Vegan in Vegas: a Travel Diary

Spending Christmas in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was a fool’s errand and I was a fool for trying. The actual Christmas part was fabulous. I got to spend it with my family, which hasn’t happened since I moved to California, and I got to meet my sister’s two cats whose names are Carbon and Aries. Aries is a lovable chubblywubbly who could NOT wait until I left. He would stare at me and the half of the bed I was taking up, tutting in cat language. Then sighing in cat language and flopping down on the weakest part of my ankles, thinking heavy thoughts so to better impress upon me that I was in His Spot. Carbon is an all black kitty with long legs. Petting her is like befriending an adorable, gangly spider that purrs. They are both excellent at hunting laser pointer lights and emery boards.

However, the thing I’d forgotten in the years since I’d abandoned my roots, moved to a temperate climate, and promptly joined the Socialist Party, is that winter in Midwestern states, lined with large (some might even say “great”) lakes, commonly volleys between 55 and negative 12 degrees. I chose to go to Pittsburgh so that my sister would have someone to go do cool Pittsburgh things with that she hadn’t been doing because she was busy being an adult. Lord knows, San Francisco is notoriously full of art I have not got around to seeing, nor really ever planned on seeing. Welcome to living somewhere with stuff in it, I suppose. You work your way through the necessities and figure you’ll have all the time in the world to steal a peddle taxi from someone with a man-bun and race it down the Embarcadero. My plan was to head to Pitt so that my sister and I could run around and have an awesome time finding her interests in her new home. I was even going to hold her purse while she rode horses/line danced. I had packed my comfy leggings with extra butt padding for the very occasion. It would be glorious.

Pittsburgh was 6 degrees. Needless to say, the only things I wound up holding were my cheeks as they were stripped raw by the wind. I saw my first snowfall in years, (and only cried when the wind blew into my face so hard that crying was the only way to keep my tear ducts from freezing), and then went back to trying to encourage the cats to pile on top of me so that my extremities might thaw. My sister also has one of those important all-the-time jobs and one of those unlimited data plans so that she doesn’t have internet in her apartment. I burned the midnight data, refreshing twitter to stay up to date on the Milo case. Such expensive chuckles, but so necessary.

It was a great time, but terrible timing. But my sister and I got to see Girls Trip, which is excellent. So, we’ll always have a movie about hot mid-thirties women enjoying nice weather and outdoor hijinks and dumping men who aren’t shit.

This was the first time I’d been the traveler in recent years. When you live in one of the more populated Cali places, it’s a safe bet people will come to you. So going through TSA with snowpants and a winter coat had gotten buried in the back of the memory hole. Worrying Spirit Airlines will try to charge you extra for your “personal bag” and wondering if carrying boots in your hand counts as “extra items” were woes that came flooding back like vocabulary from a forgotten language. It’s a miracle every novel in the midwest isn’t just a manual for how to put on snow tires.

By virtue of holiday travel, I got a 24 hour layover in Las Vegas. I had never been to Vegas, but I had one Vegas joke that every single one of my friends smiles weakly at whenever I say it, and for that I thank them.

“Las Vegas looks like what I imagine the inside of Guy Fieri’s head looks like.”

Go on. Smile weakly.

You’re a good friend.

I landed late at night, spilling out of the plane like biscuit dough from a can, into the weirdest airport I’ve ever been to and I’ve been to fucking Dallas okay? And everything in Dallas was Chik-Fil-A but they were all closed and it was a weird chicken ghost town. But Las Vegas airport is weirder even than that. For one thing, there are functional slot machines everywhere. But they all make a ton of noise, so how are you supposed to know if you win? Shouldn’t those things have a sad trombone noise feature for when you get three 7’s but they aren’t the right shade of filigree? (I may not understand gambling).

I had planned on walking the strip, I had planned on roaming around and getting into trouble, and I had planned on getting laid. What actually happened was far more sinister. I was in bed by 10:30pm, stone sober, and didn’t even take my makeup off.

