@

“The hotel isn’t in operation,” says the Binions Casino pit man.

I’m led past tired chain smokers watching video slot machines spin into green aliens and cartoon sharks. We pass the café. I see cooks scrambling eggs as if I’ve never seen such magic before.

We stop in an alcove just past the empty check-in. He points to where I would have to pay for Internet service.

“I’m looking for free wifi,” I want to say. Instead I just shrug. He walks away.

A poker tournament is underway in the nearly empty back of the casino. I sit in a chair against a gift shop wall and look out at empty blackjack tables creeping in on the casino like a tide of driftwood. I imagine all the empty rooms above. The lost jobs. The ghosts of casino bellhops and Filipina housekeepers.

I pull out my laptop hoping for free wifi. But there’s nothing. The economy in downtown Las Vegas is a money grab from many hotels seeking fees everywhere from $5.99 an hour to $12.99 a night.

My family is far away. Hundreds of miles. Though I’m the one who moved away, even my Facebook feels like it’s been shipped to a Martian desert along with my kids.

A few nights later I’m on a padded bench in the smoky Main Street Station where wifi is free for customers. I get up and go to where the men’s room urinal is a slice of the graffiti-covered Berlin wall. Toilets poke from the colorful tagging. The vibe is piss on Communism. Piss on the East. Piss on Europe. Piss on taggers. Piss on the neo-Euros.

I want to take a Twitpic while I piss but hold myself back.

I return to the bench and reboot my laptop. Close by, a woman with smoke-stained hair, wearing glasses and a green and blue Hawaiian shirt, talks as if every breath is a struggle. I catch that she was born and raised in New York. She says so. But she didn’t have to. She’s clearly an East Coast smokestack. Perfectly transported to the Las Vegas industrial wasteland where she can croak words as if she’s in Times Square pissing off some cabbie while sucking the butt end of a filtered Marlboro.

She works the counter of a rental car company. Her loudspeaker voice wheezes. “My husband was the first drive-thru customer of the Dunkin’ Donuts on Gibson.”

I have no idea where Gibson is.

She’s talking to a young couple. Both hotel guests clearly work for Dunkin’ Donuts.

“He got a year’s supply of coffee,” she says. “Oh, and a coffee mug.” She goes on as if questioning her own husband’s taste in beverages. “But he does not drink coffee?” Her voice is like sandpaper worked through a taffy machine. “Does David still work with you?”

I can’t believe she and the donut people know someone in common.

“Yeah. Crazy David,” the man says. He’s looks half Filipino, half Latino. Their conversation ends there.

David’s insanity is a mystery.

Somehow they get on the subject that at one time pizza could be ordered in Dunkin’ Donuts. The rental car lady doesn’t hold back. “Putting pizza in a donut shop is sacrilegious,” she says.

“It’s not like that anymore. You can come back,” the man’s female partner says. She’s fair skinned. Auburn hair.

“Oh I get the coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts. It’s the best coffee anywhere. I just don’t think pizza and donuts go together. I can’t do that,” the rental car lady says.

“We don’t do that anymore.”

“Dunkin’ does make a great cup of coffee. There’s no doubt about it.” The rental car lady pauses for a moment as if experiencing a great epiphany. “I do tell people to go to Dunkin’ and not Krispy Kreme.”

That night I’m at Krispy Kreme on Fremont Street. It’s loud. An 80s glam rock cover band belts out the horrid hits of yesteryear. I turn on my laptop and connect to the free wifi the donut shop offers. Down the street is Dunkin’ Donuts. There’s no free wifi there.

A few minutes later there’s a crash as a drifter at the next table spills his beer. He doesn’t say a word. But I can smell his anger streaming through the tiles. He dips his head and tries to sleep.

He peeks up when I eventually slip back through the gate.

Photo by Nick Belardes

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Nicholas Belardes NICK BELARDES is illustrator of NYT Best-Selling Novel by Jonathan Evison West of Here (2011), author of Random Obsessions (2009), Lords (2005), and the first literary Twitter novel: Small Places (2010). An author, poet, and screenwriter for Hectic Films, Belardes turned TV/online journalist overnight after blogging his way to success. His articles and essays have appeared on the homepage of CNN.com and other news sites across America. You can find Nick on Facebook and Twitter.

176 Responses to “Take What You Can”

  1. Connie says:

    Nick,

    This post made me sad.

    • Why did it make you sad? I could have written about how I kept eating donuts everyday!

      • Enda Guinan says:

        I agree with Connie; there is a very melancholy feel to this.

        The striving for connection (social & technical) and the things we have to do to connect; the banality of overheard fragments of conversations; saying things that may not be significant to an audience that may not be listening.

        OK, I’m depressing myself! Back to donuts!

        (Very evocative piece. Thanks for alerting me to it.)

        • Thanks Enda! Yes, back to donuts. If I only had one right now!

          Seriously, the things we have to do to connect in today’s world are so strange. Computers and pushing buttons to connect to faraway people? It’s absurd to think we need it so much. But we do.

      • matildakay says:

        Stop eating donuts!

    • Lee says:

      There’s a definite sense of lives inn freefall and desperation. I loved the piece.

      • And donuts in free fall too. Right into my belly.

        There’s something about life that you can see it around you in free fall when you’re in places like Fremont Street.

        Are we a part of it or not?

        Possibly. I just try to capture it in bite sizes.

  2. matildakay says:

    You’re in a place where finding anything for free is a miracle! Yay for Krispy Kreme free wifi.

    Love the bathroom scene and the Berlin wall mural to piss on. Such great imagery! And whata metaphor to piss on communism, and evrything else wrong with the world.

    • Hahaha… Piss on paying for wifi! It should be free everywhere. Well, that’s what I think anyway.

      You know, I met a guy last night at the McDonald’s across the street from the Sahara Hotel and Casino. He saw me at my computer and said, “You gotta love the free wifi here. It got me and my family all the way from Boston.”

      Yes. Thank you McDonalds!

      Casinos need to realize that free wifi is a good thing. People are still going to gamble regardless.

  3. Cfarley says:

    This is the best one yet. Can really feel a rhythm or beat in the writing. I think it might be Main Street Station that is the host of ALL high school reunions for all Hawaiian high schools. Thought that was so strange. They had rice on their breakfast buffet and the best fresh fruit we found in LV. Also love that Martian desert reference. Great David Bowie movie, “Man Who Fell To Earth” had best Martian inspired desert scenery. xxoocf PS Starting a mystery series. I think what I will do is do a character “sketch” on each primary/secondary character, then do the same for the setting. Mystery itself I want to create an “arc” so I can tell when to expose another aspect. My firned is really trying to talk me into getting big white boards so I can sketch and see at the same time.

    • In the past year I have realized that everything we write should be mysterious. I know, not a mystery per say, but with an aire of mystery. I try to have some of that even in my nonfiction.

