Friday, October 2, 2009

Austin's First Tattoo (non-fiction)

October, 2009
by Shae Sveniker

I got up early monday morning, after having spent the previous two days of weekend at my mom's place, drinking all her beer and smoking all her shake since she was in Texas. I would feel guilty about it if i wasn't so stressed out from school and the pitiful job market in Simi Valley. I picked some oranges, tomatoes, and the only ripe avocado on the tree before throwing my bags, peanut butter and jelly, bread, and some vitamin waters in the Big Fucking Van. Driving up the coast to Carpenteria in the pre-dawn, Southern California fog, I listened to the Rancid (2000) LP to get pumped. It was going to be a long, tough trip, and I had almost no money to play with. Las Vegas here we come!

I stopped in Carpenteria to load up my cousin Austin and his assistant, Edwardo. Austin has cerebral palsy, a birth disorder that causes his muscles to contract continuously all the time in some areas, while in others they remain slack and unresponsive. Coupled with acute hypoglycemia, a family history of depression and psychosis, makes for a bent-boned, highly intelligent, wheelchair-bound ball of frustration and adipose tissue. We won't really get into the problems that come from his high libido coupled with the most strict of christian upbringings.

Once we get to the Sahara and get settled in, Austin and I hit the casino with Edwardo. I gamble a little bit, we get some "free" drinks from the cocktail waitresses, and meander to the buffet. There's very little for me to eat there, comparatively. While the two omnivores chow down on roast beef, mashed potatoes, mushroom and wild rice stuffed chicken, spinach sauteed with bacon, lasagna, mac n' cheese, and a myriad of multicolored, multi-layered, infinitely-frosted desserts, I chow down on grilled veggies, rice and beans, and tortillas. It wasn't bad, but for $10 each I was hoping that there would be more of a selection of things not fried in animal. We all get back to the rooms about 4pm and decide to rest up for the night-life.

Around 9 Austin and I decide to take the monorail from the Sahara to the end of the line at the MGM Grand. He talks about winning big and moving here, about wanting to get a hooker so he can finally get laid, about getting a tattoo. We end up walking the strip and met an American Indian named Bill Buffalo whose wife just left him there in Vegas to go back to Toronto. He's young and pretty good looking, but stumbling drunk, with a huge plastic novelty cup full of rum and coke. He buys us a round of whiskey and we learn what he calls a Canadian cheers. It's strange and complicated. I think he was just fuckin with us.

We take another shot with him and part ways, continuing our way down the strip. Austin drunk-drives all over the sidewalk and it gets pretty funny. Soon we meet a young blond who starts walking with us for a little bit, making small talk and being surprisingly indulgent to Austin's forward questioning. I listen to the conversation. Eventually it became obvious that she's a hooker, and even though she's a deliciously nice young girl, cheerful and cordial, when push came to shove, Austin decided he would rather play Black Jack than get a blow job. She let's us know the monorail quit running around two. It was now around three. Austin's electric wheelchair ran out of juice about a mile and a half away from the Sahara. Pushing a couple hundred pounds of flesh and metal through some of the seediest parts of the Las Vegas strip at three-thirty in the morning is not the most fulfilling experience, especially when done in heavy boots and chaffing pants.

The booze was wearing off and we were both very sober. Eventually the only way to keep Austin from his self-deprecatory downward spiral was to sing old punk rock songs to keep his mind from how helpless he was. Two drunken cousins shouting the words to Time Bomb, I Love Livin in the City, Vacation in Cambodia, and Seven Drunken Nights; surely not an absolutely alien sight for the locals.

I picked him up and put him in bed. I slept in my own room until almost 12:30 pm. When I got up, Austin had already gotten up with Edwardo and gambled away his breakfast. Edwardo, Austin, and I went to the Bodies exhibit at the Luxor. There, plasticized corpses were dissected, put in poses, and used to illustrate the effects of smoking, drinking, and aging, on various parts of the human body. I used the opportunity to study up on muscle systems and bones; pretending to study in order to justify the exorbitant cost. Edwardo bought us a couple novelty drinks in big plastic cups. We wandered around the exhibits at the Luxor, reading about the live-action Lion King play, checking out the beautiful women, and admiring the outrageous fashion shops and art boutiques.

We had dinner at the Burger Bar. Austin ordered a Kobe Beef burger and an alcoholic mint & chip milkshake and topped it off with a double shot of Jack Daniels. Edwardo had a sandwich that had bacon, canadian bacon, pinneable, and a pterodactyl breast on it. It was gigantic. He didn't like it very much.

If you're Vegan and ever go to Vegas with your friends, who happen to be omnivorous, get them to go to the Burger Bar at the MGM Grand. The Vegas Vegan meal is most of a roasted tomato, a thick slice of marinated eggplant, roasted peppers, and balsamic sauteed onions, stacked between two huge grilled portobello mushroom "buns."

That shit was twisted.

Austin's chair started to loose juice soon after dinner so we headed back to the hotel. He talked about wanting to live there, knowing he was going to win it big and make back all the money for the trip and everything. I told him he'd better not fly too high lest his wax wings melt.

Edwardo and I hit the town then, leaving Austin in bed to contemplate whether hookers, games of chance, or tattoos were more deserving of his money. We took the same route Austin and I did, but ended up at a nightclub call the RockCave or something. Eddie was talking about how he and his wife were separated and how he loved to dance at clubs. We ordered some beers and hung out at the bar for a bit, but it was apparent by then that he was not going to dance. I asked a couple different times if he'd spot me and come with to ask these two girls out, but he declined. A little while after we came in, a bunch of really sexy call girls came in and took over the club's open strip-poles. We were fairly content to sit and watch and buy round after round of Corona. On the way back to the hotel, after the girls got kicked out for lewd behavior, Eddie began talking about his wife, how she had beat him up really bad and sent him to the hospital, how she'd spent three days in jail for the domestic violence, and how they were separated and living in the same house.

Poor Eddie. When we came back to the hotel, two really cute ladies asked if we were looking for some company that night; which we politely refused. One of the girls looked so much like Betty I had to look away. I was probably ruder than what was called for in retrospect, but it really bothered me for some reason. I could tell Eddie wanted to get some action, but his English was really bad at this point in the drunk and besides, he had to sleep in the room with Austin. Eddie and I went back to our rooms and I smoked a joint rolled of poorly preserved shake and passed out lonely in front of the TV watching Madventures on the Travel Channel.

The next day, it was finally decided, the conundrum of the ages, the philosophical question that had been haunting generations was finally solved by three hungover bachelors in a cheap hotel room at the Sahara in Las Vegas Nevada. From California, Mexico, and Utah, the representatives presented compelling arguments, to which things really mattered to man-kind, in the most universal perspective; Pussy, Tats, or Bones? Prostitution, Body Modification, or Gambling?

Or, in more eloquent, metaphorical, and perhaps universal terms;
Brief Intimate Human Contact,
Permanent Self-Actualization,
or Temporary Hope?

Austin's new tattoo is of a little blue handicap symbol dude, with a spiked ball and chain attached to his ankle, swinging it over his head with an outstretched hand like a mace wielded in battle.

It represents a battle he's fought all his life, a battle he will continue to fight, and a battle that requires recruiting troops to fight. These strange mercenaries like Eddie are completely necessary, and mean the difference between winning and loosing; a life, a limb, a meal, a shower, even something as simple and complex as taking a shit. I am also reminded that sometimes in life, my brave cousin may have to call in the cavalry to tackle some of the most meaningful battles, and when he does, I'll come riding in a Big Fucking Van, to swoop down and bring temporary reprieve, as we drive into the westward sun.

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