I think one of my shoes might have been on. And I asked for a late check out so I could stay in this room with free Wifi, cable, and the heat cranked up to 11 until 3pm. I’m pretty sure this is exactly what Lindsay Lohan would do.

The complimentary breakfast has vegan food, technically. This is a common issue when you’re a vegan that leaves whatever culinary cloister you live in. You can always eat technically. You hope the bread doesn’t have milk or eggs (or lard) in it, but you don’t ask because if you find out then you’re on the hook to DO something about it. You ask if the complimentary breakfast oatmeal is made with water or milk, but either answer will render it unflavored glue. You hoard the peanut butter packets, slipping them in your pocket for later. You eat all the pineapple you can stand. It’s like a religious fast, you try to set whatever bargain you can to get yourself to eat sliced almonds and raisins. “The airport might not have anything and you’ll need to eat, so don’t compromise now because you might need to scarf down whatever veggie option that’s available.” In Dallas the veggie option was “ribs without sauce,” I mostly drank in Dallas.

I settled for not eating the egg and cheese omelette that makes my stomach growl and use my coffee cup to mix gin, Squirt, and seltzer into the sort of makeshift cocktail I would never have in Oakland. It feels important to not do the things I would do in Oakland here. I feel this need to not taint the experience, but I don’t know if I’m worried this will taint Vegas or if it will taint home. I never drink Tanqueray, but I do in my steamy, cozy hotel room, and now I decide that’s a thing I do in Vegas. I order it at the cocktail lounge down the street, and buy a bottle from the liquor store on the corner. How quickly necessity turns to ritual, makeshift turns to curated experience. I make my partner promise to take me to Vegas someday and “do it right” and before I hang up I make him promise that if anyone asks, I’m doing cocaine and pimping out Jonah Hill. Then I tuck into my gin and HGTV. My shoes are off now.

Las Vegas does look like the inside of Guy Fieri’s head, by the way. But like everything related to Guy Fieri, I expect to dislike it more than I do. Las Vegas is what I expected and I find it perfectly palatable. I’ll admit, I don’t know if these billboards with people on them are for bands or magicians, but at least there is something to look at. Las Vegas has done what Los Angeles has not, realized that most of the buildings are fucking ugly and supplied you with brightly colored other things to take in and view. It’s like an accent wall, but with advertisements for Blue Man Group.

I’m staying off the Strip, which is a bit like getting tacos outside of the Home Depot. It’s not the best, but fuck it, it’s tacos. How are you going to ruin a taco? I wander the blocks beyond the Marriot, taking in odd sites, and noticing the layers and layers of marketing that have accumulated during ages of boom and gentrification. Brightly lit kitsch from generations long passe speckle the horizon. I’m down the street from someplace called FUNHOG RANCH whose sign has a Yosemite Sam type figure, but the peeling lettering on the sign says “WELCOME LGBT” and my heart melts a little. It’s in the rumor mill that I’m a sentimentalist and I’ll have you know that when I find the person spreading that around I will kill them.

There’s a saying about New York City, “if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere” and there’s a saying about Vegas, “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” I look at the comedy lineup of shows and see Carrot Top, Eddy Griffin, and the music selections are Brittney and Donnie and Marie and “The Original Misfits.” I used to think that saying meant that bad things that you got up to in Vegas wouldn’t haunt you. But judging by the lineup, it appears that any career moves you make in Vegas only matter on the Strip.

In Pitt I went to the Phipps Conservatory and got to look at the carefully arranged succulents, birds of paradise, and “exotic” flora that are lying around my neighborhood at home. This is the price of California, or when  you live anywhere “exotic.” You become impossible to thrill, jaded isn’t the right word, but I’m sure there is something in German that means something to the effect of my meaning. Las Vegas is lovely, but it can’t thrill me. I have palm trees where I live, and lights, and expensive cocktails, and terrible signs for shut down restaurants. But there is an affection beyond thrill. Beyond lust. Beyond the fear and excitement of new affairs. I live in an exotic place, and am not easily impressed, so when I am impressed, it lasts.