      I like the idea of character sketches. My characters usually talk to me, or show themselves anyways. But I see a value in great detail and getting to know characters in any way you can do that, whether white boards, letters to yourself from characters, or intense meditation…

      Or like in nonfiction, they just jump out at me in the people surrounding wherever I am. They actually help carry my story. I appreciate the random strangers in my life for that.

      I interviewed someone from Hawaii last week for my assistant position. There’s a huge Hawaiian community in Las Vegas. And if you like beef jerky, The Jerky Store on Fremont Street has been around for a long time. It’s owned by a Hawaiian family!

      • Lee says:

        The sense of mystery pulls the reader along. Good concept.

        • Don’t give away your punch line too early. Keep your readers curious.

          It’s my problem with movie trailers. Like the one for “Splice.” They show us the monster in the trailer! Dumb!!!

          “Super 8″ trailer is better. We don’t see the monster.

          Old “Star Wars” trailers were the best. Hardly saw jack crap. We learned during the film the shiz about a sister and that Darth was a papa and had a working weener at one time.

  4. jennifer says:

    I found this very amusing, and I have actual pics of the bathrooms in Berlin! Even the subways are colorful in decor, and no one dare tags those beautiful walls. But it goes to show life is very different from how it is here in Bako……… but sounds like you are aclimating nicely and letting us all know how you’re fairing. Good luck and have fun writing about Vegas and its wild lifestyles!

    • Thanks. It’s amazing the difference in opinions in readers. I found this piece mostly amusing to write, though there is a setting of economic disparity. Another reader found this piece just sad. I love how we can all see into a piece of writing and allow words to strike us as the moment’s read dictates.

      It’s hilarious that you have photos of bathrooms in Berlin. That’s awesome!

  5. What a strange town. $5.99 for the night? That’s madness. The cheapest I ever found was $30 and I had to use a bucket for a toilet.

    I travelled the American west back in 2007 with my trusty laptop. It recorded the number of wifi signals I used, going from LA to SF to Denver, somewhere in New Mexico, Flagstaff and back around again. I believe the number was around 150.

    That’s a lot of thieving. But those trusty souls with their unprotected wifi signals really helped me out in my time of need. I had no money, no phone and only an e-mail account to contact people I was meeting. Sometimes I’d sit on the train and get my Internet Explorer open and ready, so that when we passed through a town I could quickly swipe a signal and check my e-mail.

    Never made it to Vegas, though, but I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for you. You’ll be the guy skulking about with his laptop… a modern-day Hunter S. Thompson with Fear and Loathing for Internet Usage Fees.

    • David, your comments are always posts in and of themselves. You take me on journeys with every paragraph you write.

      We need free wifi. We just plain need it. To have to search madly for connectivity. Well, that just makes us desperate transients, no different than the street hustlers and trash diggers. Only we’re in our own sense of connectivity to personal enlightenment.

      • I have visions of ancient Buddhist monks, wondering through jungles, searching for enlightenment and a decent wifi signal… of Kerouac and Cassady traversing America by night, searching for kicks and free wifi… of Columbus crossing the seas for America and its promise of free wifi and equality of wifi for all… of Jesus dying on the cross for our sins (which include inadequate wifi coverage)…

        Actually, having said all that, I used to live on top of a mountain in California and I had a pretty reasonable wifi signal for the first few months. Then some bastard turned it off.

        • You get it. Like on the old Voyager spacecraft. The one that has the disks of humanity on it? Probably a phrase that says, “Send America your wifi.” Aliens will mis-translate it to “wives” and come and attack our asses…

          For some reason I just remembered climbing Twin Peaks in San Francisco years ago and finding a large garbage bin filled with rosemary on the way. I wasn’t crucified at the top or anything. And it was before wifi. But damn it there should have been a monk sitting at the top with Popsicles or something.

        • Haha. Those aliens will be pissed, even if they think it says “WiFi.” The bill for intergalactic wireless communication is no doubt extraordinary.

  6. Patty Wonderly says:

    I’m with Connie about the emotional tone of this piece. It drips with melancholy as we feel how forlorn you are. The Dunkin Donut woman’s voice is described in such a great way. I hear her ‘sandpaper’ voice. I agree about the wi-fi being free everywhere!

    • Hey, I’m not forlorn. I got free tickets to see Star Wars in Concert today at the Orleans!

      Like my friend Rik said yesterday. And you will meet Rik. He is amazing. I will be writing a piece about him soon that will blow your mind. I already have a title: “Saroyan’s Postcards.” Anyway, as Rik said. “People who have lived in Las Vegas for a time see beneath the neon. And beneath it is a town filled with despair.”

      I’ve lived here before. I already saw that.

      My next piece that I already wrote takes place in the Downtown Transit Center. It’s mostly dialogue and is a funny piece I think. Though once again, set in downtown Las Vegas: the broken heart of the city.

      Yes to free wifi!!

      • Patty Wonderly says:

        OK. So you aren’t forlorn. I’m so happy you got those tickets! Woot!

        • I am. I talked to my boss Rik and he said. “I thought we had tickets?” He made a phone call and suddenly it was like manna from heaven. You’d think Twilight Hollywood premiere tickets could fall from the sky like that!

          OK, maybe I’m a little forlorn. But I don’t admit it. :D

        • Patty Wonderly says:

          Nick, if you get Twilight saga:Eclipse premiere tickets – well – you KNOW who you’re taking!

        • You know it! You and your crew! If I get anything Twilight that’s cool, you will be the first to know.

        • matildakay says:

          What about Sex and the City? You didn’t get any Sex and the City premiere tickets or swag for me. :)

        • Actually, our station through some big swanky SATC swag parties where you got free cosmos and a goody bag. One included a look-a-like contest. But, you had to BE here…

  7. Love it. You should follow the sandpaper voice lady around (or any interesting character–and they are all interesting) and keep reporting on the weirdness. From your writing, it’s easy to get a feel for the strangeness of life in Vegas.

    Get some sleep and stop eating donuts, maybe. But don’t stop hanging out with the donut eaters; they are interesting.

    I have been living quite clean for a the past month or so, and just had a G&T last night (large) and feel absolutely horrid today.

    • Is a G&T a gin and tonic? I don’t drink much. I had a margarita the other night. It was horrible. And donuts, yes, I have cut back suddenly and replaced them with chocolate chip cookies.

      I like to hover around people places: bus stations, casinos, etc., just to listen to the stories. You’ll get a few “other people” stories here soon that I think you will enjoy. The next one is a Rastafarian and a missionary having it out, philosophically in their own odd way…

      Every town is strange. Vegas is just a really weird backdrop…

      Oh, and I tried to find the gravely voiced lady again. The other workers weren’t nearly as colorful and cool.

  8. I wish I could write even half as well as you. I usually stay downtown on my trips to Las Vegas at either Fitzgerald’s or the Las Vegas Club. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been there, but wow you paint a terrific picture. I had imagined that the downturn in the economy hit Las Vegas pretty hard and you have confirmed that.

