The Authenticity Experiment, the Snakes Edition. I don’t write much about my dad. But a story in the news made me think about the best of him, the part of him that could laugh at himself and his own foibles, and taught me how to do the same thing for myself. Right now, CES—or the Consumer Electronics Show—is going on in Las Vegas. It’s the biggest tech show of the year, the time when all my clients are announcing the latest and greatest technology.
I’ve never been because my dad went for 11 years in a row and brought home amazing swag and some gadgets, and also inculcated me against the hype and the crowds. He said if I could ever avoid CES I should, because it was really just a giant shitshow of booth babes and drunk men and technology that wasn’t going to be available for another 6 to 9 months, if then. “Smoke and mirrors, Kaydoos. Smoke and mirrors,” he’d always say when I asked him about the show.
So, although I’ve spent the last 22 years writing about the business benefits of technology for my day job, I’ve managed to avoid CES, even when my clients have asked me to attend. And sweet tiny baby Jesus in a manger I’m grateful I’m not there this year, because like one of the years my father attended, the power went out from a surfeit of rainfall.
When my father was there and this happened—I’m guessing it was the late 70s or early 80s—he was up in a hotel suite, in a tuxedo, probably the one I had remade for the Lammys, hosting clients. It’s what you do at CES. Rent a suite, buy bottles of booze from one of Las Vegas’ ever-present liquor stores, have the hotel bring up appetizer trays, and treat your clients to an off-the-show-floor-bacchanal. (You know, as opposed to the one occurring on the show floor.)
This time, though, the power went out on the entire Strip, not just on the show floor (as it did this week), and not just in the hotel where my dad and his business partner, Tim, were plying clients with liquor and inking deals. The entire Strip. My dad and Tim closed the suite and, with their customers, made their way down—I don’t know, 10, 20, 30—flights of stairs, under the eerie green glow of emergency lighting and out the doors to hail cabs to their respective hotels.
Except everyone on the Strip had the same idea. So, my dad and Tim—both, in his words, “a little piped”—decided rather than wait in the queue, they’d walk in their tuxedos and patent leather oxfords, in the weirdly humid and—even for January—stiflingly hot Las Vegas to their hotel at the other end of the Strip. That would be faster they reasoned.
“Oh, Kaydoos,” and here he shook his head, chin to chest, “it was so dark.” Dark in that way that only the desert or the jungle can be because it’s away from everything else.
Somewhere my dad found a stick and began tapping it in front of himself like a blind man. Tim asked what he was doing. My dad—remember, he’d already confessed to being slightly hammered—said one word, “Snakes.”
Tim replied, “Snakes?”
Even retelling the story, my dad would sound the way I’m sure he sounded that night—definitive—and he’d give a little head bob and repeat, “Snakes.”
Tim said he didn’t follow my father’s logic as the men sweated in their wool tuxedos and tapped their way down the Strip.
“They come out at night when it’s cooler.” I imagine my dad slurred a little on this longer sentence and maybe he grinned his drunk grin, the good-natured one where he was thinking amusing thoughts and not the scary, malevolent grin. “And they warm themselves on the sidewalk and asphalt,” he said. Then he always added as an afterthought, “Mainly asphalt.”
Which is why these two guys were tapping and threading their way through throngs of people on the sidewalks, rather than walking in the street. Slowly, drunkenly making their way to their hotel.
My father worked covert ops for the Office of Naval intelligence and knew from snakes. In Southeast Asia—where he spent time years before the US was ever officially “engaged”—US soldiers used to say that there were 100 types of snakes, and 99 were poisonous and the last one could crush you to death. The real truth, according to Google, is that there are 140 snakes, 30 of which are poisonous. But when you’re walking at night through the jungle, why take chances?
I like this story because my dad liked this story and he used to always laugh when I’d ask him to tell it. “Oh, Christ,” he’d say, sounding all Milwaukee, “That again? Okay. This one time, Tim and I were at CES and…” I like it, too, because it showcases his brains and ingenuity.
But maybe I like it most of all because it shows his humanity, the fears that ruined him, and his resilience in moving forward, however slowly, through the dark night.
Hey, if you love the book The Authenticity Experiment: Lessons From the Best & Worst Year of My Life will you please post a review of it where ever it is you post your Internet reviews? We’re not talking book report here. We’re just talking two lines—say that you loved it and why. Easy peasy. Reviews really do get read by people and they help the book reach others who may not know about it. Thanks for all you do.