Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

So I turned 34 recently. I didn’t write an official story about the whole trip, but it seems like every January when I go to Las Vegas, something weird gets thrown in the mix, and the trip mutates just a little bit from the original plan. There, of course, is no real plan to start with, just the idea that I’d bring a bunch of my friends to Las Vegas in January, hopefully armed with a bunch of year-end bonus money, and then act like an idiot in some new and exciting way. This usually goes wrong in that all of my friends are cheap fucking bastards who cannot comprehend going on a plane to a place where 1) drinks are usually free 2) the hottest women in the world degrade themselves in the sluttiest outfits possible and then walk around in public and 3) hotel rooms are always under $50, and if you know me, you know how I always get a big stiffie about hotel rooms. But no, that’s horrible, I can see why you’d want to sit in the -50 degree weather and not miss the latest episode of Joey or whatever.

I should mention that my friend Bill wimped out on us for the first time in like three or four years, and that kindof sucked, but he had like two other back-to-back vacations with just a few days between them. I guess Bill is mellowing with age a bit, and he’s stuck commuting between Seattle and Indiana, so maybe fitting his six foot eight frame into a plane seat designed for a midget for six hours is something he wants to minimize. At least he had the balls to come out several other times, unlike others.

Okay, so before I left, I bought a Tablet PC. Actually, I bought two. First, I bought the one I really wanted from HP, along with some memory and an extended warranty, through their online store. There was a snowball’s chance in hell I would get the unit before I left town, but I resigned to the fact that I’d probably just get it while I was gone and have a new toy to play with when I returned. I then checked the HP web site about four times a day and called them daily to try to get a tracking number or updated shipping info, or whatever other info I could score on my far too expensive new toy.

Of course, I got fucked. They kept back-ordering the computer, and the day before I was due to go to Vegas, they updated my order to an estimated ship date of the end of February or something. I called HP, told them to lick my balls, and give me my damn money back. One small issue was that I already got a 512 Meg memory expansion in the mail, and they also charged my credit card for that extended warranty. I still haven’t seen the refund on the warranty, even though I’ve called them like 19 times and told them to just take the cock out of their mouth and press the three buttons on their terminal that will debit the $200-some bucks back on my card, but that never seems to work. Oh, by the way, fuck HP. Don’t buy a computer from them.

I went to CompUSA and immediately bought a Toshiba Portege (there are gay accent marks on them, but I’m not going to go all stupid and try to find out how to put them on there) and it ended up being cheaper and with more stuff. It’s a convertible laptop, meaning the top screen swivels and then closes on top of the keyboard, so it looks like a writing tablet or one of those weird computers that UPS dudes have, except bigger and not brown. The 12″ screen (1400×1050 native) has a writing digitizer built in, which is basically one of those Wacom tablets but see-through, embedded in the screen. So you can write and draw and use the special pen like a mouse. It’s very nifty.

I am still getting used to the whole idea of a Tablet PC, but it’s a cool concept. I can sit on the couch with the wireless connection and a good battery and browse the web or take notes or look shit up on IMDB or whatever else. It’s excellent for sitting in bed. The writing uses a very good handwriting recognition thing for input into any program, or you can use programs like OneNote to sketch away any old crap in the ink format, which is nice for brainstorming or sketches or whatever. I have some other specialized programs that I downloaded, like a version of the New York Times crossword puzzle that you can fill in with the pen. It’s very cool. I also got an external DVD player and CD burner, which is a bit more awkward than having a built-in, but then the whole computer only weighs like 4 pounds.

I don’t really feel like mentioning a whole blow-by-blow of the trip, because it’s not like we did tons of action-packed stuff every day. It started as me and Lon (a friend I met from Bill on previous trips) and then the next day, Jaime (a friend of Lon’s) met up with us. For the weekend, an old female friend of Lon and Jaime’s came out for the weekend. This was a bit odd for me in that I’m not super-duper best buddies with any of these people. I mean, I don’t dislike any of them, but I’ve known Bill for like 15 years or something. I was in his wedding (okay, I got his wedding crashed by the cops for being a drunken idiot, drinking tap beer out of giant iced tea pitchers, and running around building like a crazed Viking on a pillaging conquest, inviting everyone who even walked by to come in with me and get fucked up) and he got me a job in Seattle and everything. I’ve spent very limited time with Lon and even less with Jaime, so I vaguely feared that at some point, there would be some kind of long, uncomfortable silence that passes without event when you’re around people you’ve known for decades, but hangs in the air like a soggy discount beer fart when you’ve only known someone through a dozen emails and a trip or two.