    • Thanks Bev. Those are such kind words. It’s the ultimate compliment.

      I just read in the Review-Journal last week that the Lady Luck, which has been closed for four years in downtown Las vegas, is going to have a massive renovation. And the Golden Nugget, which is still always packed, has a $30 million swimming pool, complete with a waterslide tube that goes through a shark tank. I saw lots of people crammed in there.

      A few days ago I went to go and try and see a movie at Neonopolis across from the Big Red Garage. But the theatre posters were for Angels & Demons and the escalators weren’t working…

  9. Gloria Harrison says:

    Your description of the rental car lady is beautiful. Your use of imagery is spot on.

    A friend recently told me that there’s a recipe for a Krispy Kreme hamburger. You take a doughnut, cut it in half long ways, and put your burger fixins in the middle. The thought made me wanna barf. But it was also oddly intriguing.

    Sounds like you’re settling into the mayhem and spectacle of the great, bright blight at the foot of the Sierra Nevadas. Sorry you miss your kids. Moving to a new place does feel a bit like going to another planet. Everyone is alien. Especially in Vegas. ;)

    • Oh that burger sounds horrid. I really like the old fashion sort of donuts at KK. Yum!

      At my going away party a friend of mine who is a mortician and used to be the pop punk kingpin of Bakersfield ordered a plate of fried twinkies. Sounds awful. Smelled good. I tried a bite and it was delicious! Kind of like a cinnamon roll.

      Not sure I will ever order them on my own. But decadence can be surprising I guess.

      I think you’re right. Vegas is a bright light at the foot of some mountains. It’s grown so much in the past ten years. Really amazing. They need an NFL team!

      • Gloria Harrison says:

        Another friend is constantly defending the fried pickle to me. It sounds horrible, but she swears by it. My thinking is that everything is made better by frying it.

        I lived in Vegas from the time I was 7 until I was 13. When I left, they were just building The Mirage. I haven’t been back since then. No desire.

        It’s amazing how many people want a pro sports team in their town. I’ve lived in Portland for 11 years and people have been yammering nonstop about getting a pro baseball team here. Weird.

        • I love sports is all. I’m a sports junky like Reno on here.

          Unemployment in Bakersfield is nearly 20%. I got a job in Vegas. I’m here to work. I hadn’t been making good money in a long time for the sake of my art.

          Well, life and survival won out over art for a while. Bummerville. But it is what it is. Gotta help the family. The family sure helped me out when I was busting out a book and touring.

          I hate pickles. No way. Never. Blah!!

        • My very small child asked for a deep-fryer for her birthday so she can fry pickles. I am refusing. When did people start frying pickles. And why?

        • I ate a Vietnamese eggroll yesterday that had seafood in it. Was totally yummy. But no on the fried pickles. Next thing you know there’s going to be deep fried Chihuahuas and roses.

          I do have to say that fried ice cream is delicious. You can get it at Mexican restaurants. But you’re from Santa Barbara. So you gotta know that already…

    • Oh and thanks for understanding how much I miss my kids. I know you understand that.

  10. I say go back there and take that tweetpic while you piss! DANG! A lost opportunity Nick! I’m waiting for it.

    • Oh Jessica, you know I will go back and do it. The reason I held back was because someone walked in and I didn’t want to get caught!

      “What you doing, son?”

      “Just taking a photo of the wall, sir.”

      Yikes!

  11. Nick, en route to my mother-in-law’s memorial service in Ohio and the melancholy mood here echoed my own but the many absurdities cheered me up, too. I am, sadly, drinking Dunkin Donuts coffee as we speak. Now all I need is to get David to take a pic of himself pissing at the next rest stop! See you soon, Nick: hang in there!

    • Oh Gina, I am glad I got you to smile during this difficult time.

      Dunkin’ Donuts coffee? Is this too weird or what? The power of a TNB post is deliriously wacky.

      My condolences to you and David for your loss. Much love and hugs are being sent your way.

      I’ll hang in there too!

  12. Erika Rae says:

    I was gonna say, “go to Krispy Kreme for free wifi”, and then there you were. When we were in Myrtle Beach a couple summers ago it was the ONLY place it could be found.

    Love your imagery, as always. How you manage to make that otherwise uninteresting conversation between the DD folks *interesting* is sheer wizardry. And still, you had me the whole way through. Snark a donut for me.

    • Oh you know I will snark a donut.

      Thanks for your compliment. I think just being honest to the people I overhear and to the idea that WE like to buzz in and listen to others. We’re writers. We’re listeners. We piece back living and breathing stories into symbols (words). We find themes in our movements and actions and in the world spinning around us.

      The themes are there.

      I pull them even if they’re in the shape of a godforsaken yummy krispy kreme blueberry glazed donut.

      Can you tell I haven’t eaten lunch yet?

      I want to go to Myrtle Beach!

  13. Ryan L. says:

    It’s a interesting story, I like it!!! in a way it almost felt sad, but i’m not good at telling the emotions of a story…

    • I think you found the pulse of the story. There’s some sadness, and the idea of searching for wifi can be pretty interesting, given the crazy locale of downtown Las Vegas where most people think of connectivity in terms of hands on slot machines and beer footballs… Thanks so much for commenting. How have you been? Your sister causing you any grief? Are the buffalo still roaming out your way?

      • Ryan L. says:

        You know I am doing alright and my sister isn’t causing me any grief. The buffalo are still roaming around our house happy as could be as long as they have their share of food each day. My sister did say that we might have some baby buffalo coming soon… I know some people are thinking i’m a little weird because of the fact that they don’t know we have buffalo lol. But everything is doing alright in these parts of the country and I hope everything is going alright with you in Las Vegas!

        • Things are good in Vegas so far. I was so happy that I finally got a payday that I pigged out on Fatburger and Starbucks today. Baby buffalo? Oh wow! I would love to see photos of those once they’re born.

          Suddenly I’m reminded of a really bad movie that I used to like when I was a kid called “The White Buffalo” and starred Richard Harris. I have no idea why I bring it up. Say hi to your sister for me. I miss her messages. And tell Lost Ocean to come to Vegas!

          And for the record. You’re no weirder than I am!

        • Ryan L. says:

          I’m sure my sister will put pictures on facebook for you to see the baby buffalo. Me and my sister saw part of that movie “The White Buffalo” a while ago, it was fake looking it was so hilarious though! I don’t think Lost Ocean will be coming to Las Vegas anytime soon though, i’m sorry. You also missed a show they did at The Gate again a couple weeks ago if you weren’t informed of that too.

        • I wish I had seen them before I left. There were several bands. But alas, I was flat broke.

