Vaughn is Welsh/celtic bastardization for 'Paul'

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paul
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Postby paul » Sun Nov 25, 2007 11:20 pm

Jangletown or, If I Hear The Words "Vegas, Baby!" One More Time, I'll Punch Your Fucking Heart Out

When I started this, I was putting the times in. I knew I'd eventually have no time to do that, but I wanted a rough guide in the Land of Little Sleep. This narrative changes perspective, from first-person to third, back and forth. Just like I did. Half the time in Vegas i couldn't tell if I was watching or participating. That was a good thing.
___________________________________________________

Austin, 10:30pm, Friday 16, '07
Got home from work, finished packing, last minute call to the hotel for info, first real meal of the day, a shower, and we hit the bed at 1:30 am. A minute later the alarm goes off at 3:45 and we're loading the car. Only one large suitcase and a couple small bags between us. The bag-check and boarding at Austin Airport was smooth, they really know how to sling a grey bus tub. Kat found the most fantastically cheap deal on airline tix to Phoenix, then we rent a car to Vegas. Flying straight in was prohibitively expensive. We were in the air before 6am, one bloodshot eye on the sunrise and the clouds before slipping into a two-hour coma.

Phoenix, 7:30am, Saturday 17, Budget Rentals
The lady driving the shuttle was so chipper, she could make a cancer ward smile. Every arrival to a new place should be greeted thus. The Budget rental lady was not so chipper but she had a splendid blond hairdo that apparently had been through electro-shock therapy. It hadn't helped. We got us a nice little Pontiac G6 fastback compact, not a car I would own, but very sweet for speeding visitors around Sin City.
Our printed out maps gave us some confusion in Phoenix proper, but we got Ted Nugent's son-in-law to give us directions. I could have gone into the convenience store but my experience has taught me to ask the most weatherbeaten local with the most mud-covered truck. Especially if he has a scorpion hanging from the rearview mirror. He gave us precise directions on how to find our missing hyway and soon we were tooling along 60 just fine. Apparently I haven't lost the knack of sleeping sitting up.

AZ, 10:30am, road music on the iPod: The Pixies, The Decemberists, Morrissey, The Cure
A little Burger King, a little coffee, and on we go. We got on 93 and were greeted by a sign that said 'Watch for animals the next 144 miles'. Joshua trees and saguaros as far as the eye can see. After a while, we enter the Land Of Rocks. These giant rocks congregate on the side of the road, resentful of being usurped from their home.
Now, I like pretty pictures, but I must admit I do get tired of seeing the same sandblasted terrain for miles and miles. Kat said people must feel the same way when driving through Texas. Just a huge expanse of flatness, stretching into boring infinity. All the desert episodes of Twilight Zone kept flashing through my head. Isn't Devil's Tower around here? Is it even in AZ? Ahhh, now the terrain is getting broken up. This I like, when the flat expanse gives way to brush-spotted hills. Greenery and rocks cohabiting with mesas and mountains receding darker and darker. Some of the surfaces carved by the elements are quite beautiful. Nature's sculptures. Whenever I see a vista of a couple miles of flatland leading to a brown-ridged mountain set in front of an azure blue sky, my mind goes straight to stock footage of the cheesy 60's and 70's monster movies. I expect to see a couple of iguana claws scrape over the edge with head following behind, tongue flicking and all. Occasionally the daydreams include those monstrous split-top electrical towers. I see them start to move, snapping lines in crackly death and and advancing on the nearest town, marching single-file, skeletal soldiers. Wow. Still 160 miles to Vegas. No animals yet.

Wikieup, AZ, a passing glimpse on the side of the road
On the right side of the road, a sign that says 148 mi. to Las Vegas, on the left side, a scale model of a WWII rocket, pointed at an angle into the air. Sitting on it, what appears to be Snoopy, in full Red Baron regalia, and behind him, Abraham Lincoln. It is not outside the realm of possibility that Honest Abe was also Snoopy, hat, beard and all.

Kingman, AZ, 12:15 pm
It was a UFO landing strip, I swear to god it was. The black helicopter swinging around to pass over us again tipped me off for sure. The pioneers had to cross this sandbox on wooden wheels with their own water and food and what they could catch and kill. No highways. No iPods. No air-conditioning. Yea, they truly were made of stronger stuff. I'd have been hallucinating inside an hour.

