Quitters win all the time. Like that time we stayed in Las Vegas for 4 months because we had a water-treading job that paid $9/hr and a free rubble pile of a backyard to stay in owned* by a rich kid cokehead who bought a decrepit Mafia mansion for some reason. We stuck it out until long past shit got too crazy and then we quit, like winners do.
In an effort to move as close to Red Rock Canyon as possible, for as little money as possible, we settled into the dysfunctional commune that consisted of David the owner*, Paul the crazy old guy in the van, and whatever randos David brought over during benders and, possibly, cover-ups. The agreement was that in trade for rent, Eli would fix the ignition wiring in David’s ’67 Lincoln Continental, and I would weld fresh floor panels into the driver and passenger foot areas. So we moved in.
Upon meeting David, the first things you notice are his affected sleazy salesman accent through which all of the lies filter out of his mouth, and the giant rum and coke in his left hand. Paul was another story. He lived in a corner of the backyard in his van that he drove down from Alaska. The first time we met him, we got along great, talking about the work he was doing to help out around the, uh, compound, and joking around a bit, until a helicopter flew over and he ducked behind his van with binoculars, explaining, “They’re watching me, but they’ll never catch me.” While being one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met, he was also cartoonishly racist, homophobic, and paranoid. He thought that all Mexican restaurants in the U.S. are fronts owned by drug cartels, and cilantro is proof of this because it is gross and nobody even eats it in Mexico. The day he first heard about gay marriage (in April of the year 2013…) he came into the trailer ranting about how that was taking it too far, and he wasn’t going to put up with it, as if he had been the one to begrudgingly allow all of the progress up until now. Lucky for everyone, his method of political activism was lecturing random people who were willing to ride in his $5 guerilla taxi (scary van) he ran out of the grocery store parking lot, and showing up to extreme fringe political party meetings to incoherently interrupt them with what he thought they should be focusing on.
After his monthly disability check ran out because he spent it all “gathering data” at the roulette tables, he would become bored and find things to futz with around the property. As the Las Vegas summer approached, each of these evolved out of his van and into its own futzing station, the most sprawling of which was a “gazebo” he was attempting to build out of rusty rebar. Another one of his major goals was to convince the thousands of killer bees living in an eave of the house to pick up and move their colossal hive somewhere else. He waged a kind of cold war on them, blasting heavy metal music and strobing lights at them. He filled a pail with all of the poisons he could think of: gasoline, turpentine, paint thinner, etc. as if chemistry was just a set of wooden blocks you can build giant towers out of, and raised it up next to the hive so the smell would piss them off. It did. The bees got increasingly irritable with every new wartime tactic and they stung him a lot. He did have a bee-suit, but it was just a sheet of army-green mesh he draped over himself like a child’s ghost costume, and it helped the bees more than it did Paul. His flight response would kick in, sending him into this goofy galloping retreat, tripping over his bee dress and trundling his body down the rubble.
While I may be pulling some astrological bullshit here, the bees did end up being mildly prophetic. The War with the Bees is an apt analogy for our Vegas experience. At first, it was fun to listen to his daily tactical escalation plan, and watch him flee like a Looney Toon after implementation. You may wonder how he could keep his psyche up to continue fucking with the bees after so much failure. He said something once that explains everything, though he was only talking about Roulette, “I’m the only one with the perseverance, or more likely the mental illness, to collect this data.” Paul was honest about everything, which was why we could maintain a friendship with him. We disagreed with him on just about everything, but we always knew where the other one stood, and he had crazy stories to tell. He was a character. He would come home every night, get high and watch the UFO reports, and tell us about how cold fusion was “coming online any day now.” We set up the projector one night to play the Shallow Seas episode of Planet Earth, which has the montage of great white sharks exploding out of the water catching seals in their teeth, but he could only sit through a couple minutes of the nature show because it was “too low-key” and not nearly stimulating enough for this stoned 60-year old man who had become our friend.
As the months came and went though, the bees got more irritable, and while the property became only slightly more dangerous, tensions ran high. Eli is allergic to bees, so we got nervous. Around this time we also heard a story about a guy on Mt. Lemmon who disturbed a hive while he was bolting a route, and they swarmed and killed him, leaving him hanging from his rope, and then went to the top of the cliff to finish off his dog. Maybe it was the encroaching summer heat driving everyone mad, but between the gazebo and his War with The Bees, David was becoming fed up with Paul, we were becoming tired of his racist/sexist/crazy etc. bullshit, and fractures were developing in our little community. Blaming it all on Paul is unfair, and not my point. We had been avoiding David for months as well, because it was impossible to have any kind of genuine interaction with him. Just like boiling a lobster, we didn’t notice the water was too hot until we had gotten comfortable. We were responsible for enjoying our surroundings, and when we stopped doing that, it was time to go. It wasn’t Paul or David’s fault, it was ours.
Recently, a friend shared a bit of seasoned dirtbag wisdom with us, and that is to always leave a place while you are still quite welcome there. As soon as they say, “We love having you here, stay as long as you like,” that is the cue to leave. Never get comfortable. This was the first time we broke this rule, and it wouldn’t be the last, because we aren’t BORG. We didn’t overstay our welcome (in this case), but we did get comfortable and ended up stagnating and becoming embittered with our environment. Our environment may or may not have changed, but in any case, it had nothing to do with us. It was our responsibility to be in a place that made us happy, no one else’s. Don’t be the lobster, be the chef, and for the love of all that is good, don’t overcook that shit!
*One morning David warned us that his friend would be coming by later, and that we were to pretend that this friend owned the house because he was going to be on a date with a porn star, and he needed to impress her. We just stayed out of the way that day, but it occurred to us that this friend might actually own the house, and that impressing a porn star might have, to the insane recesses of David’s vanity-addled brain, seemed like the most noble and believable cause to lie about.