Viva Las Vegas!

Wow, Las Vegas is fun.

It’s the Disneyland of Sin, the Sketchiest Place On Earth, however you wanna put it.

It’s expensive as fuck, especially at New Year’s, but at least for me, it was well worth it. This will definitely stick out in my mind as one of my most memorable vacations. Well, at least the parts I can remember will.

The two major rules of a trip to Las Vegas are:

1. Take nothing seriously.

2. Bring lots of alcohol.

We definitely obeyed these rules.

Vegas is a really funny place. It is quite literally in the middle of nowhere. Driving in from Salt Lake on Interstate 15, you pass an exit that states “Next Services: 47 Miles.” About a minute later, you pass a mileage sign that states “Las Vegas: 46 Miles.”

You have to drive through vast quantities of nothing in all directions to get there. To the east is the Grand Canyon, to the west is Death Valley, to the south is desert, and to the north is forest that turns into desert.

You drive and drive through all of this nothing, going over mountain range after gorgeous mountain range, and suddenly you come over a rise and you see this enormous city laid out before you.

It’s a far more spectacular vision at night, when you can see the oscillations on the electrical grid, so it looks like the city is sparkling. I saw this coming back from the Hoover Dam (see below), and it was difficult to keep my eyes on the road, it was so hypnotizing.

I had to find a motel for the first night, since I had come down a day early because it looked like it was going to snow the day I was supposed to come down. You’d think in a town that has 175,000 hotel rooms (at least according to the Hoover Dam guy), there’d be a few not in casinos or not within 2 blocks of the strip.

I sure as hell didn’t find them. Any that weren’t right off the strip were in casinos. I finally ended up heading towards the airport, in hopes that I’d find something near that. What I didn’t really realize is that the airport is right at the end of the strip.

I mean planes coming in less than 100 feet over your car, four blocks east of the strip. But I did manage to find a Motel 6 that had a fairly reasonable one night rate (and has got to be the largest Motel 6 in America, with 1100+ rooms and a gigantic neon sign).

Since Nate and Cleo were incapacitated from hiking and from the food Nate’s aunt fed them, I decided to go walk around on the Strip by myself. The Strip at night is such a ridiculous sensory overload. Everything is loud and bright, and most of the people are drunk.

I walked up to where we were staying to check out our hotel. We were staying at the Paris hotel, which is hilarity all its own. A fake French street inside, half or 1/3 model replicas of the Arc De Triomphe and Eiffel Tower outside, and for some reason, a giant hot air baloon as its logo.

So after determining the hotel was nice, I continued to wander around, making like Ocean’s Eleven and watching the fountains at the Bellagio. The Strip is kind of a hard place to describe if you’ve never been there.

It’s silly themed hotel (New York New York, patterned after the NYC skyline) after silly themed hotel (The Luxor, shaped like a pyramid, with “inclinators” instead of elevators and a light shooting out the top that can allegedly be seen from outer space).

Most of the hotels advertise has-been acts (New Year’s Eve: Alabama!) and $8.99 Prime Rib Specials, which are actually pretty decent, though they do sound decidedly sketchy. I didn’t really gamble that night, although I tried to watch craps to figure it out, to little success.

I met everyone at the Paris hotel the next day. I was pleasantly surprised, if not shocked, to find out that parking was free. Being an easterner, I assume you always have to pay for parking, especially at expensive hotels. But here, parking was almost always free.

Cleo, who grew up in California, looked at me like I was crazy and/or stupid when I said I was surprised that the parking was all free. “Hello? Welcome to the West.”

We checked into our room, on the 27th floor, with a fabulous view of…the airport. Actually, I thought it was kinda cool to watch planes take off and land, but that’s because I’m an insane nerd.

The room was really nice and stuff, and after checking in we went out and took a look around. Liz, Nate, and Cleo all promptly lost money at a $10 blackjack table that I had (wisely, it turned out) elected to sit out. We then went in search of cheaper tables, which I had found the previous night at the Boardwalk.

