The Broken Me / The Club (Pt 2)
Out of all of the cities in the United States that I could have chosen to start a church and begin teaching the bible, Las Vegas, Nevada was perhaps the least wise choice I could have made. My addictive personality was quickly taking control, and as a result, my marriage was failing. My wife and I argued and fought all the time. The only time we weren’t fighting was when we were drinking and gambling.
I must admit, I blamed her in part for the church not going anywhere. She blamed me because I was not living a “Christian” example. Mostly, I felt like a failure beyond compare. I failed everyone I knew, including myself. I failed my wife because I embarrassed her; she didn't approve of my gambling and drinking while at the same time trying to start a ministry. I failed my mother because I was no longer working toward starting a church, that was all she wanted me to do. She even told me of a dream she had that I would be guest preaching at a large church in Columbus, Ohio. I failed my God because people were no longer attending my services. God obviously didn't approve of me or else the church would have been more successful.
Failure and disapproval was all I knew. Shortly after I gave up on the church, I was fired from my job. I then began to think, If God didn't approve of me, If my wife didn't approve of me, if my mother, if my employer, and everyone else didn't approve of me, then fuck it. I was living in Las Vegas! “Sin City!” I will just give in and give up. Give up on my dream to be a pastor, a christian, a good person. It was time to see what Vegas really had to offer.
My first excursion into the night was when my wife had taken the Greyhound bus to visit her mother in Colorado. She didn't tell me at the time, but she was going to find a job and leave me in Nevada. With her gone for that week, I wanted to see what was behind the red velvet curtain.
It was one of those rare Las Vegas nights--the air was thick and heavy with fog and light rain, lights of the city reflected back from the clouds above in an orange otherworldly glow. I was excited to see my first topless revue on the Las Vegas strip. It was the famous Crazy Girls show at the Riviera Casino.
A line of chorus girls came out on stage kicking like the Rockettes in New York. I had never before seen anything like it, the girls took off their tops and everyone around them was ok with it. I had seen stuff like this on the computer screen, but not in real life. I was hypnotized by the flashing lights, music and all of the pretty girls dancing on stage. It was more than I expected, yet, not nearly enough. I wanted more, more, more!
When the show was over, I awkwardly walked out of the casino, my hands were deep in my pockets trying to hide the prize. I had just found my favorite drug and I was not satisfied with just one rail from that train. My body was vibrating with erotic euphoria as if I had experienced cocaine for the first time. As I drove out of the parking garage, I thought of how to get more of my new drug. Then, I remembered, there was a place I would drive by on the way to work all the time that flashed with bright red colors, “No Tops, No Cover, Open 24 Hours.” That was where I was headed next, I could hardly contain my nervous anticipation as I drove into the parking lot of an old shopping center. My hands shook as I anxiously fumbled with the ignition keys to turn the engine off.
“Just be cool, Joel,” I told myself as I got out of the car.
The parking lot was dark as most of the street lights had long burnt out in this forgotten area of town. The humidity in the air was thick with caustic diesel fumes from the truck stop and interstate highway nearby making my eyes and throat burn. It was as if a fresh line of snow was dripping from my nose into my throat.
“Just be cool, Joel, you can do this.”
To my left was a check cashing place that promised cash loans to anybody with a paycheck. A solitary shadow smoked a cigarette by the door.
“Just be cool, Joel. No one will find out.”
To my right was a torn red awning with white lettering promised the same thing as the sign I saw from the highway, “No Tops, No Cover.” My knees went weak almost to the point of being unable to support my weight as I walked toward “Larry’s Villa.” The rush of the high suddenly coursing through my blood veins.
“Just be cool, Joel. Act like you’ve done this before.”
Underneath the red awning, waited a man to check my ID, he then grunted and let me pass through the door. Through the curtain, Into the flashing purple and amber lights, I took a deep breath, my lungs burned as I inhaled stale smoke and cheap perfume. I was in euphoria once again. I found an empty stool on which to perch and let the drug course through my veins.
A raven haired dancer just slipped behind the curtain. Her set was over and over the loudspeakers boomed, “Anita is next, pull out your dollar bills for Anita Mann!” The men around the club watched her dance around the bronze pole, but it seemed no one was in a tipping mood.
Music thumping, lights flashing, I averted my gaze for a moment and surveyed the room. The flashing colored lights were of plastic balloons hung from the ceiling indicating that the “Party was here,” yet the dust and grime creating a muted lighting effect told a different story--he party was long ago. I was late. The booth across from me was occupied by a dark skinned man smoking a cigar while two girls giggled and kissed on his neck. A few other patrons stood at the bar with their backs turned to the stage discussing and laughing about something I couldn't understand over the loud music.
Eventually, It was time to leave, the waitress told me that if I wasn't buying drinks, then I couldn't stay. I had just spent all of my money on a Vegas show. I left the establishment so deeply ashamed and embarrassed. As I drove home I wondered what was so compelling about my excursion. Why I felt that I was almost on autopilot. I had everything I needed at home, yet somehow, it was beyond curiosity, the impulse felt as if it were unchangeable like I was on autopilot.
When Amy got home from visiting her mother, she told me that she had found a good job as a property manager. She was moving to Denver . . . I could go with her, or stay here. I had a choice to make. She gave me a week to think about what I wanted to do.
I spent the week thinking about what I should do. Weighing the pros and cons of ending the marriage or moving to Colorado, I debated with myself if I should give into the bright lights and false hopes of gambling, booze, and strip clubs, or try to make a better life with Amy.
For some reason, I have always been able to envision my future when I come to a crossroads. One day, while listening to a Rose Royce outdoor concert under the bright lights of Fremont Street it came to me. It was a vision like no other, and I could not ignore it. The future I saw in my mind's eye not the life I wanted. (Please read Power for the details of that vision.)
At the end of the seventh day, I told Amy that I would be going to Colorado with her and that I wanted to give life with her another try. As we drove the U-haul out of the city, I had hopes that the experiences of the one rainy night in Las Vegas would be over and that I would be able to put it behind me. Little did I know that the drug had already taken root…...