December 15, 2006

December 2006, Vol. 5, Issue 12

1. 12 by Paul McGuire
"Hey, let's go to ten hash bars today." Nicky shrugged her shoulders and motioned, "OK." I didn't think we'd actually do it and when the night was over, we'd go to twelve in all. Twelve hash bars in twelve hours? I'm glad I did that because records are meant to be broken... More

2. Zippers Come Undone in Vegas by Grubby
At the club, Maya chatted me up. She said she'd moved from Fremont, CA, and has been living with her mother for three weeks. She's been working at Rhino for half that. I believed all of it... More

3. Fugue in Geek Minor By Falstaff
I had torn off down to New Orleans for Fall Break, gotten drunk at Wet Willie's, pissed in a public park under a streetlight and gotten front row seats at Big Daddy's Topless & Bottomless, where a Eurasian chick with a black pageboy cut and three tattoos did things to Jason's hat that made him swear he would never do laundry again... More

4. The Man John Never Knew by Nick Cantwell
John spent all day with one eye on the latest share prices, and his other eye fixed on the neighbourhood - and when his job became second nature to him, it was this other eye that he found much more captivating... More

5. Grounded by Sean A. Donahue
I just wanted to rest. But Dad would have none of it, from the yard work being done to taking me out to lunch, we did everything but sleep... More

What a Long Strange Trip It's Been...

From the Editor's Laptop:

Welcome back to another issue of Truckin'. The Decemberand final issue of 2006 features the return of Grubby with a hilarious gem about a recent trip to Las Vegas. Fellow bloggers Sean A. Donahue and Falstaff are back. I Also penned 12, which is a recap of twelve different hashbars that I visted one day in Amsterdam. And I'm happy to introduce a new writer from the mix, Nick Cantwell from London.

I ask that if you like these stories, then please do me and the rest of the writers a huge favor: Tell your friends about your favorite stories. It takes a few seconds to pass along the URL. I certainly appreciate your support. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you know anyone who is interested in being added to the mailing list.

Thanks to everyone who took a leap of faith with me this month and submitted their bloodwork. I'm extremely lucky to share the same space with talented scribes. I always say that the other contributing authors inspire me, because it's true. You guys write for free and if I could pay you, I would. Your time and effort is worth more money than I can ever afford to pay.

Thanks again. I am grateful that you wasted your time with Truckin'. Until next time.


"Do illiterate people get the full effect of alphabet soup?" - George Carlin


By Paul McGuire © 2006

I didn't sleep much the night before. I spent those insomnia-driven hours between 4 and 6 AM playing online poker and writing from the desk in our room at The Victoria. I eventually passed out around sunrise, which is, like, close to 8 AM in Holland.

I woke up starving a few hours later after smoking myself sober for the first time in days. Nicky and I headed out to Dam Square to take part in what had become our daily ritual. We bought kaas sandwiches on baguettes and a chocolate croissant at the French bakery and sat on benches in Dam Square warding off the attacks of hungry pigeons and watched all the other tourists mingling around. Like everything European, even the pigeons in Amsterdam seemed way more sophisticated and cooler than their American counterparts.

We had no set plan for that Thursday. We spent the better part of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday afternoons around the Southern Canal belt over by the museums and Leiseplein Square. We had already visited the main attractions: the Heineken Brewery, the Rijks Museum, and the Van Gogh Museum and were not interested in the Anne Frank House, which I had seen twice before. That left the entire day free... and the best activity I could come up with was, "Hey, let's go to ten hash bars today."

Nicky shrugged her shoulders and motioned, "OK."

I didn't think we'd actually do it and when the night was over, we'd go to twelve in all. Twelve hash bars in twelve hours? I'm glad I did that because records are meant to be broken. The intent of the plan was to visit different coffee shops that we skipped on this trip or that I had never been to before.

12:15 PM Abraxas

One of those new places was Abraxas, located just steps away from Dam Square. I went there on my second trip to Amsterdam and got lost trying to find it after that. And it's not easy to find, hidden off a twisting alley on Jonge Roelensteeg Street which was tough to pin point even with the help of Google's maps.

Maybe it was because I was dead sober or perhaps it was luck, but we found Abraxas and walked inside as the sliding glass doors opened in front of us and the aroma of pungent marijuana instantly greeted me.

