by Cody S. Decker
Photographs by Tatiana Aristizábal
The Carnegie Classics: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas event this year was one for the books. When the crowd peaked it was at around 400 people. I like to think of it as the Hunter effect. People love Hunter and any chance they get to get together with like minded folks and have a good time, they’ll take it. The entrance of the place was lit up like The Flamingo and they even had their own version of the Red Shark parked right by the steps. Music played all night, the buffet was all-you-can-eat and the bars were stocked. Two of them, as a matter of fact, one upstairs and one down. The drag show was showstopping. Literally. Everyone stopped what they were doing and watched. The artwork on display upstairs was incredible and the idea I had to set my typewriter up for everyone to type on seemed to be a good one. I luck up and have a few good ideas every now and then.
However, the idea that I was going to mesh as much of what was typed on the scroll in the typewriter has deemed itself a tough one. It’s a long scroll. The only way I could really get a good look at it was to tack it to the ceiling of my writing room and examine it that way. But after reading through it and reading through it and reading through it one more time for good measure, I think I’ve found the parts I want to use and I think I know how I’m going to do it. The story is going to be given from the perspective of a guy similar to me trying to recall the events of Saturday night before he writes his own story. Some of it may have happened. Some of it may have not. Some of it may have been typed on the scroll. Some of it not. Nobody will know except me and to be honest I’m still a little unsure if I know exactly what happened towards the end of the night. That’s the beauty of it, though. There’s no telling how this will turn out. I might start out writing about the event and end up talking about what I want for Christmas this year. I’m just letting it out as it comes to me.
It was all in good fun and everybody had a damn good time. That’s what matters.
I appreciate each and every one of you that took the time to bang out a few words, whether I use what you wrote or not.
Here we go…..
Pieces of a Lost and Found Scroll
The Uber driver didn’t bother dropping us off down the less busy side street that ran next to the Carnegie Center. Nope, she stopped in the middle of Second Street and sent us on our way. Angry horns were honking at their missed green light as we shut the door and headed towards the building. We walked around to the rear entrance and saw the lights. This building, in the middle of Lexington, Ky, was lit up like it belonged on the Vegas strip. We admired the 60’s model red convertible and headed up the steps.
My name was “on the list” to get in as a press member. A press member? Me? What had I gotten myself into? These people thought I was some sort of professional. Which meant that I had to keep up my end of the deal. The scroll that was inserted into my typewriter upstairs would soon be filled with rants, ramblings and incoherent fragments of thoughts and I was supposed to turn some of that into a story.
We were there about 45 minutes early. I wanted to scope the place out, get a good feel of my surroundings and know where the bars and buffet were located. The entry way was filled with dangling bats welcoming you to the show. The whole place was lit up with neon greens and purples and the band was in the middle of a jam out sound check. I had been too wrapped up in the vibe of the place to realize that we had stopped amidst all of the bats and one was resting on top of my head. I swatted it away and nudged my girlfriend to keep moving.
“We can’t stop here,” I said.
I don’t think she had noticed them yet but I didn’t tell her. I figured she’d see them soon enough.
The buffet was beckoning from the left side of the room and I thought now would be as good a time as ever to load up on food before the crowd poured in. And to also to create a nice landing pad in the bottom of our bellies for the treats offered at the open bar. Once our plates were clean, I made my introduction to the bartender. I told her that I imagined we would be seeing a lot of one another throughout the night and politely asked for a bourbon and Coke. It hit the spot and started to calm the nerves I had conjured up before we got to there.
It was about 10 minutes before showtime and I still needed to write the first line on the typewriter to get things started. I went upstairs and made myself comfortable. Of course I was drawing a blank. Write something….anything….. I tell myself. Staring at the dinosaur of a machine in my lap and still thinking about the bats that were on my head, I took a swig and gave it my best shot.
We had just passed through downtown Lexington and pulled up to the Carnegie Center, when the fear began to take hold….
“That’ll work,” I said aloud to myelf. Then went back to my friend at the bar for another before the mass of waiting Gonzo freaks barreled through the door.
At 7:00 p.m. the doors opened and the hum of a crowd had already taken over the calm I was in before the storm. Bucket hats, aviators, bell bottom jeans with flowers sewn on, young kids, and young kids at heart filled the room like water filling a jug. All funneling in through the bat riddled entrance and spreading throughout to fill this place up to the top. I angled my way past a woman with a very flamboyant headdress. Her deep voice caught me off guard and I almost ran into the gentleman in his business suit sipping his cocktail and quietly enjoying the crowd. There were all sorts of people in this place. A melting pot, if you will, with a dash of this and that to spice up a normally quiet Carnegie Center. I followed an Acapulco shirt wearing young man back upstairs to see how my typewriter was doing. To my surprise, there was already a line forming for everyone to get their chance to drop a line or two. I stood off and out of the way and wondered to myself what was being written.
Time for another drink. The cups were small and I’m big. I could down a drink in a couple of gulps. I didn’t want to spend the majority of my night trekking to and from the bar, so I asked the bartender to give this drink a heavy handed pour. Maybe I’d sip it a little slower if it were a little more bourbon and a lot less Coke.
Once refilled, I took a sip and stared out over the brim of my cup at the ever growing crowd. A middle aged man with slicked back hair and sharp dress coat was making his way towards me with a “hey buddy” grin.
