Monday, December 5, 2016

Vegas Images

I could not avoid Las Vegas on my grand tour of the south west. The only other option is through Page and the Lake Powell/Glen Canyon Dam and through the north rim of the Grand Canyon, which I have no interest visiting in December and freezing some more, or else south over the Boulder Dam/Hoover Dam. I have had a charcoal fire in the van every night for a month and let there be no illusions about the danger of setting things on fire inside a vehicle. The combustion chamber of the engine is one thing and microbursts of electricity igniting a tiny bit of gasoline and air is dangerous but it does not compare to nightly, with numb fingers and frozen clouds of Oggy breath filling the stove with charcoal and a little paper and sometimes a military issue fire starter or even a squirt of white gasoline and then striking a match or a lighter to lovingly bring the warmth back to Oggy's toes while nervously watching the chimney for leaks and then leaping up to grab a shirt that I had laid on the chimney to dry and realizing it is polyester and has melted to the flex stainless steel! Man, and to coax the flames to red hot heat and then refill the charcoal or run outside in the sub freezing temps and gather wood...etc...etc..police encounters, angry neighbors, fathers at parks calling me a pedophile. Fuck. It's survival but if I could avoid it without a visit to a slum motel then I would. So, I drove south and found myself back in Vegas, Jesus, what a foul city. 

I arrived early on a Sunday and decided to take a walk around the town, which only homeless people do...

...and it was so bleak that I started taking pictures with my horrible low resolution slider phone, which I thought was appropriate because it's so classless and tacky, like Vegas, always behind the times. Then I put these cheap generic 'frames' around the photos because that is even more classless and tacky. So, this is my cheap and tacky photo essay of my time in Las Vegas.

Actually, this a photo of a San Antonio BBQ joint near The Alamo...Bill Miller's. Good pulled pork sandwich called a "super chop". I was trying to take a photo of the interior, which is designed like an old west barn, but I didn't do a great job framing the shot.

This is a shot of a tire rim on a trailer that caved in so badly it covered the lug nuts so could not be taken off. A driver hit a side wall. It also tore the entire axle loose so the tires swung back into the rear axle. So the tow driver chained that secondary axle to the front axle on one side. I was drunk and shirtless in the awful Texas heat, drinking wine openly and asked the driver if he had considered what would happen if the OTHER side of the axle was loose too and it was not chained. Would it not simply swing into the rear tires also? "I KNOW HOW TO DO MY JOB!" was his answer and I stumbled away from the hostility. It was hot and he was working at midnight and talking to a shirtless drunk hobo trying to give him professional advice, but I was really concerned that he would get on the highway and the axle would spin back and kill someone...the next morning the police strip searched me in broad daylight as cute high school girls laughed and pointed at the hungover hobo being pistol whipped in a Walmart Parking lot. It was a fucked up time.,..but had nothing to do with Las Vegas.

Fuck, another pointless shot of Oggy's breakfast. Salt, pumpkin spiced cheerios (that Oggy bought as a surrogate companion because the box featured a happy family eating breakfast together), and whole milk that required thawing in the sun to break the ice.

Finally, Vegas....walking away from The Rio, which had parking that fit my van, there was a go-kart race in the back parking lot. Children under ten years old raced these miniature go-karts in circles with an announcer and pit crews. It's an abhorrent waste of all things holy...on a Sunday, no less. But it's white and gold Trump Casino* on the horizon that I was trying to capture. Trump casino features in-room hooker service plus S&M latex porn and hot tubs filled with champagne for golden enemas...all featured and approved by our sick fuck President and stamped with a filthy fucking paw by the mouth breathing shitheads who voted for him. Those shit-eating assholes would vote for a fucking used plastic dildo if it had (R) next to it on the ballot. They claim religious superiority thus they voted for a gambling, golf course/casino mogul who sells porn and exhibits women like slave chattel in pussy pageants. Of course!

Love this one. I LOVE THIS PHOTO. I framed it with a grocery list because it's ironic so hipsters can grasp the sad nuances of broken humanity behind their ragged beards and skinny jean fashions. I even leave it as I found it, upside down, because this piece of trash blew against the side wall under a highway overpass where I took an ill-advised shortcut. Many many Obama refugees and casino addicts and meth fiends stand on corners begging for change or food or gas all across this country. There are fewer beggars per capita in Guatemala. I saw one woman who looked like she'd had facial reconstruction after a full body burn...probably involving a freebase pipe and a butane lighter. She was walking a dog and I thought, "That dog has no idea how ghastly his owner is." Isn't it great how dogs have no value judgement on beauty in humans. They truly don't care and this woman's companion was a small dog in a pink sweater....maybe this was her sign.

I think this is the very top of trump casino, where it says, "TRUMP" in big gold letters. I could be wrong. It could be a billboard advertising sex and sin, which isn't much different. The resolution is simply horrible on this camera.

