Glittering light twinkles from the left side of the cabin, piercing past the seats in the emergency row, past the No Smoking and Fasten Seat Belt signs, and directly into my ocular cortex, yanking me from a sleepy little valley town called Burbank, where I was in my dream. I now realize that… *BING*… “We are now in our final descent to the Las Vegas area,” and I should do the tray table thingie and put the seat three and a quarter inches back up. Then hit the tarmac, hit the lobby, stroll past the baggage claim (checking baggage is for chicks) and materialize in front of an anonymous hotel, which I will not name in order to protect the innocent as well as the guilty. It’s UFC 100 weekend, and FIGHT! Magazine is in VEGAS.
“HEY! BULLY BEATDOWN!” some random guy screams as I stroll through the casino with security guard/hetero lifemate/ FIGHT! Magazine funnyman Ryan Loco, who ushers me towards the center bar. As I push past the chubby Middle Americans playing video poker, I come upon a scene that is unlike any other I have witnessed in quite a while: a brash cacophony arising from a group of people in a mosh-pit-like structure engaged in intense conversation, laughing and out-talking one another, all of them taking notice of me nonchalantly. I have my baseball hat pulled tight over my eyes, and am uncharacteristically shy, since that rabid fan made me feel self-conscious about my z-level celebrity status.
I quietly make a witty comment to Loco, which I can’t remember, but is comedy gold, trust me. He immediately retorts with something of equal comedic value. Then I ask him, “Why are we here?” To which he replies, “Dumbass, this is the FIGHT! Magazine writers.” Oh yeah, I’m here to represent FIGHT! Magazine at the UFC Expo.
“Oh,” I said, not putting together that THESE were the writers, photogs and graphic designers of a great publication. I guess it’s akin to people saying to me, “You look bigger on TV.” If I had to say one snide comment to the entire staff of the magazine, I guess it would be, “You look smarter in the magazine.” Because what I am witnessing is the absolute cutting loose of an obviously overworked team of bright people.
It’s as if I had walked directly into a nuclear wasteland inhabited by the mutant-zombie remains of FIGHT! staffers who were now after my brains.
“HEY MAYHEM! You crazy bastard,” someone yells, making me instinctively put my hands up and my chin down. Loco defl ects some of the drunken traffi c, and we start making our rounds throughthe zombie mosh pit. “How much of your stuff do you really write, man?! Really? Come on,” one chisel-faced zombie attacks. “All of it, dude. I’m not good at grammar, but I can write,” I fire back. I guess I look dumber than I write. Appeased, the zombie responds, “Damn, man, you are good.” Which makes me feel as if I’d gone to the warmth and safety of a fallout shelter.
We continue for a bit, meeting another editor/brain eater that wants to argue with me about something trivial, in a deep southern drawl. Since I love to argue, and since I’m from the South, I oblige him for an inordinate amount of time. And after I feel I’ve sufficiently “won,” I move on to watch a faux argument between a heavily tattooed staffer and the rest of the team, which, in my relatively sober state, I find very entertaining. In the midst of this arm flailing and loud talking, I realize that, although I’ve been to Vegas quite a bit, the staff, well, they don’t get out much. These writer types are pretty much out of their minds. Worn out by the intensity of talking to people whose sole job it is to put words into print, I make my escape to rest up and prepare for the UFC Expo the next day.
WAKING UP IN VEGAS
Pass out, wake up, rush out the door, stumble through the cab line …”MAYHEM MILLER!” a random fan yells. Damn! I’m getting recognized more now. I wonder how this expo thing is going to be. I’m a bit hyped up by my Iced Americano (soy milk and two Splenda), so I make conversation with the cabbie, who allegedly made a fortune in real estate and lost it all on craps, a story that I believe, because the guy seems bright. Now he has to drive a cab, but he has a surprisingly positive attitude about it. I tip him five bucks and offer the advice, “Don’t gamble it, man.”
Shuffling out of the cab, I head toward the entrance of the Mandalay Bay Events Center, trying to escape the searing hot desert sun that is piercing through my black shirt and making me sweat, even though I shaved off my strip-of-doom haircut for the summer.
“Hey Mayhem! Quick picture man!” Smile. Snap. Flash. Damn, I didn’t even get into the convention center yet. I think this may end up being crazier than expected. I am right. Before I can even get into the main convention hall, I am bowled over by people rabidly asking for autographs. “Take a picture … sign this shirt … sign this program … sign my kid!” Whoa, I think. This is a UFC expo. I don’t even fight in the UFC. What the hell?
“I love your MTV show!” Ugh, I’m just the MTV guy now, getting slowly crowd-surfed to the FIGHT! Mag booth, where the calm face of the Editor-in-Chief is waiting with some of the staff from last night, who are all completely alive and very chipper. I sit at the booth and keep high energy for an hour, signing enough chemically treated paper to make the EPA cry. A line forms down the block. Smile. Snap. Flash. Smile. Snap. Flash. Headlock a kid. Snap. Flash. Make a crazy face. Snap. Flash. Bite someone’s ear. Snap. Flash. Wow, I’m actually famous, even if it is for a goofy reality show. Wow. “See you tonight at the pre-party?” From behind his man bangs, peering through his stoic eyes, FIGHT! Editor-in-Chief Donovan Craig snaps me out of my narcissistic daydreaming. “Huh? Oh, yeah. For sure.”
FOG MACHINES AND LASER RAYS
So it’s now Friday evening, and the entire FIGHT! staff is assembled around a table with bottles resting in a small bowl. All patiently await the debauchery to ensue. The quiet before the storm. The Top Forty begin to pump in the swanky nightclub, the lights pulsate, beautiful women take notice as the bottles pop and the FIGHT! staff explodes into a raging party. The energy that I defl ected the night before I now feed off of, crazily jumping on the couches, laughing from deep in my belly, screaming to the sky like some ancient tribal chief in a circle of warriors drumming to the gods of our publishers. It’s at this point that the spirits of literary achievement possess me, and my shell of a body thrashes about the club. I hang onto only bits and pieces of memory. Holding two bottles. Three girls with me. Laughing with a writer. Scaring everyone. “Hey! Bully!!” Swinging on a stripper pole. In the back alley convincing the bouncers I can stay. More girls. More laughing. More craziness. Thinking, “These writer guys go hard!” Then remembering, “I am one of these writer guys.” I feel like giving each and every staffer a giant hug, but instead I’m ushered out by my female companions, who for some reason I don’t argue with. The rest of the night is a blur.
LUNCHTIME IN DISNEYLAND
I liken Vegas to Disneyland for adults. When you first get there, you are on an emotional high, sprinting from the Teacups to the Space Mountain, and begging Mom to give you money for those damn ears. By lunchtime, you are a wreck. Your Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle shoes are all muddy, you are too exhausted to eat your corn dog, the Mickey ears are hanging half off your head and you just want to plop down on the dirty community picnic table. One more day of the expo, then th
e FIGHT! party at the Hawaiian Tropic Zone to watch UFC 100. As I scan the faces of the team members, I realize that it’s lunchtime at Disneyland. Everyone watches the fights with the same expression that we had when sitting on the rides and watching the animatronic children sing, “It’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all…” Unaffected and unenthusiastic, all of us attempt to muster some excitement. But I don’t need any more excitement. I already have what I unwittingly came to Vegas for. I have the smug satisfaction of realizing that I’m not just a reality show douchebag, I am a writer, and for the best publication in mixed martial arts. As I am smugly feeling satisfied with myself, someone breaks into my daydream with, “Hey, you are that Bully Beatdown guy!” Thanks for reminding me, pal.