It's 2pm on Sunday, and my associate Toby and myself are sitting in legends diner. We are just about to finish when his eyes literally light up. He says, "Do you want to go to Vegas?"
I, of course owe my bank upwards of 200 dollars and only hold 14 dollars in my pocket. I say it is a bad idea. But then I remember, when has that ever stopped me from doing anything? So I quickly inform him of my financial situation. "I’ll go, but I cannot pitch in for gas, and I will probably not be able to eat or drink. But I’ll go. Oh, and I haven't showered since Friday, so I’ll need to go home and do that too."
He seems mildly disgusted, yet excited that he has a partner for debauchery, especially a well documented lush like myself who has never been to Vegas. So I go home, shower, borrow another 100 bucks from my brother and we head out. I have a jack and coke in a legends cup (which is a boytos jack N coke i.e. half and half) as well as a vodka/cranberry, which is significantly stronger because I plan on drinking it second, which means my taste buds will be essentially useless.
By the time we hit Barstow, I'm pretty sauced having consumed both.
We get to this truck stop right about then, and enter the circle K to purchase beer. We buy 1 can of sparks, 2 tall cans of icehouse, and an 18 pack of natty light. The woman takes an extreme close-up of his ID, saying she recognizes him. When it is my turn to buy, she takes an even closer look at mine... I do what I normally do, as my drivers license picture is one of me almost 3 years ago, and I am substantially heavier in the picture, I take of my glasses and touch my nose to my chest to get the double-roll chin effect, and she smiles.
"No, it looks like you, don't worry. I just recognize you both. You ever been in here before?"
Both of us reply in the negative.
"Hm. I must have had a dream about you two. You believe in premonitions?"
Then I half-drunkenly blurt out "wow. Crazy. No. we gotta go." and we speed walk out of the store like to kids who broke a window- arms straight down and stiff, eyes forward and slightly below the horizon no talking and short, quick footsteps. We round the corner and Toby says he needs another shower because the toothless lady from the asshole of California recognizes him from a dream, I agree and light a cigarette.
We roll into Vegas around 730 and by this time I have to pee a lot. I had both the drinks I mentioned, plus a 32 oz Gatorade and a dr. pepper. We power walk through the casino to get to the room that our friends Robyn, lance, melee and Ramil have, which is on the complete other side of the property, a nice walk, unless you're carrying several gallons of beer and have the feeling that with each step your bladder tears a little bit more.
When we get to the room, we can hear screams and other sounds of hi-jinx through the door. We have to knock twice before we are let in by lance who has stepped over Ramil and Robyn, who are wrestling over the bathroom. Toby, being somewhat of a jerk, but undoubtedly in a similar situation as me, runs into the bathroom and closes the door. I do the pee pee dance while exchanging salutations with the residents of the room and cracking the tall can of icehouse.
As Toby exits the head with the 18 of natty light, I can see that my instincts were correct, and he too was holding an open beer. It’s 745pm; I’m half drunk, and just getting started. The night was young and it was my first trip to Vegas.
Las Vegas has for long been the object of much drama and heartbreak, as fortunes are won and lost in seconds, and lives are just as easily made and destroyed in the same span of time. As we sat on the two beds drinking cheap domestic beer and watching 60 minutes, I began to wonder if the 4 hour drive was worth it, after all had we stayed home, we could have consumed the same beer and watched a better TV program. It was then that I looked outside and saw the MGM and Excalibur hotel/casinos. It was then when my question was answered...
This place is a hole dug to be filled with booze and souls, and tonight, mine would be added to the take.
So there we sit in the hotel room at the Tropicana, like all good college students: with the sole intent of getting drunk and then going out to drink more. Toby is sitting at the hotel room's table/desk, which is rapidly becoming cluttered with empties, lance is lounging on the bed and I am sitting on the edge of the other one. I have now lost count of how many I have had, which is always a good sign. Toby as well has no idea. Lance knows damn straight, and we are well aware of his problem, his count is "almost 2."
This is most upsetting for Toby and me, so we give him another beer, but lance just puts it on the bed stand. "I don't want to get too drunk, I want to gamble seriously." me and Toby both finish our beers as Ramil walks out of the bathroom and gets another bud light from the cooler. The room is silent until I exclaim, "lance. This is fucking Vegas. If you don't start drinking heavily with no regard for money or personal safety, we're going to have a problem."
