Tuesday, January 1, 2013
In tribute to the late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
It started on a Sunday morning. After making a nutritious breakfast for the children consisting of whole grains and fresh fruit, I went into the bathroom and shaved off my beard, leaving only a moustache that made me look like some suburban bastardchild of Juan Escobar and Robert Goulet.
“Good God!” screamed my wife, “What have you done??”
“Trust me,” I answered, “This is absolutely necessary.” I then kissed this blessed woman goodbye. It was not a final goodbye, the stuff of tragedy and wailing. I’d be returning in little over 24 hours but it would be a rough 24 hours which, if I were lucky, would be filled with peril and mayhem.
So what was it that was taking me from my comfy domestic environs only to transform me into some deranged mustachioed madman? This was my annual casino night, a debauched ritual of sorts that’s evolved over the past few years among a collection of my friends.
Like so many men living in the bosom of America’s office parks and AYSO soccer fields, I’ve made friends with the husbands of my wife’s friends. The progression is simple and as tried and true as the evolutionary processes that ensured mankind would discover fire and the wheel. Wives will bond together, a product of their hard-wired advanced socialization instincts. As their friendships develop, they begin to think it safe to put all their husbands in a room and see what transpires.
And what has happened? Success of the highest order. I lucked upon a cadre of fellows almost as enamored of mid-life bad behavior as I am. Now every year, I find myself screaming down I-95 with these animals, with trunks full of alcohol and heads full of mayhem.
A half hour later I was picked up at my office by Carlo. This man is my insurance agent and most trusted friend and advisor. It is rare that I move forward with any transaction over eighteen dollars without consulting Carlo.
Carlo made room for my bags in his trunk.
I screamed something like, “Sweet Jesus, Carlo. What is all this?”
Carlo made a flat surface off a case of Budweiser, three bottles of bourbon and a bag of cigars. Upon this temple he laid my garment bag.
“We need all of this,” Carlo barked back. “It is of the upmost necessity.”
And so we headed north on 95. Connecticut is a strange place. Every nook and cranny dates back to the days of pasty white pilgrims. But in time, Puritanical orderliness has given way to illogical civic haphazardness. Cemeteries holding veterans of the American Revolution butt up against housing projects, and those projects are ever more becoming dwarfed by new neighboring shining office complexes that harbor pirates of the hedge fund or pharmaceutical variety. Connecticut has become the perfect manifestation of America’s perennial ADD, allowing anything, anywhere, anytime however ugly so long as it bleeds green for somebody along the trough.
Finally, Carlo’s car turned off 95 and we headed north on I-395. Here, one enjoys a welcome repose from broken down post industrial apocalypse of coastal Connecticut and a more pastoral scene unfolds.
“Sweet Christ, what is that?” I screamed!
Through the trees I spotted a farm compound with a windmill and a yellow ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flag. Carlo slowed the car down. A series of sirens blocked the interstate up ahead.
“For the sake of holy fuck,” I yelled, “What in God’s name do you think you’re doing? Don’t slow down – they’ll kill us all!!”
“Gotta,” Carlo answered. “Cops. Must be an accident.”
“Don’t you realize the trap we’ve been lulled into? Out here they feed on people like you and me. You really want us to become the pitted pigs in some Nazi Westboro Baptist John Birch luau? Get us the hell out of here!!”
Calmer heads prevailed and a half hour later, Carlo was slipping a room key card into the door of our suite. It was a luxurious setting evoking Cecil B. DeMille’s Hollywood. Ordinarily going for over $500 a night, the suite was offered to us at $129 a night, a price secured by Carlo through some cacophony of wheelings and dealings, the nature of which I could never comprehend.
Some time later, we found ourselves in Michael Jordan’s Sports Bar. Photographs of the hardwood deity were everywhere. The Knicks fan in me recoiled in horror. Our lunch consisted of a mountain of nachos that resembled the monstrosity Richard Dreyfus built in his living room in Close Encounters.
“We should get a few buckets,” Carlo announced over the loud music and numbing din of five separate NFL games glaring down on us like Orwellian Big Brothers.
“What’s that?” I yelled back. “I don’t want any buckets, but we ought to get some beer to wash this Jalapeño madness down.”
“We need beer, that’s what I’m saying.”
