Thursday, September 25, 2008


Not since June 2007 had I been out of Airheadzona, nor had I been out of Phoenix (A.K.A. “Hell”) except for a couple of days spent in Flagstaff last October. This is not good for anyone’s mental health. It’s hot here. It’s nasty here. The people are stupid here, and the crime rate per capita is worse than New York City. Occasional vacations are needed and I was way overdue for one. So my brother Napoleon and I decided to take 8 days and go up to Northwest Nevada – get out of this brutal heat.

We rented a 2008, silver Dodge Caliber with California plates (not a bad little car: 35 M.P.G. on the highway, lots of leg room and I was impressed by the sound of the compact disc player. What else ya need for a 1,466 mile road trip?)

I didn’t really take notes on this trip, so I’m merely attempting, with my feeble little gin-soaked brain, to piece some of it back together after the fact. The events are almost entirely true, if somewhat out of proper sequence here and there, and most of the times are just approximations since my watch broke on me. Well, here goes NUTTIN'.....

Sunday, Sept. 14, 2008:

We set our sights on an 8 A.M. departure time, but we missed the goal by about 15 minutes. Then Napoleon and I each had to make an ATM withdrawal stop. Finally on the road proper by 8:30 – Napoleon behind the wheel. North on Interstate 17. First destination: “VEGAS, BAAABEEE!” I put Walter Egan’s “Not Shy” into the player: Sweet South Breeze; Magnet And Steel; Finally Find A Girlfriend; The Blonde In The Blue T-Bird; Hot Summer Nights. I never test drove Egan’s music on a road trip before, but it works.

We catch the Highway 74 interchange and hook up with Highway 93 “Out Wickenburg Way.” At Kingman, Airheadzona, we stop to let some fluid out and to take some fluid in (in the form of bottled water). We intend to continue on 93 to Boulder City but Airheadzona rubs off on us and somehow we miss the cutoff from Interstate 40, and like knuckleheads, go south toward Yucca. (Yucca, a place I’ve been dying to see! Haven’t you?) Not until it’s useless to turn back do we realize what we’ve done, so we remain on that pointless Interstate 40 “U” and enter California near Needles. We’re both disgusted. About 90 miles after missing our cutoff, we’re now even with Kingman again but on the California side of the Colorado River. Arrrrrggghhhhh!

“VEGAS, BAAABEEE!” On Highway 95, we stop at Searchlight for 12 ounces of reinforcements. It’s true that in my 20s and early 30s, I drank my share of alcohol and yours too, but since then, my drinking has been minimal and infrequent. I do, however, tend to revisit the ol’ Watering Hole in search of my Laughing Place when I’m on an official “vacation”, and THIS is an “official vacation.” After a quick 12 ounce stop at Searchlight, I take over the driving chores.

3 PM-ish:
We roll into Vegas, Baby. Tired. Still a bit miffed about missing that Route 93 cutoff. We check into the El Cortez Hotel in downtown – a room on the fifth floor. This is “The ALL NEW Historic El Cortez Hotel.” Yeah, I know that’s something of an oxymoron, but that’s the way they’re advertising it these days. The place is Old School, Rat Pack era stuffs. This is a glimpse of the mostly long gone Vegas that I preferred, before the place was turned into a themed family affair. Before they built fake pirate ships on The Strip, Vegas was an Old School playground where REAL pirates could be found roaming the streets and sleeping in alleys.

The El Cortez Hotel is where my Pa and Ma had their wedding night steak dinner in ’58. Legend has it that I was conceived later that same evening, but because I arrived 3 weeks late, kicking and screaming all the way, it can’t be proven. But my Ma insisted that she knew there was a new life inside her the morning after her wedding night, so it’s highly likely that I was a Vegas Baaabeee!

Napoleon and I take the El Cortez elevator down; we’re heading to Casino Center to grab something to eat but we wind up stuck behind an old geezer whom we can’t seem to get around. He’s wearing these wide, rainbow-colored suspenders and I tell Nappy “That’s Rule #1-A: Never wear suspenders. And Rule #1-B is never, EVER wear RAINBOW suspenders. The morning I wake up and find you in rainbow suspenders, this vacation is OVER and you’re hitchhiking back to Hell, Airheadzona!” My Hawaiian shirts seem downright subdued and conservative compared to rainbow suspenders.

We end up eating at Hennessey’s. The food’s a dud, but we HAD to raise our blood sugar level. Well, it’s nice to see that the “Howdy, Pardner” sign is still there at The Pioneer Club, but sadly, the free animatron show across the street at Sassy Sally’s is ancient history. Well, it wasn’t much to begin with, but hey, it was free. I point out “Biff’s Hotel And Casino” from the movie Back To The Future and then Nappy and I play a little video poker and have a weak drink at Happy’s Place in the El Cortez. It’s not really called Happy’s Place, but we nicknamed it after the 90 year-old Scatman Crothers look-alike bartender with the sour puss. (After I'd ordered a Bourbon & Seven from Happy and he barely even grunted at me, Napoleon leaned over to me and said, "I'll have a Coke & a Smile.")

By 9 PM we’re in our beds watching a little TV before lights out. Wild times in Vegas, Baaabeee!

Monday, Sept. 15, 2008:

Up early, I go get coffee after “The Coffee Runaround” in the hotel’s casino. Nappy showers while I sip some joe outside the door and watch a pigeon endure its death throes on the roof of the El Cortez. My day will be better than his – poor bird. My digital display wristwatch has inexplicably gone belly up. I found it dead this morning. Sad. The Countess bought it for me when I broke the one my Pa bought for me while I was repairing UCLA parking lot equipment in 1991. This is a tough town on pigeons and watches.