The only gambling I’ve done on this trip was in the form of raffle tickets purchased in a bar in Canfield, Ohio, where I was meeting my sister’s new boyfriend. I suppose the gamble was less in the tickets and more in the meeting of said boyfriend. Or maybe the gamble was heading into Ohio at all, or heading to a local watering hole. I gamble in the less obvious ways. The beer in this place is perfectly fine, the menu has too many items. The sort of long list that sparks the realization that it has so many options because all of them are terrible. The song He Stopped Loving Her Today by George Jones plays before I’m in the joint 20 minutes and I think of high school and my father and of burning this bar to the ground, and I remember why I don’t gamble. When asked for a number for the raffle tickets, I write down the number 24, the worst year of my life. Why not hunker down into misery? It’ll give my something to write about. My sister’s new boyfriend is lovely, my sandwich is lack luster, and I try to hold my breath until we’ve passed all six churches in the tiny hamlet of Canfield and cross onto the PA version of the turnpike. Sometimes you know something better than you know yourself, and you penalize it for anticipating its flaws. Ohio is the ex-lover I still can’t make peace with. That isn’t its fault, of course, as it rarely is. Resentment is always the responsibility of the person who holds it and feeds it after midnight. But I’m a nurturer, and I nurturer that bitterness.

The sun shines down on the parking lot of the furnished, off-brand hotel next door. It’s painted a 70’s brown and orange combination that I suppose is to fit into the glamour of desert sunsets. My heater hums as if to ask, “are you sure you want to room this warm?” But I do. I have to thaw out the aches in my heart, and the burn in my cheeks, and the numbness of my joints, and the soreness of not being able to hold my sister’s purse as she laughs and sways on the dance floor. I’m a prickly judge of character, as sharp and exotic as succulents, flowering rarely because I don’t want anyone to expect it of me, but I am impressed with Vegas, and for my reputation, I’m a great judge of character.

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Lisa Frank End of the World Tarot: Here Comes the Sun (Do do do do)

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How was everyone’s eclipses in retrograde? Still got your butts? Did you hang onto them real tight? For those of your dealing with any type of disaster, be it Harvey or the tampering with DACA, I’m so sorry and hopefully the Sun will help in a big way.

The Sun is about uncovering what was once dark, about drying out the dank. Dare I say, drying out a swamp? The Sun on the positive is about accessing joy, passion, and youth exuberance. The sort of card that heralds the coming of babies, the birth of creative projects, and the creation of ideas. The Sun is also about warmth, gifts, and celebration.

The flip side? The Sun burns. It casts light upon things you’ve been avoiding. Parts of yourself or others that have been working to derail you are now standing naked in your yard. Little hard to avoid them when they are rolling around in your flower beds. With the eclipse season still happening, and Mercury stationing direct, now is the time to cast out bad shit from your garden. The parts of your behavior that you’ve been feeding with your baggage and trauma, the defensive position you’ve been working from all need to go. You’re no longer in the same place and it’s important to wield your power responsibly. Don’t set boundaries to test people, but really reflect on the boundaries that you need, set them, and prepare for the work of maintaining them.

September will be a bit calmer than August, which was about the control and domineering Emperor, you no longer have to clutch everything in your fist and try to wring out every last drop. You can frolic a bit, and should. Winter is coming, after all. Enjoy the renewal of the sun, work in your garden, wear sunscreen, drink lots of water.

If you’re looking for political action that relates to the sun, kicking over rocks is a great one. Are you a cis white dude? Put on your suit and get the Nazis and Fascists in your communities fired. The Sun is about transparency. Protest, demonstrate, work in the light. Tell White Supremacy that you are Right Here, Motherfucker, And You’re Going Down.

The Sun rules Leo, and we’ve just wrapped a tumultuous Leo season. With the majesty of a lion, take control of the projects where you can do the most good for others. The Sun is about Yes, I Can, Dammit. Release yourself from selfish limitations and give to the group in ways that will add to your life and reap the best harvest in the long run.

