April 10, 2003

April 2003 (Vol 2., Issue 4)

Welcome to my monthly blog-zine and the "Vegas" edition of Truckin'! This month's issue was a solo effort on my part writing all six stories, and two of them are from my recent trip to Sin City. I also wrote two new fiction bits: Baby, $2000, and the Dork Brothers and Jesus Next to Me, in addition to the April subway story: Subway Vision. Plus, I also reviewd five flicks for this month's Indie Film Review. Sit back, relax, and enjoy! Be Sweet, McG

1. Subway Vision by Tenzin McGrupp
We tried not to laugh, but the young kid sitting in the corner was amusing two of his female friends by answering their questions in a lively Jamaican accent... More

2. Baby, $2,000, and the Dork Brothers by Tenzin McGrupp
Once again I was screwed by the Dork Brothers, Cecil and Numnuts. What could I really do? Call the cops? They walked away with over two thousand dollars of Baby’s money, which I foolishly forked over on a sketchy drug deal that grew sketchier with each minute I paced back and forth in my living room... More

3. Vegas, Two Canadian Hockey Players, and a Kansas Blonde by Tenzin McGrupp
No other vice lured me into violence as much as gambling. I If don’t pay my bookie, I get my ass kicked. The rules are simple. Same goes for the casinos. Behave like a gentleman, or else... they drag you downstairs to a room with no windows, and hand you over to thugs named "Nine Fingered" Vito and "Fat" Jimmy, who may or may not remove your eyeballs with rusty ice picks... More

4. April Indie Film Review by Tenzin McGrupp
Reviews of the films: Sunshine State, One Hour Photo, Hi-Life, World Traveler, and Big Shot: Confessions of a Campus Bookie... More

5. Dealers, Cabbies, and Waitresses by Tenzin McGrupp
Every time I go to Las Vegas a different aspect of the gambling culture intrigues me. On this past trip, I would cogitate on the lives of some of the people whom I interacted with the most: card dealers, cabbies, and waitresses... More

6. Jesus Next to Me by Tenzin McGrupp
I hadn't seen him in a couple of months. Doug was an afternoon regular, someone average whom you wouldn’t be able to pick out of any crowd. He chain smoked Benson & Hedges, drank Molson long necks, and had an anxious manner in which he spoke... More

Subway Vision

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

We tried not to laugh, but the young kid sitting in the corner was amusing two of his female friends by answering their questions in a lively Jamaican accent. He was no older than fourteen or fifteen years old, but he nailed the accent perfectly. I assumed he must have Jamaican relatives, or lived close by to a Jamaican family, because his stellar performance held my lazy attention for several minutes. I pretended not to be listening while trying not to laugh. It was tougher than I thought.

"Do you know what stop this is?" one of the young ladies asked.

"Me can’t seeeeee," he muttered.

They laughed, their shrieks shooting throughout the subway, their bodies shaking, limbs flailing. Betty buried her head into my shoulder and tried to stop from laughing.

"Why not?"

"Me sees wha me wants to seeeee!" he sneered.

A couple of harried passengers exited and a seventy year old black, blind lady with a worn cane shuffled in, and sat down across from me. It was raining all day and the aqua blue sweat pants that she was wearing were wet from mid shin to her ankles. She methodically unfolded her cane and placed it in her lap. The young man continued his afternoon entertainment spot on the L train, courting new commuters, and I watched the blind lady as she listened attentively with her eyes tightly shut. She too was holding back a bubble of laughter when the kid spoke in his Jamaican accent.

"Ev’ry day is irie day mah pants."

Even some of the other riders started to laugh and snicker as the train made its way from Brooklyn to Manhattan. I continued to stare at the blind woman. She sat quietly, counting the stops, and I tried to figure out what she was thinking about. Betty pulled out her camera from her bag and prepared to take a picture of the Jamaican kid, but when she saw me fascinated with the blind woman, she turned her attention to the blind woman as well. Slowly Betty picked up her camera, concentrated for a second, focusing on the blind woman’s face. When she was ready to take the shot the blind lady abruptly opened her eyes, which spooked Betty, who gasped and she almost dropped her camera. I freaked out and jumped back in my seat as I instinctively peered into her beaming eyes unable to look away. One of them looked like a shiny gray eyeball that reflected the fluorescent subway lights, which gave parts of it an amber glow. She struggled to keep her other eye open, a squished grayish marble with yellow tints.

