Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Las Vegas is the kind of city where you feel like brushing your teeth more often than usual. The casinos leave a film over you like the tar on a cigarette, and by the time your trip is done you're moving and thinking slower because of it. When I returned Monday night, I couldn't wash it off me. Only today have I begun to smell less and less like Her alleyways and more like myself.
I returned and the first person I saw was my roommate Michael Whitaker, coach of CU's Kali, and a favorite to win the tournament and the national title. He asked me how my weekend had gone and how I'd liked Vegas. I lurched towards him hollow eyed, grabbed him by the collar and gurgled at him, "Don't take them Whit! Don't do it! They will die!"

I had stared at the belly of the beast, felt its stomach acid and returned to warn the world. Las Vegas, college edition, is going to end in ruin and woe.

As I conversed with Whit and other players from teams around the country, one thing became clear: no one has any fucking clue how crazy it's going to get. They are all in denial. Most of those players are on teams looking to win the tournament outright, but they're fighting a losing battle. Trying not to party is like walking around all day with a midget around your neck, easy at first but before midday, the weight will pull you down.

And those are the teams trying to win. There are 64 men's teams in attendance. Of those, at most 20 really believe they can win. By Sunday, only 8 will still believe. That means there are at least 44 other men's teams, milling around after games, with only one thing on their mind: the rabid submittal to their vices and passions.

Skip! As I type this right now I am awestruck by your sheer arrogance! You are sending dozens of college kids to their deaths and you know it!

I tried to talk Whit out of it, but was met with mild amusement and a raised brow. "Don't worry Hector. I'm going to keep my girls nice and safe all weekend."

Fool. His feelings of smug assurance bordering on hubris are probably echoed by other coaches and captains on attending teams. Their desire to win a national title at all costs will make them zealot Ahabs willing to risk the lives of their players in their quest for their white whale. Don't go!

Vegas is a drug, overpowering, arrogant and seductive. It's human to succumb, to falter, to sway a measure in the city's rhythm and get lost. These are college kids, players with tickets for the day after, or the luxury of having a team that doesn't give a shit about results. This is pawned textbooks, made-up college expenses for daddy, sold iBook for another chance at greatness in the Roulette wheel. This is underage drinking and walks down casino hallways and street sidewalks where you're offered anything from opium to sex to religious salvation. These are kids who last partied hard the night of Prom. This is Trouble.

I came away with a nicked dignity, a lighter frame, and twenty in cash. On my team I was one of the lucky ones. As much as the memories will never be forgotten we all walked away as if we'd lost something, the city had pick-pocketed and fondled us as we were looking. The college kids will come back from their three day affair and it'll be, "show me on the doll where She touched you."

Between visits to the Bellagio water show and their hotel rooms it will happen. The air will get in their lungs and they will taste some of the city's offerings, becoming modern-day Persephones amidst the barren decadence the city offers. From there the tumble is mercifully swift, and a few short hours later they feel strangely calm despite the two grand they just dropped in craps. Western Union standing by to serve you.

Don't go! As Admiral Ackbar famously said, "It's a trap!" We all as elder ultimate players bear a burden to protect the younger ones when we can. Those players in attendance at Club Trouble have no excuses. We know what will happen. We witnessed. Having survived the weekend and kissed my front lawn because of it, I ask those in charge of college teams not to go. You will be implicit in their deaths! Felony records don't stay in Vegas. Neither do VD's. I doubt everyone that needs to will stash the body in a place where it's unlikely to be found.

To the first and probably last Trouble in Vegas College, to the death of Ultimate's innocence, akin to the Stone's Altamont concert, akin to the Kent State shootings, akin to the Catholics' retaking of Moorish Spain - to the end of an era - I toast.

There's trouble brewing.


BrendanCurran said...

Bat country!

dar. said...

you'd welcome the bats if you knew what a relationship with lady vegas was really like. and home will never appear so far away as it does on a mushroom trip down the strip.

the marching cadence of tourism is enough to drive you insane. you'll try to put them all in the background, but they won't fit. there's too many of them and eye contact only welcomes them into your soul, where they'll sit and feed on you for hours. a capable man can fight them off and turn away for fear of being cast to a pillar of salt -- but be assured that you'll never forget the echo of feet striking a rhythm on the ground below. like a song you can't get out of your head, only there's no rhyme to this rhythm. to find your way into the grounds of ceaser's palace is to lose your freedom. it'll also be the bane of your existence.

the mouth of any casino will surely chew you up, and never spit you out. to wander beyond the safety of the exits, towards jubilant slots is disaster. you're being followed alright and to strike a glance over your shoulder will only reveal poor decisions and magnificent failure close behind. you're left to sit and wait till lady vegas is done with you and shits you out on the other end like yesterday's bagels.

escaping the amazon, eluding the gorillas of khmer rouge, fending off hyenas among your plane wreckage -- trip with lady vegas and you've written the next episode for Discovery's "i shouldn't be alive." approach lady vegas' most prized jewels with an err of caution. look but don't touch.

to get anywhere requires walking or taking a device not unlike a time machine -- cabs. i was in a cab for no more than 20 seconds. we had to get out because a fellow duder's mind didn't want it. couldn't want it. you won't get far with that kind of repetition and it'll cost you more than any craps table would. you'll search for answers to the simple question: "how do we get home?" and you'll be bummed upon the revelation that you MUST get in one of those cabs. never mind the fact that you've already been in one where it broke down earlier and the switch rivaled any car chase scene in a movie. or the fear of taking "the backway" where nothing is familiar and there lies the possibility of the driver dropping your fare and you along this route.

and when you do make it back to the most unpolished of jewels, you're not out of the woods yet. in fact, it's likely gonna get worse. remember, you've left home and your trail of bread crumbs has for all intents and purposes been eaten by thousands of little birds with loud shoes. your gingerbread house ain't as sweet as she looks. her hallways are menacing. and you've got to walk the entire fuckin' thing to get where you want. you may even find yourself ducking the ceiling as the hall narrows in a crushing manner. thankfully, there are walls to support your effort while you stay the course. your arrival won't be welcomed with sincere greetings. what you'll likely find is a familiar face curled into a ball among the safety of the covers. the rally will be short lived and haunted by the people on the streets 'milling about.' what are they up to? it's best to try and forget while you're busy managing your ebbs and flows. making sense of anything is a fruitless effort and cataloging the information you've gathered will only hinder unnecessary comprehension. the great meltdown is never far enough off in the distance. it is your horizon and when you reach for it, you're too far, and when you're enjoying that safe distance, your suddenly there.

bat country? you couldn't be so lucky.

Anonymous said...

Hector, rest assured we will be returning to vegas next year. If we have to play on the bones of those left the year before so be it.


Anonymous said...

So i guess a juniors Vegas tourney would be a bad idea then?