Book #6 - This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
Came upon this book when we interviewed the author for Asylum.com. The plot has been tried (in that it’s about a guy who reunites with a family that he hates but turns out he really doesn’t hate them all that much) but the way its written is pretty incredible. Very funny and very down to earth. Also, if you’ve ever been through a sad old man/sad old lady phase, he pretty much wrote it for you.
Book #7 - When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
This book is a little bit more of a chore than the other Sedaris books I’ve read, but a bad Sedaris book is better than other authors’ best books.
Book #8 - Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk
How many porn movie title puns can Chuck Palahniuk fit in one novel? Find out in Snuff!
I really meant to post this series as it was happening, but a lack of Internet access and a severe lack of free writing time kept me from doing that. Here it is in order though, from the best of my recollection.
Monday morning Johnathan and I wake up at the absurdly early hour of 5 am to catch our flight to Vegas. In reality, 5 am is really not that absurd. Early, yes. But not absurd. What’s absurd is how late I sleep in, and how often I do it, and how I think that 5 am is to be considered absurd. THAT is absurd.
I haven’t been on a plane in quite some time, so I expect the experience to be daunting, but it is surprisingly pleasant, until I sit in my seat and realize I’m sitting next to the most talkative man to ever come out of Brooklyn, and that is certainly saying something. Within 5 minutes, I am out of small-talk ammo and my ability to politely laugh is quickly becoming taxed. Fortunately, the putting-on of headphones is pretty universal for “I don’t wanna talk to you no more.” At one point Johnathan motions to me from across the aisle that he’s getting his DS from his bag by miming a controller. At first I don’t catch this, so I mouth, “What?” By the second pass I’ve got it, but the Brooklyn Kid decides to help me out by laughing and saying whatever game console he can think of, which is obviously not helping. “Playstation!” he laughs. “Uhh, X-Box, with this guy.” Dude. What is your story?
Walking through the exit ramp after landing, I hear an airport tech talking into his radio: “Double-oh-seven to main. Double-oh-seven to main.” If you get to work in an airport and your employee code or whatever is 007, congratulations, you’ve made it.
Walking off the plane into the Vegas is a sight: the first thing you see, literally, are rows upon rows of the gaudiest slot machines since gaudy took up residence in Gaudy-town. Johnathan describes it as a punch to the face: “YOU’RE IN VEGAS NOW MOTHER FUCKER.” Nailed it.
We meet up with a guy named Mike, who is from the PR/marketing firm that Toyota has hired to help set up this event. He’s from California and is an all-around cool guy, which will become a theme for the trip: hanging out with chill dudes. He takes us out to the Toyota 4Runner that his boy Evan, also from the firm, is driving. On the way to the Bellagio, we bullshit, mostly about how stoked we all are about the trip, especially Johnathan and I, who have honestly done nothing to deserve any of what’s to come. We get to the Bellagio and the guys just drop us off because they have to go back to the airport to pick up more bloggers. Before leaving, Mike says, “If you guys want one of the 4Runners to just drive around in, give us a call and we’ll have someone hook you up with the keys.” I make sure he knows that aside from “Yes, Ryan, I will sleep with you tonight,” what he just said to me is the greatest sentence I’ve ever heard.
It doesn’t really hit us until we walk into the Bellagio just how serious Toyota is about totally ruining us and making sure we have the best possible time, ever. The phrases “Mad oppulent,” “Why are we here right now?” and “Dude, what?” get tossed around a lot by us. At the desk, a lady named Janice is mad cool as she hooks us up with our room keys, gettin’ all snarky with us and just bullshittin’. “I like to drop the act when I can tell I’m dealing with cool people,” she tells us. An awesome, good looking girl at the Bellagio in Vegas said we’re cool people. Yeah, up there on Cloud 9? Yeah that’s us.
Immediately upon entering my room and just before taking a shower, I disrobe and just sort of walk around my room, naked. How many times does one get to say he or she was naked inside the Bellagio without having to then launch into an evaluation of the Nevada court system? I submit: Few. Very few times indeed.
After a quick nap, Johnathan and I meet back up to hit the strip. Question to the people who hand out the female escort business-card things on the strip: is there a trick to that card-clicking y’all are into? Or is it just something you pick up? Additionally, why get more cards printed when you could easily get 50% of your inventory back by just picking them up off the street? Honestly, if you’re gonna sell sex, be green about it.
