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The Passed in the Rear View Mirror PDF Print E-mail
Written by Double Dragon
Tuesday, 20 May 2014 15:30

The Passed in the Rear View Mirror

By M. King

Writing and photography copyright oneownercollectorcar.com

The Past.

They talk about the people who 'passed away'...

Past Away.

Cast off. Leaving shore.

No one around. Silence in the apartment. The door locks with a snick shutting a segment of my life. I shove the key through the crack under the door and squeeze through the lush vegetation overgrowing the walkway alongside the house.

Fit another key into a new lock. Black 1969 Pontiac GTO. The gateway to Anywhere.

The melancholy stillness and 'what ifs' evaporate as I enter GTO zone. The angled lines and barely contained aggression of the car disperses my poetic reverie and overworked musings. Scoops and a shark nose jut out front triggering the psychological switch from passivity to action.

Turn the key. The GTO explodes to life vibrating the outside rear view mirror. The image in the mirror shakes so severely that it looks like an earthquake is shattering the house that I lived in for the last year. The past crumbles away.

The savage pounding of the engine tugging at the leash of the clutch prompts my escape. No quiet retreat with a whimper.

This is a breakout.

In the mirror the jagged hazy shaking images of past passed by... familiar ramshackle houses and derelict cars, stoop sitting sullen faced drinkers and the maze of vegetation trying to re absorb the affront of man made structures.

The car rumbles and rolls over cracked heaved pavement, dodging gigantic potholes. Resentment of glowering black guys staring holes through the white man in his 'fancy car'. Everytime someone said that I laugh because the other GTO owner in the neighborhood is black. His 1968 GTO was always pristine despite broken glass and graffiti and bombed out wrecks surrounding it. No one messed with this man's car. He was over 6 and a half feet tall and a solid 300 pounds.

My GTO idles up through the streets along the river. Ambling under the concrete stilts that support the highway the car is positioned to enter the highway. No final look. Time to go.

The GTO launches up the steeply angled onramp cresting the top and suddenly I'm 100 feet above the city. A labyrinth of curving white concrete potential destinations extend outwards like the arms of an octopus.

Just let the randomness of the roads take me wherever?


I want to head west.

Picking a path through many potential routes dodging other cars consumes my attention. Soon the white concrete is riding straight as far as can be seen cutting through swamp. The stilts of the highway leave the world below and my thoughts travel backwards in time.

I'm leaving behind time... uncontrolled crime, chaos, shirt soaking humidity and mosquitoes. The hot wind blasting my open window is the same air that chokes you in the afternoons. At speed the claustrophobic thick air becomes a refreshing warm buffeting cleansing force. Motion moves the languid air.

Motion is also the antidote to unsolvable situations. Stalemate relationships and stagnant air get swept away by speed.

Speed costs money. I linger at 100 MPH in the fast lane for another minute to savor the raucous howl of freedom.

I let off and settle into a slow steady 65 in the slow lane. Gotta conserve gas and squeeze distance out of my funds. Once the car is cruising slowly the sense of escape turns to one of retreat and defeat. Leaving slow like air leaking out of a tire.

I think back to Miriam as if I am remembering a past love from years prior although she left for work just this morning. The whole failed romance is already nothing but a vapor floating in time untouchable from here onwards. The ennui and slow languid days don't flood back into my memory but rather waft through the heat waves emanating from the hood of the car warping my vision. The days past are like a syrup merged into one long impression or feeling. No distinct edges or defining moments in the hazy heated Southern days lived and lost.

I think of Adelina always there but just out of reach as the doomed drama of Miriam played itself out. The situations blocked on all sides. Potential unrealized. Two paths and I took the wrong one.

I have neither of them.

Just thoughts, memories and pointless idiotic imaginings of 'might have beens'. The past year is a fog of impressions and moments barely discernible through the mist. Nothing is resolved. The open ended situations linger in my mind. Unsolvable impasse of differences of opinion and lifestyle shutter down the desire to turn around and go back.

Fuck it. I press down on the gas for emphasis of intention then remember to let it ride slow.

At night the rest stop is filled with cars. The bugs are fierce, the heat unrelenting. The car is filled to the roof with all my possessions forcing me to 'sleep' slumped in the driver's seat drenched in sweat. Strange dreams where Satan holds his red hand out as he pulls himself out of a grease pit filled with blood. Some ancient abandoned gas station.  I can see the Devil has what palm readers call 'a Simian Line'. More dreams of red blood and tangled dark mazes jerk me awake in the humid smothering darkness. Its already very hot half an hour past sunrise.

Pulling out onto the highway the exhaust note is more staccato than usual. It has that air hammer quality you associate with Mopar Hemis. This is because the car is hauling over 1,000 pounds of stuff. It's not noticeably less razor sharp in its response and acceleration but is apparently working harder.