Abraxas is a two story coffee shop that consists of several smaller themed rooms. The first room that you walk into is a lounge area with the weed counter close by. I purchased one gram of the Kushage for 10 euros while Nicky went into the next room to buy drinks at the bar. The bar room also had a few computers so it doubled as an internet cafe.

After Nicky paid for our drinks (coffee and hot chocolate), we wandered up one of two sets of spiral staircases that were located on opposite ends of Abraxas. We settled on the Turkish themed room with colorful couches and benches.

When you walk into a hash bar in Amsterdam, you'll almost always meet other American potheads. Not that time. The room was filled with Europeans getting hammered. The Greek guys next to us rolled a joint the size of John Holmes' crank. They never finished it. The table across from us had two Swedish girls who couldn't stop giggling the entire time. And a Euro-wookie with newly formed dreads sat by himself while he rolled two joints mixed with tobacco, hashish, and weed.

1:20 PM Grey Area

Our second stop was the Grey Area, which had become one of my favorite coffee shops because of their house strain called Grey Haze. That instance I wanted to try the Recon, which sold for 12 euros for one gram compared to 10 euros for the Grey Haze. The Recon is a hybrid of the L.A. Confidential Strain and something else (I forgot the name). It had a sweet taste and a stoney high, but it wasn't as good as Grey Haze.

During our previous visits to Grey Area, I had to stand while Nicky took the only remaining stool by the wall of stickers. More good luck came our way when the corner table opened up. There were only three tables in the tiny hash bar. The entire operation could fit inside the bathroom in one of the suites at the Bellagio.

Two American wookies sat at the table next to us. One was a young guy and the other was a little older and looked like Lou Reed circa 1977, except with dreads. They kept taking bong hits. Since Grey Area is owned by Americans, several glass bongs were on hand for bong-centric Americans.

The other table opened up and a fat guy from Staten Island and his wife lumbered in. He looked like an extra from The Sopranos. Imagine Big Pussy walking into a hash bar in Amsterdam, with some bling dangling off his neck and wearing a black leather jacket. He bought something at the counter and packed a bowl in one of the bongs. He took two quick hits before he got up and brought the bong back to the counter with about 75% left of that bowl still fresh and green. Then he left.

We stayed at Grey Area a long time because we had prime seats. When we finally left, we wandered through the quaint and quiet Jordaan neighborhood, parts of which reminded me of the West Village in NYC. Those empty streets were free of tourists and I got a glimpse of the subtler and serene side of Amsterdam. I snapped several pics of houseboats, trees, and slanty buildings before I glimpsed at the map to navigate our way back towards Central Station.

2:30 PM Pink Floyd

We turned a corner and stood right in front of the Pink Floyd. My shortcut worked thanks to the accurate street map I bought last year. We had plenty of weed to smoke but were almost out of hash. The Pink Floyd was the home my favorite hash... Umma Gumma. Ironically, it was the only Pink Floyd album that I never bought on vinyl, cassette tape, CD, or on iTunes.

With Umma Gumma in hand, we went up to the third story. We visited Pink Floyd everyday and always hung out downstairs. I opted for the third floor to mix things up. The second floor overlooked the bar downstairs and had a couple of huge couches and an area with a computer station. The third floor consisted of six tables and two couches by the windows. We snapped more photos of the street. I took what ended up being my favorite picture of the entire trip and one of the Top 10 photographs in my life.

What's great about it is that the average person will think it's ordinary and nothing special... which is why I love it even more.

We continued our marathon game of Chinese Poker and I fell behind early when Nicky scooped two hands in a row and took a 8-1 lead. I came from behind to lose the session by only one point as we smoked tough and dented the hunk of Umma Gumma that I had bought an hour earlier.

3:50 PM Doors

The Doors was one of those places we skipped every time we walked by. I did not intend on going but when we saw it on the corner, Nicky said, "Hey, let's stop by there."

The Doors reminded me of a dive bar in Seattle with hardwood floors and an actual bar that is almost a hundred years old. A group of Brits sat at the big table in the front sipping on beers and cokes while we sat down at two empty spaces at the end of the bar. We didn't buy any smoke there and settled upon two pints of Heineken for 7 euros.

