There was one seat left at the diner bar next to a white-haired gambler. I sat down as he ordered a soda and bowl of chili. I ordered the $4.95 Binion’s Burger, potato salad and a two-dollar Coke.

The white-haired man didn’t say a word as he waited for his food. When it arrived he took a couple of bites, washed it down with a sip of his drink, then paid for it with two five-dollar casino chips.

“Keep the change,” he said.

A female worker with sunken cheeks and poorly dyed hair stood behind the counter and shrugged after he wandered away. “I sure hope he was finished,” she said.

As she tossed his leftovers in the trash, a soft-spoken black man with a beard walked up on my right. He put a bag on the chair between us. “What kind of beans you got?” he said.

“Pinto,” said a Binion’s diner worker named Mel. I swear he worked the same counter ten years before. He was so matter of fact that I considered ordering some beans too.

“Give me some of that. And some corn bread. And a water,” the black man said. His food arrived almost as fast as he ordered it.

My burger was juicy. There were three tomatoes along with other fixings on the side. I carefully placed the tomatoes on top of the patty, replaced the bun and took a bite.

I looked over at the black man. He’d dismantled his cornbread and mixed it into his beans.

In the morning I saw a woman asleep in the warm Las Vegas light. She sat on a chair and leaned against a pole. Her dirty head was flopped forward and to the right. She leaned slightly against black and blue bags. Both had been silkscreened with the words, “Las Vegas.”

She’d been there all night.

My first night in town I walked from the sardine-packed crowds of Fremont Street to find the Downtown Transit Center. I was going to start taking a city bus to my new job.

The streets were nearly empty along Main Street Station. I rounded a parking garage to find a limping black man talking to his friend about getting in a club. One of them said something like, “We can get in there.” They disappeared into an alley lit by historic neon signs that led back to the tens of thousands partying under the Fremont Street Experience.

Up ahead, glittering blue and pink lights lit the top of the transit center like a slot machine just hit a jackpot. I walked through its doors to find a man sleeping on a chair. The long hallway was empty, silent. If it weren’t for the flashing lights on top of the building I would have thought the bus station slipped into hibernation.

A young hustler slunk past closed cashier windows. A Latino janitor pushed his cart through the station. He didn’t look like he wanted to work. I checked the price of bus fare. Seven dollars a day. Steep. Those are deadly prices. Tourist prices. You have to have a hell of a good job just to afford the stale bus air and a spot on seats that rarely catch a whiff of hand sanitizer.

I walked back out through the same set of doors that I entered.

“What do you mean it’s not open twenty-four hours? What the fuck am I supposed to do after hours?” said a man into a cell phone. The world around him was a big dark mess lit in the distance by neon and schools of light bulbs that swam through the Vegas night. He had a black bag slung over his shoulder and looked to be in his late fifties. Maybe he had grandchildren. He could have been a drifter. Maybe he was like me and just found a job in a big city far from where unemployment still dipped near twenty percent.

I slipped past into the glittering night.

Walking south I could see the closed Lady Luck had spent her nine lives. I remember when it was open. When I worked in Las Vegas ten years before as an artist for the big canopy of lights above Fremont Street. I remember a midget Charlie Chaplan twirling his cane outside the casino like he was some kind of shrunken Alice in Wonderland street performer. I had waved at him.

“Look at all the casinos,” said one of two men in front of me. I couldn’t hear anything else they said. My ears practically deaf from too many factory jobs.

I lost sight of them walking toward the Gold Spike.

I made a right turn and snapped a foggy, lonely photo of the El Cortez after a herd of cowboys slunk past toward the raving party on the promenade.

Across the street, a gutted room basked in white light. Empty bench stools hung under the weight of ghosts.

I made a left, toward the shadows of shady motels. I passed the old glittering historic Aladdin Hotel lamp and a flickering vertical sign that was nearly burnt out. Only two letters worked at all. They flashed and buzzed “FR-FR-FR…”

Tired, I turned around and headed straight toward Fremont Street.

A man in a wheelchair sat at a corner. His thinned grey hair on his big round head looked like a mess of moonlit grass. Two men leaned against newspaper racks about ten feet away from him. They waited.

“I’m going to hustle her,” one of the men said about a woman across the street. She stood by herself on the corner as if crack was going to flow from a nearby storm drain.

I shuffled across the intersection, past a club, a nearly empty Cuban restaurant, and an Albanian pizza parlor. A 7-11 that once flashed its gaudy convenience store sign had closed since the last time I lived on Fremont Street.

