Fine Dining, Ghost Cars, and Childhood.

Spring is slowly starting to creep back to Las Vegas, meaning that I am not having to wear the requisite 2,783 layers of clothing outside anymore. And no “Death Flu”!

But it’s that time of year again: “Gig Season”. This means that I’ll be back to doing conventions, award shows, and auditions again. Trying to balance all of that with work, the search for more freelance writing work, remodeling the house, and revitalizing my social life can be a little taxing, but that’s just part of my usual litany of odd jobs, and the life that goes with it

Due to work, I had to sit Valentine’s Day out, or rather, postpone the event until later. Undoubtedly, Hallmark was crushed that I had to delay the becarded festivities, but it all worked out in the end.

Jen and I went to Pamplemousse Le Restaurant, an off-Strip dining place that I’ve been wanting to try for years. It’s one of those “old school Vegas” places, looking like something out of another era, when Vegas was more than ferris wheels and shopping centers.

The food was… well, I’ll let my review on Yelp speak for itself. Nestled in this little alcove, we had a five course meal of various French delicacies, all served to us by our waiter, Keifer.

Post-Valentine's was way better.

Post-Valentine’s was way better.

It was about as good as it got, and perhaps one of my “Top 3″ restaurants in Vegas. Gifts weren’t too bad, either. I got Jen a book from Frankie’s on how to make their Tiki drinks. I got a copy of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. I’m an easy sort to make happy.

With all of the life upgrades, it’s also been time to get my car fixed. A shorted out headlight and a few weird noises from the engine. I finally had free time to fix the car, and so when I took it into the shop, all noises and defects stopped. Of course they did. This left me unable to prove the phantom noises, so I’m waiting for everything to return so that I don’t get confused looks from car mechanics.

I don’t talk a lot about “celebrity deaths” on my blog, because it doesn’t relate to my life, but one happened yesterday that deeply affected me: Harold Ramis of Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day fame passed away.

Groundhog Day is a personal favorite of mine when it comes to films as I like the concept of doing something over and over again until you get it right. Not only just the act of “perfecting” a day, but the lessons and improvement of one’s self. I personally would love to have one day to relive repeatedly to get all trivial issues out of my system, or to sit down and have the time to really master a craft. Or several. To have the chance to work out the best and worst of oneself until I could become the person I want or need to be is appealing, as is the time granted to do so. I admit that I am not the best in using my own time, and more than once would I have liked a “do over”.

Ghostbusters found its way into my life when I was eight years old, and has remained since. As a kid, it was at want of being a hero and exploring dark and spooky places with a giant laser strapped to my back. As I grew up, it became the finely crafted use of wit and humor. As I got older still, it became more of a question of what else is out there. To be honest, it’s hard to say what’s to believe, but that’s not to say that I don’t want to. There are simply too many weird and unexplained out there to rationalize everything as natural phenomenon. For a brief time, I even joined a paranormal investigation group until they abruptly shut their doors. In any case, I find it presumptuous to assume that life as we know is the only form of existence there is. I may try that form of answer finding again when I find a group of more like-minded individuals.

Harold Ramis has done a lot of brilliant work in the related field that I also call my own, but these two films made me think about something more than just myself. To find stories that make one think about the life we have now (and life beyond) that is told in a very humorous way is something I hope that I can one day capture with my own voice. Losing Harold is losing a part of my childhood. He was one of my heroes growing up, and I regret that I’ll never get the chance to meet him.

You will be missed, Harold.

Good-bye, Harold.

Good-bye, Harold.

Tomorrow is a day that I have to come to terms with every year: The anniversary of when my Father passed. To this day, Dad remains one of my best friends. He was a funny, kind, caring man who sometimes carried a facade of a gruff exterior, but was an old softie at heart. As I’ve gotten older, I realized that I’ve unintentionally embodied a lot of qualities of my Dad, which tends to be comforting and isolating all at once. It’s funny that one would think old wounds would eventually heal, but some never do. But I can look back and say that I was very grateful for the life that he did give me.

Happier times....

Happier times….

