“We do this for tips, you know,” the Jack Nicholson impersonator said to me as I put an arm around him and leaned in close for a snapshot.
“I know,” I replied, handing him a crumpled dollar. And I smiled for the camera, trying my best not to look too drunk. My hosts, a couple of savvy spendthrifts in their own right, were taking me on the budget tour of Vegas, from crummy crack hotels in neighborhoods littered with the refuse of discarded humanity to the towering heights of the Stratosphere in which we gained free entrance to the top to ride the Big Shot, and stopping off at many sorted places in between such as a tattoo parlor boasting $13.00 Friday the Thirteenth themed tattoos and the Belagio for free Mojitos. As my buddy snapped the photo I belched and tasted French fries. At least that was better than tasting vomit.
Our excursion started at four thirty on a Tuesday afternoon when they picked me up at the Las Vegas airport. We proceeded immediately to the aforementioned crack house they were presently occupying (only $195.00 a week!) and drank most of a bottle of vodka while sketching out our plans for the next three days. In a drunken haze we determined we’d mostly wing it, but much to my relief they’d booked a room for two nights at the Circus Circus. As it stood, that first night I’d be sleeping on the floor. The following two nights I’d at least have a bed, even if I didn’t get much sleep in it (not what you think; I am a lousy sleeper).
The next morning was met with a pounding headache and sinuses (thanks to a cold I’d picked up two days before the trip) and in a daze I showered and shaved, anxiously awaiting better digs. I didn’t have to wait long. We checked into the Circus Circus and after dumping off our things we made our way to the lobby floor to hit the slots.
“We never pay for drinks,” Amir told me as we walked out into the mild winter sunshine to hit the Circus Arcade. “You sit at a slot machine, put in a buck, then wave over the waitress for a cocktail. Drinks are free as long as you are gambling.”
The trick for me became how long I could make a dollar last. By winning twenty-five to fifty cents here and there I found I could get about three beers off a buck. And to keep the waitress coming around my friends and I would take turns tipping her. As long as she was making a few frogs it was worth her time.
We whiled away a lot of time doing that, but in between we realized there had to be other activities to make this trip memorable. Since the three of us weren’t exactly what you would call ‘rolling’ we priced out shows until we found one for ten bucks apiece. It was a comedy club in the Riviera, which was perfect because it was right across the street from the Circus Circus. At all costs we did not want to drive, not with how heavily we were drinking. The show was a hoot, presented by two comedians whose names I now forget (I think one of them had the last name ‘Bizarre’, but I could be wrong) in which a drunk girl from the crowd was incorporated to our ensuing hilarity. This chick was either a plant or a total random score for these comedians. After the show we ended the night at the slots, drinking ourselves silly while losing pennies.
The next day we started by walking from the Circus Circus to the Belagio and drinking our way back through the casinos. The photographs accompanying this post adequately show our drunken procession from one end of the strip to the other. Suffice it to say I’ll let them tell the tale. Our walk ended at the Stratosphere where Amir showed us how to get to the top for free and avoid the $18.00 charge: take the elevator that leads to the cocktail lounge (under the guise that that is your intended destination) and when you are let off the elevator just wait a few minutes and then take the stairs up to the top floor to the viewing platform and the rides. We rode the Big Shot (a wonderful contraption that catapults you two hundred feet into the air where you experience zero gravity before it rapidly descends and then hydraulics bounce you up and down a time or two for a giddy extra thrill). Upon its completion we used a coupon on the ticket to get a five-dollar slab of pizza and a large beer. Good times. We then drank our way back to the hotel and I ended the night with a tallboy of Miller High Life purchased for ninety-seven cents at a convenience store.
The next day’s highlights can be summed up as such: 18 holes of mini golf at the official Kiss mini golf course (using a half off coupon it was only six bucks apiece); lunch at the Hard Rock Café (the gambler’s special which is only $7.77) and a tour; a mid-day showing of the latest Hobbit movie in 3D (had trouble staying awake after two nights of lousy booze sleep) and then a $13.00 dollar tattoo from a parlor that just opened (I got Charles Manson and my buddy got $6.66). And in-between all of these shenanigans we did the usual: played slots for free drinks
The last night we spent in the crack hotel, me sleeping on the floor again, but after all the partying I got the best night of sleep I’d had in days. The next morning I awoke refreshed and after serving me pancakes my buddy and his wife took me to the airport where they went the extra mile and accompanied me inside. They had a reason, of course: one last bet on an airport slot. Throughout my visit his wife Aline had been winning ten and fifteen dollar bets (maybe even the occasional twenty) and at the airport she went one further and managed to coax $80.00 out of a machine. Lucky them.
It was a whirlwind of an adventure (as the pictures readily indicate) and I won’t soon forget our exploits there on the Las Vegas Strip.
