August, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
“You look like you could do with a visit to a gentleman’s club”.
“Free limo ride there, first drink free…”
I am walking towards the Eiffel tower in the dry desert heat.
“Hey honey, how about you and me go back to you hotel for a good time.”
As I get closer the wrinkles become clearer. I’m guessing the good time will cost me. “How much?” I ask.
I don’t answer, just keep walking.
“Okay $200”, She yells, “$150” I hear her voice sagging along with her breasts and buttocks.
I look at my cheap blue watch with the cracked face that I bought in Mexico City about two weeks ago, 1.58 a.m. on a Tuesday morning on the Strip in Las Vegas, walking around by myself wearing a Cosmopolitan Hotel shirt I bought from the gift shop because my luggage was stolen and the proper clothes shops won’t be opening for a few hours. What can I expect?
My early morning in Las Vegas started before 5.30 a.m. the previous day in the Mexican town of San Cristobal de la Casas, in the region of Chiapas I think. The Austrian doctor woman I met in Mexico City had said I was visiting Chiapas, so it’s probably in Chiapas.
San Cristobal is a medium-sized town. cobble stoned streets lined with Spanish colonial architecture. I wish I was still there now as I look up to the ceiling of the Paris casino, painted blue and lit up like a French summer’s day.
I hadn’t enough time in San Cristobal. I arrived there in the early evening after a long day’s travel from the jungle of Palenque. I’d gone via the Aqua Azul, a series of beautiful cascadas (waterfalls), that run crystal clear blue, except when it rains and they turn a cappuccino brown like the day I was there. Worth a photo, if my camera hadn’t broken at the cocodrilo enclosure at the Palenque nature park.
At the Aqua Azul, I’d paid a few extra pesos to go up stream from the crowds. I shared a few small pools with some young lesbians from Germany, Poland or somewhere like that. The waters were natural, warm. Afterwards I had a carne taco dorado, the crunchy type of tacos, golden from the deep frying oil. It was up there with the worst food I’d eaten in the country, and up there with the worst I’d had in my lifetime.
From the cascadas we’d made our up the hill roads carved into the sides of valleys terraced with rows of corn, frijoles, turkeys and pigs, up to cool pine Chiapas forests. I got to chatting with a cute Italian, who must have been in her late 30s or early 40s. She had that voluptuous body and big breasts that so many of them seem to have, before they suddenly turn into the jolly nonna types. She was there with her boyfriend. Her English was good, the boyfriend’s not so. He was too cool to talk to me and napped most of the way, so I had her to myself a bit.
We arrived in San Cristobal around 6.30 or 7 p.m. Who knows the time, the sun was going down. The Italians were heading to some hotel that the woman’s friend had stayed at 10 or 15 years ago and they offered to share a taxi and take me there to see if they had any spare rooms for me. After some time vibrating along the cobblestoned streets, we found the place, the woman went in to see if they had rooms for them and I – they had for them but not for I. I was tired, it was cold, even more so with my hair damp from the waterfalls. I put on my winter coat and beanie. “I’ll just find something up the road”. I said and waved them goodbye, I imagine never to see them again.
There was a hotel on the next corner, it looked okay and I couldn’t be bothered looking any further. I explained to the woman at reception, as best I could in the broken Spanish with only the aid of the Mexican Spanish phrasebook, that I needed a wake up call at 5.30 a.m. and a taxi to take me to Tuxtla Gutierrez airport. Then, after showering, I walked the cobblestoned streets, with the high gutters, down to the zocalo, past the many restaurants, stores and Mayan types selling knick knacks and handicrafts. The urge took me to buy a pair of Mexican made Pirma shoes with fluorescent orange trim, before I settled down at the Cafe Bar Revolucion where I ordered a pollo sandwich. A beautiful woman with black dreadlocks served me. I couldn’t understand a word she said, my limited Spanish all but drained away throughout the long day, but her tone was so soft, her voice so melodious and soothing, that I could listen to her for her hours, just as I could the ocean waves. There was luck to this as she occasionally returned to chat to me over a number of hours to explain why the cooks hadn’t been able to catch a chicken yet to put in the chicken sandwich. I could see here consulting with the kitchen when she was sure the chicken had been caught but she presumably was told that they had more pressing revolutionary things to do that meant it might mean further delays, but that they were definitely working on it once they had further directions from Cuba, to which she would come and explain, and I guess apologise, to which I’d nod and look a bit irritated as I tried to explain that it wasn’t her, she was as beautiful and magical as the ocean currents, it was just that I was tired and needed to go to bed after a chicken sandwich.
