Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Vegas In July

We only came out at night. That's how hot those summers were. The sweat glued us to our bus seats. The asphalt sagged at noon. Cassettes melted to dashboards, and the AC only helped melt your eyes. We ran from grass to pool. We wore our towels like capes. But mostly we hid inside, played video games, and drank gallons of Crystal Light. 

The sun ruled the day. We waited for dusk.

Then the rollerblades got laced, and out came the goals and sticks. Like the tiny bats above us, we darted back and forth. Plywood ramps. Bikes trailing ropes. Flaming tennis balls. Caves hacked into the caleche. Chalk dragged across the cement. Eight hours of energy compressed into that pathetic sliver of dusk. 

And then the sun settled. 

And we couldn't find the ball. 

And we dropped all our crap on the pavement. 

And we shuffled back inside.

"That was a good day," we'd say, knowing damn well we'd missed it. 

And then we'd do it all over again, because what the hell else was there to do?

Those summers before the cars and jobs and girls…we were like mariners tying knots in the doldrums. We sketched out plans with every free second. We build model rockets, imagined grand capers—and got stuck watching every single movie twice.

The ushers never nabbed us for theater hopping. We were local kids, and local kids got cut some slack. That was back then. Back when there was an us and a them. Back when the rules didn't go out in press releases. Back when there weren't casinos in our neighborhoods. Back when all that was great was dirt.

The author, age 6, grinding gravel
across the future site of Summerlin

"Do you live in a casino?" the scrawny redhead asked me on the trail leading back to camp.

"Yea," I replied. "But it sucks."

The son of Milwaukee squinted through his thick bifocal glasses.

"Why's it suck?"

I'd been a long hike. I finished my can of coke.

"Well, my brother gets to feed the white tigers, but all I get to do is scoop their shit."

The Midwesterner's eyes widened. He didn't know quite what to say. I turned the empty can of coke around in my hand. The glossy label still promised all the thirst quenching excitement you could ever'd never know from the outside how empty it was on the inside.

"Are you serious?" he finally asked.

I dropped the empty can on the ground and stomped it.

"Does it matter?"

The greatest lesson Las Vegas ever taught me was how to entertain.



Tommy said...

Love this post, especially "knowing damn well we'd missed it." This piece really captures a lot of the angst about growing up to a be a man and realizing "you can't go home again."

moonrage said...

i just discovered you yesterday. i became a fan instantly right on the first page of "zero sight". i love your style. i hope you never stop writing after you become a doc. i'm thinking of giving my nephew a kindle for his birthday and preload it with your books.

good luck to you. you sound like a really cool guy. keep writing.