Poets have no business in Las Vegas unless they’re here to write horror stories, or die a drunken, messy death. I don’t gamble, don’t like musicals, don’t like paying a lot for dinner, and I’m married. So I’m holing up in my room with moody music, watching the sun set from the 27th floor.
I ask the guy at the front desk where’s the sky cab and he says he doesn’t know what I’m talking about; in the 30 years he’s worked here no one has asked for that. I walk out of the hotel and try to find the sidewalk, but everything is cordoned off: you’re forced to go along select routes, over sky bridges, and they all lead to casinos and bad music, bad smells, bad people. A guy in a Freddy Krueger costume, standing perfectly still, blades for finger tips, eyes rolling in his mask, with a tip can.
I follow signs to what looks like the monorail station. I walk long, circuitous hallways with others, in neon colors and plastic cups, with alcohol. I wind up in another casino, and have to turn around. I pull out my phone and map my location to the convention center: 2.3 miles. I’m hot, hungry, stubborn, decide to walk there. It’s not quite noon yet.
No one walks here. The only people out on the sidewalks once you get off the strip are homeless or insane. I find a bus stop but it only comes by once an hour. I keep going. I remember my VP, the look on his face when I say to him we’re close enough to the Convention Center, we could just walk. He looks confused and says, Yes, but why?
It’s the desert. I haven’t had water since yesterday, just coffee. Bad Mexican food at the airport, 6:20 AM. I mark my progress on my iPhone: I’m the blue, pulsating dot. The route has me on a half mile stretch, then .8 miles, and so on.
At the .8 mile leg, I stop for water at a 7-11. I drink half a quart. I’m carrying a backpack that has no hip-belt: it’s not a proper backpack, it’s a stylish backpack that looks cool but doesn’t function right. I’m carrying my work laptop, my personal laptop, and a 4″ binder that’s packed full of CAD drawings, budget information, lists of attendees and their hotel confirmation numbers. Just In Case.
I get to the Convention Center: these are my kind of people, the show people, moving crates and driving fork-lifts. The security guys in cheap suits with ties and walky-talkies. They messed up sending me my badge so I navigate to the North Hall, as I should, but they don’t have the equipment set up yet to issue me a new badge, I’m too early. I coax a guy to give me a sticker that says Installer and he lets me in.
I walk for 45 minutes in circles, on the concrete convention floor, looking for the coordinates of our booth. I give in and have to ask for directions at the security desk. She explains I’m in the Central Hall, need to go back outside to the South Hall. I knew that. It’s after 2 now. Haven’t eaten since 6 or so.
I find the booth. I say hi, I’m the Starbucks guy. They smile and give me good handshakes, but there’s no reason for me to be there. I’m not Union, so I can’t touch anything. I can only get in the way, get hurt. So I go, back to the monorail, looking for something to eat, time to check in.
2:30 at the bar, Caesar’s. It’s dark, the music is too loud. I figure I’ve earned a beer. My cell phone rings and it’s my boss’s boss. She’s asking how it’s going, says I need to do something. I can’t understand her over the music and she has a heavy accent: it looks bad, the loud music. Sounds like I’m in a bar, probably. Looks like I’m goofing off, but I’m not.
I hurry to my room, and begin the quest for an Internet connection. 20 minutes, and I’m out of tricks. I call the front desk. They trouble-shoot, then give up and send me to the third party help desk. He has me open a DOS screen and read him my IP address, then enter ‘ipconfig’ code. He assigns me a new address. It doesn’t work.
Perhaps I’m carrying this Karma with me. Anytime I touch a handrail I remind myself to wash my hands, good.