You never forget those that touched your life the most. I went out to Lake Las Vegas to have a little bit of personal time for myself. It’s still beautiful out there, but it was disappointing to see the casino closed again, among several other shops. All the more reason to appreciate the moment that we are in.

You Never Forget The Grand Canyon.

With The Experience gone as one of the last quirky bars in Las Vegas (I suppose the Rainforest Cafe still counts), it was only a matter of time before someone else tried to fill in that niche.

Enter the Sci-Fi Cafe.

Envisioned by a very generous couple by the names of Suzy and Robert, it was going to be a dinner theater style dining experience with sci-fi elements and “guest stars” from Star Trek. I auditioned for and landed the role of the host, and was going to be writing some of the skits for the ever-evolving characters.

I didn’t have much time to focus on this at the time, as I was doing an overnight shoot for The Hangover at the Riviera. That scene where the characters were trying to win big at one of the tables, and Heather Graham fell out of her chair. While all-night shoots are just part of the filmmaking process at times, it’s the leading into that next day that ruins one’s sleep schedule.

Again, I didn’t have much time to focus. I was planning a trip back to Texas at the end of the month. With the house sold, it was time to collect my pieces from Dad’s estate, a trip that I wasn’t looking forward to.

I took time to break up this impending trip by being introduced to even more of Vegas’ culture of geekery: The Age of Chivalry Renaissance Festival.

Where else can you run around screaming “Huzzah!” while ingesting freakishly huge turkey legs and mugs full of mead? Far too few places. Just far too few places. It was fun, of course, and full of the usual oddities that make up such festivals:

Everyone loves monkeys with hats.

Everyone loves monkeys with hats.

And pirate ships.

And pirate ships.

And giant tree people.

And giant tree people.

All of it, of course, was to put off what I no longer could: Going “home” for the last time. And that day had come.

For the first time in eight months, I walked back into the house that had been my childhood home for so many years. Things were being packed into boxes, but it was still very much the same place that I had known. My friends, Danny, Toby, and John were with me as I walked through a home that no longer was. So many holidays, and life events, and friends and family and loved ones all came rushing to me as I stepped through the door, and then walking into the room where he had passed that cold February morning. My friends gave me a moment to compose my grieving as I loaded the last of the things into the truck, took one last look, and said good-bye.

The last good-bye.

The last good-bye.

I had all of these ideas of visiting the places I grew up with, the places that my friends and I spent our “misbegotten youths” of playing hackey sack on tennis courts, or filming “documentaries” of life in our small town, but ultimately, I just wanted food, and a stop to this coffee shop called Two Doors Down.

Coffee shop bookcases.

Coffee shop bookcases.

The shop had the street blocked off so people could watch The King & I in the middle of the street, and it made me smile that there was still something of an art scene left in my little town.

We had parked the moving truck at the house before dinner as it’s huge and unwieldy in parking spots. John dropped me off to say good-bye. I took my last look at the house, before I entered the truck, and got inside. As I turned the key to start the truck, I stopped. “No”, I thought. “There’s one more thing that I have to do.”

I walked through the front yard up to my favorite sitting wall, ever since I was 9 years old. I climbed up there, and looked at the stars as I’ve done for so many years. In the distance, the low, mournful wail of a train sounded in the distance, as it had so many times in the past. I closed my eyes, taking in the sound of the train, the wind, and the chirping crickets. I needed to remember. I had to take this with me. And so I sat on my wall. One last time, knowing that this is the final time I would ever look at the sky this way, and be in this moment. And as I slid off the wall, I gave one last silent farewell to 2508 Butler Drive, my home for 24 years, and felt the finality of knowing that I will never pass this way again.

I spent the rest of my trip in the company of my sister and her family, catching up, talking, before Toby and I got ready to return to Vegas.

The sibling and I.

The sibling and I.

The trip was fairly nondescript. A lot of driving through West Texas, which if one has made that drive, then it’s understood how long, tedious, and barren it is.

Along the way through Arizona, a detour for the Grand Canyon was offered. Considering that Toby and I had never been, and a break from driving was greatly needed, we took the side trip, driving this big Budget rental truck through the gates. Outside, it was freezing, but the view was spectacular.

