The Englishman and I exchanged business cards, wished each other well, said goodnight. As soon as he was gone, I felt a tiny tickle of excitement in the pit of my stomach. I was alone, and that strange tickle was my body’s way of telling me that I was happy to be alone again.
Was it typical for me to feel relieved and excited after a seemingly harmless chat? It was. It’s always been this way for me. Once, after a business meeting in a hotel barroom in Vancouver last winter, I stopped off in the lobby Men’s Room and caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror. What I saw looking back was startling: I had the eyes of a sailor, one who’d obviously spent too many years at sea; a sailor who’d survived epic, wine-dark tempests and battled oversized octopi; a sailor who was only now taking his first unexpected steps back on land again. I could see the post-business-meeting gratitude and subtle flashes joy in my eyes in that Men’s Room mirror.
If anyone wonders why I live alone with two idiotic cats and have never been married, well, case closed on that one.
From what I could tell the Englishman was a thoroughly decent man, decent all the way down to his English bones. Had it occurred to me that this situation—two strangers having a drink together in a casino shaped like an Egyptian pyramid—might turn into some sort of sick, twisted, perverted encounter?
Yes, that had occurred to me. All my life I’ve thought that even the most innocuous situations are going to somehow turn into sick, twisted, perverted encounters.
But the truth is this: very few of the situations in my life that I’d thought were going to turn into sick, twisted, perverted encounters actually turned into sick, twisted, perverted encounters. Which is a huge relief. And, also—let’s be honest—a bit of a disappointment, too. Fact: A sick, twisted, perverted encounter once or twice a year can be good for you. They get the old heart pumping, get the adrenaline simmering. They wake up those dormant fight-or-flight instincts.
My cab ride with the Englishman and his stylish cardigan was quick and painless. One of the things that I actually like about Las Vegas—maybe the only thing that I actually like about Las Vegas—is that the airport is bizarrely close to the city itself. From the airport to The Strip takes only fifteen minutes. Twenty minutes, if traffic is congested.
The Luxor’s main entrance was, like all things in Las Vegas, oversized and melodramatic. It looked like a shabbier version of the backlot of the 1963 film Cleopatra. But the entrance was also somewhat rundown in small ways. Several overhead lights were burned out; bits of trash rolled around the drop-off area like tumbleweeds.
Once we’d exited the cab, I made a display of taking out my wallet. I said to the Englishman, “Let’s split this.” I even opened the wallet a little, to show the Englishman how serious my intentions were.
The Englishman mercifully waved me off. He fished around in his (much fancier) wallet with his delicate English fingers, and said the words I had been hoping to hear: “I can expense this.”
“Are you sure?” I asked.
And with those magic words, it was decided. Final score: Disheveled Frankenstein 1, Las Vegas 0. More…
The first week of January 2016 I traveled to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show. It was only my second CES ever. My first was seven or eight years ago.
I’m not sure that Las Vegas is the best place to get the new year up and running. The tech industry seems to think it is.
The company I was working for had booked me a room at the Luxor, which is the hotel-casino that, from the outside, looks like the illegitimate child of a pyramid and a horny disco ball.
When I deplaned at McCarran, it was obvious that everyone in the airport was there for CES. Lots of backpacks, and virtual maps, and foreign accents, and index fingers pushing the bridges of eyeglass frames back up the lengths of oily noses, etc., etc. Oh, the narrowed, nearsighted eyes of nerds! Eyes ruined by decades of comic-book reading, staring at computer screens, playing video games, etc., etc. What beautiful eyes they have, truly.
A bit of science information for us to puzzle over today: My ferritin level is low. A normal ferritin level is about a 100. Mine, right now, is a couple of ticks below 20.
So what exactly is “ferritin,” kids? And why do we care about its so-called “level”? I have no idea what the word ferritin means; I was pre-med for a tad less than 1.5 semesters in college. Chemistry is what finally drove me off. Though I do now know that ferritin has something vaguely to do with iron (thanks, WebMD). And I also know this: if your ferritin level is below 20, as mine is, congratulations, because you are now borderline anemic.
This is not something that you want to be. After all the mysteries and nonsense that I’ve been through over the past two years, after all the times that my body has backfired and threatened to explode (and implode), why do I have a unexpected iron deficiency? And why do I have it now?