When the sandwich arrived I only managed a few bites, my head sore from the swaying bus and going from the tropical jungle to chilly highland, though the beers I had while waiting helped a little. I headed back to the hotel, and to bed for a few hours siesta.
Around 10.46 p.m., the sound began. It was like an elevator door opening and closing, though I didn’t recall a second floor. It came at irregular intervals, at least once, maybe twice or thrice an hour, enough to wake me at least a dozen times from a few minutes of dream sleep before, the dawn approaching, wide awake, I got my wake up call gibbering on in Spanish, then English.
5.29 a.m. I chuck on my Lasorda’s #2 Dodger’s t-shirt and some jeans, and my winter jacket and into the chilly pre-dawn air.
It takes about an hour to roll down from San Cristobal to Tuxtla Gutiérrez. I try and rest but bring myself awake every so often for the pre-dawn scenery. The sun is up, hiding behind hills and light clouds by the time we get to the airport. I will try and nap on the plane.
6.35 a.m., flight doesn’t leave until 8.30 a.m., plenty of time to spare, I put my luggage down on the scales at the Aeroméxico counter.
“Hello”, says the man.
“Buenos dias”, I say.
He looks at my ticket. “Your plane is delayed by two hours”, he says.
“Oh”, I say.
“So you will miss your connecting flight to Las Vegas”, he types something in the computer, “the next flight from Mexico City to Las Vegas will not be until 7 p.m.”
“Okay”, I walk away but as I do so my brain kicks into gear. It is trying to do the mind boggling equations that face all travellers heading into different time zones. Trying to calculate the flight time, approximately, 3 hours 45 minutes, and then subtracting the time difference, Las Vegas being 2 hours behind Mexico, and then working out whether this would get me there in time for the start of the show in Las Vegas that I had booked tickets for – the tré sexy Cirque du Soleil show Zumanity, at New York, New York, starting at 8.30 p.m. their time.
The sum is beyond my capabilities at this hour, and with the limited amount of sleep under my belt. I return to the counter, “What time does the flight get into Las Vegas?”
He punches some things into the computer’s keyboard. “At 9 p.m.”
“I have tickets for a show in Las Vegas at 8.30 p.m. Is there any chance that I could get on a different flight?”
He types some more things in. “I will check for you sir”.
A few minutes later he calls me back. He has a plan, “I can get you on an earlier flight to Las Angeles, with a connecting flight to Las Vegas. It should get you into Las Vegas at around 7 p.m.”
“Great, I should just make it”, I say. And the race was on.
10.30 a.m. (8.30 a.m. Las Vegas time) the first leg of the journey is going pretty well, after pancakes, orange juice, bitter coffee and a few hours of the Hoy (Today) show at Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the plane is heading down the runway in the general direction of Mexico City. We are offered the traditional Aeroméxico greasy croissant-like bread roll with jamón (ham) and cheese wrapped in alfoil, washed down with you choice of orange juice, coke or tequila. I sing Ween’s Where’d the Cheese Go to myself as I sip a tequila and orange.
12.15 p.m. (10.15 a.m. Las Vegas time) Touch down, Mexico City.
1 p.m. Time for a burrito, more bitter coffee.
1.30 p.m. Souvenir shopping, mas poco bottles of tequilas.
