As we dip below cloud level I’m surprised by the lack of grid, the absence of grey veins laid to pump smoking dots back and forth from city center, taken aback by the general void of things. My ears pop. Gone are the rows of matchbox suburbia and blocks of stacked glass typical in this final stage of flight. Absent are the shag carpets and lime lollipops. And my god, what of the blind ants scurrying about? They are none. All gone. An entire city suffocated under one giant sand-stuffed pillow. Not since Atlantis has such an epic empire gone down. I expect the pilot will pull up any moment now. Surely we’ll turn back soon, but an announcement would be nice. Breathless, I scan the plane for signs of panic on the poor, twisted faces of my fellow comrades damned. The drooling elders, the slack-jawed veggies, the women of waxen brow, the bloodshot eyes of modern day Moses men beholden their aluminum tabs, not even those sniveling, mouth-chomping youth seem to give the slightest hint of fuck. Why should I? It’s just as well. When is the last time something meaningful, something noble, something of merit, escaped the blessed walls of this tourist fly trap anyhow? Apparently there is truth in the tired cliche they so proudly tout— What happens in Vegas…
— — —
In Lawrence of Arabia a detached journalist asks Lawrence, “What attracts you personally to the desert?” “It’s clean,” Lawrence says.
How easily we forget that America’s boiling pot of burned culture—take your pyramids, your eiffel towers, your caesar’s palaces, fry them to a golden brown, flip them, let them simmer till your once great monument is reduced to a withered piece of lore, go on, toss it in, burn it down, let the desecration of another blasted landmark begin, don’t stop now—our capital of sex, booze, and by god, the falsest of human hope, instant riches, once rose from the infinite promise of a pristine desert scape. From clean earth so pure came our phoenix of Bedlam. What a pity.
Just when I’m about to call over the flight attendant and demand an explanation, the dunes part and the forsaken city’s outline forms. My top-down view is one familiar to anyone who’s played god in the popular computer game Sim-City. A powerful sight to behold indeed. I feel whole again.
As for the room it’s not as shitty as I had expected. But shitty enough, I assure you. Each day is but a slight variation on the last. Routine is what makes us tick with more efficiency and efficient tickers lose few seconds. Keep more time. All that sand adds up, you know. But too many ticks can also turn us into robots. All tocked out.
— — —
I wake at SIX, sweating, to drink cold coffee and collect my thoughts. I’m doing upward dog when I realize I’m naked. The first thing I write down is of a dream I had the previous night. The legal pad reads, friends + giant serpent. Other early notes address a potential plot hole, obviously he can’t be seen in the scuba gear, or a bit of dialogue, like the bastard wanted to be buried with it. Whatever gets me goin’. Because, or so it seems, once I begin the pages fill themselves—even if later I’m reluctant to read them back. This part of the process is known as purge and discover: to vomit as many thoughts as possible, while trying to keep topic, sifting through bile for nuggets of golden joy. No rush.
NINE is when I begin Work-work. Work-work consists technical writing or blogging for high-powered lawyers, doctors, and the occasional roofer. Lemme tell you: they love my sarcasm. Other assignments include Googling “pseudocide” or “gonzo journalism,” shelling pistachios, and of course, my midday masturbation break (today’s category: amateurs).
Work-work’s out by ONE. The clamshell computer, along with it’s endless paths all leading back to distractoland, is closed. I spit any lingering bits-o’-story onto the pad, wiping my mouth clean of the page, but mostly, I’m cotton-tongued. Damned thirsty. It’s on to jumping jacks or push-ups before lunch, maybe some core work or yoga. Doesn’t matter much. I don’t have any choice but to exercise and shower each day. Like I said, routine.
By THREE I’m ready to consider leaving the room. I look up movie times. Holiday Royale, my not-so-shitty temporary living community, is central to no less than four cinemas, each about an hour’s walk. I visit them all, plus one twice, seeing Looper, The Amazing Spider Man, E.T. 30th Anniversary Edition, Lawrence of Arabia, and Dredd, in successive order. I enjoy all but one of the films…and Spider Man wasn’t that bad. I find my taste in superhero films has been subverted by Nolan’s Dark Knight. But not all comic book characters require such grave stakes, goddammit. Alas. Maybe I’m just not ready for the retelling of a story I’ve read and reread since childhood. Lemme get this straight—so Peter gets bit by a spider: Uncle Ben gets shot: some BS about responsibility: a villain—oh, did I say spoiler? No.
I get out of the movies between EIGHT and ELEVEN, or when all the pretty ghoulies come out, which is to say, whenever. By pretty ghoulies, I mean, of course, the greasy booze hounds and their big bosomed queens (category: big tits), the convulsing hunchbacks living under I-15, the flash princesses of paparazzotown, the silver-haired slot mongrels, their arthritic elbows locked at 90 degrees, and the raucous dice tossers huddled and hootin’ around a heavily decorated green basin, which I must admit, looks kind of fun. But what really gets me is how the inside of every casino—no matter what iconic facade is plastered on its shell—LOOKS EXACTLY THE SAME.
My daily conversation with beings being reserved to box office greeters, convenience store clerks, and the owner of an adult video store. The notable exceptions are a couple of burnouts at the sushi bar and a indian guy, not a native indian, who asks about my moccasins on the bus. “What show?” I say ignorant of tonight’s scheduled Dead performance at The Joint across the street—it’s called The Joint—and for no reason at all, I’m reluctant to tell the nice brown man on the bus that my shoes are from Urban Outfitters. I come around. Your tuna, by the way, has soured. And I’ve yet to gamble. Or drink.
So you see, it’s not that I don’t hope the same girl is working at the Orleans theater when I return for a second night, and it’s not that I haven’t rehearsed our short dialogue about tonight’s feature film, Lawrence of Arabia—saying “wish me luck,” as I reveal the Starbucks I’m sneaking in—and it’s not that I haven’t fantasized about asking her to join me for Frankenweenie come Friday, a film I’m unlikely to go to on my own, but you see, when it turns out she’s not there, when I spy a dude holding down her post, my gut feeling is one of relief. Not disappointment. And therein lies the crux of my situation.
I’m not sure when I stopped caring about a social life, or when I gave up strengthening my remaining relationships with friends and family. Honestly, I can’t remember a time when I put any real effort to it. Don’t get me wrong: I love and appreciate the people with recurring roles in my life. My family. They encourage me. My friends. They inspire me. Both of them get me to do things I wouldn’t do otherwise, help me grow, evolve. Always. And my darling Lolita, lest I forget my baby girl. But when they’re not there, they’re not there. Nobody is there. I can be alone in my universe. I can be master. It has to come from in me. Entire fucking worlds rise up. Kingdoms, cities, their inhabitants, my slaves, they may come and they go, but I will stay. I will return to the collective world only when I’m ready, but I anticipate, as the need to create grows stronger, that I will retreat further, and with more frequency, into my own narrow well, expanding wide as space with no outside light to spoil my walls, and each time, I go darker. I’ll resurface. When I’m ready.
By ONE IN THE MORNING I’m in bed.
I wake at SIX, sweating…