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Some Observations from Vegas

So, hey there. Again, it’s been a LONG time. I won’t float any excuses your way. Life happened in a big way, but rather than dig too deeply into it, I’ll leave it at, “Mea culpa.” But not really. It’s been a great year and a half.

It’s good to be back, back writing and back blogging. In the past, though, I’ve used these pages more as overt advertisements – Hey, did you hear about this Book? – than as invitations into my life and experiences. If my writing comes from anywhere, it comes from my life. Not that the characters are people I know. But the abiding themes – suburban alienation, the distracting weight of the modern world, the reality of sin and all that it entails – these themes do emerge from a life lived…fully? I’d like to think so, at times. Often it’s more about the moments lost than the moments seized, though. And so it goes…

And so, a new direction. I’d like to use this space simply to observe and comment. If my writing has any merit, then I think it’s in the perspective it takes. An honest one, I hope, and true in important ways. But, as Mr. Darcy says, I am not to judge my own performance.

 

Oh, yeah. Vegas.

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I’m vacationing with my lovely fiancée, Mia, and while she finishes up some work, I’ll take some time to register…

 

Some Thoughts:

 

Parallel universes exist, and in plain sight of one another. Walk into the posh, almost Gilded Age lobby of Mandalay Bay and you see the chic couple gliding along side-by-side, he in his shear dress shirt, tasteful jacket and polished shoes, she in her little black dress with hair that evokes from my dated imagination images from Alberto VO5 commercials form the 90s. Crossing behind them is the lost and lumpy mid-western man in t-shirt, cargo shorts, striped socks and running shoes. Three twentysomethings in jeans and concert tees sip frozen drinks from half-yard long plastic cups. Mia and I buzz past, variously in beach wear, nightclub duds or Strip-walking comfort clothes.

In this dessert oasis there is a dearth of water fountains. It is an oasis without respite, unless you can pay for it.  We buy water by the case.

I wonder how many MGM movies are set in Las Vegas, given that MGM owns, like, half the Strip. Some quick research reveals: Aria, Bellagio, Vdara, MGM Grand, Mirage, Mandalay Bay, Delano, Monte Carlo, New York-New York, Excalibur, Circus Circus and Luxor. Are you kidding?!  So, how about the movies? Brief research was unproductive, but I’d love to know, so please share.

I can see why celebrities fall prey to drugs in these precincts. There is so much to do and to see. The first night we arrived, we were up until 1, as in 4 by our East Coast bodies’ clocks. And up again at 6:15, as in working hours back East. Then the gym, the pool, the sights, dinner, a show, more sights, another antemeridian bedtime and up again before the sun. Day 2. Or is it Day 3? You get the point. Imagine the added draw of fame- and fortune-driven parties, adoring fans clamoring to see you at your best, and the paparazzi always in tow. Now imagine the pressure to Keep Up. Need a boost? It’s the red ones, right? Or is it the blue? Wired from that latest rooftop rave? That’s what those Xannies are for. Bored despite – or because of – the intense, insistent distractions? Try a little E. “Isn’t this thrilling? This is thrilling, right? It’s SO thrilling!” Yup, I can see how some mistakes are made.

Vegas is immense, both in size and imagination.  The tram and bus system are a must, even for (moderately) young and quite fit folks like us.  The Strip proper, from Mandalay Bay to Encore, is over three miles.  Add another to get to Stratosphere and another two to make it all the way north to seedy-kitschy-fun Fremont Street. From my Strip-view hotel room, I see a pyramid and Sphinx, Eiffel Tower (half-scale, but still massive and very cool), the tops of the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building, the Statue of Liberty (again half scale and again cool) and the turrets of a cartoon-like medieval castle.  And tower after tower of hotels space.  Mia read the other day that it would take a person over 400 years to sleep one night in each room.

 

That’s it for now.  More to come later..

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The Power of Beer

Or, How to Make Friends with Garbage Men

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So, as usual, this Thursday morning I’m sitting at the breakfast bar in my kitchen, typing away (see the banner pic above for a visual if you like). And, likewise as usual on Thursdays, I hear the telltale sounds of a garbage truck. And, of course, the bloody trash and recycling cans are still lined up along my back fence.

Damn.

So, knowing all is not lost, I head out to move the recycling cans to the road. That truck always comes later and, again as usual, the garbage truck driving by had served as my calendar alert. (Note to my dumb self: ADD a calendar alert to take out trash and recycling).

Sure enough, I spy the back end of the garbage truck as I descend the back deck steps, the two men busy loading trash from my neighbor’s house further up the road. I dutifully grab hold of the two wheeled, 50-gallon recycling cans and drag them to the road. One is bright yellow, an official “gift” from the county, the other the standard dark green with a faded recycling symbol stenciled on the sides and top. I pause a moment, rearranging the boxes and bags in this home-made can, concerned that the recycling folks will yet again mistake it for trash. (Second note to self: repaint the bloody recycling symbol).

As I’m standing there, I hear the garbage truck’s klaxon come on, and look up to see it backing down the road toward me. As in, coming BACK to get my trash. Unprecedented, right? At first I waive them off, saying the cans are recycling, fodder for a later truck. But then, I say, “Wait, I do have trash,” and run to get that can and roll it to them.

“Wait a minute,” you’re saying. “You mean to tell me that these guys went out of their way to get your trash? To come BACK for it??”

Yup.

And all because of the 100 or so bags I’d left them to pick up back in March.

Huh?

Oh, did I mention the beer?

So, full story: I had been getting the house prepped for the market all winter and early spring, and leaving increasingly large amounts of trash by the road. And then it came time to replace the basement carpet. I could have paid Home Depot to remove the old stuff, but at $.50 a square foot – meaning about $500 for the whole basement – I figured I’d have some fun with a razor knife.

My only concern was the sheer volume of trash I’d be producing, upwards of 30 bags heavy with carpet and padding. And I couldn’t stagger the pick-ups, meting out the bags over several weeks to even the load. No, the house was going on the market and the garage needed to be empty.

Enter the beer.

My home-improvement-wise stepfather suggested an excellent course of action: bribe the garbage men.

So, late one Wednesday in early April, I dragged about 20 bags to the road. It had just rained and was chilly, projected to reach the low 40s at night. Perfect. So, atop a few bags but hidden beneath another layer, I left a case of Yuengling Lager. I chose cans to avoid the possibility of breakage, even though every fiber of my being recoils at the thought of canned beer, and hoped the men would be pleased.

As far as I knew, they were. In the morning, the bags were gone. All of them. And so was the beer. And so were the bags and bags and bags I left for them the following month, as my preparations wore on.

But until this morning I had nothing but circumstantial confirmation of how effective my ploy had been.

As he walks up to retrieve my trashcan from me, the tall, somewhat disheveled and unshaven young man smiles and says, “Hey, thanks for the beer you left that time.” Behind him, his older and heavier black companion smiles a knowing smile.

“No problem,” I say. “Figured I was asking a lot.”

With another smile, they empty my trash and climb back aboard the truck as it drives off.

Mission accomplished. And all for about $18.