Combing my hair in the mirror after my shower, I notice hair just falling out like crazy. It must be this lighting because, although I recently noted that my hair seemed suddenly considerably thinner right on top, I’d never actually seen it falling out like this! What’s this all about? The body learns that it just turned 49 and so my hair gets wind of it and immediately starts to abandon scalp? But this is Vegas, and what falls out here, stays here… in a bathroom sink. I guess it’s time to grow that ponytail and full beard, eh? Maybe I’ll get an ear pierced before I leave Vegas, Baaabeee! This is a tough town on pigeons, watches and hair.

8:30 AM:
We drive down The Vegas Strip listening to Hank Williams Junior and Don Helms singing “The Ballad Of Hank Williams” – a spoof of Johnny Horton’s “The Battle Of New Orleans.”

Well, in 1950 I took a little nip
Along with Mr. Williams on the way to Mississipp’
We was stacked 8-deep in a Packard limousine
And we met this promoter in the town of New Orleans

Now the man told Daddy that he had what it took
That he liked the way he sang and he liked the way it shook

He said pretty soon he’d make us all rich
And we started believin’ that fat sumbitch

Ha!-Ha! Funny stuffs!
But then I’m almost devastated when I see that the old Algiers Hotel has been razed and the skeleton framework of a new monstrosity is being erected in its place. The Algiers was a little piece of 1950s tucked into a little spot just north of The Riviera Hotel. They had this supercool, dark and cozy little bar that felt as right as a wedge of lime in a Margarita. Everytime the door opened and a beam of light flashed in for a moment, you’d look to see if that was Frankie, Deano, or Sammy a-comin’ in to wet his whistle. That was one of my half dozen all-time favorite bars anywhere. Oh, the Algiers is history and so are the good times in Vegas, Baaabeee!

9:30 AM:
Nappy and I go to The Mandalay Bay for an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. Overpriced for cold scrambled eggs ‘n’ stuffs. Dud. Nappy points out that he and I are the only two people in Vegas who aren’t overweight. I tell him that I’ll bet they sometimes fake a kitchen fire in order to close down the buffet when a person who weighs in excess of 300 pounds shows up for the all-they-can-eats.

10:30 AM:
Rollin’ outta town, Baaabeee! Too much traffic. Too many kids. No Algiers. No cheap food and drinks… give Vegas back to the Mafia, it was better when they ran the gig. We’re on our way to . . . RENO, BAAABEEE!

11:45 AM:
We’re northbound on Highway 95. Rotten road! Give me two lanes in one direction and I can drive all day and all night, but this single lane sh— crap is unacceptable. It’s an unending battle to pass slowpoke drivers; you no sooner get around one dude or dudette than you find yourself under the speed limit behind another one. Nappy and I have come up with a nickname for these Goin’NowhereSlowly drivers: If he’s driving a Winnebago, we call him Winnebago Boy. “Come on, Stephen, you gotta get around Winnebago Boy!” Or it might be “Trailer Boy”, or “Trucker Boy.” If it’s just a nondescript passenger vehicle, we call him “Shorts-In-The-Shower Boy” – a nickname we picked up from an episode of Frasier.

12:00 PM:
We’re listening to the “Spectres” album, and Nappy mentions that he’d forgotten just how good Blue Oyster Cult was. Naturally, I go into my spiel about how Buck Dharma was quite possibly the single most underrated guitarist from the Classic Hard Rock era. The Cult is singing about “Death Valley Nights” and oddly enough, we are only 20 miles East of Death Valley National Monument – one-time home of Charles Manson and his Family. Imagine living in a place called Death Valley with a longhaired hippie who doesn’t bathe often and where it’s routinely over 110 degrees. The family that stinks together stays (and kills) together.

If you slow down and listen carefully while going through some of these little towns on Highway 95 you can actually hear the dueling banjos.

I see John Law has nabbed a woman speeder over there. She’s too heavy and not dolled up enough to bat her eyelashes and charm her way out of this one. You shoulda stayed in Vegas, Baaabeee!

Two hundred and thirty-five “Shorts-In-The-Shower” Boys behind us, we pull into Reno while Waylon’s singin’ ‘bout “Yoyos, Bozos, Bimbos And Heroes.” I’ve been the first and second of those characters my entire life.

By 5 PM:
We’re checked into our Circus Circus Reno room on the sixteenth floor and gettin’ comfortable for the next four and a half days.

8 PM:
We’ve had dinner somewhere and we catch the free “World Class” circus act at Circus Circus. This is The Imperial Acrobats Of China – 7 young Chinese women in white and silver one-piece polyester jumpsuits with the midsections cut out. They’re perfoming with something called a Diabolo; it’s like a yo-yo on steroids. Hey! They’re pretty good. I mean, I’ve never been much attracted to Asian women, so maybe it’s the white and silver polyester Elvis getups. Or maybe it’s the backflips. Or the real big yo-yos. But whatever it is, they’ve got my attention… and Nappy’s, too. And we only saw the act from behind. We’ll be back… hopefully in front.

Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2008:

No driving today – we be tired. Not thrilled with the prospect of that long drive back to Phoenix, Airheadzona, we look into the idea of dropping the car off in Reno and flying home when the time comes, but the drop-off fee would be $255. We’ll drive, thank you very much. Unless we hit a big jackpot, of course… but we really aren’t much for gambling.

2:45 PM:
I guess we ate breakfast or lunch somewhere, but who knows and who cares? We’re in the Circus Circus Keno Lounge. They offer us a good deal for staying here: we can play the same 8 numbers for 50 straight games, only $5. So Nappy and I each select 4 numbers and make out our 8-number card. The Keno Lounge manager is just about to get off work, but she has a lot of spunk and personality. We like her. It’ll take 6 hours for all 50 games to play out, but we can check on the results tomorrow.

