Blue Fish
Red Fish

ON HE RODE — Chapter Twenty-Six

Las Vegas — do I expect to see Sinatra’s Rat Pack, or maybe Elvis
himself? Why not? When I’d not found Kerouac at Big Sur? The best
Elvis songs from an English teacher’s perspective? “You’re Right, I’m
Left, She’s Gone” and “I Forgot to Remember to Forget”.

As an English teacher, what do I like about them? I like their irony.
I like the way the hangdog hero wryly admits his unhappy state is
worse than he’d expected. Who broke it off, him or her? Under what
provocation or pretext? How will it all turn out?

Then, also as an English teacher, the deadpan cleverness of rueful
awareness? You’re right, I’m left; I forgot to remember. That was the
real Elvis, not the marquis of the marquee I might see in Vegas, where
lights form a distant corona in the darkening desert sky.

I’ve been taking it easy, keeping it down to a comfortable 50 with a
weather eye on the temperature gauge. Stopping at a SHELL station to
fill up, check things out, maybe do a bit of hygienic maintenance in
the Herren. (Excuse me for mentioning it, but I’ve been to Europe and
sometimes have difficulty concealing my thus-acquired international
linguistic proclivities, if you catch my snobbish meaning, dear
reader.) I do what I can with cold water, a cracked mirror, and a poem
that begins “Here I sit, all broken-hearted.”

Fancying that I am now socially acceptable, I pop my Chevy’s hood. The
engine’s smell lets me know I still could and probably turn it over to
the on-duty mechanic. But no, I’ve made a pact, not with the Devil but
with the Boss of Us All. Does such an entity exist? Yes or no, I do
expect an answer, which is why I comply with the terms of our
agreement and chunk the hood back in place. Its ornament is still
shiny and smooth, unlike my own scaly red schnozola. Remember Jimmy
Durante? “Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.” Cool guy,
flaunting his personal Rolls Royce hood ornament all the way to the
bank and beyond.

Night falling with the sun behind mountains to the west shading coves
and depressions in the desert floor where I might safely hide and seek
to sleep the night. Finding a miniature arroyo, I gently roll into its
shallow depths. It would not do to sink suddenly axle-deep in sand,
and fortunately I do not. Thank you, Lord.

I’m off to the side far enough to avoid a casual passerby’s interest
or attention, but what if there’s someone out there looking to find
some unprotected dumbass like myself just begging for some special
attention? This ponder proves short-lived, and I end up getting my
best night’s sleep in days and wake to a desert sunrise torn up in
every direction by motorcycle scramblers, screamers, blasters. Rise
and shine.

A radio would be nice. Maybe there’s a Safeway with a tube-tester in
Vegas?  God should not begrudge a little air-wave companionship, no
pact-breaker. It’s not like I’m changing the oil, stacking the deck.
Whatever. He could fix it, of course, in a blink. If He wanted.

Vegas squats farther down the road than I’d guessed, sort of a mirage
that keeps edging away somehow, beyond the next horizontal, then the
next.

Where can I pick up a bag of decent weed is one question needing an
answer, and where can I arrange for strategic penile implants, seed
pearls maybe? Thinking long-term, of course. More tickle for your
nickel, if you will. Both of these requests could no doubt be met in
so accommodating a social culture, but how long would it take and just
who would a misfit like myself ask and what words would I say? Duh.
Garsh dang.

Eventually I catch up with the mirage that opens in a straight and
desultorily precise south/north line from one end of town to the other
and far, far beyond. Yeah. Well. Desultory. I won’t pretend to know
its official meaning. I like the way it looks on a page, and I like
imagining the way it must sound when spoken by someone who knows.

In my imagination it sounds good, and in my imagination it marks a
kind of disappointment, as when you’re attracted to a person or
situation and when you look closer it’s really not as advertised.
Nothing special. Functional but drab.

Desultory will have to describe my morning drive back and forth, up
and down the main strip of Las Vegas, already too hot for comfort and
too bright for neon to work its magic. Not a good fit, Vegas and me.
Someday I’ll look up the meaning for desultory and see if Mr. Webster
thinks he knows better. Has he ever been to Vegas?

Enough levity. We have serious business ahead, and I’m no doubt better
off without weed and implant fantasies. But you wonder.

As for games of chance, no. Who needs to be reminded that the odds are
never in your favor? Just because you think you’re so pretty? Just
because you think you’re so hot? Thank you, Hank, Sr., for those
timely words of wisdom and only allow me to add that it pleases me to
know you never played Vegas and never will.

So, pow, Vegas. I fart in your direction without partaking of your
pleasures or allowing you to partake of mine. While I fail to detect
vibes of sadness coaxing me back for another look-around, it occurs to
me that when I opted to stop working for a living, I also opted out of
working-class entertainments, often in groups friendly and
entertaining themselves, a bonus. Take it from me, teachers are not
inclined to be entertaining, individually or in groups. I know that
because I are one, har-de-har.

For now, it pleases me to call your attention to the question printed
on the front of my tee-shirt: Pau Hana? We’ll see.

Mahalo for reading!

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