Reality in this life rarely meets expectation, but hard men need not despair at the lack of perfection, as long as they've got good whiskey, TAD orders, and a Government Credit Card.
Boys, life is all about per diem in Vegas and...
Fear and Loathing in Bridgeport
Part Five: The Grand
2230 14 March, Room 247, the San Remo Hotel, Gomorrah
At last we had arrived. The rigors of travel have made us wild in anticipation of the welcome that would await us in the cesspool of Western North America. We envisioned showgirls, big wins, and free booze while the face cards rolled in. All that we had seen so far though, with the possible exception of Chief, was dried-up old crones, twelve dollar cans of Natural Light, and a virtual downpour of fives and sixes. But we're all confident that the deck is going to roll over any second now. Take the hotel for example. We got in on a really good rate for only forty-nine a night. Of course, the TV doesn't work, there's a homeless family living in my shower, and the outside phone line is shared by every room on this floor, but that's okay. I wasn't planning on spending a lot of time in here anyway.
Upon walking into a strange hotel room, I performed the three function checks that are common to every man on the planet in a situation like this: check out the shitter, grab the remote and conduct a porn check, and lay in the rack for five minutes. The room passed only one of these three critical areas. The bed was comfy, and fortunately the sheets seemed free of the bodily fluids that were present the night prior in the MWTC squad bay. I turned on the TV with the remote only to find that every button I push on the fucking clicker performs in an "up channel" capacity. I could live with this if there was more than one station being received on my set. Even that might be okay if it was something cool like Cinemax, HBO, or the Spice Channel. No. Negative. I get fucking Univision. I don't speak Spanish fluently enough to pay attention to that shit, and personally, I find Mexican Drama to be a bit contrived. No worries, I'll drop a load and go find the crew...
Upon turning on the light in the head, I met Daryl, Bobbie, and their two children. They claim to be from Lubbock, Texas. Apparently, the good staff at the San Remo lets them crash in the bathroom as long as they perform housekeeping duties in between occupancies by paying customers. I asked them to please go enjoy the Charro! extravaganza on the tube while I dropped trou. Their kids, Sid and Nancy, seem okay except Sid ain't that bright. It took him damn near ten minutes to find the way out of the 40 sq ft bathroom, by which time I had jumpers in the door, so to speak, and gave him a nudge with the toe of my boot.
I believe the shitter was actually built for someone eight feet tall with a seventy-nine inch fucking waist. I felt like I was three fucking years old again, balancing on the front edge of the seat with my legs dangling a full twelve inches off the deck. I won't look at the mirror to my left, because the last thing I need to do in this mental state is to begin laughing. The guys in the white coats'll come and lock me the fuck up—sure as hell.
I finished and walked out of the head to find the bed turned down, my clothes unpacked and put away in the dresser, my shoes all displayed properly, and my uniforms being pressed by Bobbie over in the corner by the window. Hmmph. I may take these guys back to Shreveport/Bossier City with me...
I picked up the phone and tried to dial Laura in Bossier. As soon as I hit "9" to get an outside line, I hear like sixteen voices on the phone, most with Slavic accents, talking about anal sex. Puzzled, but not upset, I try again. Same result. Turns out that some guy in room 211 phoned some 900 number and everyone on the floor joined in. I think I heard the Major on the line claiming that he'd been a bad, bad man, (he's in 233) but I can't swear to it. Daryl tells me that this happens all the time. Sid keeps running into the wall over and over again. Bobbie's done with the cammies, but before Daryl can finish his halting invitation to swing with him and his darling wife, I tell 'em I'm going to find a game. They all wish me luck, the kids give me a hug, and I'm outta there.
Fifteen Seconds later 14 March, Room 233
I stopped to get Maj V, but he won't answer the knock. The shower's running, and I detect screams, but that ain't none o' my damned bidness.