3:30 PM:
We’re still hangin’ out in the Keno Lounge when the blonde cocktail waitress approaches. Yeah, Nappy wants a Black Russian but I just order an Irish Coffee (I think it’s a little too early for a “real” drink). When she returns with the drinks, Nappy says he wants the elaborate cross that’s hanging around her neck. “How much you want for that cross?” She says it’s hers and not for sale. I’m a little surprised that Nappy even saw the thing, buried in the cramped crevice between her full, well-rounded and 45% exposed bosoms, like it was. What was it that even made Nappy think to look there? Danged if I know, but he’s always had a knack for spotting a cross in a busy intersection. However, she won’t sell it, even when Nappy says he fears he’ll go to Hell without it. She says she’s in her mid-40s and she can’t afford to part with it now, as she also might go to Hell without it.

Me, I’m thinking: Hokey-Smoke! She looks pretty hot for a woman in her mid-40s. Ya know, 5 or 6 more of these Irish Coffees and I might be persuaded to drop my religious convictions along with my shorts and allow this bosomy, “younger” woman to steal my innocence. But alas, that elaborate metal cross would forever be in my line of vision and would scrape the skin right off my nose.

4:30 PM:
I go down to the Circus Circus Business Center to spend $3. for 10 minutes on the Internet. Nappy wants to know what gold did during the big Wall Street nosedive. I go to and get the update on the upswing for Nappy, then I quickly go to my “Stuffs” Blog at so I can vote on my Whazit2U Polls (for some reason, my voice don’t count when I try voicing it from my own computer at home). I vote for the scent of Brand New Carpeting in the “Smelly Poll” and I vote for Rachael Ray against me in the “Most Masculine” Poll because she’s much cuter than I am. Yes, I realize it’s a question of masculinity and not cuteness, but cuteness trumps masculinity 24/7 in MY book! She gets my vote.

8:00 PM:
Nappy goes to the Circus Circus gym to work out. I do mine right in our hotel room. I try out Nappy’s 30 pound weight vest and find that while wearing it, I can only manage about 25% of the number of standard pushups I can usually do in a single set. Oooh! I like this piece of equipment – may make it part of my regular workout rountine when I get home.

9:00 PM:
I’m watching Sarah Palin’s interview with Sean Hannity on TV and I’m struck by how she is able to answer questions with 300 words and never really respond directly to a direct question. I think I’ll call this Sarah’s Bill Clinton Dance. The more this woman talks, the less I like her . . . and she talks a lot! Wow! The Great White Female Hope of the Republican Party sounds exactly like . . . a politician. Imagine that!

10:00 PM:
I’m reading from the book of Esther. Maybe it’s just my own sickly warped sense of humor but I’ve always found this to be the funniest extended segment in The Holy Bible (not that there’s a lot of competition in The Good Book when it comes to humor). I mean, really, anyone who can read Esther and not come away with the feeling that Haman is the Wile E. Coyote of The Bible… well, that person probably isn’t going to laugh at most of the same things that make me laugh. Come on, this is funny stuffs, boys ‘n’ goils . . . I mean, it’s classic in a black comedy kinda way.

Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2008:

9:00 AM:
I go to the Keno Lounge to see if our 50-game Keno ticket has made us rich; maybe we won’t have to return to Phoenix, Airheadzona after all. I’m stunned: we have won a whopping . . . nothing. Not one cent. Are you kidding me? We played 8 numbers for 50 consecutive games and managed to win nothing? Now that I find amazing, and I tell the woman at the Keno Lounge that surely this is so improbable that it must mean we get money for it. She doesn’t even crack a smile. But then again, I don’t think she understands English.

10:00 AM:
I drive us up to Lake Tahoe and we have breakfast at The Horizon Hotel on the South Side. Not a bad omelette. I find a couple of “Made In USA” Tahoe magnets that Nappy wants to buy for a couple of friends back home, and I buy a couple of post cards for two friends: The Aard, and “M” whom I had a small spat with a couple of weeks earlier. (I’m sorry my friend and I had a beef, but I learned a valuable lesson from it: when push comes to shove, no one takes anything I say all that seriously. I guess it’s about time I learned the truth, and I’m better off for it. There are only two people in this world who have ever truly believed in me: Jesus ‘n’ me.)

12:00 PM:
Nappy and I stroll onto a private Lake Tahoe beach and Nappy’s camera fails. (Sure, we weren’t supposed to be on a private beach, but we did keep our presence a secret. Ya know, like, “private”? Shhhhh… We’re here, but keep it under yer hat.)

1:30 PM:
For quite some time, we couldn't locate our car in the Harvey's Casino parking structure and this Airheadzonan act very nearly degenerated into a real-life Seinfeld episode.

2:00 PM:
I drive us around the beautiful Lake and let Pat Metheny’s “Letter From Home” album play through twice. Nappy’s not crazy about the tunes, but honestly, it’s the very best road soundtrack I own and since I’m doin’ the drivin’ I get the final say about what to play. But don’t tell Nappy… that’s “private” info. Shhhhh...

Lots of “Shorts-In-The-Shower” Boys on Route 89/28 goin’ around the West side of Lake Tahoe, but the world’s greatest driving music keeps me calm behind the wheel. If you haven’t hit the road with The Pat Metheny Group, you’ve never really become one with the road.

3:30 PM:
We stop for 12 ounces of reinforcements at The Cal-Neva Lodge at Crystal Bay in North Lake Tahoe. I have my first ever Blue Moon brew and it’s not too bad. Nappy has 24 ounces of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale after I agree to drive for the rest of the day if he takes the wheel all day tomorrow. Deal struck.

The Cal-Neva is a pretty small, neat, Old School casino; lots of polished wood. It sits right on the California/Nevada border and a gold and silver line representing the border is painted right down the middle of one rock-walled reception room. Back in The Good Ol’ Days, The Cal-Neva was actually owned by Frank Sinatra and lots of photographs of Ol’ Blue Eyes grace the walls of the place. While Nappy was sucking down his second 12 ounces of reinforcements, I visited the restroom where I saw scrawled on the wall of one toilet stall the message that “Frank Sinatra sh#t here.” Ha! I didn’t feel worthy of sitting there after reading that; I guess I can hold it until we get back to Reno but I’d better drive fast - the sightseeing is OVER! “Outta my way, Shorts-In-The-Shower Boys!”