Defiantly, he sits on the bed and sips his natural light. I get up, walk across the room, place my empty on the table with the others and, like some type of intoxicated feral cat leap onto the bed at lance's "Hong Kong" feet. (Hong Kong is a reference dubbed by Melissa later in the evening due to the fact that lance's feet smelled like a Hong Kong sewer. I cannot speak to the accuracy of this statement, only to its comedic value)
Lance struggles when he realizes what is happening, and I feel the need to explain why I am attempting to get control of him from the knee down. "Lance, I’m going to tickle you if you don't start drinking! TOBY! Grab his legs. RAMIL, HELP us..." it was at this very point when it happened. Toby could not gain control of lance's left leg.
All I remember is hearing a crunch before the room went dark, and when I opened my eyes I was on the floor with my back up against the night stand and Ramil was trying not to laugh as he held a can of beer to my swelling skull. Toby, unsuccessful in his attempt at controlling his laughter at his fallen comrade was curled in the fetal position on the end of the bed, and lance was holding his shin, writhing in pain in an attempt to steal attention from my throbbing forehead.
The ladies come out of the bathroom; Robyn is quite drunk and is wearing her swimsuit bottoms and a shirt. I am very confused, because they are flesh colored, and I think she is naked, which made me think I was hallucinating. I motioned for Ramil to look, however I was not as suave as I thought, and Robyn turns to me. "They’re fuckin' swimsuit bottoms. Quit staring, if this were the beach you'd get beat up." she can't keep a straight face even when pretending to be mad. I motioned for her to toss me another beer, and she flipped me off. I thought that would happen, so I got my own and another for Toby.
After another 20 minutes of drinking, we head out of the hotel room. Ramil is going to dinner with his relatives, and we needed to get melee as drunk as we were. So naturally, we went down to the hotel bar in the lobby. 2 hours of solid drinking and we somehow think it is a great idea to go to the bar. Toby and I each carried 2 natty lights in our pockets while holding a third, lance was empty handed, and the girls each clutched their purses. I was not walking very well, so I decided to strut, which I was very adept at. But it made me slow, and I missed the elevator.
By the time I got to the bar, they all had 2 drinks in front of them. I lit a cigarette and began to pray, "lord. Don’t let me get blackout drunk and marry some random lady."
Then I ordered a beer. 925 pm. 5 kids. Drunk and getting drunker in the city of lights. The city of sin. The strip. Las Vegas. 930 pm and no last call... ever.
I lit another camel and sipped my Newcastle. I love Vegas.
After two or three drinks at the bar, and two or three more cigarettes, the group decided it was time to leave. Before we left, the bartender made some awkward comments with respect to the ladies we were drinking with, something to the effect of "two to one huh?" referring to the ratio of men to women, "these ladies must be some dynamos..."
I was appalled, but at the same time drunk, so I attempted to execute a hi-5, but ended up accidentally pressing the "max bet" button on the video poker machine I was playing, so I had to abort the male bonding in order to concentrate on the seven dollars that I had inadvertently bet. I lost the money, but only because I was nervously laughing at Alex's (the bartender) awkward comment, which apparently only I heard, because when I made the shifty eyes at Toby, he just drunkenly motioned for me to "hurry the fuck up we're leaving." Which is a signal surprisingly dissimilar to “come on” and in fact is more like the delta force hand signal for “look behind you.”
So we were off. Leaving the bar, walking past the in house wedding chapel, through the casino-mall which was full of the shiniest products which made my ADD, which was magnified by keystone light and sparks, go absolutely bonkers. It took us 20 minutes to walk thirty yards, and then we hit the streets of Vegas. At this point, the world looked like a photograph with an open lens, the lights were not lights, but strings and streaks of sensory information, which my mind could not process. I remember staring down at my empty beer can, and then my feet.
I kept thinking, "just be regular. You got it, keep up with everyone. Don’t get lost, you don't have a room key or know where you are. You don't know where you are going to sleep. Is that Robyn’s ass? Oh. Shit. No it isn't. Who is that? Shit. Shit. Just keep walking. They will find you."
We walked around on some tiled sidewalks, up an escalator, which I thought was strange because I had never seen an outdoor escalator. We were walking over the strip, lots of cars, all with their streaking headlights and faceless drivers. And all of a sudden we were standing in front of a hotdog stand. Melissa hadn't eaten since lunch and she was hungry. Apparently she was pulling me around because I was in drunken campout mode and did not want to move, and she wanted to make sure I did not get lost. The man who was helping us was wearing a nametag; it read "Oscar." I spoke quickly, and kept my teeth clenched. Oscar could not know that I was drunk; I forgot I was in Vegas, everyone here is drunk. Nevertheless, I spoke directly and honestly.
