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“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

Did anyone else read Jessica Anya Blau’s trick about using a shower cap to activate conditioner? Because I’ve been doing that for that last three weeks and man. That. Is. Awesome.

See, I like the collaborative nature of the internet. I like it a bunch. I like the way I can pick up new knowledge and apply it to my own life and make my life that much better, and my hair that much softer and shinier (thanks again, Jessica). This, to me, is the greatest strength of the internet.

And, like all things I get from the internet, I’m greedy for more (thanks again, pornography).

Who has other little lifehacks that make their day better? The best trick to life I’ve ever discovered is to start straightening up on a reverse parallel park when you are exactly 45 degrees to the car in front. Man. Trust me on this one. I hardly start crying at all any more.

This is an experiment, of sorts. A kind of knowledge-swap. To take information from the brain of someone ten thousand miles away and then implement it on a practical level.

Someone. Lay something on me.



I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again – Oscar Wilde.

The great news is that on the internet, you don’t have to worry about such an irritating thing as committing to an edit. Wilde could still be revising and moving commas for the rest of his life, if he so chose.

What’s the rule, here?

Once you’ve edited your article, blog, story, whatever, and released it into the wilds of the internet like a flapping and confused dove, it’s out there – it’s published. You’ve officially stated, ‘OK guys. Check it out, and slip me a royalty cheque.’

But.

Technically… you can still go in and edit and play with it in a way you couldn’t do with a hard-copy edition. Names, places, dates, constructions… these are all constructs that can be moved around and changed and worked and re-worked. The boundaries are suddenly much more ephemeral than in different models – but is this fair play? Is the goal to commit to an edition, or rather to distribute the best possible edition, even if that occurs through the use of edits that didn’t occur prior to publication?

Tricky one.


In a certain Web 2.0 kind of way, I’ve checked out of mainstream media. I loathe the local radio stations where I live, and in an effort to save money, I’ve disconnected my cable TV.

A few weeks ago I was watching Planet of the Apes, the original version, circa 1968, for the first time in many years. It’s a movie you can only enjoy fully one time because of the famous concluding scene, the Big Surprise. I was streaming it on Netflix and only half-watching, at least until the point where our confused astronauts encounter a tribe of wild humans. One of those humans turns out to be a woman who eventually becomes Nova. Like all the wild humans, Nova can’t speak, and mainly she’s there to look pretty.

Ten Minutes

By Shya Scanlon

The Feed

I check my email roughly every ten minutes. This is true even when I’m reading, and I have recently begun to check my email while watching movies. When I leave my apartment to either walk the dog, or run an errand, I now leave my iPhone at home, and it is the only time of the day during which I have any peace of mind.

The course actually begins with the words, “Location! Location! Location!”

Since teaching jobs are both hard-to-get and low paying, I’ve decided to think about pursuing a career in commercial real estate brokerage. The two classes you have to pass before you can take the salesperson license exam are “Real Estate Principles” and “Real Estate Practices.” You can take them online through Allied Schools.

The “Principles” class begins with a Welcome page featuring images of golden hills, redwood trees, rocky coastline, and flowers blooming in the desert. What follows is mind-numbing, soul-withering flapdoodle.

You read me right. Flap fucking doodle.

From “Location! Location! Location!” the text continues:

Most of you have seen this phrase in a real estate ad describing the perfect neighborhood. All of you reading this, no matter what city you live in, are experiencing the perfect location. No…we are not referring to your specific street, town or county…we are talking about California. California has everything, and usually it is the best! Whoever said, “Less is more” just never lived in California.

Oh, snap! Take that, hippies! And other 49 states!

Too bad, as my tax returns and spotty resume clearly demonstrate, I’m one of those people who think less is more.

After the introductory chapter, which is basically a commercial for California — diverse climates! varied geography! gargantuan economy! — there are chapters explaining homes for sale, estates, ownership, encumbrances, contracts, etc. This material is so soporific it needs to be read in the morning, with coffee and a hard chair. And someone holding that hard chair menacingly over your head, lest you start to nod off.

Though it took me a few weeks, with several breaks for unintentional naps, bathtub soul-searching, and applications to other jobs, I managed to make it through the first class and pass the (open-book) final exam. Now, in “Real Estate Practices,” I seem to have hit the wall.

In this class the authors tell you how to get started in your career. First, they offer this inspirational photo and caption:

 

 

Real Estate salespeople come from many different backgrounds.

 

[Interactive Feature: Can you find the black person?]

Then, the section “Dress for Success” suggests that the same qualities that made people popular in seventh grade will make you tons of money today:

The image you present helps you build rapport with prospective clients. When connecting with a client, if you remind them of someone they like or mirror their own taste, they are more likely to respond to you positively. When considering how to dress, the best strategy is to mirror the style of your clients.

Got that? Whatever you do, don’t, for the love of God, be yourself. Rather, study your client, and then mimic his/her speech and dress. People don’t think that’s weird at all!

 

 

 

These styles of dressing are not recommended if you want a successful career.

I can understand why head-to-toe denim isn’t recommended, but I’ve been a denim hater since 1986 when I woke up to the fact that my Ton Sur Ton jacket was totally lame. But the floral-print cowboy hat? That’s festive. That lady’s a closer, you can tell. And I’ve got no complaints about the Asian woman. I would totally buy a house from her, or at the very least take a tour and fantasize about impromptu kitchen sex.

(Me: “So… these granite countertops pretty durable?”

Hot, Inappropriately Dressed, Asian Real Estate Salesperson, hoisting self onto counter: “Come over here and find out.”

Boom chicka wah-wah...)

As for the punks in the bottom right corner, get real, Allied. No true punk would sell real estate. Anarchy and escrow don’t mix.

So how should we aspiring real estate salespeople dress?

Employees who dress appropriately leave a lasting impression of professionalism.

Ah, yes. I think I’ve seen these people before, hanging out at that bar I always walk past. You know, the one that sucks.

I’ve just about had it with “Real Estate Practices.” Life is hard enough without having to present a completely false exterior to the world. And I’ve always prided myself on my honesty and integrity.

This, according to Allied, is completely wrong:

You must always project a positive, professional attitude regardless of the circumstances. Everyone has good and bad days; however, real estate sales associates have to smile every day, no matter what is going on in their personal lives. The moment you allow your personal feelings to influence how you interact with clients, your undisciplined behavior will suggest an unprofessional sales associate.

They have a point. You won’t close any sales if you spend your time with clients bitching about your sciatica, but that seems like common sense. And that’s what bugs me most about this class. The authors obviously have no faith in their students.

And really, is their advice even good? When you, dear reader, are looking to buy or rent property, do you think, “I must find a broker who dresses impeccably and smiles all the time”?

You know who else smiled all the time?

This guy:

 

And this guy is still smiling:

I wonder if my reaction to this course material a sign that I should not pursue a career in real estate. That I’ll fail due to my inability to “project a positive, professional attitude” and wear my shirts tucked into my pants.

But would another job be any better? Am I not just clinging to a childish refusal to accept the world for what it is? Basically, a place where everyone’s a whore of one kind or another, and our discourse is spiraling ever downward into an abyss of stupidity?

 

Maybe I should quit and become a guidance counselor.