I have a reputation in the industry for being bitter, angry & hateful. There are times when it’s well-earned, but I feel that the perception is somewhat exaggerated. I figured out this afternoon that a lot of people see me that way because they largely encounter me only in Las Vegas… and here are few places on Earth that engender bitterness, anger & hate in me like Las Vegas.
Often, people ask what it is that I hate about Vegas so much, and the simple answer is everything. I’m not being facetious or inflammatory; I cannot think of a single good thing about this city. I’m here with The Unicorn this year, which takes the edge off pretty significantly, but I still despise everything outside our room. The disdain is so pervasive, I can’t even decide where to start.
Driving here is a nightmare. Whatever shitty excuse they have for civic engineers have decided the best way to keep traffic moving is to make it utterly impossible to get from Point A to Point B following anything like a straight route. Need to get from the airport to the Hard Rock? Easy! Just take the side road through the college and the rest is all illegal left turns because we decided Paradise Road should be one way for a mile for no discernible reason. Need to get from the freeway to the Sands Expo? Easy! Just get off at Spring Mountain and follow the access road through the shopping center parking lot until you can make an illegal U-turn to head East!
What a bunch of fucking idiots. This is the only town I’ve ever been in where two miles as the crow flies means ten miles on the ground.
Not that anywhere in Las Vegas is that exciting to get to in the first place. Everyone seems to agree that the Strip and its surrounds is a soulless gate of Hell; a tasteless, heartless, artless festival of bland, tedious greed hidden behind a flashy, mind-numbing facade of fake glitz, garishness and mock-indulgence. And yet, people flock to it of their own free will. The Strip is the reality television of municipalities. A Financial Engine Devoid of Merit. And I despise every. Single. Thing. About it.
“Oh, but it’s different when you get away from the strip.” Different, yes, but just as bad. Get out into North Vegas, or head East from the Strip and you find yourself in my old hometown. A land of strip malls, pawn shops, liquor stores and chain restaurants, all made from brown brick, and every bit as soul-crushing as the strip. It’s just Arizona Light.
Then there are the people. I’ve heard complaints for decades about how fake L.A. makes you. We’re all bullshit artists. Well try Las Vegas, motherfucker. The locals here are nothing but shitfaced, cigarette-reeking con-artists who think they deserve a fucking tip for simply existing, and you’re a piece of shit if you don’t roll over. Every cocksucker here expects a handout. Basically, they’re homeless people with uniforms.
And the tourists are worse. The fattest and most ignorant core of fat, ignorant America come to wallow in institutionalized sin. “We don’t need t’go ta Paris, they got an Eiffel Tower right here just as good as the real thang! Better, even, ‘cuz this one’s in Muricah!” Las Vegas is everything that is wrong with this country distilled to its essence, fermented, and squirted out into the desert like a lump of shit to attract flies in overstuffed stretchpants.
Where these flies get the money, I’ll never know. Farm subsidies must pay well because this town is more expensive than drugs. The Vegas Visitor’s Bureau should issue lube when you drive in, because everything here is now geared to fuck you right in the ass. Once upon a time, they were content to take your money gambling, in exchange for which you got decent cheap food and lodging. Those days are OVER. Now, it’s like living in Disneyland.
They’ll give you the lube. But there’s a $150 Resort Fee to use it.
This is my 24th AVN show, and the road of coping with Vegas has led only uphill. So if you see me in the hallway of the giant, overstuffed ashtray know as the Hard Rock Hotel, and I look a little surly, understand that it’s really not me. It’s Vegas, baby. Vegas.
I’m torn; on the one hand, I’ve been remiss in writing about this absurd, wonderful, and constantly surprising relationship I find myself in. On the other hand, I can’t let the passing of my number one film icon go unremarked, so this post will be a bit schizophrenic.