6:00 PM:
Nappy and I head for the Circus Circus big top, hoping to catch the Imperial Acrobats Of China act, but they aren’t performing on Wednesdays. Hmmm… well, I’m happy for them, but if this was Communist China, they’d probably be playing with their yo-yos for our enjoyment. Either that, or the slave labor camp for them. (Those poor Communized people. No, I’m not being sarcastic! My heart truly does go out to those living under the yoke of Communism. I have long boycotted anything made in China. I simply refuse to pay money for any Chinese goods, and no, it makes no difference how goods she be!)

7:00 PM:
We wander on over to the Cal-Neva Reno Casino. I order a glass of robust red wine while Nappy does the beer thing. Setting my change on the bar, the Korean bartender says to me, “Thank you, Bro.” Now that was a first for me. But heck, why not? I mean, all men REALLY ARE Bros. Better tip my brother, I guess.

A few bar stools down from us is a man who has clearly had 18 too many. He says to the bartender: “Let me tell you something! Let me tell you something! I’m White but my friend is Black, and it doesn’t matter to us.” As soon as a man says loudly to a bartender “Let me tell you something” you KNOW he’s feelin’ no pain. And when he starts expressing his racial open-mindedness to a man who couldn’t care less about it… well, I REALLY don’t wanna be that man tomorrow morning.

When “Let-Me-Tell-You-Something” Boy got up to leave, Nappy and I watched fascinated as he walked slowly and cautiously toward the front door like a Thunderbirds marionette. When he got there, he leaned on the railing to speak to a man repairing a piece of carpeting on the steps, but I’m sure it was just a ploy to keep himself from falling to the carpeting. Every drunk loves a well-placed railing and an ear to bend.

8:00 PM:
Heading back up Virginia Street toward Circus Circus, a twenty-something year-old street bum staggers up to us and asks if we can spare forty-three cents. I had to laugh! If he’d asked for fifty cents I’d have said “No” because I don’t hand out money to bums, but when he’s got it calculated right down to the penny like that, you know that only forty-three cents stands between him and a Night Train short dog. So we give him exactly forty-three cents and he thanks us as he skips happily toward the liquor store. Gotta help a fellow American whose forty-three cents down on his high.

9:00 PM:
Napoleon and I go to The Ringside Bar at the Eldorado Hotel And Casino. I tell the bartender “We’ll have martinis, please” and he makes the mistake of asking what kind of martinis we want. Now I’m a 1991 graduate of a Los Angeles bartending school and Nappy used to tend bar at a neighborhood dive in Phoenix called The Side Door back in the early ‘90s. So, I inform Bartender Boy that there’s only one kind of martini and it’s made with gin. Bartender Boy says we should go ask them at Roxy’s Bar upstairs how many types of martinis there are. Well, faster’n you can say “Bartender on the ropes!” the Ringside Bar has been converted into The Boxing Ring itself. Nappy says, “Why don’t you make us the type of martini you would make for an old school man in the 1930s?” Bartender Boy says, “I wouldn’t know about that because I was born in the 1980s.” Well, we don’t take no lip from no young punk bartender. Look, man, a martini is gin and vermouth. If you make it with Vodka it’s just vodka and vermouth. Now, I don’t care if you want to get fancy and call that a V&V or a Double V, or something along those lines, but don’t call it a martini because a martini is made with gin!

Well, it turns out, Bartender Boy makes us pretty good martinis and we tip him well and carry them over to the Sports Book where we take up our old discussion about who is and who isn’t an athlete. Thought we’d worked this thing out fully in Flagstaff last October, but suddenly “Houston, we’ve got a problem! Yep, we’ve surely got trouble right here in River City.” See, previously, Nappy and I agreed that baseball, football, basketball and hockey players were athletes, while golfers, bowlers, runners, and race car drivers were not. So, if we could find the common denominator in athletes, we could systematically quantify what made one person an athlete while another person is not. We thought we’d completed our theory on last year’s trip to Flagstaff, but suddenly Nappy is calling a pole vaulter an athlete, which is silly, while I say swimmers are athletes but he disagrees. Oooh! We’ve got some work to do on this theory yet. After half an hour, I’ve convinced him with my superior logic that pole vaulters are not athletes, but he’s not yet ready to give that designation to swimmers.

Well, we’ll work this theory out yet, but it may take a few more vacations first. When all the details have been examined, completely debated and agreed upon, I’ll write a full Blog Bit on what makes one an athlete or not. But this sports theory is not ready for a public unveiling just yet.

9:45 PM:
We’re riding the elevator back to our Circus Circus room and two women are in the car with us. They look like bowling balls with a little black and brunette fuzz on top; if they aren’t lesbians, they’ve surely missed their calling. Nappy notices that they’re going to the 26th floor and he says, “Ya know, the higher you climb the more the alcohol affects you!” One of the bowling balls says. “Oh. Well, we don’t drink.” Nappy replies, “There was a time when I didn’t drink either . . . but then I was born.”

10:30 PM:
Nappy and I catch a couple episodes of Frasier on the boob tube and this helps to alleviate some of the bodily shaking we’ve been suffering due to our Frasier withdrawals. A week without Frasier is like a year at “The Rock.”

Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008:

8:30 AM:
Napoleon and I drive down to Carson City, Nevada’s capital. Heidi’s at the intersection of Highways 50 and 395 for breakfast. You’d think the 18-year-old blonde hostess with the rainbow star tattooed on her neck just below her ear would put me off my food, but actually, The Border Omelette with cheese, green chiles, sour cream and ranchero sauce is EXCELLENT; best omelette I’ve had in recent memory. Even a tattooed chick can’t spoil it for me!

10:00 AM:
We stroll around the town, take a look at the home (just a few blocks West of Cactus Jack’s Casino) which was used in a great Western movie. This was the rooming house where the dying John Wayne stayed with Lauren Bacall in The Shootist.