We head back to the Bellagio for dinner at a restaurant called Sensi, which I feel bad even walking into let alone actually dining in, because it is so awesome and although I am dressed appropriately I know I am not so awesome. In the back room we meet the rest of the group we’ll be spending time with, mostly other men’s lifestyle bloggers/journalists/writers from websites like GearPatrol.com, LimitedHype.com, and PlayBoy.com.
As a matter of fact, there is one stand-out in the group: the only female, Playboy Cyber Girl of the Year Jo Garcia. Yes. I partied in Vegas with Jo Garcia. For 3 days. I am really, really trying very hard to not say “Be jealous.” It is very taxing.
We all sit around and bullshit, getting to know each other and the websites/magazines we work for, as we’ll be spending the next 2 and a half mind-blowing days together. After dinner we head to a bar also inside the Bellagio called Caramel, which serves drinks as delicious as its name. I meet Chad, the marketing rep from Toyota who is in charge of this entire shindig. He is just under 30, and already has a better job than anyone ever: he arranges cool events for Toyota like this all the time. He is your classic frat-boy who went into business and totally killed it, and I say that all in a good way. He is good looking and charismatic. We talk about the skydiving that’s scheduled for Wednesday. He admits he’s already done it. Of course.
Because I’m still running on NY time, I head to bed around 12:30 (which would be 3:30 NY time). I climb into my sheets, already feeling spoiled and not knowing what is really about to hit me.
This past weekend I go back to State College for one more weekend to celebrate what will probably be one last Halloween there, at least with the people I love the most. I go as the Comedian. My mom says I look very bad-ass before I leave. When I explain the concept of Watchmen and the kind of character the Comedian is, she says I’m no less bad-ass but had wishes I had picked a “nicer guy”.
There, I’m joined by Anthony and Ashley Arbaiza, the awesomest married couple to still be attending college (or, I daresay, the awesomest married couple ever). There is pretty much an unwritten rule that if you are an adorably cute married couple, you have to come up with adorably cute Halloween pair costumes, and though this would be a difficult task for lesser men and women, the Arbaiza’s DO NOT DISAPPOINT. EVER. With Anthony as Retro Comedian and Ashley as the original Silk Spectre, the two rocked the greatest homemade costumes since ever. Other costumes of note: Johnna’s half-finished Harley Quinn, Jason and Katie as Jack the Ripper and Prostitute Victim (respectively), and the dude at that gross party who went as Garth, but with no Wayne. “I usually go as just side-kicks,” he says, which I think is just patently cool. He is a living monument to all the unsung heroes of film and TV, the characters that are usually better than the titular personalities.
Unfortunately I don’t get to stay all day Sunday as I normally do, though, because I have to make the 3-hour drive back home, to pack for a train ride to NYC, so that I can stay at my friend Johnathan Fernandez’s place to catch a train early Monday morning. Asylum.com, the website I contribute to as a video blogger, is sending me to the SEMA auto show. Actually, Toyota is bringing us, and because that made it free for Asylum and also because everyone there is too busy doing other awesome things, they tossed what would be an otherwise wasted trip in my direction. The trip consists of checking out this awesome, way-over-the-top auto show, in addition to “extreme” activities Toyota is letting us do to get the “Toyota experience”, which apparently includes kayaking the Colorado, zip-lining, off-roading, and skydiving, with staying in the Bellagio for in-betweener time. I can’t help but think that if they mentioned that this is all part of the “Toyota experience” in their commercials, the auto industry might not be in this little pickle. The past few weeks have been nothing but conversations consisting of “What? No way!” and “Yeah, dude.” For example:
ME: “What? No way!”
MY EDITOR: “Yeah dude.”
ANYONE WHO WILL LISTEN: “What? No way!”
ME: “Yeah dude.”
Johnathan is an improvisor at the UCB in New York and is one of the all-time great guys, the second of which I’ve been able to bring on an Asylum trip (the first being Tom who helped me shoot and produce this, also awesome but with significantly more beard). At Johnathan’s I arrive just as his friend Namiko leaves. She’s cute and tiny, just like you’d picture a girl named Namiko would. After she leaves, Johnathan admits he sometimes throws around Japanese words he’s picked up from old SNK fighter video games, like “Ichiban!” to see if she notices. He also points out that “Namiko” is an anagram for “Konami,” which makes sense because that is perfect.