I couldn’t possibly have chosen a better moniker than The Unicorn. Everything about this girl, and our relationship, is absolutely (in my experience, at least) unique. After only four months (and this number boggles both of us so completely that we’ve actually had to sit and do the math on several occasions to convince ourselves that it really is only four months) our lives have blended together into a seamless, effortless single entity that works in a way that’s completely new to me. It works.
I’ve always had great, strong, enriching relationships. My exes are mostly still my closest friends, and having someone who makes life fuller by being there than it could possibly be alone isn’t a new thing for me. This time, though, it’s all new. Where my other relationships (to stretch a sappy metaphor) always felt like we were two distinct halves of an awesome whole, with The Unicorn, we just feel like one entity. It’s seamless. And it’s stunning.
It really shouldn’t work; given the difference in age and background and upbringing and pop-culture zeitgeist, we shouldn’t get along at all. And yet, with zero effort from either of us, we’ve become that couple. It’s revolting, and we both love it.
This has meant I’ve had very little excuse to be my normal, miserable-bastard self. Recently, a shitty stretch of no work got suddenly worse with the latest moratorium, and I was looking down the barrel of serious, crushing poverty. The Unicorn would gladly give me money, but I just can’t do it; between my white trash pride and my age and my stubbornness and the simple fact that I’m a fucking man, I just can’t stomach taking money from anyone, much less my girlfriend.
The cloud has since lifted, but the money isn’t the point. Even at the depths of my financial despair, I was happy. In years past, I would have been near-suicidal. But rather than letting work rule my life, I’m setting hours, keeping them, and when we curl up on the couch to watch a movie at night (or make a mess out of the dungeon), everything is suddenly fine.
I really don’t know what to do with it.
Right after Thanksgiving, we took a little weekend trip to Seattle. She’d never been, and we both have friends up there. It was fantastic. we did all the tourist stuff… Pike Place, the Needle, the Underground Tour. We also wrecked our hotel room several times a day, and went to dinner with her friend Lew, and my friends Mike and Lisa (a girl I’ve had a crush on since high school who is still astonishing).
And all of it was fun and effortless. I really couldn’t ask for a better partner in crime. I just have to not fuck this one up. And maybe being happy (it’s strange to even type it) explains why I was hit so hard by the news of Peter O’Toole’s death yesterday.
It’s impossible to explain the scope of O’Toole’s influence on me. While it was Star Wars that gave me the acting bug, it was Lawrence of Arabia that made me want to be a filmmaker. David Lean’s masterpiece has always topped my list of best films, and when I’m forced to answer the inane question about what my “favorite movie” is, I often answer Lawrence. I first saw it as a child in the worst way possible; on a tiny television, in it’s destroyed broadcast cut.
And I was enthralled by it anyway. In the years since, I’ve devoured every restored and updated version, and it warms my heart that The Egyptian keeps a screening of Lawrence in its rotation. The film is a masterwork, but the real appeal is obvious to anyone: Peter O’Toole.
When I got old enough to start hunting down his other performances, O’Toole became the first actor whose work I would actively seek out. This lead me to wonderful crap like The Day They Robbed the Bank of England, and genuine works of art like Becket and The Lion in Winter. I’ve been obsessed with both, particularly Lion, ever since. I’ve done the play three times. It’s one of the only shows I still want to do, now that I’m old enough to properly play Henry.
And while Katherine Hepburn is radiant in Lion, the real light of that film is O’Toole.
To this day, I have a soft spot for several edgy, mediocre films simply because Peter O’Toole is fucking brilliant in them. The Ruling Class. The Stuntman. (Eli Cross… duh.) Creator. Lord Jim. What’s New Pussycat. Great Catherine. Man of la Mancha.
And while I cherish his last truly masterful turn in Venus, that film hits a bit too close to home. I knew while watching it that this film about an aging actor dying on his own terms was the last time we would ever see O’Toole in command of the screen, and it was bittersweet.
I sat with The Unicorn last night at watched My Favorite Year, resisting the impulse to quote every line of the movie (which I can easily do). When the final moment between Benjy and Swann came, I had tears in my eyes, because I’m ridiculous.