The official answer from science is this: Who in the fuck knows. More…
Could I find my way around San Francisco without the use of my phone? To my surprise, it seemed that I could. What I did was this: I looked for real-world objects that I had noticed en route to the Marriott Courtyard earlier. For example, I saw a group of 10 or 15 bored Japanese teenagers hungrily smoking cigarettes in the entryway to a tiny cafe. I saw a health-food store with a weathered cowboy painted on the sign out front. The cowboy was supposed to look intimidating, like he was about to engage in a barroom brawl or a shoot-out. But he didn’t look intimidating to me; he looked like he was vexed by the vague, nagging shit smell that seems to bizarrely permeate the San Francisco streets. Finally, I saw a neon sign, still lighted for some reason despite the daytime hours, hanging in the blacked-out windows of a bar. The sign said: WOODEN CANOE ALE.
San Francisco, man.
Losing your phone has a fairly elegant catch-22 built into it: the one thing that would most help you find your lost phone is your lost phone. My brain involuntarily generated “solutions” that got promptly fed into the catch-22’s buzzsaw: Why not phone Thurmond Slackjaw and see if you left your phone back at the last demo! Oh, I’ll bet it’s there. Ha, ha! Problem equals solved.
These “solutions” would, at least initially, make my heart soar like a pigeon released moments before the Super Bowl. I was already looking forward to rewarding myself with a visit to the most decadent place in San Francisco: the Walgreens candy aisle. The Walgreens candy aisle has everything that a middle-aged man who no longer drinks and plays video games for a living could possibly desire, including Good & Plenty, which is a licorice-flavored candy that is the size and shape of prescription-grade Vicodin. More…
I traveled to San Francisco in early March, making my first official “work trip” since I got sick last year. I attended the Game Developers Conference, a relentlessly nerdy gathering that I’ve been going to for over 10 years now. The weather in San Francisco in March is usually gray and grim during the GDC. Not this year. This year the days were unseasonably sunny and warm and curiously optimistic. More…
I brought reading material with me to the ER. All my life I’ve habitually brought reading material—usually an excess of reading material—no matter where I’m going. I can’t even run a simple errand without having at least one book and two or maybe three magazines on me. It’s something I learned to do as a child, back when we lived in a small house in the woods in Upstate New York. Living in “The Woods” meant that I spent a significant portion of my childhood—maybe 20 or 30 percent of it—in the boring backseats of cars as my parents drove us to nearby cities—either Rome (20 minutes), Utica (45 minutes) or Syracuse (one hour); and, yes, we lived near three depressed and crumbling metropolises, all with ridiculously Homeric names—for groceries, or perhaps to wander around a department store to look at items that we couldn’t afford. From the age of four until 16, I probably read a couple thousand books in the backseats of cars.
But instead of perusing the reading material I’d brought with me to the ER last week—or, more accurately, trying to peruse; because of my brain troubles, I’m not the strongest reader these days—I did something that, ethically speaking, I probably should not have done: I eavesdropped on other patients.
Going back to St. Paul’s Hospital now is sort of like going to a college for an alumni weekend. As soon as I walk in the door, people start saying hello to me. I see a lot of faces that look familiar but that I don’t recognize. I nod at those faces. Those faces nod back. I engage in perfunctory catch-ups with the faces that I do actually recognize. Hey, how have you been? What’s new? You don’t say! We display a shared admiration and awe for the facility that we are standing in. Oh sure, this is an old hospital, but it’s still great, you know? They ask me how I’m doing and what’s new in my life. “Didn’t you used to have a beard?” a young doctor in the Cardiac Unit playfully asked me last weekend. I told him that I did not have a beard while I was a “student” at “St. Paul’s University”—not officially, I didn’t—but that I usually neglected my shaving responsibilities, which is probably why he thought I had a beard. I feel comfortable and safe and strangely at-home when I’m at St. Paul’s now. I guess I probably always will. Even the shrill noises and rhythms and aggravating tics of the place—the bright, repeating DOOT-DOOT-DOOT of the blood pressure machine; the bizarre announcements over the P.A. system (“Code Red, Providence, Level One, Code Red”)—are all soothing to me.