6 - Jerry's End
While the others went on their merry way to the El Cortez,
I lay in bed with an idea forming in my mind. It was a solution
for the unsolvable problem of Jerry. What the kid needed was
a baptism. I remember reading about how missionaries would baptize
the American Indians against their will, and this appeared to
be a pretty good strategy. After all, how many times has the
Catholic Church ever been wrong?
Once he was baptized, I thought, he couldn't very well refuse
to participate in my plans and bid my will. His baptism would
be so alarming and horrifying that whatever else I requested
would be a piece of cake. As I tossed and turned beside my wife,
the elements clicked together, like Lego building blocks, until
I had a complete plan.
Mike gets in
some last licks before catching his plane.
Just before six, we cashed in our chips. I cleared a cool
dollar and a half, which became two dollars when the cashier
paid me incorrectly. Dan, Jerry and I said goodnight to Bob,
and meandered up Ogden street, squinting from the already bright
sun, and keeping a watch on the unsavory characters who populated
the area between the El Cortez and Gold Spike early on a Sunday
I dropped into the bed that my brother had just vacated, up
early to catch his flight. I seem to remember him saying something
to me on the way to the shower, but I was already asleep.
I was woken by the sounds of Stinky's brother leaving for
the airport at the same time Stinky was returning from the El
"What time is it?" I muttered, rubbing my eyes to
adjust for the daylight streaming in at the edge of the sliding
"Six-thirty," replied Stinky as he thudded onto
"You just get back?"
He mumbled an affirmative into his pillow. "Jerry too?"
Stinky didn't answer.
I wasn't as rested as I wanted to be, but the Art of War is
not about taking long naps; it's about being prepared. I got
up and slipped into my shorts and a T-shirt. I ran down the stairs
to the fourth floor and pounded on Jerry's door. No answer. I
pounded some more and heard shuffling from inside the room.
"Who is it?" croaked a cigar-hoarse, alcohol-slowed
voice from the other side.
"Dan," I replied sneakily, and the door opened wide.
There stood Jerry, a slumping figure who shied away from even
the dim light of the hallway. He looked haggard, old and very
tired. He also looked as cute as a button in his race car jammies,
complete with padded feet.
"Wait a minute," he moaned, "you're not Dan."
I yanked him by the arm and hauled him into the elevator.
By the time we hit the first floor, Jerry was nearly awake and
becoming vocal. "What the hell is going on?" He resisted
when I tried to haul him out into the casino. "I ain't going."
"Oh, yes you are," I said firmly. Then, I jerked
his arm up behind his back and twisted it tight until he winced.
"It's for your own good." Unnoticed among the Sunday
morning riff-raff at the Spike, we strolled across the casino,
and out into the brutal light of day.
We got in the little rental car and drove. We headed north
to Bonanza, then over to Rancho. Jerry begged to know what was
going on and I promised he'd love it.
"Maybe not now, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not ever if
you die vhen you're young," I assured him. "But if
you live long enough, you'll thank me."
We were back at Larry's Villa.
The strip club looked depressing in the darkness of midnight,
but in the morning the roiling sun lit up the parking lot littered
with beer bottles, cigarettes and vomit. The paint on the stucco
was old and flaky, and the sign was dusty. I pulled into a slot
between two trucks.
"Don't make me go in there," begged Jerry, "I
don't want to see the naked ladies."
"It's not about the naked ladies," I explained as
I grabbed him by the neck. I had one arm around my Vegas Virgin
and used the other to open my door. Jerry squirmed, but I held
him tight as I got out of the car, pulling him along behind me,
over the stick shift and out onto the hot asphalt.
"Please," he begged and I was starting to get annoyed
with him. How could a grown man be such a baby ad just keep fighting
against someone who so clearly knows what's best? For a moment,
I wanted to slug him, but didn't. How mad could I be at a fellow
in race car jammies? Not very.
The sight of a grown man in pajamas barely raised a single
eyebrow inside Larry's Villa. With a headlock on Jerry, I wrestled
him across the sticky floor, past the naked dancer and the lady
bartender flirting with a drunk man.
