Monday, April 7, 2008

VIVA LAS JUSTICE

Photo By Ryan Kobane

So, as some of you know, I went to Las Vegas last weekend with a few buddies and went to the Justice gig at the House Of Blues. As I predicted, the task of writing the article for the Union Weekly managed to bounce off all other involved writers and land squarely on my shoulders as I sat 400 miles away from the newspaper with only 24 hours' notice to get it done. Obviously, I slam dunked it and it looks fucking great. So now I bring to you the third in my Union Copy/Paste series, hours before it goes to print. Read it while it's still exclusive!

Also, please note that it is intended to be in Gonzo style. I could never duplicate the great HST, but I will dutifully follow his teachings. That said, here's the article which I wrote with the headlines and tag that I had no part in.

Fear And Justice In Las Vegas:
A Very Gonzo Account Of What May Or May Not Have Happened At The Justice Show
In Vegas

It began as all great stories will: an hour late and armed down to the floorboards with alcohol. As the convoy pulled out of sunny, safe Orange and headed east, there were no illusions of what was to take place. The stage was set for a baptism of filth, and the players were in rare form that evening. The plan was simple, or at least it started that way: Drive to Las Vegas, Attend a Justice show, and then do as much damage as possible before speeding off in the getaway vehicle before the first sunbeams reveal our deeds. Unfortunately, unreliable elements made their way in to the equation.

As far as Elvis fell from his glorious youth at the time he died, a quick glance down the strip makes even the King, bloated and rhinestone-studded on his death-toilet, look like a Kurt Cobain supernova. Las Vegas is the slick package that fools and sleazebags believe is the American Dream. Everything is commodified, and nothing is taboo. If others found your deepest delights to be uncouth, low, and insipidly bizarre, Las Vegas will sate you in ways you’ve never known. Long gone are the rat pack days of tousled tuxedoes and cigar-chomping flair. There is only elegance-flavored excess, a living postcard flattened, glossed, and built to entice. The mutants are running the circus now.

We checked in at 4pm to our all-too-basic room in the Tropicana, a winding fortress that always manages to spit you out at the casino area. I’ve been told that they saturate the air with oxygen so that gamblers find themselves feeling strangely invigorated simply throwing dice, so I breathe deeply hoping to pull in some of that slippery euphoria. It is hard to imagine that this place could tear your life apart, but I brand across my memory that it will if you let it. No one in our party gambles that night, making it the only vice we abstain from by choice. Within an hour, we are set up in our room with what has been officially coined the “Mobile Booze Lab.” It consists of:

 a large plastic flask of Vodka 
a bottle of premium Gin 
6 beers 
Tonic 
Strawberry Puree 
Sweet & Sour 
Margarita mix

...and an ice bucket that is woefully unequipped for our ice needs.

The drinks we make taste like strawberry lemonade despite their remarkable alcohol content. The television has only very few channels so we watch celebrity news until we set up some music. Adhering to the second law of concert-going, we do not listen to anything being played by the night’s acts. We are just about buzzed when a cursory check of the tickets reveals that doors open for the show at the ungodly hour of 6pm. It is 6pm.

Thankfully, Las Vegas has no (enforced) open container law. Beer bottle in hand, I stroll out of the casino and flag down a taxi. After directing him to take us to the House of blues, he chuckles and suggests we walk since it’s just a couple casinos down. So on we walk to Mandalay Bay. Within the Mandalay Resort Group area are three casinos at the southern tip of the Vegas strip; The Mandalay Bay, Luxor, and Excalibur. The Luxor shows its age more than any of the others, as it now bears a 15-story advertisement for cellular telephones.

Entering the venue was entirely without hassle except for a frantic phone chase by me for the inevitable afterparty and the happy problem of giving away the four extra tickets of which we found ourselves in possession. Drinks were outrageously priced, so I kept it simple with a shot and an energy drink to bolster my intoxication and keep it at optimum levels during the dancing. And oh, was there ever dancing. Somehow I found myself in a crowd of unfamiliar women attempting to fend off sleazier men unfamiliar to them. Observing a strip club approach to touching the girls (none, let them touch you), there began a sweat-soaked cotillion with an air of hypnotic sensuality. 

By the time Justice ended their set, I had nothing left. I sauntered defeatedly toward the door to sit out the coming encore. Thankfully, that notion of overoxygenated casinos seemed to ring true, and a sugary drink and a moment’s rest on the Mandalay floor had me back to what I’ve decided to call “Vegas normal.”

Somewhere in the muck of it all, I receive divine providence and a text message informs of the whereabouts of an afterparty. Since everyone in Las Vegas is far more interested in Vegas than some afterparty, none of the artists and no names worth dropping are in attendance. There are beautiful women, lots of them underage, taking refuge from the sketchy characters wandering the city. Even brief conversation with them points me to the conclusion that the achievement was simply getting there, and it becomes time to move on. On our way out, we ask the valet what bar he goes to. “Ellis Island.” He immediately offers, “Take a right just past Bally’s.” 

The walk takes forever. Men handing out flyers for hookers mob the streets and all of the Disneyland-like elements of the strip shut down. This is no place for children. The night stalkers are about. 

Ellis Island is definitely the insider’s drink spot. $3 nets a well drink and we cast out our trios of dollars as quickly as we could. The locals were deep into their karaoke and after ten minutes it became obvious we were never going to get our chance to perform. So we screamed what lyrics we knew until the fierce gazes of the locals, recognizing us now as interlopers, drove us out into the still-surging streets. 

Morning couldn’t come quickly enough. I was ready to rid myself of the lights and spectacles. The open road was as quick a cure as I could hope for. And so I stared out the window, down the broad spine of the strip, and realized how quickly one can get homesick in this cultural vacuum.