1:15-1:45pm, Hoover Dam
We were stuck behind a 90-yr old towing a boat for about 6 miles before we hit the twisty roads leading through the dam. We were unable to pass safely because he was swerving into the other lane, constantly and lethally, then back across the white line to miss the guard rails my millimeters. Attaching the brakes to the boat trailer would have been a good idea, I thought. So, it's 5 miles an hour down and around a road that reminds me of a road i travelled frequently in Maryland called Devil's Backbone. This isn't quite that bad. Corkscrews and hairpins, but the view is fantastic. Amazing technology, this dam. More people than Times Square on New Year's Eve. I don't think I'd take the tour even if I had the time. Seeing majestic things in a herd never did it for me. I like to scope things out at a relaxed pace, moseying and meandering, not shown the very specifics then moving to the next item, ticking off the boxes. People were wearing hard hats, so maybe that's a point in favor of the tour.
In NV the phones switched over so we gained an hour, which is fantastic because Kat was trying to get to a flower shop which closed at 3, to get some flowers for her Aunt's grave. Hey, we passed the boat guy! Yayy! We're free! Wind in our hair, wild and free, unbound- what's this? The policeman directing traffic waved a huge U-Haul towing 2 jet-skis, slowly...carefully... into our lane. Sigh. That was an exiting two minutes.

Henderson, NV, 1:30pm Radio 107.5 FM- "Cowboy"- Kid Rock
76 degrees feels so much cooler than 76 degrees in Texas. maybe I'm just fooling myself, however, because I'm glad to be out stretching my legs. We're going to visit a grave, then Kat's going to show me some sights, the we're gonna check in at the hotel. I'll get to see the Strip in the daylight, which is good so's I can get oriented. I have the feeling at night I'll need it.

The Strip, Las Vegas, 3:15pm, 107.5 FM- "N.W.O."- Ministry
The famous Las Vegas sign welcomes me with showgirls holding placards that read "Jesus loves Las Vegas". Odd to be watching a sunset at 3:30 in the afternoon, but there it is. Seeing it in the daytime, it's not intimidating. Everyone keeps saying "The Strip" as though it were an entity of its own. It is something straight out of the wild west, an entire town built around a single road.
Mandalay Bay, yellow in the setting sun, the color of gold, a treasure obelisk, a beacon, calling gamblers far and wide. The Luxor has an Absolute vodka ad on the entire pyramid side that faces the boulevard. The MGM Grand lion, ready and waiting. Gold is the predominant day color here. The symbolism is not lost on me. People flocking the streets, all ages, all ethnicities, baby strollers and octogenarians holding hands, all of them looking and looking. They are the tourists. What on earth do they expect to see, to find here?

3:45pm, 107.5 FM- "I Don't Like the Drugs but the Drugs Like Me"- Marylin Manson
It looks like an exploded carnival. Every square inch of space is taken up with something else. Even the parking lots are laid amidst palm trees and water fountains, all the edges with waving greenery. Green for money, green for safety. The perfect oasis hallucination. Across from the Harley-Davidson Cafe there is a new behemoth going up. A mirrored creature, skeletonized at the top, cranes winging away. Even in the daylight what is most disorientating is the scale, the angles at with everything is placed in conjunction with the next bit. It looks like the old Batman tv show, with Adam West, where they would tilt the cameras at an angle when the villain was on screen, so you knew he was "crooked". The whole place looks like that. Jangletown. Among that warped view are all the names you recognize, Circus Circus, Riviera, Sahara, giving you a foothold on solid ground. Our hotel is "off the Strip" and we're headed there. As I write this, I still don't know if "the Strip" is supposed to be capitalized or not. My inner hedonist tells me if I'm thinking about it, I'm not having enough fun. No one cares. It's not a name. It's a Place. Be there. Experience it. Names are inconsequential now. You are the night.

