What day is it? Is it Blurnsday today? It feels like a Blurnsday out there.

Time has ceased to have any real and true meaning – the days have become a blur of highway, movie scenes come to life, and the varied ranks of TNB. I’m keeping track of the weeks by marking off the vague offers of visa-superceding marriage I’m accruing from people I haven’t met and the one from someone I have (please note, ma’am, not only am I totally serious, but I’ll tell all of my friends that I think you’re really cool).

That being said, here’s what happened at the start of the week.

Duke Haney Rides Again: If you haven’t watched Duke’s book trailer yet, then there is absolutely nothing you should be doing right now except watching it. And reading this. Also, do you have enough milk? Make sure you have enough milk. If those three fronts are covered, then my friend, you’ve got it made in the shade.

TPAC had the wonderful pleasure of the Iron Duke’s company on our inaugural visit to LA, and I’m pleased to say that we were able to catch up with him again when we rolled back into town. Lenore Zion, Reno Romero, Zara Potts, Duke and I went out for gourmet hot dogs (I recommend the rattlesnake and rabbit) on our last night in Los Angeles, and found that the LAPD was setting off a charity drive by serving as hot dog waiters.

Thanks to Zara’s questioning, we now know that the standard-issue utility belt of an LA patrolman contains:

– two handcuffs
– pepper spray
– an extendable baton
– a flashlight
– a copy of Melville’s lesser-known classic, Moby Bruce
Rich Ferguson’s email address – ‘in case we need backup.’

To Duke and the other TNBers who we reunited with and met for the first time, thanks for making the first stop on our cross-country trek such a pleasurable one.

Except Lenore.


Can’t Stop Here. Bat Country: The fact that the car rental office had koalas in it seemed to be auspicious. Heroically, I volunteered to be the passenger while Zara took the honour of being the first one of us to drive on the wrong side of the road. My bravery was apparent as we navigated the freeways out of LA while the GPS (soon thereafter given the traditional Australian name of Shazza) squawked directions at us.

That was some nice work there, Zara. Bullitt would be proud. Especially when taking into account that a) the blind spots in American cars is reversed, b) over here, passengers can’t see in the rearview mirror, and so Zara had to put up with me saying ‘Huh. I can’t see in the rearview mirror’ for the first two hours straight, and c) Shaz seemed to take smug satisfaction in pointing out exits when there were three lanes of traffic between us and it and there was less than a mile to slip over.

The Nevada Desert raised the heat in more ways than one. As we drove down the freeway in the searing heat, signs emerged from the baking sand to admonish us to follow Jesus, to honour the commandments, to not commit adultery. It’s a shame, because up until then, I was going to commit the shit out of some adultery this trip.

We pulled in at a tiny diner in the middle of nowhere, and our first taste of the road did not disappoint. Peggy Sue’s Diner came complete with a fortune-telling Elvis machine and original ’50s burgers.

Also, some dinosaur statues.

Apparently, dinosaurs were big in the 1950s.

Who knew?

The closer we got to Vegas, the more high-tech the signs and the less non-adultery oriented. Gun show signs competed with neon strip show advertisements, and calls to gamble and spend at any one of a dozen casinos.

I’ve heard stories about Vegas just emerging from the desert as you come upon it, and that’s about right. One moment it’s highway, and the next… welcome to Sin City.

Vegas, baby, Vegas: What can you say about Vegas that hasn’t already been said?

A bunch.

We stayed at the Venetian, where the air is so air-conditioned you breathe frost, perfume sprays out from ducts, and the bedrooms come with a paltry three flatscreen TVs (only one TV in the bathroom? I know, it’s total bullshit).

Sojourning into the city proper netted us stacks of cards featuring escorts whose going rates ran the gamut from thirty five bucks to over a hundred and fifty. For the sake of modesty, their nipples, vaginas, and anuses had been selectively censored with tiny glowing stars. Except for Lalli. What a slut.

Guys hang on street corners, feverishly passing these cards out to passers-by. When the stack of cards in my hand had reached an inch-thick, I started pointing them in Zara’s direction and saying ‘For the lady.’ They dutifully complied. Good for you, Vegas. Way to go into bat for tolerance.

