind of experience watching all those fucking lights for hours.”

“Okay. Let’s do it. Let me grab some stuff and we’ll go. Then we can go meet up with Chet at the Tropicana and see what’s going on with his brothers.” Chet actually had two brothers who were both in Vegas for the weekend. “Let’s get dressed up.”

We’d both brought a few thrift-store-bought suits with us. So we got dressed in our plaid and paisley suits, decked out in full motley regalia with variegated accouterments of odd eccentric ties of many bright colors and stripes. I even had brown and black-striped socks on to go with my suit. Leroy’s yellow and brown suit jacket was frayed badly at the sleeves and mis-matched his red, blue-checkered pants horrendously. He had striped socks on too, and we both took a moment to compliment each other on our respective outfits. The top button on my shirt was gone. I hooked a safety pin in the top buttonhole, jabbed it through the other side where the button was supposed to be, and clicked it shut, so as not to expose the upper regions of my chest to the elements. I looked in the mirror at myself and all of a sudden hated my shoulders.

“Look at my shoulders. They’re so straight and, shit, they make me look so, I don’t know, stiff, boxy, like a robot or something. I always look stiff in suit jackets. Like I’ve got something up my ass. I want to look relaxed damn it! Like you. I want the suit to just hang off of me, lazily. Not like this. Shit.” Leroy came up behind me.

“You should take the shoulder pads out man.”

“I did!” I was inconsolable. I shouted at the mirror. “Bukowksi said, ‘Please let me lose my father’s face!’ I just want to lose my father’s shoulders! These are my fucking father’s shoulders. Please, let me lose my father’s shoulders!”

Leroy just stared at me.

Somehow I had an odd moment of clarity here. A strange compulsion seized me, and I grabbed Leroy by the worn lapels of his suit jacket. “Leroy. Remember. Your cigarettes are in your pocket. Your cigarettes are always in your pocket. Remember I said that. Keep repeating it to yourself. You’ll thank me for it later. The cigarettes are in your pocket.”

Leroy pushed me away and grabbed a pot cookie out of the plastic tub in my open suitcase. “These things aren’t even melted. I can’t believe it. You want one?”

“No. I mean, okay. Not right now. Well, maybe just a few crumbs. Pot makes me insane. I can’t handle that stuff. It might make me freak out and grind the gears in my head for hours. Remember when we were at that party and I ate a few of those pot brownies they had and then I was sitting in a chair sweating all night and rubbing my hands on my pants and trying to look directly at some imaginary point on the wall, and, well, I’ll just have a few bites I guess. I’ll be alright.”

Leroy ate a whole cookie really fast. I had a few bites of one and that was it. I’m not big on sweets anyway. It was just then that I remembered I hadn’t eaten any of the Pepto-Bismol that I’d brought along to keep the shits away, or at least keep them at bay. I didn’t want this trip to turn into a diarrheathon, running from one bathroom to the next, even though Vegas does have some of the best public bathrooms in the world, at least that I’ve ever done my business in. I ate a bunch of the pink chewable tablets really fast, and then downed the rest of my Jameson to get that damn peppermint taste out of my mouth.