Las Vegas, take III

"The day breaks/Your mind aches/You find that all her words of kindness linger on, when she no longer needs you"

Buzzing off a small-orange gideon bible - the ones they hand out on the street to passersby - my iPhone falls onto the cabinet they both share. Oh no.

It's 3:37 a.m. I told him to meet me at 3:30.

Sliding out quickly, I grab the shirt I had obsessively placed on my packed bag. Grab my coat. Keys. Wallet. I pat my butt to make sure it's secure and then swiftly go for the door, open and let it slam behind me.

Whoa, it's cold. No matter. I'll be in Las Vegas in 6 hours.

I fly down the road in front of my parents hous; taking note of the freshly fallen snow coating the freezing street. I make it 6 minutes, when it should take 12.

I appologize, throw my bag in the green 05 Ford Explorer and litteraly hop in and close the door.

'"I haven't slept," he said.

Duane is a driver; works full time running errands in the time of life many people are afforded retirement.

"I laid down around 10 and couldn't sleep, again. So, I watched some TV and eventually dozed off about 1. Linda's in Florida and so she (pointing with the thumb on his right hand to the large furry dog in the back seat) was up all night, too."

He's very deliberate in his speech and not excitable in the least bit.

I've yet to say anything but, 'sorry'.

"Yeah, Linda's down visiting the grand babies."

"You flying directly to Vegas?"

"No," I said. "I have to fly to Charlotte." "US Airways...you know the deal."

We speed down I-70 and arrive with plenty of time at Dayton International. I say thanks and good luck - for sleeping mainly but, for everything really. I always said good luck and I don't even believe in what I'm saying. A lot of people do that. I do that; saying things to people we don't believe because we've heard it so many times.

I get checked in, then I check in on my iPhone FourSquare app. I obsess on these inconsequential things.

No problem with security, as I've become quite efficient at removing my worn chuck taylors, blue jacket; sliding my Apple laptop out and into a seperate bin. A TSA agent and I lock eyes and the moment ends.

I make my way to my gate: C14.

I walk straight past the gate and to the bookstore adjacent. I have the first flight out of Dayton at 5:25, so not much is stirring. Starbucks isn't even open.

I buy Harper's and turn for the gate. I stop in my stead, as the book store attendant asks me if I want my receipt. I say 'no'. He turns to another lady stocking the 'best-seller' rack behind the counter; "man, it's early," he says.

"What time does Starbucks open?"

"Man, that lady has the toughest job here," rubbing his eyes he looks me up and down. I should feel awkward but, it's 4:30 a.m.

"5," he tells me.

No problems boarding, and no problems in Charlotte before the long line for the Las Vegas flight.

I meet a nice lady from Ashville, N.C. on the announced-5 hour flight. We talk about Las Vegas, my unique job and how beautiful the mountains in North Carolina are. She is very nice. I never catch the names of single-serving friends. I've met some good people though. Proof to me that there are legitimate caretakers of this world.

I nearly finish my Harper's, move in on the US Airways magazine featuring a spread on Monterrey County, California; one of my favorite places and perhaps, the most beautiful place i've been.

We land hard. I'm listening to Eliott Smith as we near the terminal. I always unbuckle and turn my phone on before they give the go-ahead.

I move quickly, grabbing my bag from under the seat in front of me, moving to the aisle, saying 'good luck' again to the nice lady from N. Carolina and meaning it this time because, she is now in the capital of gambling. And, if ever were a place to believe in luck, it's here.

I move swiftly through the terminal, smiling as I see slot machines in the median between the gates.

"Credit card please," I tell the taxi attendent.

"Credit Card!" he yells to another gent down the way.

"Nineteen," he says.

I climb in the cab to conservative commentary on the radio, a driver resembling James Gannon and 24/7 magazines strewn on the back seat.

"Where you goin?"

"3225 South Hollywood Boulevard," I say quite deliberately and forcfully, so as to not have to say it again.

"Do you have a cross street?"

"Ummmm, I'll look."

This is how many of my interactions go. Quick, to the point and from an objective-viewer's perspective, impersonal.

"East Vegas Valley Drive," I say.

I watch the meter climb, as I become incredibly anxious; taking note of it in a text to a friend who is not surprised I'm in Las Vegas.

I'm not surprised either.

The driver drops me off a block and a half from the security gate to the auction. I pay with a credit card and climb out, say: "thanks and have a good day". But, not 'good luck'.

The security attendent is from New Jersey. I can just tell by the way he is standing and then he talks.

"New Brunswick," he tells me, is where he is hails from.

"Had to get out there, couldn't take the winters anymore."

I find the truck I'm driving, get the keys and head out.


I arrive at my intended destination but, slower than I expected. From the hill the car auction say, on the fringe of the Las Vegas sprawl one can see, on any day, the strip highlighted by the Stratosphere tower.

That's where i am now. My intent on the Strat is not for me.

I love when friends/family send me on missions in my travels. I've learned many people are secretly and some, not-secretly living vicariously through my travels which have become as much a dream to me, as to them.

