Yesterday was the big #OccupyLasVegas protest down on the Strip. As most everyone knows, Vegas was/is one of the hardest-hit areas in terms of real estate depreciation and unemployment…so people here were pissed, and took to the streets to protest. Naturally, I joined in the fray.
I’m on the fence about the whole Occupy Wall Street thing — I hate the cronyism of greedy plutocrats as much as the next naked bimbo, but it seems like the protests are a tad disjointed and, dare I say, scatterbrained. I like a movement with a tangible GOAL — like “Free the West Memphis Three” or “Welease Bwian!” But this movement is all over the board, railing against an ill-defined array of vague evils and boogeymen: “End the Fed!” “Stop Corporate Greed!” “War is Evil!” The photos look like it’s a lot of kooks and shit-stirrers who just wanna cause a ruckus…and wear wacky outfits while doing so.
Speaking of wacky outfits, I considered wearing my showgirl costume for the Vegas protest march…but the weather here just took a turn for the shitty, so I just wore jeans. Besides, I felt that if I dressed normal, didn’t rant and rave, and had an articulate sign with a legitimate beef on it, I might lend a touch of credence to the march. So I made a sign, and joined the river of angry/bored crazies down in front of the New York, New York. Now to be fair, at least half the crowd looked to be “regular” workaday people. There was even a Marine in full dress marching beside me. But the other half were wacko stereotypes: hippies and fired-up punk-ass emo kids. What are all these kids so pissed off about?!? I guess maybe they just don’t see a future for themselves? I’ve never known the apathetic youth of today to get so fired up about anything other than the launch of the latest iPhone!
Compared to the grungy (relative) gravitas of the Wall St protests, the OccupyVegas march was downright weird. I guess you could say it was a protest, Vegas-style: the same hundreds of angry people, only these people were shuffling along, nursing beers, dodging street hustlers in Barney costumes and porn leaflets proffered by bemused illegals. Seriously, some of the porn slappers (those beleaguered guys who hand out cards and flyers for escort agencies on the Strip) are apparently so deep in the Zone that they don’t even look at whom they’re handing stuff — they just shove ‘em in the face of any and all oncoming warm bodies, whether they be drunken frat mooks or angry, sign-wielding socialists. As the protest grew bigger and eventually overwhelmed the sidewalk, the porn-slappers finally gave up and just stood by watching. It would have been cool as hell to see them actually JOIN the protest…but the last thing those illegals wanna do is get arrested.
I found it hard to keep a straight face — and impossible to join in the chanting of the impossibly earnest grunge-sters shouting “Banks got bailed out — we got sold out!” and “Hey hey! Ho ho! Wall Street banks have got to go!” Like I said, I’m on the fence – I don’t know enough about it to propose a solution, so I just kinda kept my mouth shut and marched in grim silence.
Why did I march, then? Because I am pissed, about my own financial mess. I KNOW it was 100% my own decision to sign that mortgage, so I blame myself first. But I have to question the apparent lack of regulation that would allow a bank to approve a $340,000 loan to a camera girl who makes $35,000/year. The person who approved my loan was either dumber than me, or greedier — knowing full well that I’d end up defaulting, meaning they’d get X amount of money out of me (I did put 10% down) and then a write-off on the loss, to boot. I guess you might say all’s fair in business, and buyer beware…but I’m still pissed! And you should be, too — even if you’re one of those smart, responsible homeowners, now you’re faced with foreclosures on your street, bringing down your property value. You can and should be pissed at the dumb greed of us losers who initially signed those loans…but you should be equally pissed at the clever greed of the banks who approved ‘em!
My own situation is this: at the time I bought my house, I had been living with a guy for about 2 years. He was a casino host — basically he lured high rollers into town and earned a commission off how much they gambled, win or lose. One of his clients was a high-stakes roulette player (Hello!! I should have known right then and there this guy was full of shit — who the hell bets $5k per hand on a game with zero strategy?) with a colorful past — originally from Haiti, he had been an arms dealer down there before escaping to L.A., where he and his brother went on to become the West Coast’s leading ecstasy suppliers. After getting busted for that, and almost being sent away for life (but saved by a good attorney), they started their own mortgage brokerage. (I Googled these guys’ names, which are very distinctive, and found articles in the LA Times to verify all this info.)
These guys, we’ll call them Vlad and Edens (because those were their actual names) told my ex-boyfriend that if he ever wanted to buy a house, they could get him approved for anything up to $500,000 — no problem. So naturally, now he wanted to buy a house.
So did I, to be fair — this was in late 2007, and house prices had already dropped sharply, so it seemed like a good time to buy. I wanted a funky little house in downtown Vegas, but my ex vetoed that notion — he was always somewhat of a social climber, and insisted on something bigger. We ended up compromising on my current estate — a funky old house near downtown, around 2600 sq feet and on half an acre of land. It’s a really cool house and we both dug it immediately — it was built in 1933, so it’s gotta be one of the oldest homes in Vegas. That predates the freaking Hoover Dam! Aside from that it has many charming, eccentric features like a basement (very rare here), a laundry chute and a secret hidden room under the basement stairs.