The miles blur away. In a Texas border town of Fabien I eat at a hamburger stand. Gas and beef is cheap here. The burger is 99 cents. Back on the broiling highway the afternoon washes past me with the only indicator of time being a gas gauge sitting on 1/8th of a tank.

I roll into a Texaco gas station. I'm in Texas, so that is appropriate. Hot humid air makes me squint to navigate through travelers pulling trailers dodging slow big trucks making wide turns. Everything looks tired. The yellow color poured over everything has a way of washing out contrasts and lines. The light is diffused and blurs objects the further away they are like time breaking down the past. Dust swirls over everything to further obscure any clarity.

The trunk of the GTO is scorching hot. I yank my palm off the black paint and crouch down to fill up the car with gas. Ripples of gasoline vapors warble outwards from the filler neck and get sucked into the hazy air around me. The sun is directly overhead smashing down on this dusty lot.

Back in the car i turn the key and absolutely nothing happens. Not even a click of a starter trying to turn. The extreme heat has cooked the starter. The hot engine is too tight to turn over.

Lifting the hood to let some air get under there plus the usual tricks of pulling on the connections to the battery and starter and pouring water over the fuel line to dispel vapor lock accomplishes nothing. It's too hot. Pontiac starting motors are on the driver's side so the starter heat shields designed for Chevy applications won't work on these engines.

After draping a piece of white paper over the starter to reflect the sun's rays and hasten the cooling process, I walk towards the building. An attendant springs into action darting out the door to block my path,

"You can't leave that here!"

"My car wont' start. I'm giving it a few minutes to cool down, then I'll give it another try."

"That's not my problem! MOVE IT!!"

"HOW? I just told you it won't start!"

If there is anything that makes me flip out it's someone trying to tell me what to do. There were 4 or 5 empty gas pumps. I'm not holding anyone up. That makes me really angry. I'm a paying customer. That makes me even angrier.

The idiot sidestepped to block my way again trying to give me an intimidating stare. I felt red blood flood through my eyes and the world started to compress into darkness as a roar filled my ears.

There is always some chickenshit asshole searching to find a technicality, grasping at any kind of pretext to harass people for the sake of his ego. Fury floods over over me. Seething with barely pent up animal rage I snarled,

"Fuck off!"

He jumps aside as I walk through his space. Typical of most would be authoritarian self appointed rule makers his aggression melted in the face of my volcanic rage.

Inside the station the guy behind the counter saw the whole thing. His laconic nod is friendly,

"Car trouble?"

"It won't restart. It's never happened to this car before but I've had similar things happen with other cars when they get too hot. Big displacement Pontiacs are notorious for running hot. I'm going to give it another try in 15 minutes or so."

Then I turned and saw the clown who hassled me a second earlier hovering around the GTO peering at my license plate,

"What is with that fucking asshole?"

The attendant inside is clearly embarrassed to be associated with him and apologizes,

"Sorry about that. He usually works the night shift when it's quiet so he doesn't usually get in people's faces like this."

I leave the air conditioned station to go back outside into the wall of heat. My rage radiates loud and clear hotter than the weather before I get near the GTO. I yelled,

"Get away from my car!!"

He retreats fast. I glare after him.

Then I stop. Miriam repeatedly told me my temper was going to get me shot down south. She used to warn me,

"They have guns! They have guns!"

The vast abyss of pointlessness... getting shot for nothing... the stupidity of this whole interaction... forget it. I use willpower to fade him out of my mind and obliterate his existence. Focus back on the car and getting this solved.

I try the key again.


I decide to push start it. I closed the hood. Pushing this heavy car weighed down with all the junk in it really gives a literal sense of how much my old life weighs. The GTO rolls off the pump island which gives it a couple of MPH then I put my back into it dispersing my anger at the clown who annoyed me. Its going a good 3 or 4 MPH heading to a downgrade.

The guy from the counter comes outside the station and calls out to me. He's coming to help but the car has momentum now rolling down the dusty grade. I hop in. As it approaches 20 MPH I put it in second gear and let out the clutch. The engine barks and slams the car to a stop as if it hit a wall. Dust clouds envelope the car as the back wheels lock up and carve trenches in the ground. The braking action of that high compression GTO engine is like falling into a gravity well.

Sitting in a dust cloud I  know there is more than a starting motor going on here. Maybe vapor lock at the very least or perhaps heat soak to the old wires. More waiting might get it cool enough to crank over. I pop the hood again. At least now the car is off the pump island. Not that it really matters since no one was using it.

The helpful guy from the station and I walk together back inside the A/C. He informs me that the nearest garage is about 10 miles down the road. Its around 4 PM. Time is running out. Do I gamble that the engine is just hot and wait it out or get it looked at before the garage is closed?