          That’s why I’m in Vegas. Cause I have full-time work here. Good pay. Benefits. Just no Lost Ocean, Mento Buru, or the Rozzes…

          Yeah, I bet “The White Buffalo” was super cheesy. Sure scared the heck out of me when I was a kid!

          Your sister told me about Lost Ocean at the Gate. Sounds like a splendid gig. Was it? Any new music? Or was it their farewell performance?

        • Ryan L. says:

          I was a great gig! They had a great, new last song they had just made for their finale! It was more of a rock song than the normal songs they have too! It’s kind of hard to truly tell if Lost Ocean is performing more or if they just had their last performance. I would say that was one of their last performances they are going to do though.

          I’m happy you have a job that pays you a descent amount of money that you need, but it just too bad it’s in Las Vegas. At least you didn’t get a job somewhere on the East Coast and you’re somewhat close to Bakersfield though. Positive thoughts, right? lol.

        • All my family is in Bakersfield. I would go crazy if I had to work too far away.

          I can’t figure out Lost Ocean. I think they’re lost. Are they coming or going? lol.

          Positive thoughts are the best thoughts.

        • Ryan L. says:

          Yea, that would be too bad if you had to live far away from your family, Vegas is already too far as is from Bakersfield. Which reminds me, do you still go to the Random Writers Workshop even though your in Vegas? that’s a long trip just to go to the Random writers Workshop lol.

          I agree with you I think Lost Ocean is lost, they’re kind of confusing me with all these weird events they randomly choose to do.

        • No. Someone else is in charge of the workshop. It’s actually taking a break now. I hope it starts back up. Don’t know. I am teaching in Bakersfield for five weeks this summer. That should be fun. It’s part of the university’s OLLI program. Teaching novel writing and photography.

          Poor Lost Ocean.

        • Patty Wonderly says:

          Oh, it’s starting back up! I think of us as the phoenix, “Fawkes” in Dumbledore’s office. Just when you think his number is up, he comes back better than ever! We might even be carrying Gryfindor’s sword! Phoenix tears will heal your woes – so never fear – we will be back!

        • Dumbledore is one of the coolest names ever. So is Lord Criofan. Did I spell it right?

  14. Bakobelinda says:

    This piece took me back to Vegas. I could smell the smoke and feel the frustration of no wifi. I liked it.

    • Too bad you and your family aren’t here today for some serious Star Wars symphonics!! Thanks for commenting, Belinda. Much love to you and your family (and the turtles!)

  15. His royal Chadness says:

    I got a laugh about the tribute bands that play down there & because I dated a girl out here who was
    (A) from Long Isle & had that delightful accent
    (B) in charge of collections for Enterprise
    (C) obsessed w/Dunkin’ Donuts.
    I like the idea of living in one of the dinosaur casinos downtown, especially the Plaza. You should check out the Griffin & the Beauty Bar, who is having its’ fifth anniversary party this Sun., 7 p.m.-?

    • Where the heck is the Griffin and the Beauty bar? That sounds cool.

      You know, I might write about the Gold Spike. THAT would be a crazy dive to live in. My dad used to hang out there.

      I did wander inside a few days ago. I stood behind a couple who was looking at the menu. I looked at it too. While the cheap menu looked to expensive to them, it was the cheap plastic lawn chair looking furniture that turned me off.

      Yet, people were in there, chowing, having a good time with their dizzy diner Vegas meals…

  16. Tiffany says:

    I really enjoyed this piece.
    Puts one right on the spot with your great attention to detail.
    The men’s urinal, the rental car lady and her conversation with the D.D. pair. The stories
    one can stumble on to if they just open their eyes and ears. I rarely pause long enough to read the people that I want to read. You made me pause.
    Thank you.

    • Thanks Tiffany. I don’t always like to pause and look at the world around me. But when my writer consciousness abounds I always put out my literary radar for human themes. I then try to convey to potential readers. Thank you so much. If you paused to reflect and/or look around, then that’s all I can ask of any reader.

  17. ninarevenant says:

    Pay for wifi? = Hell no! Spilt beer and smoking galore, sounds like Sin-City to me.

    • You know it, Nina. It’s a strange downtown cityscape. The only thing I’ve been leaving out is the girly bars. I just never go in them, so don’t have a good story to tell. And, yeah, the world needs free wifi! Hope you are well. Great to hear from you as always. Hope your beloved and London are well.

  18. Sara says:

    Excellent writing, as usual, Nick. I am curious–what horrid hits of yesteryear? Were they pre-1980? If so, those were the BEST! If AFTER 1980, well yes, they were the horrid hits of yesteryear. It makes no difference–the phrase just piqued my curiosity, my need to know more–and such a silly thing I need to know more of. Keep up the good work (and I will keep loving oldish Rock and Roll).

    • Hi Sara: It was glam rock stuff. They were all dressed up as an 80s hair band and singing the metal glam-rock hits of the 80s. I’m guilty for owning some of that when I was a teen. But believe me, I don’t know what I was thinking.

      On another note, I was in an emotional mood and was walking through the Golden Nugget a few days later, reflecting on a personal thought when “The Long And Winding Road” (1970) started playing. I got kind of choked up. Weird.

      Glam rock, no.

      Old Beatles tune. Heck yeah!

  19. Sara says:

    Have you ev-ah heard Del Shannon’s “Runaway?” That is Rock and Roll as it should be, methinks–although I am guilty of liking some European Techno Pop that came out in the ’80s. You are a good writer, so Rock On! Here is a “clue for you all:” Not only, “the walrus is Paul,” but when I was in HS years 63-67, I had…I had…I had…….BEATLEMANIA! This soon morphed into RollingStonesopia.

    • Oh I like the Stones too. And Runaway is a good song. I like a lot of 80s music still. U2. New Order. The Church. The Waterboys. Elvis Costelloe. There’s a lot to like. And a lot to barf at…

  20. J.M. Blaine says:

    It is a sad feel.
    Humanity sort of struggling
    and rising and falling.
    Vegas is symbolic that way
    and you painted it true.

  21. Lea says:

    Nick,

    In your search for donuts and free wifi, it amazes me that you are so kind to all these weird people. They are probably thankful for a listening ear. My friend always reminds me that we have to be kind to everyone because they just might be an angel unaware. I’m sure you’ve met many angels unaware and gathered a few more stones for your crown.
    Your writing is so descriptive and full of the emotions of life. I would like to be able to write a little like you, my friend.
    Lea

    • Lea, you’re a great emerging writer and aspiring author. Just keep working crazily on your craft and it will all come together for you. The more you write and imagine and experiment, the better. The cool thing about writers who are serious? We improve through hard work.

      Sometimes weird people were normal. And they often remember that and so retain a connection to us otherworldy types. Our realities are just different.

      But whose reality is more meaningful? Maybe the angel’s life in the end. Granted, only if some of those weirdos are angelic beings.

      Sometimes I feel they are.

      You never know who you’re talking to I guess.

