I realize I was in the middle of a story about being lost at sea with a couple of drug infused rodents and I will return to that tomorrow. As you probably know, I survived the odyssey and you’ve also probably surmised there are going to be beautiful women in bikinis, an unexpected cargo and the occasional Moby Dick reference to amuse those of you who read something other than this blog.
However, much like the rest of the world and despite my aversion to celebrity media, I have kept up with the shitshow that is Charlie Sheen. You can call it schadenfreude but it is nearly impossible to avoid seeing Charlie’s odd mug beaming back from the television nor is it easy to read the paper without seeing his name. The fucker is everywhere right now and he’s coining phrases.
Charlie Sheen is winning. He drives a better car than you, he has more money in the bank than you and he’s sleeping with porn stars and actresses half his age and two at a time no less. Charlie Sheen is winning – his words not mine. Soon, someone will create a bot on Twitter that will ejaculate Sheenisms and there will be apps for your iPad and phone that will let you set your own status to winning. Until then, you are not Charlie Sheen and you are not winning because Charlie Sheen is winning with his tiger blood and Adonis DNA.
I’m in Las Vegas earlier this week, the scene of mine and many other wayward traveler’s personal debauchery. I already have plans to regale you with stories about hookers, thousand dollar naps and a brush with Lucifer himself during my stints there but I’m saving those for a later date. I was there for other reasons this week, although the continuum of reasons for being in Vegas are always tilted toward the lusty and the decadent.
I had finished the business at hand and wrapped up the day with the Michelin-rated, gastronomic orgy that is Joel Robuchon and his sixteen course menu that starts with caviar with fennel cream, foie gras with black truffles and a crispy truffle tart and then continues moving through a selection that will dazzle the palate and empty the wallet. It was the kind of dinner Caligula would order for Nero while they watched Rome burn and got blowjobs from slave girls and boys. It was decadence so disturbingly pristine, you wondered whether it would end with the clubbing of a baby seal.
The dinner was long and the drinks flowed from cocktail to aperitif to white wines and then to reds before sliding into ports and cognacs. Our hearty crew eased out of the MGM with bellies full of food and wine and our wrist watches suggesting it might be time to consider sleeping. Wiser men than us had made the decision to forgo sleep while in Las Vegas, so the late hour meant we would continue the indulgence at Drai’s.
Drai’s is the place where, if I believed in a maker, we would have shook hands and exchanged business cards a few years back. That was the night that would have been fatal for lesser constitutions but somehow my liver, my heart and my sheer will to live carried me through the valley of the shadow of death. I marched back into the joint like Shakespeare’s Caesar, with Cassius and Brutus in tow. I had once left humbled but returned the victor.
So what does any of this have to do with Charlie Sheen and being a winner, you ask. I’m just now getting to that. Cassius, Brutus and I take our seats in the VIP lounge, in a booth just to left as you enter. There was a dj already spinning near us but the ambient noise levels permitted our dinner conversation to continue over bottle service and a parade of the young and beautiful passing by our table. Some people will tell you that nothing good ever happens after midnight, but these are the whispers of superstitious peasants who avoid the number thirteen and throw salt over their shoulders. What happens after midnight is the next day and what better way to welcome in a new day than conversation and a bottle of Glenfiddich 18?
After a little rabble rousing with the VIP manager to allow two attractive ladies to enter the VIP lounge and sit with us, Brutus turns his sights on me and my recent literary efforts.
“So Jack, has Charlie Sheen sucked all the air out of the room in terms of outrageous stories of hookers, strippers, benders and overall unseemly behavior?”
Brutus has always been jealous of my ability to both write and speak in complete sentences. He’s a great guy but his emails read as if they were written by a seven year old. I shrug at his suggestion and am content to let it pass. He, however, is not.
“I mean sure – you did find a way to judge a bullriding contest for strippers and you did get yourself fired for trying to get Olivia Wilde’s phone number but as funny as those might be to us – don’t you think Charlie Sheen pretty much now owns the entire world of mandom’s bad behavior? What can you really add to the conversation?”
Brutus has a smug and very self-satisfied look on his face. He put one of his arms around the slightly drunk blond girl seated next to him, who was obviously taken with him. Brutus knows me well enough to feel comfortable that I am pretty laid back and generally let the inane diatribes of assholes bounce off of me like water off a duck’s back, but he seemed particularly pointed in his rant this evening. Perhaps it was his need to tear me down since, in his myopic view of the world at this point, I was a competition for the girl he was attempting to charm.