I have enough money for gas to cross the country and nothing else. No margin. A tow and one hour's worth of labor at a garage will wipe me out. If Miriam made some good tips today she might be able to wire me some money.

The counter guy sells me a calling card. I head to the phone booth.

The operator places the collect call. My old apartment is in a later time zone so Miriam should theoretically be home from work by now. Unsurprisingly there is no response. I leave a message to call the number the guy from inside the Texaco station gave me.

I dropped down in the hot driver's seat staring out the windshield across the dirt lot. It was dinnertime back 'home'. Adelina would be back from school and making one of her super healthy dinners right about now. Adelina and I usually ate dinner at her place.

Miriam and I had long ago abandoned any pretense of eating together at dinner. She would have eaten already at the restaurant she worked at. Home was just a place for her to change before heading out again to spend all the tip money she earned during the day dropping extravagant tips in bars all night. Her money and time cancelled itself out every night in a perfectly idiotic circle of wastrel futility.

NO WAY am I going back there! Miriam's utter nincompoop lifestyle is just too maddening. Then there was unnecessary 'tragedy' hovering around her despite no genuine traumas in her personal history. Her constant moroseness traces directly back to her own dumb decisions, wasted opportunities and massive volumes of time burned up into ash as she suffers fools gladly. I got angrier and angrier thinking of all the waste and lost potential and sheer stubborn stupid pouting petulance.

The drama and history with Miriam doomed my chances with Adelina. I had thrown away something good on something unrealistic. I was guilty in my own way of wasting potential. Not in the same grandiose pathetic ways that Miriam did things, but i lost something far more valuable than Miriam would ever throw away. I lost Adelina.

Miriam threw away her time like it was replaceable but she didn't value her time anyways so it's not like she had suffered any sense of loss. Any time I lost was valuable to me. I actually cared about every second I lost. By hanging onto false hope that things would work with Miriam I had lost Adelina.

Adelina was there just like everything else still back there I could never touch again. Driving back now would be like an astronaut who flies to Andromeda at near light speed. He gets back to earth 50 years older. Einstein's relativity theory tells us that while he aged 50 years, Earth has aged 4 million years. Everything he knew is obliterated, even the sun is starting to burn out.

If I made my million year drive back from Texas to Miriam and Adelina it would bring me back to places and people so changed that my memories no longer apply to reality. There is nothing back there. Nothing. No one. And I felt like I was done with the place, too. The whole place was melting into nothing like garbage slowly rotting in a sweltering pit.

Looking across the lot to the highway i see the road heading nowhere. West to nowhere from nowhere. I don't even know what town this is. I'm in Texas in a town called Nowhere. Nowhere leaves me free to go back 'home' back in time in my mind. Back to Adeline.

Lying on Adeline's bed floating in a sense of unity as our talk wafts into a pure state of free flow unconsciousness. Her voice in my head her thoughts in my head. Images from her mind flash in front  of my eyes like I'm watching a silent movie. These things are coming from her not from within my mind. An elusive something is there that no one tries to capture. The act of observing something alters it. Observation defines something that has multiple potentials. The moment is allowed to exist forever purely as what it is.

Adelina shared free floating soul locks that were as profound as any of the great soaring moments with Miriam. If Adeline and I could just 'be' like this then how far could it have gone? Further than the peaks with Miriam? For sure day to day life would have been a lot nicer with her.

What if, which path? All done. Why think it?

My eyes focus again and I see through the windshield into a dirt lot under rolling circles of dust. The fatigue inducing yellow heat is magnified by the garish crass commercial advertising signs. Ugly mustard yellows neon oranges and shrill orange tinged reds. Affronts to the eye. Partially built empty structures whipped with wind and bits of debris.

The banal buildings increase the tedious weight of the images burning in the heat. The thoughts of all the grinding dreary hours of work to be performed in offices out in this desolation is too much to think.

I gotta get out of here.

Without remembering the car isn't working I press in the heavy clutch and wiggle the Hurst shifter in neutral and flip the key.

WAAAAROOOOMMM. The engine blasts to life. Then I remember I was stranded.

Not anymore.

No longer suspended holding to my past by a tenuous thread back to Adeline's bed floating in a moment the line is blasted apart by the engine and the imperative urgency of this GTO to MOVE. I let the car idle with a sinister rumpa rumpa. Then I hit the road.

I'm in flight hurtling onto the highway passing cars like they are lumps of motionless metal.

vvvip. vvvip. vvvvip.

The cars flash by my right hand door and are sucked away over the horizon in my mirror.

Passed into the past.

The speedometer needle sits steady on 120 MPH. The car screams out release of pent up stress and a year of disintegrating tumult. The car just wails out the turbulence blowing it all out in a steady scream.