Impossible to read, but Las Vegas locals will recognize this as the intersection of Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin Blvds. Yes, the rat pack has streets named after them and this is where they all meet.

The Mirage casino has a Beatles tribute show that I would like to see one day...I don't seems interesting even if the audience will offend me. I like the Beatles and their faces from Sgt. Pepper era overlook the Vegas strip from both sides of The Mirage. It's sort of horrible, the celebrity worship...bigger than life, Bigger than Jesus, two of them are dead and yet they live on as huge faces lording over the meek pedestrians on the asphalt....also, this is Sammy David JR blvd running right to left. I consider Sammy Davis jr. to be THE greatest entertainer in American history. Him and Bill Cosby were neck and neck but I watched some videos of Sammy in his prime and he was the best. He could do it all and he was classy and humble and talented beyond belief.

I actually prefer Dean Martin and Nat King Cole and Chet Baker, but Sinatra deserves this honor.

This is under the Mirage...I was walking down a dead end street, lost, and saw old props and shit from the casino being stored in the underground employees parking lot. This is a horse of Roman origin because it's near Caesar's Palace...

I didn't see much graffiti so this one stood out. I wonder if this person misses someone named 'Mal' short for Mallory, or if the person is latino and "Mal' means 'Bad-ly' in Spanish. So, he misses someone badly. I don't know. We all miss someone, wandering, alone, journalists to our own lives, distant, emotionally reserved, we reach out to someone hoping to find affection but then are rejected and spend months harboring the wounds, licking the blood from our cut ego. It sucks to love someone, become attached, and have that person ditch you for some cheap gigilo who can't play the guitar or build fires...someone who is shallow and conceited. But do we miss the former lover or do we miss being needed? I don't know. Maybe both. We miss the reflection of our own desire in the blue eyes of the Ohio farm girl, the sound of her laugh, the warm shoulder skin beneath our lips. But it's all selfish and perhaps we know it was a lie, her laugh was phony, forced, it was assembled from our own fantasy images, constructed for the virtual reality playback memory of our complicated desires. I framed this with a television because we are all journalists to our own sadness, reporting from the front lines of emotional risk and loss.

A better shot of the Mirage parking lot where they store a big white horse and some other junk. I was reminded of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter Thompson's foul war on purity and progress, he drove to North Las Vegas (today, a ghetto of dialysis labs and fast food) and saw discarded junk...Debbie Reynolds Casino...old signs...the American Dream is reinvented and demolished daily in Las Vegas but it never catches up to the future it is chasing. Trump casino has a special exit for high class whores and executives with their latex fantasies dress teenage boys up in leather and whip them with toys made from phony presidential ballots. Plastic dildos are manufactured in China sweat shops with Trump's name on them. I bought one and shoved it in my ass and left it shitty and bloody on the Las Vegas streets for a future Hunter Thompson to write about and analyze.

This is a redundant shot of the Rat Pack intersection

Another television frame that was supposed to be a kind of political or social commentary...what does this mean? A double ended arrow...any time....what the hell does this mean. No parking?

Accidental shot of my leg and cowboy boots. Everyone thought I was in town for the rodeo...I wonder why? I'm wearing my leather pants because they are made from basically thick cow couch upholstery leather and take a lot to break in. That can only happen if I wear them vigorously. The reason they are cow leather and not lamb is because Guatemala had a very limited selection of leathers. Leather tailors are everywhere but the leather is all cow and either black or brown. In order to get a granite grey color they had to specially paint my selection of cow leather and that stiffened it even more. Then my insistence of a tight fit led to the pants fitting even more tightly, which led to the pants looking pretty good, but requiring an effort to move...little by little they are breaking in and recently I was able to bend over and sit down while wearing them and that is progress.

Here's a good spot to explain part of my tour. I merely wanted to get some exercise walking around but Las Vegas is a horrible town to walk in, especially in 1'' cowboy heels and leather pants. But, whatever. Being morning, the air was not too hot and I thought I could walk to The Palazzo, the commercial part of The Venetian Casino Compound where I saw that there is a store named Cuadra that I'd seen in Mexico with some exotic leather clothes and I wanted to examine some high end leather clothes for my own designs (this usually involves looking at women's leather garments because the women's leather clothes generally are more imaginative). So I marched over there for like two hours, navigating the insane maze of celebrity streets and trash and beggars and dead end casino streets. The Mirage takes up a gigantic block and there is no way around it. I swear, when the apocalypse comes, we need to go to Vegas because those casinos are like fortresses. I navigated the gaudy outdoor escalators and the overweight tourists and the locals dressed as Chewbacca and one sad person dressed as Chucky, the horror doll villain, bashing a fake butcher's knife on the sidewalk, and some assholes dressed as Transformer Robots, street performers making a few dollars by disgracing themselves. The town is an abomination of classless comedians, drugs and prostitution and gambling. The real magic act is stealing billions of dollars from otherwise smart Americans, in broad daylight, on camera, and getting away with it. So, I walk and walk and had to go through The Mirage, Treasure Island, The Venetian and a maze of gawking tourists and pathetic street performers and finally reached The Palazzo shoppes. Jesus, exhaustng, finally arriving at the leather store that is actually a truly Mexican brand from Mexico and manufactured in Mexico. Mexico manufactures tons of leather products and they run the gamut of expensive to luxury. If you want economy then stay in Cleveland. 