My Jack Kerouac Inspired Sex Slam Poem

Context: I was a contestant on Shipwreck, a comedy erotic fan fiction competition at the Booksmith in the Haight neighborhood of San Francisco. As someone who grew up with their sexuality heavily formed by Harry Potter fan fiction, I’d been secretly training for this moment my whole life. :insert your own Eye of the Tiger montage here: I wrote for the book Electric Kool Aid Acid Test. Have you read this book? It’s terrible. It’s Almost Famous but less interesting. So rarely do I feel that inserting character development into historical events make them more boring, but Tom Wolfe managed it. I recommend this 450 page disaster to friends you hate, or perhaps to the teenage children of friends you hate for a trolling experience that will take a minute but will have great return.

I was assigned to write for the character of Jack Kerouac. Spoiler: I hate the Beats. Now, I’m sure you’re saying, “Lauren, you just don’t get it.” You’re right! I don’t. And I’m fine with that. The only person who seems hung up on it is you. Jack Kerouac is dead and he can’t give you high fives for liking his terrible work, so spare me the lecture about how revolutionary this crap is. Let’s declare a truce because I’m too bored to have this fight again.

In preparation for writing the world’s worst porn about the world’s worst people from the point of view from the world’s worst poet, I spent three days reading Kerouac’s work exclusively. My kitchen had never been so clean. I organized my books – twice. I moved every piece of furniture around, and I convinced myself that my cat was “lonely” and “needed me.” It was agony.

“Yet everything is perfect,
Because it is empty,
Because it is perfect
with emptiness,
Because it’s not even happening.” – Mexico City Blues, 113th Chorus, Jack Kerouac – human asshair

I felt the only way to truly capture my disdain for the counter culture, despite being a Pinko Commi Monster, was to write 1200 words of slam porn. That’s right. 1200 words of porn in the style of Jack Kerouac. And I’m posting it here so that you all can enjoy it.

April, 1968
My life is so lonely
And my dick is so hard
Hard
Harder
Hardah, in Boston, where I am not
But I’ve heard of it
Lobster rolls are good

Tom Wolfe toys with me
His suit toys with me
I took the acid     left on the table
A swarm of cocks flew at my lips

but they weren’t real
enough

Pray for me, Tom, in your white suit
which lies on my floor, wadded like money
crumpled in the pockets of bureaucrats
and your balls, luminous, with moonlight
and sweat
sweat that pools on the curled hairs
tickling my ears, as your shaft plunders my
cathedral mouth
balls, luminous, luminous moon
that grind
grind
grind
into my forehead
Now damp, with your glistening ball residue

Soft, tender fleshy moon, tender night
as I gargle on Tom’s cock
he is unremarkable
I want to suck the cock of his suit
steal its secrets, glory,
cum in my ear, Tom

Neal is dead. OH HOW I LOVED HIM
I LOVED HIM LIKE [jazz hands] RAIN
LOVES
How does rain love?
Like pussy.

Neal’s cock was tremendous
Where it hid, indulgent and huge,
It tasted of pussy,
because of all of the pussy
Neal fucked
with his hidden, indulgent, huge cock

San Francisco was so kind to me
it was a womb to all of the dicks I loved best
TAKE ME, NOW, SAN FRANCISCO
WHERE I STAND
NAKED
ENGORGED
QUAKING FOR ORGASM
VIRGINAL, REBORN FROM OCEANIC TEARS

I’m glad I can go to my grave
and look Jesus in the eye
and say, “I’ve sucked more cocks than you”
he’ll say, “doubtful.”

Jesus and I are both men of character,
which of my greatest loves is Judas
Ginsburg, probably.

Tom says he’s never done this before
and the fervor with which he
skewers my throat
agrees with him
never fuck a man for his suit
his suit will be a better lay
I try to not think of the buttons flicking my
nipples, the seams rubbing against my taint
the cufflinks turtling into my ass

Southern boys are always a bad fuck
all that gin
His cum tastes like gin
just kidding, it doesn’t
You didn’t laugh, now I’m sad again.