2 p.m. (midday Las Vegas) go to departure gate at Mexico D.F, sitting next to La Liga footballers Club America, Las Águilas (the Eagles). A stream of fans worship the players, as they do at their religious shrines, taking camera phone photos and autographs. I feel almost famous and interesting sitting a few seats away from some of them.
2.30 p.m. Las Águilas fly off to panama.
2.45 p.m. Our flight is called.
3 p.m. (1 p.m. Las Vegas) Lift off, heading to LA, more jamón and cheese buns with orange and another poco tequila. This is easy, I’ll have time for a swim at the hotel before I head to theatre to watch the tasteful bums and titties show.
6.30, touch down USA . Now it’s 4.30. Had a good chat to a German sound engineer guy who had been living in Mexico City for many years on his way to a job interview in LA. He complained about his job and I listened intently. He had strange looking eyes and a bit of bum fluff on his chin. The doors open, and as I have to get on the connecting flight they give me a special ticket to get into the express line, great, I’m only the 4th one in the queue and I feel as special as the Mexican footballers. I wave to the German who goes to the regular lines, this should be a breeze. I hold the ticket, it’s all going to plan.
4.35, they wheel in a couple of wheelchair bound people in, not to be judgemental but most don’t look disabled, they just look like a real fatty boomsticks. Anyway, it’s cool, they are all lined up in the line next to me, where all special. But they seem a bit more special now as they have their own border protection person. They’ve call a person from their line and send them to the border protection person in front of me. Then they wheel another half a dozen wheelies into the line, and if that’s not bad enough they suddenly change tack and start using my border protection guy to process US citizens that aren’t too fat to walk. They don’t end up taking that long to get through but in the meantime my line isn’t moving a fang dangled inch. But now they again start calling up the wheelie people into my line and leave me dangling tantalisingly close to getting into the US with only 3 ahead of me. They probably just do a few wheelie and then us other special people, I think, until, they call up another wheelie, and then another, I look at the ‘normal’ queue and they are starting to get through the pretty quickly now the US citizens are out of the way. The German guy is now towards the front of the normal queue, and there’s not many behind him.
4.55 “Seriously, isn’t this meant to be express queue?” I ask an airport attendant.
“You’re welcome to join the other line, sir”.
You’re welcome, you’re always freakin’ welcome in the US. Clearly they are going to go through every freakin’ wheelie before they get to me, I dash under the ropes and join the normal queue, at least it’s moving. I wave again to the German, he’s through. The connecting flight is in another terminal, presumably far, far away. Still plenty of time though.
5.25 I get to the friendly face of border security.
“Your hands are sweaty”, he says on my first failed attempt at the finger printing device, “we’ve had a few sweaty hands today”. I dry my hands on my shirt and try again.
“What have you been doing in Mexico?”, he asks as I use all my mental strength to send messages to my hand to stay dry long enough to get through this hurdle before he goes on to photograph my face, measure my waistline, ask what my shoe size is and check if my earlobe is attached or loose (they may not have gone on to do the last few things).
“Well, I went to Mexico City, Cancun, Merida, San Cristobal de la Casas…”
He doesn’t seem to interested in where I’ve been and cuts me off in the Chiapas. “Where are you heading?” He asks.
He looks at my passport and then just a little bit below my eyes, not exactly making eye contact, just looking at where the cheek and eye socket meet. I feel I should bend down a little to make eye contact but he’s not into it, and keeps focusing around the eyes rather than in them – he wouldn’t make a very good hypnotist or cowboy. A cowboy would always look you in the eye, especially if you were a stranger in town, I think, but it’s not something government officials seem inclined to do. Maybe they need to avoid eye contact in case they fall in love with someone, a spy, Mexican spy trained in Cuba dressed like an Australian tourist. He’s probably looking for signs of twitching and flinching, to determine if I require further investigation.
“Do you like gambling?”
“What are you doing in Las Vegas?” He realises his eyebrow to indicate that I better start getting my story straight otherwise I’ll be here a few more hours and have to miss all the titty bum on the high trapeze.