She looked up and asked, "Where you taking Howdy Doody?"
I gestured to the men's room and said, "Too many cuba
Jerry dug the padded feet of his jammies into the carpet and
fought me every inch of the way, but I eventually reached the
bathroom. I took a deep breath and pushed him across the threshold
and into that most foul chamber. Luckily, Jerry gagged and lost
his grip, so I was able to shove him hard into the toilet stall.
Careful not to touch the walls, I adjusted my grip so I was
holding Jerry by the waist. While he clambered for a position
of leverage, I lifted his relatively small frame, upending him.
He tried to kick me and braced himself against the wall, for
"Yuck!" he bellowed, yanking his now sticky hand
back from the stall wall. While he flailed wildly, but not so
wildly that he touched the wall again, I tilted him so his legs
were over my shoulder. It was time for his baptism.
Slowly I lowered that tender virgin head toward the black,
wretched abyss of the toilet. Inch by inch, Jerry's face approached
the chunky, brown-green contents of the toilet bowl.
"Nooooo-Ooooooo!" he let out a blood-curdling shriek
so shrill it rippled the semi-solid surface of the water. I heard
the bathroom door swing open, so I quickly kicked the stall door
shut behind me and shoved Jerry's still screaming mouth into
"Everything alright?" It was the lady bartender.
"Bad chili," I explained over Jerry's muffled, bubbling
"Sounds like it," she said. "You sure you're
I grunted affirmatively, flushed, and for an interminable
moment the bartender stood in the bathroom doorway, waiting.
Jerry's shriek faded into silence, and the fingernails he dug
into my leg slowly let go as his arms went limp. Then, she left.
I yanked Jerry out of the bowl, flipped him over and propped
his against the wall. He took a deep gulp of air and opened his
"What, why?" he stammered as he caught his breath.
"Baptism," I said. "Now you're like me. You've
experienced the worst and the rest is icing on the cake. The
crack whores, the bums, the three for 99 cent hot dogs, they're
Jerry slowly shook his head and picked a little chunk of something
from his teeth. "I didn't enjoy that."
"Not now," I acknowledged, "but in years to
come, think of the laughs you'll have telling people you got
a swirlie at Larry's Villa. I'm laughing already." I really
I helped Jerry to his feet. He was still a bit dazed, and
covered with crap. We walked back through the showroom and the
bartender said in a matronly tone, "Stay away from that
Jerry sulked all the way to the car. I turned to him and tried
to make him feel a little better, "Don't blame me, I didn't
make you come here."
"Yes, you did."
I nodded, "Here, yes," then I pointed to our surroundings,
"but not here. Not Las Vegas. You should have known what
coming here meant."
Jerry sputtered, "Dan wasn't going to do this."
"That's because Dan is looking out for Dan."
"Oh," jerry snarled sarcastically, "And who
are you looking out for?"
"Me, of course," I jabbed my thumb at my chest,
"And so should you, and so should Dan."
Jerry was mad, "I never want to talk to you again."
"Walk then." I got in the car and drove back to
the Gold Spike, a little confused and a lot hurt by Jerry. What
did I do that made him so mad? How was he going to repair his
friendship with me? What the heck did the kid want?
By the time I got back to the Gold Spike, everyone was waking.
I walked in, started pounding Stinky with a pillow and nobody
even noticed I or Jerry had been gone.
Dear reader, I know that each detail of our Vegas experience
is of critical import, but of Sunday I have only the dimmest
of memories. I feel certain that I woke at some point, ate something
with other people, and at some point boarded a plane for home
which must have ascended and descended according to plan. More
detail than that, I simply cannot recall. Las Vegas remains for
me a place of wonder and mystery. As they say in Yiddish, "tochis
afm tish"-"Get your ass on the table!"
Mark asks the
Polish Maverick to guide him through this naughty world.