An old blackboard behind the bar doubled as a menu. In pink and blue chalk, they listed all the drinks and their prices. I chuckled when I saw, "Whiskey (Good) 3.50" and "Whiskey (Better) 4.00." Yeah, for 3.50 you can get Jack Daniels and for fifty cents more you can get Johnnie Walker. They did have a tap of SoCo ready for AlCantHang's next arrival.

Nicky was fascinated with MTV that played on the small screen above the bar. She watched an entire episode of Yo Momma with Dutch sub titles while I rolled a joint mixed with Umma that we smoked at 4:20.

4:30 PM Pablow Picasso

We got our friend Pablo a souvenir at Pablow Picasso. And no... it was not hash or weed. Picasso was another one of those hash bars we'd walked past a dozen times and never went inside. I'm glad we did because I enjoyed the relaxed vibe of the place.

The Dutch guy who worked the counter wore a ruffled purple shirt ala Austin Powers. He bowed to us before he took our order. I wanted the house bud, Picasso, but they were virtually out of it... with only some shake remaining. That was fine since I wanted to roll joints. We wandered up to the second floor which had several tables with chess and backgammon boards embedded into the tables.

I bought enough shake to roll two fatties. A middle-aged French couple sat at the table next to us and they smoked hash while we played another round of Chinese Poker. Someone's dog ran up the stairs and hung out by our table for a while and would disappear and reappear sometime after.

A long-haired American at an adjacent table and talked shit about politics. The other American at the table didn't care and seemed like he was just placating the guy who ranted on and on about the latest election results. He then proceeded to tell the guy about his idea for a comic book involving demons and ghost hunters. That's when I guessed correctly that he was older than me, living in his mother's basement, and flew to Amsterdam to get high and bang a few hookers during his vacation.

7:05 PM 420 Cafe

With five hash bars out of the way, we took an hour off to find food. After our break (I ate fries with Dutch mayo and a half baguette sandwich), we went right to Nicky's favorite spot, the 420 Cafe. They serve liquor there and have SoCo. The 420 Cafe is an Amstel bar which means no Heineken. It doesn't matter which beer they have... the Heineken and Amstel out of the tap taste much better overseas.

My favorite hot Dutch bartender worked behind the bar as we walked past her on our way to the back counter to buy one gram of the NYC Super Diesel for 10 euros. I went to the bar and bought a round of Amstels while Nicky waited for a vaporized balloon, a cool contraption where they hook up a big baggie to a vaporizer. All the smoke inflates the balloon and you inhale from the end of it. Because it was vaporized, the smoke is much purer and you get higher than usual.

A group of American kids sat at the table in the back and they talked about how much better the coffee is in Europe. The stuff we'd get for 1.50 euros in hash bars was better than the stuff you get at Starbucks.

7:45 PM Dampkring

The Dampkring was always a popular hash bar that grew even more famous after Soderberg shot a portion of Ocean's Twelve inside which included the hilarious scene with George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon. Because of the new found popularity, the place was swamped.

We couldn't find a seat and stood in the middle of the Dampkring. I bought another gram of Buddha's Sister which only cost me 9 Euros. Aside from the Grey Haze and NYC Diesel, my other favorite strain was Buddha's Sister. We smoked a bowl in the middle of the bar while several flat screen TV's played the Dampkring Scene from Ocean's Twelve on a loop.

8:10 PM Bulldog

We quickly left the Dampkring because of lack of seats although I wanted to stay. We headed back to the Bulldog to play more Chinese Poker. A group of older Americans sat next to us. Two of them were a forty-something married couple who had not smoked up since 1989. I listened to parts of their conversation and figured out that she was a college professor of sorts. The hash hit her hard and she kept singing along to the music playing in the background.

"Oh my, Prince! I haven't heard Raspberry Beret in years!" she screamed.

We spent over an hour at the Bulldog before we exited and eyed Haagen Dazs, which is actually not a European ice cream like you think. It was invented by a guy from the Bronx in 1961 and they employed foreign branding tactics to market the high end ice cream. Sorry for that odd tangent... I ordered two scoops of Belgium chocolate and I nearly had an orgasm by the second bite. Get the Belgium chocolate overseas. You won't be disappointed.

We sat in front of the ice cream shop and watched the late night scene unfold before we walked around Leiseplein for a bit. We almost went into a bar with live music, but the fiddle sounds scared Nicky.