Just moments before....

Just moments before….

For those not familiar with me, I have something that might be considered a “condition”, or just simply a “weird magnet”. In any case, my friends from Texas, California and Vegas have all put a name to this phenomenon, calling it “The Guy Chapman Effect”. Basically, I have a habit of stumbling across weird people, events, and locations that result in stories that no one would otherwise believe. It’s the same effect, that within proximity of me, people get dragged into events that they normally wouldn’t experience otherwise. It can go either way: Either really good, or extremely weird.

This was a case of the latter….

Toby and I were walking along a pathway, when we noticed a medium sized black duffel bag next to a ledge. Post-2001 common sense/fear of the unknown does make one mistrustful of unattended bags, especially in a public place, but we investigated anyway.

We long deliberated in not touching the bag, calling out for the owner instead. When no one came, we decided to check the contents of the bag to perhaps find some contact information.

Inside was a change of clothes, a bar of soap, some glasses, a book on playing cards, a one way bus ticket from Tucson to the Grand Canyon, three unopened beers, and two empty beer cans. An odd selection to be left by the side of a very high cliff, but we both agreed to take it to a station for Lost and Found.

We brought the bag into the nearby museum, where we presented our findings to the staff and a ranger. They looked worried when we mentioned the beer. “Show me where you found this”, the staff person said, so we did. She said she hoped it wasn’t what she feared this meant, and upon pressing her, I discovered that a LOT of people fall off the ledges of the Grand Canyon. We were asked to keep what we knew quiet.

You know how you see most Grand Canyon pictures of people leaning against some railing? In reality, those railings are few and far between, and the potential to fall is very real, and if you do, you can’t see the bottom in some areas, as there’s no way that any sane person would step close to some of those ledges. Grand Canyon suicides and accidental fallings are very common out there.

What turned into a simple side vacation became a full blown investigation, and we became directly involved in the search and details. We had to go back to the station to fill out paperwork of what we saw. As we did this, a helicopter whizzed by us, hovering in the area where we found the bag.

A larger crowd began to form, and somehow the people knew what was going on. “It seems two hikers found a backpack on that ridge over there”, one tourist said. “It wasn’t a backpack. It was a duffel bag”, Toby said. The crowd turned to face us. “How would you know that”, someone else shot at us like we should be just as in the dark as everyone else. “Because we’re the ones who found the bag”, I replied. I hadn’t even finished the sentence before the people got wide eyed silent, then started talking among themselves, giving us these unusual sidelong glances. The helicopter roared through the cavern again, and the ranger’s radio crackled. He got something in code, and replied back in turn. “What that means is ‘Yes’”, he said solemnly to us to let us know without a doubt as to what happened, thanked us, and walked back to the station.

Turns out, Toby and I were the first to discover and report the duffel bag minutes after some lost soul made a one way trip out there, and decided to commit suicide by jumping to his death off the Grand Canyon. Some tourist with a thick German accent actually found the body smashed against the rocks, and pointed it out, but I couldn’t see it that well, and didn’t want to after the description. Apparently, we just got there minutes after the jump. We walked back to our rental truck and left the park, having ended up not taking a mini-vacation, but ended up solving a suicide case. The story made the local paper, and while I later learned the identity of the victim, I’ll never reveal it here, as it would be weird to announce that my friend and I were the discover of some loved one’s body.

At least the following drive through the Hoover Dam was far quieter.

Hoover Dam.

Hoover Dam.

To say that we just needed some quiet downtime on Fremont Street with friends was an understatement:

Me, Christie, Toby, Shannon.

Me, Christie, Toby, Shannon.

Toby stayed for a few days, and the only thing left was Halloween. I of course, used an old familiar stand-by:

Spiderween.

Spiderween.

Summer In Vegas.

There is nothing quite like your first real Summer in Vegas and the lessons it imparts. Moments such as your eyeballs drying out and your skin starting to burn like a vampire’s are treasured memories that I’ll take with me for years to come.

