Thursday, October 1, 2009

Going to Vegas: Los Angeles 1985

The first time I ever went to Las Vegas was about a year or so earlier than 1985, when I left Santa Fe. That time, Bill (IA Bill, not MT Bill or FL Bill or other Bills) came from Des Moines to visit and we went to the Grand Canyon, Utah and Vegas before I went back to Iowa with him. Then, in L.A., Mike (Chicago Mike) and I took a drive out to Vegas for a wild weekend. (I even went once, later, with this girl I was dating in L.A.) But the time I'm thinking of was when there was a group of us from Burbank and we planned to go.
This was a weekend when nothing was going on. Mike and I were hanging with a disparate group of friends we had mainly met at Charliebar in Burbank (and then the Pago Pago after Charliebar went out of business). This group all lived in Burbank and Mike and I lived down the boulevard in North Hollywood. I believe it was Jeff, Bob and Roy who had planned to go.
It was Saturday and we met at the bar and all got into the big red work van (The Red Sex Oven, Mike and I called it for reasons I doubt I'll explain) to head out. It was one of those lazy, hot smoggy summer days in L.A., when life was slow and boring and we were probably hungover. Anyway, we all gathered in the van and set off. Now, Jeff was younger than me (and I was young) but had a toddler son and a common-law wife--except at that time, I believe they'd split up. Bob was a co-owner of the defunct Charliebar, now a sometimes tile-setter and alcoholic, who had a wife and two teen kids. Roy was an old man--in his sixties, a drinker (alcoholic) who worked whatever jobs he could for cash. They were all very nice people and we all got along well. But Roy, as we drove out of L.A., was insistent that we stop in "Canyon Country" so he could visit some old friends. Roy, you see, did not own a vehicle or even drive--he rode a bicycle around Burbank. I guess he used to live in Canyon Country and this was his chance to get back there. So--we all liked Roy--we agreed to stop.
It was a little out of the way. I'd been all over the counties working, so Canyon Country didn't look too different from anywhere else outside of L.A, really. But he directed us to a little hole-in-the-wall bar (where else? a bar) where he said his friends would be. We all went in with him. And sure enough, people in the bar knew him. They called him Pops, if I remember right. The woman bartender was especially pleased to see him: "Pops! Where have you been?"
Roy was happy as a pearl-less oyster.
He talked to quite a few people. We talked to them a little. We drank beer and played some pool (it was a bar, after all). We let Roy have his good time. Then, a few hours later, we were on the road again.
Roy fell asleep.
And it wasn't long before the small euphoria of beer and pool, of pleasing Roy, ran out. Even the excitement of going to Vegas dwindled down to where it seemed more like a chore than an adventure. The skies were hazy, the landscape brown desert, the highway boring. So, we mumbled a bit to each other, hemmed and hawed, then turned around. Headed back. Roy--who was still asleep--was not in on this decision.
I forget exactly what we did next, but I think we decided to stop somewhere, at least, to salvage the idea that we were on a trip. And so we pulled off to this place called Pyramid Lake. But Pyramid Lake was more like a reservoir. It was some flat dirty body of water propped up between bald brown hills--was a place for bass fishing mainly--not scenic at all. But when we stopped, Roy woke up.
Roy was pissed.
"Where are we? This isn't Vegas! Why aren't we going to Vegas?"
We explained we'd all changed our minds, but he was having none of it. But, it was late afternoon now. We were groggy and bored. We'd made Roy happy, now we'd made him unhappy. But, it was sort of his fault for making us go to Canyon Country to begin with.
Really though, our heart wasn't in that Vegas trip. It was one of those ideas that sound good, but when it comes time to execute, we lost the thread of that idea. The time and money. The long drive there. The long drive back and then back to work. No thanks.
So, we went back to L.A.
It wasn't long after that that the work dried up and I went to Chicago for a spell, then back to Des Moines, then came back out to L.A. And when I got back, Roy was gone. No one had seen him much. Then, no one had seen him at all . . . Maybe he tried to come back--like he did in Canyon Country--come back to Charliebar on Olive Avenue, but Charliebar was closed. maybe he even looked for us in the Pago Pago, but we weren't always there all the time. And I left L.A. for good by late August.
Anyway, I never saw Roy again.
Maybe he went to Vegas.

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