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On Assignment: Tankini Time!

Las Vegas, NV

I’m in town with my friend Balthazar Diaz for the Southwestern Men’s Tankini[1] Convention. Balthazar is a buyer and he’s brought me along as a pair of unbiased eyes. See, Balthazar wears a lot of these male tankinis and he’s honest with himself about the fact that they all look damn good: shades of neon, monogrammed dragons, pink and black leopard print, bespoke faux high school phys. ed. shirts, etc.

“I’d be willing to bet,” Balthazar says, surveying the convention floor, “most of these guys don’t even have a full t-shirt hanging in their closets—some might not even have full tanks.”

This prospect is frightening to me as a person who not only owns “full t-shirts”, but also as person who didn’t know what a tankini was until two days ago. I was in between gigs (manually labor and white collar crime) when Balthazar swaggered over to my usual table and asked, “How’d you like to eat steak at the Spearmint Rhino on the company card?”

“Not very much,” I replied. “I’m vegan.”

“I’ll pay you.” Balthazar pulled up a chair. “I’ve gotta buy the summer line of tankinis for a few gyms in the South Bay.”

A priori, I assumed a tankini was a combination of the indestructible military vehicle and girls in bikinis. By no means am I a closeted fan of half-naked women dancing around on armed automobiles, but like I said, I was in between gigs.

Every year the SwMTC is held at Treasure Island. If there’s one thing that Hollywood bars and Vegas hotels have in common, it’s that they all look the same after that eighty-third beverage. I don’t claim to be an expert—we weren’t out in the wild with some sort of Iphone app that tells you whether you’re about to pierce a sloth or a platypus through its heart (of hearts) with your bow’s arrow—rather, I had a room key and it read Treasure Island.

Tankini conventions are in many ways the male version of the Spearmint Rhino. They serve booze and it’s not full nudity, yet nipples are flying around like it’s August on the Cote d’Azur. Of course these areolas belong to men. At first, I feel like I’m being violated like—why aren’t these guys covering their nipples up? I ask Balthazar, who is wearing a maroon and teal zebra print tankini, What up with that, yo?

I never get a straight answer.

Three hours later my shirt is getting pulled off—I feel self-conscious. There’s a circle around me of women in bikinis and men in tankinis and they’ve just tossed my “full t-shirt” across the tent. Someone pulls my arms up and slips through them something light and airy. I move my arms around. I feel free! Unburdened. Lighter than I’ve ever felt! Like I could (insert impressive physical feat). I pick up my beverage and bring it to my lips. It’s so light! It all happens so fast. I’m smiling and I can’t help it. Neither can my tankini-clad compadres. My comrades cheer. For the first time I look at my tankini: it’s a smoky silkscreened image of a Hispanic girl sort of shooting pool and mainly sticking her ass in the air (right about in the middle of my stomach before my newfound midriff appears).

The next morning we’re passing Pearblossom, which is either in Nevada or California, I’m not sure which because I’ve been sleeping and it all looks the same out here anyway.

“Some help you were this weekend,” says Balthazar.

I stretch and let out a groan. “What do you mean?”

“Did you see what we bought?”

“We?”

“The tankinis, man! Did you see the tankinis WE picked out?!?”

I think long and not very hard. I feel nauseous and my arms are cold in this temperature-controlled vehicle. I want a “full t-shirt” but I know Balthazar doesn’t have any and we’ve got four hours of driving ahead of us. “Did it have  a graphic of a sun with crossed out eyes—kinda looked like an ecstasy pill you’d get at warehouse rave in rural Washington?”

“Yeah, that’s what I wanted to get.” Balthazar reaches to the backseat and from an enormous cardboard box he pulls out a piece of mustard yellow cloth and throws it in my lap. “Read it.”

I hold the cotton rag up. It takes a minute for my eyes to focus on the text. “Friends Don’t Let Friends Wear Sleeves!” There are too many words for one line, so it S-curves down the front.

“I wanted you’re unbiased opinion as a full t-shirt wearer. I leave you alone for a half-hour and you convert!”

I shrug.

“No one in Manhattan Beach is going to buy these shirts! Maybe Venice… but not fucking Manhattan.”

“Hey Balthazar.”

“I accept your apology. Just know, I’m never bring you to Vegas again.”

“Can you pass me a couple more of those tankinis? I want to use them as a blanket. I’m cold.”


[1] Created in the mid-70s by bodybuilders at Muscle Beach in California. The tank-kini is the bikinization of a tank top. The objective is to expose as much skin as possible (abs, obliques, bis and tris, delts, lats, side-pec(male equivalent of side boob)) while pretending like you’re just wearing a tank top. Today the tankini remains popular among HGH abusers and professional adult film actors.