Since the last time I lived in a casino.

Further ahead, tourists stared into the big metallic sky. They waited for more lights to explode. I soon entered the hotel where I was living. I peeked at a tank where two sharks slowly circled with schools of fish. They look like they’d been gambled out. This was it, their last show. Out near the pool someone hit it big. Or maybe they just didn’t bust. Or maybe they were enamored by the lumbering sharks.

I went up the elevator to the 22nd floor. Outside, there were shouts from an alley. The walls shivered with conversation. I shut the blinds, the curtains and the lights and eventually fell asleep.

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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.

120 responses to “I Live in a Casino”

  1. Now that I posted this, I can go wander and find some food…

    Here’s a link to me posting this article while at Krispy Kreme on Fremont Street: http://twitpic.com/1o1uqa

  2. Irene Zion says:

    Bakersfield’s loss is Los Vegas’ gain, Nick.
    The best of luck in your new digs.

  3. jmblaine says:

    Nick you’re singing my kinda song here
    Love this style.
    I can’t go to Vegas.
    I watch people too closely
    and the dissension of all that neon
    and clang and vain glitz
    – its just too sad for me.
    That undercurrent crushes me.

    • The undercurrent is rough. It killed my Pops here. I think I told you he was a gambler found dead clutching a glow-in-the-dark rosary in a big rig here.

      I will be capturing various sides. I just thought it would be best to start with a wandering piece filled with sad city slickers coated in neon dreams…

      I’ll keep singin’…

    • Lee says:

      Speaking of songs…
      Pretty Vegas by INXS

      Fallin’ asleep at the wheel again baby,
      You’re driftin’ over the line (the line) Yeah.
      Your hands are tight but you’re losin’ grip quickly
      Fix me, can you read the signs?

      Thumbin’ your way to Vegas, dirty
      And Dreamin’ of the other side…
      Save your tears and laughter because
      It doesn’t matter what you find

      It ain’t pretty
      After the show
      It ain’t pretty when the pretty leaves you
      With no place to go.

      If you think you need it,
      Here’s the place to feed it
      But it ain’t pretty

      When, everything that you do is wrong,
      And you
      Feel like you can barely survive Yeah!
      When those around you
      Are crumblin’ downwards
      Buried in the sunset alive.

  4. matildakay says:

    Love seeing Vegas through your eyes as you wonder the streets and explore.

    Makes me want to go on an adventure!

    • You gotta beware on some adventures I take. I tend to walk the druggy streets to see the interesting characters who are faced with poor odds of survival.

      I do like just chillin’ and peoplewatching too. You have to dig the people that make up our great American diaspora: the rich, the hip, the unhip, the druggies, the sharks, the downtrodden…

      • Joyce Kennedy says:

        sounds like your travels are way sad, my friend. I only hope Vegas also holds an element of joy for you. No one should have to wade through such dispair. It’ll saturate your soul in time, and that would be a shame.

        • Nah. Don’t confuse storytelling and memoir with a complete picture of MY reality. I PURPOSELY explore dark streets to tell dark true tales about people that often go ignored. I’m a big fan of Kerouac, Bukowski, Ginsberg and Hunter S…

          I am an observer, a journalist, an explorer. I am merely observing a slice of life that I find interesting and story worthy. I don’t think my writing reflects on me as a sad person. In fact, I don’t gamble, hardly drink, etc. My explorations in Vegas are merely what they are: reflections of urban living…

          Writing about happy people is boring to me. I look for the conflict in society.

        • You mentioned in an email about me snooping and observing. I think you meant to post it here. Anyway, snooping is exactly right! I love to snoop… I used to love to snoop in history books at all the craziness in history… And I love to snoop as I take walks. I think all writers snoop in some way. It’s a skill!

        • Lee says:

          I’m a snoop as well…I just do it in abandoned places…

        • I hear there are abandoned houses and businesses all over Bakersfield where graffiti taggers paint the walls… I meant to explore some but never did.

        • Lee says:

          The abandoned plastics factory in Salton City is a creep fest. I should write some C-N-F about it. I have a great piece of Bakersfield C-N-F coming.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Nick, thanks for the close look.

          Writers are indeed snoopers—-and often, opposite conventional “wisdom”—-happy little bastards bulking up with observations and how to relay them to others.

