DISCUSSED: Hunter S. Thompson, Asashoryu, Mandalay Bay, French Vanilla-Flavored Creamer, Giant Cans of Sapporo, Complacency, “Blue Morning Dragon,” RoboCop, The Teppo Pole, Oahu, Lots and Lots of Chanko-Nabe, Takamisakari, Kotooshu, The Annals of Sumo, Public Enemy, The Human-Interest Schmucks


You hear about the tournament from Mac, a friend who used to wrestle for his high school in the California high desert. Mac taught you to revere men who bring honor and integrity to combat sports: Cael Sanderson, the Iowa State wrestler who went undefeated (159–0) his entire collegiate career; Dan Gable, the wrestling legend who coached Iowa to fifteen national titles; Rulon Gardner, the Greco-Roman wrestler who ended Alexander Karelin’s thirteen-year undefeated streak in the 2000 Olympics. Mac is a sumo fan. Over the phone, he tells you sumo’s grand champion is a massive Mongolian who has taken the world of sumo, indeed all of Japan, by storm, and now he’s coming to Las Vegas. He stresses this is something you both need to see. Even though it means you’ll probably end up pinned to a beer-soaked carpet at three o’clock in the morning, you agree to go.

Your plan is to drive across the desert with a third amigo—Christian—and a cooler full of beer. It’s a poor parody of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and you know it; but Hunter S. Thompson’s sudden passing in 2005 is fresh in your mind, making the trip feel necessary, urgent even. You will pay homage to Thompson by immersing yourselves in a spectacle you don’t understand. “We’re going to get drunk and yell at fat men!” Mac shouts as he rings off.

There is only one way to approach the city and that is by automobile traveling at a high rate of speed, but the week before the tournament, Christian breaks his leg in three places in a skateboarding mishap and Mac has a family emergency. You consider renting a big red convertible, but the sad truth is there’s a Texas oilman in office and in the autumn of 2005 it’s cheaper to buy a ticket on Southwest Airlines than to drive a Carter administration–era vehicle across the desert. Your lead-foot fiancée’s Pepsi-can of a Volkswagen will have to do.

Your journey is fueled not by cold beer, LSD, and ether, but by tubs of gas-station coffee laced with French vanilla–flavored creamer. You arrive at the hotel midmorning, check in, get your press credentials. Check your equipment: notebook, laptop computer, digital camera, shotgun microphone, minidisc recorder, headphones, backup tape recorder, and a shitload of batteries. You have everything you could possibly need except the comestibles essential to the job, and like the great man says, the job is all that matters.

Remember that every casino has a convenience store that contains a variety of chilled alcoholic beverages at a price far cheaper than you’ll find anywhere else on the premises. Be extremely nice to the people who work in this store, as you will be doing a lot of business with them. Although it’s not customary to tip convenience store workers, it is in your best interest to do so. Don’t be ashamed of your spoils. After all, you are not a minibar drunk blitzed on six different spirits with peanut M&M’s stuck in your teeth. When people ask you where you got that giant can of Sapporo, tell them it was airlifted in straight from the factory in Hokkaido. They will look at your credentials and assume you are part of the machine that has taken over the casino and they will be right.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

Jim Ruland works at a casino in Southern California and is the author of the short story collection Big Lonesome.

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