A very few hours later, I received a bash on the head from
Matt, wielding a pillow and a demented look. I woke up, frantically
looking around to see what could possibly be disturbing my important
rest. Matt leaned over, grimacing, and scolded me fiercely for
keeping Jerry out all night, completely ruining his chances to
meet a skanky 'ho.
As everyone showered, I tried to get at least a little bit
more sleep, but every five minutes or so, I received another
pillow to the noggin.
After a brunchy breakfast, we gathered a gaggle of coupons
for the Tropicana's Casino Legends Hall of Fame museum. Inside,
we posed for photos in front of a statue of Bob Stupak, our patron
saint. The museum contained some interesting tidbits, but on
this, my second visit, I realized that looking at hundreds upon
hundreds of casino chips gets old mighty quick.
On the way out of the Trop, John opened up his backpack to
reveal the remainder of the ice cream treats and dry ice from
the day before's social. We helped ourselves to popsicles, and
John goofed around with the chemicals. He filled coin cups with
water and dropped little chunks of dry ice in them to create
a smoky concoction which would have looked right at home on the
set of a low-budget sci-fi flick about a mad scientist.
We crossed the bridge over the Strip and rode the monorail
to the newest jewel in Circus Circus' plastic novelty crown -
Mandalay Bay. The casino stunk of coconut oil, pumped into the
air for that unmistakable Southern California beach smell. John
walked around amazing patrons with his dry-ice concoctions. We
probably inadvertantly sent folks to Rumjungle, or one of the
other fancy bars at MB, where they likely confused the bartenders
by asking for "one of those drinks with the smoke coming
By this time, the fact that I had slept a total of less than
ten hours in the previous three nights had caught up to me and
conked me on the head, leaving me groggy and more than a little
grouchy. So I was in no mood to appreciate the fiberglass finery
of the Venetian. I had to admit that the vaulted ceilings in
the lobby looked mighty impressive, but I could have easily pushed
one of the goofballs dressed like a gondolier into the drink
in my state of mind. Most everything was still closed, and the
casino seemed too quiet for a Sunday afternoon, so I decided
to reserve my judgement until a later time when the whole joint
had opened completely.
By the time we had all taken in the sights, some folks had
to be getting on airport-and-freeway-ward. We split up in the
parking garage, working out who would ride with whom based on
flight times. A small hunger started to gnaw in my tummy and
I thought of how I could best satisfy the pang without spending
any money. Naturally, I turned to find Jerry, but he was nowhere
to be seen. I thought back on the day and remembered paying for
everything myself. I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out
why. Then it dawned on me. Jerry had been missing all morning.
I asked Matt, who was busy trying to get out of taking anybody
to the airport in his rental car, and asked if he'd seen Jerry.
He told me to check with Jerry's boyfriend, Dan.
I turned to Dan and asked if he had seen his pal, but being
in a deeper state of sleep deprivation than me, he gazed at the
concrete ceiling of the parking garage and said, sing-songy,
"Benvenuto a la Venetian... Benvenuto... Benvenuto!"
No one else seemed to know the whereabouts of our lost lamb,
but there were other matters to attend to. Matt seemed to know
something, but he wasn't telling, and I had found a coupon for
a free hamburger at Carl's Jr. in my pocket, so I was happy enough.
We finally got everybody settled into a car and spread out from
the parking lot.
Matt, Amy and I gassed up and had a quick meal at the Carl's
Jr. Express, then hit the airport. Soon enough I was on a plane
and headed for the sky, already sleeping.
Have you seen
this man? If so, give him a dollar for us, it'll ease our consciences.
Nobody has heard from Jerry since the trip. We figure if he's
not dead, he must be living in one of the many pay-by-the-week
motels between the Strip and downtown, scrounging for change
along with the other haggard bums whose souls have been whisked
away into Las Vegas' buzzing neon sky.
If you find yourself crossing paths with one of these unfortunates
one day, give him plenty of room, because he might be crazy,
but also give him a friendly nod and remember that one day, perhaps
not long ago, he too was a bright-eyed Vegas Virgin.