But it has its moments.

It was here where I discovered First Friday, Las Vegas’ own art crawl. A lot of bands, artists, and various street prophets, mixed with a heavy dose of the Burner community. It happens the first Friday (naturally) of every month, and for a few hours, the local scene gets to enjoy a little bit of culture. It’s like a once a month Deep Ellum.

In bonding with the Demon World cast, I finally had my “gang” to hang out with. And one of our first adventures was the British pub Crown & Anchor. Pretty normal, I suppose. Fish ‘n’ chips, a pint of Guinness, the requisite gang of Elvis impersonators….

One of many Elvii.

One of many Elvii.

Pretty standard stuff, really.

It was also here where I learned about Vegas’ love for vanity license plates. Seriously. Among some of the favorites: “FINNICKY”, “HUNNY”, “WRKHRDR”, “GROVER”, “DSTROSE”, “JASONS3″, “MOSKOS1″, “NYPHNTM”, “FA1TH”, “G02BEME”, “LA CAGE”, and “TIGHT C”. Mind you, this was in about 4 days time. You could go on a photo safari for these things and never run out of subjects. I was also dismayed to find that Star Trek was closing. It seemed that my days of bartering meal prices with Ferengi were coming to an end that Fall.

Still, anything to distract from June, as it was a combination of both Father’s Day and my Dad’s birthday. I still resolved to get something for my Dad’s 71st that year, something I planned to get him before he passed, so I chose to eventually get this:

The Hollows.

The Hollows.

It’s a piece called The Hollows. It was painted by a dear friend of mine by the name of Tim Cantor. He and his lovely wife Amy have been dear friends of mine for years now, and during one of his visits to San Diego, Dad fell in love with Tim’s artwork. While I never got him the painting in life, the very least I could do was honor his memory with a piece that would have touched his heart.

The Return Home.

The final night in my childhood home found me on my “sitting wall”. A wall that I used to stretch out on as a kid to look up at the night sky. It seemed only fitting to sit up there for what may have been my last time before traveling to my sister’s, where it began to snow. I thought about the time with family and friends, a moment where it felt like over half of my personal history all came together in one moment to unite for my Dad’s memory. It was one of the few things that gave me comfort during the time. That’s nothing to say of the return home.

When I got to the airport, I got a call from one of my co-workers: The company I had been working at had been shut down. Busted by the FDA for selling a fraudulent product (among many of their products were pills you could take to “stop being gay”. Because that’s exactly how that situation works), and the company owner had been thrown in jail. The irony that I was returning to Vegas as an unemployed orphan was a hard pill to swallow (though I hope it hadn’t come from that particular company). At least I had my little family unit to return to.

And some things did pick up, in a weird way. While the company bounced my final paycheck a few times, they did have a heart in light of my recent news and pay me (others weren’t so lucky). My show review career began here with a showing of Spamalot at the Wynn, and I had to drive to Los Angeles to do a voice-over for a video game that was in the works (come to think of it, I don’t think it ever came out).

But basically, it was just… dealing. The will was read, my show review got published, and I was just there to pick up the pieces. It wasn’t how I envisioned life in Las Vegas at all, and none of what was going on, had anything to do with the city. I was still so new to the city, and I hadn’t any time to go out and explore or make friends. Being unemployed at that time was simply an unlucky deal, and I hoped that things would turn around.

And I suppose, in a “Monkey’s Paw” sort of way, it did….

Second Star To The Right….

Despite the odd nature and background of the job, my co-workers were incredibly supportive during that time.

That’s nothing to be said of my friends, both “real world” and online, a lifetime of relationships that helped to fund my need to get back to Texas. While I had many generous friends and beloved relationships contribute to my journey back, one of the standout contributions came from Arts Fighting Cancer.

Def2K

In my time, back in 2000-2001, it was known as the Deep Ellum Film Festival, based out of Deep Ellum in Dallas. This neighborhood was a second home to my friends and I, full of artists and musicians, creative geniuses and madmen. The festival itself was run by Michael Cain and Melina McKinnon, wonderful people that I had built a lifelong friendship with. The festival itself was based around raising money to directly help cancer victims and their families cover costs and more human needs. I joined out of belief for the cause after my Mother died. I hadn’t considered that I would have to one day come to them for help myself.