The subway pulled into Union Square and I was taking deep breaths. It was just coincidence, I told myself. She had no clue we were checking her out. A nervous Betty put her camera away as we prepared to get off and the young kid turned to me and said, "Me sees wha me wants to see."

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

Baby, $2000, and the Dork Brothers

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

Once again I was screwed by the Dork Brothers, Cecil and Numnuts. What could I really do? Call the cops? They walked away with over two thousand dollars of Baby’s money, which I foolishly forked over on a sketchy drug deal that grew sketchier with each minute I paced back and forth in my living room, with the baseball game on mute. The only thing I could do was wait until Baby came home from work, and endure whatever wrath and fisticuffs she’d unleash, after I sat her down and calmly told her that I lost her life savings, all $2078.00, the remainder of the money that she inherited after her father was randomly killed when a Greyhound Bus collided with a cantaloupe truck just outside of Smyrna, GA, and his car skidded on the broken fruit, only to flip over several times before jackknifing into the guard rail. It goes without saying that Baby hated cantaloupes.

Baby came home ten minutes late from working at O’Henry’s, the seedy bar in the Bowling Alley by Route 12. She waited tables and sometimes she was lucky enough to tend bar, on the frequent days that Daisy, the owner’s slutty, gum chewin’ daughter, would call in sick and stay home to smoke crystal meth and watch the Game Show Network. Those were the days when Baby would come home the happiest, since bartenders got much better tips than the waitresses did. By the looks of her growling expression I could tell that she had a bad day. She walked in the apartment without saying hello, and ran into the bathroom. She locked the door, but I walked over to hear her sobbing and whimpering. She’d been crying a lot these days, sometimes for no reason at all. I always wanted to ask, but deep down I really didn’t want to know.

A couple of minutes later Baby came out and started talking to me.

"Did you find a job today?" she said her slow Alabama drawl.

"Of course I didn’t. But I thought I had a great idea for an investment."

"What kind of investment?"

"The powder kind."

She rolled her eyes and opened up a can of Keystone Light, took a long sip, then poured it into the dog’s dish bowl. Bubba was my old roommate’s dog that he left behind when he had to skip town after his girlfriend’s husband found out he had been having sex with his wife, a not so bright woman who charged rooms at the local Motor Inn on her husband’s credit card for twelve days in a row a couple of months ago. My ex-roommate left without packing, got in his car and drove off. The bastard owed me a month’s of back rent and left his blind, asthmatic ridden black Labrador tied to my bedroom door.

I did what any sensible guy who got shafted with $350 and stuck with a blind dog. I sold all his crappy CDs, pawned his entire stereo equipment and TV, and then I kicked his dog. That’s right. I kicked the fucking pooch three times. Each time making sure I yelled out his owner’s name.

"I’m sorry Bubba, but your owner, Lucas Dork is one fucking asshole."

WHACK! The dog went flying across the living room.

"I’m sorry Bubba, but I fucking hate the fucking Dorkmonger!"

WHACK! Bubba crashed up against the couch and bounced right back to me.

"I’m a prick, I know, kicking a blind fucking dog. Only an asshole would do that. But since your daddy ain’t here, you’re gonna pay for that limp dick, redneck, cock smuggler Lucas Dork’s mistake!"

WHACK! The dog tumbled back under the coffee table, knocking over a couple of half filled plastic cups, cluttered with cigarette butts and beer bottle caps, leftover from Daiquiri Tuesday a couple of days before. I would have killed the damn thing, unless Beatrice, Baby’s half-sister from Florala, hadn’t woken up. She passed out on the couch after she drank too much tequila and snorted a half of gram of Pixie Stix that I told her was high grade French-Canadian cocaine called: Stix du Pixie.

"But why is it pink and purple?" she seriously asked me.

"It’s the new rage. It’s a Hollywood thing. By the way where the fuck is Florala anyway?"

She snorted a line of grape flavored Pixie Stix and wiped her nose. With a sappy grin, and in the cutest trailer park voice she whispered, "It’s on the border. Not quite Florida and not quite Alabama."

"Wow. So it’s just like Texarkana. Right?"

"I suppose," she said, cutting up the cherry flavored Pixie Stix, "But then again, I’ve never been to Iowa before."

