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Sunday, April 19, 2009


So, for the majority of this week, I’m going to be blogging from LAS VEGAS. Well, I’ll be doing EVERYTHING from Las Vegas, because I’ll be there.*

I’ll tell the truth—I’ve only been to Vegas once, and I didn’t like it. It disturbed my notions of reality. It was altogether a little TOO like the Las Vegas presented in one of my all-time favorite books (made into a so-so movie, but I still have a fondness for it) . . . Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

I can’t remember if I’ve already told you what happened to me the last time I went to Vegas. If I told you anything, I certainly haven’t told you in DETAIL. But it’s about time I did.**

It took some searching, but I found the scrambled notes on an old computer disk for what I will now call “The Tiger Diaries.” It’s an account of my time in Vegas.*** This will be a MULTI-PART blog that I bring you throughout this week, along with LIVE UPDATES from Vegas. (Once I get there. I leave on Tuesday.)


Three days into the fray, a member of the hotel catering staff was rolling a cartful of roasted ducks down the wide corridor between conference rooms when one of our private party staff came and tapped the man on the shoulder and gave him the news.

“You’ll have to move faster,” he said. “We’re bringing in the tigers.”

Maybe the caterer thought it was a joke until he actually saw men rolling in tigers from the loading dock. They weren’t caged; they just seemed to be resting on rolling platforms. This poor guy began running down the corridor, pushing his warm, aromatic ducks.
So they were telling me over the walkie-talkie, anyway.

“Tell him to watch out for the Secret Service,” said another voice on the walkie. “He’ll have to take his ducks around through the back.”

“I don’t know, man,” said a third voice. “He’s booking.”

It was a good idea to move quickly that morning, for lurking along with the tigers was former president [insert name of actual former President]. He had been hired to speak at the conference, and his Secret Service officers were causing some further confusion, striding around, moving things and people with total authority. I did want to go out and look, but two guys with earpieces were blocking the door to the war room where I was working. Also, I was busy.

It was only eleven in the morning and I’d already been working at my computer for six hours, creating a slide presentation that was due to be given at 11:30. I had a blister on the underside of my wrist where it had dragged over a scratchy tablecloth all morning behind a mouse. Catering hadn’t refilled the coffee or the milk by the wee hour that I was down there, but I didn’t know that until I’d sucked down a hefty swig of cold coffee grinds and curdled milk. Now I was just praying that it stayed down so I wouldn’t have to attempt to venture out into that mix of beasts and suits and flying cooked carcasses, out to the vast, cabana-style ladies room and lose the small amount of food I’d ingested over the last few days.

I was prepared for pretty much anything at that point. I had everything I needed to survive in the zippered pouch of an identification badge hanging around my neck: two plastic key cards to my hotel door, one Visa card, one folded contact list of staff room and phone numbers, eighty dollars in cash, ten Ibuprofen capsules, a handful of Altoids and a ball-point pen. The Visa and the eighty dollars I didn’t really need—they were there just in case I needed to buy something that I couldn’t just charge to my room. But I never really had to buy anything. I never left the hotel, first of all. Secondly, we did (theoretically) have catering. The Altoids were for me to eat as I drank my coffee. They were my breakfast. The night before, they had been my dinner.

I was a temp. A temp that had been hauled all the way out west from New York, all expenses paid, to work at a pharmaceutical sales conference at [a very big hotel] on the Strip. I’d been plucked up for this job by an east coast audio-visual firm I’d done a day’s work for at a similar event in New York. They said, “We like you. Come to Vegas with us next month.” Like it was perfectly normal to grab up a temp you’ve known for less than twenty-four hours and wisk her across the country.

I was to be one of a crew of about ten people, including: a stage manager, a technical manager, a computer specialist, an event organizer, a PA, a cameraman, a film editor, an announcer, and a professional comedian. I would be the “presentation specialist.” In the language of temporary work, a presentation specialist (or presentation guru, a term which I cannot abide) is someone who knows the program PowerPoint. PowerPoint makes slide presentations. It’s not a hard program to learn; it took me about three hours. My job in Vegas would be to take slide presentations that speakers had made for themselves and edit them into something smooth and fairly comprehensible. If the colors they had chosen for their words or background were hard to read on screen, I would change them. I would make words fit better on the slides. I would tidy things up in general.

The truth was, I didn’t even know the program that well. I knew it just enough to get by. This was yet another job I’d lied about my experience to get.

I agreed on the spot. Sure, I would go to Vegas.

* In case you are wondering, I am going there to talk to PEOPLE about BOOKS.

** If you’ve ever read my bio carefully (and I have no idea why you would have)—I make reference to this week in Vegas.

*** I originally wrote this up as part of my graduate thesis for the nonfiction program at Columbia. It seems I decided about 10,000 words in that this piece didn’t belong in the collection, so I never completed it or revised it. I had all but forgotten about it—but the fact that I am going to Vegas again made me want to look for it. It was on an archive disk I made when I was getting rid of my old computer, buried deep in a pile of pieces of essays I was trying out for the thesis. It was incomplete, so there are enormous holes in the narrative that I have to fill in. I’m glad I started it, though, because it preserved the details of the event I would definitely have forgotten. This speaks to advice that many writers give: SAVE EVERYTHING. You never know when you might go looking for that material you never used! Like, say, when you promise to blog every day for a month!

Names and exact locations have been removed, largely because of an agreement I signed when I did this job. It’s probably not even valid anymore, but I will err on the side of CAUTION.

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Blogger Elliot said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:17 AM  
Blogger Elliot said...

Can't wait for the next entry!


12:24 AM  
Blogger Emma said...


1:18 AM  
Blogger Nadia Murti said...



2:32 AM  
Anonymous Ryan Leys said...


5:34 AM  
Blogger lightforms said...

you can go the hotel where the insides look like outside, the ceiling looks like the sky. very weird and almost nauseating. at least it has air conditioning.

6:34 AM  
Blogger Nosidam said...

As witnessed by the previous comments, I think that it safe to say that the BEDA insanity has set in. I think most of us will probably require rehab. Oh well.

On another not, the captcha code includes almost all the letters of my screen name. "dosinsim" That makes me happy.

8:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh well i was insane already. so i can't blame BEDA. my BEDA Buddies are awesome. Maureen you should become a match maker or something.
i didn't know we weren't allowed to go to school today. i didn't get on until after school. sorry!

1:45 AM  

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