 

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An Evening In Oregon With The Neapolitan Mastiff

At first the music of David Liebe Hardt makes me laugh. I imagine I’m at a party, no, a gala. Tuxedos tapered around men who look like Tom Ford and extravagant dresses draped from women who look like Olivia Wilde. Caterers hustle around and shine glasses. My drink is always brimming. When they refill your glass, you are given the opportunity to look one of these caterers dead in the face. And that’s exactly what they are: dead in the face. It’s an industry of pulled back hair, smooth faces and starched shirts. From ten feet away everyone looks ten years younger than they are. The closer you get to one of them, you realize that they are in fact older and far more miserable looking than you first imagined. Twenty bucks an hour did not buy that caterer’s happiness, but what do I care? I’m a guest.  I toast my good fortune.

I make my way to the dj stand. It appears he’s snuck off to have an Amstel Light or possibly to take a piss in the two minutes and thirty seconds he’s allotted himself. I deftly scroll through his playlist. No one notices I’m up there because everyone is too busy talking shit and complaining about the food to realize I’ve commandeered the only thing that all of them are forced to listen to. I’ve found it! David Liebe Hart’s “I am an artist and creator.” This is a very, very, very bad song, but it’s of course great for that very reason. It’s perfect. I set it up so it’ll come on next. I step down and make my way to the balcony. On my jaunt, I’m stopped three times by caterers who want to fill my glass. All three times I stop.

I hear the song come on, but it’s all wrong. It’s funny, but I’m not laughing. It’s the right song, it’s the right atmosphere, but it’s not clicking the manner in which it’s supposed to. It’s still white noise. No one’s noticed, but me and maybe the dj who I can only assume, is now having his way with one of these dejected thirty-somethings caterers in the kitchen’s walk-in freezer or maybe he’s just having a cigarette. I don’t know the man. I don’t even know if said dj is a man. I’m getting lightheaded. I grab the railing. I promise to rally. I try and breathe, but instead cough out smog. My lungs reject the only air that’s available. I slump to the floor. The song is still playing.

I wake up on a linoleum floor. A girl, probably twenty-five years old, with dark brown hair and a nose like a parrot keeps asking me if I’m okay. I notice she has a few choice freckles on her nose.

“Where am I?” I ask.

“Portland.”

I shake my head. “I know that!”

She looks around, “oh yeah, you’re in a bathroom.”

“I realize that too!”

“Relax, asshole.” She carefully pushes herself up from me. She’s prettier now. Actually, she’s gorgeous. Her arms are toned, but still feminine. She’s probably a weekend warrior on her $4,500 Cannondale. It’s paying off.

“Sorry.”

“Right,” She turns and makes her way to the door.

“Where am I?”

“I thought you knew…” She flings open the door. It’s the tux and botox crowd. I hate rich Oregonians. They’re so fucking healthy and fit. I hear it’s worse in Colorado. The problem, I surmise as I stand up, is all this health isn’t fucking healthy. There’s no balance to it. Occasionally, a person needs eat something drenched in pork fat, stay up all drinking liquor and then wake up a few hours later and rush off to work. Your breakfast is a black coffee and you don’t give a shit if the coffee beans are Free Trade.

I don’t like the women in Oregon. They don’t overexpose themselves to the elements. They’re conscious about their bodies in a way that doesn’t work to your benefit. I look in the mirror. There are bags under my eyes, my skin looks a little dehydrated. I splash some water on my face and pat myself dry with a paper towel. Good as new. I’m the picture of fucking health.

I once dated one of these overly self-conscious Oregonians. She never slept with me. Finally, after taking her out to dinner for the third time, I asked. “What’s the deal?”

“I would’ve slept with you before dinner, but now I’m full and I feel fat. I don’t feel like having sex.”

That pretty much sums up Oregon for me. Tomorrow I’m getting on a plane and going back to Las Vegas. Nobody is healthy in Vegas. Vegas, now that’s a nice town to live in. A lot of people don’t believe that, but those people live in Oregon. I don’t have any issues with the town itself. As for the people? They’re great. You want to know why they’re great? None of them are trying to run marathons and no one has a tomato garden. People in Vegas are perfectly content with dying of a cocktail of cirrhosis and lung cancer at the spritely age of fifty-three, leaving behind nothing except a paid off condo twenty miles off The Strip. Vegas, now that’s a fine town.

I give myself one last look in the mirror. “I am the –“ I put my hand over my mouth and rush to a stall. I barely make it in time to spew shrimp tapas into that ceramic haven. Fucking Oregon…

-The Neapolitan Mastiff

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