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

Vegas, Two Canadian Hockey Players, and a Kansas Blonde

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

No other vice lured me into violence as much as gambling. I If don’t pay my bookie, I get my ass kicked. The rules are simple. Same goes for the casinos. Behave like a gentleman, or else. Sometimes, when my bets are not going the way I’d like, my patience evaporates and my Buddhist mannerisms towards people disappear, and I’m usually within seconds of dropping my fists on the first asshole that sets me off. And if I’m drinking and gambling, I’ll definitely get myself into trouble.

I bet heavily on Syracuse (the only time in the tournament) and was slurping down vodka tonics. The guy in front of me had $50 on Auburn. Syracuse blew a 17 point lead, and every time Auburn did something right, he would celebrate like he just won the lottery and got a blow job from Britney Spears in the same afternoon, which would inch me closer and closer to pummeling his ass. At one point I raised my leg, ready to kick him in the head with my boot if he jumped up one more time. Luckily for him, he remained seated. Or luckily for me, I should say. Behavior like that… random acts of violence towards jubilant tourists are not taken lightly in Las Vegas. Similar incidents get you blacklisted and banned from all gaming areas in the state of Nevada. I would have immediately been dragged off by the casino lumberjacks, the visible security force with pressed shirts, shiny shoes and black walkie talkies. They drag you downstairs to a room with no windows, and hand you over to thugs named "Nine Fingered" Vito and "Fat" Jimmy, who may or may not remove your eyeballs with rusty ice picks.

A group of unruly, rowdy, drunken frat boys from Michigan State nearly caused a small riot as they sat in the front row of the sports book. Michigan State was the underdog for most of the tournament, and a lot of people lost large sums of cash when they played. One frat boy in particular was bumping chests and taunting the bettors who wagered on Maryland. I held myself back from running up there and crashing an empty Corona bottle across his sun burned face. I wanted to fight, but I reminded myself about the cameras all over the casino that watched my every move. Instead, after a Maryland player missed a wide open dunk, I got up and walked away. Derek and Senor thought I was just kidding. But I was serious. I wanted to leave immediately. With more than half the game not over, I walked out of the Mandalay Bay Casino in a solemn retreat, with my head down, and chiding myself for losing all the money I won earlier in the day.

Derek had a similar situation. This one involved a beautiful blonde from Kansas. She showed up just before the game started to watch her team play and could not find a seat for her sorority girlfriends. We had been sitting in the last row of the sports book for almost four or five hours when she arrived and we ended up stuck with her standing right behind us. To say that she was annoying would be polite. Within a half hour, Derek wanted to get up and punch her.

"I don’t care if she’s hot," he muttered.

Kansas was beating up on Arizona in the first half. It was ugly. When Kansas did well, you heard the blonde squeal and let everyone in the state of Nevada know that "her boys" were kicking ass. Sometimes overhearing the conversations with her friends killed me, which was slightly more pleasurable than having my testicles scraped by a cheese grater.

"Who’s cuter? Nicky or Kirk?" she asked one of her sisters.

My brother rolled his eyes. "Collison and Hienrich are two of the ugliest white dudes I ever seen. What the fuck is she talking about?"

"Come on Nicky! Thatta boy, Kirk!"

She kept rambling on, drawing the ire of the ninety percent of the guys who bet against Kansas. They sat and stewed in anger, like drunken pigeons ready to shit on the next thing that moved, as Kansas whooped on Arizona.

I wanted to get up and say something to our Kansas Blonde like, "Listen up Princess Dorothy, you’re pissing us off. Here’s $100. Why don’t you take the Barbies and head on over to the bar over there, get really drunk, and watch the game as far away from me as you can? In the meanwhile y’all can debate which one of you lovely girls will eat each other out on video tonight for this next year’s DVD mega hit, Sorority Girls Gone Wild in Vegas."

This is not the Phi Delt house and we ain’t nowhere near fucking Kansas. She should realize where she is, cheering mindlessly and incessantly like Cheri O’Teri’s Saturday Night Live cheerleader jacked up on Sea Breezes and cocaine. It’s like a narc walking into a Hell’s Angels bar and making fun of their motorcycles by pissing all over them. You’re either dumb as shit, or you’re looking to get empty whiskey bottles shoved up your orifices. Either way, Arizona’s appalling play wasn’t helping the situation. There’s over a million dollars lost that I can see in the miserable faces as I scan the room… gloomy frat boys from San Diego, pathetic compulsive gamblers from Reno, disconsolate dentists from Minnesota, cheating husbands from South Florida whose wives have no clue they lost $500 on lowly Arizona… they all stared in despair and endured the ball squeezing, triumphant echoes of the Kansas Blonde every few seconds.