Category Archives: drinking
I’m standing in a club called ‘Excess’, a gay bar on Main Street in Green Bay, wearing zombie make-up and tattered clothes, wondering what the hell I’m doing with my life. The make-up artist and his girlfriend are on the dance floor shaking what they got as I lean against a wall and ponder my existence. First things first I did not choose this club; I agreed to come here because the drinks are cheap and nobody judges you, you are who you are. Gay, straight, zombie…none of that matters right now. I feel down because I wanted to meet someone tonight, anyone, preferably a woman, pretty, relatively young, but it is impossible because the make-up artist did such a good job that I am hideous. Beneath all this latex rubber and fake blood no one can tell what a handsome man I am, so I am drinking way too much and thinking about smoking a cigarette (I quit six months ago). Not that what I want can be achieved in this club; not more than two minutes ago I watched two chicks make out with each other in front of the bathroom while a guy in a full body leather bondage outfit lead another man around on a leash. The one on all fours was wearing ass-less chaps and a motorcycle hat Ala Rob Halford from Judas Priest.
My companions finish on the dance floor and we reconvene by the bar. We decide to leave, to go to the country saloon next door, and what the hell, right? Can’t get any worse.
We head over and people comment on the costumes.
“AAARRRGGGG!” I say convincingly, vomiting more fake blood by crunching a plastic capsule in my mouth that tastes like cough syrup.
As we navigate toward the bar I think about everything that has transpired tonight and it makes me more depressed. We started the evening at a party with so many beautiful women I was utterly overwhelmed. All taken, of course. And the guys they were with? Well, let’s just say there isn’t ad spaced reserved for them in Maxim Magazine for the next designer cologne. How did they get these gorgeous women? I wondered, and how did I get one? The world is soooo unfair.
No difference in this country bar: the place is wall to wall with smoking hot babes. Does the rest of the world know that Green Bay, Wi, is full of such amazingly stunning women? And here they are hanging all over beer-bellied guys in cowboy boots with obscene facial hair. I’ll say it again: “AAARRRGGGG!”
This leads me to believe that there is simply no point in carrying on, in continuing my useless existence. I give up, I’m throwing in the towel and calling it a night. I ask my friends what they want to drink and they profess to being drunk so I order a beer for me and two waters for them. The woman tending bar is nice to me but she outweighs me by at least sixty pounds. She is pretty though, and the fact that she is nice makes me smile. Hell, I could do worse than her. Maybe I should set my sights lower.
So I stand against a rail overlooking the dance floor, watching a guy dressed as the Joker strip a fur coat off of an otherwise shirtless, giant, hairy dude and proceed to lick his nipples and I wonder what they are doing here and why they aren’t at Excess. Is anybody seeing this but me? Yes, and no one seems to care. Do I care? No, not really, I just want to meet a nice woman who I can enjoy relaxing evenings with and have long conversations about nothing. I want to cuddle; I want to feel breasts pressed against my chest, warm, soft lips brushing against my ear. Instead I am alone, witnessing things I can’t erase from my mind if I want to, which I do, very badly
The evening comes to an end when the couple I am with decides they want to go. It’s probably all the hot women; he wants to get his girlfriend home and nail her. I don’t blame him. She’s a looker herself, all dressed up in a harlequin costume complete with zombie rotting flesh. I imagine they are going to have a mighty fine time, but I’m not, you know, imagining it. That would just be rude.
They drop me off at my place and we urinate (just the dude and I) on the lawn. Then they split and I give in to temptation and smoke a cigarette I bummed from someone at the country bar. Just another day in the life of a lonely man, a zombie all dressed down with no place to go…
In an effort to remain true to this blog’s original plan I am now going to write about previous jobs I held, the crazier and more ridiculous the better. If there are many folks out there who enjoyed the writing of Charles Bukowski, this blog is for you. For those of you who have never heard of him, he was an American writer who found notoriety writing for the L.A. Free Press in the 1960’s, a column called Notes Of Dirty Old Man. He later found fame writing several books about jobs he worked, one called Factotum (later made into a movie starring Matt Dillon) and Post Office. In fact the latter was his first published book, having written it for a publisher named John Martin who believed so strongly in Bukowski’s ability to spin a good yarn that he offered him $200 a week to write so that he could quit his job. Writing about what he knew best (drinking and working for the United States Post Office) he was surprised to see that it did well enough that he was able to publish several more novels (for they were marketed as ‘fiction’) and garnered a rather eclectic audience around the world. He was especially beloved in Europe, but he made a splash in America as well. He wrote the movie ‘Barfly’ (based on his own life) starring Mickey Roarke and Faye Dunnaway.
So that is the new focus of my blog: all the crazy, crappy, preposterous jobs I’ve worked over the course of the last thirty years while pursuing my creative endeavors. Like Bukowski, I am a college dropout and enjoy the occasional beer or ten, but unlike Bukowski I was never a very good fighter yet I was never unwilling to ‘go’ if it indeed became necessary. I also traveled a lot and ended up in some rather compromising situations. I’ll also embellish a bit in some of these tales, as he was known to do. Rest assured they are rooted in reality, but sometimes you have to stretch them a little to get the desired effect. All that said, here is a short one since I’ve already taken up this much of your time: Hotlanta in the summer or Give me Whiskey or give me death, a tribute to Charles Bukowski.
