“Give up, give up, give up, the dream is over
We lost the moment, now we’re running sober
Give up, give up, give up, don’t even bother
Can’t get what we want.”
I can only watch one television show at a time. I must be hooked, otherwise why am I watching?
To be hooked is a fervent desire to know what transpires down the line.
Since last time, a lot has happened. In case you haven’t heard, here are the top news stories:
- Paris is on fire.
- Paradise was burnt to a crisp.
- There was a random act of violence in Chicago.
- There was another random act of violence in Thousand Oaks.
- A couple of overpaid, basketball stars on the same team started acting like children. A losing streak ensued.
- Marriott Hotels Group experienced a security breach, thereby exposing the data of 500 million individuals.
- Last, but not least, I can’t eat Caesar salad until further notice.
If only the French government had not initiated the fuel tax, then Parisians would be enjoying their wine and cheese in peace.
If only PG&E had turned off the power grid in a timely fashion, then the city of Pleasure would be in better shape.
If only the perpetrators had lacked firearms, then more people would be alive.
If only the game had been a blowout, then the altercation would never have occurred.
If only the network security team at Marriott had watched The Lawnmower Man, then maybe I could sleep soundly.
If only the lettuce farmers didn’t plant their crops on a pile of manure, then I could enjoy one of my go-to meals.
If only I had studied meteorology, then I could simply talk about the weather all day long.
However, this is not the case. What’s done is done. It is what it is.
And, by the way, writing in the past conditional tense is too difficult to maintain. Once the story begins, I will revert back to the present.
Indeed, yesterday has passed; now, it is today. Yesterday, I was 32. Today, I am 33.
To celebrate this joyous occasion, I return to paradise. Won’t you come along for the ride?
This is Part III, not to be confused with the Bad Religion song of the same name. It’s a story about breaking even. I call this one “Trouble In Paradise.”
It goes like this.
It’s 12:24pm on Thursday. It’s a slow day at the office. There’s a light lunch crowd. It seems as though people are focusing on dinner today. As for me, I’m thinking about pizza for dinner. After all, it’s my birthday. “Let’s live a little,” I say to myself.
12:43pm: Hey, what’s that smell? Does anybody else smell anything?
12:57pm: A guest approaches the podium in an early-90s Cadillac. She’s old and confused; she requires a walker; yet she retains a sense of smell.
1:24pm: Okay, I’m not crazy. Everybody can see the smoke billowing in the distance.
“There’s a wildfire about 200 miles away,” I continue to tell people as they arrive.
“You should really be wearing a mask,” a passerby warns me.
I head home at 3:06pm. The air quality is horrible. It’s getting hard to breathe, so I order some delivery and I lock myself inside.
On Friday morning, I buy tickets for The Rock Show.
“Here’s your ticket,” I tell my three friends via SMS. “They’re actual seats, but not all in the same row. As long as we meet a string of nice human beings that can each move down one seat, things will be fine.”
“The tickets are expensive, but it’ll be worth it,” I tell myself.
At work on Friday, the air quality is deplorable. The fire is out of hand. Who’s to blame? What’s the cause? We don’t have the answers yet. Today, though, we have N-95 masks on hand.
“You’re really smart for wearing that mask,” a guest tells me as she walks by. She’s not wearing a mask. See, there’s a shortage of masks in the marketplace. The demand is high, and the supply is waning.
3:10pm: The workweek is history. The weekend is here. I’ve had enough. I’m breaking down. I’m burning out. Getting old is hard. And, it’s getting harder to breathe out here.
Friday night is the same. I close the door and lock the windows. All I want is a breath of fresh air, but I can’t seem to find it.
3:26am Saturday: I don’t sleep well on Friday night. I prefer to sleep with the windows open, or at least cracked. Tonight, I don’t. “Screw it,” I say to myself. I open the window and let the toxins seep into my home.
Saturday morning arrives. My flight is just after noon. This routine is becoming easier. I’m like a pro.
