By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
I rise in Las Vegas at the crack of noon, 2006. No Mr. Knarley. I call Rum Raisin for a status report. The hotel swimming pool — the primary reason for choosing the Palms — is closed for the day, due to high winds. The Dungeonites have headed eastward to explore the Strip.
There’s no plan and all day to catch up. I head down to casino level, grab breakfast in a counter seat at the 24 Seven Cafe and arrange for a fresh start: a new room, farther from frat row, perhaps not right fucking beside the elevator. Christina at the front desk puts me in 20109, on the 20th floor, with an unobstructed view to the north. I transfer my baggage, return to ground level and head east on Flamingo Road, on foot.
It’s a good walk — about 45 minutes to the Strip. This gives me time to reflect on the beauty of the weather — for fiercer winds I’ve never battled — and the prescience of a recent dream. Street signs have fallen; newspaper kiosks too. Forty-five minutes of sandstorms and diesel exhaust. But pleasant, in the high 70s.
The dream: Two weeks earlier, I’d awakened in the middle of the night with a mysterious desire to own a pith helmet. Ordered one online for $17, went back to sleep. This may well be the first sign of a serious bipolar condition, but it certainly worked out well for now; the pith helmet is ideal protection from these blinding gusts of Las Vegas sand.
I find the lunch drinkers at Mon Ami Gabi. They’re done. I’m not hungry after my trough of pig & eggs at 24 Seven Cafe. Animal needs sunglasses. No; Chameleon-Animal needs expensive sunglasses, from a particular boutique in Caesars Palace. Jesus. Animal-Animal should kick Chameleon-Animal’s ass.
We meander through the Strip crowd and into nearby Uncle Caesars Palace & Upscale Swapmeet Marketplace Mall, I believe it’s called.
The music is hideous and everywhere. As an adult, I’ve discussed music with hundreds if not a thousand people or more, and not one over the age of 14 enjoys this candy-coated regurgitated discotheque sewage. Which means that Vegas’ target audience must be all these 14-year-old text-messaging aficionados with fake IDs and their parents’ credit cards, many carrying what look like red or green plastic bongs, but are in fact portable half-yards of margaritas.
And look — there’s Pete Rose, signing autographed memorabilia at some boutique. I wonder why Pete would be in Vegas.
Good: Animal has his expensive sunglasses, just in time for nightfall. We take a shuttle back to the hotel, hit the showers and return to our new hangout, the sportsbook bar. Little Kurt and Spike have arrived. Spike’s face is in its 40s, but his physique — he’s an avid bicyclist and weightlifter — has remained in its 20s. He wears one of his original Dungeon T-shirts, in mint condition, with a big floor logo on the back and EKIPS — his name, backward — in small letters on the front. Little Kurt (only called little because Big Kurt was huge) used to look like a newscaster; now he looks more like a senator from the great state of Arizona. Little Kurt gets my vote for most charmed life: still married to his high school sweetheart, with three kids and a stable job that appears to pay quite well.
We baste. KK points out a disturbing neighbor, a man resembling Esteban Vihaio, Michael Parks’ character in Kill Bill Volume 2 — a dried-up disco lizard, a defrocked Bolivian priest in a pale-blue shirt and tinted sunglasses, with shiny hair and tight pants for the ladies. Good evening, ladies . . .
Lizard man complains to the bartender that KK and I are Afghan spies, involved in top-level espionage. As evidence, he points to the red LED on my digital audio recorder.
Dude: If we were spies, we’d be staying at the Wynn, not at the fucking Palms. Bartender calls security. Security surrounds Lizard man, scoots him toward and talks him out the door.
It’s too late to get dinner reservations. Someone at the front desk advises us that the only place we’re likely to find a table is at the overpriced piece-of-shit sliced-cow emporium, a few blocks away.
And so we eat cow-based heart attacks simmering in butter, with baked potatoes. It’s a long table, with Animal at one end and KK at the other. I’m at the KK end, where the conversation’s focused on the music we used to listen to. The other end of the table’s talking about financial shit.
The bar at the sportsbook has become our default gathering spot. We return from the overpriced slaughterhouse outlet to find Toby there at the bar. And we greet him as we would have done in ’81 — by not greeting him. We just stand there, 20 feet away, and look, and snicker. Heh. There’s Toby. Heh-heh. Doesn’t see us. Heh. We form a circle around the target and slowly close in.
Saturday’s less windy at the Palms hotel. The pool’s open. Darin’s gone — won $750 at blackjack late last night, got up early and left. Spike and I have breakfast with KK and Kurt at the 24 Seven. Then we join the others poolside, in the shade.