          Can’t imagine a more dehumanizing locale than Las Vegas—–so I look to you for upbeats.

        • Lee: That abandoned plastics factory piece sounds like a must! Do it!

          Judy: Thanks for your wisdom. I love your line about “happy little bastards…”

  5. I went to Vegas several years ago and I totally felt like a fish out of water. I had never experienced anything like this and it was very overwhelming. It started at the airport when we were coming down for the landing at the airport. You could see the lights of the city in all it’s splendor since we were landing at about 11pm their time. It was the most awesome sight I had ever seen and I felt like it was happening to someone else. I guess the first thing I looked at was what everyone else was wearing and that was almost instant disaster. All the other tourist were dressed in fancy clothes or at least something very nice, and here I was in jeans and a T-shirt with a coat on that stood out like a sore thumb. I was almost embarrassed but was too stunned at my surroundings to stay that way for more than a few seconds. The next thing I noticed were all the slot machines at the air port. I was amazed! I felt like I had truly seen it all at this time but it just got more impressive as we went. We took a cab to the Star Dust hotel where we were staying and felt like I was in a fairy tale. Vegas was grand and exciting and it was more than my wildest dreams could have ever conjured up. I still feel the excitement today as I look through all my photos I took of the casinos and group I was with. I will remember it to the day I die with just as much awe and splendor as the day it happened. I will never take for my trip to Vegas and want to go back again some day. I want to do it different the next time and experience a lot more different things. There is too much to do in Vegas to do it all in one trip. LOL

    • And the Stardust isn’t even there anymore. The Peppermill and its swanky fireside room is still there across the street I hope…I think. I used to love eating the giant pancakes there in the middle of the night and watching all the pimp daddy-os come in wearing red suits and red hats.

      Vegas today is both well dressed and casual. I think it just depends where many are headed for the evening…

      Sounds like you might have melted in that coat…

  6. Jennifer says:

    .fantastic work.

  7. Patty Wonderly says:

    Walking downtown today for Random Writers Workshop with Lee and my sister, Linda made me think about seeing downtown through your eyes. I love how you take me along with you through the forgotten streets of Las Vegas in this piece. Lee and I had a great conversation about the forgotten buildings of Bakersfield – their history, character, and charm. I like the mood in your writing. I feel like I’m sitting on your shoulder taking it all in next to you.

    • Thanks Patty. I’m glad you and Lee are having conversations about writing about place. I’m always thinking about place: my writing, my genre, my region, etc…

      Inspiration is half the game. Seeing, writing, telling little stories, and revising is the other half. I hope you start digging in and telling more of your stories.

      • Lee says:

        We plan to talk soon in RWW about making time for writing and “routine-izing” the practice of writing in one’s life even if what one writes is crap.

    • Lee says:

      Nick’s picture of the old theater made me sad! SAVE IT!!

      • No kidding. I remember my old boss’s husband was cuffed inside there during a punk show about ten years ago for causing too much trouble. Darn Canadian rioters!

        Bring back the Huntridge!

  8. Brian Eckert says:

    Good piece

  9. Lee says:

    Vegas as it should be! Loved the images, Nick!

  10. Thomas G. Robinson says:

    Hey, Nick – great piece! I envisioned everything you wrote. Know the area well, my grandfather used to love going to the El Cortez for some strange reason. I know when I’m in the area, I’ll look you up. Hopefully, that will be soon. Take care.

    • Thanks Thomas. My dad used to love the El Cortez too. He would take me there wearing his truck driver cap. We’d go chow using some comp ticket he had from the endless comp ticket books he always carried in his polyester shirt pocket. And then every time during dinner he would ask the waitress, “Is this going to cost more than $3?”

  11. Connie says:

    Vegas the land of dreams, last nights dreams, todays dreams, tomorrows dreams and a million dreams lost with the spin of a wheel.

    • I don’t spin the wheels. I see the dream. Everyone does: the fantasy of getting rich quick. But that dream can really mess you up. I like to observe others while they are in that dream…

      It’s crazy how much money people lose and so fast…

  12. Anne Kelly says:

    I enjoyed that read Nick… a lot! 🙂 Thanks… yer damn good!

  13. Martha says:

    Good job! You hit it on the nail and made me feel like I was there experiencing what you were. Sights, smell and all….. 🙂

    • I tend to like to walk around and explore the edges of where modern development meets urban decay. In Las Vegas, as in many modern cities, there are areas of extreme crossover.