We followed the tides of tourism down Sunset and back, taking in the Eiffel Tower (note: it’s not the real Eiffel Tower. You can easily become confused and disoriented and believe yourself to be in Paris), the fountains that sang to us in Sinatra’s tones, and back to Caesar’s. Which is where we were given bad directions by a security guard through the darkened, non-Sunset streets of Vegas, under bridges and through long pools of shadow.

At one point, I started to feel a whisper of danger and began wondering if we were in a bad part of town. The pile of human excrement on the pavement did much to allay my fears.

It was a relief when we got back to a main stretch and four guys in wifebeaters with tattoos on their muscled-up arms emerged from a parking lot.

They’ll either mug us or scare off would-be predators! I realised. That’s a fifty-fifty split! In Vegas, I like those odds.

We made it back to our hotel long after the sun had gone down and collapsed, exhausted, on the beds. The possibility of not gambling crossed our minds, but really, when would we be here again?

Next: The House Loses!



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SIMON SMITHSON is an Australian writer and editor. He is currently based in Melbourne, Australia, but frequently finds himself in Los Angeles and San Francisco. His work has appeared on both sides of the globe in print and online in publications such as BLIP, Every Day Fiction, Beat, The Loop, My Sinking Boat, and more. He has a tumblr at www.simonsmithson.com and he runs a lifestyle experiment at www.selfhelpless.net.

36 responses to “TPAC 2010: Day 4,5: Los Angeles, Las Vegas”

  1. Gloria says:

    Man. You guys are covering a whole lotta ground in a short period of time. Stay hydrated. Drink your vegemite. Or XO. I don’t remember what the hell you weird people drink to stay strong. Guiness? I’m mixing up the countries under the crown. Nonetheless – stay strong. And stay gold, Pony.

    And stay on the right side of the road.

    • Gloria says:

      Also, how in hell are you finding time to post?

    • VB. Or XXXX.

      Dinosaurs were always big. They were mostly AAARGH SOMEONE’S TOOTING A VUVUZELA OUTSIDE extinct by the time I was born but there were definitely a few woolly mammoths knocking about ’til the late ’70s.

      That $35 to $150 rate; that’s per week, right?

      I once went to Tahoe, which sits on the California/Nevada border. Gambling’s illegal in California and mandatory in Nevada; coming in from the Cali side it was all biking’n’hiking shops, homemade rugs and vegan delis. As soon as we crossed Stateline Blvd we were assaulted by neon signs: ADULT SHOW, SLOTS, VIBRATING BEDS, HOURLY RATES. We had a fun day.

      • Simon Smithson says:

        I think it’s per week. The experimentation along those lines will make for a wonderful TNB post.

  2. Nina says:

    Too bad you aren’t stopping in Atlanta. We have three flat screen TVs. No perfume in the air ducts, but I am so pretty I fart fairy dust.

  3. Jude says:

    “Blurnsday” – that’s a great word! When the little red line came up under the word, telling me the spelling was wrong, this is what I got…blurriness; blurring; blurred; blue jeans! Sounds like your trip could be all of those things!

  4. Jordan Ancel says:

    HA! Blurnsday— I love that.

    I can’t believe you guys slummed it in a place with only one flatscreen TV in the bathroom.

    They’ll either mug us or scare off would-be predators! I realised. That’s a fifty-fifty split! In Vegas, I like those odds.

    Great account, Simon. Can’t wait to read more.

  5. Zara Potts says:

    Brew, you got it perfectly. (Oh, and you are an awesome traveling companion.)
    Can’t wait for more, so that I can find out what we’ve been up to.
    Oh and can you tell everybody that I look much prettier in real life than I do in that picture with the cop – where I look like a grinning egg? Speaking of which, I’ll see you for breakfast in half an hour…

    • Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

      Zara is hot. She does not look like a smiling egg. And I live in L.A., so that says a lot. Btw: I’ve been admiring your black leather jacket since Chicago, Zara. Your wardrobe is boss.

      It’s fun to see how different your voices are about all this. Simon, you’re always so serious.

      • Joe Daly says:

        I love that you called her wardrobe “boss.” Are you bringing that back, or has it been back for awhile and I missed it?

        I’m still salty that they’ll drive 20 hours to Chicago, but not 2 hours to San Diego. Harumph!!

        • Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

          Joe! My jargon is ridiculous, recycled and will eventually cause my son pain of embarrassment. Speaking of whom, I am dropping him at surf camp in San Diego late-June. A TPAC-style reunion is in order!

        • Joe Daly says:

          Oh, hells yeah! Give me a shout when you’re heading down and we’ll rock and roll in glorious SD. That will be mint!

        • Matt says:

          That’ll be the milk! Man! The milk!

        • Uche Ogbuji says:

          I’m here to vouch for Zara’s beauty. Problem is the cop. I’m sure he’s a nice guy and all, but that is not how you hold a beautiful lady, even for a picture. The things at the end of our arms are not industrial meat-hooks with dual use manhandling civilians. They’re the glory of our species, humming with the articulation and sensitivity of thrilling nerves…Or something like that…

        • Zara Potts says:

          Uche and Lisa Rae, I would like to marry you both.
          You are both far, far too kind – but you have absolutely made me feel like a million bucks.
          xxxxxxxx

        • Uche Ogbuji says:

          Deal! But we get Megan too! 😀

        • Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

          Is polygamy legal in New Zealand? Because I could be into that.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Everyone at TNB should get married to each other. The spouses would just have to deal with it. Unless we like them. Then maybe they can get married to everyone too. On some kind of deputy system, of course.

  6. Becky Palapala says:

    Burgers from the 50s? That can’t be code.

  7. This is fun. I like hearing about your adventures. Keep ’em coming.

  8. Andrew Nonadetti says:

    Simon, I’m picturing you as some H. M. Stanley/Crocodile Dundee hybrid, poking at a pile of dung with a Bowie knife and muttering, “This man-scat is fresh. We must be close!” Out of curiosity, at which end of the pricing spectrum was Lalli? Wondering if she was the only one uncovered for a reason, good or ill.

    Keep the updates coming and I’ll do my best to fix America’s vehicular dyslexia in time for your next trip.

  9. Greg Boose says:

    Damn, I miss Lalli.

  10. D.R. Haney says:

    Are you saying that milk is necessary to endure that trailer? I was thinking more in terms of morphine, personally.

    Also, a certain writer recently Googled himself and stumbled upon a discussion about his work following one of my posts, and he left a very nasty comment yesterday evening, which unfortunately corroborated the board’s view that he’s an asshole. I mention this because our pictured “waiter” was a very nice guy — he did, after all, show us his copy of Moby Bruce — and I think it’s only fair that he should hear someone say as much in the unlikely event that he should Google himself.

    That’s right, Officer Jack Richter of the LAPD, you’re cool. I hope this means I won’t be getting any tickets from you.

    Enjoy yourself with the Olears, SS.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I love that trailer. To the point where I’m jealous of the fact I don’t have an awesomely-cut trailer for a book I haven’t written. Man. Everyone is jerks but me.

      Jack Richter WAS cool. He has a badass name.

      Had a wonderful time, DH. I’m in NY right now, and New Paltz is so very different. There are no fireflies here.

  11. Uche Ogbuji says:

    Simon, mate, I am in awe of your ability, and Zara’s to keep us posted while maintaining such a level humor and poignancy. Seems selfish to say “keep it up”, but fuck that, do keep it up, please.

    Two questions, though. Is the nickname “shazza” based on the navigational qualities of the early breed, i.e. “shit”? That would be cool. “In the US, they’re GPS. In the UK they’re sat-nav. In Aussie, they’re shit!”

    And re: pleasurable Lenore. I think you got it wrong, man. I think you’re supposed to enjoy it when she spanks you. 😀

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Uche! I’ve been telling everyone along the route how smart and cool and funny we found you.

      Mainly TNB people, but occasionally I’ll just grab someone up off the street and say ‘Do you know Uche? You don’t? Then you’re a loser and I hate you.’

      I don’t do that in New York, though.

      Heh.

      Due to Australian phrasing, ‘Shazza’ is the shortened form of ‘Sharon’. It seemed appropriate.

      I always enjoy it when Lenore spanks me.

  12. Simon Smithson says:

    After sixty years, the sauce loses a chemical bond and develops mystical properties. Eat one then head to Joshua Tree, and listen to the Universe playing cosmic guitar.

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