The irritated guy sitting next to Derek was also pissed. He got up and left after Derek told him how much she bet on Kansas.

"$5? Five fuckin’ dollars? All this for five fucking bucks?!!"

The guy stormed away in anger. If he was going to loose $3300, he didn’t want to be in front of that blonde when Kansas won.

After we dropped over a thousand dollars in one day at the sports book in Mandalay Bay we headed to the Old Strip on Fremont Street, hoping that the change in scene would bring us better luck. We wandered into a casino I never heard of before called The Golden Gate Casino, a small shit hole, with a cheesey California theme. Derek and Senor sat at a Black Jack table where Derek started winning right away. An hour later I joined them after I quickly lost $100 on an adjacent table where I was getting cold cards and I didn’t like the unfriendly dealer.

Instantly, I got hot cards to the dismay of Derek. I sat next to him and was drawing the cards he would have got if I wasn’t there. When I doubled down (doubled my bet), I got amazing cards. Within minutes, I went on a quick run to get back all the money I lost. Derek kept sliding away slowly losing his chips, and Senor in the far corner of the table was holding his own. There were two other guys at the table, a couple of wiry and happy minor league hockey players from Saskatchewan that were drunk, gambling, hilarious mad men. They had a couple of days off and flew into Vegas to party. Before I sat down, they would pull $20 bills out of their pockets, get chips and lose it all within two hands, only to repeat the process. Upon my arrival I brought them good luck.

"Yes!! I love this guy!" the goalie shouted every time he looked at his cards and won a hand.

"Yeah Corsey! Get him to cut the cards this time," his teammate yelled.

We were playing at a table using two decks of cards and the dealer let you touch your cards. This table felt more intimate which was perfect for my tastes since I count cards. Most tables in casinos use five or six decks, but we were using two decks, and that meant the dealer had to shuffle every few minutes. The dealer picked the person who gets to cut the cards after he finished shuffling. It rotated around the table. Normally you got to cut the cards once or twice an hour. But the hockey players were insisting that the dealer allow me cut the cards every time. I wasn’t doing anything different. Somehow, the Canucks thought I was the reason for their good fortune. Hockey players are a superstitious breed of athletes.

"Hey Corsey, we gotta send him tickets, eh?"

"Of course. I love this guy!"

The hockey players had a nice run and won a lot of money that they lost before I got there. At one point they left the casino and returned five minutes later.

"We went across the street, lost $20 and said, ‘Let’s go back to the table with McGrupp! He’s good luck!’ So here we are."

They sat back down and a waitress came over.

"Cocktails? Gentlemen, cocktails anyone?"

Corsey, the goalie, called the waitress over and he looked at me.

"Yes, I want a drink. A gin and wait… I’ll have what he’s having!" he proudly exclaimed, pointing at me, with his voice booming throughout the crowded, yet small casino.

"What are you drinking sir?" she asked.

"A Becks," I said holding up the beer as if it were a trophy.

A fucking Becks. And I didn’t even want one. I don’t even like Becks. I asked for a Heineken ten minutes earlier and the waitress brought me a Beck’s because they ran out of Heinekens. But Corsey had no clue. He didn’t care. He was a drunk Canuck winning money in Vegas.

"I love this guy," he reminded my brother as the cards were dealt as he eyed his cards, another Black Jack.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

April Indie Film Review

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

Sunshine State (2002)

John Sayles wrote, directed and edited this comedy drama that is set in modern day Florida. Filmed on location on Amelia Island and on American Island, he carefully weaves his layered story about two different women struggling for identity and independence on the politically corrupt Plantation Island. Marly Temple (Edie Falco) is the daughter of a hotel owner. Her bitter father has gone blind, leaving her with the responsibilities of running the business and living out his dream. She struggled trying to make a name for herself in an aquatic show, which led to nowhere special and she ended up in a dead marriage and back home running the family hotel. Developers (one played by Timothy Hutton) have invaded her small town enticing her to sell her beachfront property. Desiree Perry (Angela Basset) returns home for the first time in twenty years after her overly proud parents sent her away after she got pregnant at 15. She returned with a new husband and a less than successful acting career (she does infomercials). Both women have to overcome deep family history, unreasonable parental expectations, failed attempts at fame, jagged love affairs and all the while stuck in the middle of their sunny and quaint hometown, that is slowly being gobbled up by big business wealthy land and golf course developers. Classism, racism, sexism, and the quest for fame are all intertwined in one of Sayles best performances to date. His well crafted images evoke desperation and suffocation, as well as serenity and elegance. The rest of the stellar ensemble cast includes James McDaniel, Jane Alexander, Bill Cobbs (who did a kick ass job as Dr. Elton Lloyd), Ralph Waite, Miguel Ferrer, Gordon Clapp and Mary Steenburgen.