4:00pm, Place Station Hotel, muzak- "Bohemian Rhapsody"- Queen
After an insane financial palaver at the check-in desk we get to the room. In Vegas there is no difference between extra charges you didn't know about and the extra amount you will inevitably pay for services rendered. The room is not unique, but this is my first 7,000 inch plasma tv, sitting on the bureau. We decided not to bring the laptop (I was going to document as I went along, I used paper instead), and it turns out the safe in the room wouldn't have held it anyway. The safe, set in a fake drawer in the bureau, was about 11x11 and could have comfortably held a five inch stack of manilla folders containing incriminating evidence, or $800,000 in 16 stacks of 1,000 bills in $50,000 bundles, or two .25's, a .454 Casull and a Mac 10 (clip out) and a box of ammo, or two copies of THE ESSENTIAL ELLISON and a PARTNERS IN WONDER (or any from the paperback Pyramid line).
We showered and hit the buffet. In the bathroom the amenities are plentiful, copious amounts of lotion, conditioner, hand soap, shower soap, a ton of towels in every conceivable size. I suppose there is a subliminal understanding of cleanliness as expiation. Of the shower-head I will only say that Karen Silkwood wished that Kerr-McGee had used this model. I believe there was a Seinfeld episode dedicated to it. Next to the actual airplanes, there is no stronger toilet extant. I can only imagine these were put in at special request, to ensure the hotel will be under no liability, that when something, ANYTHING needed to be flushed, it will do so immediately. I almost lost my balls.

7:00pm, the buffet at Palace Station
The food was fine, but as many have said before, it's all about the people watching. If I had an ounce of H.L. Mencken or A.J. Liebling's talent, I could do an entire book on one evening at the buffet. People become accustomed to being catered to, and their inner royalty comes out.
Scene: There is a boy slicing roast beef at the carving station. There are 2 butts in front of him, both about medium, dribbling juice. The lady in front of me says, "I'd like a medium-rare piece." The boy shows her what he has, cuts her a portion and says, "This is as rare as I have. Is that alright?" He clearly has no more meat and is being polite. The woman snaps, "Well, not really since i ASKED for medium-rare, but if that's all you have I'll take it." She does so, in a huff and leaves. This is behaviour that is baffling to me in the extreme. I eat, and I look around. I can see exactly which of these groups is familiar with the place and which are true neophytes. The vacation families especially. They silently scream 'Hey, it's Vegas, go ahead and run back to the buffet a dozen times! We're flush and hey, when else are we gonna be back?'. The children are insanely happy. This may sound, on the page, sarcastic, but it isn't. I truly love watching these kids. They are living a high-rollers dream before the concrete realizations of adulthood form over their imaginations. What must the conversations have been like on the ride into town? Are Mom and Dad familiar with the town, warning the kids not to stray downtown? Did the parents honeymoon here years ago, before the kids arrived, and this is the first time they've been back? Or are they all experiencing this for the first time, everyone just a little cautious, Mom making sure the kids have their cell phones and Dad reminding them to keep heir wallets in their front pockets, to watch out for pickpockets? A family with a distinct Alabama accent sat near us and as I passed by I saw they had made plates from the 'Southern' section of the buffet, ribs and fried okra and collard greens. Comfort food. That is great. I like this place.

8:30-9:56pm, trying to get parking in Caesar's Palace, 107.5 FM- "Wait and Bleed"- Slipknot
Yes, we knew traffic was going to be bad but it was far, far worse than Kathy remembered. There is the comedy event going on, so there is super-duper extra traffic, but the real problem seems to be the limos. I'm sure that limousines are de rigueur for many characters in this town, but when there is an event, particularly on a weekend, that means that they are three deep, encircling the entire hotel and casino, and regular traffic becomes a clogged artery and we, so much blood trying to squeeze through. That is a terrible analogy, and it matches the experience.
Best line overheard from the open window- An absolute pitch-perfect New Jersey accent from the guy in the truck next to us who is waiting for a limo to move: "Awww, for god's sake, ladee, will ya MOOVE IT?!"
Spinning for an hour in a parking garage, floor to floor to roof to every level, playing the who-is-leaving-who-is-not game. Greatest dashed hope of the night- we ask a girl who is walking away from the entrance, "Are you leaving?" She gives a wistful smile, "Yes, but I'm on the 7th floor." I know prostitution is technically illegal IN the city, but i'm fairly certain the girls who were wandering from level to level without actually getting in any cars were, how you say, "working"? And at least one of those gals was a guy. That is so sweet. Hey, gotta make a buck, yeah? We eventually stole a corner (that was not meant for parking) of an actual parking row. I figured it was okay, since every other car had done the same, up to and including parking in the white striped zones. My argument was, what will they do, tow every single vehicle breaking that law? Even if they did, I imagine they'd start from the ground up, so parking on the top level would give us a good head start. It beat wasting another half tank of gas.