“I’ve got a show booked, then I’m heading back to Australia tomorrow”.
“What show is it?”
“Cirque du Soleil”. He doesn’t ask directly whether there will bums and titties and I don’t offer up the information .
He hands back my passport, I’m free to go. I look down at my cheap Mexican watch, the plastic front is already smashed up a bit, I can’t remember when it happened, but it’s already 7.38 Mexican time, I wind it back 2 hours as I head to get my bags.
5.49, it’s getting tight, I’ve got my luggage dragging behind me leaving skid marks every time I turn. I look up at the signs and calculate the route, as quickly as the 6 Million Dollar Man, to the Delta Airline terminal. I rush outside, I need an inter-terminal bus. There’s one in 3 minutes. Just hoping it’s the right one.
6.02, after a few failed attempts, I find the Delta luggage drop off, and I’m just around the corner from the departure gate. The plane leaves at 6.15.
“I’m sorry”, the woman says, “we’ve just closed off the luggage for this flight, you’ll have to take it to the gate, she points in the right direction”.
“Thanks”, I say, I grab the luggage and head where she’s pointing. After a few minutes of running and searching I find the place and a black guy takes my bag.
“You’ve got to go straight there sir, around the corner and up the stairs”, another woman from Delta with a walkie talkie says.
6.08, I take a breath and assess the terrain, planning my next move. I still have to get through the extra x-rays and body scanning things. I briskly make my way towards this last obstacle, weaving my way in and out of people, untying and unbuckling stuff on the way, raising my hands turning around, showing off my nether regions to complete strangers not he other side of machines.
6.12, I’m not sure how I’ve done it, but with shoelaces undone and belt in hand, I arrive at the departure gate. Still, I’m going to make it, I pant. A few minutes later I’m on the plane and overlooking the mountainy things they have between LA and the more desolate deserty bit around Las Vegas. No time for a snack, but I’ve had too much cheese and ham.
7.05 Las Vegas airport, still plenty of time, might not get a swim in, but I can at least have a very quick shower. I’m at the luggage carousel. Our flight’s luggage starts spewing out a couple of minutes later. I look out for mine, people who are definitely from my flight grab theirs. Where’d the Cheese Go, I ask myself, I don’t know. After another 10 minutes of walking around checking and double checking, I really don’t know.
7.20 All the luggage is off, except mine, I check one more time, I triple check another time. The next flight’s luggage is already on the carousel, I quadruple check, then run to the Delta office which is tucked away about a half mile down the other end of the terminal.
7.25 After waiting for someone to call me in from the line outside the office, I run in and spurt out, “My luggage didn’t arrive but I’ve got to go to cirque du soleil in an hour”.
“Oh dear”, says the Delta man, “that’s unfortunate”. The Delta man types something into the computer. “I ain’t got no record of it yet. Could shave been someone’s just come and stolen it off the carousel, happens quite a bit around here.”
“Really,” I ask nervously, “wow, do they have cameras around?”
“They used to”, says the man in a slow African American laid back kind of way. “But then they took them away, I think people complained because they want their anonymity”.
“So if someone stole it, there’s no way to tell who did it”.
“No sir, I’d say someone’s just taken it, and it’s gone”. He put particular emphasis on the gone, like it’s gone and there’s no way in heaven anybody’s going to ever recover it. But, he takes my details anyway, his other theory, though one he doesn’t feel as likely, is that my luggage didn’t make it onto the plane, and that it may arrive later in the evening or early tomorrow morning. He gives me an overnight bag with a toothbrush, razors and clothes and says if it does show up they’ll send it to the hotel.
Oh well, I’ve probably lost all the souvenirs, but at least I’ll make it to the show if I hurry. I jump in a cab, it’s only 15 minutes to the Strip. I’m at the fabulous Cosmopolitan Hotel by 7.50.
“Where’s New York, New York?” I ask the Cosmo woman checking me in.