When I got to Vegas and met up with Lon, we got to the cab stand and found a beautiful seventy-degree Las Vegas around us. SEVENTY. It was about -9 when I left New York. Aside from deploying to Vietnam from Alaska or something, you don’t get much more change in climate. Our cab driver was a retired rancher who knew tons of stuff about horses and guns and cowboys and everything else that makes you want to talk to Las Vegas cab drivers constantly and maybe covertly videotape it for some kind of TV show or book project. And when we got to the Tropicana (we originally had the Boardwalk all settled in, but at the last second Lon saw some kind of deal and jumped on it), we had the best set of rooms in the tower at the front of the hotel. The last two times I stayed there, they gave me shitty rooms in the towers on the back stretch, about a twenty mile walk from the strip, with a scenic view of the trash compacting facilities. This time, our windows looked out onto the strip, we didn’t have mirrors on the ceiling, blood stains on the carpet, or vibrating beds, but we did score our own fridges and a room safe that didn’t involve stuffing a dollar of quarters in a slot before you locked it.

I think you could sum up the trip by saying we ate, we drank, we went to comedy clubs, and Lon tried on 863 pairs of shoes. I got all of my hair cut off for about three times what I usually pay, but the stylist was pretty cool and told me a lot of crazy stories about people that got kicked out of casinos and ran to the beauty salon to get a haircut and disguise their shit. We went to the Apple store to harass the help, and ran into this Mac evangelist with one eye. I almost understand one mouse button, but the one eye thing sort of freaked me out, especially as he’s rambling on about how the new iPod is so damn great and the glass eye is wandering over to the left or whatever.

Jaime got a rental car from Hertz because his company has some kind of gold card where he can always get one for like $30 a day or something, no matter what. While Lon and Jaime went to the airport to get the car and then find a liquor store, I sat around and watched the highly viral “I love the 90s” TV show on VH1. Okay, normally I would make fun of this shit to no end, and I will – I mean, these people are doing a tribute to the long-lost years of like 20 minutes ago. But they’re really funny, and it’s weird how much of the stuff I remember, and scary how much I forgot. I mean, the early 90s I remember some things, but I didn’t have a TV in college and I didn’t tune in to 90210 or Melrose or whatever. And as far as the late 90s, that’s the stuff that depresses me. Because I remember very vividly years like 1996 and 1997 like they were yesterday, because in my mind, THEY WERE YESTERDAY. It was only a little bit ago that I was in Seattle and dating that-Seattle-chick and driving around that Ford Escort from Evergreen Ford and everything else. And looking back, that was a nice, comfortable, post-college, corporate, I-almost-had-my-shit-together era. And in some ways, I really miss it. And to think that it’s such ancient history that a TV show is being made about it as if it was the 14th century or something is really creepy. But I watched all of them, for hours, like I was watching a video of a BASE jumper slamming his nuts into a wall, over and over and over.

I gambled a dollar while waiting for a show, and ended up winning five dollars. So by percentages, I ruled. Otherwise, I didn’t feel like gambling. I did drink a fair amount, although Lon ended up buying Jack Daniels and some kind of fruity raspberry Bacardi, which are two things I can’t really stomach. I didn’t entirely lose my shit at any point like I did in 2003, although I got close a few times. At one point, I was so pissed off at everyone that I got up out of the restaurant, went to an ATM, took out $500, and vowed to drink all of it and then go on a complete fucking rampage, but by the time I got back to the table, our food had arrived, and I forgot all about it.

The only other thing of humor was that Lon and Jaime got talked into going to a timeshare presentation when we were shopping at the Venetian. I mean, they got a ton of coupons and swag and crap and everyone was really nice to them when they had to sit through the three-hour, high-pressure sales thing, but I thought it was sort of amateur-league. I mean, I ignore people like that as if they didn’t even exist. I’ve got the Greenpeace idiots and the children’s fund people and the moonies and the Scientologists and the copy shops with their color printing price fliers, and I can pass through them like a gallon of orange juice goes through an empty stomach. So I got a chuckle when they actually stopped to listen to them.

Anyway, four days of wonderful weather and good food and no fucking ingrates laying on their car horn like it was directly hooked up to their prostate, and not a single person telling me how Bush’s inaugaration had to do with Hitler or something, and then I return to spend two hours stuck on the runway, an hour waiting on my bags, and an hour and a half in subzero weather waiting for a god damned cab home with no gloves or hat. By the time I got home to my shithole apartment, I almost felt grateful, except for the part about having to be at work in like seven hours.

So that’s that. How are you?