0100 15 March, The Remo Money Vacuum, Gomorrah
Link-up was effected. The game room in the Remo is low brow by Bossier river boat standards. I actually heard a slot machine squeak as it paid out. Of course, Chief is up fifty bucks, but I'm pretty fucking certain the sun'll rise tomorrow too. I briefly toyed with the idea of blackjack until I noticed the dealers in this little bit of paradise all have a third eye in the center of their foreheads. I felt the fucking pit boss actually scan my thoughts as I walked by. I put a quarter in a slot machine, hit a cherry, and actually heard the damned thing sigh as it shelled out fifty cents. Fuck this. This place is tighter than St. Thomas Aquinas' argument from design. We're going to the Grand...
0130 15 March, The MGM Grand Hotel and Loser's Convention, Gomorrah
I'd kinda like to know just exactly how these dealers manage to beat me by a single point every fucking hand. I get 21, it's a push. I get 20, they get a hard 21. Over and over and over. I'm splitting fours on the dealer's five because I know the motherfucker's got a six in the hole and is just waiting to deal himself a face card. When I split it, the guy next to me stared at me like a stunned carp. Then his twenty got pushed while I took a pair of nines and a pair of eights and broke even after four losing hands. The guy lost the next hand while I sat out. His name is Daryl and he's from Lubbock, Texas. He's also just dropped his entire student loan this evening. I handed him my leatherman and pointed to the bathroom.
Fuck it, I just spotted Kirk stalking a hirsute young thing across the room. I'd rather pay to get drunk than to watch this servant of Mordor rake in my dime...
0230 15 March, The MGM Grand Hotel Bar and drunken fag convention
Kirk and I decided that what we need two things: conversation and an all-nighter. You see, we find that when we put down a lot of booze, we turn into a couple of funny motherfuckers. Plus, the two of us are just about as friendly a pair as you'll find. Being from north Texas just has that effect on people. You drink, you talk, you are adored by every soul within hearing. We establish that on this patrol, time has priority. It will end No Earlier Than 0600.
First though, we needed to wander around the place for forty five fucking minutes looking for someone not losing or crying at a bar. We finally found the place though; good looking waitresses, decent bartender, young and happy people all over the place. Kirk checked out to go pump bilge while I cleared us out a spot at the bar.
It's a time honored thing, bar squatting. You walk up, preferably next to the waitress' station, heartily greet the idiot drunk to your right and then slowly shift over into his personal space until you've worked enough room in for you and your buddy to sit down comfortably at the bar. I've worked this gig a thousand times without a problem. Until tonight, of course.
I walked up to the terrain described above. Checked out the bartenders name tag, called him "Mr. Johnson", ordered a beer for me and Cooter, and moved half a step to my right as I looked over at my neighbor and gave him a huge, dumb as shit, Lubbock, Texas "Howdy. Yew doin' awlright?" Like I said, I done this shit a thousand times, and that whole rube thing pacifies most non-Texans like a rectal cattle prod. I move another half step. Almost there.
Well, friends and neighbors, it ain't always good being from a part of the country that still thinks "gay" is best defined by a lady's Easter dress. As soon as I clear just enough room for Kirk to get a seat to my left, two things happen: This homo on my right's boyfriend comes up looking at me like a jealous husband and Kirk returns from the head around my right side.
Now, Kirk and I look about like the two biggest rednecks in the entire lower fucking 48. I mean, Kirk's got on this camo baseball cap with some shit like "I live to do does with an arrow" on it, and an MWTC sweatshirt. I'm smokin' in a Texas Rangers ballcap, a collared shirt, jeans and fucking go-fasters. We are, literally and with no doubt, a couple of married guys (complete with rings) who generally don't get out much and are pretty happy with that fact.