“It’s only two blocks down”.
“Can I walk there?”
“Yeah, it’ll take you around 15-20 minutes if you’re quick”.
Time enough for a quick shave and shower.
I head toward the lifts, the place is massive and you have to weave your way through the card tables and slot machines. When I get there I’m in awe, the room is also massive, and the bathroom is mega plush with a view over some other hotels and, in the distance, the hills. I’ve had whole hotel rooms that took up less space that this bathroom, it was the Bad Ass Mother F*cker of bathrooms. I slide back the door onto to balcony and get another gulp of the desert air. I unpack the overnight bag, the only item of clothing, a shirt, is an XXL, with a bit more room to spare. I decide to stick to my Dogder’s shirt. I get undressed and shave, cutting my neck up a bit in the process with the shitty quality blades, then hit the shower, the warm water must relax my stomach and all of a sudden I can feel Montezuma’s revenge coming on and, water still running, I have to race to the toilet. I don’t expect to be too long, but as soon as I think it’s over, there’s just more to take it’s place. I feel bad that the water is running down the drain when we’re in a desert but there is no respite for about 5 minutes to stop either flow. Finally I return and clean myself up.
It’s 8.06, I chuck my clothes back on and dab the blood from my neck then head back to the lifts, past the massive Bad Ass chandelier.
8.09, it’s getting dark, but the beautiful desert heat shows no sign of abating. I’m right by a pedestrian bridge and I look down the strip and see New York, New York, in the distance. Despite my toileting troubles I feel like grabbing something to eat, I spot McDonald’s Golden Arches on the other side of the road and race towards them, weaving in and out of the tourists, runny along the gutter at times so I can get some distance up fast.
8.16, a hamburgers and a chocolate sundae in hand I’m heading back across the road to New York, New York.
8.21, out of breath, I’m there, at the ticket booth, collecting my tres sexy show ticket, grasping my stomach. It’s about my bed time in Mexico and I’d probably be having my tequila nightcap by now, but instead I grab a beer.
8.30, I’m in, I made it. The tickets aren’t the greatest, I’m up on a balcony looking down. There’s plenty of artful nudity and acrobatics, but it’s slightly fuzzy from up here. The nudity isn’t exactly what I’d expected either. There is nothing much in between the range of little titties and mega fatty broomstick titties. I lay back into my seat, struggling to keep awake for the next hour or so.
“Hey, you a Dodger’s fan”, exclaims a slightly tipsy dude coming out from the show. He shakes my hand and explains who Lasorda was when I explain I’ve bee to one game. I kind of wish I’d gone for Puig now, but I didn’t know who he was when I was at the Dodger’s stadium gift shop. It was one of those little random interludes you get when you don’t know when you’re tired, lost your luggage and don’t know what the hell is going on in the world.
12.15 p.m. after walking around New York, I’m back on the Strip, heading back down to the Cosmo. The Dodger’s shirt is a bit on the nose, despite the praise it attracted, so I head to the Cosmo gift shop and grab a black shirt with the Cosmopolitan written all over it in purple writing. I pass through the uber cool lobby on the way with mega electronic screens displaying fancy looking seeds, or flowers or some shit.
Had the artistic display of tits and bums been worth the many hours of travel through Mexico City and LA, having my luggage stolen, only left with the stinky Dodger’s shirt all day, seeking sweet relief over the toilet bowl? I shrug my shoulders, I don’t think I’ve done anything on this trip because it’s worth it, I just do it to see if it can be done, because there’s nothing else better to do, and you know, you’re dead a very long time.
And after another visit to the bathroom, I put on my Cosmopolitan Hotel gift shop t-shirt and I keep walking down to Paris, where the desert night transforms into a Van Gogh starry day ceiling with a Gordon Ramsay STEAK joint tucked away in the corner, hoping that Delta might get my bathers to me, still wet from cappuccino coloured Aqua Azul Cascadas of Mexico, in time for a quick dip in the pool after breakfast.