The line into the horizon never shortens no matter how hard i press down on the gas. The needle drops into the bottom of the odometer numbers. The speed narrows the world into a tunnel but still the rounded edge of the world stays exactly as far away from me as ever. The edge of the world is akin to what it feels like to not be able to touch Adeline. I can see her but not reach her. She is always exactly as far away as ever.

I had Miriam and she dissolved into vapour that spreads out through your hands dissipating. You grasp and grasp on something that was never there. Now I think maybe if only. If only this if only that. Stupid thoughts.

Suddenly I hear the deafening howl of the engine. This is a Pontiac engine. They don't thrive on super high revs. Back to reality. I slacken speed gradually letting back off the throttle.

Miriam's image and scenes with her play through my mind as I chop out miles from the vastness of Texas. I get sucked into the memory of magic moments and soon I pretend that the real life banality of existence with her won't repeat if we can just start over. If we can just catch that feeling from the first few days and stay with it... she was transcendent and miraculous for the first few weeks we were together...

I have myself half convinced as I distractedly pull off the highway in setting sun. Some town somewhere. A grocery store. Saving money. I buy nuts and fruit. The heat makes it easier to skip dinner. The allure of the amazing beginning with Miriam fades when I remember why I'm hungry right now. I could have had a reasonable amount of money to cross the country on and I could have been eating dinner now if only Miriam hadn't decided a complete stranger was more deserving of the money I needed for this trip.

A week before I was about to leave town she had lent her scumbag co worker the money I needed to cross the country. It was the 3rd week of the month but his story was that he had to 'pay his rent'. Rent is due on the first of the month everywhere except in Miriam's mind. Who but Miriam would buy such a ludicrous lie? Who but Miriam is stupid enough to lend money to a junkie with languid lizard lidded pinpoint eyes and clammy skin? Who but Miriam would lend money to a complete stranger she met that day? The junkie didn't even bother to invent a plausible story because he knew he didn't HAVE to. Any bullshit would suffice.

Somewhere in my body a faint message tells me that if I was in an air conditioned restaurant right now I am capable of downing a huge meal with ice cream and pie for desert. I eat a handful of nuts and press the temptation out of my thoughts. The gas is draining away pretty quickly. The money is following that gas. I'm a long way from anywhere and funds are more than half gone.

Which reminds me to follow up with Miriam and let her know the car is OK in case she was calling the garage to find out what was happening. I cynically realized she had probably not even bothered to call the garage anyways.

At a rest stop teeming with bugs I stand in the glass phone booth while the operator places the collect call. I feel a jolt: Miriam's voice accepting the charges. Its only been a day since I left but this sounds like a lost voice from another lifetime. Not just because it is a long distance connection. The chasm between us has been widening for months prior to this.

"Where are you?"

"Texas somewhere."

Before I told her I no longer need her to wire money she attempted to explain away why she hadn't called the gas station. Predictably she hadn't bothered to call the number yet. Her unconvincing 'explanation' segued into her telling me how broke she was,

"It was totally dead today, I only made about twenty in tips."

Not that I needed the money right this minute but for the sake of reminding her of her latest screwup I asked,

"I thought you were getting that money back today ''for sure' from that lying weasel junkie. That putrid piece of shit said he was bringing you the money 'for sure' when you came to work today."

She mumbled some platitudes about how there was just a 'delay' in her getting the money back which even she couldn't possibly believe.

Miriam desperately wants to be 'cool' and liked by the people at her work. Restaurants are staffed by plenty of low life fly by night types who simply 'borrow' money off everyone with no intention of ever paying it back. Happens all the time. But everytime it happens to Miriam you'd think it was the first time.

Miriam had forgotten about how she cost my savings last year when she sublet our apartment. She screwed over a dependable girl with a government job that I thought Miriam was renting to. So did the girl. At the last minute Miriam left the honest dependable renter high and dry with nowhere to go so she could sublet to some loser from her work who never paid rent, hydro, water or phone. I ended up paying for her stupidity. My savings burnt into nothing paying back the money lost on the con man she 'felt sorry for'. Now she was making excuses for another oily slimebag. I cut her off furiously,

"You're never going to see a cent of that money. He's laughing at how STUPID you are! He's a squiggling slimy maggot under a rock. Can't you SEE when someone is a lying piece of shit? He's nothing but a turd to be flushed down the toilet! Why don't you ever give money to someone who actually has earned it or deserves it?"

"OK. Um. OK can we just change the subject?"

Her voice was distracted, somewhere else. She seemed to be reaching out to me after months of guarded terse non communication,

"It felt really weird this morning to wake up alone. This is the first night we haven't slept in the same bed for over a year... it feels different in here with you gone... it isn't right...  I feel as if maybe we should...."