“Hey buddy!” the man said, “Boy, I haven’t seen you in a while. You’ve grown quite a bit.”
Perplexed at who this man was but not wanting to make it awkward, I went along with it, “Yeah, I know,” I said, “How’ve ya been?”
“Been better but been worse. How’s the family?”
Whose family was this guy talking about? Did he really know my family? Or was this just some mistake of his that I was too far into to correct him now? About that time, a lady walked up by his side.
“You remember Allison?” he said.
Clearly I did not, “I sure do. How are ya?” She nodded and smiled.
“Whattaya think of all this? They’ve went all out for Hunter on this one.”
“It’s something else,” I said. “You typed on my typewriter over there, yet?”
“Ah, shit. I don’t write anymore. You know that.”
Did I? Who in the hell was this man? I realized I had already finished my “slow sipping” drink out of awkward nervousness that this man was going to eventually realize I was not who he thought I was. I saw this as an opportunity to get away for the time being. He noticed my empty cup, too.
“Hell, looks like you’re about out. Come on, we’ll both go fill up.”
We got our drinks and he downed his without a gulp to spare. “Boy, if I don’t watch it I’m gonna end up as bent as a rusty nail here tonight. You may have to carry me out.” I sure hoped not.
We were making our way back to Allison and I was looking around for my girlfriend in hopes she could get me out of my predicament. She was standing off to the corner and she knew that I needed out. But she also knew that it’d make for better writing if she let me work myself out of it. So she stayed put and smiled at me walking across the room almost arm and arm with this man.
“Let me tell you something,” he said, “Look around at all these people. All of them in search of the American Dream. What an oxymoron. If you are livin’ you are not dreamin’. If you are dreamin’, it is a hallucination…not that there is anything wrong with that but I just like to think of life being more like shootin’ guns. You wanna leave an impression like a .44 mag? Or are you just gonna shoot BBs?”
I wasn’t quite sure if he was wanting me to actually answer him or not. So I figured a generic reply would suffice. “Damn right, you should type that on my typewriter over there.”
“I might just do that,” he said while hacking and coughing his way into some kind of fit. “Them ol’ cigarettes are about to get me. Can’t quit ’em though. Come on honey. Let’s go out and have us one.” Allison shrugged and they made their way to the steps. He looked at me over his shoulder, “I’ll catch back up with ya later.”
I found my way back to my girlfriend and told her about what all just happened. The rest of the night was a blast. I got to meet all kinds of different folks as they made their way through the line to type. I even exchanged business cards with a few. It seems that’s the protocol for me nowadays when I meet new people. I’m starting to see that’s apparently what we do as creep further and further from mid twenties towards real life. “Here’s my card.” The crowd grew larger and larger and everyone tried to get the best seat in the house for the drag show where I saw the lady with the headdress from earlier. That explained the voice that threw me off earlier. It was one of those “ah-ha” moments. The band kept belting out tunes downstairs and when I would occasionally venture down away from the typing crowd, I’d see quite a few people cutting a rug out on the dance floor. The place roared with activity that could be found here, there and everywhere. I’ve never been to Vegas myself but I can imagine the experience would be similar. Just with more gambling.
The tricky part of the night came after my last refill. Or maybe my second to last refill. When time started to pass by quicker than I could keep up with it. I never noticed the crowd thinning out. I never thought twice about breaking out onto the dance floor and doing my best to boogie. I definitely never thought about my girlfriend taking a video of me while I did so. I had gotten myself all sauced up with no where to go but home. At one point before we left I was told that I was given the scroll with all of the nights markings on it. I’m sure I thought I had a firm grasp on it. I’m sure I told my girlfriend, “No, I won’t lose it.” When she probably asked if I wanted her to carry it. Those things I was sure of…I’m sure.
Until I woke the next morning on my couch with an ink stain the size of my hand on my shirt from a pen left uncapped, a pounding in my head that could only be compared to one of those little toy monkeys that bangs a pair of cymbals together when you wind it up, and I had no scroll. I frantically searched the pockets of the jacket I wore, every room in my house, even the driveway. No scroll to be found. I automatically thought the worst. What if I gave it to our Uber driver as a tip after our ride home that I didn’t remember taking? What if I left it lying somewhere in the Carnegie Center and someone threw it away?
A lot of what ifs and a few worried emails later, I was relieved to find out that they had found the scroll. Outside and on the sidewalk. Just lying there. Surely I had some good reason I sat it down when I did, but I couldn’t tell you that now. What’s important is that they found it and I read it. Which has now placed me here, hunched over my desk and staring at another blank page only this time on a computer screen but still showing rows of lettered keys that refuse to talk to me. The more I sit and stare the more I realize that I need to stop thinking about it so damn much and just do it. One could compare writing to fist fighting in this respect. You don’t think about how you’re going to fight someone if the need arises, you just do it. And the outcome will work itself out. If you slip a punch, counter, then knock the bastard out…great. Your immediate perceptions proved true, but if you mess it up the you’re on the floor. That’s what rough drafts are for and now it’s time to throw my first punch.
I may be struggling to piece together the night of November 7th and turn it into some reasonably entertaining story but no one struggled to have a good time that night. A lot of fun was had and people left those tall ceilings knowing that we all shared a moment or two of literary solidarity and we were better people because of it. Even if one of us left without something they should have.