  22. lacorbeau says:

    Nick this is wonderfully written. I love your descriptive language. You put the reader with you in sight and smell. One of your best!! T/Y

    Caroline Halliwell

    • Sometimes I don’t feel I’m descriptive enough. I feel like I get bombarded with so many sights and smells and words that I cut a lot out for the sake of the flow of the story.

      Compliments like yours help me to understand that I’m on a good path with my writing, one that connects to readers through both thought and experience. Thank you.

  23. jeannie says:

    Perfect picture. And I’m very grateful you didn’t post that twitpic. It would have taken me a sec. Then I would realize what you are doing and have to squeal with laughter like the 14 year old girl I actually am. Try explaining that away in a Starbucks.

    • I was so close to that photo. And then this big bald guy walked in and I shoved the phone in my pocket so he didn’t think I was going to grab a still of his manhood. I mean, imagine THAT conversation if someone thinks you’re some kind of urinal perv.

      I get enough stares. I get trailed by cops and security on some of my walks. That happened in Bako and it happens in Vegas too. Two days ago I stood watching one old lady play the hell out of a slot machine. I was mesmerized. And then I saw this big black security guard eyeing me. I moved my ass on.

      Can’t wait to get my iPhone to up my level of twitpic sophistication.

      Goal: make Jeannie laugh!

      • Jeannie says:

        Nick, you’ve known me long enough to know that you will succeed in your goal. But do you seriously think I will believe that you are not a urinal perv? You hide it well, but I know wherein the truth drains…

        You’ll have to try the hypstatic…hypnostatic…whatever the hell it’s called for your iPhone. It lets you pick what photographic era and genre style you take your picture in. I have a link somewhere for it.

        • Oh that will be totally coolio. Can’t wait to get the iPhone.

          I have taken two interesting urinal photos in the past year. One of the toilet at City Lights bookstore where Ginsberg once weed. The other was of a decrepit urinal at the Greyhound bus station in downtown Vegas.

          You might get a story about that bus station still.

          I guess I am a urinal wacko.

        • Jeannie says:

          I love bus station stories. It’s one of my favorite places to sit and make up lives about the people who are there. Look forward to reading more bus station goodness.

        • The next piece is at the downtown transit station and has a JW missionary in it. Hopefully you like it as I recorded an entire conversation the missionary (at least that’s what I call him) had with a Rastafarian…

        • Jeannie says:

          Haha, I love it when people have JW’s in their stories. Well, when they portray them correctly, as I know you will. I once had a conversation with a Rastafarian while in service, he was nice. But then again everyone thinks I’m a huge pothead. Maybe that’s why we got along so well.

        • I am sort of a neutral narrator and just simply was tickled by a discussion I heard. I’m sure there will be both positive and negative comments. You know how people are when others write about religion. :/

  24. Jan Fulton says:

    Nick – you brought me right in to the room (and bathroom!) with your detail and dialogue. I love people watching and LV is one of the best places for that past time. But it did feel a bit melancholy and funny too. Keep watching, listening and translating for the rest of us.

    • Jan your words prove a few things to me:

      1) That whenever someone from Bakersfield comments over here on TNB I am absolutely tickled. Why? Because Bakersfield is my hometown. I love retaining that connection to the southern Central Valley. So often the brain drain occurs and the connection is lost.

      2) Bathrooms can and should be a topic of conversation. lol

      3) People watching is the greatest past-time for all writers, and for many people. And Vegas is a great place to do just that. Do you have a favorite people watching spot in Vegas?

      Thanks so much for your words of encouragement and joy. It’s comments like yours that keep me filled with energy to keep on exploring and writing.

  25. dwoz says:

    Of course, one of the prime goals of fiction is to suspend disbelief in the reader. I feel that by declaring that “Dunkin’ Donuts coffee is the best”, you’ve put in this jarring incongruity…like watching Neil Armstrong take his little jump from the lunar lander, and having a stage grip wearing a black tee shirt turn the corner from behind the ship, then catch himself and slink back out of camera view.

    • This isn’t fiction. You misread something. It’s in the memoir category.

      • dwoz says:

        Well….my father-in-law likes Dunkin’ Donuts coffee…so I suppose it isn’t SO outlandish!

        and…my house wifi is wide open. bon apetit.

        • I haven’t had DD coffee. But maybe I should since your father-in-law digs it.

          It’s really what the lady said. I was only recording her words.

          But then, maybe she was just filling the Dunkin’ Donuts people’s heads with vicious coffee lies.

  26. Simon Smithson says:

    “The rental car lady pauses for a moment as if experiencing a great epiphany. “I do tell people to go to Dunkin’ and not Krispy Kreme.”

    We all gotta live by a code.

    Nick, do you find your journalistic background an overt or a passive kind of machinery when you write pieces like this?

    • I challenged the boring writing of standard journalism when I wrote this piece. Too much journalism is afraid of dialogue.

      I use more literary devices while writing: scene and summary. I focus on dialogue these days, where before when I wrote posts I sometimes got way too internal in my narrative. So, you will almost always see dialogue in my posts.

      In fact, my next post starts out with the dialogue:

      “Shapeshifters,” says a black missionary.

      With that said, I do strive for a sort of journalistic truth. That’s the one essence in creative nonfiction I aim for, which in this case was to capture the setting and the economy of Las Vegas.

      At the same time, I want to engage the reader with action. I’m working on bettering my craft. I know I can write essays. But it’s this scene and summary form I want to better myself at…

      The code. We all have several. Mine is to always eat donuts!

  27. Maura says:

    Nick , I read this piece and I agree with Connie and I need to talk to you privately . Besides just wanting to see how you are , I need the connection .I feel your isolation and the pain of missing your family . I loved the writing and it moved me to tears ….so many tears for those lost souls.

    As regards the lady smokestack …..I come from the east coast… in NY and NJ at bus stations , trains, airports ,streets, I see those types and hear those voices . Men taking off their pants in front of everyone , grabbing a “fresh dirty” pair from a bag . Waitresses asking “What’d ya want ” in a brisk nasty way Oh the sweetness of it ! It is home ….I am sorry but I love to come home and hear it all …..

    Love the piece , Nick

    • Aw, thanks Maura. So sweet as always and concerned.

      Some of my favorite writers have felt isolated or were isolated, traveling, wandering Kerouacian souls. Theroux on trains across the globe. Naipaul traipsing across postmodern landscapes.

      Maybe I’m a natural East Coaster, reveling in an air of nastiness as you say. I’m at home on a bus where homeboys are talking shit and some old man with a cane is mumbling “go to hell” to the world.

      I imagine it’s all better in an East Coast accent (I know there are many of those). An old friend of mine said she missed her East Coast because she needed to hear at least one “F*** You!” a day. She called the West Coast fakey nice.