Liz (who had either broken even or not done badly at the $10 table) and I played a bit of blackjack, and I only lost about two bucks, so I was happy. We walked around a bit more and then did one of the most Northwestern things I think any of us has done: We studied how to play.

God damn, we’re a bunch of nerds. However, it did help in the money-hemmoraghing department, so it did turn out to be worth it.

Cleo and I needed an excuse to leave the hotel for a while so Liz and Nate could get, ahem, reaquainted, so we decided to go find a liquor store, calculus being $8/each drinks in bars vs. $30 for the entire stay’s worth of alcohol. Tough decision.

We ended up buying an enormous amount of alcohol. So enormous, in fact, that we still have a bottle of Stoli and half a bottle of Jim Beam left despite how much we drank (more on Mr. Beam and I later…).

We ended up going back for limes after we realized a) we hadn’t bought any fruit-type objects to put in the alcohol and b) we hadn’t been gone that long, and we didn’t want to surprise anyone. Thankfully for all involved, we did not upon our eventual return.

That night, we went to a place called Shadowbar at Caesar’s Palace, which had been featured on Real World: Las Vegas, which the four of us are all horribly addicted to (with varying degrees of guilt about this addiction), and we thought looked kinda cool.

It was okay, basically the deal being that there are girls dancing with lights behind them and a screen in front of them, so it’s shadow dancing. Supposedly very sexy, actually kind of dull.

However, the bartenders were doing some trick pouring for a local news station’s piece about New Year’s preperations, so that was pretty fuckin’ cool. And the drinks, while expensive, were really, really good.

The next day, after we all got up around 11am, we decided that we were going to work on craps that day. Craps (according to, yes, our research) supposedly has the lowest house advantage of all the table games, so we had to get in on that shit.

I read up some of the rules and stuff that had been printed out (god.) while people were showering and I decided I was gonna try it when I found a five dollar table. Luckily, that didn’t take long.

When we went downstairs, the rest of the gang started in on video blackjack (which has the advantage of being a $1 minimum instead of $5 or $10), and I started watching the craps table to see if I had actually retained any of the information.

Surprisingly enough, I did, so I joined in since it was only a $5 table, and I managed to break even, although this old Greek dude at the table with me lost what looked like three or four grand when somebody crapped out. He said, nonchalantly, “I think I quit now.”

The stickman (yes, that’s really what he’s called) said, “Wellsir, I don’t blame you.”

Anyway, we went out and gambled a whole bunch more at various casinos. That’s really the way to do it, since you spend a lot more time walking and a lot less time gambling and thus less time losing money.

Liz won 20 bucks on a slot machine, Nate won 50 bucks playing craps (which he promptly gave to other casinos, considerate young man that he is), and Cleo and I lost some money. Not happy amounts, though I’m happy to report that my overall loss for the trip was less than 100 bucks, which for the amount of entertainment i got from it, was not a bad amount.

That night, we had decided to go to clubbing, but since everything was so ridiculously expensive, we decided to stick with one place. Ra, the club at the Luxor (the aforementioned pyramid), was eventually decided upon, since their cover was “only” 20 bucks.

Now I personally am not usually up for paying that large of a fee to go into a club and buy eight dollar drinks and bitch about how all the girls there are, alas, straight. However, I was on a semi-zen “whatever” kick and went along with it.

However, after a rather long wait in line before the club even opened its doors, Nate (flush with his $50 winnings from earlier) proposed that he and I go play craps instead of going into the club.

I sensed that he felt like he might be a bit of an impediment to Liz (the same girlfriend, incidentally, I once called “titalicious” while I was incredibly drunk) having a good time dancing, and that he also had serious gambling fever.

I said sure, parlty because of the whatever syndrome, but mostly because I felt really out of place among the stylish folk populating the area, since I was wearing jeans and flanel. What can I say? I’m a walking stereotype.

We ended up losing, although I put my loss cap on the $20 I was going to spend in the club attempting to dance anyway, so I figured it wasn’t really a loss. Nate won a couple, then gave it all back, but alas, this is the purpose of Vegas.

