Faith, hope, & Charity

Dear Katie. The Circle is Complete. I went to Vegas. After reading that copy of Fear And Loathing you lent me all those years ago, outside Hooters at the top of the steps in Birmingham where I once saw Tony Blair and mused that I could so easily shoot him and save the world, well, I went, and it was just as I thought, but then a whole load more. I didn't take a load of drugs, because I grew out of that, but I did drink a lot, and I did gamble, for my sins. It looks just like Steadman's drawings, even now, fourty years after the book was written. Can you believe that place is only sixty odd years old? How messed up is that? How crazy are we, we people, that we just, like, Build a city of vice in the middle of the goshdarned desert, just because we desire, just because we can?

Well, we did, and I went. Jeff took me, and his Mam, who lives there, and is a Grand Hustler, sorted us free rooms at the top of this crazed hotel, goliath windows overlooking the strip. I took some photos, but we left the camera. Maybe it'll come back and I can show you. Maybe not. Strangely, my memory is relatively vivid, despite all the booze, all the booze, all over those two days and nights I tore up that place, with my new friends, with my wonderment. I gambled, which I never do, and I left with more money than I entered with, so I shall leave it at that, I think. Gambling is weird, but it was fun, all babysmall like that, in the midst of all that confusing, swirling carpet, all the lights, all the noise, the waitresses with no clothes on, the old ladies sat at slot machines, faces veering between grim determination and brief joy, the old men who tip so hard, so hopeful for free sex, so happily and wilfully ignorant that nothing is free in Vegas, let alone the rest of the world, and least of all sex.

Ho ho, ho ho. Jeff sat down at the Wheel Of Fortune and won $500 on his third spin, then taught me blackjack, and I won $200. We drank "free" drinks, and we ran about in circles, because these casinos are designed to make one do just that, and I saw a bunch of ladies who looked like 4 Non Blondes covering Sweet Child Of Mine. Then we hooked up with his brother Ray, who grafts out there in real estate, which is all you can do really, save croupier and strip. The place is expanding like a great cancer, and I wonder when the bubble will burst. When the oil runs out, Vegas is Fucked. Its in the middle of the desert! Man cannot live on chips and G-strings alone, much as he might like to.

Anyway. Ray took us to a restaurant inside a casino, as everything is in Vegas, and we had the best steak I ever had, that was like steak pudding or something, and some complimentary oysters and caviar, which was LOVELY, and I always assumed I'd hate that shit. Reminded me of being a baban in Wales by the sea. Met some of Ray's peoples - a dude who just got back from Iraq and his merrily deranged wife. He was in Haiti for 4 years, then Iraq for a year, and said nothing in the world compares to the horror he saw go down there. He seemed relatively sorted, but why shouldn't he? He reminded me a little of my brother Marek. He kept it in.

I met a safe English croupier at our next spot, won $200 at blackjack and pissed myself at the decapitated statue they have of Lenin in the foyer. It was 20 feet tall and had white paint dribbling down its neck and torso. It was violent, and huge, and reeked of vanity.

That night, or that morning - time becomes an irrelevance in Vegas - we had a party in our hotel rooms with some safe peoples, and I tattooed everybody with Sharpies and Jeff crashed into baby Jeff sleep, so Charity took me out on the town, as t'were, and we went to restaurants and clubs and bars and casinos and fields and roads and all manner of glittery weirdness. It was ace.

I met Charity in the most unlikely, but perhaps the most likely of places - Sapphire, the self styled "world's largest strip joint", a neon blue monolith to man's selfishness and greed out amongst the dust and the glitter. One of the first things she said to me was, "segregation is the beginning of genocide." I know because it says so in the "Vegas" text file in my Blackberry. Charity did missionary work in Africa, but the attitudes of some of the participants upset and disillusioned her, so now she paints, and is saving up to move away from the dust and open a gallery. We got kicked out of a casino because I didn't have an ID, we got kicked out of The Rainbow for throwing olives at a dartboard, we grappled with attempting-rapists, we danced (which I really don't do enough. I love walzing, it is dope, even if I am not as smooth at it as I might be), cab hopped, went back to that Sapphire and met all Charity's friends, danced more, won money, drank untold quantities of Jagermeister, and wound down chatting to locals and playing pool at The Double Down bar just outside Vegas, which reminded me a little of that place in From Dusk Till Dawn. It had the greatest punk jukebox in the world, from which blared Sham 69 and 999 and X-Ray Spexx and - get this - The Parkinsons! No shit! I was amazed, and probably babbled about it a bit much. But still. It was the perfect end to a bizarre weekend, and Jeff showed up with my crap at 10 or whatever, and I bid Charity a fond farewell and slept all the way back to LA, where I awoke and drifted dreamily through the end of my session with Danny.

I couldn't sleep on the plane back to New York, but I closed my eyes and thought a bit. Cleverly, Jeff forgot his keys, so we spent a while sat outside his apartment on Bleeker opposite the hidden mission, where poor folks qued for coffee, and the sun turned the sky from dirty tar, to ash, to saltwater, as a dumpster rumbled slitherishly along the pavement, until James came round with the spares and let us in.

And then.

I slept.