Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Vegas has been fundamentally broken

Hello from Las Vegas! I am on the 8th floor of the Prince tower (I think) of Caesar’s Palace, eating a bowl of all-bran. We got a mini-fridge and went to Von’s (the NV/CA Safeway contingent) and stocked up. If they give you shit about the mini-fridge, tell them you need it for medication. Because my doctor told me to drink more water, and that’s sort of medicine, right?

I am glad to be here, but I think in the last five years, Vegas has been fundamentally broken. Everything is gone. The Denny’s I used to go to for all of my birthdays is gone! Never mind that I couldn’t eat a single thing on the Denny’s menu, but that pisses me off. Stardust – gone. Frontier – gone. Boardwalk – gone. The strip mall where I used to use internet is now some Hawaiian bastard child. Aside from the old versus new, there’s something missing I can’t explain. I remember this short story by Joseph Heller, a memoir, about how as a kid, they used to swim in Coney Island, out to the first buoy, where you can’t even see the land anymore. Before that, there are lots of places you can stop, the first safety net and floating things that divide off the beach from the ocean, and if you want to stop, you can grab on and rest. But after the last one, there’s this long stretch where turning back will take as much energy as continuing on, and if you need to stop, you’re essentially fucked, unless your friends are there to help drag you to the buoy. And there’s a certain panic in reaching out into that unknown. It’s like flying a plane to Hawaii, when you reach that magic point in the Pacific where you need to keep going, because there is no alternate place to land if your engine goes out. And to me, Vegas had a lot of those metaphorical points, little stores or lounges or museums or t-shirt places or whatever else that broke up the stretch of nothing but places to drop lots of money or go deep into your vices. Now there are a lot of places from Tropicana to Sahara where you can get bled, and not many places anymore where you can’t. I don’t know if that makes sense, but that’s my best explanation of how the dynamic has changed.

I went to the Bodies show yesterday at the Trop. It was interesting, although I don’t know if it was $34 interesting. This is the thing with cadavers that have been plasticized and posed in various ways, with parts trimmed and dissected away. I wanted to go because see also my previous rants and descriptions of the sliced-up-in-glass cross-sections of people in the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. This was a lot different and maybe less intriguing because everything was there. And the plasticising made it look a lot more fake. There were some interesting things, like removed organs, hearts and brains and cross-sections of stroke victims and of course the smoker’s lungs, along with a plastic box where you could dispose of your cigarettes. (And at current prices, I wonder how many people really do, or if this is just a prop.)

I think the most fucked up thing for me (aside from the conjoined twin fetuses) was all of the parts and pieces I’ve broken personally in the last few years. I could rattle off every muscle and ligament in the knee in under five seconds after all of the x-rays and MRIs in the last few years. (Check it!) And to see those same muscles I’ve sprained and bones I’ve broken, cut apart and laid out for display, that was a bit weird. There was also the cirrhotic (sp?) liver on display, which brought back the memory of my friend Chuck who died last year when he drank his way through his liver. (And oddly enough, I just this second remembered a conversation with Chuck back in 1994-ish at the support center, where we were talking about how Kerouac drank his way through his liver. Weird.) Anyway, looking at other stuff, it made me wonder if in a few years, I’d be thinking back about what a kidney really looked like as I dealt with a bunch of doctors telling me that mine were going out. Or heart, or stomach, or whatever. A lifetime of fast food and psych drugs gives you a few choices there.

So yeah, I am still on my health kick, even in the city of high calories. I don’t think I have mentioned this yet, but I have lost of all of my weight in the last six weeks by going to Weight Watchers and using their new online resources for men. There’s no way I could do a “eat only blue food on tuesday” diet, because they are all a crock. Eat less, exercise more, is the basic thing, but there’s a lot of re-learning how to eat. I eat way too many carbs and fat, not enough protein. I eat way too many high-energy-density foods and not enough fiber or vegetables. I am addicted to Coke. Getting around all of these is the challenge. Being held accountable to what I eat every day helps. Doing that in Vegas – harder than I thought. I figure I can eat breakfast in the room, eat lunch every day at Subway, and then eat something sane for dinner. The hard part is that I normally would be drinking Cokes or stopping for fries or nachos or whatever all over the strip. Late nights = fourth meal. The easy part is that walking from Caesar’s to the Trop and back in 103 degree heat as fast as you can burns like an entire meals’ worth of calories. (It also gives you a mild case of heat stroke, btw.)

Gotta shower and then walk more. I’d like to swim, but I am sure the pool is horror central today. I have a minor league baseball game at 7, and I have a car, so maybe I will find some other trouble after lunch.