My head hurts. It really, really hurts. My turnip is throbbing so badly I had to beg my editor for an extension on my deadline 'cause I can't hardly write no good like this. And the reason I hurt so badly is because I just returned from Las Vegas—Land of the Bloody Liver Infections.
Not that I'm a Las Vegas rookie or anything. It's just that this particular trip to Las Vegas was different than the others. This time it was for a convention. Not just any convention. This was a convention to top all conventions: a convention for a magazine called Modern Drunkard, and one can only imagine, with sphincter-clenching terror, what a Modern Drunkard magazine convention held in the Land of the Bloodshot Moon might be like.
Modern Drunkard magazine is pretty much what you think it is—a 50-page, glossy monthly with neo-pulp artwork (think Rat Pack meets Church of the SubGenius) and heroically written tales about, for and by drunkards. It boasts articles like “Booze is My Copilot: How Heavy Drinking Cured My Fear of Flying and Made Me a Better Person” and “40 Things Every Drunk Should Do Before He Dies.” It has columns like “Wino Wisdom,” a poetry section called “Postcards from Skid Row” and cartoons called “Comics for Alcoholics.” The mag also features my old column from the SLAMM days, “Sordid Tales of a Bartender in Heat,” which explains my affiliation with the publication.
The magazine is based in Denver and distributed in New York, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Chicago, Baltimore and pretty much everywhere else but San Diego. Consequently, I have never met any of the other writers and editors, or even my boss, publisher Frank Rich. Until this weekend, that is, when Frank invited me to the first ever Modern Drunkard magazine convention in the Avalon Ballroom of the Stardust Hotel in the Land of Busted Blood Vessels and showed me the second most baddest, rockingest, filthiest, drinkiest, druggiest time of my filthy, drinky, druggy life.
The Convention: I sign in at the check-in table outside the ballroom, pick up a laminate and step inside. On my left is the bar. Straight ahead is the stage. On my right is a vendor table selling flasks, specialty shot glasses, a six-man hookah-style beer-bong apparatus and various other weapons of mass deconstruction. Next to that, a Modern Drunkard swag table. Between them sits a keg, at the base of which is a drunken toad desperately hanging on to the barrel like an overboard sailor clings to a buoy. Near the stage, two guys are dragging away some poor, rye-eyed clodhopper (apparently the first victim of the drinking contest), and in the center of the ballroom a middle-aged wine cooler hag is flashing her cans to anyone who is brave enough to look at them.
I know it instantly—I am home.
First, I locate Frank. He's wearing a black Kenneth Cole over a crimson shirt. Frank is already gin-blind, a cigarette dangling in his hand, and staring off into some unknown horizon across which topless hula gals shimmy to a song the rest of us can't hear. When I introduce myself, he says, “Mista Deckaaah,” dragging the last syllable of my name like Dean Martin on a handful of bennies, “So niiice to finally meet you. Let's have a drink.”
“My people,” I think, holding back a tear, “These are my people.”
Next, I meet my hotel roommate. His name is Sid Pink and he is the MC of the event. Sid Pink is cartoon elegance all the way. He's wearing a white suit and shoes and a pimple-pink shirt and pink accessories. After we introduce each other, he says, “I'm not much of boozer. I prefer pills.” He pulls out an Altoids tin full of various multicolored capsules and tablets. I dip my hand into his armamentarium, select a shiny red and white, and pop it into my mouth.
This is my welcome to the Modern Drunkard magazine Las Vegas convention in the Avalon Ballroom of the Stardust Resort and Casino. It's the kind of brain-bake you could never throw here in San Diego—America's Uptightest City. An entire weekend of nearly around the clock gluttony with presentations, and contests, and burlesque, and punk bands, and all the booze, pills, hallucinogens and amphetamines you can get your filthy hands on.
When the first day of the convention ends, we stumble to the Double Down Saloon to watch more punk bands, raise drunken fists and drink vodka Red Bulls until 6 in the “Holy-shit-is-that-the-goddam-sun-up-there-or-is-the-moon-in-a-pissy-mood?!” morning. Then, after a miserable few hours of sleep apnea, it's a Bloody Mary Morning Mixer to start the thing all over again.
The best part of the whole wretched affair was the drinking contest. It was called The Clash of the Tightest and was the kind of drinking contest that makes all other drinking contests look like pin the tail on the donkey at Gramma's house; the kind of drinking contest that ends with one man puking on the crowd and the other man laughing as a referee holds his fist in the air; the kind of drinking contest you could never witness here in San Diego-Land of No Kegs on the Beach on the Fourth of July. And for that reason alone, the story must be told.
Tune in Next Week for “The Clash of the Tightest.”To hell with my website-visit www.modern drunkardmagazine.com and laugh your ass off. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.