Well, the absolute peak of luxury that Cuadra produces ends up in Las Vegas and as soon as I walked in the door I knew I'd found my leather jacket. I spent about 20 years renouncing fashion so I guess I am making up for lost time by overcompensating with exclusive brands or custom leather clothes. Forgive my vanity but the aura of this jacket would make The Buddha do a double-take. Although I own and wear a shark/calf leather vest I was not intentionally hunting down exotic leather garments. But I inadvertently stumbled on the holy grail of all exotic leather garments.

Alligator, they say, radiates the eons that the animal has lived on earth, the oldest line of living reptile. Maybe it's not the species that has inhabited the earth the longest, maybe Sharks and Sea Sponges have been around longer, but it's one of the oldest to have clothes made from it's flesh. This jacket radiated the light of 200 million years. Costa Rica has alligators (Caiman) and Cocodrillos, but I'm not sure Mexico has alligators so I figured the skins had to be imported. (Actually there is a Mexican Alligator) 

It was an arresting, gorgeously crafted jacket and I quickly tried a Medium size on but it was surprisingly tight on the arms. Usually Medium fits me because Large is for the generic fat American but this tailor still appreciated true sizing. The only Large size one had to come off the mannequin in the center of the room. I waited patiently while the salesman brought it down and gently handed it to me, showing more care than a nurse at a neonatal room. I put it on slowly, like foreplay, and brushed my hand down the alligator scales, inhaling the energy of this lush swamp creature. One could argue that you do not choose a leather jacket; a leather jacket chooses you. This jacket had chosen me.

This jacket was so ridiculously vulgar, so completely flamboyant and offensive and unusual, that I felt the store come to a silent hush when the immaculate shoulder hem slid effortlessly down into place over my arms like a fitted machined barrel assembly of a Glock handgun. A choir of Christmas angels sang through the overhead speakers...appropriately anointing my trial. Children stopped munching their popcorn and withered old women looked up from their complimentary spa facial. A wide-eyed tourist with a stained "Go Longhorns" sweatshirt took a quick photo of me with his camera, wondering if I was famous. I heard someone whisper, "Isn't he that guy on that sitcom?" With my leather pants and cowboy boots, I looked like I was on break from the topless, live-sex Rock of Ages musical revue that plays at The Rio casino to drunk and horny bachelorette parties.  

Forgive me while I return to my hawking roots as a humiliated e-commerce content writer...Epic. Incredible. Exotic. Timeless. These are but a few words you will hear when you step out of your '78 T-Top Firebird wearing this jaw-dropping garment. This is a gleaming golden cognac authentic Alligator body and sleeves accented with a few select areas of delicious, butter-soft, ribbed lamb leather in a stylish, slim-fitted jacket with a durable front zipper that clicks like a '69 Ford Mustang valve lifter. There are no clumsy buckles, no buttons, no frills to fumble with and distract from the handsome Alligator skin; only a front zipper, a stately Mandarin collar, and two sleeve zippers for a sleek, sexy fit. The hip pockets are barely visible and did not disrupt the trim lines of the heavenly form-fitting jacket. Vulgar, yes, sexy, yes. If you can't get laid wearing this jacket then at least you will look good jerking off. 

I swear if that alligator could be brought back to life and see me wearing that jacket he would agree that it was a worthy death. It was an honor to wear it. 

The salespeople were almost ready to let me walk out of the door with it because they had never seen anyone wear this jacket so confidently, like I always wore alligator/lamb leather jackets. Truthfully, few people, few humans, could put this jacket on because the fit is exactly for a 6'1'', 155 lb man with a 33'' waist and a 41'' chest. One inch or pound in either direction would cause this jacket to fit badly. If I indulged myself once at the Bellagio breakfast buffet then it would not fit. 