As she struggled to tell me something real while fighting through walls that had built up over the last few months I cut her off,

"Make sure you answer the phone over the next few days. If you get some money from tips over the next few days I'll probably need some money. I'm burning through gas right now."

Even as I shut her down a part of me wondered if I should turn around and go back.

This is a crucial turning point.

But I've become conditioned by months of estrangement to be immovable despite emotions fighting to surface. My impulse reaction to shut down her tentative steps towards discussion closed her down completely.

She said goodbye in a flat defeated tone and I hung up.

At the Hoover Dam I parked to let the car cool off and started to eat something. I was immediately cornered by a hippy guy who emerged from his van needing to talk apparently to anyone who would listen, 

"This place is overrun with tourists who don't want to get out from behind their Goddamned air conditioned steering wheel! Everyone with the cruise control on 80 not seeing the landscape. Where is the fire!"

He eyed my water container and exclaimed,

"And what the hell is with this parking area? That dam contains a bazillion gallons of water and there is no drinking water for the public!"

I gave him some water.

Leaving Hoover Dam a series of clocks displayed the time in Arizona and Nevada. A sign announced that I was entering the Pacific Standard Time zone.

The breakfast crowd at the Sahara buffet in Las Vegas, Nevada is pretty relaxed. Tourists. The lunch crowd here is mainly local street people blankly filing in. I was on my third serving of breakfast when I noticed the zombie people lining up for lunch pressing up against the restraining cord. The time left to load up on food was running down. After starving my way across the continent I was eating up a storm.

My table had ropes from ceiling a kind of sheikh's lair feeling to it. I had eaten 2 plates of bacon and scrambled eggs already and raided the fruit bar for plate number 3 piled up with bananas, oranges, apples, pineapple, grapefruit, cantelope, melon and peaches. I loaded up a fourth plate with smoked salmon and capers. Fifth plate was full of greens, tomatoes, chick peas, seeds, radishes, beans and rice, grated cheese, olives, onions, and cucumbers. I devoured it in record time.

Lunch was looming and time was ticking on my last chance to bolster my food supply. I returned to the buffet for steak, chicken, honey turkey, black forest ham, roast beef and then ordered a custom done omelette from a chef in a large white hat and white uniform. I added some sausage to the plate and dug into a really good omelette. Then came sugar free pies, raspberry and apple pie with ice cream.

Walking up Las Vegas Boulevard I was content. After days of barely eating I was full. I passed Doug's Burger King, cigar shops and pawnshops.  A scraggly black guy begging says,

"Why lie? I need beer."

I commended him on his honesty but needed my money for myself. A guy in a wheelchair displayed a cardboard sign. A grizzled guy asks for a light.

"Where you from?"


I never tell people where I'm really from. He tried to sell me some show tickets. His practiced ability to evaluate people informed him I wasn't holding out for a better price but simply wasn't interested. He didn't persist, turning on his heel to try and hustle the tickets on the next mark. T shirt souvenir places blast music into the street. A & P sits side by side with scroungy beggars and barren tattoo shops.

I find a cheap hotel. The entrance is temporarily blocked by an altercation between a big muscle guy in tank top and black dude in cowboy outfit. In the deli in front a placard states:

'Rooms. $49.00'. Too much for what it is. Back out in the sun.

Another skid row hotel has a sign saying $19.00. I follow directions into a dark bar where the bartender rents the rooms. He says, 

"It's 29 bucks plus a 50 dollar key deposit if you're paying cash."

I looked at him like he was crazy. What the hell? He qualified his statement,

"Well it's 30 dollar deposit if you pay on a credit card."

"The sign says 19 for the room. Not 29."

He shrugged. I walked out into the bright sunlight. It was time to forget the makeshift 'hotels' renting rooms out back of bars or above stores and concentrate on the actual real life purpose built motels.

The car is dead from heat so I walk about checking prices of the few remaining 1 story motels left over from the 1960s. Many are now gone or the prices have soared up into the 45- 55 dollar range. Whole blocks have been razed in anticipation of mega hotel development projects. Back at the car it has cooled. The GTO surges back to life and I roll about to continue checking places.

I pull into a small old motel. The girl up front enthuses about the GTO and tells me about her Galaxie with a 351 engine. I agree with her about the virtues of the 351 Cleveland,

"That was one of the strongest asskicking engines in that size range. The Boss 351 was running with big blocks when the whole muscle car era was dead for everyone else."

She was a bit out of her element when it came to the finer details of the Cleveland engine history but we had an interesting discussion about her adventures with her car.

Her hotel is full up but the chick down at the pool runs a joint called the Yucca next door and she'll give me a "cool car guy" rate. The lobby girl unlocked the gate for me to head down to the pool. The Yucca manager was lounging in a chair talking to some guy covered in tattoos with some kind of sticks in his nose.