      Downtown Las Vegas has been under renovation for fifteen years. But the economy is really hurting its progress.

      I am seeing the Golden Nugget as a thriving hotel. Yet across the street from that is some serious decay that I may write about in my next piece… In fact, if I am not busy soon I will go to that decayed place, hang out and listen for stories…

  14. Connie says:

    I told you about the gal who lost $700 in two hours, was afraid to go home. Pulled the car over 4 times to call her adult kids to borrow the money so her hubby would NOT find out.. sad and scary .

    Me I love games, I am a game addict but I only allow myself a set amt to lose, after that I people watch.

    • Seven hundred bucks? That’s bad. And I do remember you telling me the story.

      I knew a guy who stole $25k. Then he went to Vegas and blew it all with some buddies in one weekend after going up by like nine grand…

  15. Connie says:

    the title “I Live in a Casino” makes me want to say… “I live in a pineapple under the sea”

    • I read this on my phone earlier and couldn’t stop laughing. I think some nearby gamblers thought I had gone crazy… Bahahaha.

      I love Spongebob.

      • Connie says:

        hehehe… Glad you laughed , sometimes my only point is to, hopefully ,make someone laugh.

        • It’s amazing how you can take such a dark piece and twist it into a funny episode of Spongebob in my head. That’s a talent, Connie! Hopefully you will like my next piece. Just have to find time to write it…

  16. Jan Fulton says:

    whenever we go to Vegas, I see those people, and wonder about their stories. But like most tourists I tend to look away – thanks for making me see.

    • Thanks, Jan. My dad was one of those hardcore poor truck driver gamblers who lived in a mobile home out by the big Mormon temple on the east side of Vegas.

      I don’t mind telling the hardluck stories. Reminds me of Pops even when I’m describing the darkest Vegas shadow…

  17. angela says:

    your piece really evokes that sense of place, and of vegas in a very non-disney way.

    • Thanks Angela. I always like your no frills pieces too.

      Your writing always taps into some real emotion that I know half of TNB writers, or more, are feeling.

      I agree. I think writing about the Disney aspects of Vegas would be kind of boring. I just want to write some hard-edged, and hopefully in the near future, some humorous pieces about the city…

  18. Lorna says:

    Now there’s a side of Vegas the tourist bureau doesn’t want the public to hear about. It is sad what happens to some people under the glitz and glamour of the neon lights. Thanks for detailing their stories so vividly in your writing.

    And welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, Nick.

    • It’s good to be back in this wacky town. I noticed today there is a Southern Nevada Art Gallery in Neonopolis. I was bummed it was closed. I hope to check it out before I move out of the downtown area. Although, I would actually like to find a loft downtown, if I can find one that’s affordable. I think I will go ask down at the Arts Factory…

  19. Nick, I have not been to Vegas since I was 11, and never planned to go again–nothing about it ever seemed attractive to me, even though I have a couple of relatives there–but now that you are there, sir, I may just have to come on out sometime. It is high praise indeed that you could make Vegas palatable. (Of course, if I came out in February, when it’s 5 below in Chicago, you can bet I’d probably love Vegas more than a casino junkie would. Not sure why that’s never sunk in for me!)

    • I’m just grateful I have a job finally again in this sour economy. I would have gone to work in downtown Bangkok. Vegas has its moments. I would bet you would love the nice spring-like weather during your frozen tundra winters. Perhaps a nice walk in Red Rock Canyon, or bit to eat at a restaurant that looks out over the city’s worn shell…

      Looking forward to June 5…

  20. Lea says:

    Nick,

    You painted a picture of a Las Vegas I do not know. I only see the glitzy, glamourous side when I occasionally visit the strip. You made me see it, feel it and taste it in a different way. So I’ll have to visit Fremont Street when I’m there again. Great writing! Lea

  21. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    Interesting imagery. You paint a picture from your point-of-view, but there is something about it that’s matter-of-fact.

    • Thanks Lisa Rae. I think you hit right on what I was trying to achieve. A sort of honesty about where the edge of progress and urban decay meet and overlap…

  22. I get a palpable sense of the peripatetic and desperate urges of the people on the streets you’re walking.

    So what are you doing now? What kind of job?