Drunken fag boy #2 (DFB2) didn't quite see it that way. Kirk comes around me with his eyebrow cocked up looking like he owns the motherfucker. DFB2 immediately comes up and grinds against his bitch while looking at me like he owns the motherfucker. I just wanted to sit at the fucking bar. Inadvertently, (and this is the absolute story of my life folks); pattern recognition gets through my thick Texas skull, and I realize that this guy has no idea that I was trying to squat out two seats at the bar, this queen thinks I was moving in on his bend-over-boy; and then I smirk at the thought. DFB2 immediately bows up and says something stupid enough that I didn't even bother to remember it.. Kirk, whose pattern recognition analyzer tends to malfunction after soaking up a six-pack, immediately thinks that this is all in response to him returning from the head. Then, Kirk utters the funniest, corniest, JohnWayniest thirteen fucking words on this whole motherfucking trip. Toe to toe with a 6'4" fag in his mid-twenties, who has met maybe one Texan in his entire life, and probably never spoken to a drunk Marine Infantry Staff Sergeant, Kirk says: "Buddy, you're gonna look awful fucking funny with your fucking throat closed up." DFB2 was actually taken aback, which allowed me maneuver room to get everything back on the rails. The bartender had noticed what was going on, and then something happened to me that proves, without a shadow of a doubt, that I am getting older than I want to be. The bartender looks at me and says something that no one has ever eeeeeven thought of saying to my young, dumb, arrogant, smarmy ass in the history of me pissing people off in bars since the late eighties.
"Sir, is this man causing you any trouble?"
I blinked through bittersweet tears and told him “no, everything is fine”, Kirk took two steps back around, I did some move between-give Kirk the high sign-"I don't want to spend the fucking night in jail"-bullshit and got Kirk back over on my left, with the Sodomites to my right. Some sort of cold war started, but I was into whiskey by then, so I can't say this was heading into an optimal fucking state. Then, because Kirk and I were very good in a previous life, salvation from our own need to rip those fuckers' heads off, and thus spend the night in jail, came in the form of Lubbock, Texas.
This kid appears at Kirk's elbow, looking hang-dog; like he lost his homework or some shit. Well Kirk and I turn as one, non-fucking-plussed, by God.
"What can I do for ye?" Kirk asks. This little guy, in a respectful tone, introduces himself as Daryl Ross, and asks politely if he can bum a couple of smokes for him and his girlfriend. He explains that he wouldn't have even come over, but he heard us talking and thought we might hook up a fellow Texan. Impressed at his talent for guessing at accents, I ask him where he's out of. I'll be goddamned if that kid wasn't from Lubbock. By now, DFB1 and DFB2 have been compleeetely forgotten. Kirk and I follow this fellow rube over to his table and continue to attempt to drink the MGM out of Budweiser.
0600 15 March, The MGM Grand Hotel Bar and domicile for natives of the Llano Estacado
We almost did it, goddamnit, we were so close. Just when Mr. Johnson started clucking over the lack of Bud in his cooler, I'll be damned if they didn't show with another two cases. This puts me back at LEAST another three and a half hours. I haven't seen Kirk since Marta and her husband sat next to me at 0400. He said he was making a head call and just disappeared. Do you know what Kirk did for twelve of his seventeen years in the Marine Corps? Kirk was a sniper. He could be anywhere. You could be Kirk. Are you Kirk? No? Well, me either. That's two. (Beer to the first one who emails me saying what that last was alluding to.)
Marta and her husband, I think his name was Porpoquito. I had engaged in polite conversation with Marta an hour earlier, until Kirk nodded at this guy who was hanging back, watching us. Marta's in her mid-fifties and speaks maybe three good words of English. It was a quick, polite, conversation. Well, the two return about 0400 and Kirk stumbles off. I listen to Porpoquito make thinly veiled hints that Marta is actually available for purchase before my thick, drunk, Texas pattern recognition alarm goes off and I quickly make my way out of the AO to the head to search for Kirk. (Feels like a Star Trek episode doesn't it? Star Trek CXIV: The Search for Kirk.) Never found him, I hope he made it back alright.
Since I returned from the Search. I have had another young couple borrow shiggarettes off of me. They too are from Lubbock. Both graduated from the school that rivals my alma mater. Before anybody could hint or offer at a goddamn thing, I bid a slurred farewell and headed for the Remo.
(**Author's Note: Kirk actually wandered over four city blocks before finally figuring out how to cross the street to get back to the San Remo**)
Oh yeah, that last kid's name was Daryl.
Shalom, my friends,
Fear and Loathing in Bridgeport, Part Six