Wednesday, February 12, 2014

No. 113 – Lateralis

Performer: Tool
Songwriters: Maynard James Keenan, Adam Jones, Danny Carey, Justin Chancellor
Original Release: Lateralus
Year: 2001
Definitive Version: None.

After I broke up with Debbie, this song became my mantra: You ride the spiral to the end and may just go where no one’s been. In other words, you never know what might happen when you try. It was with this in mind that I went to Las Vegas for the first time, and the second night there, I rode the spiral.

In the early days of The Ratpack, a group dinner was held as a way to draw everyone together for at least one event. In 2001, the dinner was held in a Japanese steakhouse in The Flaming-O, since renamed.

We had two teppanyaki tables, and I sat with Scott and Shani, next to Shani, who was eager to try a few things that Scott had zero interest in trying—sushi and sake. Because she sat next to me, Shani had a good guide to help her out as the chef built the onion volcano and flipped the shrimp tail into his hat—you know, the usual.

On the other side of Scott sat an attractive blonde whom I’d never seen before but who openly joined our conversation. I know, at a Japanese grill table, the entire table is part of the conversation, but she was involved with what Scott and I were saying specifically and flashing me this great smile.

Linda was, in fact, part of the Ratpack crew, a friend of a friend. She’d never been to Las Vegas before either, so in addition to the theater of Japanese cookery, we had that to talk about. Linda was in public relations for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which I thought was pretty cool.

It soon became apparent that we were conversing more than anyone else—around Scott and Shani. Finally, Scott said to me when Linda went to the bathroom: We’re going to split, so you two can talk. Thanks for helping a brother out.

The distance to us now closed, Linda and I chatted amiably as everyone else split for parts unknown. I asked if she wanted to get a drink somewhere. She said she was going to meet some of the Ratpack folks at Paris in about an hour but invited me to come along … if I wanted. I assumed that was rhetorical.

We made our way to Paris by way of the Barbary Coast, where I taught Linda about blackjack (she didn’t know anything but the slots) and how they give you free drinks while you play. Then as we headed out, we ran into not one, but TWO Elvis impersonators. I took a picture of Linda with the Elvii, which she said would make a great Christmas card. (Scott wore the greenest of horns when he found out about my Elvis spotting.)

At Paris, we sat in one of the open café clubs on the main floor of the casino as a funky band played Seventies pop songs. Linda and I danced to a few; I bought her drinks. This was going well, and when that broke up, instead of going back to her room, she agreed to go somewhere else with me.

Knowing Vegas only slightly better than she did thanks to having been here one day earlier, I had no real idea about where to go, but I thought of the Bellagio. Linda hadn’t seen the water show out front, so we did that and then went inside for another drink.

At the Bellagio, the conversation turned literary. She recently had finished Ulysses by James Joyce. Yes, finally. I’d read the epic novel at the end of 1999, and the whole time I read it, I wished I still was at Wabash, because I needed to have someone with whom I could talk about this and that. Now, I did.

We continued the conversation even as we hiked to O’Shea’s to meet up with other Ratpackers. I loved the idea that as we passed by the guys handing out the hooker cards on The Strip, we discussed Leopold Bloom’s penchant to consume the organs of animals.

The night ended not long after that with agreement that we had an excellent night and the promise of seeing each other the next day and a quick embrace. Viva Las Vegas, baby!

Unfortunately, the next day was yet another example of buyer’s remorse when it comes to members of the fair sex—always from the perspective of the said sex. We met up as most of the contingent headed downtown for a night of gambling, but the spark the night before wasn’t there from Linda.

The only thing of note was that when we drove back to The Strip, I miscalculated my need to go to the bathroom before leaving. We got stuck in traffic on Las Vegas Boulevard, and my eyes were yellow before we made it all the way back. I told the driver to pull over so I could run into the nearest casino and hit a bathroom. Somehow, I made it into the Bellagio in time.

After Linda called it a night soon after, I wandered the Strip alone till almost 5 a.m.—the last man standing. I played a little but mostly just walked, until a car pulled up by me on the Strip. The two women inside asked whether I wanted the Bill Clinton treatment. When I assured them I most certainly did, they said $150 and “get in.” OK, maybe I didn’t want to ride THAT spiral. I declined.

After leaving Las Vegas, I contacted Linda a few times via email, but nothing came of it, and I never saw her again. I was pretty bummed, because it seemed like the stars were all lined up.

I mean, what are the chances I’d meet a woman roughly my age whose name starts with an L and who works in a journalism-related field in Chicago and that I’d meet her in a two-word city west of the Rockies where the first word starts with an L and rhymes with moss and with whom I’d talk about Ulysses in a bar? That’s a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, isn’t it?

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