Oh such affluent joy of my first time in America, of basking in casinos, soaked in captain and cokes, generally losing money at blackjack or roulette. From ten to six to three to two of us, we found our way to LA first. I'm not bothered explaining, but we had separate flights, which sucked but enough rum and munchies and who cares. I busied myself at LAX drinking off and into my sweats, topping up with valium and using large markers to diligently draw a large welcoming notice for my friend, Mr.Hogan. I was just glad to have someone I knew and so I could stop dragging complete strangers into conversation. (Over the full length of the holiday, I would take six flights and chat unceremoniously to at least four people - including; one was an Austrian girl doing cancer research in Cork, a Scottish girl who trained soccer teams in America called Gill. She called me Sean. Nothing annoys me more.... Next, a travelling businessmen who taught me about American geography and helped me find my bags at a terminal and another an old lady who felt sorry for my shivering corpse on the long flights home and gave me her blanket).
LAX was too big. Much like America. I have never seen a country love and celebrate itself so much, with all its endless pride and spotless patriarchal flagging on lawns. It is burgers, cars, buildings, all just huge and massively over-bearing. Everything really. Hugging and huge, embracing systems and grids and networks in grease and power and fortitude of such a whole-sale monolith of itself. Mr.Hogan arrived and we disappeared like dots into a nation.
A stray plane was returning to Vegas, so from LAX we boarded it only to find it....... completely empty and a staff of 3 women catering to all our needs - free booze and a choice of a few hundred seats..... I've pictures to prove all this btw).
Vegas is not all that impressive. Take one long stretch of road; cover it with neon lights, casinos and pawn-shops, all very much resembling one another, and taa daa. For sprinkles, use every hip-hop clique in the book (low riders, gang bangers wit white knee socks, forties, and expensive looking people with chains and finger signals) and spread them out thick and fast. Hip hop must have claimed Vegas a long, long time ago, and not even the good ol' school 80's hip-hop, I'm talking of the throw-away bullshit that every commercial radio-station pumps, the fiftys, the games, the rakwons, etc. Made me want to bible bash them with tales of indie-rock or stories of the days of Mayfield and Gaye or..... .anything. My only vestige my word.
Anyway, we did not stay much longer than was needed in the Stratosphere to put our bags down and then head out naturally. Our nights were, needless to say, very blurry and strange. Our photographs are, for the most part, dark and corrupted with digits and darkness. The first night, I believe, was that special one whereby one loses their hotel key (only finding out after the room is registered under a Mr.Hogan and I personally cannot acquire a new key so sleeping on your own doorstep becomes the only solution) and nearly gets robbed by two stunning black hookers. (Or was that the second night?) These lovely women could not stop checking out my pin number, so being bothered somewhat, I freaked and ran. Hogan had disappeared so I took a few very expensive taxis to root him out. No luck. I grabbed a few more Cpt&Cokes and got out of Circus Circus.
Day times were boring, nursing hangovers and so forth. I usually went for a stroll in heat usually reserved for the roasting of chickens and cow, ate well (big steaks, I mean, HUGE...... onion rings thrown in, endless refills of ice-cold coke.... Heaven) and returned to power nap. Our TV was great. The continuous movies went cock in hand with the iced bottles of Miller and Morgans rum. That following night, we procured a tour guide - Joe. He was a crazy son-of-a-bitch, wearing a checker shirt, open all the way, quite a fierce looking man, at one stage or another he'd obviously smashed his head well and truly into drugs. He had a crawl and drawl about him that carried an unseen weight, that past of great rise and fall. He carried a small plastic bag all night. Its contents - two belts he'd stolen. Obliterated on US weed, spectacular, we agreed to 'needing' a guide and so began a night of trekking through every casino until noon the next day. Joe was friendly and interesting all the same and made for an interesting adventure. Mr.Hogan purchased some fine white power from a local street merchant. Unfortunately after snorting two fat lines, cocaine soon became salt. The nostril burn lasted some time and I thoroughly regretted hunching on down on that blasted public toilet seat.