    Best of luck,

    Liz

    • There are desperate urges on Vegas streets. Even the normal tourists sort of have them. Doesn’t mean they are all bad. It’s just what the town is: a tourist town that focuses on get-rich-quick fantasy…

      I work for Clear Channel in Las Vegas. Hoping to start up another writing group here. Going to see what I can do to tap into the local literary scene. Was out wandering through the arts district today and met a few interesting characters that I may write about next…

  23. Zara Potts says:

    Perfect timing for us.. seeing as we will be in Vegas very soon.
    Nice work, Nick. Meet us by the slots?

  24. Cynthia Hawkins says:

    Well done. Enjoyed the read.

    • Thanks Cynthia. If my dark journey created some enjoyment, then that’s an honor. What did you like/dislike about this piece?

      • Cynthia Hawkins says:

        Ah, I might have clarified — “enjoyed” as in how it’s always a pleasure to read well-written work. Makes me sound a little sadistic otherwise. Love the little details you notice about people and places, the cornbread broken up in the beans, the “seats that rarely catch a whiff of hand-sanitizer.” A lot of nonfiction I come across effectively puts a reader in the writer’s head but not necessarily in the place. I appreciate that this does both.

        • The last workshop I taught in Bakersfield before I moved away was on “place.” We talked about place within writing, place within genres, place within regional writing and more… So, I’m glad you recognized my use of it… Made my day. Thanks.

  25. Man, I’m sad I missed Vegas. Came close once, but got drunk and woke up in Los Angeles. Strange story. My mother and father went there once with Snoop Dogg. Another strange story.

    Anyway, it’s interesting seeing Vegas through your eyes. Vivid, chaotic, and, er, big? Yeah. I get the impressive Vegas is big. BIG.

    • I think Vegas is big. In its weird fantasy way. The lights are big. The masses of slot machines. The amount of restaurants and pools and bizarre hotels. BIG.

      Oh you have to tell that story. Sorry I haven’t gotten to the ghost thing. I outlined it. There’s so much to it that I haven’t been able to sit and do it yet…

      • Yeah, I’m looking forward to the ghost thing, but I understand. I hardly slept for several nights after writing mine. It dredges up a lot of spooky memories.

        And yes, Vegas always seemed like some warped fantasy. I love Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but it always made me a little afraid of actually going there. It seems to mesh so well with any photos I’ve seen of the place. A fucking carnival of a city.

        • Spookyville and a lengthy sit-down session in the midst of my bizarro transition to Vega$$.

          I think your natural connection to spookyville will find an interest in how I present the city in what I hope to be an interesting ongoing series…

          You’d fit in here.

          😀

  26. I love this vision through your eyes. I’ve never been to Las Vegas but hope to visit one day. I’m a people watcher myself and find so many things interesting about behavior. I believe it’s the author part of our brain that makes us enjoy that.

    • I absolutely agree with you: people watching behavior. Sometimes that takes me onto dangerous streets though…

      If you do make it here, hit me up. We’ll people watch until the lights go out. Oh wait. The lights never go out here…

  27. Erika Rae says:

    The shadow behind the lights of Vegas. I see you there, Nick. Your pen is a camera.

    Heh. The first time I wrote that last sentence, I typoed “pen” and “is” without a space. Changed the meaning considerably.

  28. Donna Fraser says:

    I liked “empty bench stools, hung under the weight of ghosts”. Made a great visual. I miss Vegas. We go there 3 – 4 times a year on business (Craig teaching automotive airbrushing classes, SEMA, etc.), but I still miss it. It’s such a strange mix of glee and absolute total despair.

    • Thanks Donna. It’s a bizarre town with many ghosts I’m sure. I remember there’s a pet cemetery here. Well, there was anyway. Don’t know if it’s still around. I’m glad you appreciated the visual.

      Auto airbrushing sounds way cool. I never learned to airbrush. Wish I would have… I would have become some kind of mad graffiti artist…

  29. Cfarley says:

    Just very well done. Sometimes in your writing I envision a tendril of smoke from the ghost of Dashiel Hammet. As a thought, would it ever be “worth” the effort to flip it and change the tone (??)–mebbe– try to give it a different (I hate this word…) more positive feel. I guess it would depend on what setting/tone/style/something/direction the story needed to go. xxoocf

    • Thanks for your words.