We walk past a bar called “Doppelgangers” and I explain to Nappy what a doppelganger is.

At The Carson City Nugget, a nice gentleman working at the Sports Book confirms for us that Nappy’s selection of the Buffalo Bills over the Oakland Raiders would be a sound pick in this weekend’s NFL pick-‘em contest. (One loss and Nappy’s season is over!)

We tour the State Capital building and don’t make a scene at all; nobody asks us to leave or quiet down or anything! We must be getting old.

12:33 PM:
I buy a compact disc at Borders Books And Music on Topsy Lane: “The Best Of Warren Zevon: A Quiet, Normal Life.” I’ve decided that I must have “Ain’t That Pretty At All” and “Looking For The Next Best Thing.” Hey, I got it on sale for just $7.99. AHHH-WOOO! My wallet’s still full and my hair is PERFECT . . . what’s left of it, that is.

We head on down to Genoa to visit Nevada’s oldest saloon and where the Mormon’s established the first permanent settlement in Nevada in 1851-53, sometimes called Mormon Station. It’s almost dichotomistic to drive into this tiny 1800s establishment while listening to Zevon sing about nuclear arms in the Middle East.

Entering Nevada’s oldest thirst parlor, I immediately recognize this as a fine drinking establishment by the C. M. Coolidge painting of Dogs Playing Poker which hangs just to the West of Raquel Welch’s old bra which hangs from the antlers of some old dead head. Yes, I could be comfortable here. I put a little money into the jukebox and play Two Toms And A Bob (That’s Waits, Petty and Seger). Stop! There’s no Waylon on this jukebox? What the hell kinda Saloon is this? Let’s go. Besides, that woman has no business working behind a bar. Give Genoa back to the Mormons, it was better when they ran the gig.

3:45 PM:
We’re in Virginia City, site of the fabulous Comstock Lode. I love this place. I lived here in a past life – maybe. I think I was Black then, too. Well, at any rate, I KNOW I was drunk. Nappy’s the designated driver, so he just orders 12 ounces of reinforcements at The Bucket Of Blood Saloon; I’m the designated drunk, so I demand a shot of Jim Beam and a bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon: good bourbon and lousy beer – two tastes that go great together. I tell Nappy the story about the first time Pooh was with me in Virginny City in ’86. A very funny story which was always one of my late friend Marty’s favorites: he was always insisting, “Stephen, tell that story again about you and Pooh in Virginia City!” But it’s too long to tell here, especially since I’m sober.

I decide to buy two (one black and one red) his ‘n’ her Bucket Of Blood Saloon T-shirts as a wedding gift for Pooh and Veronica who will get shackled together on November 1st. Nappy says, “Well, Pooh will probably appreciate something like that, but I don’t think Veronica’s going to like it.” I reply, “I couldn’t care less whether or not SHE likes it; it’s only Pooh who matters to me.” So I pay the bartenderette and inform her that these are wedding gifts for a friend. She says with a smirk, “Have fun at the wedding.” I say, “Thanks. I’m not going!” and some cowboy at the bar lets out a hearty laugh; he’s probably thinking: “That’s a good thing for you.”

[*Sept. 25th: $20. says that Pooh’s new wife hyphenates her last name. The official wedding invitation arrived in the mail just yesterday. Part of me wants to return it with a note saying, “Sorry, unable to attend, but I’ll pray for you.”]

9:00 PM:
We go to The Rum Bullion Bar in the Silver Legacy Casino. Nappy has a margarita and I a glass of red wine, but the young woman sitting next to me drives us out after one drink because of her incessant yapping.

9:45 PM:
We catch the Imperial Chinese Chicks again performing with the Diabolos yo-yo thangs. Again we see the act from the backside, but we’re still impressed. You know, like, impressed?

Friday, Sept. 19, 2008:

8:00 AM:
We get a two-for-one deal at the Circus Circus all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. While we’re eating, I call Nappy’s attention to an extremely large woman and I say, “Watch, they’re going to fake a kitchen fire any second now and tell us everyone has to leave at once.” Nappy says, “Don’t make fun of people.” Within minutes, he points out a man in the far booth whom he says looks just like an older version of Alfred E. Neuman. “Don’t make fun of people,” I tell him.

On the elevator ride back to our room, a couple gets in with us. She’s tattooed and stands about 5’5”, weighing maybe 240 pounds; her boyfriend is a couple of inches shorter and weighs perhaps 15 to 20 pounds less. She gets into the elevator car and stands next to me in the back. He enters after her and kind of squeezes in between his girlfriend and myself, and then he takes her hand in his. I get the distinct impression he’s trying to send me the message that he’s there to protect her should I get some crazy idea to grope her inappropriately. And really, forget groping – if I had even inadvertently brushed up against her while our elevator car was in free-fall in the shaft as we were plummeting to our deaths, it would have been “inappropriate.”

When Nappy and I exit the elevator I say to him, “Now that was an interesting couple.” Nappy says, “I ain’t sayin’ nothin’. As tempted as I am, I ain’t sayin’ nothin’!” I protest: “Hey, I didn’t say anything derogatory! All I said was ‘That’s an interesting couple.’ Interesting can mean a lot of things, so I wasn’t making fun of them!” But Nappy just reiterates: “I’m tempted, but ain’t sayin’ nothin’.” I can only laugh… hard!

Last day in Reno, Baaabeee! We take a drive up to Stead, 13 minutes north of downtown and look at some homes for sale. We later meet Larry and look at his mobile home which we can have for about twenty thousand dollars. We’re actually giving it some thought, seeing as how a drive back to Hell, Airheadzona hangs in our future.