And so, in honor of the film icon who shaped my life, I’m going to spend the day quoting Alan Swann and Eli Cross and Henry II. And remembering.
Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes. ”
— Oscar Wilde
This is gonna be quick; life has been busy, and bloviating on the intarweb just hasn’t been a priority. I do, occasionally, like to vent about politics, and the current circus in Washington has me chuckling. Before I get to that, though, here are some bullet-points about the life as it stands:
- I’ve been spending just about every damned day with The Unicorn, and it’s amazing. Seriously, we’re crazy about each other. If I wrote a blog explaining how this feels, you’d throw up on your keyboard reading it. And since she’s half my age, I’m now officially That Guy.
- Our second Kickstarter for Cowboys & Engines was a huge success, so the final version will be bigger, better and shinier than we hoped, all in an attempt to lure Hollywood money.
- I’ve been asked to write a script for The Worst Porn Parody Property EVER. Really. Just so wrong in so many ways. The Accused XXX would be WAY hotter.
- I’m now at the top of the DP list for the project I mentioned in Hong Kong, but that project has been pushed until March or so of next year. Assuming it actually happens, could mean big things.
- In the interim, I’ve been approached about coming on as the DP on a million-dollar horror film that wants to shoot before the end of the year. Digits crossed.
- Saw Don Jon, and I can sum it up in one word: Meh.
So, let’s talk about these idiots in congress. If you’re smart enough to ignore the theater and ludicrous posturing going on in Washington right now, the
fascist ahem, Tea Party-influenced wing of the Republican party is holding the government hostage in exchange for gutting parts of Obamacare. There’s a literal ton of virtual ink explaining both sides, and all the pointless permutations thereof.
Here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter.
I’m old enough to remember the last time the Republicans (led by old Lizard Gingrich) shut down the government when they didn’t like the president trying to, y’know, help non-rich, non-white people. The end result of that “catastrophic” government shutdown was… nothing. Absolutely everything went on as usual. It took a little longer than usual to file for copyright or get a passport, but since both processes are already shamefully slow, the difference was negligible.
What it showed, in stark relief, was how little the federal government actually accomplishes in a day. When they finally went back to work in January of ’96, the only difference was traffic congestion in DC. Seriously, it made no fucking difference.
I think that’s the real fear Washington has of shutting down. Garbage men strike because we need them, and when we don’t have them, actual trash piles up on the street. Never abdicate your job when you don’t actually do anything. People might notice. And then not want you back.
There’s an instant. It’s a subtle, but palpable, change in the wind. An inescapable judder in the rotation of the Earth under your feet.
I suppose, under different circumstances I might even have missed it. There have been times in my life when I would have; when the background noise was so loud, when I was so entranced by the chaos, that I wouldn’t have noticed the color of the night sky changing over my head.
It’s the instant when you stop thinking “Could Be,” and start thinking “Is.” The instant that will mark “Before” and “After.”
To say this time was different is a vast understatement. There was no way I could miss it. It was significant. An apotheosis. A moment.
I can’t say when the shift came for her; I know only that she has a moment of her own. For me, I know exactly when it was…
We’d just come from getting pizza at a little joint in Cambria. By the time we finally left our bed at a beachside motel in San Simeon, the pizza place was all that was open.
On the way back, we noticed a sign for the beach, and drove down to the parking lot. The beach was closed and dark and cold, but we didn’t care. We took off our shoes and walked down to the surf. The sand was freezing, so I had her climb onto my back.
I recited — from memory — the prologue to The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as I carried her down the beach, her face in my neck, the smell of her hair in my nose, and she listened, rapt; charmed by the absurdity of the situation.
After a while, I carried her back to the landing at the edge of the beach. The stairs we climbed up seemed different somehow than the stairs we had climbed down… the stars seemed slightly brighter. Everything had changed.
“Could Be” had become “Is.”