Sunday, October 17, 2004

October 15, 2004
Vegas is Kingman with money. If someone approached a 1950's style travelling carnival and the Kingman city council and said, "Here's $2 billion dollars, go build something groovy," Las Vegas, Nevada is what you'd get.

I have a long history with Vegas. Vegas is where we arrived on the train from Iowa in 1954. Vegas is where we went for Luther League retreats. Vegas is where my parents went for fun (I spent many an hour sitting in the Fremont "waiting room," just off the casino, people watching). Vegas is where I went to see the dermatologist. Vegas is where I bought my drums (Ludwigs, zebra toms) and took drum lessons, Vegas is where I twisted on the same stage with Chubby Checker (at the Sahara,1962), and immediately after the show Rick Ridenour and I got in a cab and asked the cabbie to set us up with "two babes" and he looked in the rear view mirror at us sitting there in our matching-short-sleeved-white shirts, narrow ties and matching flattops (we were both 15) and said, "No, thanks." He dropped us off at Ripley's Believe It Or Not where they had bumper cars (not exactly the kind of ride we had in mind but, hey, it was definitely cheaper and the rides lasted much longer). Vegas is where I saw the Beatles (1964). Vegas is where we cruised (from the Blue Onion to the Union Pacific Train Station and back. Repeat all night).

You might think with all of that history I would have an affinity for Vegas, but I can't stand the place. Well, that's not exactly true. Whenever I first get there, it's very exciting in a testosterone, glandy store kind of way (NUDE BULL RIDING! • COLD BEER & DIRTY GIRLS!! • GIRLS OF YOUR CHOICE DIRECT TO YOU IN 15 MIN.! • 99 CENT MARGARITAS!!!) which, if you wear a cowboy hat is kind of major groovy. For about six hours. And then it starts to wear on me and after about the 12th hour I'm actually thinking, “You know, if Al Quaida used a dirty bomb on the Strip, it wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing.”

Kathy and I got to Vegas at four P.M on Thursday. I was excited. We were attending our first Western History Association Conference at the Riviera Hotel & Casino. I was on a round table discussion for Friday and we were booked for three nights. Little did I know, the stage was set, the battleground was being prepped for one of the most vicious, petty and ridiculous showdowns in all of history. Or, at least, history conferences

"The world is a madhouse, so it’s only right that it is patrolled by armed idiots."
—Brendan Behan{

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