Mar 17

Kinda Devil’s Canyon

Outside the Flamingo, fountains were erupting. Rollercoasters screamed by, through explosions of heat and light. Coins were dumped into the metal mouths of demonic machines. The Vegas Strip: full of mutants and glowing horrible neon lights. It was Tuesday night. Our room was climate controlled. There was a free burlesque show at 6am with steak and eggs if we were still up.

I had on my wrinkled grey suit, but my shoes shined like violence cause I’d spit on them and rubbed them on the pink shag carpet for awhile. Spout was in a tight black dress that you couldn’t tell had been stuffed in a backpack all across America. She knew how to use something called an iron, I had no idea.

We’d driven from NYC to Nevada in three days, taking our friends car to San Jose for them. A 1993 green Honda Civic without a radio. Along the way we’d survived off rest stop beef jerky and Wild Cherry Pepsi: singing each other songs, stopping to use the toilet in famous cities, getting discouraged at landmarks. “Elvis’s house hadn’t been as big as I thought it’d be.”

“Don’t knock the jungle room,” I warned.

“How could I?”

At the Flamingo hotel and casino. 23 floors up in the sky, our room was done up like 1967. Pink shag. White leather. Herp Albert and his Tijuana brass band played softly from the bedside clock radio. Spout sat before a wall of illuminated mirrors, applying purple mascara, glancing at me in the reflection over her tan shoulder. Her lips shined with gooey gloss. “You look nice,” she said, kissing the mirror. It was a rented room. The last of my unemployment insurance money. Who cared?

My cell started to buzz. A text from my friend. My friend, the fucking heart surgeon. Egyptian. Slicked back hair. Alex. How did I have a friend who was a heart surgeon?

Alex: I’m in Vegas, heard yer here too?

Bud: Holy Fuck! Yeah, me and Spout are in the Flamingo!

Alex: Partying with a medical rep at some clubs tnite wit other Drs…..COME!

Bud: Stella and Tight Pants are here too … can they come?

Alex: YES!!

He’d told me about the crazy parties that these medical rep salesman threw to try and woo the doctors into buying medical equipment for their hospitals. They’d take the doctors out on yachts–sword fishing, ringside at boxing events, parties at mansions, behind every door, something desirable. You could have it.

Down on the casino floor, Stella and her guy (I called him Tight Pants, because he wears the tightest pants I’ve ever seen anybody wear) found us right away by the video poker. She was a long island jew recently transplanted to the west coast. He was a sensitive, quiet, long haired artist type living in Los Angeles, working at a recording studio as a sound engineer. I told him once that he looked like he could be Tom Petty’s son, he got pretty pissed. That wasn’t my intent. He studied bonsai tree art for a while in Japan. He played me a Burt Bacharach song on a water damaged classical guitar. His house was on the steepest hill in Los Angeles. He’d said, “Glen Danzig lives there,” pointing at a dark and strange estate. “Really?” He’d shrugged, “Eh, maybe.”

The first time I met him, he told me his name was Simon. I don’t even think he was stoned. It was Thanksgiving, we were in San Diego, I kept saying, “Simon, pass the sweet potatoes …. Simon pas the gravy …”

Stella had said, her long bangs nearly covering her dark eyes, “Bud, why do you keep calling him Simon?”

People are strange. That’s nice. At the casino bar, we drank gin gimlets while the slot machines went ding ding ding ding ding and Spout said, “We’re gonna go meet up with some people at a club. Wanna come? Or do you guys wanna do something else? All of us.”

Stella was all about it, “Would we? That sounds great …” Tight Pants wasn’t too into the idea. He had on a grey turtle neck sweater. Tennis shoes. Spout explained again that a medical rep was taking a bunch of surgeons around, paying for everything. Everything.

“It’ll be great!” Stella said, sucking on a Marlboro light, “I’ll say I’m a lung surgeon!”

“Is that a thing?” Tight Pants asked.

“Fuck it,” I said, “If I get drunk enough, I’ll start saying I own a hospital—they’ll all be working for me by the end of the night.”

It was agreed. We’d go and leech all the money and drugs and alcohol we could find from this medical rep and his free ride.

We went across the vibrating strip to the top of the Tropicana. On every street corner there were people who’d eagerly pass glossy laminated cards for hookers, as if they played baseball. Collect them all.

“Look at this one! Shaved pussy and she’s a rookie!”

We gladly accepted, “I’ll put these in the spikes of my street bike,” Stella said, “they’ll make great sounds.” As we were walking into their club, Alex and a bunch of other suited doctors were leaving. They were being led by a big guy in a white button up dress shirt. A watch as big as my life. Victor, the sales rep. A head like a pit bull.

We blended in with the line. Pretended we belonged. Alex said, “We’re going to another club. Follow us.”

Tight Pants told me, “I don’t wanna go.”

Everybody looked at him like he was crazy.

Alex said, the wise heart surgeon he was said, “follow the money.”

Tight pants complained again and Alex counter offered, “we’ll give you a lift to wherever you wanna go.”

“A taxi?” I asked.