This time around, I only bring a duffel bag. After all, it’s only a two-day trip.
2:01pm: “Wish me luck,” I text my folks as I touch down at McCarran International.
We arrive at the hotel. Las Vegas is the same as I remember it. The weather is pleasant, maybe high 50s or low 60s. No humidity, clear skies.
However, we opt to go into the smoke-filled casino. Hey, what can I tell you? Time is money, and it’s time to play some blackjack.
“I’m not playing craps right now,” I tell my buddies. “I need to play some BJ. If I’m going to roll the dice, I’ll need to inflate my bankroll beforehand.”
6:27pm: I win $50 at The Cromwell playing by my rules.
6:53pm: “Let’s go!” I tell the others. The Rock Show starts at 9pm sharp.
7:38pm: The brisk autumn evening takes shape. Our waitress at the Palms goes by the name of Summer. We order some overpriced appetizers, but it’s just not enough. I’m still hungry.
8:43pm: Still hungry, and now adequately buzzed, I meet some San Diego natives at the blackjack table. We talk about The (impending) Rock Show.
9:10pm: I seek out clarification.“9pm sharp? Yeah, right! Who are they kidding? Where are they? What is this, a joke?”
11:37pm: I strike a deal with my own self. “Man, I’m tired. I just want to sleep. Well, maybe after a few more hands of twenty-one at our home base.”
Sunday 12:48am: Dammit. My $76 in earnings transforms into a debt, somewhere in the neighborhood of $100.
Sometime after 1am, I hit the hay.
“Hey, they didn’t play ‘Adam’s Song’” my friend makes an astute observation at 8:17am Sunday.
I can’t sleep, and to make matters worse, I can’t sleep in anymore. So, I head down to the blackjack table.
10:19am: “I just made $150,” I tell my friends only because they inquire.
10:47am: My friends pose a question, “Parlay-vous le football Americain?”
“No, that’s not for me,” I reply.
12:19pm: Things are good. Brunch is better. I hit the jackpot. I enjoy two eggs up, two slices of bacon, two sausage links, and two pancakes slathered in cinnamon butter.
After that, I lose track of time. There are no clocks in this smoke-filled room. No major developments at this time. I win some hands; then I lose some hands. The drinks keep coming.
Summer is nowhere in sight.
It’s just after 4pm. We step outside to The Strip for a breath of fresh air. I love the cool, autumn breeze in the desert.
4:03pm: On y va? Absolutment, on y va! Nous arrivons au Casino de Paris.
We arrive at Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, in so many words. The ceiling indicates partly cloudy skies. It’s room temperature, very comfortable. There’s some cigarette smoke wafting, but I don’t need a mask.
I make my way to the blackjack table. It boasts a series of side bets. “It’s a sucker bet, bro,” my friend explains to me. I gamble. The dealer busts. I win $250.
I cash out. I sit down at the Ultimate Texas Hold’em table. This is another game for suckers. Again, I gamble. I win another $300. Instantly.
I cash out once more. All of a sudden, I have $917 in my wallet. Things are good. Things are really good.
“I’m up $600. What should I do?” I ask my parents via text message.
“Have a burger and then call it a night,” my dad replies.
In the blink of an eye, my earnings evaporate. I decline to tell you the rest of my adventure, because the remaining details are not that intriguing.
The ending isn’t that bad, I just wish it could have been better.
4:16pm Monday: I take the early flight home. Apparently, the weather back home creates a flurry of delays. The airline gives its customers an option to change flights, free of charge.
5:46pm: I touch down. Home again. The smoke is still present. “Nothing has changed,” I mutter to myself.
6:34pm: Back at my apartment, I lock the windows and doors. I catch the end of the six o’clock news. It’s the same old story, though.
The newscaster reads from a teleprompter. The President is entangled in a web of untruths. The fabric of our country is disintegrating. Our lives are dictated by a culture of fear.
The world is burning, but everything will be fine when the smoke clears.