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Day eight. (95sep02)

Day Three: A Will Held Hostage. Will is back from work. We did not get Will's famous waffles for breakfast just before we left; we got Will's pre-bought donuts. I am sad. Somehow we are able to leave at 7:30am.
"How different the world would be if animals could speak just four words - 'please, don't hurt me.'" -- Paul Harvey on radio

Bumper Snickers: "Why is it called tourist season if you can't shoot them?"

The passenger of the truck bearing this wisdom-filled question tosses a plastic cup out the window.

NEVADA: "One Hundred Twenty Five Years of Cash"
10:44am PCT->11:44pm CST

We're back in Reno at 12:00pm. With cash. There are machines here to help relieve us of this burden.

1500 slot machines -- Nugget Casino Reno
Certified 97% payback!
-- billboard
Our first Reno casino is "Silver Legacy," and go figure, it also has a hotel. Outside, I look at all the casinos. Some of them claim to have the "most liberal slots." By law (can you believe there are LAWS about gambling?), the minimum amount of pay-out has to be 75%. That is, for example, for every $1,000,000 taken in by a slot machine in an hour, it has to pay out $750,000. Some casinos are claiming 97% payout. I don't even know how they can operate on a 3% margin...

This is the first time I've played roulette, so I watch for awhile to make sure I don't place bets on non-existent numbers and so forth. There are apparently 5,000,000 ways to bet, but like so many things in my notes, I'm not sure if I wrote that as a joke or not. The woman (the rouletter? the dealer? the croupier? this requires research) presiding over the wheel has to continuously wave her hands over the table. This is either a mystical rite, or it's to remind the guy next to me to keep his hands away from the played chips lest he grab one after the ball stops. There's a $10 buy-in, and the minimum bet is $2. For laughs, I bet zero and double-zero, the chances of either of these events occuring clocking in at 48:1 (this should be read as "stupid"; it's my money, dammit). On the first spin, the ball falls into the slot next to zero. It's downhill from there. I should have been playing like the couple to my right were; betting on red, betting on a four-square field of numbers, betting on everything at once, but I just didn't have the time. Score big or not at all, that's my motto, and I have thousands of them. Here's another one. "Art is everything except business."

I will be back to recoup my roulette losses at a later time. However, for now, I scoop up the last 50-cent chip as my lucky talisman for the rest of the trip. Onward to Circus Circus, which was the same as Silver Legacy except the ceiling was lower and somehow, not that I'm ever going to understand this, but somehow it felt...grubbier.

FUN GAME FOR KIDS! See if you can guess which of these slot machine names are made up, and which are real! Some could be both! Good luck, stupid kids!

Bad Credit
Big Ole' Loser
Blow Yer Wad
Break Your Bank
Bye-bye Quarters
Dollars Deluxe
Double Diamond
Dynamite Dollars
Fairchild Slots
Flamin' Savings
Grubbstake Slots
Insert Coin!
Quarters Deluxe
Silver Blast Slots
Silver Street
Sittin' Pretty Stupid

Some banks of slot machines have a Jeep(R) or Harley(R) jammed between them, reminding you to make sure to get your parking validated. No! These are the jackpots for these certain slot machines. You could just reach out and touch that goddamn Dodge minivan while you were playing, you could. Some of the slot machines are designed for maximum comfort; the displays are mounted like a desk, and there are no levers, just buttons. A place to put your drink, a padded armrest, and you're thinking about staying here for many, many hours. Some of these stylin' machines have a note next to the dollar-eater: "Insert $1 to $100 face up." I back away, slowly.

Here's an old lady playing a slot machine, one of several thousand pairs strategically scattered throughout Nevada, just like the MX Missile program. Perhaps this IS the MX Missile program. MX Grandma's got a secret casino trick: shake the handle while the the reels are spinning. See, now, as a CASINO NEWBIE, I had just been making funny faces at them.

Before we left on our trip, we were asked to bet various wads of cash for friends. "Oh, I'm sorry, you...lost." Laura, who gave us $5, wins $20, which we blow on liquor. No, just kidding, we paid her all $10 of it.

Here's something scary: a credit card instant cash machine. No, no, silly person, that's not the scary thing. The scary thing is the sign on the machine that read "NO PIN REQUIRED." Get it? No pin, no person, no problem. If you're a criminal, this is like saying "FREE MONEY ALL DAY RIGHT HERE STEP RIGHT UP STEP RIGHT UP YES YOU SIR WITH THE STOLEN WALLET..." So if you need some cash, a great place to have your some of your credit cards "stolen" would be Nevada. I get 10%.

[LEGAL DISCLAIMER: the above information is offered for entertainment purposes only. Incitement of fraud is a felony!]

I snap a picture of a few roulette wheels, some slot machines, etc. As we leave Circus Circus, I put the purple fifty-cent chip together with the sand dollar on the SUV dash and make 'em fight.

down $22.35

The Reno Hilton is blasting CCR outside. You know, Clearance Creedwater REVISITED. Yup, another Classic Rock Reformulation. "If you got a nickel boy, lay your money down..."

Raley's Supermarket (and slots) is the home of our Burning Man provisions. The bagger notices my shirt, which I got from work. I explain this to him.

