I had a nine AM flight on Monday. We got the airport at six-thirty, because my father is fucking insane. He insists on being early for everything. Including things that you really don’t want to be early for, like nine AM flights. I like to be on time, not early. Not late. On time. So we have all this time to kill. My mother is on antibiotics for an infected tooth, and she has to have something to eat. We wander the airport and finally land at the TGI Fridays. Apparently the airport doesn’t put up with a bunch of crap on the walls, so we decided to give it a shot.
I didn’t know that Fridays did breakfast. Half-way through, I began to suspect that I was right all along. The OJ never came. Coffee refills never came. I decided to try the “croissant baked apple French Toast”, figuring that anything covered in maple syrup can’t be that bad.
It bore absolutely no resemblance to french toast at all. It wasn’t toasted. It wasn’t particularly French. I don’t think there were any eggs involved. It sucked. I left a 10% tip because I didn’t want to get arrested before I made it to Vegas.
The plane ride was something. The plane on the way out to Vegas is always a riot. The plane ride back is always solemn and quiet. This one was the typical riot. There was a bachelor party on the plane. “How many of you guys? Seventeen, you say? Greeeeeeeat.” They spent the entire time drinking Miller Light and then returning it in the privy.
We hit the ground on time, and then went to wait on our baggage. And wait. And laugh at the bachelor party. And wait some more. And wait 30 minutes. And wait 45 minutes. And wait an hour. Finally we got our luggage.
Half of the luggage was torn up and ripped to hell. Luckily, ours was in the intact half. We went outside to find the shuttle to Alamo, where we rented our car.
I hate Alamo now. I think that is called “foreshadowing”. Foreshadowing, specifically, of how much this experience sucks. Alamo and National apparently merged some time ago. There was a shuttle already waiting. Because there were about thirty people trying to get on. They filled that one up, and there was another one right behind it. And it also filled up. This was my concern, dude. Because all these people on the shuttle in front of me were going to be in front of me at the counter.
We get there, and sure enough, I was right. I’m not going to be a driver, because my license expired back at the end of August and I haven’t been able to get away from the office long enough to renew it. I literally left work Sunday and went to pack. (More on that later too.) I was going to pay for the car, and had arranged it through Priceline and paid for it, but my father was going to be the driver. That was the deal.
Oh, this caused much consternation. “You have to be a driver if it is going to go on your card.” I don’t have a driver’s license. I just want to pay for the car. “You can’t do that.” Why? “Because.” I’m signing for the car. I’m just not driving. “He has to have a credit card to put it on.” He isn’t paying for it. I’m paying for it. “You can’t do that.” Look, I’ve already paid for the fucking car, and you are going to give it to me. “No, we aren’t. And we don’t get paid until we give you the car.” I don’t fucking care when you get paid, I’ve already turned the money over. That is between you and Priceline. I’ve already been charged, and I am going to get a car, and he isn’t going to pay for a car that I’ve already paid for. Finally, my father decides to try on his card anyway. He doesn’t have enough open credit on it for the car, but we don’t have anything more to lose. It goes through. When superbitch that I argued with leaves, counter-guy says, “it only has to put like a $2 hold on it.” If you had told me that to start with we never would have had this ordeal!
We landed at about 9:45 local. It was one in the afternoon at this point. Since I wasn’t able to force down the baked turd that they served at Fridays, I was ready to eat. As in, a side of beef. We decide to head out and find a buffet. We hit the strip. I haven’t seen the The Venetian, so we go there. They have easy parking. After all, a place like the Venetian has got to have a nice buffet, right? Wrong.
I appreciate that they are trying to recreate the feeling of Venice. Does that mean you have to make the entire place one big winding dead end unintelligible maze where none of the signs make any sense? I think after the fact that they don’t even have a buffet. Apparently, they wanted to make sure that they deliberately wasted my time so I never spend a dime there.
“Look. We are right beside Harrah’s. They are going to have a buffet. And when we walk in, there will be a big sign that says “Buffet” with an arrow. In English.” We head towards the strip. And we hit the maze outside the Venetian Asylum. Apparently, you need a helicopter get out of the damned place. We finally just walk on the street and get over to Harrah’s.
There is a big sign as soon as we walk in that has arrows pointing to everything, including an entry that says “Buffet”. In English. We walk over to the buffet, go in, and gorge. I actually embarrassed myself. I don’t even remember what I ate. I ate a bunch of pasta. (Suck that, Venetian!) I ate a bunch of ham and flautas. I recall that banana pudding was involved. I recall being a bloated mess afterwards.