9:45 PM Rokerij

Rokerij is a popular hash bar chain. I went once and but hadn't been back to the main one since because I couldn't find it. A newer franchise sat next to the Doors but we skipped it. We stumbled upon the original hash bar on Leidsestraat Street by sheer accident and were happy we did.

The weed counter is the first thing you see when you walk inside the place designed to look like a temple out of the far east. I bought one gram of Sour Diesel. Showcase gets that stuff in Hollyweird from his medicinal marijuana source and it's a high quality buzz. We eventually found seats at the bar and I ordered more beer while I rolled a joint.

The bar is long and dark with a DJ mixing delicious tunes in the back room. The floor is covered in mosaic tiles with Hindu and Nepali artwork adorning all the walls. There are tiny stools to sit on near the floor and tables with chairs along the wall that runs parallel to the bar.

The Rokerij was the party place out of all the hash bars we visited that night and packed with travelers, tourists, locals, and wookies. Maybe I was super wasted at that point, but with all the random and odd characters mingling around, the Rokerij reminded me of the Cantina Bar in Star Wars IV. The only thing missing was Greedo's dead body slumped on a table in the corner.

Because the scene at Rokerij was hopping, we stayed a little longer. Plus they played the best music (aside form Pink Floyd when they actually played Pink Floyd) and it was difficult to leave the warmth of the place. I joked around with Nicky that some of the bands that we like to see such as Particle, STS9, and Lotus are bands trying to replicate those same beats using a live band instead of a DJ with a mixing table.

11:15 PM La Canna

The hoods had invaded La Canna and every night they take over the top floor of the three story coffee shop. There are pool tables up there and the entire place was packed with lots of Dutch immigrants from West Africa. We weren't getting a good vibe from the place and got away with sitting down and not ordering any drinks. La Canna is more pricey than the rest of the places we hung out at.

We didn't buy any bud there either since the smallest amount you could buy was 20 euros worth. We smoked the rest of the Buddha's Sister and the Umma Gumma before we made a quick exit. We saw one guy who was getting in a fight in front of La Canna on our way out.

11:35 PM Kroon

With ten hash bars in the record books, we wandered into Kroon, the first coffee shop we visited upon our arrival almost a week earlier. We had not been back since and the stoned cat still slept on the counter.

I bought 1.4 grams of AK-47 for 14 euros and we rolled a couple of joints. By that time, we were both exhausted from all the walking and smoking and our colorful conversations died down to next to nothing as we listened to the gangster rap that blasted on the speakers.

12:05 AM Kadinsky

The twelfth and final hash bar ended up being a tiny coffee shop called Kadinsky located in an alley off of Dam Square. I wanted to go because it's named after one of my favorite painters, Kandinsky. Their sister store is a much larger bar just across the alley. We sat in one of the smallest hash bars in Amsterdam. Yes, there was an place actually smaller than the Grey Area.

I bought the Kadinsky Special which was one gram for 7.20 euros. I rolled up a joint and we were the only people inside. We sat up front by the window and watched the people walking by in the alley.

By the time we stumbled out of Kadinsky, it was way past midnight. I suggested more hash bars and Nicky insisted that she was done for the night. On our way back to the Victoria Hotel, I stopped off at McDonald's and ate a McBacon which cost only 2 Euros. McBacons are the perfect late night Euro-stoner food.

Paul McGuire is a writer from New York City.

Fugue in Geek Minor

By Falstaff © 2006

I was 18 years old and full of my own independence. Jason, Steve and I had torn off down to New Orleans for Fall Break, gotten drunk at Wet Willie's, pissed in a public park under a streetlight and gotten front row seats at Big Daddy's Topless & Bottomless, where a Eurasian chick with a black pageboy cut and three tattoos did things to Jason's hat that made him swear he would never do laundry again. So when the chance popped off to go to Dragon Con that year, I was totally there.

I'd never done a major Con before, and Dragon Con was pretty damn major. I found out that Todd McFarlane was going to be there, so I packed up my Spiderman #1 in my backpack, tossed a bottle of Mescal under the front seat of my 1978 Impala, and we cruised off down I-85. Steve was originally from G-Vegas, and we were meeting up with Jay and a bunch of his friends from the Greenville Rogues Society, who threw an annual party at Dragon Con that was apparently something not to be missed.