To be honest, my mind had gotten a little fuzzy before we even set foot into Jordan’s. Up in the suite, Carlo insisted upon a ritual that he guaranteed would yield fortuitous results at the gaming tables. This necessitated that we shotgun two beers, down a considerable amount of bourbon and then proceed with a maneuver by which he would suplex me. If you’ve never seen a suplex, I suggest you look online to see an illustration of this, professional wrestling’s most graceful and culturally significant offerings.
I screamed, “Holy hell, what are we going to do with all these buckets?”
Besides the mountain of nachos, there were now three buckets filled with Budweiser bottles. It was dense and terrifying.
The table next to us turned away in horror. They were a clean wholesome looking family with four children and riddled with Americaness. Disgusted by us, they got up to leave and I could only hope that they and their young children could somehow regain balance in that hell of puritanical existence they called life. I spared these animals the service of asking why they spend Sundays with their children in casinos rather than on soccer fields, churches or other such forums of brimming Americaness.
The buckets and bottles continued to come. “For the love of God, Carlo,” I yelled. “We’ll die here!”
Carlo waived me off while looking at his phone. “No need to panic,” he said. “He’s here.”
At this time I turned around to see the figure of Victor Koslov, another of our Dad-cadre from Pleasantville.
“Victor,” I screamed, “Thank Christ you’re here. Carlo’s trying to kill me!”
Victor failed to acknowledge my terror. Instead he turned to the table next to us and grabbed two straws from children’s’ sippy-cups. He inserted these into two bottles of Budweiser. He then bent the straws down so they pointed at the floor. Then, with a sort of otherworldly and majestic grace, he took the two bottles to his mouth and craned his neck upwards. The bent ends of the straws, once pointing down, were now pointed at the ceiling, providing Victor with the air suction cipher needed to drain the beer into his Cossack body in mere seconds. Completed, he then turned his gaze to the restaurant patrons and offered them a soul splitting belch.
A few hours later I woke up sitting on a lounge chair wearing nothing but soaking wet swimming trunks. A few minutes of scanning and searching tipped off my brain’s recall. I was still at Mohegan Sun. I’d been with Victor and Carlo. There’d been lunch and liquor before lunch. And now I was standing there half naked in the indoor pool portion of the casino’s spa. I could see casino employees removing patio furniture from the bottom of the pool’s deep end. What had happened here? Where were Victor and Carlo?
I was seized upon by a terrible chill. I must have been in the pool before falling asleep. I lucked upon finding a hottub and quickly got in.
There in the hot tub were two linebacker lesbians and an obese ex-marine, his numerous tattoos and semper fi hat tipping the world off on his former profession.
“When did you serve?” I asked.
“Late seventies. Early eighties”, he offered back, the adding, “I got bayoneted.”
“Where?” I asked, intrigued. “How? Like at some civil war reenactment gone wrong?”
Tattoos were the main topic of discussion in the hottub. One of the lesbians had an enormous tattoo which covered most of her upper torso. I’d gather the artist who did it also is responsible for the illustrations on the back of my House of Choi take-out menu.
I have no tattoos and could offer nothing to the tub.
“Get out!” Boomed a voice above me. I looked up and saw an enormous woman in a white track suit bearing casino logo.
“Shitsticks, Frau Brucha, you nearly made me contaminant this facility.”
“The hell are you talking about?”
“I booted your friends out, and now you’re out too!”
Apparently Carlo and Victor had been caught smuggling beer into the spa and apparently drinking beer is some sort of venial sin in the world of health-spa Nazism. And apparently, Victor voiced his discontent by throwing patio furniture into the pool while screaming like some possessed Slavic performance artist.
Two of the casino’s ubiquitous earthtone-clad security stared at me from behind her with death in their eyes. These are men whose lives are shorted by an inner pain caused by those legal constraints which prevent them from beating every drunk like me into some mangled roadkill hashdish. I could feel death’s whiskey breath and stubble licking my face simply by looking into those eyes. So I left.
I quickly went up to the suite, cleaned up and went out looking for Carlo and Victor. The footprint of Mohegan Sun’s layout is immense, larger than any casino I’d ever encountered. The gaming tables, the shops, the restaurants; everything is arranged with a non-linear disorienting plan intended to keep you away from your hotel room and close to something that will make you gamble or shop.
