January 1998
s m u g
mystery date
by Lance Arthur

Lance Arthur is that guy whose design garnered him Infi.Net's Cool Site of the Year award for "Cool Design", due to his slavishly maintained personal site GlassDog. He also created and maintains Soulflare an online gallery for digital artistry. He asked us to tell you that you look very nice today.

Lost Wages

New York, New York remains the American public's number one destination of choice when one wishes to spend the death of the year in a crush of humanity - drunken humanity, actually - being groped both accidentally and with forethought by any number of hands while attempting simultaneously to remain aware of one's wallet location. Times Square, so it is said, has been "cleaned up" which I can only assume is a figurative declaraction rather than literal because I was there just prior to Christmas and it still holds the uniquely NYC scent of mingled rust and urine. In Christmas, the burnt-toast smell of all those hot nuts comingles in and creates a virtual cornucopiaa of unpleasantness.

Still, people flock to watch the ball drop. All you need say is, "I saw the ball drop" and everyone knows what you're talking about. Say, "I saw a hooker dressed like Pamela Lee vomit at the Fremont Experience" and only a handful of people will know whereof you speak.

I am one of that handful.

The Fremont Experience is a canopy of lights that covers the main downtown thoroughfare of gambling and sin, dancing hourly over your head accompanied by a blaring, discomforting, overdramatic soundtrack in America's Second Favorite New Year's Eve destination (according to the tourist blurb I was fed), Las Vegas. It is normally free of charge, a lure to draw the gambling public and their gambling children from The Strip's plethora of animatronic delights to the otherwise seedy and much less family-friendly downtown area. On New Year's Eve, it'll cost you $10.00. You can still stand at the end of Fremont and look up. They can't quite block out something three blocks long and three stories high. Yet. But you can't wander beneath it and are instead confronted with a fright-wigged Baywatch babe regurgitating her last five Maragaritas and accompanying "FREE!" chips and salsa in the gutter in front of The Golden Gate Hotel.

Which, lucky me, I did get to witness.

The other attraction is The Strip and its myriad casino-resort-shopping extravaganzas. At 6:00PM, the police cordone off several blocks of Las Vegas Boulevard and allow the besotted, broke and bedevelled public to wander freely and endlessly up and down, up and down, up and down. There, you can pause in front of Treasure Island and watch one large ship move slowly toward another large ship again accompanied by the requisite dramatic soundtrack before one slowly sinks sideways before righting itself and sailing backwards for the next ten-minute show an hour and a half away. So, while waiting, wander next door to The Mirage - the resort that started this Disneyesque trend of Hotels That Do Shit - and wait for the "Volcano" out front to catch fire, not a bad attraction when it's 55 degrees and you're wearing a T shirt.

Then, turn around. The real show is wandering past behind you. The parade of humanity in all its various fronts. Bikers and their biker chicks. Not to be confused with the white trash couples who just need some hair products to brighten their weary lives. Tuxedoed Sugar Daddies showing off their young prize-wives and their new cleavage. Piles and piles of fake hair stacked like the Stratosphere tower, died shades of yellow and white and shining in stark contrast to the tanned, leatherette hides that cover their painted faces. Gay men in muscle T's, their nipples freshly pierced. Old couples wearing what old couples have been wearing ever since polyester and flower print was combined.

There are random swells of shouting that travel like The Wave from one end of the street to the other. People screaming "Happy New Year" at 7:14 as the domed entrance to Caesar's Palace flashes out a killer bee warning on it's honeycombed surface. The MGM Grand, a monstrosity the color of algae, glows incandescent at the curve, pointing toward a collection of fake skyscrapers at New York New York, where you can ride a rollercoaster through the skyline and pretend you're in a cab going down 7th. And more people are erupting from these casinos like pus from a zit with each passing minute as we crawl toward midnight. FOX TV is broadcasting and people suddenly are overcome with a religious frenzy, wild-eyed, limbs convulsing, voices raised in praise to the one-eyed God called television.

A madness overtakes you. Time has no meaning. Your identity becomes blurred in this trash-compacted collection of people. You know it must be time. Another swell of noise erupts, growing nearer where you struggle to remain upright. You look toward the 900-foot tower at the other end of The Strip, looking for a sign. Somebody says "fireworks!" and you look heavenward, praying for this sign that all the build-up will finally pay off.

Fighting fatigue and nearly blacking out from lack of oxygen - or is it the overwhelming stench of Polo - you pull your arm upwards, struggling to see what time is it? What time is it? God, please, let this done!


"Happy New Year!" someone cries again. So you echo the call, shouting to no one and everyone. "Happy New Year!" Everyone is wearing hats! Where did they come from? Hats! Everywhere! Hats!

"Happy New Year!"

Hats! Give me a hat! A hat! Happy New Year! Hat!



Pamela Lee! Vomiting again! A splash of neon and fire! She's wearing a hat! Suddenly, Siegfried and Roy appear, their two-tone faces grinning maniacally, their cheek bones cutting through the crowd. Roy is riding a white tiger wearing a hat. Siegfried is offering me free shrimp cocktail. Pamela, her outlined lips, bursting with silicone, grabs the appetizer and downs it before turning her face to belch at the fake statue of David twenty feet high. Three magicians and two bad impersonators crash through in a roller coaster. "Elvis!" someone cries, but he's nowhere at all. Kyle MacLachlan is there! "Ice your nipples!" he screams. "Happy New Year!" I scream back. "And where's you're fucking hat?"



Later, in the quiet of a 24-hour buffet ("We're out of Prime Rib and Turkey but we'll have to charge you full price, honey."), recovering from my overdose of cologne and body oil, the midnight hour came and went in relative calm. I drank my champagne shot and toasted the calendar industry. Somewhere, I could hear vomiting, and I smiled.


lance arthur lance@smug.com


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