Hell, the whole trip was something not to be missed. From drinking White Russians with Jay that had so much liquor in them they actually fermented the milk, to seeing the bodies lying in the hallway of the Atlanta Hilton (I think) sprawled on the floor, mouths agape with black drool dribbling down their chin after drinking The Black Death (a Rogues Society Specialty), the whole weekend was incredible. It can all be summed up for me by one brief moment.

We were in a ballroom waiting for the dance to start, but there was no music. We'd had about a gallon of White Russians at this point and I felt the need to lie down. As I lay there, I noticed that the chandelier in the room was really neat-looking from that angle, so I called over Jay's friend Carol, who also was feeling a bit of a need to be recumbent just about then. So Carol and I lay in the center of the ballroom exploring the landscape of the chandelier when I felt a twinge in my neck.

I turned my head ever so slightly to notice that there was someone biting me. A smallish woman, at least from what I could tell given the relative angles, with tricolor hair. Platinum, red and goth black. She nibbled a little longer, then she kissed me. Rather intently. I decided this couldn't be all bad, so I kissed her back and nibbled a little on her neck in return. After a couple of nips and nibbles, she suggested we depart the ballroom for somewhere a little more private. I thought briefly of going off to have wild gymnastic monkey sex with a woman with whom I had yet to actually and who introduced herself to me, if you could call it that, by getting down on her hands and knees in the middle of a hotel ballroom floor and biting me on the neck, but then I decided I was really drunk and should get a second opinion.

"Carol, should I go fuck her?"

"No, honey, that would not be good."

"Sorry, my friend says I shouldn't go fuck you. But thanks."

"Thanks, Carol."

"Friends don't let friends fuck dogs, baby."

I saw the tricolor-hair vampiress the next day. I wept a little as I thanked Carol from the bottom of my little bitty heart, because while she didn't have the kind of beauty that makes time stand still, she certainly had a face that could stop a clock.

Falstaff is a poker player and writer from Charlotte, NC. He's still a geek.


By Sean A. Donahue © 2006

Sometimes you need to be grounded.

I always thought when I was young that my dad got some strange kick out of grounding me. Fight with my sister, grounded. Kick my brother, grounded. Look twice at the last piece of cake. Yeah, yeah I know.

I didn't understand what he was trying to teach me, he always seemed to have some sort of mystic story to tell that ended up like most of our father's stories, walking to school uphill, both ways.

Whenever Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid was created I thought they had made Pat Morita an ethnic version of my father. He would speak in tongues and tell me to, "Listen to your mother."

When I started radio I abandoned my business major. I thought, "Go for your dreams and forget all the sage advice Dad told you."

After all, it was my life. After my grandparents paid for my first year at a private school, which was a nightmare in itself, I decided to pay my own way into school. It was the absolute worst decision of my life. I partied too much, didn't care about life and was a typical immature college student even though I was 21.

But Dad was always there watching. Never approving, just watching, for he had given me his advice on life and it was my life to screw up if I wished but he was going to watch me fail. It took me leaving business because it bored me, and getting into radio that finally got his attention.

He never approved of me leaving business school. And he hated the idea of me being poor the rest of my life. When I started out in my first full time radio job in Lubbock, Texas I was paid $12,000 a year. I was ecstatic; I was getting paid to talk on the radio.

Dad wasn't happy. He wanted me to be responsible and after the incident at the hotel room where I watched him tear my credit cards in two and pay half of my debt he knew that sometime in the future I would come to him searching for help like all the other males in my family.

But there was one weekend where he came up to see me, or actually came to see the University of Nebraska play football. I had to work the day of the game from midnight to six in the morning and though I had worked all night, Dad had me up doing things for my mother.

"You can sleep when you're dead, Sean," he'd tell me.

I was pissed, madder than anything, I was tired, grumpy, knew that I had to try and sleep before the game cause after the game I would have to go back up to the station to do the overnight once again. I just wanted to rest. But Dad would have none of it, from the yard work being done to taking me out to lunch, we did everything but sleep.

I was exhausted. We went to the game, watched Nebraska kick the living dog snot out of Texas Tech and then went to the station. I crashed on the couch and slept for an hour and a half. I did my shift and went home, trying to crawl into bed before anyone noticed me.

