This might seem like a weird place to do a reading, and I hadn’t planned on it, but my mother-in-law got married a few years ago in Vegas at the Luxor’s chapel and I befriended the Elvis that sealed her. Presumably the Elvis “owns” the chapel. I suspect he made quote-fingers around the word “owns” because the chapel is in the middle of the hotel and belongs to the people who own the hotel and he doesn’t own it at all, but just works there. Anyway, I told him I was a writer, etc., and he told me he was a screenwriter, etc., and he said he had seen my short film The Cocktail Party a few years ago at Comic-Con, etc., and I said we should exchange business cards, etc., etc. Recently he called my publicist and asked if I would do a reading in the chapel, compliments of the Luxor, somehow. The request coincided nicely with my projected location on the Zero Degree of Meaning Tour.
The Luxor is the giant pyramid hotel with the Sphinx in front of it. Inside, at the bottom, is the casino, and if you look up, you can see all of the bedroom floors angling up to a fearsome centerpoint in the ceiling. I have mild acrophobia, and reservations were made for my wife and I on the sixteenth floor, so whenever I had to walk from my room to the elevator, or vice versa, I did so as if on a cracked sheet of ice, arms outstretched for balance, eyes fixed on my slow and careful shoes. This doesn’t compare to my experience on the third and topmost tier of the Eiffel Tower in 1994, where in order to move forward I was reduced to crawling on hands and knees, with eyes pinched shut, asking the frat brother with whom I was traveling to point me in this or that direction. He did little to help, and when old people mistook me for a bench, he fell silent, and I had to break my spine in order to get them off of me. I don’t remember how I found my way back to the ground.
When I got to the chapel, there was no Elvis and no people. I was drunk. I had won upwards of $8,000 playing Texas Hold’em and spent a handsome chunk of it on expensive scotch and saki, my two favorite alcoholic drinks, among other things that now, conveniently, elude me.
I went to the Eiffel Tower replica standing in front of the Paris Las Vegas Hotel.
I walked. It was only a mile or so down Law Vegas Boulevard. 55 degrees out, but sunny. I wore my burgundy Ivan Drago I MUST BREAK YOU T-shirt plus the usual BKE jeans and Doc Martin shoes. Along the way I only paused once, on a bridge, to spit on cars.
The Las Vegas Eiffel Tower is only about a third of the size of the real one, but people don’t seem to mind. Consider the following remarks appropriated from Vegas.com’s “The Eiffel Tower Experience”:
"At nighttime, it's very romantic," said Melissa Drumheller, manager of the Eiffel Tower Experience ... "From here, you can see planes taking off," Drumheller said. "It's amazing.” ... "During the day, you get a view of all these mountains," said Drumheller. "It's a phenomenal view." ... "New Year's Eve up here is quite spectacular," said Drumheller. "People can get a bird's-eye view and watch the fireworks. You see thousands of people on the street."
Nouns like planes, people and mountains, adjectives like romantic, amazing, phenomenal, (quite) spectacular – I had to go.
The fucker was closed. Middle of the day, too.
I paid a security guard to look the other way and, guzzling courage from a brownbag, climbed halfway up the exterior, where I found a platform to sit on and commenced a reading of The Book of Mormon in honor of the fifth and last season of one of my favorite HBO shows, Big Love, which premiers January 16 and stars a bunch of women and Bill Paxton, who plays a polygamist named Bill, and who once played an asshole named Chet in one of my favorite 1980s movies, Weird Science, starring Steven Seagal’s ex-wife and, in a smaller role, Iron Man, as well as Michael Berryman as a “mutant biker.” I met Berryman once at a Horrorfind convention in the 2000s. I don’t think he has fingernails – I recall a kind of desert earthiness to his handshake – but I didn’t press the matter, and we immediately fell into a discussion about the wine offerings at the hotel restaurant, which were surprisingly diverse, but ultimately disappointing.
In the distance – the sky, the surf, the wind in my hair . . .