Sunday, November 7, 2010

Tackling the Oasis

OK folks, here we go. It's been a long time coming but here is the unabridged account of my time in Las Vegas. Hope you like the read!

Caesar's at Dawn, Manowe'en Commences!

Well, the good news is I got through customs in Nevada. The best thing to do with customs officials, especially in the US, is to automatically give them the power and the respect they're looking for. Yes sir, no sir, I understand, thank you very much sir, I promise I'll get this organized for the next visit. And so forth. Flying in literally at sunset was a hell of an entrance for me. I recommend it if you can.
I had read that cabbies can sometimes take advantage of the new people in Vegas, particularly at the airport where they can detour to the "scenic" (read: longer) route, or blatantly hustle you. So when a suited gentleman asked me if I wanted a limousine ride, I figured, hell, I didn't bring this money to look at it! $75, and a sweet ride down the strip later, I arrive at the Riviera. Just a ways off the strip, it means a cheap place to keep my stuff while I'm out. Got a text from Seb as I landed telling me to meet him at the Wynn, about a half mile away, but after showering and changing it meant a cab over for an 8pm dinner at Switch, a great restaurant where the decor changes every 15 minutes or so. Met with Seb, and some friends of his from New York City; Lisa (the birthday girl), Sabrina (an LA actress), and their friends, Kyle and Adam, two brothers. I had some amazing ahi tuna au poivre and a Rioja, although for the price I'm not sure it equates.
After dinner, we played drinking games at the friends' hotel room at Caesar's palace. Adam ended up getting too drunk to leave the room, and his brother opted to stay behind and take care of him. Therefore, Seb and I, with the two girls, headed down to the casino to play roulette. I say "we" played: I may as well have set $40 on fire, Lisa was birthday drunk, and when I came back from the bathroom, her and Seb had disappeared back to the room. Sabrina and I spent the remainder of the night (4am by this point) jumping around watching her win money on the crazy wheel game. I crashed at their room because frankly, fuck my place when theirs was that close. One gay guy, a redhead, and me in a bed.
So ends my first night in Vegas.

Morning time, and the friends were allegedly heading back to San Diego to rent a yacht for the weekend (which, given that their driver was passed out at 10.30am, made it unlikely they made their cutoff time) and Seb and I rolled back to the Riv where we met up with his friends from Kentucky, Mike and Drew. They had had a big night as well, so it was decided that the pool was our next port of call. Great pool, sunny day, not too hot, water not too cold. Cleaned that hangover away quicksharp, and after a change, went to the in-house pub for some greasy-ass food and a beer or two. Then downtime. Goldeneye on the tv. Shit yeah.

So ends my first 24 hours in Vegas.

Both Kinds of Music/ Journey to the Old World

We hit the Strip once more, looking for fun. Starting at the Cabo Wabo Cantina for beer and nachos. At one point one of the servers told us to get inside because they were pouring shots into anyone's mouth that wanted it. Sure enough, the girls were standing on the bar. Feeling the juice, we wandered further along and found an outside bar. After a time, two girls sat down next to me and on behalf of the group I started talking to them. They were pretty fun, I ordered a round of Jack (hint: do not do this in Vega$$$) and soon enough they mentioned that they were going to the Haunted House at Madame Tussaud's at the Venetian. This is the kind of night we were looking for, so for $20 apiece the 6 of us gave it a try. It was pretty damn scary at points, I did scream, but not like a girl I assure you. Let's call it a man scream. This person went hissing past me, and I totally didn't see it in the darkness. That wasn't the most embarrassing thing any of us did though; one of the girls (Jamie?) was going around grabbing the crotches of the wax models, I guess to make herself feel comfortable knowing they weren't going to jump up behind her… guess what inevitably happened? It ended with a long hallway with strobe lights and a zombie wielding a machete. I stopped dead in my tracks; strobe lights disorient me, and it was a long hallway. Put my hand one someone's shoulder and just covered my eyes (it sounds pussy but I know me).

Mike had arranged to meet up at the Flamingo with his buddy Mark, a great guy he served with in Iraq. Mark lives in Vegas now and works security for one of the big casinos, I forget which one but it has a lot of lights… Anyway, feeling kind of over the Strip, they suggested a CW bar. Yes, country and western.
A little life tip for you: If you have no plans and someone suggests to hit either a house party, gay bar, or country bar, do yourself a favour and go. I have had so much fun at these locales, and this night was no exception. Mark drove us over, and the place was fairly empty but it was a huge room. Seb tried his hand at line dancing for the first time (he slayed it) and Drew, convinced he was getting some, left us to our devices. We ended up chatting to more girls near the dance floor, and closed the place down. Then we hit a bar with mini shuffleboard (this is now around 4am) and one of the girls drove us home.

The next morning was a slow one; being Saturday, it meant that the tourists were definitely humming around so rather than hang at the hotel we went straight into New York New York, where college football was on in the sports bar. I had literally one slider burger and about 4 potato chips - I couldn't force any food down my throat. This did give us an idea for tomorrow - find a sports bar and place some bets on the football. Mike wanted to check out a shop after lunch so we cabbed back to the Miracle Mile, a shopping complex I didn't dare go in to. Fancy places, and me with money in my pocket. Back to the Riviera for our now routine nap and shower, then after a couple beers in the room, we cabbed it out to Fremont Street, also known as Old Vegas. This was more what I had in mind when I arrived here, over the top light show, and it was all covered by this huge canopy with its own lights going on. Had some dinner, a great steak sandwich at Tonico's Kitchen and a round of appletinis, and we were fortunate enough to find a 5 dollar blackjack table with 4 seats. Everyone made some money apart from Drew, so we hit the strip joint across the street! Got myself a cigar, and started talking to this girl (not a stripper) who was in town for her cousin's 21st birthday. I thought I was in. She approached me, bought us a lapdance for crying out loud. Sure enough, she wants to take me to her room but her brother is sleeping in the same room. I offer for her to come back to mine, and she declined, so I jumped in a taxi and rolled home. Got a text from Drew saying she went back to gambling with them. Ah, holiday.