"I have a strange question," I ask the usher near the Starbucks and penny-slot machines at the Stratosphere.

"I was here not long ago and you had vending machines right there," I point toward the entrance/exit I can in from the parking garage, quickly retracting my point and glance for fear of unintentionally pointing at someone.

The lady nods and says: "If you want used playing cards, you're going to have to buy them in the gift shop."

"That wasn't a strange question," she says, as I stare for a moment at her awkwardly spaced teeth, coated on the edges by years of cigarette smoke residue.

She coughs.

"Ok, thank you."

I buy 7 decks of used playing cards. Some from the Stratosphere, one from Caesar's Palace, one from the Mirage and a couple others.

I get back in the truck, throw the cards in the back seat and take off to the sound of vehicles one level above me in search of a parking spot. It always sounds as if they are going to fall through the concrete floor in parking garages. I head for the exit. Turn left onto Las Vegas Blvd from the wrong lane and accelerate, in what I believe to be West.


This is the third time in just over a year I've walked the strip of Las Vegas. Am I lucky? Or, desensitizing myself to the pleasures of travel?

I buy two pairs of shoes at Urban Outfitters. A waste of money, I tell myself while, trying to legitimize the purchase with my other self.

The Bellagio has to be the most beautiful of the casino's. I enter from the Eastern side, go through the gold-spinning doors and watch for moment as patrons, or, rather, tourists take pictures in the grand-entry way.

I visit the art gallery for $10; an exhibit on the human body with pieces from Picasso, Renoir and Lichtenstein, among others.

Moving slowly through the exhibit, I see little which moves me. I listen to all the audio commentary and realize for a second the wine I drank earlier is making me weepy.

I depart for the entry-way to the Bellagio. If you have never been, the Bellagio has a garden/glass-top hall which is decorated for whichever season 'we' are currently in.

It's the Christmas season and therefore, penguins, polar bears and giant christmas tree ornaments adorn the hall on a bed of strategically-placed white and red poinsettas. It's unbelievably gorgeous and I become quite emotional at the sight of it. I cry a bit, thinking about the past year and how difficult it has been, at times. I take pictures on my iPhone and watch as families and couples interact in what, I hope for all of them, is a true love for each other I suddenly long for.

I wish someone were here with me to see this.

Travel has afforded me many things. It has also given me reason, more and more, and more...to wish to experience some of the great things I've seen, with someone else. Ironically, I never used to want to share anything with anyone for the selfishness of seeing what I wanted to see.

I leave the Bellagio and having seen the adornment of three out of four seasons, I wish to see the last of the seasons with another. But, not yet.

I make my way down the strip. I get to see the water/light show at the Bellagio three times during the night. I shoot video of one of them.

Making my way to the Venetian, I buy a beer and make a phone call to a friend. We talk about baseball for a few minutes and I tell him I like Dimaggio and Gehrig the best.

"They're both Yanks," he says.

"They were true ball players," I say, realizing how much I love the game and the classic history of it.

The Venetian is grand and I mourn for those who haven't been to Venice. I watch the gondola's listen to one song on my iPhone with my earbuds in, as couples pass by taking pictures of the grande, yet fake scenery.

I wonder for a few minutes, what they think of me.

The inside of the Ventian has a beautful aroma. Of roses and something else, I've been wondering since the first time.

I make my way along the false-canal. A gondolier sings 'All Shook Up,' dancing like Elvis as he paddles a mother, father, son and daughter down the blue-water filled canal; nothing like Venice.

I make my way to the 'square' and watch a flutist and violinist play the theme to the Godfather. It's quite fantastic, if not cheesy. But, i enjoy it, drink a beer and write a bit on my experiences of the day.

I then get incredibly frustrated, scribble on the page of my moleskin and shove it inpersonally into my urban outfitters bag. I sit in utter frustration, guilt and fragility for what seems days as the flute drones on, people laugh and gelato is eaten.

I look at my feet; my dirty paint-splattered and 'holy' chuck taylors, faded from a years experiences.

I wish for things I shouldn't. I dwell on wrongs I've no power to change and I wonder...all at the same time.


I pull into the CASA BLANCA casino in Mesquite, Nevada.

I tilt the seat back, reach for the lever under the seat and place my feet hard to the floor and push back.

I drift to sleep.

I awake, look at my phone; it's midnight. I go back to sleep.

Awaking to the coldness of the inside of the 02 Tacoma, I turn on the truck for a few minutes and hear people talking outside in the parking lot. I turn the heat up and drift asleep. At some point I awake and turn off the truck again.

I awake to being cold, again. It's 2:30, so, I drive.


The road is hard but, my conscience is clear as I drive the speed limit up I-15 into Utah. It's dark but, it's not as cold as it is in Indiana.

I watch the sun rise ahead of me and take in the glorious scenery of Central Utah.

I pull off periodically to snap pictures with my newest, best-good friend; my iPhone.


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