Hunting Press recently published their annual Getting Better All The Time book, this year the series was based upon “Progress” in/of Las Vegas. The book consists of 9 short stories, some real and some fictional. The real stories are interesting, but the fictional stories leave me wanting more. Now, if fairness, I should probably make clear that I am not a fiction reader. Most of the books I enjoy are biographical, historical, or business development in nature. I get that the “escape” of fiction is the draw for some readers, alas, I am not one of them.
So a quick summary of the stories (stop reading if you think you’re likely to read the book, this review contains spoilers)…
1. The Birds of Minnesota— The story is told from the daughter’s perspective of the night she was conceived by her mother & father in Las Vegas. The story is set around an unhappy housewife whose husband insists they spend the night in Vegas while on a cross-country road trip. Husband does wife, passes out, wife gets bored and goes out on the town. She may or may have not have hooked up with some club douche while she was out. Maybe he’s the father, didn’t really get it, didn’t care to try to “read into the symbolism”.
2. Grown Up. This author desperately needs to grow up. It’s a story about “how hard life it”. Get over yourself, life isn’t fun. The one legitimate point he does make is how oblivious we are when we’re kids to how hard life is and how easy our parents make it look. This one was (one of the few) that actually “moved” me and made me think. I’ll concur that my parents did make it look very easy when I was kid. Mortgage payments, 9-5 jobs, multiple vacations a year, etc etc and I wonder how they managed to keep their shit together.
3. Healing. Good Lord, I will say this fictional short story is (sadly) a good indicator of the welfare dependent society we’ve created. Woman works as a slot club “boothling” who gets shot in the leg after two squabbling casino patrons fight over some slot machine jackpot. The woman is home bound due to her recovery and, over time, becomes a recluse who doesn’t want to go back to work. So once she’s healed and able to go back to work, she dumps a scalding pot of boiling water on herself so she doesn’t have to back to work.
4. The New Progress. This is the first non-fiction story in the book. This story is by John Katsilometes a columnist for the Vegas Sun newspaper. I enjoyed his take on Las Vegas from the ’60s – today. While he only touches on each older decade, he does slow down when he gets to the time where he moved to Vegas. He shares with the readers his take on how Vegas has changed even during his (relatively) brief time in Vegas. The bigger, faceless casinos. The economic downturn of Vegas and how it’s kinda-sorta coming back, but nothing near what it looked like during it’s boom years of 1989-2006. He laments that Vegas may never come back to how we knew it, but how it is now isn’t all that bad.
5. To The Beadsmen. Holy shit, this one just terrible. He writes “from the future” to his old self. He talks about how he loves ’em & leaves ’em and lost the love of his life because of this immature behavior. The premise is that in future we can email our younger-selves, to attempt to prevent our younger self from make the future mistakes we made. This writer clearly had something happen to him in the past and needs to get some therapy.
6. More Human. Ok, so this was a sweet story that I have to say was trite but entertaining. I don’t know whether this story was fictional or not, but the premise is a good one. Dogs are better people than actual people. And that we as humans can bond because of a dog. The author swims with a woman and a dog he doesn’t know and she’s not creeped out by it because he has more interest in the dog than he does her, essentially.
7. Reclamation. Ugh, as if To The Beadsmen wasn’t bad enough, this abortion of a story actually pissed me off. The fictional storyline here was that the world is start to flood (I’m guessing due to hippie global warming BS) and living within these waters are aliens waiting to take over your body, and they can only get you if you go into the water…but remember, the world is flooding, so really, it’s inevitable. I don’t know, I guess this author has some sort of guilt they’re feeling and the water represents that guilt and the aliens in the water, all the things that she’s done to make her feel guilty.
8. The Camera Girls. This is a true story of a woman who used to work as a “Camera Girl” in Las Vegas showrooms and fine dining restaurants. She talks about how she came to Vegas thinking the money to be made (legally) in a casino was as a cocktail waitress, but she wouldn’t “blow” the Food & Beverage manager to get said job so she took a job as a camera girl. You probably know them, they’re the people who take your pictures and then sell them to you at an un-Godly over-price expense? What’s fascinating about it her story was how they would get you to let them take your picture, they’d real quick-like develop said pictures and then come and pressure you into buying their crappy pictures. It was really interesting, and I have to concede, I’ve fallen prey to their pixie dust. I have pictures from three different restaurants in Vegas as happy (over-priced) mementos of past trips.
9. Host. I’ve no doubt this fictional story is based upon lots and lots and lots of true stories, all mashed into one making it “fictional”. The author talks about what it was like being an Executive Casino Host during the heydays of the late 90s/early 2000s. He talks about the high rollers from Wall Street, Silicon Valley, LA Douches that would come into town and want to drink, do drugs, gamble and get laid. It was an interesting insight into what it must be like to be a Casino Host and how that job must take its toll on your family life, personal beliefs, and job expectations. I’m a lawyer, I call his job “kids stuff”!