Football! Or Lack thereof!

Well. The plan was to wake up at 10am to place bets on most of the NFL games. When seb came in at, in his words, "dawn", I figured that time schedule was a longshot at best. At approximately 2pm he rose from his coma and we called the other boys to organize a plan. I had seen a billboard for a place called Blondies, voted the best sports bar in the country… How could we not investigate?! Buckets of Budweiser $20, and though we didn't take advantage, every single day from 3-6 is all you can drink, again for $20. We must have been there 4 hours, during which time we asserted that panda rape, while rare, is still a possible way to die, found a mortal enemy in a Detroit Lions fan (Winning sucks! Paying the bill sucks! Everything sucks! Except Detroit!) and got talking to a sweetheart chick from Oklahoma. She ended up coming back to the hotel with us while we changed and showered. Since we had such an awesome time in Old Vegas the day before we decided to head back there. I was looking forward to the costumes on parade and the world did not disappoint. After the quickest $50 I've ever played at blackjack (that table hated us, I don't think anyone walked away up) we hit the street to get our drink on. There were some serious daiquiris in the comically huge vessels, all of which had either Everclear or overproof rum. So that's what direction the night went. I think there was a dance off. I know all of us disgusted a forty year old woman by shoeing at the bar. At some point I realized I had to organize a place to stay for Monday night. Seb flies at 7:30am, the Kentucky guys at 11:30. Oh, and I believe Mike nailed the Oklahoma girl.

Last Man Standing

So Seb missed his flight. By a lot. I was awoken with an "Oh shit…" at 9:30. I don't know about him but I was sincerely still hammered; thank God he packed the night before. He was out the door by 10am, in the hopes that he could blag a free flight… Come to think of it… yeah, he was still drunk. I took this as my cue to get down to reception and book another night (checkout is 11am). Being Monday night, it was no problem, just $85 for the luxury of not dragging my shit out of the room and sleeping on the street. Bearing in mind this was a) the most drunk/hungover I've been since I arrived in Vegas, and b) the earliest I've been awake since I arrived in Vegas, I'm stunned I did it all without incident. As soon as I got the new keys, I went straight back upstairs and rolled back into bed. Didn't even take my clothes off.

So now it's me and myself, unsure where to start in this crazy town. I think Frank Sinatra is in order for inspiration.

Final Call

Well, I was left a few chips from Caesar's Palace, so I headed over there to spend them Turned $10 into $50 on two spins of the roulette wheel, which bought me lunch and a couple souvenirs. Wandered around, saw the Bellagio fountain, although I must say it was a totally different experience to see it at night; opera music accompanied the night show, and though I can't remember the music when I saw it I did hear the Pink Panther theme at one point during the afternoon. The night show was really moving; it was a big place for couples, and I can see why.

At this point I realized how tired I was; the four days previous had taken their toll, and checkout was tomorrow so I hailed a cab back to the hotel, bought a couple of beer and watched a movie on the computer. Yeah, that's right. I essentially spent my last night in Vegas watching TV, but you know what? I don't regret it. I had seen a lot of it, and if you aren't drinking at a bar, and you don't have tickets to a show, the strip can be pretty boring. To be honest, I needed it; I haven't slept like that in weeks.

Glorious and Free

I decided to spend my last day in Las Vegas playing video poker, and as Seb left me $15 in Excalibur vouchers, it made sense to catch a cab over there. I sat at the bar, and though I spent a fair amount of money, I got to talk to Emmanuel the bartender, who had tended that bar for 20 years. He said even on a quiet 8 hour shift he'll walk with $70. Busy time, you can make over $200. But - and here's the kicker - bartenders are unionized. He makes $17 per hour. Great storyteller, good to talk to, and he helped me out with the game too. Not that I won anything but I got drunk. One last game of roulette (the table was not good to me), and a beer at Dick's, the sole reason I will stay at Excalibur next time. Example of discourse:

New Customer: It's My Birthday!

Waiter (to other customers): Hey everybody! We got fresh meat, and it's this one's birthday! Do any of you guys give a f**k?

Crowd: No!

Other highlights include the bartender throwing a pile of napkins in the air when a customer asked for more napkins, and calling me out on my "Sorry, I only have a $100 bill". I could have sat all day and got drunk, but I had killed enough time, and it was time for me to head to the airport. I fully zonked out waiting for the plane, and it was all I could do to stay awake while we were flying. If I hadn't flown into vegas at sunset as well, I would have been pissed to miss that sight.

I will never travel on my English passport again. After trouble getting into the USA, I nearly didn't get home. The girl at border patrol must have got dumped today or something because she was being really awkward. To her credit, no I didn't have my birth certificate, but who carries that around? Plus there's the fact that I have no accent of the English variety. She was all "I don't know Hamilton, how do I know it's in Ontario and not England?" Basically, it wasn't what i had the energy for after a GOD DAMN WEEK IN VEGAS! I played the panicked "what-am-i-gonna-do-now" face that tends to work in official circumstances, and fortunately she gave me the Next Time speech. Although I didn't catch what I should do next time, I know what i will do. Travel Canadian. The world likes us.