But they did, and they were remarkable in helping me get home.

Meanwhile in Vegas (seeing how this is still a blog about Vegas), the family unit and I were trying to plan a trip for Dad to visit here. I even took it upon myself to contact a few venues on the Strip to see if we could do some special things for them. The managers and hosts were accommodating, and plans were being discussed, but I had to go to Texas first.

And the airport sucks.

Making my way past the slot machines in the airport (yes, they have them there too so lucky tourists can feed the local economy), I effortlessly made my way to my plane. I was all ready to go, buckled in, Nintendo DS and journal in hand, let’s do this!

“We’re sorry to inform you that due to engine technical difficulties, Flight 1150 is now out of service”, the captain says. “Please go to Baggage Claim 3 to get your luggage.”

So while walking over there, I call American Airlines and tell them what happened, and that I must go to Dallas today. They book me an 11:25 flight on US Airways.

Then the Hell started.

The luggage wasn’t appearing at Baggage Claim 3. 45 minutes pass, and this surly baggage manager finally opens her office. “The baggage hasn’t come”, the guy in front of me says. “I’m not on the clock. Not my problem.” Even when she does clock in, her answer doesn’t change.

20 minutes later, I go to her again, and she seems so annoyed that I would dare to bother her when standing behind a counter looking sulky is such a time intensive task.

“Fine”, she says, and the baggage carousel comes on. For two flights.

So the baggage is coming, tumbling out, crushing other suitcases, falling on the ground, until it finally backed up and jammed with luggage. We tell her about it, and again, “Not my problem”.

Finally, she sighs, turns off the carousel, and walks away.

“What about the rest of the luggage”, someone asks her. “The carousel’s full, and I can’t do anything if it’s full like that, and no more luggage can come out until it’s cleared out.”

(A shiny new quarter will be given to the person who guesses what she said next about whether or not it was of a concerning nature to her.)

“We’re going to be late for our flights”, some business guy shot at her. “Well, go book your flights, then”, she said, addressing us. “We’ll forward you your luggage.”

“Like Hell you will”, I snapped at her. I was totally pissed off at this point.

She shrugged carelessly. “I’m not turning it on until the luggage is cleared.”

So the passengers of flight 1150 sprung into action.

Every single piece of luggage was removed from the carousel by every man woman and child, our flight or not.

“We want our luggage”, some guy yelled.

She got on the intercom and said “The remaining flight 1150 luggage will now be re-routed to carousel 2″.

I called American Airlines customer service and exploded.

I finally got my luggage in mid-scream, and made my way to the new security gate (that’s right: I had to redo the entire process all over again).

I called my sister and updated my flight info. And then I stepped up to security.

They snatched my boarding pass and circled it.

“You have been selected for a security screening. Please step into this separate hallway.”

They pointed me to this hallway in a separate area.

“Oh, Jesus-shit-fuck”, I moaned in exasperation, conveying the most wearied look I could possibly muster.

So I went into the hallway, and stripped down, had to get into a machine, where they shot ionized air at me. They went through every item I had in my bag, spraying it, wiping it down (I’m glad they didn’t decide to read my journal). And the only reason I got them to stand down on me is that one of the neighboring security people saw that I had a Nintendo DS, and wanted to talk shop with me, which relaxed the guy in front of me.

When I left, I realized that they had kept one of my gloves, so I had to go back.

Don’t even get me started about the next flight’s delay.

Despite being late, I met my Uncle and Dad, the latter being in remarkably good spirits. After a quick dinner, we went home.

Home

It was a nice weekend, all things considered. Dad was weak, but in good humor. We talked about “the old days”, and my growing up, and me finally coming clean about all the crazy stunts that I pulled as a kid that Dad would have grounded me for, but just found amusing now.

But it was hard. Because he had gotten so frail since the last Christmas, and the horrible realization began to sink in that these moments were ending. How could they?