Anyhoo, the listing price was slashed from $500,000 to $400,000 (it was a short sale)… and they ended up taking our offer of $380,000. I thought that was a good deal — hahahahaha! I knew nothing about buying a house. NOTHING! No one in my immediate family has ever owned a home, so I had no one to turn to for advice — except for my ex, Vlad and Edens, who were all insisting it was a great deal, and more or less twisting my arm to sign the papers.
Now, my ex made really good money as a casino host (he’s a real go-getter), but since he was fresh out of college (he was 7 years younger than me…LOL) he didn’t have enough employment history to get a loan. Meanwhile, I’d been slogging along as a freaking camera girl for 7 years at the time, making an average of $35-40,000 per year…and I had excellent credit. So I had to be the one to get the loan. And there’s where my trouble began!
I’m normally a pretty sharp person, so I can’t for the life of me explain why I signed off on this stupid loan. I think I literally didn’t understand what I was getting into — I knew the monthly payment was gonna be $2300, but between my ex and I that was no problem. I was still fairly wary, but Vlad and Edens and my ex all soothed my fears and assured me everything was fiiiiiiiiiiiine. I had been hearing a lot in the news about adjustable rate mortgages, so I did stick up for myself and insist I didn’t want one of those. So what did they get me? An adjustable rate mortgage! But they rushed to assure me that it was a hybrid ARM, and gave me all this gobbledygook mortgage talk to explain why it was a great deal for me. Like a CLUELESS DUMBASS, I allowed myself to be talked into it. I have no idea how they pushed that loan through — any sane banker would have denied me. I just know my mortgage brokers were shady as hell, and they both literally disappeared after all this went down. Disappeared!! As in, their phones were shut off and they were never heard from again.
Meanwhile, I put 10% down ($38,000), plus around $13,000 in closing costs, and started making my $2311.63 mortgage payment every month. At first it was fine, but after about 6 months my ex and I drifted apart and split up…and he moved out and left me holding the bag. Arrrrgh!
$2300 is an overwhelming amount of money for me to come up with each month, which is why I started nude and fetish modeling. Some of this stuff I’ve actually come to enjoy, but a lot of it has been torture. Do I WANT to be hogtied and mocked in a room at Palace Station so some jagoff in sweatpants can videotape it and jerk off later on? NOT SO MUCH But I did it, because I took full responsibility for signing that stupid mortgage agreement. I’m not one to welsh on a debt, so I spent the next 2 years hustling and struggling, having my toes sucked by creepy perverts and flashing my snatch to horny GWCs. Gooooooooooood times.
After about a year, I was desperate. I had contacted my bank about getting a loan modification, but I didn’t hear anything back despite repeated, dogged attempts. In retrospect, it’s obvious — as long as I was still paying, why would they help me?! But SEVERAL PEOPLE at the time told me I should do anything in my power to keep paying that mortgage. Mother Jane (the meddlesome biddy at work who loves to give me advice) insisted I keep paying, to preserve my credit. My boyfriend at the time told me it was my moral obligation to keep paying. And even a housing crisis counselor I visited told me it was my duty to keep paying however I could.
Thankfully, someone finally convinced me to miss a payment — and I saw IMMEDIATE results. Within a few months my bank had offered me a trial modification, which I still have. But every “trial” payment I make goes to a loan servicer and not my lender, and thus counts as a missed mortgage payment. So my credit is fucked. My lender finally came around and offered me a permanent deal — they would reduce my interest rate from 6.6% to 5%, and extend the term of my loan from 30 to 40 years. No reduction in principal. SOME FUCKIN’ DEAL!
As my sign says: I have put $125,869 (down payment plus all my monthly payments) into a house that Zillow.com currently values at $91k…but I still owe them $355,692.91. REALLY?! On a house worth $91k, you want me to pay you a total of $481,561? I made a stupid financial mistake once — don’t ask me to make another one!
Anyhoo, I have a mediation hearing in two weeks, where my lender and I are supposed to arrive at a compromise. I have serious doubts it’ll work out, but we’ll see. But I’m telling you all this to demonstrate the shitty, shady, unregulated mess that was our mortgage industry. In general I am opposed to government interference…but left to their own devices, most people are GREEDY sonovabitches that will fuck everything up in the blink of an eye. So it seems to me that some regulation is needed. And that’s what I was pissed about at the protest march.
But what I’m really pissed about is the inability to articulate what I’m pissed about! I’m mad that the top 1% knows the ins-and-outs of the tax code, and I don’t. Knowledge is power, so I suppose my time would have been better served reading up on the IRS website than marching around the Strip with a sign…but whatever. At least it was a therapeutic was to vent my frustration.