10:15- 11:40pm, Augustus Room, Caesar's Palace, Eddie Izzard
I don't think I've ever ridden three stories of escalators before. Eddie is hilarious and if you ever get the chance to see him do his impression of giraffes playing charades, for god's sake, watch it.

12:30am Food4Less, liquor run, 107.5 FM- "Bombtrack"- Rage Against the Machine
Now THIS is where the people are. I have never seen such a rundown store. We have F4L in MD, but not as trashed as this. The ill-natured security guard is bagging groceries. There are several Korean kids trying to buy some liquor, and the guard is having a really tough time trying to get the cage key to turn without breaking the key off inside. Finally he says, "I can't get the key to turn, sorry." and goes off leaving the kids to settle for the $50.00 gallon of Jagermeister instead of the fifth of Henessy they were planning to get. His voice is a cross between weariness and impatience, and he's definitely east coast with a military bearing. Now, why would an east-coast ex-serviceman take a crappy guard dog/grocery bagger job on the outskirts of Vegas? I am fascinated way past what is healthy for me. We get plastic cups, Evan Williams, a Sunkist 12 pack and a 2 liter coke, all for the room. I like to be ready. The guard bags our stuff and says 'G'night.', and his voice is just robotic. He looks like there is nothing on this earth he cares about and i have to stop myself from asking him if he has family here, and hey, how're they doing? That kind of intimacy is not allowed here, certainly not at this time of night. We leave.

1:25am, Palace Station Hotel
We crash. We are cashed in and in the words of the immortal James Brown, "Ah cain't DOOOO no mo!! I can't even remember if we set an alarm. We just wanted sleep. At that moment the single greatest question on my mind is this: When all these people that i've spoken to about Vegas talk about going, going, going all the time, when in hell do they ever have the time to brush their teeth? So thinking, I pass out.

___________________________________________________
Guess i'll work on Sunday next, but right now, there's a pizza with my name on it. Next up: Gambling! Shows! Waitresses! Police! And Paris in the wee hours....
The medium is the message.

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Postby FrankChurch » Wed Nov 28, 2007 4:21 pm

Paul, my politics are not conspiratorial; I can back it all up bubby.

paul
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Postby paul » Sun Sep 14, 2008 11:14 am

Steve's 'new' job sparked a rumination of an incident, of beng put in a position some few months ago.

I posted at the onset of the year about the publishing company that summarily executed over 100 of us just after Christmas. The HR lady called me out of the blue last spring. Said that she wanted to let me know 'thru the vine' that there were some openings in a different section of the co., that i would have to go through the app. process, but since those apps crossed her desk, she was inclined to think I might be quite suitable for the job. The hemming and hawing was understandable. I was one of several people who had been civil to her throughout the process, and seeing her out and about, so I'm sure that had played in my favor. She wasn't allowed to quote me a pay rate, but (I love circumvention) she did say that other departments were being paid anywhere from 3 to 5 dollars more an hour than my old dept. had been. She was very nice and serious; I believe she really wanted to help.

I checked a couple of facts with two friends who still worked there- what had transpired since i left, what new management had gone down & so forth. it seemed that this new job would have put me in a recession-proof area for quite some time (though nothing is permanent, of course). In fact it was the kind of job I could possibly have parlayed into something Bigger and Better.

There was, of course, the dilemma. I would have to go back to work for a corporation doing what a corp. had to done for their bottom line, to survive: to kick a whole lot of people, some who could ill afford to be done so, to the curb.
I personally know two folks who depended on that job for the paychecks that would provide for the medical care they need, without which, it's virtually impossible for them to go looking for another job. I know and understand both sides. Company's gotta do what they do, people get hurt, people have to use the bootstraps. But this was a very difficult decision for me to make. How much could i sell my soul for? Were the very thoughts i was having proof enough that i shouldn't take the job? How could I hug my friend, who is now so far in debt from the breast cancer surgery, who is in pain from the hobbled legs she cannot afford surgery on, with the same hands I use to cash the paychecks from the company that tossed her (and I) like a dirty dishrag in order to save some money? And how do I know they wouldn't do it again and again? I couldn't even pass on the info to others i thought more deserving, because they were livid at the co. for the firing. There had been much cursing and Sturm und Drang. I knew they wouldn't have taken the job.