I zipped it up slowly, deliberately, elegantly, and gawked at myself in the full-length gold-plated mirror. I looked part lizard, like a character in some obscene fantasy movie, like someone who was capable of casting magic spells or flying on dragons. The silence in the Pallazo shoppes was overwhelming...the salespeople had seen hundreds of tourists gawk in awe at this magnificent jacket, of course everyone who stepped in the store was instantly under the spell of this magical gleaming coat...maybe a handful had tried it on and failed the test because it didn't fit...they had never sold one and never intended to sell was merely a prop they put to draw customers in to possibly buy something like a Lizard Wallet or Hippopotomaus leather money clip. This is not faux Alligator, not lamb leather with an alligator pattern embossed on the surface like most alligator belts and shoes and luggage. No. This is original alligator hide, skin, flesh, but this alligator must've been lovingly fed and groomed and tucked into his comfy Zagat rated swamp nest each night because the scales were in immaculate condition. This was not a brawling, clawing for food villain of the dank dirty swamp. No, it was tenderly raised, protected from harm, loved, coddled better than any Mexican orphan, for one purpose only. This was radiant, Grade A, five star, authentic Alligator leather and it transformed me into a superhero. 

The sales associates were standing there in dumb silence because here was someone wearing this insane Alligator/Lamb jacket, a man who had walked off the street in custom leather grey pants and a short-brim leather hat and a shark leather vest who had immediately asked to try on the alligator/lamb jacket. Yes, it was natural to fall in love with it, but this was like the poor, dirty, farm-boy pulling the sword of Excaliber out of the stone...they were gawking with their chins on the lush carpeted floor, wondering if they should kneel and kiss my, their expressions spoke, was someone who could actually wear this alligator/lamb jacket and not look like an ostentatious imposter, it fit him and he fit it and he's looking at himself in the mirror like he's comparing it to other reptile jackets he has at home. Maybe...maybe he's the one.

"Good god," I whispered in a holy, worshiping tone as my basest impulses were lavishing praise on my Ego as reflected in the gold framed mirror, surrounded by perfumed, luxurious, Pallazo air. The jacket was not something someone owned, it should merely be loaned out for special occasions, like dresses and jewelry on Oscar night. This coat was vibrant, timeless, exotic beyond all belief. This alligator jacket had a power and an aura that I had never seen or felt before in any garment.

Of course, you're wondering how much the jacket cost. Yes, Oggy, the jacket is handsome, blah, blah, blah, but stop teasing us and tell us how much it cost so we know if you bought it. I was also wondering about the price because I dearly wanted to own it and honor it's lizard aura, so I looked at the inside where the price tag was tastefully attached to the care tag...

$11,599. I blinked. ELEVEN THOUSAND AND FIVE HUNDRED AND NINETY NINE DOLLARS. I blinked some more. $11,599.  My heart sank. These were not $11,599 dollars. Wa...? HOW MUCH? Large properties in Chiapas are sold for this amount of money. I started to sweat. I could make a fanny pack out of King Kong's scrotum sack and it would cost less than $10,000. Damn. If it were $500 then of course it was coming with me. If it were $1000 then I think the spell was strong enough for me to get my credit card out. If it were $2000 then I would have to take a long walk around the town before deciding. If it were $5000 then I simply could not seriously consider it...but $12,000???

I could never ever afford...Oh, but wait...I took another long, feasting look in the mirror, the kind of look I used to give to women before they all broke my heart. In a few moments I had gone from Mr. Thrift Store to the biggest fashion whore in the world. Nothing but the image I saw in the mirror mattered. I've fallen in love before but never with something I could purchase. Such was the effect of this gorgeous jacket. The glossy golden alligator sheen highlighted my fading natural brunette hair in the twilight before the grey invaded territory and won the war forever...yet the color of this jacket would never fade, the ribbed lamb accents were not merely frivolous or to compensate for areas the alligator leather didn't reach, no, the lamb sections were strategically located on the arm joint so the lamb would flex where the alligator might not flex as well. It was a brash, vulgar jacket, flesh of once-living reptiles and mammals, but pure wearable art. This arresting, audacious jacket was a fashion Hall of Fame inductee. I turned slowly and noted in the mirror how the jacket was neither too long nor too short, reaching slightly below the belt but not below the ass, nor catching on the top of my pants. It did not puff out, nor bind when I moved. And the sleeves, something that always annoys me on pre-made clothes, were the perfect length. Because the shoulder seam were so perfectly located, the sleeve movement did not move the shoulder so the hem of the sleeve did not move at all. No jacket or shirt I've ever owned fit this well. It was a perfect fit, as though tailors had used laser survey technology to map my body and design and sew a jacket for my body, or maybe they found my reptile doppelganger, my alligator twin, and murdered him for this jacket. Alligator leather, I realized, should fit like the skin of an alligator and this jacket melted into my flesh, absorbed my essence, blended with my personality, made love to my ego, surrounded me, loved me as no mother has ever loved her son me. This jacket would resolve all my psychological problems for the small price of $11,999. Really, I reasoned, I would be saving money if I bought this jacket. Think of the savings.

