Smith: Vegas notes to self | AspenTimes.com

Smith: Vegas notes to self

Barry Smith

I was in Las Vegas for a week doing some work as an audio-visual guy. It’s been a few years since I’ve done this work, but I have recently returned to my life of sitting through full days of conferences and meetings that I don’t understand. Maybe I do this because this lack of understanding reminds me so much of childhood, and school, and most of my life since then. There’s a certain comfort in things that you experience all day, every day, forever. This is why blinking has never really gone completely out of style.

There’s nothing like 12-hour-plus days of being sequestered in darkened meeting rooms to inspire one to reducing life to a series of random observations. Actually, let me change that to “elevating.” Elevating life to a series of random observations. That’s what I meant, and also what happened.

About mid-week I said, out loud, while trying to troubleshoot an audio problem, “I don’t know how to fix it, but I know how to make it work.” I thought this was really clever, and I acted accordingly — by repeating it to everyone who may have missed it, or who didn’t react in the way that I thought they should have. I wrote it down and left it in front of people. I emailed it to friends. I even went so far as to include it as the first item in one of those “random observations” column which, upon reading it in print the next day, caused me to reconsider.

Speaking of writing things down, I really love having blank hotel writing pads everywhere. I use them to write myself cryptic and increasingly depressing scribblings as the week wears on. Little notes to self like, “At some point I got it in my head that life is something different than what it actually is.” I am a bad self-roommate.

I’ve always felt very specific bragging rights because of having seen some of the now-classic punk bands in the ’80s — Black Flag, Descendents, Circle Jerks, Vandals, Dead Kennedys, Butthole Surfers — the list goes on, and becomes less and less printable in a newspaper as it does. It always kind of felt like my generation’s equivalent of having seen Hendrix, The Doors, Janice Joplin and so on, which I also think deserves bragging rights. But in Vegas I was working with a guy named Rich, who casually mentioned having seen Television at CBGBs in the ’70s. Whoa. I love that band. I asked who else he had seen and he rattled off a list of pretty much every great early punk and new wave band — Talking Heads, Richard Hell, Blondie, The Clash, The Ramones’ first gig ever, The Sex Pistols. Wow. I was visibly impressed. Then he went and added that he saw The Velvet Underground. The Velvet Underground! I’ve never met anyone who saw the Velvet Underground before. What do you even say to such a person? “Uh, I went to high school with the singer for Pillsbury Hardcore.”

Note to self: “If you stop doing things that keep you from feeling, what do you feel?”

Eating alone in a casino restaurant then heading off to bed without drinking or gambling reminds me of a scene from my favorite Mad Max movie — “Beyond Loserdome.”

Note to self: “Underwear, chips, contact lenses, 3-inch deck screws.”

I was staying at the Wynn. It wasn’t until the second to the last day that I made the Wynn-Win connection. Like, it’s the guy’s name and it’s what will happen to you when you wager in his casino. Duh! I guess if your family name is Lozer, the casino business isn’t for you. However, if your surname is “Buy an Island With Your Gabling Earnings,” it might be worth considering.

Note to self: “I am, at times, the very embodiment of everything that I dislike in a person: I’m smug, conceited, judgmental, arrogant and funnier than I am.”

The banks of slots dedicated to the TV shows I watched as a kid feels like the most blatantly sinister marketing ploy ever. “Happy Days,” “I Love Lucy,” “Laverne & Shirley,” “Mork & Mindy” — it’s such a transparent bid to trigger childhood memories and make you try to recapture a more innocent time. You know, while gambling. I’m pleased with myself at not being a person who succumbs to such things, which is why I capped my losses at only $1300 on the “Gilligan’s Island” slots. Skipper! Professor!

Note to self: “The notes are coming from inside the hotel room! Get out!”

Barry Smith’s column appears Mondays.


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