Notes from the road — the P(x) digital diaries
Day 1: Friday the 13th/Saturday, August 14th 1999
Film crew (April, Chris & Kelli) arrives at Denny's and await Cynthia's arrival from an REM concert. They find the Denny's has only one waiter who is slow and totally without a clue. 45 minutes later Cynthia arrives — Chris has yet to receive her french fries.
1am Saturday morning, we are on the road! Head for Las Vegas! Many hours of driving time ahead of them, Chris and Cynthia really appreciate the value of coffee. Kelli and April are sleeping like the dead in the back of the truck. Is it that they are tired or is it the coffin-like atmosphere in the back of the truck??
Arrived in LV at noon and begin interviewing. First stop Circus Circus. We've heard rumors that casinos automatically confiscate cameras so with the babies in their cases we proceed with caution into the weird land of creepy Elvis impersonator clowns.
We find that we can't interview inside but we've got a bigger problem. We have 50 hours worth of digital tapes and our primary camera (George) is not accepting any of them. The secondary camera (Oscar) is but has lost all of its juice and in the land of electrical abundance we have nowhere to plug it in.
Chris boldly asks a bartender if we could use one of the casino wall jacks. The barender calls a security officer and the security officer calls Harry, the head of security. Kindly he escorts us back to an interrogation room where we settle in, plug in Oscar and try to call the owner of the camera. He gives us a few suggestions we start to try when we realize that there is a little note on the inside of the tape feeder "Press here before closing to insert tape" — we have two highly trained camera holds on the crew and it took the interviewer to read the instructions — DUH!
Off we go to begin interviewing Las Vegas ...
First stop, the front of the _____ casinos of Vegas. After one interview security pays us a visit and tells us that we aren't supposed to film on the sidewalk of the casinos either. ... [The manager] invites us to stay and enoy his casino with the camera off, Damn. To keep things smooth we take a table, order a beer and enjoy (if you can call it that) our first live Elvis impersonator. We would like to say for the record that Elvis impersonators should not be singing "Margaritaville" by Jimmy Buffett, especially when their singing sucks and the equipment keeps cutting out. The only reason we stuck around so long was they were passing out free cookies and ice cream. That's worth watching a horrible Elvis, right?
Moviing on down the Strip we find ourselves watched by many security guards. The only safe zone is a heavily populated McDonald's which on a moral level we are opposed to, but on a need-to-interview level, we jump on. Once we started interviewing, the craziest thing happened, people started coming over. ... Once we would would finish with one interview we would turn to the person behind us and start again. After seven interviews, including wacky Detroit talent agent, a 16-year-old Parks and Rec teacher, and 2 nuns from Colombia (with a translator of course) we are apprached by Neal the McDonald's manager. Neal was a shy but assertive man who was easily intrigued by the intelligence and strength of our fearless leader (for the new readers that's Chris). Once the concept of the film was explained we were invited in for nasty watery iced tea. Mind you Las Vegas was scorching, especially for the li'l old San Franciscans used to getting fog burn, and the watery ice tea and air conditioned interior of the McDonalds was heaven.
With little hope of grabbing any more interviews and high anxiety at the thought of having Oscar and George absconded from us, we retreated back to the car and in search of "The Gold Coast," a cheesy dinner buffet to which we had 2 Buy one get one free coupons. As if the buffets in Vegas aren't cheap enough.
On the road again ... Any Willie Nelson fans in the audience? No. Good!
Off we head to Flagstaff, Arizona. Well we didn't actually make it to Flagstaff that night. In the interest of safety (Cynthia was ready to fall asleep behind the wheel) we ended up staying the night at the Frontier Inn in Kingman AZ, a quaint sleepy town and sleepy we were. After four very needed showers (one for each of us, although for each probably would have been a good idea) we watched an early Ellen DeGeneres stand-up routine and crashed hard.