Irony & Mystery

Exactly 50 years ago today on New Year's day, 1964, I came from Houston to Las Vegas for the first time after hitch-hiking through the worst blizzard I ever saw. You could walk across Las Vegas in an hour then. Today you couldn't do it in 24 hours. I got to Casino Center about 4 a.m., and, thinking that I would turn my sixteen bucks into more, I went to the blackjack table in one of the joints and walked out 15 minutes later with a dollar. I called my Marine Corps friend Dave Denaro when he rose about dawn, got directions to his house, and walked it. Lodged there with his family for a week, then found a place of my own nearby. Dave's dad got us both jobs on the Nevada Test Site. I needed a Top Secret clearance for mine, which consisted of wheeling large tape recorders around inside of secured areas. The day that it came through six months later I quit the job and left for Mexico.

Another three lifetimes ago.
When I wanted to be known. Jan. 17, 1991, in front of the White House

Six months later I got a bug up my butt to go to Australia. I had the money and was ready to go, but at the last minute I changed my mind and took an old school bus from Tijuana to Mexico City instead, intending to write in cafes like Hemingway. Unlike Hemingway, I didn't know what I was doing. I had all the time in the world and nothing to say. It took me years to understand that only Hemingway could write like Hemingway.

Three pictures that mean more than I can ever say.

Now I have much to say and not much time left. But what difference would it make anyway?

My mother died in Vegas and my best friend did too. I visited this town 10 times in 50 years and it was the last place in the world where I ever thought I would settle. But here I am, without a van or a driver's license and with no plan to go anywhere else for the first time since I was old enough to think about running away from home. I ran away from so many homes.

I started out with sorrow in my eyes. There was a war going on, and everyone was sad.

One of many rooms.

There have been so many changes and so many people. A thousand pictures could not begin to tell my story, or anyone else's I suppose.

Love is like a hurricane. Nobody can direct it.

So many things have happened since that first time I arrived in Las Vegas. I look back and wonder, who was that? Was that me? Did I really do all that? What was it for? I keep remembering something that I read once, about how we all are born with round baby faces, sort of like a blank slate, and that sooner or later we get the face we deserve. I wonder about that. I have had a lot of faces. The one I have now, I have no way of putting onto this public computer.

Did I really know all those people? I remember the warming fire. What were they saying? I remember that nobody listened to me. Sometimes I had to shout to be heard. 

A face from four years ago.

Life out of focus.

My life has gone by so fast that it is a blur or motion and memory.

This could be me but it is not.


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