Las Vegas feels like the future, e.g., there’s a new face-slapping league. But I’m also living in the past. I loved working with West Coast clients while I lived in the Eastern Time Zone. Sure thing, you’ll have my files in the morning. Of course we can talk at 9am. But when I wake up now, New York has been busy for hours, sending me things to do.

Over the past few years, I’ve worked hard to ditch the lunatic habit of checking my inbox thirty seconds after opening my eyes. These days I wait until I’m showered, meditated, caffeinated, and I’ve done some writing. Then I pick up my telephone and look at all the little red bubbles. Cultivating this small habit was more challenging than it sounds because my lizard brain craves the neurochemical buzz of new information. Maintaining my morning ritual in the Pacific Time Zone will be harder now that I know everyone elsewhere has been busy without me. But it might offer a much-needed lesson in humility: the world will get along fine without me for a few hours. It’s not like I have the nuclear codes.

Yesterday I returned to running after a three-week hiatus, and it was ugly. Today I’ve returned to working on the novel, and the results are the same. Why am I doing this? Why doesn’t my brain work anymore? What the hell is happening on page 182? What’s the point of fiction anyway? And so on. But this is par for the course. Muscle memory dies quickly, but it also returns. It just requires surfing some waves of doubt and self-loathing to find it.

As I begin to orient myself in Vegas, I know I’m edging too close to the Strip when the plasma donation centers appear. Meanwhile, a record-shattering snowstorm is sweeping across the rest of the nation. According to the news, everyone in the Midwest will be dead by Friday.

The population of Vegas is expected to double within the next fifty years. Last night I talked with a man in his eighties. “The Air Force sent me here fifty-nine years ago,” he said. “I fell in love with the desert and never left.” When I told him where I lived, he said it was all desert back then. He mapped the city with his hand and drew a line down the center of his palm. Everything on the left side was desert. “You had to drive for miles to get to the mountains. Now they’re in your backyard.”

Here are some ritualistic Dutch synthetics from ’82:

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