In the early afternoon, we take a look at some fancy apartment building downtown, then we drive down Virginia Street to the Stremmel Gallery. I’m hoping to see some Wolf Kahn paintings that they once had on display there, but now it’s a James Shay exhibition. I’m looking at these paintings selling for four to nine thousand dollars and thinking: I could do this stuff with both eyes closed while in a drunken stupor with the room spinning, so what’s wrong with me? I just don’t get “The Art Game” I guess. Yeah, he’s got an identifiable style that I don’t find unappealing, but is that all it takes to make high-priced art?

4:00 PM:
We go to The Brew Brothers microbrew pub in The Eldorado Casino and I try their Big Dog IPA. Wow! One of the best beers I’ve ever tasted! Then I order a Double Down Stout but don’t care for it and give it to Nappy to drink. We make nuttin’ at video poker.

5:52 PM:
Nappy and I each order a martini from Charles at the Silver Baron Bar in the Silver Legacy Casino. It’s only because we like green olives so much. (It’s an olive thang – you wouldn’t understand.)

8:15 PM:
We catch the Chinese Chicks for the final time – and this time from the front. We both agree that it’s an even better act from this unique viewpoint. I think the one with the messed up teeth has the best bod. Not that I was comparing their bodies or anything. I mean, although that would be perfectly natural, it would also be demeaning, or sexist, or something really bad like that. (By the way, Nappy thought the girl with the messed up teeth had only the second best bod.)

I joke with Nappy that the Imperial Acrobats are probably now concerned about the Doppelganger Brothers who seem to show up everywhere when they perform.

8:45 PM:
I decide to shave for the first time on this trip – can hardly tell my old goatee from my new beard at this point.

8:55 PM:
I’m clean-shaven but the bathroom sink is now clogged for some reason. Don’t they ever clear these drains?!

9:00 PM:
We do our weight vest workout, watch a little boob tube and go to bed early in preparation for that long drive tomorrow.

Saturday, Sept. 20, 2008:

8:00 AM:
We check out of the hotel and hit the road. I play Tom Waits’ “Ol’ 55”, and “Virginia Avenue” while we’re driving South on Virginia. (Harold’s Club has been torn down.) On September 20th in 1986, my friend Andy killed himself, and I specifically brought this Waits disc along with a Mama Cass collection in order to honor his memory on this day.

It’s an all day drive South on Route 395 – one of my favorite highways because of the beautiful and varied scenery.

I ask Nappy if he’s noticed that there’s at least one lesbian working somewhere on every highway in the country. This, of course, is not a new revelation for me – I noted that interesting fact at least as early as 1986. To this, Nappy adds that there also seems to be a Chinese restaurant in every town regardless of how small the town might be. I say, “Yes. And another thing: there’s at least one psychic palm or tarot card reader in every town regardless of the population size.” So this becomes a game with us - to see who can be the first to spot the lesbian on the highway, the Chinese restaurant, and the town psychic: the three ubiquitous national images that link together the towns that make up this great country, America.

3 PM-ish:
We stop for lunch at The Mount Whitney Restaurant in Lone Pine, California. The food ain’t much but the waiter’s T-shirt tickles me: “Downtown Lone Pine: Conveniently Located In The Middle Of Nowhere.”

I take over at the wheel, and leaving Lone Pine, I see two cops sitting on either side of the highway. That’s got to represent the entire police force. They expecting trouble? We’re outta here!

We had the American Graffiti movie soundtrack playin’ and me and Del were singin’ “Little Runaway” – I was flyin’.

Route 58 East into Barstow was a b#tch! Mostly single lane, and Trucker Boy after Trucker Boy. It was so draining and discouraging to finally find an opening to pass a Trucker Boy going 15 MPH under the speed limit, only to find yourself behind another crawling Trucker Boy half a mile later. I took to calling Route 58 “Mother Trucker’s Highway.”

At one point, after a line of passenger vehicles waited about 10 miles for a passing lane in order to get around four 18-wheelers, we moved into the #1 lane but so did one of the Trucker Boys; he thought it was very important that he suddenly get around another trucker on an incline who was traveling about one mile an hour slower than he wanted to go. So our line of cars waited about 2 miles while these two trucks blocked both lanes during the very limited availability of a passing lane. Nappy and I both thought that the trucker did it on purpose to prevent cars from passing, so when we were finally able to go past that bloke, Nappy managed to signal his displeasure to the selfish Trucker Boy. And get this! Somehow he found a way to do it using only one finger! Oh, that Nappy, he’s a man of few words and simple gestures.

4:31 PM:
We roll into Barstow and check into the Astro Budget Motel – although a real fleabag of a joint, unfortunately all the riffraff in town appears to be staying next door at The Dewdrop Dead Motel and they don’t have a vacancy for us. (I guess we shoulda made a reservation.)

I tell the manager that we need peace and quiet ‘cause we gotta get some sleep. He says to me, “Ahhh, you no wully; I no went woom to teenajuh.”
“I hope not, Bro,” I said, “because I hate teenagers!”

5:30 PM:
Napoleon and I go across the street to the Vons Market and buy some cheese, one can each of The Club martini, and a small bottle of green olives. (We’re hooked like James Bond now! Martini in a can, shaken not stirred.) I also get a quart of Knudsen’s buttermilk. Man, I can’t go to California and not get me some of that Knudsen’s buttermilk because it’s just THE BEST, and you can only find it in The Golden State.

8:30 PM:
Lights out early. Hey, lucky us! The air conditioner is so loud that it cuts out all the noise from the riffraff next door. Surprisingly, we both sleep fairly well. Just say “No” to teenajuh!

Sunday, Sept. 21, 2008:

6:40 AM:
Nappy's in the shower, so wearing my brown cowboy boots and the grey sweatpants I sleep in, I walk up the hill to the Carrows Restaurant to get us some coffee. “Who’s your hero now?” I ask Nappy while I hand him a cup of coffee. “You are,” he says, “but I heard that a hero ain’t nothin’ but a sandwich.” Some gratitude.

