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How to: Become a Fabulous Degenerate!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

You already have one bad habit (surfing). Why not develop another?

Many people fall into bad habits and practice them absentmindedly with neither passion nor flair. They smoke, for example, and are sitting in a restaurant feeling vaguely satisfied but vaguely uneasy and so they get up from the table and step outside and light a cigarette.

No great pleasure comes to them, only a slight uptick in overall well-being because they did not choose this habit. This habit chose them. Maybe they were young children and their parents smoked and they emulated. Maybe they were in school and saw posters of James Dean and emulated. Maybe they were post-college and in da club and watched boom-chick-boom-chick-boom-chick smoke and emulated. Whichever the case, they all begin with emulation and end with chemical dependence. They do once, twice, three times and then Lady Nicotine reaches her yellow stained fingers into the ventral tegmentum and the result is as reptilian as it is bland.

Passion and flair require choice.

They require the practioner to think about what bad habit he or she would like to develop and then set about actively changing their very brain chemistry by do do doing that thing over and over.

My cousin was once an honorable man. He served in the military. He went to medical school and became a nurse. And then he started gambling. One thing led to another led to another led to him stealing chips from a table, to feed his bad habit, and going to jail. When he got out he started robbing banks to feed his bad habit and robbed 27 banks before getting caught.

And the best kind of bad habit? A gambling habit.

My cousin was once an honorable man. He served in the military. He went to medical school and became a nurse. And then he started gambling. One thing led to another led to another led to him stealing chips from a table, to feed his bad habit, and going to jail. When he got out he started robbing banks to feed his bad habit and robbed 27 banks before getting caught. When he got out again he promptly disappeared. I think he may be in Kathmandu but cannot be sure. In any case, living on the lam in Kathmandu as an ex-bank robber is very much better than being a nurse. Here’s how to develop your own habit:

Go to fabulous Las Vegas: If you learned anything from the previous column, how to live in the desert, you know that Las Vegas is the best part of the desert and this is because gambling. Gambling built luxurious hotels with fine thread-counted sheets. Gambling brings James Beard award winning chefs du cuisine and even Michelin starred ones to chic restaurants. Gambling. And so find your game. Play the roulette. Play black jack. Play craps. But end in the poker room. Poker is the only game to really get addicted to. It is too difficult to win or lose massive amounts of money at once in the other games. Also poker feels like a skill whereas roulette, black jack and craps all feel like luck. It is really all luck but who cares. Poker. But also thread count and James Beard.

Go back to Las Vegas but less fabulous: Cancel all trips that don’t involve Las Vegas or maybe Reno or Atlantic City. Spend more time in the smoky back rooms and less time in the thread count or with James Beard. Find the casinos that specialize in that game. They will not be the glitzy ones. They will be the obscure ones, away from the strip, and you will be shoulder to shoulder with pockmark face’d white men wearing trucker hats and double chins and picking $5 t-bone steaks from between their crooked teeth with small twigs. The external pleasures of beauty, comfort, fun are beginning to fade. The bad habit is beginning to form.

Don’t go back to Las Vegas or anywhere else: Find your local Indian casino, the one nearest your home, and settle down. The back rooms will be even smokier and the company less pleasant. You will now be shoulder to shoulder with wide Chinese men featuring dead faces and slacks from Hong Kong. Their breath will be so bad that if health workers could enter (they can’t because the casino is considered sovereign because it is Indian) the building would be condemned. The whole situation will be, in fact, so repugnant that lesser souls would vomit simply by entering where you spend six to seven hours each night ecstatically. Your eyes, burning red, see only one thing. Royal flush.

Go to jail: Except you usually do not see “royal flush” you see various shades of “bust” and your money dwindles and you devise a plan to get more money so you can continue to play. The bad habit is now fully set and wonderful. At first you gamble to get more money so you can gamble but then that somehow doesn’t work and so you steal a car. You, however, are not a car thief, you are a gambler, and so the police quickly find you and lock you up. After getting out you have even less money and so you gamble but then steal diamonds because they are smaller than cars and easier to conceal but, again, you are not a jewel thief, you are a gambler and so the police find you once again and once again lock you up.

Go to Kathmandu: Because there must be fantastic poker in Kathmandu or because you are trying to shake your bad habit in a place that has no poker and only slacks from Hong Kong. In any case, you are car thief jewel thief degenerate living near the roof of the world and isn’t that better than what you are right now?