Friday, March 28, 2008

Las Vegas 2008

This shall be a regular blog entry (first in a couple weeks) but for those who don't care to indulge my over-writing ... here's the trip in five words: "wheelchair, ATM card suspended, propositioned."

The 2008 Spring Break Trip to Las Vegas began Easter Sunday with a quick stop at the ATM for a couple hundred bucks and relatively good karma—hardly any traffic except for an asshole who weaved through the two-lane section of I-15 at 90-plus mph. In a potentially tragic sense of karma, a few miles after he passed me I saw a car flipped off the side of the road. I'm not positive it was the weaver, but I'm about 80 percent sure.

First stop: Primm, Nevada. This town just over the Nevada border has become a must-stop for me either as the I-can't-wait-to-get-to-Vegas gambling stop or the I-have-to-play-just-a-few-more-hands-before-going-home gambling stop. Coming into this trip I had never lost at Buffalo Bill's. One of the benefits to playing blackjack here while driving to Vegas is that I am often picking up someone at McCarran Airport so I have a set time allocated for gambling. Helps me have the discipline to get up from a hot table while I'm still up. Or in this case for the first time, leave a cold table before I get into too big of a hole. I lost $40 in about 40 minutes. Of course at one point I was up about $20 (after about 10 minutes) but as is always the case, money you hand back to the casino does NOT count.

Fortunately, I've gotta get to the airport so I leave, even though my wallet is magnetically drawing my hand toward my ass to grab another $20 and make back my losses. This would be virtually the only time I had enough sense to ignore my ass-magnet.

After a two-wrong-turns airport pickup and 4 p.m. stop at Wendy's for Bill and Andy to get a late lunch (I PASS ON LUNCH HAVING EATEN AT 1:30 p.m.), we get to the Stratosphere Hotel, which is located on north end of the Las Vegas Boulevard. This is kind of a dead spot on the strip far away from the Pirates of the Carribbean shit and Rock n Roll grunge tip.

We immediately get to gambling. The Strat has a few $5 blackjack tables, which are perfect for our group of two teachers and one non-profit employee. We find a table for all of us and I get $60 in chips. I start off exchanging wins and losses with the dealer.

"Cocktails?" the waitress asks.

"I'll have a Glenfiddich, neat."

"What's that?" she asks. Not a good sign.

"That's a single malt scotch," I reply.

"Yeah, we don't have that. We have Dewar's, Johnnie Walker Red," she says naming off the blended whiskeys.

"Johnnie Walker is fine," I say, just wanting to start getting my free drink on. For probably the only time on the trip, the service is prompt and I start downing these things. The only thing evaporating faster than the whiskey, which is being served as doubles practically, is my money. I was down a C-note in about 45 minutes?

Then it's off to play some Paigow Poker — this is a game of two-handed poker with seven cards. Bottom line, most bets are pushes so you can play for a long time without losing too much money even when things are going badly. Theoretically for the sober at least.

Things aren't going great with the cards here either. I am quickly at the ATM for another couple hundred. And then I settle into a routine of drinking a lot, winning and losing and still having a very Vegasy time, as far as I can remember.

The rest of this story has been told to me ...

I keep drinking and drinking getting up to about 8-9 virtually double shots of whiskey in about two hours. At one point I push all my chips to the betting circle, while wearing a goofy grin that's a combination of confused and mischievous. Bill and Andy don't know what to do with me. The dealer assures them though that she's been taking care of me by watching how I play. She was great, even changing a hand for me (back when I was sober) so that I won (with her pit boss's permission of course).

After a bit more playing Bill and Andy decide they've had enough of the Strat and want to hit some other parts of the strip further south. Bill changes my remaining chips ($75) for cash because I'm not feeling up to conducting that simple transaction. In retrospect Bill and Andy realize that this was probably a strong sign that they should have taken me up to the hotel room for the night, even though it was only like 9:30ish.

Instead Bill, who has known me since college and seen it all, assures Andy that I'll "rally" and they stuff me in a cab with them. I immediately start feeling sick in the cab. I'm not sure how sick, b/c of the blacking out I'm writing about through conveying others' story, but sick enough that I'm a puke-threat. Immediately after getting out at the Mirage (I think), they know that they gotta get me back to the hotel.

