Vegas Time currently owns me; no matter how hard I try, I am awake at 3 in the morning every single day. Last night, I had dinner with my friends, then turned down an offer of cigars, scotch, and playing poker to go back to my hotel room and get in bed relatively early.
I was so proud of myself when I rolled into the sack around 1am and quickly drifted off to sleep . . . until I woke up at three in the fucking morning. I don't know how long I was stuck awake, but it was long enough to keep me asleep until 11 this morning. I play in the WSOP again on Friday, so somehow I have to make my body turn itself around by Thursday. I think a trip to Whole Foods for some melatonin is in order.
Ah, a trip to Whole Foods . . . I never thought that driving to the market and shopping for food would be something to write home about, but living in a hotel and spending all my waking hours either in a casino or near a casino -- and living on this Vegas Time -- has made my entire existence a little surreal.
Okay, it is actually a lot surreal. It is, in fact, entirely unreal, so I have to go out and find things to do that are real -- that are normal -- like going to the store.
In fact, a couple of nights ago, after I drove my friend home, I drove around and took the long way home through a very nice suburban area West of the Strip. It looked just like the Valley where I grew up: tract houses from the 1970s and 1980s, separated into neighborhoods by cinder block walls with bits of grass growing up through cracks in the sidewalk.
It was well after midnight, but it was still in the 90s. I turned off my air conditioner, opened my sunroof and all my windows, and relished the hot, non-recirculated, non-smoky air as it blew on my face and swirled around my car.
Radiohead's You, from Pablo Honey -- one of my favorite Radiohead songs that I hardly ever hear -- came on XM, and I cranked it and sang along as I drove through someone's real life, normal neighborhood.
I stopped at a traffic light, next to a park. All the lights were on, and there were people playing basketball, kicking a soccer ball around, and jogging along a path. I guess that when it's over 105 by ten in the morning, this is the only time people can safely play sports outside; I guess this is real life out here in the desert.
I continued South, and as the residential area gave way to the ubiquitous strip mall, I noticed that I'd been making an effort to look to my right, away from the Strip. My eyes fell on a supermarket that was open 24 hours. A group of those damn kids today stood around a lowered sports car outside the doors.
Before I was entirely aware of it, I pulled into the parking lot and parked my car. Loud, thumping bass from whatever music the damn kids today were listening to bounced off the front of Smith's and rolled down the parking lot and into my car. Normally, I'd be annoyed by that, but this was different; it was normal.
I closed up my car, and walked past the damn kids today. The bass rattled my teeth like the old man I comparatively was, but I grinned anyway.
When I walked out of the Vegas heat and into the cool fluorescent supermarket air, I felt the first real wave of homesickness hit me. Though I've only been away from Anne for a few days, I've been away from home, my kids, my dogs and my garden for almost a month. This was the first time I'd walked into a grocery store in weeks, and though I immediately spotted the bottled water I was there to buy, I walked around the entire store, slowly up and down each aisle, just because I could; just because it was normal.
I picked up two half-gallon jugs of distilled water (I have half of one left back at the hotel) and a bag of pretzels.
"Ryan always calls them 'prentzels,'" I thought, and allowed myself to feel a little bit of sadness. "I really miss him."
My bill came to just over four dollars. I reached into my pocket to grab a five, and realized that I only had hundreds.
"I'm sorry about this," I said to the cashier, as I pulled it out and put it on the counter.
"No problem," he said, "this is Vegas."
This is normal.
He counted out 95 dollars and some change, and put it into my hand.
The damn kids today had vanished back into suburbia by the time I walked out of the supermarket, out of normal and back into Vegas.
It was four in the morning by the time I fell asleep.