I smile a slightly coerced smile to ease the tension and respond quite diplomatically, “I write the stuff I write because I enjoy writing. Based on what I’m seeing, people are reading it of their own accord. I don’t think the existence of Charlie Sheen precludes me from writing.”
Brutus pounces, granted its the lumbering pounce of a man filled with drink, but it is a pounce nevertheless.
“Yes Jack, that’s true but Charlie Sheen is winning! Charlie’s stories are being acted out on television and in the news and they are stories of him as a winner. Somehow your tales are always from the opposite vantage point. You are Charlie Sheen without the winning. You are another also ran with a blog who has a few adventures but who isn’t a winner. So that kind of makes you a loser.”
Et tu Brute?
Cassius decides to join in the criticism. Brutus is pretty obtuse but Cassius is a reader and fancies himself a writer as well.
“Dude, he has a point. You’re not Kerouac and Ike is not Dean Moriarty. You’re not as depraved as Thompson’s Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo. Man, you’re not even Tucker Max. This whole genre of puerile antics has been explored and exhausted and now the final throes are up for grabs every night on TMZ with Charlie Sheen destroying his career. Maybe you should write about other things?”
Ok, I can live with falling short of Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson but the suggestion that Tucker Max might in some conceivable universe write better than me hurt. That’s like the manager at Starbucks telling you that you don’t really have the qualifications for the kind of candidate they’re looking to hire.
Et tu Cassius?
I set down my scotch and took a deep breath. The table seems to be expanding with me, in a communal inhalation, waiting to see how I will respond. I point to Brutus but don’t break eye contact with Cassius. This is where I cross the Rubicon.
“Charlie Sheen is winning? Really? Tell that to the ex-wife whose throat he held a knife to. While you’re at it, set a lunch with Jon Cryer and tell him Charlie Sheen is winning. Invite Denise Richards.”
Cassius starts to interrupt but I cut him off.
“I’m not fucking finished. In fact, I’m just getting warmed up. Charlie Sheen is winning is the last gasps of a career on life support with an obituary in the making. His only friend right now appears to be hubris. He’s on a drug called Charlie Sheen but that’s the kind of shit that someone says right after they’ve gone over the edge. That’s Thelma looking at Louise and saying ‘this was a good idea, right’ just as the fucking car goes air born. Charlie Sheen is winning is the equivalent of putting your last dollar on red and when it comes up black, looking around the table and telling people at least you have your pride.”
I take a breath.
“But really, fuck Charlie Sheen. I’m sitting down and I’m jotting down laughs. Some of it happened and some of it didn’t and some of it is a little of both. That’s why, Cassius, I don’t use the real pansy-ass name your mother gave you. The world is full of stories and most days I take a few moments to add one of my own to the pile. The drinks flow in my stories and the nights drag on ad infinitum, but if it’s amusing it’s because of the way I tell it. I flirt with the cliff but never drive off of it and so you get to enjoy stinky cheese tales and stories about me passing out at work. You might be concerned about my well being or my liver but I never profess to have tiger’s blood and am aware of the perils.
Winning isn’t being Kerouac or Thompson. I write for myself the same way I live for myself and I do both with zero apologies. You don’t like my stuff – don’t read it, but just because there are a trillion other stories already out there doesn’t mean we should stop writing new ones down. In fact, the stuff I’m working on right now will make that tiny pinhead of yours spin like a dradle, Cass.”
Everyone looks at Cassius. He does have a pinhead. He’s now uncomfortable and I’m winning.
“Cowards die many times before their deaths, but I’m going to keep braving the tempests, drinking the wine and writing the stories so that only one death comes my way – a good solid one. Before then though, I will live and write to the hilt. Winning isn’t the car and winning isn’t a book deal. Winning is doing what you do with an understanding of how you fit in the world around you and the peace that comes with understanding that place. I’m winning because I’m still in the game and I’m still trying to be a little better than I was yesterday. I’m winning for the very reason you started this conversation Brutus – because I’m putting it out there.”
With that I stood up, kissed the hands of both the girls at the table and nodded to the boys.
“Hail fucking Caesar.”