The year was 1994. Kurt Cobain had killed himself in the garage of his Seattle home and the new Woodstock would prove to be a bust, as the grunge generation was a surlier, more unpredictable lot than their predecessors. Artists like Soundgarden and Alice In Chains and Beck were topping the charts while smaller bands like Mudhoney and Monster Magnet were making the rounds, keeping things afloat until they later found fame (Monster Magnet) or they dissolved into an historical footnote (Mudhoney). I was living in a warehouse in an area called Little Five Points in Atlanta, Georgia, having moved there from Raleigh, North Carolina after I got the boot from a band called Motherload. I’d been their lead singer (and chief purchaser of alcohol because they were all nineteen to my twenty-three) but they eventually had enough of my drunken shenanigans and sent me packing after I picked up the lead guitarist during a gig at a packed pool hall in Raleigh and tossed him into the crowd. He was mad because 1) they didn’t catch him, they instead ran out of the way and 2) because his Gibson Les Paul got ruined in the process. I couldn’t really say I blamed them. I was drunk and on drugs most of the time back then, in fact one of my favorite pastimes was driving around the triangle area drinking malt liquor and smoking weed and taking acid and going wherever the wind blew me. Suffice it to say I met a lot of strange people, some of whom thought I was the strange one. Go figure.
In Atlanta I held several jobs, but the first one I worked was selling school supplies for a shady company called Pacific and Atlantic Wholesalers, a telemarketing outfit that violated just about every law you can imagine when it came to consumer fraud (overpriced, crappy merchandise, hidden fees, broken promises regarding free bonus items with every order etc. etc. etc.) run by a man so crooked he made the Enron presidents seem like portraits of American stability. He’d sit behind his desk cleaning automatic weapons and snorting white powder off his desk blotter, every now and then venturing onto the sales floor to holler: “Let’s get a hum going men!” or “I hope you get stuck in traffic and don’t have a forty ounce can to piss in!” if he was upset that we weren’t making enough sales. Sometimes he said even cruder things like: “Shut up bitch or I’ll fill your mouth full of sperm!” or “Shut your pie hole or I’ll fill your corn hole!” Despite all this ranting lunacy the surprising thing was we actually made sales, lots of them. We were cold calling schools all over the greater continental United States and asking to speak with whomever did the purchasing for the school store. When they were put on the phone we then stroked their egos and smooth talked them into buying grosses upon grosses of shit they didn’t need, all of it cheap, easily breakable garbage. Notebooks with bindings that came unglued the first time you opened them up, pens with barely any ink in them that ejected what little there was in a puddle all over the page, pencils that snapped in half if you looked at them funny and so on. Yet we all made sales (some of us to a greater or lesser degree) and some weeks I made enough money to cover all my bills for a month.
It was in the middle of a heat wave in August that the air conditioning went out and, to keep us working, the owner, Cliff, bought us several gallons of whiskey and a quarter ounce of blow, encouraging us to help ourselves. He didn’t have to ask me twice. Within a few hours I wasn’t sure what the hell I was saying to people over the phone, all I knew was that I wasn’t making any sales. When I’d had enough, I snorted another large pile of coke, slammed a giant shot of whiskey, announced I was ‘getting the fuck out of here!’ and got in my car. I don’t remember driving home, all I remember is arriving and getting into it with my drug dealer roommate. I was sick of he and his friends keeping me up at night, partying into the wee hours when I was trying to sleep off a drunk, and I decided this was the time to air things out. Well, one of his thug buddies was there too, and between the two of them they easily restrained me and proceeded to ‘convince’ me that I was in the wrong. They were quite persuasive, let me tell ya, and the next day at work I looked like I’d gone a few rounds with Floyd Mayweather with my hands bound behind my back. To make matters worse the owner called me into his office.
“You left early yesterday,” he scolded, not even mentioning my beaten-to-a-pulp-face; he was too busy using a large hunting knife to shave a mole off his back. “I don’t think you’re taking this job seriously.”
I looked at him incredulously. “Taking the job seriously?” I repeated, trying hard to keep the sarcasm out of my voice. “What’s not to take seriously?”
“You don’t come and go as you please. The manager has to authorize it.”
As I recalled the manager had been under his desk when I left, wearing nothing but black, ankle high socks and muttering something about the impending apocalypse while he drooled over a photo of Ms. July, but I kept that to myself.
“Yes sir,” I muttered, not wanting to argue. What was the point? “It won’t happen again.”
“Damn straight it won’t.”
“You fucking freeloaders,” he said, dismissing me. “That’s the last time I give out free drugs. None of you assholes made any sales.”
“Not even Kennedy, sir?” Kennedy was the only sober person in the bunch; he never drank nor indulged in anything stronger than coffee.
“Kennedy was sick yesterday.”
“Now get out there and get a hum going or I’ll-”
“Fill my mouth full of sperm,” I supplied for him. “Got it sir.” I was tempted to salute but I simply turned and left, wondering why I was stupid enough to keep working there. But when I felt the cold blast of the newly fixed ac, and I got that phone in my hands and spun some magic that landed me a twelve hundred dollar commission, I knew why indeed…