One Hour Photo (2002)

One Hour Photo is one of the darkest films I have ever seen. Robin Williams loses himself in his character Sy Parrish, from his mannerism to his physical appearance. Sy is a lonely photo developer in the corner of a large discount store in the suburbs. He becomes obsessed with the Yorkins (Michael Vartan & Connie Nielsen), a picture perfect family whose film he had been developing for over a decade. The Yorkins represent everything Sy wants in life but does not have. Through their pictures he pieces together a model of happiness and perfection that he desperately seeks. But as Sy notes, "We usually take pictures of happy moments, good moments, and moments that we want to relive over and over in a picture." He witnesses every great moment in the Yorkin’s life and he wants to be a part of that. He begins spying on the Yorkins and slowly discovers that their life is not perfect and he decides to make things right. Written and directed (in his debut) by Mark Romanek, the script is just a small part of what is going on in the film. The language is simple, but there is a sense of serious subtext that flourishes in every scene. The art production, costumes, and lighting are all major players in this film. From the ways the actors relate to one another and the tension in their scenes, to the pristine and generic color schemes of the Sav-Mart, to the warm homey feeling in the Yorkin’s home, to the dry and bland eerie set up of Sy’s apartment… all aspects of the film are essential in telling the story. Robin Williams should have been nominated for an Oscar with his dark portrayal as Sy the Photo Guy. You see him unravel throughout the film as he slips deep into an insane psychotic breakdown, which eventually leads to the final scene in the film, which was a doozy!

Hi-Life (1998)

Written and directed by Robert Heddon and filmed on location in New York City, we follow the quest of several New Yorkers trying to scrape $900 together before the night is over. It's Christmas Eve and Jimmy (Eric Stoltz) is a self-absorbed actor who has a $900 gambling debt that he has not paid to bar owner Fatty (Charles Durning) who is promising him a vicious beating for being late with his money. Jimmy lies to his girlfriend Susan (Moira Kelly) and tells her that his sister Maggie (Darryl Hannah) needs an emergency abortion. Susan asks her brother Ray (Campbell Scott) a bartender at the Hi-Life bar, to borrow $900 for an abortion. Ray hates Jimmy for being a scum bag and hates Jimmy’s sister Maggie even more, who happens to be Ray’s ex-girlfriend. The film follows Ray as he goes from bar to bar trying to raise the $900 for what he thinks is for his sister’s abortion, meanwhile, he’s looking for Jimmy, along with Susan and a couple of thugs from Fatty's bar. April (Katrin Cartlidge), a regular drinker at the Hi-Life tags along with the shy Ray and helps him collect outstanding debts that everyone in New York seems to owe him. This is a hilarious film, with wacky subplots and eccentric minor characters. Someone wrote me that they loved this film all because of the drunken, bitter Jewish Santa Claus that appears towards the end. That was funny, and this might be the best Christmas-abortion film ever made.

World Traveler (2001)

Written and directed by Bart Freundlich, World Traveler is a very serious drama. On the day of his son’s third birthday, Cal (Billy Crudup), a successful Manhattan architect walks out on his life, his wife, child, and job without leaving a note giving an explanation for his actions. He takes his Volvo and starts driving to nowhere in particular. His road trip takes him on an aimless adventure of heavy drinking binges, odd jobs doing construction, picking up skanky women, and desperately thinking about his wife and child amid horrible day dreams, nightmares, and flashbacks, yet never once picking up the phone to call them to let him know where he is and what he is doing. Willie Nelson’s songs appear throughout the film’s music soundtrack, which give it a specific melancholy. At some point you realize a certain method to his aimless trip, as Cal strives to answer questions from his own childhood, before he can continue on with his life and either return home to his family or continue his restless journey of self discovery. The ensemble cast includes excellent performances from Julianne Moore as the fluffy drunk as well as good jobs from Cleavant Derricks, Mary McCormack, David Keith, Karen Allen and James LeGros. The airport lounge scene with Cal and on old college friend (James LeGros) is probably the best scripted and acted scene in World Traveler.