We decided to go check in. Against my advice, my father booked the Stratosphere. I wanted to stay at the Golden Nugget or the Riviera. I had stayed at both fine gaming resorts, and had been impressed with both the facility and the staff. I had also been through the Stratosphere, and was very unimpressed. The Stratosphere had one huge advantage to my father, however — it was about $10 cheaper a head over the Riviera, and about $30 cheaper a head over the Nugget. Goddamnit.
We were sharing a room. (If I met anyone out there, I can get another room.) The room smelled like ass. It smelled like a crackhead. I’m not exaggerating. It smelled like the crackheads that I had seen. We thought that maybe someone had taken a big dump in the bathroom and we decided to just cover it later, and not worry about Bad Experience Number 5. We go over the Riviera.
Things started to look up here. I got to sit down at a table. I began imbibing. I began playing Blackjack. And played more. And more. I played about 3 hours, and stayed even. That was real unusual. I think I got up about $30 ahead, because it was getting dark, and my folks wanted to go downtown to see Fremont. I like the Nugget, so I went along. I don’t care where they play their nickel slots up and down Fremont. I was going to pull up a table at the Nugget and keep gambling and drinking. It was actually starting to feel like a vacation and not penance.
I played about another three hours at the Nugget. I ended up about $180 down, including the $30 in winnings I took along. This was not, however, much of a downer. See, I’ve gone and been hammered for $200 in an hour before at the Blackjack table. I go to Vegas with the right mind set — as soon as I put the chips on that logo, that money is spent. That is my fee for sitting there and drinking the booze and playing the cards. If they decide to give me that money back, terrific. I figured that I had managed to rent six hours of entertainment for $180 bucks. That’s only $30 an hour. Paintball costs me more than that sometimes.
I looked at Fremont. We walked around some. We were tired, having gotten up at 050myGod that morning. (See “insane father” above.) We went back to the room. Bathroom still smells like ass. I observe what looks suspiciously like a pipe burn on the floor. My mother calls housekeeping, while my father and I decide to go hunt up some food.
What do you want at 11pm in Vegas? Steak and eggs, baby. The joint in the Stratosphere is Lucky’s. The special starts at midnight. I want to eat now. We can’t find the McDonalds in the Stratosphere. (We found it later.) We decide to take a venture into Crackland and walk the two blocks past the Denny’s to Taco Mexicano. The tacos are small, but they are only $.75 a pop. I order two al carbone and two carnitas. Apparently, that translates to “tres al carbone y tres carnitas.” I was too tired to worry about it. The tacos were excellent. The red and green sauces were both excellent. I highly recommend Taco Mexicano on the end of the Strip in Vegas. The serve Anglos, so I guess they’ll serve Negros as well. (The Gallaga game stole my quarter. I don’t think that rises to the level of Bad Experience, though.)
We get back to the room. Housekeeping has tossed the bathroom smell to plumbing. Plumbing assures us that he replaced the toilet flange three days earlier, so it must be the shower drain. He pours some disinfectant and deodorant down it, and we decide to go to sleep. Blissful sleep. Four bad experiences, but I enjoyed the buffet, the time at the tables, and the tacos. I slept good.
Disinfectant and deodorant show negative function. Still a crackhouse. We call the front desk and get a room. Mooooving time!
This day has got to go up from here. We go downtown for breakfast. We saw that the Fremont had a $6 breakfast buffet, and I recalled the Fremont as having a really nice Champagne brunch last time I was out. Of course, that was two years ago, but I wasn’t going to let anything like reason come between me and the potential for a good meal. It was a good buffet — at $6, it was an entertainment value. That was going to be our watchword for the day, entertainment value. We walked around downtown a while. It is a totally different experience at ten in the morning.
We went back to the Strip. We stopped at the room. At this point, I’ve had three dealers recommend The Top of the World as the place to eat in Vegas. It’s about 10:30 Tuesday. I figure that getting reservations will be no problem for that night, and we can see the Amazing Jonathan at 10. “I’m sorry, sir, we don’t have anything open at seven. We can fit your party in at 10:30.” Nope, gotta show to see, and I might have to leave early tomorrow. I call Kristophers over at the Riv. I had always wanted to try it, and never did. Reservations were no problem.
