>Since I (Dr. V.) have been craptacular at posting lately, and since it’s the end-of-the-semester crunch time, I thought I’d let the Pastry Pirate pilot the ship today. She sent me an e-mail detailing her cross-country trip to Vegas and said I could post it as a shout-out to her blog friends. I’ve edited a few things to protect my pseudonymity, but other than that, the rest of this post comes straight from the Pirate’s mouth!
Greetings all…I just wanted to let you know I arrived in Las Vegas to start my
externship at MGM Grand in one piece, though the same cannot be said
of my car, which is being held together by a wire hanger (no, really).
In the immortal words of Inigo Montoya: I ess-plain. No. There is too
much. I sum up.
Last Friday (Dec 1), a freak storm caused my apartment to lose power
while I was doing laundry and packing, so instead of leaving Saturday
as planned, I had to push things back and hit the road Sunday morning.
Wiley and I arrived in Rust Belt, home of Dr. V., Bullock, and the world’s
most famous Lebanese actor, on Sunday night. Wiley seemed to settle quite
well into his foster parents’ pad (that would be the lovely home of
Dr. V. and Bullock, not the Lebanese actor), perhaps because he overheard
Bullock say that he sees no reason not to feed dogs table scraps.
After a relaxing morning (it was nice to talk to grown-ups again!), I
set out from Rust Belt sans Wiley Monday afternoon and got as far as
Boonville, Missouri. The next day, I made it all the way to
Georgetown, in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, but not without some
peril. Outside Colby, Kansas, my Ford Focus tussled with a tumbleweed.
I thought nothing of it, but when I got stuck in Denver rush hour
traffic and had to slow from 90 mph to a crawl, I heard a horrible
scraping noise. I pulled over to the shoulder, got on my hands and
knees and discovered that the bottom of my car seemed to be scraping
I also discovered that Denver, or at least the area I was in, has no
gas stations. I got off the Interstate and drove around fruitlessly
with my car dragging and my fuel gauge empty light on until I found a
truck stop that was open. It was funny because all the tools, etc.,
they had were for trucks and dwarfed my poor Focus, but finally David
(born and raised in Brooklyn, in the process of moving to Las Vegas as
soon as he has enough for the Greyhound ticket… so far he’s only
gotten as far as Denver, and no, I’m not kidding) managed to jack the
car up enough to crawl under it and inform me that half the screws of
my catalytic converter shield had been torn off, leaving gaping holes
behind, but that he did not have the right screw driver to either pull
the shield off entirely or repair the screws that had come off.
David, who was very cute in a James Hetfield circa Garage, Inc. days
way and very sweet but, uhm, slow in a Joe the produce carny way (many
of you will remember my long lost produce carny…), said it would
take days to order the new part anyway because the shield itself was
unsalvageable. He then got excited with “an idea” that would get me
“over the mountains safe and to Las Vegas ok”… he ran into the
locker room and came out with a wire hanger, which he threaded through
the gaping holes, twisted and pronounced a successful repair.
I decided to trust him that my car would not become a fireball
somewhere near the Continental Divide because he said he planned to
look me up when he got to Vegas and seemed quite sincere.
David’s jerry-rigging did indeed hold, not only over the mountains but
the following day, over the San Rafael Swell where the road seemed
much steeper. The San Rafael was also gorgeous in a bleak, hostile
sort of way, and I wound up stopping at all the geologic view points,
because you know how much I love that stuff. Much of the exposed rock
is from around the Permian extinction timeframe, which was the most
devastating with more than 95% of all species on earth utterly wiped
out. I dunno about you, but that gets my blood racin’.
I also love being able to see rock layers all twisted and bunched up
like taffy, and some of them were as tortured as anything I’ve seen in
Iceland. Every time I stopped to read the roadside plaque, however, my
car literally groaned. It made these awful noises when I turned the
motor off that, translated into human, were probably “ohh, my back…
my achin’ back.”
I spent Wednesday night in southern Utah, in the dumpy town of Cedar
City, because I wanted to arrive fresh and awake in Vegas. Good thing
I made that decision, because Vegas traffic is a bit insane.
Actually, the epiphany I had earlier today about Vegas is that it’s
like a desert Moscow.
No, it’s not that bad… but there are disturbing similarities. The
traffic, for example, is all six or eight lanes, and with a lot of
liberal interpretation of traffic laws and frequent U-turns. Every
time I do a U-turn, I think in my head “Vwot! Razresheniye!” and
remember with some fondness the insane dip-razes I used to pull in
Moscow (“razresheniye” meaning u-turn, and dip-raz being short for,
essentially, a diplomatic u-turn, as in a reckless manuever that only
someone with diplomatic immunity would try, such as a u-turn across
five lanes of traffic and in front of a cop with sirens blaring).
More Moscow similarities: you’ll be driving along one block after
another of anonymous buildings (in Moscow, it’s grimy gray blocks…
here it’s strip malls) and then suddenly come upon an enormous,
ostentatious building that looks ridiculously out of place (the
Stalinist behemoths in Moscow, the hotels here, which exist off the
strip, too, and stick out even worse).
Also: regardless of the weather in Moscow, even in the heat of summer,
people would be bundled up. And here in Vegas, where it’s 70 degrees
and sunny and I am melting in a t-shirt and jeans, I keep seeing
people in winter coats and boots and hats and scarves. Yes, there are
a lot of people in tiny clothes, too, but the number of people dressed
for an Arctic expedition is unsettling.
For those of you who know how I feel about Moscow, Don’t Worry. I am
fascinated by Vegas, by its weirdness and foreigness. Quite frankly, I
think this is the most foreign place I’ve ever lived… it’s just
so… *odd*… like the lady who waited on me at World Market
yesterday. She was about 50, my height and maybe 120 pounds, with a
very ill-fitting long blond wig and a lot of really, really bad
plastic surgery and strange, badly-drawn eyebrows. She was very nice
and I felt bad because I was trying not to stare, but wow, she looked
like one of the freakish Frankenstein nurses in “Escape from L.A.”…
and don’t tell me I’m the only one who’s seen that movie! Also, in my
29 hours here in Vegas, I’ve already encountered at least half a dozen
people shouting that Jesus is coming and Hallelujah and so on. It’s
already got me wondering if Vegas acts as a freak magnet, drawing the
troubled, or if people go nuts after living here too long. It’s
probably both, so while I’m excited to be here, I’m also glad it’s
only for a few months.
My apartment is nicer than I had thought it would be, though the
complex looks very dumpy from the outside. My unit is clean and quiet,
however, with big shade trees that let me keep the vertical blinds
open and still have privacy. It’s about two miles from MGM Grand, and
I plan on walking to and from work as often as possible since it’s a
safe, straight shot along Tropicana.
This morning I got my health card and now I’m running errands, picking
up some things I couldn’t fit in my car. I don’t start work until
early Tuesday morning, and between now and then I plan on visiting the
Liberace Museum (in a strip mall just two blocks from my apartment!)
and doing some hiking at the Valley of Fire, which sounds like my kind
This morning as I was walking out of the scary community health center
with my health card, I took in the brilliant sunshine (the sun really
is noticeably stronger here than in NY or Wisconsin) and cloudless sky
and had that gut reaction of “Wait! I have to go hiking today! I have
to go hiking RIGHT NOW because who knows when I’ll see the sun
Then I realized I’ll be seeing the sun again tomorrow. And the next
day… and the next day… and the next day…