"Oscar! This lady needs a hotdog. She has been to the original Nathan’s. She was born there. She has a credit card. Oscar! Did you get that?" Oscar got it. He smiled and traded her the hotdog for her credit card. They did the whole: id, sign here, here is your copy, come again bit and we traveled the four feet to the bench where Robyn lance and Toby had been waiting for us, she sat down with them and ate.
Her face was very very red; almost purple, although closer to cardinal. It is the Asian glow in full and dangerous effect. Robyn wants to go into the club, but she is vetoed. Toby and I verbally agree that "it's a fuckin' old tourist club. Look at that cowboy hatted guy!"
The cowboy-hatted guy did not appreciate our commentary. We non-verbally agreed that it was in our best interest to vacate the area with quickness. After a couple hallways and indoor escalators we were on the casino floor. And melee was gone.
Quite confused, I sat down at some bizarre video poker type game and put in five dollars.
Now I am quite skilled at computers. I am even better suited to card games of all sorts. One would think that this computerized card game would offer little or no resistance. One would have thought wrong. I’ve been clueless before, usually when waking up in strange places, but that does not cost me any money. THIS video poker machine was the most insanely impossible thing to work that I had ever experienced. I pushed the buttons I thought I needed to push, and nothing happens. I touched the screen. I pushed the buttons that were not blinking, the blinking ones, and the ones on the unoccupied machine to my left... nothing. Absolutely nothing. Sometimes cards would disappear, other times they would stay; some still would be replaced with other cards.
Confused I asked another Vegas hick "sir, what the fuck IS this game"
He lied. "I don't know son."
Fucker. Drunkenly I pushed more buttons until I had had enough of the bullshit, and pushed cash out. Turns out I had won ten bucks. Vegas was treating me well. Very well. Except melee was still MIA and so was everyone else. A phone call revealed that they too, were looking for melee. I suggested the bathroom, and waited near what I thought was the entrance, but it was not, so when melee was done throwing up the hotdog she had just ate and the long island iced teas she pounded before hand on an empty stomach, they found me and we headed back upstairs.
We were now in New York New York. One hotel over from where we just were. Yet Oscar was still at the hotdog stand. All of a sudden, I was very hungry... famished even. I called out to my old friend. "Oscar!" he ignored me, but I thought he just couldn't hear me. "OSCAR! I need a hotdog! I have cash! CASH, MAN!" we completed the transaction successfully; I believe I tipped him a dollar. After all, I was up ten whole bucks.
After the Nathan’s hotdog, I re-met up with the group on yet another bench. On the way, I pulled a genuinely Boytosish maneuver. I ran into a mall employee and somehow started talking to her, proceeding to tell her everything but the truth. "Yeah, you know, me and the red one used to date, but now she's dating the one with the Mohawk."
"Oh yeah. Now I’m with her best friend, the Filipino one in the brown shirt. We’re getting married this summer."
"Oh? I’m Filipino. Does she speak Tagalog?"
"Only to her grandparents back in the Philippines."
"Aw, well she's pretty. Tell her this. [Inarticulate Tagalog]"
I go over to Robyn and attempt to repeat whatever the lady said, but I failed miserably. I went back to her. "She loved it, thanks for the help! Can I have a picture with you? It would make my night."
"Of course sweetie."
And of course, while lance is snapping the picture, melee needs to hurl again, so her and Robyn take off, and the guys slowly follow back downstairs. On our way we make sure to take note of all the tables we walk past. That is where we need to go, that is where the free drinks are served, and this is where las vegas’ soul is.
This is where the gamblers feel alive. This is where alcoholics sit to get their fix for free. This is the only place for people like me, we can smoke inside. As we walked past the clinging slot machines and tried to locate the bathroom, I could feel myself being pulled towards the action, towards the money, towards the dream. But after all, my fake fiancé and fake ex-girlfriend were in the bathroom.
Melee finds her way out of the bathroom, and at this point we are standing around Toby who is playing blackjack. Our plan is to win money, or lose an amount equal to the estimated cost of the drinks, which we are consuming gratis while we play. I sit in first position at the blackjack table, which is right next to the dealer whose name is grace. She is nice.