We walked a few casinos: Bally’s, the Flamingo, the usual. We walked around in Caesar’s Forum. We went back to the Riv. I went to Nickeltown at my parent’s insistence and got my free wooden nickel. A wooden nickel is good for a draft beer or a margarita. Great! Gimme a margarita on the rocks. Oooh, just frozen ones. I look behind the counter. There’s a Bud tap, a Bud Light tap, and an AmberBock tap. A boch! Beer that only slightly resembles sour water! Gimme an AmberBock!
Only Bud and Bud light? . . . I’ll keep the wooden nickel.
I started playing Blackjack again. I had had enough liquor at this point, and I kinda wish I had gotten the AmberBock. I’ve been trying to get a Shiner Bock the whole time I had been in Vegas. I finally broke down and ordered… a Sam Adams. It was acceptable. And I was on. Pop wasn’t. He lost about $20 in nickels. I took my $30 that I still had from my first $200 stake… and built it up to about $350. I was ahead! I played four hours and came out on top. I talked to the pit boss. I hadn’t gotten a player’s card (expired license, no time, yada yada) but I was planning to get The Amazing Jonathan and wanted to know if he could help me out any. (After all, I had been playing four hours at a $10 table, betting progressive.) He told me that it was a premium show, meaning that they didn’t own the show — AJ did. If it was Splash or Crazy Girls, he would be glad to do something, but since it would cost the casino cash to comp it, he couldn’t help me. I figured that was OK. All I was really wanting was a VIP upgrade, but it all worked out.
It turned out that all a VIP upgrade took was another $10 a head. NO problem! I’m up! Kristophers at seven, getting seated at AJ’s show at Nine fifteen. It’s turning into a night. I came back, and as I did, I passed three MP’s standing around, guarding the National Guard Convention brass. I get an inspiration. I go back to the pit boss. I want three drink tickets. By the time I get his attention (he was on the phone) they have walked on down the hall. Damn. If you are in the service and you meet me, I owe three serviceman drinks. Let me know. We killed some time walking around Bally’s some and checking out the Strip in general, and show up back at the Riv at six thirty or so. (Father: insane.) I sit at the table for the half hour, and lose about $10. I probably spent two times that in tips.
We go to Kristophers. Everything was fantastic. The chef’s special was a bone-in New York Strip, with salad and Bon Bons for desert. Pop and I had that, and my mother had the fish. (I’m not sure how it works out like that, but it has to be something hardwired into the sexes.) Everything was amazing. I remember ever. Single. Bite. Of that steak. I’ve eaten at World Class Steakhouses, and this was certainly in the same class. It was possibly the best steak I’ve ever had. My father was actually picking up the bone and knawing on it in the middle of the restaurant.
Desert was a spectacle. At this point, I had a whiskey sour at the table, and a very, very nice house Merlot with the steak. I’m feeling good. The bon bons are served thus: a small… challis? is brought out. Liquid nitrogen is poured in. Smoke pours all over the table. A dish of bon bons is set on top. Pop and I both ordered the special, so I am expecting two orders. There are three bon bons in there, with those little plastic swords thrust through them. I decide that one way or the other, we are going to have some more, because they were good, and I am feeling too good to give it up. You go to Vegas to do things too much.
See, I had a revelation there at that meal. This is what it is all about. All the shit we put up with in life, the job, the hassles, the mundanity of everyday life, the bills, the lawnmowing, the laundry, all of that — we are passing time and earning up for that moment. For the moment where you are drinking Merlot and eating a fantastic steak 1200 miles from home and dining on bon bons sitting on liquid nitrogen and waiting to go see an psychotic magician. That is what life is all about. I’m at work right now, working towards that next moment.
I call the waiter. He explains that it is one bon-bon per person normally. Apparently, he went ahead and comped up one for mom. “Bring us another order! We shall dine on more bon bons slain by tiny pirates! And we shall continue until we have been sated!” The waiter laughs and brings us more. The bill was very reasonable. I was expecting a $180 bill for the three of us. It was only $120. I was astonished. I figured that I owed them at least $180, so I left a tip that you can only expect from a drunken Texan dining on Merlot and bon bons slain by tiny pirates. I stuck the swords behind my ears and ambled toward the bar to wait on the show.
