The Wastelander IV
Viva Las Vegas: Hooray for Hollywood

[The Wastelanders are a form of prose-sketching I came up with on the road. You can find the first three sections of this sequence in the blog archive from this summer.]

For the world is an Eye
And the universe is Seeing

--Jack Kerouac

Flagstaff, Arizona to Las Vegas, Nevada.

Wreck on I-40: U Haul
flipped over railing—all
belongings scattered downhill
bright as wildflowers.


Newspaper interview via cell phone as we
drive out of the forests & the kids laugh
at “famous Dad.”


I want to drive down it:


Only 247 degrees
in the shade.
Turdburgers. More road poison.
Fuel for
Las Vegas.


110 degrees. Dead roads
up thru skeletal mtns.
the terror
of Hoover Dam.

Into the Hoover Dam Museum—my second
museum stop already today,
from ancient Sinagua ruins
to this vast battlement
of agua.


looking down the insanity of the cliff
of the dam face.
The suicidal pull to the far green water.
Another Western vista
that wants to kill you.

We drink bottle after bottle
of ice water but it feels
like it turns to steam before
it ever hits our gullets.


Las Vegas.
Goober teens in the back seat
going insane w/ excitement: no trees! No
boring deer! No ponds or waterfalls or
ruins or vistas! & me, behind the wheel
cursing the traffic (oops, sorry, lady from Texas
who sent me an e-mail this morning that Devil’s H might be a good
book but she can’t recommend it because of language—
there certainly are avenues available to authors to tell a story
without bad language—not that she didn’t think
Mexicans had, you know, human rights). Shit!
I say. Son of a BITCH!
“Daddy,” Chayo chirps from the back seat,
“you owe me a quarter
for bad language!”

Pictures of women’s butts
loom three stories high on casino walls.
Men stand in the brutal light passing out
porno leaflets.
I hate this place.
Excalibur, Luxor—everybody looking
for Criss Angel in case he’s levitating
above the pyramid—Mandalay Bay.
We trudge into the hotels and march
along w/ the Party People thru tunnels
of ciggie smoke and blinking swirling
neon lights. Kids drunk
on neon and plush carpets. Pure casino
oxygen pumped in to get gamblers stoned
on hope puts pep in everybody’s step & I
suddenly feel the basal desire to put coins
in slots.

Here’s all you need to say about Vegas:
a Criss Angel t-shirt
costs $100.


At Dick’s Bar,
a woman smacked Cinderella
w/ her stump.


Excalibur: connecting rooms. Locking door.
What every parent secretly wants: quiet.
And maybe CNN.

Outside our door,
there’s a small puddle of barf
on the Excalibur rug.
Party on, Dudes!


Friday, Whatever

Freak-watching at breakfast.
Dad at the next table sends back six breakfasts
in a row. Finally, the manager comes out
to see what the F could go wrong w/ so many eggs.
There’s a wall at Mandalay Bay w/ giant swollen
female body parts oozing out of holes.

& into the admittedly amazing aquarium.
Millions of gambling dollars make for spiffy
fish tanks.
Over to MGM to gawk at their lions.
Shops, casinos—teens looking critically
at the hunched gray coin-maniacs pulling
levers over and over--& proof that we’re real suburban
sophisticates, we go see the 3-D M&M movie
then spend an hour in the M&M shop buying purple
M&Ms. I can’t even eat ‘em.
I find some sugar-free ice cream, & Eric & I find
a magician levitating a playing card in mid-air
& he takes us in his back room & shows us
how to make the card float, spin & circle
our bodies. We are Penn & Teller!

Off, Faire Wizards and Magicians, to Chayo’s obsession:
Rainforest Cafe! Rubber elephants! Rubber food!
Salad & diet coke for me.
Sun-stroked & my feet are falling off.
But the fam is happy.

Sting rays
Komodo dragons
Moray eels
Horseshoe crabs
Giant Asian water monitors
Golden crocodiles
& North American Gamblers.

On the way between casinos & hotels, we paused
because Chayo wanted a picture
w/ a towering showgirl in full regalia.
C and Meg worked the cameras. I wandered off to the side
& discovered what they couldn’t see in the front:
a fully bare bootay.


They go to the pool.
I set the a.c. for zero degrees and lie on the bed
watching Motley Crue on cable.
Nikki Sixx!
Sixx! Sixx! Sixx!
I’ma grow me a chin patch like Sixx!
I look around. Empty king-size bed
in a fancy overpriced hotel.
On my way to Cali for a reading.
The Crue on the tube & William Stafford poems
beside me, an end-of-the-world paperback thriller
on the night stand beside the water bottle.
My notebook. My trusty G2 pen.
On the road.
Damn. That’s me now. That’s it.
That’s my secret life.