But as I opened the door to my apartment, Dad was awake and reading a book. He said nothing to me as he watched me collapse in my room.

It took weeks later for my Mom to explain.

"Your Dad is ever so proud of you, he listened to you and he couldn't be prouder," she said.

"Then why hasn't he told me," I asked?

"It's not his way."

I was so used to not talking to my Dad after the times that I had disappointed him that I never even thought about it until my ex-wife pointed it out.

"You never talk to your dad long, Sean. Why is that?"

"I guess he doesn't have anything to say to me. He'd always talk about a sentence or two always cursing Charlie McBride or work and then say, 'Here's your mother' and I'd never hear from him twice in the same phone call," I'd reply.

Fast forward a couple of years...

We are celebrating the best book that Rock 101 has ever had. While champagne corks are being popped I call the two people I want to celebrate this great victory with, my parents.

"Dad, we did it, best book ever, #1 in demo and #5 12+. I couldn't be happier," I told him.

"Sean, I want you to take a moment and celebrate this great achievement in your life. Here's your mother," my father said.

Here's your mother? Here's your MOTHER? Where's the, "Attaboy?"

Where is the... "I knew you could do it?"

I was hurt and searching for approval, vocal, visible, anything that could make me feel more of a man and less of a boy.

Mom was there with the "I'm so proud of you!" and "You're my boy!" and all the approval I needed and wanted.

"Sean, your Dad wants to talk to you," Mom interrupted me in my recovering glory.

NOW THAT'S WHAT I WANT! This is where I am going to get the glory I deserve, I want, I need. My Dad was finally going to give me the props I wanted.

"Sean, have you taken a moment to celebrate this great achievement in your life?"

"Well Dad, we're popping champagne and having a party..."

"Moment's over son. What that survey said is what people thought of you three months ago, you have to earn their trust all over again. Get back to work."


(dial tone)

And then it hit me. I need to stay grounded. I can't have the great highs and the deep lows. I have to maintain an average, slightly higher than everyone else, but never the less an average.

No matter how hard I try to keep my head in the clouds, I'm glad my dad taught me how to remain grounded.

Sean A. Donahue is a freelance writer, radio personality and poker player. He is the author of Instant Tragedy which looks at his life and those who he has touched and been touched by. He is divorced with two children and lives in Lubbock, Texas.

The Man John Never Knew

By Nick Cantwell © 2006

John worked in his office on the third floor of the family townhouse that he and his wife occupied. He sat at his neat and tidy desk, shuffling his pile of neat and tidy papers, and watched the world go by through the large window to the right of his desk. John spent all day with one eye on the latest share prices, and his other eye fixed on the neighbourhood - and when his job became second nature to him, it was this other eye that he found much more captivating.

The school run mums were the first group to catch his eye daily, usually just after his second coffee. There was the tall, elegant lady with the young, equally elegant daughter who were always the first to pass, and this signaled the start of the school rush. In the next ten minutes, most of the kids and parents would shuffle past, and then finally the latecomers would speed past, in a funny half walk, half run. Then a few minutes later the same people, minus their children, would come back past, this time a little slower, normally in groups of two or three, deep in conversation.

Around eleven, John would always hear a car beep, and look down to see a small white van, and a few minutes later a shabbily dressed man would rush down the stairs of the house opposite - loudly apologise for taking so long, and then the van would accelerate away.

And a half hour after that, a green car with a ladder attached to the roof rack would pull up a few doors away. A short unshaven man would always get out, slick his hair back with his hand, and then wave with a newspaper up to the window of an apartment on the corner. Always standing in the window was an elderly lady, who would wave back, and then remain at the window, until the man, presumably her son, would enter the apartment building - at which point she would leave the window. Fifteen or twenty minutes later, the man would come out and drive off, with the elderly lady once again watching from the window, until the car was out of sight.

So this was John's morning routine, and he had been seeing the same people doing the same things for over two years now. And although life moved on, these little sub plots still carried on, with a pleasing regularity.

It was in March that all this changed. The school run was the same, the white van (now a newer model) was still beeping, but John stopped seeing the green car. For a couple of days John hadn't really noticed, there had been odd days before when the car hadn't turned up. Then after a week John realised that he hadn't seen it for a while, which he thought was a little strange.