Either way, it was really weird to be protesting all earnest and angry, marching past crowds of drunk tourists who stared in bemusement from the sidelines. Some tourists actually mocked us, and who can blame ‘em? For years people have been coming here and paying $12 for a beer and $400 for a bottle of Grey Goose, so we Vegas parasites could make our $2300 mortgage payments. I’d be pissed at us, too!
One frat-boy type mook came up alongside me and called me out — “Why did you sign that mortgage if you couldn’t pay for it?” I admitted my stupidity and then went into my spiel about deregulation causing unfettered greed…to which the mook replied, “You’re hot! You can make money, easy!” Then he high-fived his buddy. Hyuk!
Arrrgh, anyhoo, enough complaining. One of the main reasons I look so fried in those protest pics is that I was up til 5am the night before, partying my balls off down on Fremont Street. Let me tell you about it!
A girl I used to work with (doing promotions for this retarded “nutrition drink” called Neuro…it’s disgusting and overpriced, don’t bother with it) was coming to town and wanted to hang out and have crazy adventures. Here we go again — people seem to think I have a “crazy adventure” tap I can turn on at will, and let the good times flow. Well, it doesn’t work that way! This shit has to happen on its OWN! Well thankfully, this time the good times flowed freeeeeeeeely.
I suggested we meet up down on Fremont Street, since there’s usually some kind of wackiness going on down there. My good friend Phil Connors (the journalist) met us for a few drinks in the East Fremont area (the part of downtown that has been reclaimed from the crackheads, and taken over by assy hipsters)…but I grew tired of the loud music and annoying atmo, and suggested we head down to the REAL Fremont St, the touristy part covered by the light-show canopy. This is my go-to party spot: it’s covered (and thus protected from the weather), closed to vehicle traffic (so you can stumble around in a drunken stupor without fear) and populated by costumed freaks, wandering crackheads, street performers and low-end Vegas tourists who can’t afford the Strip. MUCH more fun than the Strip!
Anyhoo, we were walking along and passed by the soon-to-open Heart Attack Grill. You may have heard of this place — its anti-Nanny-State shtick features fattening foods only, with names like the “Quadruple Bypass Burger,” served by sexy waitresses in nurse costumes. I think it’s originally from Phoenix, but what better place for a new branch than Vegas — and downtown Vegas, at that?! Patrons over 350 pounds eat for free, so it should do a brisk business.
Anyway, as we approached we could see there were a few people inside, setting up for their official opening next week. A drunk man in a doctor’s outfit, apparently the proprietor, opened the window and invited us in. For some reason he had a microphone (I think they were testing the in-house PA system), so everything he said was broadcast to the world: he and his wife, Nurse Tracy, had already invited a ginormous bouncer from across the street to climb in (I don’t know why we had to enter through the window; it made sense at the time), and they were about to weigh him on the giant novelty scale in the center of the resturant. If he weighed 350 pounds or more, it was free drinks for the ladies!!
Well, OF COURSE the bouncer clocked in at around 360 — so Nurse Tracy poured free shots of Jack Daniels for everyone! By “everyone,” I mean my girlfriend and I, plus Phil Connors, the fat bouncer, Nurse Tracy and the Doctor. No one else was in the place. Surreal!
Thus fortified, I noticed a pile of nurse costumes stacked up in a cart — uniforms for their waitstaff. I asked the doctor if my girlfriend and I could try them on, and he thought it was a great idea. As the Doctor ran drunken commentary over the P.A., my friend and I suited up and began to party in earnest! The restaurant has floor-to-ceiling windows, affording an awesome view of the fun to all the passing tourists and crackheads, so we kinda horsed around for awhile, putting on a show. Whenever a particularly interesting-looking crackhead passed by, the Doctor would open up the window and do a little Crackhead-on-the-Street interview…fun!
Once were suited up, the Doctor made us lie down so that everyone could do body shots out of our belly buttons. Then he found out my friend and I spoke German, so he started rambling on the microphone in German, with us berating him back in German, and beating on him with the belts from our nurse costumes. I ended up riding him around like a horse, beating him with my belt and yelling at him in German…and he really seemed to get off on it, particularly when I grabbed the mic and began snarling seductively, singing the only German song I know (“Grieschicher Wein”).
Anyhoo, this all went on until about 3:30am, astonishingly. It was like we had stumbled into some bizarre theme camp at Burning Man. But we were hungry, and the Heart Attack Grill’s kitchen wasn’t fired up yet…so we finally bid the good Herr Doktor Auf Wiedersehen and went down to the Four Queens for late-night breakfast. Yum!!! (We had to climb back out through the window, of course.)
Anyway, here are a few more pics from that astonishing night. I haven’t had that much fun in ages! The Grill is set to open for reals next Tuesday, so I already made plans with my little 18-year-old girlfriend Samantha to go there for lunch next week. I bet Herr Doktor won’t even remember me…until I hiss in his ear in German!! I’ll let you know how it goes!
PS This all goes to show, AGAIN, why I want to live downtown. Downtown Vegas is where it’s AT! You could never be bored hanging out down there……