Life in hell

My cycling year ended yesterday, and this morning I got up, packed the car, and began penance.

When I got to Vegas I left my car with the valet lady and checked into Mr. Wynn’s motel. A group of sad faced people were leaving as I was arriving. One of them made eye contact. “Don’t worry,” she said. “We made sure there’s plenty of money left for you.”

It was early but the thieving tables were already going strong. I breathed in the cigarette smoke and looked at the donors. “I could beat most of ’em on the Donut,” I told myself smugly.

It was noon but before going down to the convention I had to eat, and I wasn’t about to spend thirty bucks on a meal so I took out my knife, my jar of peanut butter, and a loaf of Mrs. WM’s bread wrapped in tinfoil. “$300 room, $1.75 lunch,” I smugly muttered.


I went down to the ballroom where they were holding the trial lawyer’s convention. I was going to take a bunch of seminars to learn how to be a better lawyer and I had convention fever. This is that feeling you have the first day of a conference, excitement, anticipation, and most of all a blood oath that you will study hard, pay attention, ask intelligent questions, take good notes, and be an Excellent Conference Attendee.

I sat down to learn about defamation and was fascinated by the incredible speaker. However, when I woke up the room was empty and the lights were off. Who knew two hours could pass so quickly?

I wandered into the exhibit area, which was packed with lawyers and vendors. “I can take every one of you fuckers at Telo,” I thought smugly.

Being off the bike for September and already worried about losing fitness, I decided to do a big walk around Mr. Wynn’s motel and alcohol-therapy center. Plus, I had an hour to kill before my next nap.

Countless couples wandered glassy-eyed through the center, which was fine, and many had their small children in tow, which was not. Over the way from Mr. Wynn’s fake waterfall was the fake Venice, and people from all over the world snapped pictures of the fake gondoliers in the fake canal. I looked hard but didn’t see a single person who could beat me in the NPR sprint.

I returned to the conference and attended a scintillating nap on damages. Afterwards I made detailed notes about what I had learned. “Thank you all for coming today,” I wrote, but couldn’t recall anything else.

Back in the exhibit hall one of the vendors was raffling a Rolex. “Sign up for your chance to win a Rolex!” the booth dude said excitedly.

I thrust my Timex into his face. “What are you trying to say?”

He laughed, nervously. “Oh, nothing!” Then he showed me his Casio. “Me, too,” he blushed.

Another vendor tried to ensnare me in a raffle for a $500 bottle of wine. “No, thanks.”

“It’s a very fine wine!”

“And I’m a very fine alcoholic.”

On the way back to my motel room I spied scads of lawyers furiously gambling and slamming hard liquor. It occurred to me that the abandon and freedom I feel on the Donut, they feel at the thieving table.

It was late, really late, almost 7:00 PM. I grabbed a $5 espresso and watched as the evening ramped up all around me. Everyone was so sure that this was their night, guys shouting boldly one failed bet after another, Chinese trophy wives grimly betting on the wheel, gambloholics stonily swirling around the drain.

And it was amidst this horror and illness and industrialized theft that my colleagues felt happiest and most at home. I dined on more bread and water, slipped between the sheets, and dreamed of Donuts.


27 thoughts on “Life in hell”

  1. That is a scarily real depiction of the hell that is an industry conference at a casino. Stay strong on the pan-y-agua + espresso program.

    (ps – your photos are a bit off, perhaps the sizing?)

  2. To cheer you up come and visit a Houston grocery store or other business able to open and you will find considerate, friendly, caring neighborly people – all strangers – who stop to ask how each other are doing and helping elderly or disable people find the best piece of fruit. The Krogers is careful to keep their sales prices very low and the staff are working extra shifts. The Mayor and head of County (supposedly from different parties) work together and have each other’s back. The power company has restored power to over 800,000 homes and most of the ones remaining are still submerged. Best. City. Ever. Our neighbors had s party when electricity was restored with soft ice cream and best Gumbo imaginable from thawed stuff. Mattress Mac finally getting the recognition he deserves for his decades of charitable work, the families he’s saved by employing valuable people who couldn’t otherwise get a job. And scholarship moneys. We’re not natives; got here before Carla in 1961 (my mom dealing w snakes after water in house is my childhood memory) and you, knowing the city so well, would be unsurprised with resilience and neighborliness in face of the amazing scope of damage.

  3. If only it were true that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Hope you escape that sooty ashtray soon!

  4. Goodness, Wanky, this sounds almost as boring as my life. See what happens when you yell at Head Down James? (Don’t ever do that again.) And go do the zipline in Fremont. Overpriced, way too short, but fun just the same.

  5. For a long time I’ve wanted to ride the Scenic Loop Drive in Red Rock National Conservation Area. It’s due west of Las Vegas, and the scenery is as stunning and real as Vegas is fake.

    Right now it’s deadly hot there, but if I ever go to Vegas some time November through April, I’ll give it a try.

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