  28. Hmm, my first question- they serve beer at Dunkin Donuts? Do they also have ice cream? I’ve been to the casino in Cherokee a few times and the raspy throated women are a mainstay. Why is that? There is some threadline that connects these people to late nights, small, smoke-filled areas and free comps while spending more time with complete strangers than known family or friends. Maybe that is the key, family and friends are far behind, forgotten along with younger days and free breathing…

    By the way, did you say you moved to Hell?

    • The beer was at Krispy Kreme. I was at their outside tables. A drifter wandered in with his beer through the exit gate. Do you think I should clarify in the story? If it’s confusing let me know.

      I think raspy-throated women are smokers who are naturally attracted to social smoking environments like casinos. That’s my theory anyways. I absolutely agree with what you wrote:

      There is some threadline that connects these people to late nights, small, smoke-filled areas and free comps while spending more time with complete strangers than known family or friends. Maybe that is the key, family and friends are far behind, forgotten along with younger days and free breathing…

      Perhaps this is a sort of Hell to some. I just don’t find enjoyment writing about all the bazillions of happy or fake happy people who are everywhere partying. I want the conflict! If I saw a shootout I’d write about that before I wrote about someone hitting a jackpot on a video poker game.

  29. Lord Skudley says:

    “Her voice is like sandpaper worked through a taffy machine.”
    I can actually hear her voice through that description! And with that simple line her whole persona, physical being and demeanor is painted in my mind’s eye. You have a talent for painting the scene with your words.

    • Thank you Lord Skudley. It was a strange moment. When I was writing about her all I could think of was sandpaper rubbing against itself. It’s an almost painful sound to imagine…

  30. Matt says:

    I too was saddened by this. Mostly because all those donuts are going to wreak havoc with your cholesterol.

    Like David, I’m morally outraged by the lack of free wifi, especially in already-overpriced hotel rooms, which has been my experience every time I’ve been to Vegas, Reno, or Laughlin. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if any of those cities’ public libraries charged for it, too.

    • Wifi was free in the public library I went to. I even saw one of the characters there from my next story I’m going to post. The strangest thing though was the overwhelming number of men at the downtown library. Hundreds of men. Most of them homeless. And some homeless looking dudes using wifi. And a homeless area outdoors where a bunch of men were watching “Force Ten From Navarone.”

      And then there was the kiddie section which was cordoned off and hosted by a legion of soccer moms…

      I’ll eat more Asian food this week, I promise.

  31. DCR says:

    The story was tongue-in-cheek hilarious. The character descriptions had me shaking my head — I recognized those folks, or at least the personality types. Vegas is such a pathos enriched environment — great material but also an emotional pull at the heart, for sure. I had hoped to make to the RWW before you left, but somehow didn’t qet there. I check in with the NB often and enjoy it. If you have the info, please send me an email about the Olli course here. Best wishes to you and take care.

    • Thank you! I thought it was hilarious too. But some folks focused too hard on the sad aspects of me being apart from family. I thought the donut conversation and the thought that I was sitting there with hidden loyalties to Krispy Kreme was funny!

      Here’s the link to the OLLI Program at CSUB. I’m teaching “The Novel And You” and “Photo Journeys.”

  32. Sara says:

    Since I have never been to Vegas, and probably never will, your descriptive words have given me a real feel for the place, the folksy drama that goes on, the sights. You are extremely good at description and mood, which other posters have all mentioned before, including me. It seems to come easily to you and you could probably write several novels in a year if you put your mind to it–I am assuming that non-fiction is your bag, however. Keep writing! With your journalistic background I am thinking True Crime. Maybe too grim for you, but you would be good at it.

    • Thanks Sara! You might like this fictional account of the Lords of Bakersfield I wrote set in 1977 in a seedy backdrop of Hollywood and Bakersfield. My recollections of the great dust storm of that year with its 200 mph winds are captured within it.

      • Sara: Oh, and there’s a lot of crime in it! Thanks again for your kind comments. It means a lot. Especially on an early Monday morning in Vegas when I’m wondering about faraway people.

  33. Paula Austin says:

    Expect Nothing Less

    She used to lay in knee high, grass laden fields
    and stare into blue-cloud driven skies
    Butterflies dancing in the breeze…

    Somewhere between the east coast & pink frosted donuts
    Tobacco stained fingers and stale air
    Hope was lost in cracks exposed to life…

    So she now sets on hard stools
    Talks with faceless, searching men
    Raspy voice, unsignificant chatter
    and hopes that someone understands….

  34. Irene Zion says:

    Nicky,

    Come to Miami Beach.
    The whole place has free Wi-Fi.
    You can just sit out on the beach and use your computer, or at the park.
    Pretty cool, eh?

  35. The piece very much has a Vegas vibe, the tone reflecting place. I’m just grateful you refrained from taking a TwitPic of yourself peeing.

  36. Jill says:

    Nick,
    I must say on first reading…I did sense a meloncholy tone, as the piece began with missing your connection with family. I thought this was the set up for the mood in the article. However, after reading your comments…I went through it again. I then sensed the humor in your words. I love people watching and at one time would have taken a backpack and done a Waffle House tour…still might one day. However, with 2 kids…one that will start college in the fall…I understand the importance of $$$$. Keep writing…

    • Thanks for moving your comment from Twitter to here. I’m glad you saw both the humor and the frustration of not being with family. Two in college? Wow. One of mine is going to college. The other is out of high school but not going to college yet. One thing’s for sure, we’re not getting any younger!

  37. Sara says:

    Thanks, Nick, I will give Lords of Bakersfield a Look-See on the morrow. Spent a grueling MD Weekend working my second job and must conk out for awhile–looking forward to a good read and will get back to you on it sometime soon.

    • I’m at a Starbucks about a mile from where I need to be. I’ve walked a lot today. So I hear you. Tired is tired…

      Walking for wifi is kind of like a second job!

      Thanks for wanting to check out my book.

  38. Joe Daly says:

    I was raised in the Northeast with Dunkin Donuts always a short drive away. Now that I live in California, I am without this physical and emotional lifeline, and I must confess that reading your piece, I found myself thinking, “Holy shit… you mean if I just hop in the car and drive five hours, I can get some D&D???”

    The ending sort of took me off guard, which I really enjoyed. Good stuff.

    • What’s a measly five-hour drive for some yummy pastries? I mean, some people would make the drive to see a historic monument, or a delightful beach. I say drive for sprinkles and frosting.

      I’m glad you liked the ending. That made me happy, Joe. Much appreciated.

  39. Bakobelinda says:

    Thanks Nick I would have loved to hear Star Wars. And my Turtle says, “turtles are awesome “!

    • Star Wars in concert was a huge delight. I can’t even begin to express how cool it was to hear a symphony take an audience through all six movies…

      I hope your turtle is getting fat like me.

