The week before Christmas and the house is empty and quiet save Darby and myself: you're run of the mill fully functional alcoholics who, coincidentally, can quit whenever we want so go fuck yourselves.
Monday at brewco we're enjoying the beer of the month when Darby gets a call from Sam, the third side of our fucked up car bomb triangle for the time being until it becomes a square again. Sam has a room in Vegas; his other friends are "kind of lame," wants some "good teammates" for a Vegas trip. Darby smiles.
I preempt whatever Darby is about to say, “No,” and sip my beer. It begins to rain; I think Lance is there. Monday night football game is a blowout or not interesting because I don’t remember it. Darby must have smelled blood in the water, or the little bit of extra saliva, the “Vegas droplet,” had formed on the side of my mouth.
“Free room,” he says, “all we have to do is pay for gas there and back.”
“Vegas bowl, UCLA is a six and a half point dog.”
I sip my beer again. This is true. My Internet sports book is out of commission at the moment and UCLA beating the spread pays almost two to one. I have to think about it. “I have to think about it,” I say and it dies for the night.
Wednesday night comes around and we are at brewco again, sipping the same beer of the month, which this month was some type of alcoholic cream soda drink that was amazing for the first six or seven pints, but after got to be a bit too sweet. I hold the fourth or fifth in my hand, bringing it to my lips when Vegas comes up again.
“So what time do you get off on Friday? Sam wants to leave around seven o’clock.”
This startles me. I shake it off, “I haven’t decided if I’m going yet.”
“Oh what?” Darby grins. “I already got your ticket to the game.”
“Dude, I told you I’d let you know.”
“I thought you were only going to let me know if you weren’t coming, so I bought the ticket.”
Thirty-five dollars is not a lot of money. But if you’re throwing money away I’m sure you’d prefer smaller denominations, or I should say, I would. “Seven thirty’s fine.” Darby slams his fist on the table and orders another round of beers of the month.
Thursday and Friday at work were busy. I consulted with my roommate Travis about how to go about flaking, he recommended the straight up alley, but I wanted something more natural and a bit less weak so as to avoid the hazing that follows such flake maneuvers.
Friday at three o’clock I’m off work and driving home when it hits me: I’m going to Vegas. I need new shoes. So I take my normal route home, park and then slink down to the village shoe warehouse via my bum-proof route because frankly I hate bums. That’s a whole other blog I suppose, but they’re useless and very frightening and spare me your false compassion you’ve never brought one home either, and a dollar per week is nothing when you smoke meth and drink 211.
Anyway, I swoop some plaid slip-ons and some brown loafers to replace my fresh Sperry topsiders because they smell like a pile of rotten buffalo cud, throw them in a bag with some extra sox and boxers, d.o. (to prevent b.o.) and probably some sweaters.
It’s seven o’clock and I’m ready to roll, so are Darby and Sam. I pull out my wallet on our way to the car; pull out thirty-five dollars for the ticket, only to have Darby and Sam shoot me these empty eyed stares.
“Just buy gas,” Sam says.
“No, it’s for Darby, he bought my ticket.”
“We’re driving the whole way,” Sam says again.
“No, ass, my ticket to the game.” They both get it at the same time and have a terrific laughing fit.
“Yeah, we’re driving five hours to watch the bruins loose to BYU.” They both have another little giggle session, I am still holding out the thirty-five dollars and still un-amused.
“I thought you knew I was lying. You don’t even like UCLA football, Mr. Trojans.”
A valid point, but still frustrating. “Shotgun,” I run down the stairs to the car that Sam just unlocked, which is very confusing to me as it is not any one of his cars. I look back, he pops the trunk, I put my backpack in, and he closes the trunk. We walk around to our doors and I open mine, I don’t take my eyes off Sam. We get in.
“It’s a rental.”
“Yeah I know.” Mystery solved.
“I don’t want to put the miles on my car.” Sam starts the BMW with a push of a button; some type of snazzy new key system where apparently there is no metal stick you have to jam into the column and it’s mere presence in the cabin of the car intimidates the motor into turning over, thankful for the lack of penetration.
Sam puts it in neutral, revs the engine to redline. “Insurance is only five bucks a day on this.” Sam drops the car into gear with the tachometer still in the danger zone, it thuds, the tires scream and soon the road catches them and we are flying towards the 405 at what is certainly an unsafe speed.
An hour later we are an AMPM in Claremont. The very same AMPM I used to spend five nights a week to earn back to back to back customer of the year awards, self awarded of course, but awards nonetheless. We fill the empty fourth seat with energy drinks appropriately named “red line” and fill the twelve gallon beast of a gas tank with 87 octane, 4 points below the recommended level for BMW’s finely engineered engines.
An hour after leaving the gas station we leave legends, another local hotspot where the burritos are about the size of an NCAA football and the kids meals take two adults to finish. Sam ordered a pastrami burrito, which make his farts smell like brisket, a fact that both alarms and amuses Darby and I as we speed up I15.
The first hour goes by normally, but then we get bored of sitting in the car thanks to the energy drinks. Sam presses the gas pedal a bit more every couple minutes until we’re a white black forest regular octane bullet shooting through the Mojave desert or Salton Sea or whatever people from that area call the wide expanse of dull aching failure of civilization.
Suddenly the red line is not enough and we pull over for Starbucks. Yes there is a Starbucks in death valley, appropriate I know, but the deliverance diner was closed and frankly, riverside locals are bad enough, I don’t want to suffer through an average cup of Joe with people whose idea of making it is moving your common-law wife and four children out of your parents’ trailer, so at this point Starbucks is looking pretty fucking good.
They play the “We’ve left while you were in the bathroom” game with me, as well as the “it’s unlocked,” then lock it game, which are both fun for everyone involved. Then we’re back on the road doing 130m.p.h. zigzagging through midnight truckers and conversion vans slowing down every time we see a crown Victoria or a mercury marauder because their headlights and taillights match chp cruisers.
We come up over a hill and there, like a puddle of spilled stars is state line. I pull out my camera, but the car is shaking too much with the wind and road bumps and triple digit speed, so I put it away.
And state line is past us, and I have to take a leak and Sam is driving faster so I don’t follow through on my promise to piss in this goddamn coffee cup if you don’t fucking pull over right fucking now I’m fucking serious dude.
And we’re at the flamingo, we walk into the stairwell and say goodbye to fresh air and natural light, and I’m running ahead to find a bathroom. I come out and See Darby in front of the Platinum lounge, a room with a huge sign and glazed glass doors. Sam comes out, hands Darby a key, hands me a key, “Let’s go.”