"Amazing..." said I in hushed reverence. Unbelievable. I looked long at the image, like Narcissus in the river, loving this reflection of exotic vulgarity. Then I walked slowly, so as not to make the salespeople think I was preparing to run out the door, and felt the alligator skin move with me, heard the sleek scales rub against one another, the sound of the swamp, the sound of 200 million years. What a sight that would make: Oggy fleeing desperately down the lush marble Pallazo steps, under the gaudy chandelier, past the giant tacky Christmas tree wearing a $12,000 Alligator jacket, being chased by security under the ornate Venetian ceiling frescoes, plunging into the phony canal, jumping over Gondolas... They would write songs of tribute to my attempt to steal this jacket. Star constellations would be named for Oggy's insane alligator jacket flight. I felt like owning this jacket would an accomplishment, a conclusion, it was like being reunited with my own personality. 

Another scenario involved Robert Redford a'la Indecent Proposal sliding up behind me and insisting I accept the jacket as a gift...and could he take me out to dinner. The response already on my lips was, "Ok, yes. Thanks. Do you have condoms?"

Oh, how the jacket complimented me, how it formed to my body as I walked, it was like owning the most obedient pet in the world....I could easily ride a motorcycle wearing this jacket, hell, strangers would simply give me rides everywhere. My python boots are really lamb boots with python skin sewn over the lamb because Python is paper thin and fragile, but Alligator leather does not need a base of lamb. The jacket is pure Alligator leather and the lamb is only at the elbow joint. Alligator holds its shape well and flexes better than lamb, with more character than lamb. Yes, the Alligator's value is in it's exotic essence, it's terrestrial history, it's instinct for survival and adaptation over 200 million years.

I sighed like watching the golden embers of a flame die on a cold night. Robert Redford did not slide up behind me. I could not keep the salespeople in suspense any longer. I had admired it long enough to decide, the crowd of people gawking in the store window were getting restless. I had already told the associated that I was familiar with the store brand because of my trip to Leon, but these salespeople are always wondering if some celebrity or lucky casino winner will walk in off the street and make their commission month. They were more polite than I deserved, treating me as though this jacket were within my reach, treating me like a potential customer, casually discussing other articles in the store like a black stingray/python jacket or ostrich/bison/lizard boots. 

I paused before the associates, respectfully, and let them get a good long look at me wearing the jacket, let their eyes absorb the vulgarity and insanity. I wanted them to remember the moment that someone who should wear this jacket was wearing the jacket, the moment when the jacket had chosen it's rightful owner, and I wanted to give them the chance to have mercy on this alligator's memory and let me carry it's skin onto further glory.

"Does this jacket," I asked quietly, "really cost ten thousand dollars?"  with a hint of humor. I had about $31 dollars in my broken, imitation cow leather wallet at the time.

The spell was broken..."Well, closer to twelve thousand dollars." said the young salesperson, correcting my math, politely, elegantly.

Fashion is obscene only when it does not belong on the person wearing it, when a phony attempt at personality transformation has been attempted. I have come to terms with fashion because I now prefer to be the designer and I am tired of prêt–à–porter clothes that don't fit. I am an adult and I can design my own clothes, thank you very much. But this alligator leather jacket did not look or feel phony on me. It was a tribute to this alligator that I would be the owner, the caretaker of it's flesh. An Alligator leather jacket is the holy grail of men's garments but, like leather pants, it is intended for only those personalities who compliment the alligator. I felt as though the chemistry was right between this jacket and myself. But, like most of my intimate relationships, it was not to be. We were but stars crossing in the sky...I gave the scales of the alligator one last loving stroke of my fingers. If I could've kissed it, I would have, and I think the salespeople would've understood.

I carefully took the jacket off and handed it back to the salesperson. They probably brushed it clean of dandruff later but were kind enough to wait for me to leave first. We exchanged small talk about my shark leather vest, Mexico, alligator. I said I was going to save my nickles and maybe buy a sleeve of that jacket one day. He said that a store around the corner actually called Billionaire sold a similar alligator jacket for $15,000 so the $12k was as cheap as I could expect. It's funny how once a price becomes so vulgar that they do not even bother with adding hundreds of dollars but instead add thousands. Why not? If a person is going to spend $11,000 for an alligator jacket then they will indeed spend $15,000. I did visit Billionaire but was not inspired to try anything on, although a trip to Robert Graham store introduced me to epic 3D, holographic, silk shirts (valued at over $400) sure to impress at any Vegas nightclub. 

Empty-handed, lonely, depressed, I walked back onto the Sunday Las Vegas strip in my generic clothes, nameless boots, eyeing pretty women in fur coats and high heels getting in and out of sleek Maseratis, but, without my ego-enhancing alligator skin jacket, they did not return my gaze. I had returned to the land of the mortals and was another working-class stiff on the Las Vegas strip, gawking at elegant people and high dollar garments, scuffing my po' boy cowboy boots on the dirty glum sidewalk, wondering how many germs there were on the outdoor elevators. 

I was in no hurry but I walked in the direction of The Rio and El Conquistador, far across the zombie wasteland.