Big Shot: Confessions of a Campus Bookie (2002)

Directed by Ernest Dickerson, I think this was originally a "Made for TV" movie. The budget, or lack of a budget is evident. But the film is based on a true story about an Arizona State student named Benny Silman (David Krumholtz), a local bookie, originally from Brooklyn, who got a couple of Arizona State basketball players to shave points and throw games in 1994. The film begins with Benny’s arrival at college and meeting his roommate T-Bone (Carmine Giovinazzo). A quick roadtrip to Las Vegas ensues where Benny catches the gambling bug. He soon found himself working for a local bookie (James LeGros), eventually making the bold move and becoming a bookie himself. Benny gets caught up in the decadent aspects of having a lot of cash at a young age with no responsibilities. He seemed to have it all: money, respect, a hot girlfriend and friendships with all the famous athletes at Arizona State. One day he meets Joe Jr. (Nick Turturo) a high roller from Chicago and they decide to fix a basketball game by convincing star hoops player Hedake Smith (Tory Kittles) to shave points in a meaningless game against Oregon. This leads to more trouble with Benny after the local drug dealer and mafia wanna be Big Red (Keith Loneker) finds out Benny is fixing games and wants in on the action, all before the FBI and the NCAA figures out something is wrong with Arizona State. Some scenes were shot on location in Las Vegas (at the sports book in the Mirage… where I just visited), but some of the basketball action scenes are cheap, with obvious cardboard cutouts as spectators in the background crowd shots. But the story is more interesting than the basketball scenes.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

Dealers, Cabbies, and Waitresses

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

Every time I go to Las Vegas a different aspect of the gambling culture intrigues me. On this past trip, I would cogitate on the lives of some of the people whom I interacted with the most: card dealers, cabbies, and cocktail waitresses.

Nobody is from Las Vegas, so I hear. And after I ask, I realized that only on a rare occasion would you find someone who was born, bred, and still living in Vegas. The cab drivers were some of the more interesting people I have ever met. Most of the cabbies in New York are immigrants from Eastern Europe, the Middle East and West Africa that barely speak English. In Vegas, cabbies appear from all over the planet.

In 1998, on a trip to see Phish’s epic Halloween show, a group of friends asked the cabbie, a young guy with an earring and a beard, if we could light up a joint.

"Sure," he said.

After a few moments he sniffed the air, then asked, "Are you guys from Seattle?"

At the time I was living there and flew down to Vegas with two of my friends from Seattle to link up with Senor and his brother.

"How the fuck did you know that?" I surprisingly responded.

"The smell of your kind buds. I used to live in the Northwest. Best pot on the planet."

We offered up some and he puffed with us as he slowly drove to the Phish show. Since then I knew Vegas cabbies were a different breed, and I also hijacked and stole his line about Seattle marijuana.

One night at 4:30 A.M., on our way to $1 Bowling at the Orleans, our cabbie was shocked when I gave him a 20% tip. I thought he was irked at me, so I gave him another dollar to make it a 30% tip. That’s when he said, "Wow, you guys are from New York!"

Derek told me about our Russian cab driver (I didn’t see his name but Derek did.) Checker Vacalav was his name and he was telling us about the strip bars on our way to Fremont Street and the old casinos.

"Strip bars and boobies are also great after you gamble. If you win, you have money to burn. If you lose, you have a place to be consoled," he explained to us like we were hick tourists from Cincinnati.

Another time our cabbie was a Connecticut transplant, who rapped with Senor for most of the ride about the changes in their home state.

And my favorite cabbie, was the guy who picked us up from the Orleans one lazy day after we bowled three quick games.

"Hey are you in the movies or something? You look familiar."

"I get that all the time," I answered, "I got one of those faces."

"You sure?" he insisted, turning around to get a good look, "But I know I’ve seen you before."

"I guess I’m famous. You might remember me from an episode of Law and Order from last year. I was Crackhead #2 that got busted by Briscoe," I coldly lied, then smiled.

"That’s it. I remember that one. It was a great episode. So what’s he like?"


"Jerry Orbach, the actor who plays Briscoe."

"I guess he’s cool. He had bad breath though."

After that story, I barely talked for the entire ride as he drove through the blazing noon time sun, over to the Aladdin Casino. Our cabbie, a dorky guy with glasses and shaggy hair started telling us these wild stories. I couldn’t figure out if this guy lived an amazing life or if he was just pulling our leg. At one point during our ten minute ride he told us that he was a stockbroker that got out of the market before the dotcom bubble burst and that he was a millionaire who lived in Alaska during the off season, where he finally docked his sailboat after sailing around the world for fourteen years. Then the kicker of them all, he told us that his father was Fat Man, one of the scientists and engineers that orchestrated the atomic bombs for the Manhattan Project during World War II.