We walked next door to the Yucca Motel. Yucca is on the strip up past the Oasis and other small time hotels just below Ogden. Ignoring the high price on the cardboard sign she offers me a room for 39 bucks no tax no key deposit. Kind of like the Freemason secret handshake only this is classic car conspiracy complicity.

I used water and towels from the motel to wipe down the sodden interior of the GTO. 4 days in boiling heat with a black interior left sweat on seat, armrest and grit on the steering wheel. I had a noticeable tan from the days on the road.

I calculated that it was about 8 PM Miriam's time. Even when she did an all nighter she usually woke up around dinnertime. I called as the setting sun shot light inside the phone booth. She groggily accepted the charges. It was 8 PM and she was still asleep. She was annoyed. Oh, well.

She claimed that the junkie paid her back. I said that's good. Send me the money. Then it came out that she hadn't gotten all of it. I doubted she had gotten ANY of it. There was some back and forth where I lit into her again about pandering to morons. Eventually we returned to the wire. She had money but,

"Only if you really need it."

"Either send it or don't."

I hung up. A street dude within earshot of me berating Miriam in the phone booth gave me the thumbs up,

"Dont' take no shit off them bitches man! You tellin her!"

The cooler night allowed the GTO to be restarted as I made my way around Vegas at night. After days of austerity on the road I had eaten a massive amount of food and was indulging in the luxury of a motel room. Now I was going to go out on the town. Fuck Miriam. She can foot the bill. Drinks are cheap in Vegas anyways.

Cruising 'home' to the motel in the early AM I spotted a weasel guy furtively peering into the window of my room. There were no lights on in the courtyard. Everyone must be asleep. The place was only half full anyways. There was nothing in my room to steal, but principles demanded that this guy be dealt with. I killed the lights and engine and rolled up to the motel. I opened the GTO trunk. He was making quite a bit of noise now, intent on trying to pry the window open with a screwdriver. He didn't hear the click of the trunk lock opening and he didn't sense me so close.

I grabbed my can opener from the trunk and jammed the fat round end of the can opener into the middle of his back hard enough to make him drop the screwdriver with a loud gasp of pain. It would feel exactly like someone was holding a gun in his back.

"I'll blow you away if I see you here again! I'll shoot you on sight! Now RUN!"

He ran so fast it was hyperkinetic. I strolled up to Las Vegas Boulevard and watched him sprinting away like an Olympic Gold Medalist. I went back and closed the trunk. I walked further up the street to investigate the local bars near my motel.

I met a girl named Maya from Pittsburgh. She'd been in Vegas for 16 months now and loved the climate and the party lifestyle. I had a good night and woke up early with about 5 bucks to my name and a low gas tank. I was arrogantly counting on Miriam coming through. After all she likes to finance folly. I had wasted some money drinking last night so that should justify my claim for money.

At 11:10 AM I headed to the Riviera casino which had a Western Union office inside. The girl behind the glass took my driver's license and asked the State and location of the sender. I confidently gave Miriam's information even though there was no way to know if she actually sent me anything. I filled out some paperwork and received a carbon copy. She then counted out a nice wad of money: 100 bucks. I went and ate a buffet meal in celebration and stocked up on some provisions.

Crossing into California the first gas station sign made it clear I would never have made it without that Western Union 100 bucks even if I hadn't gone out drinking. The price of gas was very high in California and keeping up with traffic was draining the gas tank at a furious rate.

Cars were clustering in a mad rush at 75 to 85 MPH racing through the hot sunny hills heading to the Bay Area. Trying to conserve gas wasn't a smart tactic. Better to stay in tune with the traffic flow. I stayed in the right lane and ran a lot faster than was ideal for gas consumption.

Where is everyone going at 11 PM at night? The highways were packed with cars running full tilt to somewhere in a hurry.  I made it to my buddy Danny's place in Oakland, California. There was no answer when I used the intercom system at the apartment. I drove over to a nearby gas station with a phone booth and got through. A black guy came over and started trying to sell me a metal lamp. He was incredibly annoying because he was drowning out Danny's voice on the other line with a bunch of 'yo' and other stupid ass bullshit while I was trying to talk on the phone. I got back in the car and drove to Danny's place.

His wife Anita was asleep. We drove over to take a look at the small house he'd just bought in Oakland. He needed to load some stuff in there anyways so it was a dual purpose trip. With some swearing we managed to cram some of my junk out of the way to allow him to perch with his legs up to his chest (footwell filled) clutching some of his junk he wanted to bring there.

Danny's new house had a sloped cement driveway dropping down into a tiny garage designed for the tall narrow cars from the early part of the 1900s. In the basement heavy wiring wound round old style glass insulators. Nice cut glass door handles, foot high real wooden baseboards, and glassed in doorways finished the effect upstairs. This house was what people would describe variously as quaint or 'vintage'. I congratulated Danny on scoring a neat old house like this. We deposited a pile of my junk into the garage area to make room in the car so we could use it in the upcoming move of Danny's stuff.

