I can last two days in Las Vegas; four, tops. I'm going there to meet Sungyoon Choi, the illustrator of the book, and give her a tour of the city. It'll be her first time there, and since so much of the graphic novel is set in Las Vegas, we agreed it would be helpful for her to take in the lay of the land. The gondolas of the Venetian; Old Vegas on Fremont Street; the now-defunct Liberace Museum (moment of silence, please): we're going to do it all.
I'm driving. It takes between five and six hours to get there, and I'm going to try and be gas-conscious and not speed too much. It takes me until I'm well out of Los Angeles County before the mantle of Responsible Dad falls away and I can assume the temporary title of Free Agent. I'm a pretty poor representative of such a moniker; so far my wild wild ways include being able to listen to an entire episode of "Car Talk" and most of "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" on NPR without feeling guilty about staying in the car. The free part is mostly the liberation of that sizable part of my brain which is usually tethered to All Things Family— school, housework, appointments, what to cook for dinner, Doug, Benjamin Benjamin Benjamin (and, yes, though reluctantly, Rowdy). To be able to have that part of my brain back, to concentrate full-force on the manuscript, the collaboration with Choi, the lyrics to the entire Hejira album (I put it on once NPR got static-y; it's genius, believe me)— this is freedom at its finest.
There's also a bit of melancholy, and not just from Joni Mitchell wailing on the speakers. I'm on a barren stretch of highway amid tumbleweeds and rocks rashed with red scrub, that empty space between Leaving From and Going To. The space where creativity can flourish but also melancholy. I'm feeling much like the main character in my book might feel, traveling back to where it began; returning again to the genesis of tragedy. And I realize that I've invested so much in these characters that their travails have become real to me, and I think of Las Vegas as their home, and I'm going there to pay my respects.
Things brighten up on the approach to Baker, CA. I get gas and contemplate my usual stop at Bun Boy for lunch (the Bun Boy is right next to the world's tallest thermometer, and, well, 'nuff said about the phallic implications of that).
Instead, I head over to the Mad Greek Diner, because I've just been to Greece, and two of my characters are Greek, so I figure there might be some inspiration there. Not so much.
|Beware Greeks bearing crappy roadside food.|
|I have known Greek salads, I've been to Greece, |
Greek salads are my friends, and you, sir, are no
Hmm. I might want to rethink that last sentence.