A few weeks back, I received an e-mail from the Human Resources Department letting me know that it was time for me to take a vacation. So, even though I didn't have enough money to go anyplace or do anything, I took five days off. At least living here has one advantage: I can always tell friends I went to Las Vegas on my vacation. Besides, I had a plan: work on a novel based on my experiences during my first year here.
For months, in spare moments, on the sly and in between assignments, I've been taking notes for this project. I sent e-mails to myself from the office with ideas, scribbled notes about character development on the back of Mandalay Bay stationery and even tried to sound out some of the major themes on the back of a flierput into my hands by a girl with a glow stickfor a nightclub event, Vamp, at Paris.
As I sat down to start work on the Vegas book, I'm not saying that what I'd compiled so far were the Notebooks of Henry James. But stacked on the table, in my home office, it made for an impressive (and even colorful) sight. A thick collection of the mind's inspired fragments, written under pressure over the course of months and now, ready to be transformed into art, during this, my week of tranquility. But after two days spent sitting around my apartment, looking it all over, my efforts sure didn't add up to much beyond some anecdotes, scenes and descriptions. Still, it wasn't all useless; I did manage to write an opening:
"Nature is attacking Las Vegas; it is like the plagues of Egypt. There are rabid bats, swarming killer bees imported from Africa and also Norwegian rats running amok. There are even some reports of bubonic plague not too far from the city limits. This is all reported and discussed with straight faces like its normal."
To the best I can tell, the details are all true. Since I don't spend much time outdoors, I am trusting reporting from local newspapers and television. Write what you know is the cliché, sure, bit still I needed this sort of exterior setting. After all, the Vegas Novel, I'd decided, was going to show a city like no other, one designed from the first to lock nature out. Here, the castles really are built on foundations of sand (and so Las Vegas renders at least one truism of the pious obsolete). We (the mega-resorts on the Strip,
the tourists who fill them and the residents) exist here in the midst of desert nothingness because our technology overcomes nature. But nature adapts.
Pondering all this, my literary ambition lost all sense of proportion. This from my notes on day four of my vacation: "Hunter S. Thompson only made a day trip. I've been here for years."
There was only one problem with my Vegas book, and I was having so much fun with my fantasy of success that, amazingly, I didn't notice it until the last day of my vacation. I was speaking on the phone about my grand designs to a friend, when he cut me off and asked the annoying question: what was the plot for this Vegas thing? I stopped breathing. In all the pages of insight, dialogue and descriptionin my mind, my work had become nothing short of a pyramid like the Luxor with the beam bringing to the world my artistic visionI hadn't bothered with a mere story.
I sat and tried, but I couldn't think of people and events unwinding from a beginning to an end. In short, I didn't have a novel to serve as my brilliant Vegas book. I had nothing but an unkempt journal. In an instant, I tumbled from hangin' with Twain to someplace on the food chain next to hack and huckster L. Ron Hubbard. Of course, I'm told even Battlefield Earth had a plot.
When I got back to the office, one of my co-workers asked me what I did on my vacation. "I played make believe that I was writing the Great American Novel." She looked confused, and as she walked away, though she didn't ask, I yelled out to her, "I had a great time."