Hey, it’s night.
Other sophisticated Vegas thrill-seekers
hit the Texas Hold ‘Em table.
I take my 8 year old
to the basement to the “4-D” Spongebob
Squarepants ride.


Eric, Megan & I
Head out for a late night Vegas
stroll down the Strip. Turns
into miles of neon-lit hiking
surrounded by the astounding
human zoo.

woman in painful 4 inch high heels
& a blue see-thru dress, no panties,
drunk to zombification,
sitting on planter boxes
every few feet.

gang task-force cops
rousting vatos w/ shaved heads
against a wall.

normal-sized guy
carrying a 2 ½ foot tall
man thru the crowd,
the tiny man
giving high fives to his pedestrian friends
who shout, “Hey,

too-fat disco divas
in too-tight dresses
walking barefoot: the skin
of their feet
gone the color
of tar.

Eric is just as big a sucker
as me—falls in love
w/ the sad-looking woman
w/ music notes tattooed
on her arms handing out
flyers to some club
all alone.

a drunk Asian woman
pulled over by about 15 cops
giggling thru a sobriety test
bursts into sobs
then passes out
standing up
leaning on her boyfriend’s chest.
He tries to negotiate
w/ the cops.
the dancing-waters fountains
begin their extravaganza.
She doesn’t
see it.

Item: unexpected
Laserium show in a hallway
of a mall.
we stumble on a dance club,
strippers visible thru open doors
on elevated stage w/ a pole to one side.
Megan: “It’s just like
what I thought it would
be like.”

Clearly undocumented Mexicans
TO YOUR ROOM t-shirts
lurk in shadows
handing out porno-hooker
cards by the hundreds.

In the lights, the hubbub, the noise, the bumping
endless shuffle, the laughter and the car
horns and the cops and the rock muzak booming from speakers
and the drunks and the cop cars and the flash-flash-flash and the
helicopters, Megan says: “This is all I’ve ever wanted.”

Camera goes:
click click click click.


Saturday. Escape.

As we trudged back & forth to the van w/ luggage,
Cinderella and I won $26 on a $12 slot investment.
Hot gamblers.
We said to the guy in the cage:
“We don’t want to break the bank!”
He said nothing.


We waste over an hour searching for
“Sam’s Town” because it’s on a Killers CD.
My heroic gesture for Megan.
Mom wanting to kill the kids and me, the kids
wanting to kill the adults, Chayo excited
because there’s a robot duck, beaver,

Can’t get out.
Wrong turns. No gas. No breakfast places. U turns.
Las Vegas is a Venus Flytrap
conspiring to trap all travelers
a little longer
till some more of their vital juices
are sucked out.


Every inch of I-15
a living burned-out hell.
Dirt, Dirt. Heat. Dirt.
Day of hate.

Eric refuses to talk to anybody.

Moving slow as a wagon train.
L.A. is only 9,000 miles away.

in Victorville
want so badly
my ass.

I keep my eyes on my pump.

½ tank: $70.00.

2, 250 miles.

5 car fender-bender,
men in the fast lane
screaming at each other.

¼ mile later,
multiple spinout crashes
on opposite side of the freeway,
CHP everywhere.



In the continuing spirit of God
punishing us for our Vegas sins, our L.A.
hotel cancelled our reservation & the desk men
give us the fish eye as if we are trying to pull
some fast one of their glittering Culver Cityness.
Road chaos.
Those days when it all turns to crap,
not even good fertilizer, just dog poo
stuck to a shoe.


I drive Eric to Hollywood
to buy him birthday CDs at holy
Amoeba Music.
900 degrees at midnight.

A young man walking down
Fairfax near Santa Monica
Holds up a sign that says:

Guy at the parking lot says, “It’s $20 if you park yourself,
$15 for the valet.”
Wha? I say.
“$20 if you park it.
$15 if I park it.”
It’s Hollywood, man—
don’t try to make sense of it.

E is convinced the bearded guy stocking CDs is the
singer from Clutch. Famous Beards of America.
Aisles and aisles.
He finds some obscure Porcupine Tree,
which makes me laugh.
As if Porcupine Tree isn’t obscure
enough in its regular releases.
That’s m’boy!

I, of course, flip out when I find
export Shriekbacks! Two of them!
And a $5 Van der Graaf

You want obscure, boy?


Freaks and punks wander the building
w/ spinning eyeballs looking for their favorite
satanic juj-ju goth dance mix CDs.

After the orgy,
we walk the dark side street
to our baffling parking lot,
& I don’t let on
to birthday boy
that I have
no idea
how to get back
to the

A small Mexican woman
delivers the van to us.
“Put on the Porcupine Tree,” I say
& feel my way thru the dark.

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