Over the next few days the transfer of items to the new house began. I helped whittle down the forest of dry yellow straw like vegetation in the backyard. Danny's wife Anita set me up with a mattress in the more livable basement area near the washing machine but I preferred the spooky rundown grim garage. I sleep better in total darkness. My mattress lay where someone's old 1940s car probably used to reside. Certainly nothing manufactured after 1960 would have fit in this spot except imports. Beside my bed sat an old pot to piss in just like people back in the middle ages used. The pot allowed me to avoid going upstairs to the house waking everyone up going in the backdoor.

Danny and Anita quickly integrated me into their systems. Anita and I went shopping in the daytime at Berkeley Bowl and made minor inroads into the yard. At a certain point we just gave up on doing anything with the backyard. Evenings Danny and I went to a burger joint he particularly liked on College Avenue or to bookstores. He also took me to his evening poker game with 'the guys'.

I have no interest in poker but Danny tried to make it sound like a fascinating mind contest. Danny taught me the basic rules of poker and for about 2 or maybe even 3 hands I actually was ahead. Then predictably I began to lose as my interest waned. My focus on card games or chess or any of those related games never lasts more than a few minutes.

I compared the patterns I witnessed in the low stakes poker game with things I had observed with Maya, the girl I met in Vegas. Maya was a keen gambler and she won some big money. Possibly because I mentioned my stint in Vegas Danny experienced a strong compulsion to go gamble for real again. It had been awhile since he had been in a professional game. The closest place to do so from here was Reno.

Reno was closer in distance to us. Vegas is only double the distance away in miles but light years away in feel. Reno is a poor man's Vegas at best. But it was as good as we could manage for a weekend. Anita wasn't happy with Danny's plan but let him go for the weekend. So off we went after dinner on Friday. Despite the late hour the remnants of the sun burnt down on us with intensity. The black roof and black interior sucked up the sun rays. No A/C made it a bit of an endurance test for Danny,

"How the hell did you cross the country through the south in this car? Its like sitting in a furnace!"

Danny was financing our gas so there was nothing to hold me back. The GTO flew along at 90 MPH in the fast lane of Interstate 80. No matter how quickly I got us to Reno it was too long for Danny to handle. Bright blue skies and vibrant yellow flowers and deep green trees flashed past as we climbed higher elevations with the sun slowly starting to set.

By 10 PM Danny was slightly less aggravated. It was a bit cooler as we passed through Citrus Heights, California. The sky was a pale blueish black in post sundown but things were still light and warm.

At the Nevada border we made it to Reno one minute before midnight. We checked into a hotel which was extremely expensive when compared to the Vegas strip. Danny passed out while I went out to drive around the area. Around 3:30 AM I managed to get myself turned around from Virginia City, roaming the strips between Silver City and Carson City. At 4:50 AM I finally found our hotel which I hadn't expected to be tricky to find. I figured Reno was such a small place it would be no big deal to find it again. But Reno spreads out much more than I realized it did. I later learned that it has a population over 100,000.

After almost no sleep I was up Saturday morning to chauffeur Danny to the casinos. The heat was already full on and had Danny frazzled and moody. He wanted to scout the casinos out first before he got down to business which entailed returning to the hotel, and suiting up for the assault on the tables. Danny's normal EVA took only slightly less prep time to get going than an astronaut going down to the moon. First he showered and shaved. Then he meticulously got his suit on 'just so' and put his fedora on and hit the tables.

We idled through the main street which doubled as Highway 395 which I had traversed multiple times in the night and knew every nuance of by now. I took us directly to Harrah's which had always been our lucky casino in Vegas and actually originated in Reno. A sign told us to turn left for parking. As I turned where the sign indicated a harsh nasty woman in some official casino outfit blocked the entrance and screeched at us,

"This is a no entrance area!"

She was forcing me to try and back up into traffic which is just plain stupid. I wanted to just turn around safely. No, no I was supposed to back out blind into the road. None of this should have happened if the signage had been changed to reflect whatever new arrangement the casino was trying to implement. But somehow it was our fault for following the signs. She berated us loudly like we had somehow DONE something wrong. She sneered, 

"I guess you can't read signs!"

Danny retorted,

"Do you mean that sign right there that says 'Parking'?"

He pointed to the giant sign directly above her head that said 'Parking' with an arrow pointing to the spot she was blocking. She started bitching at him. Danny snapped and began yelling out the window at her. He rarely erupts. That is usually my department but she had pushed it too far on a day when he was off his game. I saw an opening in the traffic and laid rubber as we launched away from the evil crone leaving her in a cloud of smoke.