The thought became more real as I helped him get into bed the final night of my stay. He chuckled. “You know, when anyone gets sick, I’m usually the one to take care of them.”

I looked at the little man, as he slid under the covers to read his Terry Brooks novel. “Well, the time has come….”, the words failed. I could feel my eyes burning, my breathing tightening. I couldn’t break down. I wouldn’t. I owed him more. I had to be the rock for the moment. I cleared my throat and finished my thought. “…for me to return the favor.”

He smiled at me as he settled. “Good night, Guy”, he said. “Good night, Dad”, I said. As I left the room, he called out “I’ll see you soon.”

The next day, we said our good-bye at the airport, his eyes focusing on me like it would be the last time we would ever see each other again. And I went home.

Dad1

It wasn’t even a week later when I got “The Call”. I was out of money to do a rush trip home, but my friend Danny gave me an advance for a ticket. My other friend Toby picked me up at the airport to drive me home. My other friend John had been keeping an eye on my Dad in my absence.

I got home that night, much to Dad’s surprise. He was still coherent, well humored, but tired. As the night wore on, and the morphine could only do so much, we knew our time was short. He said that I was one of the best friends that he ever had, and after a long night of staying by his side, my sister took over for the morning shift.

I barely slept an hour when it began to happen. I rushed into the room in time to hold his hand, and just… not let go until the final, deafening quiet set in. Our last words to each other were “I love you”.

The remainder of the day was a numb blur of church, the funeral home, visits with the pastor. I was beyond exhausted, and not ready to deal with the changes that come with planning funerals. Death brings out interesting things in people. Sometimes, their absolute best. In others, their absolute worst. It’s bad enough to grieve. It’s even worse having to quell drama during a time like that. But after a long day and nearly 42 hours with no sleep, I awoke to help plan the funeral.

The funeral was, as far as funerals go, serviceable enough, save for some weird person snapping photos during the service. Photos. It’s not a moment that I particularly cared to remember, much less post on Facebook. Being the writer of the family, I was charged with writing the obituary, and delivering the eulogy. Being tired and caught unaware from the entire trip, I had to use one of Dad’s old suits, and completely mismatched the colors, proving without a doubt that I am my Father’s son.

The eulogy read as follows:

“There are no amount of words that could ever summarize a person’s life. Nor could it ever cover the amount of accomplishments both big and small, or how many lives their actions have touched. Someone once said that when you lose someone, it is similar to that of the burning of a library, because the loss takes so much with them.

I can only speak for myself, and hopefully the best I can for those I love and hold dear. I can only know that my Father’s departure from this world has left as big of an impact as it did when he came in. I know that my Father, as a teacher both in education, and in the lessons of life, had the power to change the lives of those around him.

Jim Chapman had that gift. He not only fulfilled his role of being a Father to the best of his abilities, but he also provided the roles of a mentor, a practical joker, a brother, a great intellectual, a child at heart and in spirit, and most importantly, that of the closest friend anyone could wish for. My Dad was my best friend, and the greatest love of my life.

He took pride and enthusiasm in every role he was ever asked to play, none more so than that of Grandfather. His love for his grandchildren was only matched in his pride of being their “Dada”, and very few things in life could ever light up his eyes the way those children could. His love for them will prove to last several lifetimes to come.

His children, he left a lifetime of laughter and fond memories that will also remind us to keep a smile on our faces, the will to continue on through difficult times, and his playful nature in our hearts. He took on the roles of both parents with the passing of our beautiful Mother, his soulmate, so many years ago, and performed that job better than anyone could have ever asked for.

His love also transcended beyond family into his friendships, with so many that he treated not only as peers, but as his brothers and sisters. None loved the debates and insights he would carry on with his friends more than he did, and he was blessed for having so many true and loyal friends who loved him equally in return.

With the loss of this man that my sister and I have known as our Father for so many years, comes the realization that the lights that make up our universe seem to have been blown out from the sky. Our Father was one of the most amazing and intelligent people we have ever known. A gentle dreamer and loving soul that gave so much to make the loves in his life happy, and as a result, became a hero that will forever be honored. My Dad was a beautiful artist who painted a portrait of life that will hang in the gallery of our hearts forever.

