When Project Dinner Table invited me to serve as “the cultural moment” on May 14, I looked at the catalog of poems I’d written over the years and didn’t see anything that really resonated with the event. So I decided to compose something special and sat myself down in the Stake Out across from UNLV on a Taco Tuesday and quickly penned “Stomach Rider,” inspired by the famous Napoleon remark, while I was downing countless tacos–and drinking beers. Many, many beers. I’d also just finished reading the book Eating Las Vegas, co-authored by Vegas Seven food critic Max Jacobson. I’ve been a big fan and admirer of Jacobson’s writing even since I moved to Vegas 10 years ago. I knew he’d be attending Project Dinner Table, so I dedicated the poem to him. I hope he likes it. (By the way, everyone, please mark your calendars — the Vegas Valley Book Festival returns Nov. 3 to 6.)
An army travels on its stomach.
I travel on my stomach, too, all over the city I call home,
Las Vegas. With the gastrointestinal stamina of 200
soldiers, I push my stomach to its absolute limit.
Some red-rimmed mornings I tether my stomach
to a post at Mr. Lucky’s and saddle it with a thick
Western omelet. I place the omelet very gently on my
stomach and never let it fall heavy, because I don’t want
to spook my stomach. Other days I plunge my stomach
like a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, diving,
dodging depth charges, until suddenly launching to
the surface to capsize a sushi boat at Tokyo Japanese
in Commercial Center. On certain nights, when I’m feeling
Special Forces-like, I apply camouflage paint upon
my stomach and order it to silently parachute
behind enemy lines with the mission of neutralizing
a broiled Moroccan lamb kabob, with a side of
hummus cowering at its side, at Paymon’s Hookah.
Other afternoons I tread my stomach like a tank
and together we grind the tasty lunch buffet
at Lotus of Siam, leaving nothing, not a morsel or crumb,
in our wake. One time I grafted B-2 wings to my stomach
and piloted it on a near-suicidal bombing of that Krispy
Kreme way out on Spring Mountain, every donut a target.
But my stomach isn’t always so militaristic, imperialistic.
My stomach is also professionally promiscuous and will don
6-inch clear plastic platform stripper dance heels and shake
the junk in its trunk all the way from Doña María,
at Vegas Boulevard and Charleston, where for 20 bucks
it will perform intimate acts on several tamales simultaneously,
to Sensi at Bellagio, where for 120 dollars plus tip my stomach
will do really depraved things to a 32-ounce bone-in ribeye,
often in the very same evening. My stomach let me watch, once
and only once, before it left me to down a Pink’s Famous
Hot Dog at Planet Hollywood. See, my stomach and I
had been on the road to recovery. We were drug-free—
no additives, preservatives, corn syrup or inorganic,
self-destructive, self-loathing midnight Big Mac attacks.
But then my stomach said it didn’t want to be clean, healthy,
sober. So, after getting the monkey, me, off its back—well,
if my stomach had a back and were such a thing possible
I’d be that monkey—my stomach went off on its own, in search
of more food, more restaurants, more. I’m not looking forward
to the zoo, though. Food there leaves lots to be desired.
Photo via Project Dinner Table.