That was our introduction to the off kilter world we were about to inhabit. From here things degenerated quickly. There were no openings off the street with all major turns blocked from 1030 AM till 1130 PM due to some imminent parade. We drove up and down trying to escape the road to nowhere. We finally found a way off and got into some air conditioned casino so Danny could compose himself.

In the Club Cal Neva Virginian Hotel Casino I won $6.00 on Keno. I never allow the computer to select my numbers. I chose 1, 7, 14, and 69. Danny picked 11 and 50 on the card. Significantly the winning numbers were numbers I chose. Before I could relay this information about his down luck to Danny he had already gone to play a hand of cards.

Heat and the screaming bitch had knocked him out of his proper focus. Instead of allowing this to serve as a scouting mission and a cool down period he dove right into gambling wearing a T shirt and jeans. By eschewed his normal pre gambling procedures of shaving and putting on his best suit and his hat he caused himself to lose money instantly. Before I could find him he appeared at the table,

"I just lost 1,000 bucks."

He was bummed out. We'd been in the Reno casino for about 10 minutes and he was wiped out. It was about 12:30. Danny tried to carry on using some small amount of pocket change he had given me as a stake. I won another 5 bucks on Keno around 1:15. Danny continued to lose money.

The buffet was also overpriced when compared to Vegas. I wasn't paying but it still pissed me off,

"Shit man, this place is just a shadow of Vegas and they are charging us more for everything. It's fucked."

Danny commented,

"This place is a freak show. Anyone who couldn't make it in Vegas got 86ed to Reno."

Some old guy struggling to pull an oxygen tank behind him was simultaneously smoking a cigarette while inhaling 100 percent oxygen through a tube in his nose. I recalled that 100 percent oxygen was flammable and quickly got up from our table. Danny had also noticed the fireball potential and was with me as we got out of the buffet.

We checked out the girlie action and encountered a slate faced dour grim stripper straddling the stage. Her body wasn't too great either. Vacant eyed girls moved in pressing for money but then mercifully stopped harassing us to zero in on a helpless victim. Girls descended upon this succulent perspiring prey all fatted up for the kill.

The girls swarmed over a fat man wearing suspenders with his coat draped over his arm. He mopped sweat away from his eyes while his blubbery lips seemed to be mouthing some kind of prayer. He was drenched in sweat despite frigid air conditioning. He was handing money away like he felt obliged to the vulture girls clustered around him. He had been losing heavily at the tables and talked about his losing streak while paying stone hard strippers who were still clothed to talk about it. What a fool. They lapped up the jackpot.

Back in the casinos dazed old people fed the slot machines like automatons. A weird specter of an old man with a cowboy string tie chomped an unlit cigar and nervously kept tossing chips on the table watching them get swept away by his perpetually losing hands. Age and gravity had compressed his torso back down into his waist so that it seemed as if his head was attached to his chest area. His mustache was twirled up on the ends like Salvador Dali used to do.

Very old waitresses with nice personalities did the rounds. The busboy had missing teeth and looked to be about 80. It seemed people retired and then got a part time job in the casinos. Danny and I were the only young whippersnappers in sight anywhere.

Outside in blazing sun a parade went by. A monster truck on a float passed us, then a formation of some nice classic Thunderbirds. Next in line was a Caddy with a mechanical frog handpuppet limply waving. That surreal image seemed to crack open a final fracture in Danny's mind,

"Get me to the hotel."

I drove Danny back to the hotel where he lay down the bed. He wasn't sleeping but he also wasn't talking. I took off and roamed about for a few hours. When I came back at dinner he was still on the bed with glazed eyes focused on nothing. He was not interested in another buffet or cruising the strip. I tried a quirky suggestion,

"Bonanza was filmed just outside here. We could go check out the sets."

Nope, he didn't give a shit about Bonanza right now. He just lost 1,000 bucks. I left him to his thoughts and drove around town a bit.

On Sunday other than a buffet there wasn't a lot of activity. Danny was still bummed out and he couldn't do what he came to do which is gamble because he had no funds. There isn't a hell of a lot else to do in Reno other than gamble.

Coming back we headed south on 395 back through Carson City which I had already checked out at night. We headed along the shores of Lake Tahoe around 12:20 and arrived at South Lake Tahoe around 2:37  then passed through Pollock Pines which was westward on Highway 50. The black interior of the car tormented Danny who was already pissed off about his losses.


































sovereign of the seas

jan 88 entered service


royal carribean

879.9 ft long/ beam 105.9 ft/

diesel 2 prop  21,844 kW

2,276 pass cap

2 outdoor pools, casino slot machines, 2 144 seat cinemas


Last Updated ( Tuesday, 07 February 2017 00:07 )