In these final thoughts, it is not my Father that I think of, but of myself, my family, and those who must go on without him. His absence will be a spot that can never be filled, and as C.S. Lewis once said: “The pain now is part of the happiness then”. And while that vacancy of space remains in our lives, the legacy of the love he gave will continue to burn like a star to fill that darkened sky once again.

In that regard, we will never truly be without him.”

Dad2

The service ended with my friends Marcus, Danny, Bobby, Toby and myself eating at the local Taco Shop, before a later dinner with family and my friends Danny and Jay. Back at the house, I share a few stories, laughter and tears with my friends as we gathered on the back porch as we always did growing up, before making this comment:

“This story has come to an end. I walk away from my childhood tomorrow as I leave this place for the last time. I’ll still obviously come back of course, and nothing will change with all of us, but I feel a new story is about to begin. I realize now, this is one aspect of my life that I’ll never be able to reopen again, once I walk out that door for the last time.”

The only thing left was to tie up a few loose ends….

It All Started When….

The move to Vegas started as of January 1, 2008. I was living in Old Town, San Diego, heavily touted as “The Birthplace of San Diego”. A neighborhood filled with parks, weekend festivities, a haunted house, and an untold but numerous number of Mexican restaurants. The area was nice, but my little family unit was existing in an overpriced shoebox of a place run by a near useless landlord and his overbearing mother. Both parties decided it was time for us to go.

Visiting Las Vegas is far different from living in Las Vegas. You don’t think about things like bills or going to Target or the fact that grocery stores have mini casinos in them filled with blue haired old ladies whittling away their butter and egg money on slot machines to fund payment for the store’s electric bill. Non-stop nights of having shots poured down your throat by busty waitresses and rounds of Blackjack are now met by the realization that this particular “weekend” is now a normal way of life, and you have to still pay rent. Not that locals really gamble all that much, anyway. Then again, my “vice” remained the “Warp Core Breach” from Star Trek: The Experience. Chugging down a fishbowl of that, then staggering to the bridge of the Enterprise D made for some good times.

I didn’t have much time to really explore the novelty of life in Vegas, though.

About two weeks into living in Vegas, I got a call from my sister. The doctors had found some abnormalities on my Dad’s lungs, and it wasn’t looking good. My Mother died in 1996 due to lung cancer, and the conversations had with both my Dad and sibling were starting to go along the same lines as that time in history. As before, I listened to what was being said, but refused to accept this was the “final” proclamation on the matter. I had to hope. And with just settling in and getting my life in order, I didn’t have time to dwell on it. At least not at the time.

I did manage to find a job as a technical writer at some company that sold vitamins and other pharmaceutical pills. I should have known something was up when I realized that the company operated under three different names. I should have known something was up when the manager who hired me quit a week later. But I needed money, especially if I was going to fly back to Texas to see my Dad.

The company sold pills. Pills that could cure every known ailment to mankind. They even had a pill they proudly dubbed “Gaytrol”, or “Gay Away”, a pill they claimed was designed to cure people of being gay. It also had the side benefit of curing the sexual urges of child molesters. “Those aren’t even remotely the same thing”, I argued, but my co-workers gave me that sidelong glance to let me know they gave up on trying to understand that particular logic long ago. And for a “Christian based company”, they were launching a whole other side line of sex based pills designed to do… pretty much whatever you would want or imagine.

I wasn’t there to argue logic. I was just there to make money. And to get the new landlord to give me all of my keys. That was a teeth pulling adventure in itself.

It was one day, not much later, that my sister broke the news: Dad indeed had cancer. Stage IV cancer over the entirety of his body. I wasn’t able to drive anymore, sitting numbly in my car until I could force myself to drive back to the condo. When I pulled into my parking spot, I got the call:

“Hello, Guy”, he said.

“Hi.”

“Well, you already know.”

“Yeah. I do.”

And that’s the moment when my world began to change….