  40. Penny Goring says:

    I enjoyed reading this flash memoir. A proper slice of junkfood belly. It has a middle-aged, unglam, Brett Easton Ellis feel, for me. I love the Twitpic ref in the men’s urinals – startling, true & bang up-to-date. You have a smooth & incisive turn of phrase – ‘the horrid hits of yesteryear’ – yes!
    I like to think of you in Las Vegas.

    • Thanks Penny. Your comments are fun to read: soothing, witty, and analytical to the point. I wish I could write my entire Vegas memoirs as well as you write your comments. Seriously.

      I want to name a kid, Triplecherry, BTW. I should. I need to find a kid. Mine are too old to change their names.

  41. Penny Goring says:

    I’m speechless (& seriously amused!)… You are a charmer.

    • Not a charmer. Just being honest. I just went and read your first two posts. Wow. Your words are like being in a knife-throwing competition and dodging the knives! Awesome!

      • Penny Goring says:

        Honest is good! (I’m buzzing over the knife thing, what a bloody super-duper comment. Thanks for making my day.) I don’t want to miss any of your Vegas memoirs, so I’ll be keeping my eye on you.

        • Awesome, Penny. My next ditty takes place at a bus station. I think I will post it this week. I kind of need the power of connecting to people on TNB lately since I moved here by myself and my family is far away.

          I don’t think anyone in my family is reading my Vegas memoirs. Oh wait, maybe they’re just being stalkers.

          Not sure.

          :/

  42. Sara says:

    Okay, Nick, I have been reading all about Lords of Bakersfield (Part I) on Amazon and this is my kind of book. I must get it and read it sometime this summer, but promise that I will. I think you must have done a very good job on this–impressive.

  43. sheree says:

    Man you really know how to set the stage for readers. I felt like i was right there with you as I read this. Fantastic read. Thanks.

    • With your life experience and my life experience combined, we would both cause quite the scene in downtown Las Vegas! OK, that sounded superheroish.

      Hope you have been well. So good to hear from you.

      • sheree says:

        Heh, Vegas. Been there twice. Wasn’t impressed either time. Scooter looters with buckets of coins and Star impersonators freak me the hell out.

        Been good. Trust all is well your way. BTW Loved your sons music video!

        • I’ll be honest. I’m here for the job. I have to work and unemployment in Bakersfield was around 20% when I left. It’s also a great town to have as a backdrop for some of my stories. Lots of interesting characters here, as long as I get a chance to meet them…

  44. Joanne aka soulsprite says:

    Great piece and wonderful descriptions of people: “She’s clearly an East Coast smokestack.” Gotta love that one, not only the image, but also the sound. That line has got to go in a poem.

    I love to people watch…there are so many stories out there, but I’m sure Vegas is a virtual treasure trove of them. I’ve watched people and have usually made up stories. Me and my husband do this all time. There was one time on a train from San Diego that we did this. The train was delayed due to a teen playing some dare devil games on the tracks. The train going the other way hit him. We sat still on that track for two hours and watched all the very restless people. As many of them walked by we could see their stories hanging over them. We had a blast…I’m sure we were right on. The woman sitting across from us finally figured out what we were doing and started enjoying the entertainment we were creating.

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful words in your weird new world.

  45. Joanne: Write the poem! Write it and post it here! Would love to see what you could do with that in some witty free verse.

    Entertainment during a train ride while some kid got splatted? You are uber imaginative. In a bizarre way, I wish I had been on that train. I can imagine writing a post about that experience.

    Vegas is a weird world for sure. It’s very different from Bakersfield, CA, where the East Coast smokestacks are few and far between.

    • Joanne aka soulsprite says:

      We’ll see what I can do about that poem…might be fun!

      I was sorry about the young guy, but if you play chicken with a train…
      Two hours is a long time when it’s late and you just want to be home. Being tired does weird things to the brain, too.

      • No kidding. When I get tired my brain is fried. Might as well call me a drunk.

        Correct, no one should play chicken with a train unless they have a death wish.

  46. Tom Hansen says:

    “An 80s glam rock cover band belts out the horrid hits of yesteryear.”

    Nice line. I like the tone of this piece. When you wrote it, were you shooting for an unreliable narrator, or did it just turn out that way? Either way, I like it. I like memoir that reads like fiction.

    • Hi Tom. I’m not sure what makes the narrator lack credibility in this piece. Aren’t a majority of posts on TNB expressing opinions that might not be agreed with by readers? Just curious for the sake of being curious because I think you brought up a great point.

      With that said, I knew when I wrote that line that many people (Reno for example) might strongly disagree with my opinion of glam rock. But I wanted to stay true to my opinion, which I thought might throw some attitude into the piece as well as link to an opinion of downtown Vegas, which I both love and hate.

      Now if it were a punk cover band I was hearing, you would have heard me making a strong connection to surviving Vegas streets in parallel to surviving the early days of punk.

      I think glam rock isn’t very deep in it’s meaning. Never was for me anyway. Punk is deep to me, for example. And I think there is something on the surface of Fremont Street that is like glam rock that just rubs me the wrong way. Though I love bits and pieces of what Fremont Street is and does.

      • Tom Hansen says:

        Maybe I used the wrong word. To me it’s not so much that the narrator lacks credibility, but that he’s opinionated and makes no bones about it, and that runs counter to a lot of nonfiction which tries to be ‘fair and balanced’ if I can steal that term from Fox News. That and the way you describe the place–I think it’s the things you leave out–just works. The piece has a kind of David Lynchian feel that I really dig. A fine example of “less is more” IMO

        • Those are really kind words, Tom. I don’t really deserve the credit you give me. But I will say I am just trying to capture some of what I’m feeling as I stumble along, and do so in a simplistic way.

          And I don’t want to lie about it or erase some of my negative thoughts. I just want people to share an experience, even if I am skewed away from the fair and balanced, which is obvious as you point out.

          It is very helpful as a writer to get an opinion like yours. It analyzes in a way that I don’t see in myself, until I step away and peer back. And that’s hard to do since I am living these pieces right now. I’m too close to it.

          Thank you, again.

        • Tom Hansen says:

          No sweat. A lot of the stuff I read on here (like your piece) informs my work too, so it’s all good.

        • Thanks Tom. I agree, there’s some good inspiring shiz on TNB. Yours definitely included. Now that I have some steady income again I can afford to get your book! lol.

  47. DJimiO says:

    Great piece! Makes me want pizza and donuts (and an inhaler).

    Next time try McDonald’s. Most of them have free wifi. Although I don’t think the clientele would be as colorful, you could write about the coffee set.

    I worked at McDonald’s in high school. Every McDonald’s in the world has a coffee set. That’s retired seniors who come in for free coffee. Same time. Every day. It’s their version of Facebook. Even my grandparents did it. Of course, if McDonald’s no longer gives seniors free coffee they’re extinct now.

    (By the way, beer at Krispy Kreme? How European.)

    • Hey DJimiO. I hear you. Give me the bad food til the day I die.