"They named the bomb after him. Fat Man," he proudly stated.

As we got out and paid I thought to myself, "Geez. I’m the former stockbroker who lied and said I was an actor. And this guy’s an actor who said he’s a stock broker millionaire and the son of Fat Man."

The card dealers are an interesting bunch. Some of them barely speak English. But they can count. A lot faster than me. I read that MGM Grand, the largest hotel and property owner in Las Vegas start out their dealers at $5.35 an hour (these are 2000 figures, so they are outdated). And in that year the average dealer made $63,000 a year. Which goes to show that after a few years, as a dealer, you make half your salary in tips. The more you win, the more that the dealers get tipped.

Senor was enamored by the Asian female dealers. He kept playing Caribbean Stud Poker at one table, only because of the woman, Mei, who was dealing. And of course some of the dealers were checking out the female guests. Not only did I show up in Vegas during March Madness, it was also Spring Break and many scantly clad co-eds wandered through the casino floor on their way to the bar or back to their rooms. One evening, at the Excalibur, I caught our Black Jack dealer’s eyes wander off the table. He stopped speaking in mid-sentence, as he ogled a couple of ladies walking by the table. It would have been a perfect opportunity for me to scam the casino, that is if I was bold enough to cheat them, as the dealer’s eyes stalked the ladies as they walked away, with X-rated thoughts racing though his mind, not paying attention to the money and cards on the table.

At the poker room in the Excalibur we had a jerk off for a dealer. His name was Frosty, and that summed up his demeanor. "He was tight as a fuck wad," Senor admitted to me a couple of hours after we left.

Frosty yelled at a kid from L.A., a guy that was rip roaring drunk and had been bluffing all night. He was playfully talking shit to his friend who sat on the other side of the table. He let a curse fly out, something like "fucker" or "mutha fucker" or something similar. Well Frosty didn’t hesitate to take action. He pointed his long finger at the L.A. kid and warned, "Watch your language or I’ll ask you to leave."

It was no fun playing when Frosty dealt. He was that random dealer that you never wanted to get. He was the pissed off, condescending, tourist hating, robotic dealer. Plus he was giving me shitty cards all night. I almost fell asleep at one point, exhausted from no sleep, and drinking during the all day long sessions at the sports book, followed by all night poker games. He made a not so nice comment to me after I lost a hand and got bluffed by a tourist from Bumblefuck, West Virginia. Annoyed, I racked up my chips and left the table. Fuck that guy.

Why do women become cocktail waitress in Las Vegas? It’s either to meet rich guys, or they have a serious compulsive gambling problem. That’s what I categorized the waitresses I met. The younger ones work at the nicer, elegant, newer casinos like the Bellagio, Mandalay Bay or at Hard Rock. If you aren’t young, it’s tough to find work and you usually get shitty shifts working odd hours or in casinos way off the Strip.

The last day we went to the sports book in the Mandalay Bay, we had an excellent server named Yvonne. She was giving us special attention because as soon as we sat down (it was 11:00 A.M. on Saturday) Derek started tipping her $1 for bringing him ice water. When we started drinking and when the place got crowded she was always right there ready to get us drinks.

The day before, our server at first glance looked absolutely stunning. I’m sure she was the best looking girl in her high school, and ten years earlier, guys were brawling with each other in the streets of her small Midwestern hometown just to date her. She was a tall thin blonde with a boob job, but after trying to figure out what she looked like in regular clothes, and not one of those foolish, skimpy, ice skating outfits that the casinos made them wear, and after you uncaked the layers of make up off her face, I realized by her subdued expressions and her shallow eyes that she was just a regular woman, scared and pissed off at the plastic and fictitious world that she must gut though everyday, while constantly bringing tray after tray, after tray of drinks to obnoxious drunken gamblers. She thought she’d move to Las Vegas, meet Mr. Big Bucks, and ride off into the sunset, but she’s stuck in a rut in the middle of a fucking desert, getting groped, hit on and bossed around by slimy degenerates losers. That’s an awful life. And to do it forty or fifty hours a week without a future has got to suck.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

Jesus Next to Me

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

I didn't see him sit down. The bar was almost empty aside from two regulars sitting at a table in the corner. I had my back turned for a second when he walked in. I hadn't seen him in a couple of months. Doug was an afternoon regular, someone average whom you wouldn’t be able to pick out of any crowd. He chain smoked Benson & Hedges, drank Molson long necks, and had an anxious manner in which he spoke, with a snide comment on everything and anything. He disappeared one day and I totally forgot about him until I saw him sitting at the bar. He lost a lot a weight since I saw him last, one anonymous October day last year, when he stumbled out of the bar boisterously rambling on about mindless factory workers and their obscene waiver of their ability to break free of their non-ambitious imposed slavery.

