Monday, August 16, 2010


Last week an old and dear friend in L.A. decided to get married quickly and asked if I wanted to be the best man, so on Friday I drove with him and his fiancee to Las Vegas.  I had never been there before.  I hope I will never be there again.  Before we got in the car I gave them their wedding present: a bottle of Jack Daniels and some cash stuffed in a pack of cigarettes.  It's about a six hour drive and we were in a 1982 BMW--"the Shark"--that looks rather like this.  It is an awesome car but somewhere past Barstow in the Mojave desert it started to cough and shudder.  We pulled over.  Tried to start the car again and it did start, then died.  A little smoke was coming out of the engine.  It seemed we would be stuck on the side of the road in the middle of the desert.  We waited for it to cool down, all very aware that we were supposed to be in Vegas by 8 for the appointment at the chapel.  We tried the car again--turning the heat on to draw heat away from the engine (his fiancee's wise advice)--and it started.  We proceeded down the highway going 30 mph for a long time.  I was drinking the Jack Daniels.  It was burning hot from being in a car with no functioning A/C in the Mojave desert under the burning sun for hours, so I mixed it with Snapple, which was slightly less hot.  We got to Las Vegas just in time and they got married.  The Elvis impersonator and I were the only people there except for the minister.  It was touching (really).  I was drunk.  I got a little choked up.  We wandered around the strip for a little while afterward and got a huge plate of nachos.  Then my friend and his wife turned in.  I went to bed and tried to go to sleep but couldn't, so I went back downstairs feeling lonely but wired and started wandering. That was a terrible mistake. The next day my lungs felt like I'd been freebasing crushed-up car batteries. My abdomen burned from my throat to my stomach.  I had spent a lot of money.  I found withdrawal receipts in my pocket.  Plus the cash that I'd had in my wallet anyway was gone, of course. In the morning, they called my room to say they'd ordered a huge breakfast and couldn't finish it, so I went to their room and ate some. My stomach felt like a bag of blood and acid. We went downstairs and outside only to realize that in the humid daytime heat, Las Vegas smells awful.  My friend's wife called it a "neon toilet."  I thought it smelled like big dirty robots having sex.  We drove around for a while, from place to place.  Increasingly we loathed and despised the city--an emblem of incompetence, ignorance, and greed, embedded in a fundamentally inhospitable landscape. Finally we embarked on the 6 hour journey back, praying the Shark would survive the trip. It was a brutally hot ride for the first few hours, but then we stopped at Alien Fresh Jerky and bought some beef jerky and a lot of things to drink, and the air started to cool down as we got further from the dessicated hellpatch that is the American Southwest and closer to southern California. And then we were back, and they were now married, and everything was all right.

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