It’s as windy as all get out in Las Vegas tonight. As usual, I am tucked away in my hotel room with a bottle of Fresca and some macaroons I bought at the grocery store earlier today. I’m not exaggerating-this is usual for me when I am on the road. Another favorite of mine is boxed wine and kettle corn, if I happen to be in a suite with a microwave. Just call me the Duke of Decadence.
Along with my nighttime snacking preferences, my emotional trajectory on these trips is nothing if not predictable. Preparation for travel involves my masking a deeper excitement with bitching and complaints, which melts away once the actual traveling has begun. When I arrive, I slip into solitary observation, a sponging of my new environment. I then bop along for the duration, occasionally thinking about returning home to Taylor, Tula, and the house of cuckoos that employs me. It’s not until the day or two before I am to go back that I start to feel the pull, as it were.
However, this week has felt much different. I think I missed some kind of emotional beat. I touched down at McCarran and honestly felt like someone had just whipped the pillowcase off of my head after a long and frightful drive in the trunk of a nondescript black sedan. I find myself walking around Sin City like a dazed victim, not quite able to explain what has happened to me.
It doesn’t help that I am in a place only tentatively connected with reality. Today, in the midst of working, I made pit stops at a grocery store, a smoothie shop, and a Chinese food restaurant, all three of which had a sizable area set aside for slot machines and at least one woman with an airbrushed kitten t-shirt.
When I travel alone, I am bound by this private “duty of awareness”. Without the proper preparation and mindset, I don’t feel completely connected to my surroundings. For whatever reason, my focus has left me, and I’m left floating on the surface of Las Vegas like so much casino flotsam. Over time, the result is intense j’amais vu. This, I’ve recently learned, is the opposite of déjà vu, and involves a feeling of newness or unfamiliarity about a person, place, or situation one rationally knows should be familiar. The most common example is that of saying a single word over and over again until you no longer recognize its meaning, despite knowing what the word is and what it means.
My own personal jamais vu has been happening over and over again this week, and revolves around recognizing myself. Standing beside the slot machines at Albertson’s supermarket, opening my hotel room door, watching a report about a Carl’s Jr. to be built atop of an old pet cemetery here in Vegas; all of these moments somehow forced me outside of my body for a moment and created that sense of disconnection. And it keeps happening with increasing frequency.
The sensation is like watching a film out of sync. I know that if I can just start the trip all over again, I can align myself and all will be well with the world. But I can’t, and the drift just grows worse, and it makes me feel anxious and itchy inside, and a little afraid. How much worse will it get? I am leaving for Kentucky tomorrow, so maybe the next leg will set things to rights and reset me.
I had a dream last night that I was wandering around the car rental return plaza near the airport, looking for a friend, who I eventually found hanging from a hook in a public restroom. Don’t worry, he turned out to be a lifeless blue jumpsuit with an oddly corrugated and expressive cardboard box for a head. I had meant to take him home to LA with me in the dream, but ended up forgetting him in the trunk of my Suzuki Forenza.
So…I don’t know. Even now, I’m not really sure where this whole blog entry is going or how to end it. Shit.It’s 7:00pm in Las Vegas. No matter what, I am gone tomorrow. Maybe it will be me. Maybe it will be a blue jumpsuit with a cardboard head. Maybe it will be mostly me, with some left behind, buried under a Carl’s Jr. with a bunch of dead dogs and gerbils and such, and only an airbrushed kitten t-shirt hanging outside of the restrooms as an oblique memorial.