“Something like that,” Alex said smirking.

Downstairs, we waited on the sidewalk, sullen, Tight Pants said he wanted to catch an art show while in town, I said, “there’s zero fucking art in Las Vegas unless you count vomit sprayed on sidewalks.”

Just then a white stretch Humvee limo pulled up. Long. Pink neon lights in the windows. Smoke from dry ice came out of a special compartment in the roof. The stereo was blasting old school rap: It’s Tricky by Run DMC.

“I’m not getting in there,” Tight Pants said.

“Fine, stay here,” I said, the first one to climb in. Inside surgeons were staring at us, but we laughed in the pink glow of the neons lights.

There was a bottle of champagne. I popped it open, immediately passed it to Spout. She took a glug. Grinning at me like I was King Midas. I said, “I’m an oral surgeon,” pointing at Spout, “She’s a neural surgeon.”

Stellie’s Jackie O sunglasses hid her entire face. Like Darth Vader, but in a pretty dress.

They all shook our hands one at a time.

Tight Pants said, “I manage Metallica.”

He was alright.

We got dropped off at the Wynn half an hour later, falling out of the limo, feeling good. The night didn’t end, but being separated from the medical rep and the party limo didn’t help our cause. The four of us went to a restaurant on a fake lake that constantly changed colors and moved with psychedelic snakes and dragons flying through and over the water.

Tight Pants said, “Sorry, man …”

He wasn’t a club guy. A party guy. He wasn’t gonna score coke with us and stay awake for six days. Fine. That was fine. He looked like Tom Petty’s son. He knew how to make Bonsai trees like Mr. Miyagi. He could play “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” on the ukelele.

Stella held his hand on the glass table. Spout leaned into me. The water began to glow. LCDs were everywhere. Our waiter was from Nebraska. He kept telling us that.

The next morning, Spout and me were down in the hotel swimming pool. Her swimsuit might have been made exclusively to bring happiness into my life. It was ten am and we were drinking heavily and having fun. There was a waterfall there that you could swim behind and hang out. A cave. She kissed me back there hiding from the other guests. The waitress would even swim in, take our order.

“Maybe we’ll move into this cave, live here forever.”

“If the waitress keeps coming, I see no reason to ever leave.”

My phone rang tucked into the fake rocks and flora, fauna, ect. It was Tight Pants, he wanted to make it up to us. He realized he’d ruined the previous night.

“Sure, what do you wanna do?” I asked.

“OK, get this … I’m gonna go and rent a Lamborghini. And we’ll drive it out to Devil’s Canyon? That sound fun?

“Right on,” I said.

“1pm … Meet me and Stellie. Dream rentals it’s called.”

I hung up, nodding.

Spout asked, “What’s up?”

“We’re going to Devil’s Canyon in a Lamborghini.”

“To meet the devil?”

“To meet the devil,” I confirmed.

We showed up at Dream Rentals at 1:15, sideways, twisted up, wrecked. Tight Pants and Stella were standing there talking to the guy who ran the place. Blue button up shirt. Khaki pants. A serious motherfucker. Van Dyke goatee.

As I walked up, the rental clerk said loudly, “he can’t drive the car, he’s drunk.”

“Damn right I’m drunk,” I affirmed, as if it was an accomplishment. I’d won! I’d gotten drunk on a Wednesday afternoon! Shower me with prizes.

Tight Pants looked dismayed. Scratching his beard. Stella seems to shrink in her blue dress with red flowers as if to hide from conflict.

“It’s a stick shift,” he said. “I can’t drive stick, you’d have to do it.”

“Oh … you thought a Lamborghini was automatic?”

Spout started to laugh so hard I worried she’d fall over and crash land into the concrete sidewalk.

“Shit,” Tight Pants said. The rental clerk walked back into his air conditioned office. Put his feet back up on his desk. We stood in the parking lot baking. The sun was no one’s friend.

Spout had her arm looped in Stella’s, “Forget it!” she said brightly, “I got an idea.”


“Let’s go get those plastic guitars with the big straws that you can drink rum and cokes out of and walk up the strip to that place where you can shoot machine guns.”

“That sounds like a good time,” I said.

Tight Pants remarked, “I’m in. I’ll shoot a machine gun.”

We walked down Las Vegas Boulevard for a while, collecting more of those pornographic hooker cards. “Let’s wallpaper our bathroom with these,” Spout was saying. Then, I heard a voice screaming my name, Alex was hanging out the window of the white Humvee as it came to a stop in front of us.

“Where you going?” he yelled. He was still partying from the night before.

I peeked in the limo, it was the medical rep, Victor, Alex and three girls: strippers, showgirls—between shows. Possibly some of the hookers from the glossy cards being passed out.

“Give us a ride,” Tight Pants asserted.

“Get in,” Victor offered, pushing open the door with his alligator shoes.

As we climbed in, the girl with the heavy blue eye shadow flicked a switch and the stereo came to life. The Sugarhill Gang, Rapper’s Delight.

“Where to?” Victor asked. Anything was available.

–Bud Smith