8:00 AM:
On the road again. For breakfast, I have a mouthful of green olives and wash it down with Knudsen’s buttermilk. Yeah, I know how it sounds, but it’s actually better’n that. It really wakes up the ol’ Morning Mouth and makes it sing out, “What the--!”

It’s Sunday morning, I’m driving and The Beach Boys are singing:

The Sunday mornin’ Gospel goes good with a song …
Add some music to your day …

Your doctor knows it keeps you calm
Your preacher adds it to his psalm
So add some music to your day

I had been dreading our last leg of single-lane highway: Route 95 South from Needles to Blythe, but it actually turned out to be pretty interesting road. It’s all up and down and winding turns – kinda like driving through sand dunes on a massive beach. The Beach Boys were singing “Sail On, Sailor” and suddenly the road seemed more like being adrift on a choppy ocean; I almost got seasick in the car.

The good news was that I found Route 95 only sparsely populated and with a meagre number of Trucker Boys on it – easy to pass. Nevertheless, at one point I pulled out into the oncoming lane to pass a truck when I started to have second thoughts about the safety of the situation. Napoleon yelled at me, “Don’t p***y out now! Do it! It’s only our lives, and all I ask is that I don’t die in Arizona.” Well said. I got around the truck with plenty of room to spare, but the idea of dying in a head-on crash with a semi at 85 MPH just doesn’t appeal to me much, whether that be in Arizona OR California. And I’d prefer to go in one piece rather than in a fine mist.

Just a few miles later, a red sports car with the top down comes racing around to pass us and the driver dude hollers at me as he goes by:
“Outta my way, Shorts-In-The-Shower Boy!”
Oooh, that burned me up!

I stop for my customary Blizzard at the Dairy Queen in Blythe and let Nappy take over the wheel.

1:08 PM:
The Doobie Brothers are singing while I’m reading one of the Old Testament prophets in my Bible and we’re doing 80 on Interstate 10:

I don’t care what they may say
I don’t care what they may do
I don’t care what they may say
Jesus is just alright, Oh yeah!

Jesus, He’s my friend; Jesus, He’s my friend
He took me by the hand; Led me far from this land
Jesus, He’s my friend
[-The Doobies]

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your King is coming to you;
He is just and having Salvation,
Lowly and riding on a donkey…

He shall speak Peace to the nations;
His dominion shall be from sea to sea,
And from the River to the ends of the earth.
[-Zechariah 9]

2:45 PM:
I turn on the radio to see if we can pick up some football scores. We learn that the Bills kicked a last second field goal to beat the Raiders. Whoa! That was a close call. See if we ever put any stock in Carson-City-Nugget-Sports-Book Boy’s opinion again!

3:15 PM:
It was nonstop from Blythe to Phoenix (A.K.A. “Hell”). We dump off the Caliber at the closed car rental location.

4:15 PM:
At home, I find that a spider has set up shop in the cab of my 1989 Toyota pickup truck while I was gone. It certainly doesn’t take nature long to encroach on civilization and start reclaiming everything, does it?

I water some plants and flowers around the house who are screaming at me: “Where the #@$% have you been?! Did you know it was 105 degrees here while you were gone? Enjoy your martinis in the air conditioned casinos, Alky Boy?”

8:30 PM:
After Napoleon and I watch a few episodes of Frasier to stop our shaking, the TV’s on and I catch the last inning ever played at Yankee Stadium. It’s totally sacrilegious to tear down The House That Ruth Built. Don’t get me wrong, I HATE the Yankees, but destroying Yankee Stadium is sacrilegious – an outrage! And as Nappy says, “Another sign of the Apocalypse.”

Well, the trip is over and I’m now on the wagon again until my next vacation; no more boozin’ for Martini Boy. All in all, it wasn’t a bad trip: No speeding tickets, no flat tires, no road rage, no hangovers, no drunkenness, no arguments, no jail time, no waking up one morning in an unknown woman’s trailer parked on a beach somewhere in South Carolina, no getting lost at night in the Okefenokee Swamp while surrounded by alligators and armed with nothing but a bottle of Lowenbrau, no sleeping on a Catalina Island mountaintop in your clothes with nothing over you but a starry, indigo sky. Heck, it hardly even qualified to be called a “vacation.” Damn, I think I’m getting old.

Oh well, at least Nappy and I did get the hell out of Hell for a week. I’m glad we went - it was a worthwhile trip. But to be totally honest, more than a week later, I’m still a little miffed about missing that Highway 93 cutoff out of Kingman. But I guess there’s no point in crying over 90 minutes of missed martinis in Vegas . . . Baaabeee!