We were looking for a lounge. The Riv converted their lounge into a show, so we mosied down to the Stardust. We went to the lounge there, waited 15 minutes, and didn’t get any service. We went back to the bar at the Riv. I have a Martini. Pop decides it is time to ignore his slight cirrhosis (not from drinking — a blood disorder) and have his fling that his doctor told him he can get away with once or twice a year. He has a screwdriver. As he is drinking it, he sees a giant Crazy Girls mug/tumbler with bas relief butts on it, and he asks the guy how much. “$10.” Let’s have one! He hands it over. Well what good is it without it being full of screwdriver? He fills it up for another $5. It has to be about three drinks worth. I follow my martini with a White Russian (in honor of the Dude) and we amble down to the show.
Jonathan was Jonathan. If you haven’t seen the show, seek it out. Psychic Tanya was delightful as usual. (Marvelous cleavage, too.) We were on the front row. We were there 45 minutes early, so that translated to a SoCo. The bartender mixed it with Coke (God knows why — I said “neat”. Apparently he thinks that means “Coke with no ice.”) I drink it anyway. I finish it early. I follow it up with a rum and coke. I am feeling quite delightful at this point. The show starts. I know better than to get up in the middle of the show, so I guess six drinking in four hours will have to hold me.
Front row was great. I got the “Do you have a handkerchief, sir?” line. In response, I dig my finger about three knuckles in and flick it at him. He breaks character and chuckles a bit — or was it breaking character? I realize a couple of minutes later that I bloodied my nose doing it. My blood being the consistency of rubbing alcohol might have something to do with it. I guess if you are going to be bloody from a magic show, it will probably be the Amazing Jonathan’s show.
When the show is over, I’m still feeling that beef from Kristophers. I buy what Tanya calls “the bad words shirt” (it says “FUCK YEAH!!!” on the front) and get AJ to sign it. Pop buys a DVD. Tanya’s performance shouldn’t be overlooked — she turns a 20 minute act into an hour and half headline show. I go back and sleep off the booze and cow.
This is the day of reckoning. I’ve known from the start that I may end up having to come back on day three of four for work. I don’t have to get the final word until noon or so, so I take a gamble. (Get it?) We decide to go get breakfast at the Aladdin, because I’ve never been there. We check out the buffet: $13. Better be a damned good buffet at $13 for breakfast.
It was. I gorged again. We seem to be eating twice a day in massive meals. I had eggs benedict, which would normally cost me $9 a IHOP, so I guess it all works out. I ate about five eggs. We do some shopping. I buy a color changing T-Shirt at the Endangered Species store. Normally, I would have a moral objection to shopping at a hippie joint like that, but they were closing down, it was 50% off, and it featured iguanas drinking beer at a Tiki bar. I also went to the Discovery Channel Store and bought some noise canceling earphones for the plane ride home.
We head back to the Stratosphere to use our free tower admission. I’m normally only slightly acrophobia, but jeez Louise, that place gave me vertigo whenever I got near the glass. The view was astounding, as long as I was sitting down or leaning on something. There is no way I am getting on one of those rides, though. I took a whiz at 1100 feet. I am proud of that.
We walked the shops there at the Stratosphere. I bought a hat for my brother. There was a sheepskin shop there with a giant eagle spread that my pop wanted. It was a steal at two bills, but I had dropped all that on dinner and a show the night before. I did end up buying a pair of Alpaca sweaters, one for me and one for mom. That was only $100. I went ahead and did it because my mother has an Alpaca sweater that dates to the 60s, and it is damned indestructible. My nylon sweaters are going to be doing more hanger swinging, I think.
I call the office. I need to come back. Well, it isn’t that crushing. Four days in Vegas is too long, in my opinion, although I wish I had another night to try to eat at the Top of the World. I will have reservations a week ahead of time next time I go to Vegas. I drop into a cyber cafe and make my reservations on America West when I find out that I can pay $150 to change my current air ticket, or I can buy a new one for $94. Well, the company can buy me a new one. I’m not coming back early on my own dime.
I have some time to kill before my flight. We go down to Harrah’s so I can have some ice cream at Ghirardelli’s. Pop has a chocolate shake. I have an Alcatraz Rock. It is good. I top it off by buying a red pimp hat with a leopard print brim that I saw at one of the little booths there at Harrah’s. The label says it is made by these guys. If you ask nicely, I’ll take a photo with it and put it up. It got me lots of looks.
The last little bit of time I had we spent at the Imperial Palace looking at the car collection. I have never seen that many Bentlys and Rollers in one place. There were a lot of classic cars in there that you can have for about $20K, which really is a steal.
I make my plane. The ride back is uneventful. The headphones work, but they aren’t earth shattering. I go back to work. All is right with the world.