Andy immediately goes off to get another cab. Cabbie No. 2 is hesitant to put me in his cab. After some assurances from us all, including me yelling "I'm not gonna fucking puke in the cab," we get in. He also says that "if he pukes, he pays" just to be clear. Somehow I manage not to puke, but then again I hardly ever puke. Once we get back the Strat, they get me out of the cab but I collapse onto the sidewalk and I will NOT move.

Fortunately, this is Vegas. A uniformed security guard comes out with a wheelchair and they get me in. He tells Bill and Andy that they see this pretty much every night. I am taken back to the room and Bill takes off my shoes, Andy pours water on my burning up head and I am done for the night by 10:30ish.

I wake up the next morning at 7:30 pretty much fine except feeling a little cobwebby in the head and extremely dehydrated. But honestly, so less hungover than I deserve. Bill and Andy wake up briefly enough to recount the previous night's events. And express their admiration/anger at my non-hungoverness.

Day two was really tame, except that I kept getting killed at the tables, leading me to another $200 withdrawal from an ATM. That's three in two days, two of which are not in my city of residence. I get a call from my bank the next morning telling me that they've noticed irregular activity with my debit card and want to verify the transactions. I later learn that my card had been suspended until I cleared these withdrawals.

Day three was detox day. We rode the Big Shot at the top of the Stratosphere Tower. Basically, the tower has a large round observation/restaurant/thrill ride area, like the CN Tower or Space Needle. But the Strat's big antenna type thing is a four-sided tower that has the scariest ride I've ever been on. There are four seats on each side of the square. And basically they lock you into the chair, which has no bottom so your legs dangle and then rocket you up the tower so that you feel as though you'll shoot off and out into the air and then fall about 900 feet to your death. I've ridden this before so thought I remembered what to expect—the worst thing seemed to be the waiting for it all to happen.

Not so this time ... this time it was the peak of the ascent, when you feel weightless and a weird silence came over me or perhaps the ride's motor was still or something, b/c I couldn't hear anything at that instant so combined with the view of the city from 900 feet up, I felt like I was a goner for that instant. And then there was the descent which felt like I was about to become Wile E. Coyote and plummet to the Earth and flatten, only to be "caught" by the ride and shot back up to terrifying weightlessness and then descend to bone-chilling fears of flattening. After about 1 minute it's over. And I have to pry my fingers free from the steel harness.

But that wasn't the worst ride. The newer X-scream prays on the most primal of fears. In this ride, which we didn't have the balls to try utimately, you get in a fairly standard looking rollercoast type train (though shorter) and slide down a track over the edge of the Strat's upper structure. At the farthest point, you're extended well over the edge and just staring down at the street. While we were watching this and I am honestly sick to my stomach thinking about it, a guy turns to us and says that his friend who is a welder said that he'd never ride stuff like this. I'm sure his granddaughter/daugher who was riding was glad not to hear that. Her leg was already thundering in its shaking. The best part, like the Big Shot, this ride is lather, rinse, repeat.

After that we decided we needed another fixed cost, but non-sensory-overload experience and we went to Red Rock National Park. It's gorgeous, about 20 miles outside the city and a great way to have smoke-free air and escape the ambient noise, which is Las Vegas.

That night I lose another $100, but then finally win a whopping $27!! And oh yeah, one last story.

We're walking through the Excalibur (medieval themed, family friendly casino on the strip. it has a HUUUGE arcade in the basement which is filled with dad's trying to buy the giant stuffed animals from the carnival game operators) when a woman with bleached-blonde hair and dark roots about 32 and pretty approaches us (three dudes together).

"What are you guys up to tonight?" asks the woman with the huge rhinestone-encrusted beltbuckle in the shape of the letter G. That things a giveaway.

Not much we reply, just looking for a good time.

"Where are you guys from?" whether it's gangbangers in Los Angeles or an attractive woman alone approaching three dudes in a casino in Vegas, this is not a good question.

Portland and Los Angeles we answer. Bill asks her where she's from to extend the courtesy.

"I'm from Vegas."

"Well," Bill replies, "you don't ususally see a lot of locals at the Excalibur."

She raises her left arm to look at her watch, "I'm kinda on the clock."

And there's the confirmation of a prostitute. We politely decline, though wish her well. Afterward we wonder whether she's a cop. I mean why would a pro be at the Excalibur which is so family-friendly. And be soooo forward? Doesn't seem smart. Prostitution is not legal in LV, just in Nevada outside of LV. Granted it happens constantly, but still they at least pretend to be against the outright solicitation so that johns and prostitutes have to pretend to be using escort services.

So that was my trip to Vegas, more or less.

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