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

Friday, September 5, 2008


Hey, it occurs to me that this is the 13th entry on my “Stuffs” Blog. That’s kinda like being the 13th caller to a radio station, isn’t it? Do I win tickets to anything for this? Two tickets to see Amy Winehouse at The State Pen? Britney Spears shuckin’ an’ jivin’ at The Child Protective Services agency? Tony Bennett performing half-live nitely at The Old Folks Home? Anything at all?
How come I never win? Even the losers get lucky sometimes!
While I was in the process of gathering song lyrics for my last Blog Bit (see below), I found myself at the official Tom Waits website because I wanted to quote his song lyrics correctly, and let’s face it, it’s not always easy to hear what Waits is singing— uh, saying— uhm, well, croaking, I meant. How many times have you asked yourself “What’d he just say? Did Waits really say ‘leviticusly deuteronomous’ or was he only hawking up phlegm and expectorating into a saloon spittoon?”
And then of course there are those names – “Thumm and Giardina” – in his song “A Sight For Sore Eyes.” If I can’t sing or dance, I figure the least I can do is to accurately spell words and avoid spilling wine. So, attempting to find the “officially approved” lyrics and name spellings, I went to the official Tom Waits website. (I don’t know, but something just ain’t right about that combination – a Waits website. Isn’t that a bit like giving a website to the town drunk so he can write about “Great Ripples I Have Known”? Or, “The Thunderbird Best Buy Of The Day”? “Any Alley In Which I Park My Shopping Cart, That’s Where I Call Home”?)
Anyhow, while at the Tom-approved website, I stumbled upon an interview that - it seems - ol’ Tommy boy had conducted with . . . himself. (I wonder if the “interviewer’s people” had to make an appointment for the interview with “Tom’s people.” Anyone remember the old 1969 King Crimson song called “21st Century Schizoid Man”? Well, I guess we now know who they meant.) I read a portion of Tom’s interview with Tom and then scrolled down to the comments that folks had posted, and I gotta tell ya, it’s kinda embarrassing to see guys fawning all over Waits like a gaggle of twelve year-old girls trying to sneak into Bobby Sherman’s arms in 1970.
One fanatic there was a David H. who on May 21, 2008 at 5:33 A.M., posted the following:
“And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why Tom Waits is always The Coolest Guy in the Room.”
You can see for yourself if ya don’t believe me:
Well, my first question: What was David H. doing on a Tom Waits website at 5:33 in the morning? I mean, really! I’ll bet he hadn’t even gone to bed yet. Does this dude have a job? Does he contribute to society in any way whatsoever? Or does he just stay up all night drinking Chivas Regal and surfing the web while listening to “Pasties And A G-String” over and over? And my second question: Is Tom Waits really always the coolest guy in the room? Nah, protly not. Although certainly his chances improved after Waylon Jennings died.
The question of “Who is the coolest guy in the room?” immediately reminded me of an episode I mentioned in my 1984 book “THE LEAGUE OF SOUL CRUSADERS”. Back in the early ‘80s, the red-headed Torch Nordan definitely would have had something to say about whether or not Tom Waits was always the coolest guy in the room.
Well, I called it a book, but “The League Of Soul Crusaders” wasn’t really a book actually; it was a 1984 Christmas present for the boys (the Soul Crusaders), but some of them mistook it for a book and I didn’t have the heart to correct them. In fact, one teen-something brother of a gal I knew said that it was “the best book” he’d ever read. But seeing as how the only printed matter he had ever read and would have been able to compare it to was his collection of DC Comic Books, I didn’t let the compliment increase my hat size.
Torch read the prologue from my “Christmas present” as part of his Best Man’s speech at Pooh’s wedding in 1994 (men cried and women fainted, while little children picked their noses and wondered what that term “Bachelorhood Lost” meant). Unfortunately, the “Until death do us part” part didn’t even make it to the decade mark, leaving me just hoping that my prologue wasn’t the Kryptonite in that divorce. (Maybe I should write comic books?)
Well, please forgive me, but I’m going to share with you here that particular episode that came to my mind when I saw David H.’s remark about Tom Waits always being the coolest guy in the room.
Copyright-- uh... yeah, well, if you’re going to copy it, I hope you get it right.
This comes from chapter 27 titled The Loudest And The Coolest and here is your cast of “characters”...
Torch: The most charismatic and quick-witted person I’ve ever known.
Joshua Marx: My late friend Marty Brumer (see my Blog Bit below titled “What I Imagine And What Imagines Me”).
Napoleon: My brother. Think “The Tasmanian Devil” only without the lethargy.
Wally: Napoleon’s friend recently discharged from the Army.
Pooh: My friend Pooh.
Moody: Your black-leather-jacketed tour guide . . . Me.
Tiburon: A permanently topless, (kinda resembling the color…) white, 1964 Cadillac.
The time: The Spring of 1983. Remember, this was before cell phones. (Yes, young reader, there was such a time!)
This section in the chapter comes after Pooh has already irritated a guy who’s had a fender bender; after bloody marys and several games of pool at Jolly Jacks; after I’ve proven to Cranium that I’ve already befriended the new guard dog at the auto body shop between our house on Bay Street and our home away from home: Lucky Liquor liquor store; and after we’ve learned to our great surprise that everyone else on the street is terrified of us:
Torch had called early that evening and we told him that we would most likely end up in Westwood at Yesterdays bar and restaurant. He had a bit of work to do on Tiburon and around the house, but said that he’d try to get in touch with us later on in the night.
Joshua Marx showed up as well as a few other people and before long we had abandoned our Westwood plans, and a large get-together formed at Bay Street. There was drinking and merriment and all the usual.
“Moody told me to walk up to you and punch you as hard as I could in the nose,” Joshua said to Wally.
“Why did he tell you to do that?”
“He wanted to watch you beat me up,” Joshua admitted.

The ruckus continued on into the late hours while Napoleon, Pooh, and Wally got very drunk playing Caps.
A bottle of bourbon was purchased and everyone began doing shots.
“I refuse to drink it,” Joshua said, “if it is poured above the white line on the shot glass.” Joshua was instantly booed and became the victim of much derision.
Torch, meanwhile, had called Yesterdays in Westwood, attempting to locate us:
“Yesterdays,” the hostess said into the telephone.
“Hello, I’m trying to find some friends of mine and I believe they might be there. I was wondering if you could take a quick look around for me and see if you spot them. There will probably be four or five of them, one will be wearing a black leather jacket, and they will be the loudest and the coolest people in the place.”
“They’ll be what?” the surprised hostess asked.
“They’ll be the loudest and the coolest. ...I’d appreciate it,” Torch said.
“Hold on,” she replied and set down the phone. A minute later she came back on the line. “I’m sorry,” she said, “but I’m afraid that there isn’t anyone here who is any louder or cooler than anyone else.”
“Oh,” said Torch, “then they aren’t there. Thank you.”

Torch got in touch with us afterwards and came down to our house in Tiburon to join the party.
Now granted, if we boys HAD been at Yesterdays when Torch called for us, and if Waylon Jennings and Tom Waits were at Yesterdays as well, there might have been some question as to where the coolest guys in the room could be found . . .
Waylon and Waits would have undoubtedly asked to join us at our table, Sillies!
~ Stephen T. McCarthy