One afternoon a couple of days after that, John was sitting at his desk, busy for once, when something in the street caught his eye. A hearse was driving slowly past, and in the car behind, peering distantly out of the window, was the unshaven man.

John never saw the man or the green car again.

Nick Cantwell is a writer from London, England.

Zippers come undone in Vegas

By Grubby © 2006

Last night at Spearmint Rhino:

"Would you like another dance?" whispered Danielle.

I pulled her close and whispered in her ear, "Do you have to ask?"

She smiled, kissed my cheek and said, "Okay, but could you first do me a favor? Your zipper's undone."

* * * * *

I've been in Vegas since Saturday, probably a few days too long. I think back to how I could have survived living here, and I realize I probably didn't.

I'm typing this in the Caesars Palace Diamond Lounge, at one of their four free Internet terminals. To my left is an Australian guy who either has a poker blog or is showing a poker blog to a friend. To my right is a woman playing Sudoku. In my hand is a pina colada to polish off the strawberry tart in the buffet. I'm trying to write fast, in case anyone is behind me waiting, wagging their finger at the 20-minute time limit. Diamond Lounge members have a certain feeling of entitlement; at the buffet they pick and eat food as if there weren't a health code.

The week was spent at G2E, walking through a convention center the size of 68 football fields. I confined myself to maybe a third of that, most of it filled with slot manufacturers showing off their latest wares.

The bigger booths hired booth babes via a modeling agency that sends them out en masse at $500/day... oh to be female and good looking in Las Vegas. They walked around in skimpy or classy or hybrid outfits doing their best Vanna White impressions. One company hired girls to dress as suitcase models for "Deal or No Deal," roaming the showroom floor with numbered suitcases. My favorite was a company featuring a snow-themed game, complete with booth babes dressed as snow bunnies.

This was my first time at G2E, and it's an overwhelming and heavenly experience, being surrounded by the latest slot machines that invite you to play without investing any money. Free drinks (much of it beer and wine) were handed out by booth babes. Some snacks included Pepperidge Farm cookies, some finger sandwiches, and some chocolate lollipops.

I rebooked my flight to arrive earlier and depart later. For the flight change fee, I could stay one more night and save $20. I shouldn't be tempted by savings like that: an extra day in Las Vegas can be deadly.

I don't have much of a trip report, but the end result is that I lost more than I care to admit, all on slots. If only I had itemized, I could pull up all my win-loss statements and write off the losses on my taxes.

Despite losing, however, it's a thrilling experience to watch players play our games with the coworkers who created it. It's even more fun to play that same game with the creators. Because if I lose, I can swat the mathematician.

A bunch of us went to Spearmint Rhino last night, after five hours of a closing party with free food and an open bar, drinks at Hard Rock, and ransom-worthy photos. I spent most of the party getting to know some programmers and engineers over girlie drinks. The whole table was into ordering fruity frozen drinks. Being my favorite type of drink, I quickly took part. Our table seemed more like a kids' table at Thanksgiving dinner, against all the beer drinkers.

At the club, Maya chatted me up. She said she'd moved from Fremont, CA, and has been living with her mother for three weeks. She's been working at Rhino for half that. I believed all of it.

I used my standard circus performer story, embellishing on the fly a bit, depending on her reaction. I said my name was Roy and I was in town for a circus convention. I used to be with Cirque du Soleil but the politics were too much, not to mention I didn't speak French. I miss the exercise and the high wire, but the lack of a net beneath caused health insurance to skyrocket. I left them in 2004 and became an accountant, but I still attend the conventions to keep up on the latest juggling developments.

Then my boss came up and blew my cover. He threw Maya a bunch of bills and asked her to take me into the backroom for a good time.

She prepared me for a "world-class Rhino experience," but it was nothing that wouldn't be done on the main floor. She was almost too nice; after the first song I said she could be more aggressive if she wanted.

Later I kept running into Maya. She was always eating Twizzlers and mentioned a drunk customer that she turned down because she didn't want to take advantage. I don't think Maya will make it in the strip club industry.

I still have 24 hours left in Vegas. I don't particularly want to lose more money, but I do have a rental car, so maybe I'll drive around and sample all the free food in the Diamond Lounges.

Grubby is a writer currently living in Chicago, IL.