SWEAT STAINED REVIEW: CONFESSIONS OF A BLUE COLLAR MISFIT
Why I Love Writing in Las Vegas
By Dan Denton
One of the things I enjoy the most about being a writer is that I’ve learned I can write stories and poems in Las Vegas dive bars just like I write them at my table in my west Toledo apartment. I can read and work on reviews for other’s projects while riding the bus down the Vegas strip, while heading down to explore their arts district and a newer bookstore that’s pretty amazing, just like I can write columns while I’m waiting to get a haircut, or my oil changed back home. I was looking for an excuse to travel to Vegas, and scouting for my future relocation west was as good as any excuse I could find. That, and a ridiculously cheap and last minute Spirit airlines saver’s club round trip ticket that involved two red eye flights, but hey, I’ve written some of my best shit at 2am, whether a mile above the Grand Canyon headed back east from another ill advised adventure, stuffed in a too small aisle seat on a silly looking yellow airplane, or sitting at an all night pancake house in Ann Arbor after chasing some other fun that likely had consequences that haven’t yet come due.
I wrote this while chain smoking menthol cigarettes at a fancy lounge at a famous casino. The bartenders name is Mr. Incognito, cuz I ain’t a snitch, just a storyteller. He used to live in the Midwest and work in a factory, just like me. He’s been slipping me free cups of coffee and emptying my ash tray all weekend, stopping by every hour to trade fun tales from the cornfields of our youth. He hasn’t bought his own cigarettes for days, and almost every word of this story is true.
It was 9am and I was smoking my morning blunt just off the Vegas Strip around behind the Horseshoe Casino and Hotel, near the taxi stand. The Horseshoe that used to be Bally’s.
It was 90 degrees, Friday morning in the desert July, when two young women stumbled out of a long black limousine. They both had bodies that would stop traffic in every Midwestern town I’ve ever known, and I’ve known many. They both wore short evening dresses that displayed legs that belonged in working men’s daydream museums. They stumbled on six inch spike heels and wore sunglasses nearly as big as their faces. One of them had a rainbow feather boa that was barely hanging on to a bare shoulder, and a bedraggled, but still glittery crown that said princess, and a few other things if you were willing to read between the lines.
It was 9am outside the Horseshoe, and travelers with rolling suitcases were waiting for cab rides to the airport. Two families with Mickey Mouse kids, and a few stragglers fidgeting with phones. They all turned to watch the dream girls from unlikely fantasies look around like maybe they’d never been here before, and wobble over towards me, while I smoked my morning meditation.
“Hey. Can we hit that once?” one of them asked, and I said, “sure,” and passed it. Up close the girls were flawless and smelled like the world’s best flower gardens, if those gardens were watered with booze. They’d spent the night in some beach nightclub on some rooftop, and ended up at an after party in some suite in some palace tower down the way, and both of them moved and sounded like they might never have been closer to the valley of death.
The weed went around the circle of three, just like it does in all weed circles big and small, short and tall. It was moist now with worn lipstick and whiskey breath. You’ll never find a better flavor on a choppy, factory man’s Backwoods blunt.
We stood in the hot shade of the Horseshoe, and finished the already half smoked fattie together in silence. I’m certain there was a background cacophony full of the detritus of the Strip, but I was deaf to everything other than this hi-def moment. When we were done, the one that asked to join me grabbed my head in both hands and gave me a kiss. It must have lasted two seconds, but its memory will live in my heart forever. Her mouth was sour with last night’s liquor, and smoky with weed, hot with desert heat. Her kiss tasted like all of my dreams had a chance. “Thank you,” she moan-groaned in 50 shades of suffering. Then they both turned and walked inside the casino, unsteady and zigzaggy, both balancing purses and trying to tug enough at their short dresses to keep their asses covered, and then they were gone away forever.
The world stood still and quiet for another eternal minute.
“Damn man. Hell yeah,” two dudes with cookie cutter luggage and San Francisco 49’ers T shirts hollered from across the way, pinching me to show it wasn’t all a dream. That for seven long minutes in this short firecracker life, I got to linger near heaven.
I looked all around me in the early heat of the day, smiling a stupid stoner smile, and I cupped my hands around my mouth and yelled, “I fucking love Las Vegas,” before rambling off down the sun scorched Vegas Strip. A dozen poems not yet written danced on the baking asphalt, as the noise of people chasing dreams and fun bounced off buildings like laser beams of love.
My degenerate blue collar heart began to sing Viva Las Vegas motherfuckers. Viva Las Vegas.
Dan Denton is a former UAW Chief Steward turned full-time writer. His latest book is available from Gutter Snob Books.