My closing thoughts about this Alligator leather jacket are a little complicated and long-winded. I was not in a position to buy that jacket but I have not forgotten it. I have been pondering how to have it. Tailoring and fashion design is actually one of the very few things that a person can approach as an amateur and very cheaply produce something. For instance, anyone who has had pants hemmed or the waistline expanded has customized clothes. Well, take that a step further and ask the tailor to put another pocket, or put a zipper on a pocket and make the pant leg a little more slim and suddenly you are a fashion designer. It's that easy. If a person took a $12,000 alligator jacket along with a $400 alligator skin (I have been reviewing prices of alligator hides and a jacket probably needs around $1500+ worth of alligator leather alone as one can expect to pay $200+ / sq foot for genuine alligator) to an experienced Guatemalan leather tailor then that tailor can replicate that jacket for about $300. It will not be identical, but only a close examination could tell the difference. Fashion, sewing, cutting of fabric and leather, is not a mystical art and the finished product can be examined so the secrets behind its production are quickly revealed to a trained eye. It's not like a secret recipe for Coca Cola. No, tailoring holds no secrets. The additional $11,000 dollars added onto the price are simply for convenience, so you do not have to go through the bother of studying and designing a similar jacket or tracking down quality Alligator leather. This is not true for, say, guitars. If you took a $4000 guitar and brought it and a similar amount of solid cedar and mahogany wood to an experienced luthier you are probably going to spend $4000 to get the same guitar, maybe more if you wanted it to be identical and the luthier was not offended by a request to copy another luthier. The wood and the craftsmanship of guitars are completely different than sewing cotton or cashmere or leather. A guitar that comes together like a machine requires exactly $4000 worth of materials and craftsmanship. There are some mysteries, but no shortcuts. But a $12,000 jacket that is made from $400 worth of material can nearly be replicated for a few hundred dollars by an experienced tailor. The design is a different story, the originality, the cut, but all of that is readily obtained from the sample or from measurements. Or take a $40,000 automobile. Take the $3000 worth of raw materials and you are still going to spend $37,000 to turn that into an automobile. You can't go to a budget manufacturer in Mexico and ask them to replicate a Mercedes Benz. No. That can't happen. But if you take a $15,000 Italian jacket made of Alligator and Rabbit and Lamb to a Honduran tailor and gave them the $500 worth of equivalent raw materials then I'm pretty sure that tailor will give you basically the same jacket for about $300. So that's $800 invested into a $15,000 jacket. The two jackets will not be identical but they will be pretty close, close enough to justify not spending $14,000. But if you simply asked a Honduran tailor to design you a nice fitting Alligator jacket then you will quickly run into trouble and the final product will look like a thrift store jacket, badly fitting, and made of Alligator. This will be disrespectful to the animal. Fashion, tailoring, cutting, sewing is all something an experienced tailor can figure out from a sample. They can reverse engineer the design without much problem. But the design itself, the originality, is altogether different and it is where the Ralph Lauren and Gucci make their money. Anyone can sew leather and make a bag, but the design is original art. Go design yourself a pair of pants and you will see what I mean. Really think about pants and seams and zippers and pockets and leg openings and rise and belt loops and come up with an original design and you will see it is not easy. 

Now, one could argue that knock-off goods are far inferior, even when made from similar material. Yes, because the tailors are slaves and cut corners to make money from piece-work. If you personally went to a Chinese slave tailor and paid that tailor appropriately for the work, which is 400% or 500% or 1000% more than they make in the sweat shop then they will happily make you what the Italian tailors are making. They are skilled. An experienced Thai or Japanese, or Guatemalan or Texan tailor certainly has the skill to replicate Haute Couture but they will not do so from the kindness of their heart. No, simply pay them to take the time and not cut corners and they will do anything. Do not suggest a Chinese factory worker is unskilled. No. That's stupid. They are very skilled but can not devote the time to show it or else they starve. A factory worker has a quota so they do not take the time to be careful with the details, but they have the skill. Like when I worked the '08 Christmas season building bicycles at was awful. I got paid $3.50 per bicycle whether it was dialed in for the Tour de France or could only spin in futile circles. $3.50. I'd need to build 4000 bicycles to afford an Alligator leather jacket. That's basically every bicycle in Los Angeles. You think I'm going to lovingly tighten every bolt for $3.50? I'm a bicycle building machine but I'm not going to sweat it if the brakes are so badly adjusted that the rider is certain to wander into traffic and be killed Christmas morning. Hey, I got $3.50 to assemble their crappy Little Mermaid bicycle. What did they expect, working brakes?? I got paid by overlooking problems. Every project for a sweat shop piece-worker is basically an exercise in how much of their skill can they suppress in order to make money from this loathsome job. They make crap goods because they have no time to devote to the project. They simply get good at making lots of crappy products.