Harlan has used the term 'floating ethics' many times over the years, but i had never really been put in a position to actually have to decide about mine own. And I don't want harm to come to anyone, but i truly believe if more people were put behind the 8-ball like that, we would better come to an understanding of who were are at core. Of what stuff we are made and just where our jib is cut. Where our limits lay and what burdens we can shoulder- and which ones we can't.

In the end i didn't take it, because I just couldn't. I already had another job, not making as much money, but I had put some time and effort into the company; they had faith that i was the new employee and wasn't going to go rush off back to my old boss like a schoolboy after an ex-girlfriend. Between that and the distrust for the former, i knew i would be forever wondering if i had made the right decision, and that told me that it would be the wrong decision. As soon as that connection was made, it was over. It was decided.

No regrets.

There are times when there are unforgivable positions we are put in, that in a just world, no person should be allowed to decide what comes about, who lives and who dies. Then there are times when we are tossed into that crucible and for a brief moment, we have control of our moral and ethical destiny. The outcome is in our hands, which path we choose to go down.
I know it was just a job, and a not very important one. But this lesson was so much more than being about employment for money. It was a lesson of the content of my character. I know I made the right decision, and i am a better person for it. I can look upon it as an achievement of logic and rationale, sense and responsibility. I also like to think that in some small way, my life has been ennobled by that simple choice that was not so simple to make.

It feels like it.
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Postby Moderator » Sun Sep 14, 2008 1:03 pm

Interesting post, Paul. Obviously cuts very close to where I am at the moment.

I made a solid decision to leave VZ when I left in March. I had what I consider to be good reasons and would make the same move if I lacked hindsight as a tool. (My only real regrets are A, not going to a company that had better financials; and B, getting a much better idea of the relationship between the company and my assigned account base.)

The new gig is a job I frankly had been approached about taking a couple of years ago. At the time things were going well with my projects, and we were just starting on a big one that promised to be pretty exciting (and was). So I turned it down and instead recommended a buddy of mine who has something close to my own set of credentials.

He, in turn, when he found out I'd been rif'd, let me know that a position in his group had opened up and had proactively called his boss (my new boss) to recommend ME.

I've worked for some of the worst people in the business, both from a senior management role as well as for direct supervisors. In this case, I know the senior management of this division is credible, and I've already formed a great relationship with the guy I'll be reporting to. I'm going into this with my eyes wide open.

Corporations have their pluses as well as the manyfold minuses. But, as you discovered, it's got to be something you can commit yourself to ethically and energetically -- and this new role is something I'm comfortable about in both categories.

But, as I've experienced recently, mileage may vary.
- I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

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Postby Moderator » Mon Sep 15, 2008 10:00 am

Hey Paul -

It occurs to me to ask how the storm went in Austin.

We haven't heard from Cindy, and I'm posting Peg's commentary, but never thought to ask. So: How'd the storm go in Austin???
- I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

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Postby paul » Mon Sep 15, 2008 7:53 pm

Nada, zip and zilch. No rain, an overnight breath of hot air, then back to 90's on sat.

Now today, we got a cool front, it was in the 80's today, and tonight it's supposed to hit 60 or even, heaven forfend, 50.
Supposed to be 50 in the morning. A real autumnal chill. Hell, that kinds weather makes people break out their parkas around here.

The real bitch of it is, our computer servers in the store are all run out of Houston, that being where the company started. So when Ike took out the power and water, he took our computer stuff with him. So now we can't receive, check or update inventory (unless it's by hand), print our signage (unless it's by hand), get our company e-mails. Oh yes, and all the register cashiers get to use the old metal and plastic 'knucklebusters' to frank the credit cards, since they won't go through the registers.
Fun fun fun in the big city.
We get all the power hassles of having been IN a hurricane, without all the rain and excitement we should have got.

But it is nice watching all the people freak out that they can't use their debit cards (PIN won't go through). As though it were the only gold on the planet.

Betcha whomever has to enter all those thousands of CC receipts will have some words for the guy who said it was "too expensive, and unnecessary, to put local servers in Austin."
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Re: Vaughn is Welsh/celtic bastardization for 'Paul'

Postby paul » Sat Feb 05, 2011 8:01 am

One inch of powder snow and they close the schools. College, too.

Man, these kids just don't know.
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