By the nights inevitable end, we had accrued a small posse that sat eternally it seemed at the O'Shea's bar (on a street corner I knew to be propagated with prostitutes, just in case I wished to throw away yet more money) - myself, Hogan, Joe, two hookers (nicky and Kia), a dude called Mark (who showed Hogan how to get his 'mack' on) and a photographer called Robert. Always limping penniless afterwards, we would frequent this bar many, many times.
The big women with containers full of quarters do in fact exist. They sit FOREVER at one-armed bandits. The money machines creating quite sad characters I thought. The tipping was yet another inconvenience but one I had little choice with. All the Benjamin's looked so similar, some bar men received massive 'accidental' tips. It is easy, say to spend nearly $200 in strip-joint in under two hours...... such as I did on the third night. ATMs are positioned everywhere, gambling bandits everywhere (at the counters in off-licenses and newsagents even) and then there were the women. We had spent excessive hours stalking bottles and cans through casinos only to end our night after a fucking expensive cab ride to Seamless, a classy $20 entry type job. The women were the standard Vegas chick, which is STUNNING (on this topic, I found Vegas a haven for the most fantastic Latino and Asian-American women I ever witnessed). Each woman was busty as hell, wearing a thong and heels and spoke in a sexual allure that could have men crying, publicly, on the floor, naked, still strapping cash into their elastic bands round their ankles (some of these bands must have contained thousands of dollars). Seamless was expensive but slick, cool, lit in blues and dark colours and full of very wealthy men and pedestal dancers. It was straight out of the movies, like most of what I saw in America (I was happy then to see that after all these years of watching films, I had not been lied to). After deciding to behave, I broke this promise to myself and flung all my cash at an amazing Asian woman. She teased me for long enough to twist my arm into buying a private dance after the public one, I'm a sinner for this stuff, so easy, I became the stereo-typical male victim/loser in these places. The touching was too restricted for me to fully appreciate it in comparison to Europe and the dude watching my hands and the woman offering me booze put you off the gyrating chick on your crotch. I feigned enthusiasm but what I really wanted was to fuck one of these chicks. I'd squandered nearly as much as a hooker cost. Irritated, we hit the booze and soon after left. Hogan had been more than satisfied with his two lap-dances. The light outside was truly terrifying and only then do you fully realise it is nearly noon the next morning. The taxi driver did his usual trip, round and round, letting out costs mountain a little higher with each lengthened turn, 'oh those fools' he reckoned. Which was cool.....
We met some others over the next day or so that I should mention, a cool gang of older kids into Britpop and Irish music - Michelle, Dale, Kevin and Aeisha (the most stunning African-american girl I have ever seen.... But that dude Kevin was with her. Pity. But he bought us drinks, these things called 'car-bombs' so I suppose it all worked out. Kinda). We turned down their offer to go the Killers after-party the next day as Hogan was sick and I broke (the Killers didn't actually turn up I believe). But we managed to try those famous HOOTERS buffalo wings and I have to say, they are pretty damn good. So was little Melissa, the cutest chick ever that served us. Got great picture together with her (about the breasts issue, they were not that large. I was slightly disappointed by most of the staff there but o na regular basis, I'm not such a stuffed shirt on this matter. Size does not matter.... Keep telling yourself Shane.......). We took to the streets for a while that night, SOBER, which was awful. It was a Saturday night and gangs and gangs and gangs of people mashed about. Moving about and trying to figure out the youth of Vegas all at once was just too hard. They seemed to just rove about over and over, in and out of one casino to another, drinking on the roads, hanging out of their cars and hollering.... At me. Ugh!
The next day, we would take flight to Reno to catch up with two friends and, from there, begin the second half of this trip - to survive Burning Man in Nevada (and hopefully do some psychedelics and get laid with a hippy-chick).
March sees a greatly expanded reissue of Elliott Smith's most critically acclaimed album Either/Or