My point is that while this Cuadra Alligator leather jacket was indeed a magnificent piece of art that fit me perfectly, I have no need to spend $12,000 to own it because I am well aware that I can go buy a $20 jacket that fits me as well, and buy $400 worth of alligator and lamb skins and take the sample and the materials to a Mexican leather tailor and for about $200 they will replicate the sample in the materials that I provided along with any design changes and I will have a custom jacket for $600 that is one-of-a-kind. Yes, there are some details with leather grade that are important. The Cuadra Alligator appeared to be grade A leather and it's possible I am not experienced enough to tell the difference between grade A and grade B and end up with a lower quality leather and thus a lower quality jacket. But if I can't tell the difference between the grades of leather when buying the leather then why will that matter when I'm wearing the jacket? 

I had a pair of sheep (Borrego) leather pants made in Leon, MX and I personally chose and bought the leather to bring to the tailor so I got the right color. She said it was 'elegant' but also two inches too short to make a full length leg from the leather, so she had to add a seam. Had she chosen the leather she would've known the length to buy. Also, the leather itself was not Grade A sheep, which only tailors can buy from independent shops rather than from the central leather market for exporters and tourists like myself. These details are not small and it's why my leather pants have flaws. I also made some design mistakes that she followed respectfully and are irreversible. The fit is perfect but the design suffered from my inexperience. And I had the opportunity to add exotic leathers to the design but was not aware of those shops before the sewing started. And I actually paid her 25% extra to expedite the project and if I had paid her 50% more to take her time then they would be that much more artistic. She made these custom pants for me in about 3 working days and the craftsmanship reflected her profit. She possessed the skill to replicate Italian fashion, but she simply would do the job according to the profit margin I provided, which was not Italian. My point is that there is a learning curve to fashion, but the cost to learn is very very small compared to, for instance, learning to build a solid wood guitar or to hire a luthier to build a guitar of your design by trial and error or a car manufacturer to build you a custom car. Tailoring is not only interesting and multi-faceted, but it is easy to learn about and easy to experiment with. the worst that will happen is you have clothes that fit someone else. Sewing is also something a person can learn to do with an investment into the machine and supplies. The art of sewing and cutting is no different than carpentry but less hazardous and less costly. There is a process and the process is not a state secret. In the end, the design itself, the cut, the details, the fit, are up to the tailor. The materials, cashmere, Alligator, Lamb, Fox, Shark, Manta, wool, are basically available to anyone. The talent/craft can be learned, but the design takes some inspiration. Most of these ridiculously priced clothes can be made for 5% of the cost but they are inflated for the impulse buy and for convenience of the super wealthy. 

I should point out that this Cuadra Alligator leather jacket was NOT available in the Mexican stores I visited. I think it was exclusive to the Las Vegas shop which means it's the only Alligator/Lamb jacket by Cuadra in existence. I can not even find a photo of it, probably because it's a special edition and they don't want other designers to rip off their ideas. I also never got a picture of it when I was wearing it. Here's Cuadra's website if you're curious what I'm talking about. I were to return to Leon then it would be with an original Alligator jacket design and the intent on finding a tailor to make it for me for a few hundred, which I hope I have argued is easier than earning $12,000 to pay for the same jacket. I got some good ideas from that experience and hope to apply them one day.

Still, if anyone wants to buy me that $12,000 alligator jacket then I will not refuse it. I tried to start a funding campaign but no one will accept my project for some reason. Just have the jacket sent to General Delivery, I'll pick it up.

I do have some additional thoughts on the topic of exotic leathers. There is a moral element that is undeniable, a question of ethics, controversy, and the bisection of ethics and fashion is so odd that it deserves more than a few paragraphs but I'll only say that it's complicated. I don't think there's any excuse to raising lizards or snakes or alligators for their skins. People are quite capable of surviving in artificial fabrics. I know this. I won't use lame excuses like "Cotton requires animal resources too and animals are equivalent so why should I discriminate against one animal over another. mink, beaver, snake, alligator, cow, chicken, rabbit are all raised for their flesh and blood." No, that excuse simply sidesteps the original question: Is it moral to wear alligator leather? I can't defend it. I won't defend it. I've written here no defense of exotic leather, merely a demonstration of the allure that it has on me. I can resist the allure but not deny it exists. Leather and meat has never been abhorrent, even when I was a strict vegan. I merely reached that diet/lifestyle decision scientifically because it makes the most sense for the finite resources on the planet, fair use of said resources. It's simply ethical to reduce and reuse and recycle because resources matter. Ok, but my conclusion is that the ethics and reality do not agree. Eating no meat does not affect the meat industry. Waging war on the meat industry does not affect the meat industry. Opposing the meat industry actually increases the allure of meat and this applies to exotic leather too. The appeal of exotic leather is in the personality of the animal, the individuality, it compliments the individuality of the wearer in a way that no ensemble can replicate because no two alligators are the same. Alligator leather came from individual was not mass produced just like humans are not mass produced. Maybe Alligators look similar but they are individuals and the leather from one animal can only be used once. Thus, an alligator leather jacket can not be replicated. Wait, I'm writing another love letter...see, it's not easy to write objectively about such a magnetic garment. 