Jeff: "It was a fashion show...at Chrysler."
Bagger: "Chrysler?"
Jeff: "Yeah...I work at the tech center."
Bagger: "Do you work with car designers?"
Jeff: "Yeah...all the time, actually."
Bagger: "I'm really interested in that stuff."
Jeff: "You'd like my job, then. Someone should."
Bagger [laughing]: "Anything you can tell me about?"

When I started working at Chrysler, I had to sign a six-page document that discussed proprietary security, and the fact that I would not be allowed to discuss anything I'd seen, heard, or smelled at Chrysler, up to five years after I was no longer with the corporation. I was exposed to many, many zoomin' futuristic cars, headed either for production or the trash heap.

Jeff: "Sure! Lemme sketch you a few views of the 2007 Neon on a grocery bag. Paper, not plastic!"
Right now, a supermarket bagger in Reno, Nevada, is plotting the violent overthrow of the Chrysler Corporation, all because I wanted to help. Outside, we make a quick call to Doc, creator of the world's largest ball of cat guts, concerning his own journey to Burning Man. He informs us he's in the latter stages of a case of food poisoning. We wish him well ("stop poisoning the food and get yer ass up here"), and venture out onto the road once again. On our last bit of freeway before the Burning Man exit, we notice a mini-Burning Man convoy.
"That Jeep is going."
"So is that one..."
The scenery turns into bushy mountains; it looks like green razor stubble, on massive black-gold sand dunes. The road into Gerlach, the closest town to Burning Man, follows a lone telephone wire. We gas up at Fernley, and buy ice. There are two obvious Burning Man attendees here, women, also getting gas. They're from Oregon.
Woman [leaving, smiling]: "See you there."
Jeff: "You know we're never going to see them again. You saw their knowing, 'we're never going to see you again so here's a big sexy grin' smiles."
Scott: "This is probably true."
Scott doesn't really care, because he's married. There always seems to be this perpetual imbalance of female interest in my life. They're interested, they disappear. I'm interested, they're not, they're friends, I'm not interested, they are. I'm interesting, I disappear. Disappearo, reappearo! Here's an example. Say you're in a college classroom (Linguistics), and the woman of your dreams (Megan Gallbraith) ends up sitting next to you. You know what's going to happen? Nothing, that's what. She's going to be this absolutely distant snot to you the whole semester, and you're just going to smile and take it, because secretly, you've plotted out the rest of your life with her. The more you try to make it painfully obvious that you have this massive crush on her, by trying to say "hello, Megan" ("HelLO, Megan!", "Hi Megan," "Hey Meg," etc; practice in front of friends for best results) without lapsing into convulsions and whatnot, the more she seems to recede into the woodwork, as if there was any woodwork in your modern college classroom which actually consists of cinder blocks painted a sickly orange, so instead she recedes into the sickly-orange cinder blocks, but you slowly catch on that maybe she's Just Not Interested, and you drop the whole charade and get back to your studies even though the class is a complete joke especially the one day the professor said "Well, THAT'S a stupid question" and made the woman asking it almost break down and then you run into her (Megan Gallbraith) after you get back your final semester-long papers and she freaks in the elevator because SHE'S a speech therapy major and this is a required class for her and she got a C+ and YOU'RE not even a speech therapy major and you took it just for grins and got a B+ and she huffs and puffs that SOMETHING has to be wrong, and you smile and think that of all possible outcomes of the (new math coming up) intersection between your lousy class and your failed crush that this was probably the best one because right then they sorta cancelled each other out.That was my favorite elevator ride ever (except maybe for the ones with the talking computer chip announcer ["Floor three-seven...floor three-six..."] or the one when the elevator fell two stories, at the Patrick Henry Inn in Williamsburg, Virginia ["Give me liberty or givAAIIIEEEEEEEE!!!]), and it was with Megan. Snicker. Anyway. This sort of thing seems to happen to me all the time, but I've learned to accept it, to the point of being able to extract almost 400 words out of these types of situations.

The wind at the gas station begins to oscillate wildly between cool and hot every twenty seconds. In the distance, you (you) can see shadows of entire cloud formations moving up the side of mountain ranges. It makes you (me) feel really, really small. Yet bigger...there's computers...SAN DIMAS HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL RULES!

While Scott makes the final approach to Burning Man, I craft a maximum-protection miniature space suit out of a Pop-Tart wrapper for Backup Rabbit. He is a funny space bunny, no? Scott eyes me warily, and furtively searches the dashboard for an "ejection seat" button.

"This is Space Backup Rabbit to Houston...all systems go!"
"This is Satellite Dish Dog...you're on a secured channel, over."
We arrive at Empire, twenty miles out from Gerlach. There's a gypsum plant here. The town is smaller than my apartment.

"Empire - bottom price on gas $1.45 a gallon"

HO! There's a general store here, in the midst of ravaging by Burning Man attendees. It's a madhouse inside; goods are scattered everywhere. Slot machine: check. ATM: check. I search for a nice hat. No luck, back on the road. A mile later, the cops are making someone walk the line. One more mile, another cop has pulled over an SUV. Now we begin our final approach to Burning Man.

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