We ended up having to wait a bit for Liz and Cleo because Cleo had seriously gotten her man on, meeting (among others) a guy we all dubbed Vin because of his resemblence (or so I’m told) to Vin Diesel.

It was also quite fun seeing my theories about what Liz was doing confirmed when she gleefully told Nate how she rejected all these guys who were trying to get her phone number. Nate, of course, relaxed considerably after that.

Minor tangent/sweeping generalization about the gender wars: Men feel powerful when they get to say yes. Women feel powerful when they get to say no.

Anyway, when we got back to the hotel, Cleo makes the statement that will send the Fates the message to fuck with the next 24 hours: “You know, nothing really sketchy has happened so far this trip.” And she means this as a good thing.

I hear this, and in my head I think: Nooooooooooooooooo! You can’t make a statement like that and expect things to continue on that way! It’s like if you’re doing well while gambling, you can’t say, “Hey, I think I’m doing well!” because you’ll immediately lose everything.

So the next morning, we all stumble out of bed around 11am, and Nate and Liz decide to see the Lord of the Rings, since they figured spending 10 bucks for a 3-hour movie was better than gambling for three hours and losing way, way more.

Cleo and I walked up and down the strip, and decided to have breakfast at what must have been the most crowded Denny’s on the face of the planet. I’ve never, ever had to wait for a table at a Denny’s, and we had to wait for 20 minutes.

While we were there, we got a phone call from Katy, my roommate, who was coming in on a Greyhound bus from San Fransisco with her best friend I-Chieh (pronounced ee-chay) and I-Chieh’s cousin Kat, saying that they’d be in around 2.

Cleo offered to pick them up when they came in, since it was about noon and we’d have plenty of time to wander some more before they got in. We walked even further down the strip to a souvenir place that I had seen some weird tchochkes on sale, when the phone rang again a little before 1pm.

“Hey, we’re here!”

Whoops. We had no idea where the bus station was, and we were at least a 30, 40 minute walk from the hotel, plus getting directions, plus actually driving there and picking them up would have taken an hour, so we ended up telling them they’d have to take a cab.

I felt like kind of an ass for doing it, but I didn’t want to leave them stuck in the bus station for an hour or more as we trudged back up the strip and tried to figure out where the hell they were, especially because if we got lost they’d be there for a long time.

Anyway, we all eventually met back up at our hotel room, and Katy and I-Chieh came over to chill since Kat had somehow gotten a free ticket to the Cirque du Soleil show at the Bellagio (the three of them were staying at New York New York, having made their plans seperately).

Around this time, Cleo got a call from Vin, inviting her to come nude hot-tubbing with him and his (apparently also well-built) brother. Cleo turned them down for this particular outing but asked him to call her later.

I called Joanna, one of my best friends from high school (and one of the very few I still talk to), who was staying at the Mirage with her parents and her brother. I was happy to hear she was going to be in Vegas because a) she was finally 21 and b) I hadn’t seen her in a year.

She informed me that she was not going to be able to make midnight on the strip since her parents had gotten her whole family tickets to the 10:30 show of Siegfried and Roy, and this was sonething her mother made very clear she could not get out of.

However, when I invited her to come on over as we started our evening of drinking (at about 4pm, of course) and doing a wee bit of gambling, she said sure. We all had a couple of drinks, mine probably stronger than everyone else’s, since I was drunk quite quickly.

Joanna hung out with us for a bit as we took the walk down to New York New York so Katy and Co. could change for the evening’s festivities, and I think she had a good time, but this is about the time of day that my memory starts to get hazy, so I’m not sure.

We chilled in Katy & Co.’s room for a bit, with Cleo getting a call from Vin saying he was on his way over to NYNY for dinner, and with Joanna ending up having to leave to begin her going-out prep, which for Jo, takes about seven hours (kidding kidding, only two).