      I’ve done lots of posi-pieces. Go read my piece about the Samurai Rat. Or read my book Random Obsessions, which is filled with positive weirdness. Or my thousands of news articles. Most of those are spun in a positive manner…

      I hope to capture all sides of Vegas in my writings. I just started with a dark one…

  30. Cfarley says:

    Hmmm-mebbe I was thinking along a slightly diff line. Do enjoy your work–esp “Lords…” Having the (mis)fortune to know some of those gents I thought you hit it right on. Kinda where I was going is the “idea” that misery is more “literary”. Like real books/stories don’t have a “happily ever after” because that “cheapens” it or something. I was just wondering how to choose–do you go straight on or what strikes you first or how it “feels”….guess it’s a convulooted :o) question about writing choices.
    xxoocf

    • Well in this case I used to work on Fremont Street. I wanted to search its edges, rather than its party heart. I wrote what I saw: the colors, the movement, the words, the people. There was definitely an uneasy feeling I wanted to capture that I felt. I was uncomfortable in some of its moments. There were other moments I wanted to add, but thought might be redundant. One moment was when a man stopped to talk to a homeless woman about why she was out on the street. I was moved by it. But didn’t think it fit the flow of the story. After I passed that conversation I felt I should have stopped and listened instead of leaving it in the fog of lights and uncertainty… I definitely felt the conflict of the street.

  31. After the title “I Live in a Casino” you can pretty much get away with anything. You can type “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” a thousand times and still Hoover in the accolades. You can plagiarize a Frey-chunk of The Little Dog Laughed and cash the love. It was nice, then, that the piece was interesting too.

    • Thanks Sean. I appreciate your words. Before I moved here I found out I would be living in a casino for a while, and so instantly thought the title would grab some interest. I even mentioned to a few friends and my new boss that I would write something under the title “I Live In A Casino.” We all kind of had an odd laugh. Odd, because we all sort of knew that living in a casino could be told as many different stories, and weren’t sure which I would first capture, but certainly there would be stories to tell. Thank you again for your kind words.

  32. Simon Smithson says:

    Nick, I think this could be one of my favourite pieces you’ve written. There was something about it that hit so many notes at the same time – kind of like a neon sign that’s been splashed with oily water and grease.

    A musician named Buck 65 wrote an album called Talkin’ Honky Blues, and all the tracks are interspersed with little interludes about the people the narrator meets while living by the river. There’s a verse in one of these interludes:

    “These are the counter clock wise, the despised
    With swollen noses and tears in their eyes
    And tears in their clothes and time on their hands, they sleep walk
    Full of that cheap wine and cheap talk”

    It made me think of this piece, or, rather, vice versa.

    That’s a photographic eye you’ve got there, amigo.

    • There’s something about the conflict within such lives that is interesting to a camera eye as you say. I snapped a photo the other day after a grey-haired bum. He had deep facial creases and carried a cup. He carefully reached into a trash can across from the Plaza Hotel, pulled out a nearly empty beer can, and carefully poured the excess contents into his cup. You can see the photo on my facebook. I think I naturally strive to capture what I think are such literary counter clockwise moments. I’m glad the piece spoke out to you. I think such pieces tug at heartstrings, or pull on the curiosity of man about his fellow man who lives on the edge of a darkness that many of us only see in flashes, but not in immersion.

  33. Sara says:

    Excellet descriptive writing with vivid imagery. It could not have been any better. My own mind kept angling for and wanting the story to go into “weird or macabre.” Maybe another similar story could morph in that direction while you are on the Las Vegas scene. (witnessing a diabolical crime, finding a murder victim, seeing a persona non grata you wish to hide from and must flee, etc., etc.)

    • I had a really weird conversation today while at lunch that you might appreciate. I was there with some people from the radio station where I work and one of the guys talked about Vegas suicides. I can’t back his claim, but he mentioned the Stratosphere Tower as one of the suicide capitals of the U.S. He mentioned a person jumping off and smashing through a Burger King while people were chowing. Back in the late 90s I remember when a man jumped off the tower in a pirate costume. The media covered it up, though it was on the Drudgereport for about an hour. He mentioned a suicide in the Luxor where a woman jumped off an inner floor and smashed into the floor near a buffet. The casino spent $2 million to move the buffet to another location…

      I haven’t seen any murders or anything in Vegas. But if I do I’ll write about them!

  34. Matt says:

    What a very nice mood piece, Nick. Very evocative of the side of Vegas I was most interested in when I was there last. Can’t wait to read more of these tales.

    Good luck with your new venture, man.

    • Thanks Matt. I still need to read your dinosaur piece. There are a few on here I wanna get caught up on this upcoming weekend. I will keep you in mind when I write my next piece so I can capture that spirit of the city that is sometimes elusive, though right under our noses…

      Thanks for the well wishes.