I play "according to the book" betting the minimum and conservatively. I order my first drink from the waitress, which is free, so I go for broke. I order "as much whiskey as is legal to put in a glass" and give her a two dollar tip before she leaves. I am still quite drunk and so is Toby, who orders something. Maybe a rum and coke, I don't remember. By the time the waitress comes back with a triple shot of Jamison’s I have lost the twenty dollars I bought in with. I thank her, swirl the whiskey in the glass as if it were wine, waft it into my nose, raise it to the waitress, the dealer and I ask her, "Grace, do you like your job?"
"Yes sir I do."
"Are you having fun, or are you just working?"
"Grace, as I’m sure you're well aware, this is Vegas. If you're not having fun, something is wrong." the pit boss begins to wander over to the table, having undoubtedly heard my loud and slurring accusation. He stands immediately to my right. I wink at him and turn back to grace.
"Grace, let's have some fun." and I slam the triple back and down without tasting it. I place it down, and pompously ask the pit boss if he'd get me another one when he got the chance. I quickly laugh to diffuse what might have been anger and reach for my wallet. He walks back to his podium.
I buy in for a measly 40 dollars and bet 10. Blackjack. I cheer grace for hooking me up with good cards.
"You’re awesome grace"
"Thank you sir."
"Sir? Come on grace, you carded me 10 minutes ago, and now you call me sir?"
"I’m sorry sir."
"SEE? There you go again. Call me Greg. Sounds like grace, except for one syllable"
Grace laughs and deals me a 12. She is showing a 10. If you know anything about blackjack, you know I’m essentially fucked. Unless you play poker, are drunk and have no clue what is happening except that you have a stack of clay discs in front of you and two cards. "DOUBLE DOWN!"
"Sir? I mean, Greg, are you sure?" I’m laughing a bit at this point. Toby elbows me
"Dude, just hit."
"ABSOLUTELY NOT." I move the chips into the double down area. "Double down grace"
Six. I have 18, not bad, but it is nothing against the 20 that the dealer likely has. She flips her card, it's a 7. Money.
Few hands later I get another blackjack and start cheering and clapping, this, again causes concern in the pit boss who stands next to me again. I am betting twenty dollars a hand at this point and I have just about a hundred bucks. The waitress comes by and hands me another triple whiskey.
"Thanks, but I don't remember ordering this."
"Oh. It was taken care of."
"Do I just look like a lush? Or did you have a feeling?"
She nods over my head. "He called it into the bar." I turn to the pit boss, my face is getting warm, a rare feeling but for when I am embarrassed. I look down at his shoes.
"Thanks a lot mister. I really was only kidding with you."
"I know. You’re having fun that makes my job easier. Enjoy the crown." ritzy, this guy ordered me a triple crown. I didn't enjoy it; it just tasted like water that burned. I turn back to the table, and they're waiting on me. I got a 14 and the dealer is showing a 2. I ask the pit boss "what does the book recommend?" he smiles at me.
"I think you forgot how to read about three drinks ago my friend." a wry smile forms on his face.
"You’re right Ted." I have no clue what his name was. "You are very correct. DOUBLE DOWN!" I refuse to be one-upped. This time however, Toby was joined by Melissa Robyn and lance in his quest to get me to not double down. I laughed it off.
"Okay, fine, just hit me grace." 7
Seven. I may be drunk, but I am thinking that my advisors are just shitty. I tip grace 5 bucks. And the pit boss slaps me on the back for being such a crazy/lucky bastard. I am betting thirty dollars a hand. The very next hand, I am dealt the cut card, which is bad luck. But then I get an 11, which, apparently is what you're supposed to double down on. "Grace, can I triple down?"
"Oh. I guess a double will do fine then." 7. Boom. I am almost invincible at this game. She busts, and I win sixty bucks. I am more excited than I have ever been at a casino, and drunker than I have been in recent memory. Well, that week anyway. I scream.
"Woooo oh YEAH grace! You are so the best person right now! HI 5!!" and I hold my hand up in an obvious invitation for a hand slap.
Grace makes a fist and offers a "dap." I respond in kind thus knocking fists like I just hit a homerun.
"Grace, I had no idea you were from the streets." she didn't get the joke, but lance knew it was time. Lance is sober, so when he says "color up, let's go!" I knew it was time to stand up.
However, lance promptly had to pee, so I was left with drunken Toby, who is like-minded. I see a let it ride table, which I am quite fond of (the Bruce lee morongologs story). I sit down, and lose 60 bucks as fast as anyone can lose 60 bucks at that game. I only have two hundred left, and I am pulled to the craps table.