Late into the evening, all the tables carry an air of heavy menace. Those souls found in a casino at two in the morning on a Sunday night are a vicious breed of dangerous nocturnal beast. They need neither sleep nor the nurturing confines of healthy domesticity and functional human relationships.
My cash had diminished in ways I’m not yet ready to acknowledge. How long was I going to last? Where could I gamble what’s left of this snippet of folding cash I’d resigned to bring up and blow to hell should it come to that?
I wandered from table to table eventually finding Carlo playing Let It Ride. The evening has turned against him. Victor is standing behind him shaking his head.
“We should pull him away, no?” Victor asked me.
I lashed back, “Are you out of your mind, he’ll gouge your eyeballs out and suplex your corpse. Leave him be if you know what’s good for you.”
There was a pause at the table and a new dealer checked in. All the dealers at Mohegan Sun are Asian and each bred with a unique gene of institutional meanness. Holy Jesus, these people scare me. One can’t help but to see the source of this horror; to imagine the tragic arch of their lives that’s brought them from their Chinese villages to this enormous spaceship planted right in the heart of Yankee redneckdom. My God, imagine their lives outside the casino in this wilderness, walking into some outpost grocery store looking for garlic and pork marinade only to be met by some drunken camouflage-clad Massachusetts minuteman survivialist, aching to blast them into bits as some machismo-validating act of Patriotism…
I was going to die if I drank with Victor or gambled with Carlo. The only thing I could do was summon the raped brain cells I had left, make some monetary assessment of what my life was worth in a casino, and gamble my own way to oblivion.
I began to prowl the floor, looking for a table where I could meekly lay down my twenties and hope that these Chinamen made my demise slow enough to let me fleece free drinks from the wait staff that irregularly orbit like some rouge planet whose very existence could be called into question.
All the minimums at the tables have been jacked up. I felt like a jackal scratching for survival through the Serengeti’s dry season, wishing only to pick clean any scraps left behind by nature’s alpha predators.
One blackjack table caught my eye, though its anchoring occupant terrified me to the core. There is nothing but horror to be found among the nocturnal animals that plant themselves at a blackjack tables during Sunday night’s witching hour. And there he was. How can I describe him? He was a three-hundred pound gorilla whose twin haunches of angry cholesterol had to perch upon two chairs. Two empty seats buffered each side of him. Dare I take the chance of sitting next to this beast and laying my money down? No one else was. He’d apparently driven any other Mohegan Sun patrons away with critiques of their blackjack strategies, undoubtedly laced with promises of violence. I looked at the beast. He truly was something to behold and I had to respect the sight as one would respect the sight of male lion disemboweling a gazelle and acknowledge, yes, holy shit, God can create that too. Alone, isolated by the darkness he’d thrust upon humanity, this man sat surveying the floor. A cigarette tucked between his fingers. It looked like a speck of dust nestled into the abyss of a canned ham. I knew then I must escape this netherworld and find away to survive until tomorrow.
I found Victor and Carlo back in the suite. We were all in bad shape. Not exactly flinging our feces or speaking in tongues, but our time here had been rough. The sun was beginning to come up and we pondered breakfast, unable to remember if we’d even had dinner the night before.
I went to the window and looked out. There is a labyrinth of parking garages for this death star and it seemed to expand out and beyond the reaches of reasonable surveyorship, almost reaching New Hampshire.
What had we done? We, the afterbirth of America; this Fox News equation; the story book / history book’s dreamstrain dreamt by those Pilgrims who’d initially settled this land. New England was supposed to be the Puritans’ city on a hill. They came here escaping persecution from the Crown. They set up their encampments in this place, all hellbent on salvation, their hard-ons raging while they thumped bibles and burned witches.
And now, looking out from this window at Mohegan Sun, taking in this monstrosity of cement, greed and vanquished dreams - I could see how the last laugh has really been given to all those indigenous peoples the Puritans exterminated through disease, stupidity and slaughter. Watch the white man go down the vortex, look at the thousands of anonymous suburban nobody’s trying to dry hump their dollars into snakeoil happiness.
Look at it all go bleeding down the hills.
Look at it go, kimosabe.
Look at it go.