  35. Joyce Kennedy says:

    I just had to revisit your item to reread it. I love the way you can build ambiance with a minimum of words. I also enjoyed reading all the comments. I think one of a writer’s joy is seeing how his/her work touches those who read it.

    Your writing makes a person feel they’re a companion trudging the streets of Vegas with you. They people watch and feel the sadness of their downfall. Why not surprise everyone with a fun, happy observation once in awhile. They’re lots of those around for people watches to catch.
    Challege yourself out of your comfort zone, like I’m learning to do. Eh?

  36. As I mentioned before, I do sometimes write positive pieces. In fact, I think there is a moral of goodness in just about everything I write. I do search for conflict, and I believe conflict is what draws people to the kind of stories I’m interested in writing. I really liked reading The Road recently. I think that’s heavy on my mind. Also, moving into Vegas where much of the writing about the city is already positive, I want to allow my writing to buck the norm. I’m in a special place right now. A person with a job living in a casino in an area of the city hit hard by the economy. It’s not all a bed of roses like the casino industry would like downtown portrayed. Capturing that sense of history is very important. You might find more of what you are looking for in past and future pieces though. My book Random Obsessions is a very positive (mostly) collection of wacky tales of our odd world…

  37. Leathur Rokk says:

    Reading that delightfully tangible and FLAVORFUL piece reminds me of why I still love Vegas,and why when I cross the country,I always go the Central route to route through there,preferably with a layover to explore.

    I have a story.Back in 1991 I had a boyfriend from hell that loved to play craps with the rent money.WE were at the end of a weekend there and parked in my sports car next to Circus Circus casino,smoking a joint.

    Keep in mind,the laws were stricter then than they are now.Suddenly 2 plain clothes cops approached my vehicle.One resembled Eddie Murphy,the other looked like wrestler Hillybilly Jim (complete with overalls.)Hillbilly Jim proceeds to stick his face right IN My window.Asks if we have any for sale.It was just one little joint.I wouldn’t take stupid chances.I said I was smokin this then “fixin to go back to Los Angeles”.You know how you can get an affectation that compliments the class of person you are communicating with?

    So Hillbilly Jim whips out his wallet and out flashes that dreaded star badge.I had visions of jailbars dancing in my head.My heart pounded so fast I woulda sworn they heard it in Holywood!

    Hillbilly Jim anounced,”Well if you’re going back to Los Angeles,I suggest you leave now”.Ayt that I said “thank you officer”.And we put the key in the ignition,and we were outta there.

    I was grateful for the experience-not the terror of it,but it definitely knocked a chip off my shoulder with regards to flouting the law in public!

    • Oddly, yesterday I saw smoke in the sky next to Circus Circus. I thought for a second it was on fire. Was probably a burning car or some lady’s hairdo in flames.

      I would have been terrified had the Metro questioned me. They scare me. I was at lunch the other day and two of them were in Baja Fresh. They were both at least six-feet, five-inches tall! For a short dude like me, that’s scary! lol

  38. HollyLivesInVegas says:

    Downtown Vegas is the true heart of Vegas. Its completely seedly, filthy and heartless. But its a great reflection of the “heartlessness” of Vegas. No one gives a shit about the lost souls wandering the streets. And in Vegas, “no one” gives a shit about anyone unless there is money to be made. The mayor who is as drunk as any of the homeless doesn’t want us to help or feed the homeless (most are mentally ill, addicted, or have no resources:family gave up) who litter his golden streets. Thanks for a great reflection of life in the Seedy City.

    • I agree. Downtown is the heart. I have a few more pieces about it I’m going to post. I like your name for it: The Seedy City. It really is. And it’s sad that homeless get ignored. I saw a man weaving corn husks into crosses. He was homeless. He had a curious skill. I gave him a buck so I could snap a photo of him…

  39. Maura says:

    Oh Nick ,this post is heartbreaking, reading of so many lost souls and lost lives .I wanted you to have a joyful beautiful new life in Vegas .I guess all that glitters is not gold. I have never been to Vegas and now I think all I ever want to see there is you .

    • There’s lots of fancy schmancy stuff here. So, when you come, we won’t have to just hang out at the bus station. LOL!

      I think that lost souls are everywhere. I think they provide instant conflict in writing, and like HollyLivesInVegas says, people don’t help them. I think by writing about them, I offer some help, so at least people are more aware.

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