I see the argument that this is a unique animal and ought not be treated as a disposable product for a frivolous garment. Yes. I agree. 100% of alligators agree. Yet, once that garment has been made then I also must admit my compulsion to wear it. I could argue that I would honor it by wearing it, but that is not a good excuse. I can only say that it's a barbaric compulsion that defies kindness, overwhelms my benevolence, demands release on a basic level. Maybe the alligator jacket represents the craven egotism and bestiality that is within us all and by embracing it I surrender to it and the relief is glorious. Maybe I am sick. Maybe I am depraved. Yes, I am depraved. 

In the movie White Hunter Black Heart (1990) Clint Eastwood's character growls to a contrarian, "You're wrong, kid. It's not a crime to kill an elephant. It's bigger than all that. It's a sin to kill an elephant. Do you understand? It's a sin. The only sin that you can buy a license and go out to commit. That's why I want to do it before I do anything else in this world. Do you understand me? Of course you don't. How could you? I don't understand it myself.

Another character in the same movie says, "Oh. I've never seen [an elephant] before, outside the circus or the zoo. They're so majestic. So indestructible. They're part of the earth. They make us feel like perverse little creatures from another planet. Without any dignity. Makes one believe in God."

Does wearing Alligator leather make me closer to God? No, but it makes me believe I am closer to God because I am wearing death, flaunting my own mortality, cloaked in the flesh of a majestic beast who knows only survival, a species so well adapted that it has humans trained to feed and care for it despite being a carnivorous predator. If Alligators are an indestructible species then wearing an alligator makes me closer to the indestructible nature of life itself. Maybe. Alligators may appear to be captives, but consider the thousands of fashion elite executives of Hermès (named after the Greek God of Handbags) and Gucci devoted to cultivating alligators and their products. Probably a whole exotic leather division that makes me wonder: who is the captive and who is the captor? How many alligators owe their lives to these fashion giants? Yes, faux fashion exists but the elite designers do not cater to the tree-hugging hippie set, nor do the elite tailors waste weeks sewing plastic fabric with scales stamped on it. It's a paradox: the best jewelers work with gold and diamonds. If you want bloodless ornaments then call a plumber. The best designers work with flesh.

I don't know all the answers, but I plan to write a more in-depth study of exotic leather, those who make garments and those who wear them, so maybe I will reach a conclusion about this complicated topic in that future work. This may involve spear hunting alligators in Florida so don't hold your breath for it to be finished.

Continuing on the tour...Resolution is so bad on this I have no idea what I was trying to capture. An overpass? A road sign? A stretch SUV limousine advertising budget hookers? A ghost of Dean Martin?

If the resolution were better you would see Trump's name at the top. Maybe this is a shot into the future when his name is scrubbed from all public buildings.

motherfucking trump Casino again, trying to impress upon readers that casino, hookers, drugs, champagne enemas, bondage flicks and gold plated dildos are the standard menu at Trump Casino. So you can take your religious arrogance and shove it up your ass. Your vote for a pornographer makes YOU a pornographer.

I got a funny story about Casino Royale but I can not bring myself to type it out. It's too personal, involves sex and the punch-line is, "When I woke up the next morning the fucking hotel room looked like O.J. Simpson had executed his wife there."

Casino Royale: It's a dump...if the walls could talk they would tell a much better story than me, and they would all glow a bright blue if sprayed with Luminol. The sheets have cigarette burns, the blankets feel like they were discarded from a Guadalajara whore house...but they give you huge free umbrella drinks and they got bad murals of James Bond. It's a horror show....but cheap and near all the expensive hotels.

I have a weakness for In-N-Out Burger. The place is simply the best. Burgers, fries and shakes. Nothing else, no breakfast or crazy bacon and teriyaki tofu with chicken and eggs. No. Burgers. fries. shakes. And they are good and they train the workers right. The place always runs like a well oiled machine no matter where I go, and I have not been to In-N-Out in years because they don't exist in the east. Man, it's almost worth the heart disease.

It wasn't the end of my stay in Vegas but there are no photos of my champagne Indian food brunch, a losing trip to the sportsbook and a lot of second-hand cigarette smoke. I left town as soon as I could and crossed the Boulder Dam before nightfall.That's the end of my Vegas photo essay. Hope you enjoyed it. Please leave a tip in the jar if you want me to own that alligator leather jacket. 

*Trump's building in Vegas is NOT a casino. But he had a Casino in Atlantic City and has a Nevada gaming license, so this was not a moral decision. The editor regrets this error but did not actually visit the Trump hotel.
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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.