      There’s another piece I might write where I ended up at the Sahara a few days later and went to the McDonalds across the street from there. I met a guy from Boston who said he golden arch-hopped all the way across the U.S. for free wifi. Gotta love that! He saw me sitting there with my laptop flipped open and surfing Facebook.

      Some interesting seniors were in there too. I didn’t get their story. But they looked like relics of 70s polyester Vegas. And a security guard knew them. And they were downing the java!

      Thanks for your kind words!

  48. Michael Lee says:

    Wonderful. Made me feel alone and wandering the streets of Vegas confused.

  49. Scott E says:

    Viva the donut!

  50. mike G says:

    Comment!

  51. Sam Everett says:

    This might be my favorite thing I’ve read by you!

    There needs to be a name for the panic and the pangs of longing we feel nowadays when we are disconnected…from the internet. Maybe there IS a medical term for it and I just don’t know. My phone is having a fit right now, as I read this, so I was already with you when you were talking about how distant everyone feels when you can’t have them, or their virtual representations, at your fingertips.

    And I think there’s a part of all of us that says, “Hey, we couldn’t connect to the internet in a freaking casino or a donut shop even five years ago, so what’s the big deal? Get over it.” But more and more now this constant interconnectivity is just the way our world works, and so it’s to be expected that we get desperate when it’s not there.

    Nicely done!

    • I totally agree. It’s superficial in a way. But then my connection is to all of my family. I might as well be in Europe. I haven’t seen my family since the second week of May. And I was recently without a phone for a week too. When you’re that cut off, there’s a nauseating feeling that has to be dealt with.

  52. Samantha KnJoi says:

    Yes, I would agree that there is some melancholy here, but nothing that a few doughnuts can’t cure…but that lady’s voice haunts me, I just want to clear my throat repeatedly until she gets the hint that her laryngeal sawdust makes nails on a chalkboard sound like a Swedish lullaby!! And for the vain search for free wi-fi is rather symbolic of any move to a new town. Forging new connections of any kind make yearning for all things familiar a little easier to bear. Whether its a loved ones’ hug or that one chair in the bookstore we used to visit every Sunday, the one that instantly molds to our right ass cheeck just so at the crossing of the left leg, meaningful connections should always be free…

  53. We miss you in Bako Nick. :( But I sense an excitement and edge in your adventuresome spirit, which will surely dull your mutual missing of friends and family here in this dusty town. Your new dusty town is filled with color, grunts, pops and detours which make for some mighty fine story-telling. For a moment, I was there. Good to see you. :)

    • Such nice words. I feel very disconnected from Bakersfield already. The comments as a result of my storytelling help me to reconnect in ways to the dirty town I miss. Your words help. Thank you.

      Adventure helps.

  54. Ah, Main Street Station. For a second I closed my eyes, and I was there, riding a thirteen. I could smell the well vodka and a brassy senior’s Marlboro lite stuck to the roof of my mouth. I floated above your paragraphs across the gaudy carpet. Something about donuts while I put ten bucks on double zero. Lost. Something about wi-fi. Another ten bucks on double zero. Lost again. Thank you.

    • Your paragraph was more captivating than my entire piece. I was there watching you gamble. Ha. Thanks for commenting, Sean. I love your line, “a brassy senior’s Marlboro lite stuck to the roof of my mouth.”

  55. chingpea says:

    this entry is interesting and adventurous…. i love the detail and description. makes me feel like i was a fly in the area watching it all.

  56. Sara says:

    Just thinking when reading this of the way our society is changing. Five years ago you probably would not have read “twitpic” or “wifi” in a story. What will we read in stories in five more years that we know nothing of now?

    • The parties shall not be named. But I was at a Baja Fresh a month or so ago with a friend when her husband, who wasn’t feeling well, came over and said about our ongoing conversation, “Finish it on Facebook!”

      I was instantly tickled, because all I could think was what you mentioned. What would people think who don’t understand the terminology? Even many people today aren’t on Facebook. So some people sitting around us must have thought we were all crazy!

  57. Sara says:

    Even the common, “What kind of app are ya usin’ for that?” question bounced about now would have blown people’s minds five years ago if they had heard it frequently, as we do now. “Finish it on Facebook,” “Have you checked out Arnie’s recent Tweet on Twitter?” “What kind of app are ya usin’?” “I danced myself into a sweat last night, boxing on wii.”

    • I never dance myself into a sweat in Wii boxing, because the kid I play always knocks me out in like three punches!

      Started hearing the word “App” in 2007. I admit I didn’t think anything of it, and wouldn’t have, if it weren’t for the advent of the iPhone. I just got mine as you know and I am addicted already.

  58. Richard Cox says:

    I’m sure glad TNB has the “Most read” section because I never saw this before now and I think it’s brilliant. Such excellent pacing and vivid description. For me it had a pulpy, almost futuristic, bleak America feel to it, a la Norman Spinrad. Great stuff, man.

    Even though in total you could take it as depressing, the conversation between the east coast smoker woman and the couple had me rolling. I dunno why. Just cracked me up.

    Thanks for posting this.

    • Oh man, Richard. This is really the nicest compliment. Your line “it had a pulpy, almost futuristic, bleak America feel to it, a la Norman Spinrad…” was better than my whole post!

  59. Joanne aka soulsprite says:

    Here’s that poem I promised you Nick. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Inspired by Nick’s piece of creative non-fiction above, “Take What You Can”
    “East Coast smokestack” is his term.

    Portrait of an East Coast Smokestack

    Her life wafts before her
    in an aroma of Pall Mall
    unfiltered.
    No clean coal BS for this
    dyed-blonde-leather-skinned-permanently-pursed-lipped
    smoke stack.

    Eyes squinting
    she heaves in the smoke
    full force
    puff after puff
    a locomotive she keeps chugging
    flicks ashes like opinions
    never asks for a smoke
    her silver case
    always lined with white
    keeps the chain going.

    East coast accent
    rasps over the rattle and hum
    beyond closed windows
    reels off tales about the days
    or what that old fart Joe
    used to say.
    Hacks/laughs
    while her hand hovers
    over his face
    painted on ceramic
    the tray a gift her kid made
    in art class ages ago.

    She knocks ashes to ashes
    as the room fills
    smoke rising like Spirit
    to the ceiling.

    Yellowed fingers shaking
    she brings the shortened stick
    back up to her lips
    draws one last puff
    closes her blue-lidded eyes
    blows smoke
    then crushes the butt
    into his face.

    Joanne Elliott 2010

    • This is great! I mean, really great! Your character took a life of her own. her squinted eyes, raspy East Coast smokestack rattle and hum, tales of old fart Joe and spirit ashes. Wow. I just read it twice. Soulsprite, you are truly a great poet. Vivid.

      • Joanne aka soulsprite says:

        Thanks Nick! It was fun to write. An amalgam of characters in my past just rose up out of my subconscious.

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