I don't know how to play craps. I’m standing next to Melissa. She apparently knows craps. I lost count of the number of times I said, "Melee, what's going on. No really. What’s happening? Did I win money? Can I pick up those chips?"
I remember meeting a couple old guys who were from Ireland, and saying I was from Ireland and faked an accent. I remember when my second shot came to the craps table, I saw the waitress' nametag, she was from long island, and I said I was from New York. The old man asked me, "I thought you were from Ireland."
"Well, I was born there, county tearnin, but I grew up in Manhattan."
The waitress was uncomfortable, snatched the tip I was holding out and walked away quickly, before I could order another.
The dealer then checked my i.d. because if the tattoos and facial hair and cigarettes didn't suggest that I might be of age, the extreme intoxication might clue him in. I think he just wanted to see where I was really from. I think this because my California i.d. is not from New York or Ireland, and when he saw it he said "Ontario huh?"
I smelled the suspicion. I did what I do best in general, and what I should be extolled for while drunk: I lied. "Yeah, I go to school out here, my parents still live back east."
And that was that, but I was picking up craps rapidly.
And then the man across the table was the shooter. It was sometime after my fourth shot at the craps table. I was using the table to keep myself from falling, and the dealer kept warning me "don't spill that drink on the table." and "keep that drink on the rail or else son," which caused me to shoot them quickly, because the rail is a bad place for a drink, and I don't know why, but at the time it made sense.
But the guy was holding the dice, and he was about sixty years old, and Asian. He was bald too, and when he reached down to pick up the dice I noticed his comb over. It was bad. And not just bad because it was a comb over and that shit always looks horrible, but it looked bad for a comb over, which is definitely saying something. It looked like four fingers draped lazily over his bald scalp, and my filter had been soaked to the point where I was saying exactly what I thought.
I elbowed the guy next to me, the one from Ireland, and said "Jesus, check out dr. comb over with the dice."
The man did not laugh. He just looked at me. I stood up straight to spare myself some pride and noticed a particular shine glinting from beneath his comb over, and that is when things went bad.
I had the rest of my two hundred dollars spread across the board when dr. comb over crapped out. All my money, shit gone. All I had was the twenty-five dollar chip that Robyn made me put in her purse for "drunk insurance." good call Robyn. Because I needed that shit. I put it on the pass line, which is just about the smartest bet in the house, the best odds out of every table game in the casino.
Sparing you all the complicatedness of craps, I needed a 9 to win my money. I was chanting, "nine! Nine! Nine!" and some people were getting into it with me. Then I thought I’d be funny, knowing that a die only has six sides, I began chanting "seven and a two! Seven and a two!" and when I said it the second time, the man rolled a 7, and crapped out. I was now broke, and everyone at the table lost.
The guy next to me, who had been visibly brooding since the dr. comb over comment turns to me, as if it were my fault, and says "why the fuck were you yelling that? What the fuck is your problem?"
Such instant hostility made me jumpy and jarred my ability to diffuse situations. I stared at him blankly and realized that he was very mad. This made me mad, because, well, I was drunk and this person was sending very negative vibes directly at me from point blank rage, and this upsets me.
Apparently we were yelling so lance stepped in again, although this time more assertively. He pushed me back about four feet from the table, which left me standing at the security desk and blathering to the guards trying to explain to them what happened, but just as I got there and started talking, I saw lance with his mohawk in this old man's face and the way lance's neck moved made him look like a rooster, so I laughed, a lot.
I laughed so hard that I could not hear what anyone was saying. When I finally got control of myself, I hear the man chastising lance.
"Look at what happened to your hair!" I have no clue how the argument ended up as a cosmetic attack on my friend, but he was sober, and is always sharp. He stepped back, pointed to the top of the old man's head, where his comb over had been displaced during the yelling match and said "MY hair? Look at what happened to yours."
It was at this very moment that melee, who was sober pulled lance's arm to get us out of the trouble.
We had made it half a block and spent nearly one hundred dollars each, ignoring winnings that were lost of course. One of us (Ramil) was missing as we had forgot that he went out to eat with family, I was paranoid that security were going to chase me at the behest of the fake-Mick, and that I would be arrested.
It was now midnight, hour 4 of my Vegas experience, I was blind drunk and being pulled up escalators, across bridges, up and down escalators, past bars and gambling tables, all while begging to take a piss, but this would not happen until I got back to the room.
If this was Vegas, I fuckin' loved it.