Doug was a film maker from Ohio. Maybe. He never actually made a film. He always talked shit about making a film. Yes, as my old man once said, "There are two types of people in this world: People who do things and people that just talk shit about doing them."

Doug was in between. Sometimes I saw Doug scribbling on a script. He showed me a couple of scenes one day after he knocked back six straight shots of Peppermint Schnapps. His script was better than I thought it would be. I was slightly impressed.

"You know these mother fuckers downtown protesting the god damned war makes me wonder what the fuck is going on in my world."

No "Hellos," or "Good to see ya, my favorite bartender!" Not even a fucking nod, "What's up?"

I grabbed a Molson and plopped it on the bar. Doug picked it up and chugged for a few seconds before letting out a huge sigh.

"I dunno what it is, but man, fuckin' drinking and sucking down Canadian beer is like paradise, man. Like sitting down and watching the motherfuckin' ocean. It’s like the whole world fuckin' disappears. That’s why I love drinkin'."

Doug rubbed his eyes a couple of times and just talked out loud. Depressed people go to therapists. Crazy people go to psychiatrists. Catholics go to confession. And drunks… gravitate towards me. But I'm a good listener. That's how I make good tips.

"You know all those people out there, the ones who ain't protesting and have those desk jobs. Man they got it easy, because they wake up, drink coffee, go to work for eight hours, come home, eat and watch TV. That's it man. But me, shit, in my shitty life, I have everything on the line. All the time. I don't have a lunch break, or a smoke break, or three day holiday weekends, or a fuckin' two week vacation to Tahiti sipping on those long fruity drinks with pink umbrellas and shit. Nope. My life is my fuckin' job man. My job is scrutinized all the time. By critics, by agents, by bankers. And by my ex-wife, man. I'm fucking shit up all the time and I want to stop everything and fix what's wrong, but you know, it's like I'm stuck on a crowded subway, and the fuckin' subway is making express stops and you can't fuckin' get off when you want to get off. One way express stop to hell, man. You're stuck sitting in between the fuckin' Popeye’s biscuit eating fat woman from Babooshkaville, the one with the hairy knuckles and the overbite, and the odd smelling asshole wearing socks with Tevas, who's reading my fuckin' script over my shoulder and stealing my fucking original ideas, man!! I just wanna get off, you know? And not deal! But drinkin'…" and he finally paused to take a huge swig.

"Drinkin' is fuckin' paradise man. Waves on a beach. Sun setting over my troubled life. The buzz kicks in. I lose myself to myself."

I served Doug another Molson and he continued talking.

"And I figured I gotta just keep working on my shit. My film. It's tough to get fundage for creative projects these days. There's no free money out there anymore. All these righteous religious people out there are fuckin' the world up. But you know what? If fuckin' Jesus was here, right now, serving me drinks instead of you, man, he'd be pretty cool. I think if Jesus was next to me, he wouldn't be laying on this heavy morality bullshit. He might even give me a few pointers on my script. He's cool like that, you know. But then maybe he'd let me know at the end of his friendly advice like 'Make sure some of the proceeds to your film goes to buy some blankets for those homeless fuckers standing out on the corner freezing their ass off!' or some shit like that."

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

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

From the Editor's Laptop:

Hey, it's the 11th issue of Truckin'! After writing all the stories for this issue, I'm very close to writing 50 stories for this blog-zine, something I am proud of and that I am striving to achieve for the next issue! I hope you enjoyed my Las Vegas stories. It felt good to be on the road again, getting new material for my ramblings and short stories.

Please feel free to e-mail this link to your friends, families, co-workers, cellmates, lifemates, etc. Help spread the good word about this site and the writers!

If you would like to comment or contact any of the authors, please send an E-mail to: Contact Truckin'

Again thanks for your support!

Be Sweet,

"Eternity is now." - Ayn Rand