ALL I WANT IN LIFE IS TO GET FUCKED
MY ORIFICES AWAIT YOU
AND MY HAIR IS SO GOOD,
NOT AS GOOD AS CASSADY’S THO
BUT HE’S DEAD NOW, SO MY HAIR IS PROBABLY BETTER
BECAUSE I’M ALIVE
TECHNICALLY
AS IS MY COCK
THE ALIVEST

I’m done sucking off Tom,
Yet, his cock is perfect
because it is empty
I’m full
of his cock’s perfection
perfect

I’m standing on a street corner
in the Haight, with a hard on
desperate to rub it against the brick building
that smells like urine and weed
I shall fuck you yet, you hippie haven
you can only toy with me for so long
four old men are blowing each other in the
street
Kesey points and laughs
I think it’s beautiful
they form a wrinkled, Gordian sex knot
a frantic sea of thrusts
moans
now there is jizz on my shoes
I’m jealous
of the shoes

My jizz-soaked shoes remind me of windshield wipers
on the bus, called Further
I wonder if I bent over on the street and held
my asshole open, if Further would drive into it
illuminate my soul with its headlights
the horn vibrating against my prostate
those windshield wipers flicking the walls of my
anal canal, full of gondoliers
And if my cum specks would become fireflies
and shine for you all
puddles of cum reflect the headlights of the bus
beloved Further, my dick strains further
on this street corner
I want to scratch the head against the bricks

Lust
is exhausting
says the man who has never fucked
a man just to be closer
to his suit
Tom’s suit would love me

Now Tom is sitting on my face
my lips kiss the lips of Tom’s asshole
I would sip nectar from this chalice, hungry
like mother’s milk, but no mother
just Tom and his suit
he squawks with pleasure and dives
collapsing onto my cock
The head of my prick is flicking his uvula
tap
tap
tapping against the windowpane of saliva
it’s rainy in San Francisco

Mary had a little lamb
then it died
like my erection
Mary and I wept
our pain was the same

ONCE I WAS AT A SEX PARTY
Masturbating with the SEVERITY of my LONLINESS
Webs of cum ERUPTED from the pricks of men who
didn’t love me into the gorgeous
pearlescent mouths of other men who did not love me
pearlescent is a word right?
Poetry is fun.
I wondered what sorts of spiders would live in their
cum webs
Black Widows
but in a sexy way

I took the acid that sat on the table
and which was probably reserved for the rest of the party
Forgive me, I regret nothing
acid completes me

Tom Wolfe is still grinding his asshole into my face
I’m phoning it in now
My tongue goes through the motions
Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right
extra flicks to the southern pucker
his asshole tastes like salt
it’s rubbery
I flip him over and rub my spit-coated
wick against him
Sliding between his ass cheeks
They are rosy like the cheeks of a
buxom Midwestern girl from a seed catalog
he pushes against me
he has never done this before
a virgin
I’m a virgin too, I suppose
I’ve forgotten all the sex I’ve had
which is almost like having none at all

Why am I so sad, you ask?
Well you didn’t ask, but it’s because Charley Parker is dead
Actually no, it’s because Neal is dead
No, wait, it’s because I am dead
(it’s because Tom Wolfe isn’t dead)
WRAP ME IN YOUR WHITE SUIT, TOM
I’M NOT PARTICULAR ABOUT WHETHER IT’S YOUR ACTUAL SUIT OR YOUR CUM
BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS A METAPHOR WHEN YOU SCREAM IT
OR IS IT?
GOT YOU THERE, DIDN’T I?

I spoon Tom’s suit, his dehydrated persona
I just want something to love me
the suit won’t return my calls
Tom spoons me as I spoon his suit
I’m the cream of the Tom sandwich
I’m the creamiest
Ask anyone who has fucked me
I could paint your house with my Jetstream

After frolicking in the flotsam and jetsam
of all the dicks of my lovers
I beach myself on San Francisco’s shores
Sperm whale that I am
my ass in the air, my face pressed into the
perfect granules of sand, each a diamond
in the ring I never got from Neal

Politics
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