Cleo stayed at NYNY as Katy & Co. changed, to await the call from Vin saying that he had arrived. Nate, Liz and I went and gambled a bit, since I had my bearings at least somewhat back after a few glasses of water, and I didn’t lose anything, so I was happy.

We went back to the room to primp (I actually put on a touch of concealer and plucked a couple of stray eyebrow hairs) and the rest of the gang eventually joined us, Cleo somewhat pissed that Vin had never called her back.

By this point, I think it was about 9pm, because I remember thinking I should call my mother, and then thinking better of calling my mother while drunk to wish her a happy new year, because then I’d have to explain what I was doing.

I had been drinking Jim Beam and Diet Coke for much of the evening, having a bit of water here, a chunk of a loaf of french bread there, to try and balance out the anticipated hangover. Of course, at some point I just said fuck it and ended up drinking straight Jim Beam.

Around this portion of the night, we got a knock on the door from the guys down the hall from Oregon State that Cleo had met on a smoking excursion earlier in the week. They were all very nice, good looking young men, so we went down and hung out in their room.

Now this is where my memory gets really fuzzy and where some real sketchy things started happening, not all of which I’m sure it’s my duty to describe, so those who came along will have to correct me if I make any missatements.

There was more drinking in these guys’ room, and we hung out with them for a bit. A couple people had some weed, myself not among them because a) I don’t smoke weed because it fucks with vocal cords and b) I was working hard at standing up as it was.

We split up for a second, with Nate, Liz and I gathering our gear for the final countdown (I think I may have had another drink here, but I’m not sure), and then we had to track down Cleo and most of the Oregon State guys.

We found Cleo and Mickey, a very nice hippie type from that group, around 11:30, but we couldn’t find anyone else. We decided fuck it, let’s just go out to the strip. So we did, and we ended up standing next to a bunch of guys.

The tallest one (whose name turned out to be Todd) asks Cleo if he’s blocking her view, and she and he got to talking. I started talking to his friend Kaz, a very nice guy, I think maybe of Indian descent, with a shaved head. I am an idiot around guys with shaved heads. I can’t stop trying to shine it.

So this is where my stupidity and drunkenness take over, and I start kissing his head. Then I start kissing him. Then I start making out with him.

Yeah.

However, eventually the smart portion of my brain managed to extract itself from the sea of Jim Beam I had tried to drown it in long enough to say, “Ellen, what the FUCK are you doing?!”

I recall saying something to him about how he should go find himself a much nicer girl, and maybe even a straight girl. He seemed like a very nice guy.

What I found out the next morning was that Kaz, who I thought was about 26, 27 years old (and I got confirmation that I was not that drunk, he did look about that age), was actually 33. And that he, Todd, and all their friends are actually dentists from Mississippi.

Right.

After the new year finally came through (and it was hard to tell exactly when this was, since the jumbotron outside our hotel was declaring HAPPY NEW YEAR! about every 2 minutes), I had to run inside to use the bathroom, and lost contact with everyone.

When I eventually fought my way back out, I couldn’t find anyone, and weaved around and tried calling people for about 45 minutes, to no avail. I figured fuck it, I should go back to the room and drink some water anyway, so I went back up.

When I got there, Nate, Liz, and Mickey (the poor lost Oregon State hippie) were all there trying to figure their next move. My next move was to fall down on the bed, and decide that it was time for me to at the very least take a nap.

Katy & Co. had headed back to New York New York, and Cleo came back, asking us to join her and Todd downstairs. The rest of them decided to go out, and I ended up staying behind, since I knew if I went out I would definitely puke, and right now I was at probably.

I knew nothing of the events that transpired next. The next thing I remember is Cleo falling down on the bed next to me at about six in the morning, me asking her where she had been, and her holding up two fingers.

I’ll let her explain what that meant, if she cares to.

What I didn’t know was that she had come back around 3, talking loudly and drunkenly to Nate and Liz, and I had not heard a word. I was out colder than a hula dancer at the North Pole.

We had made our reservations from the 29th to the 1st, which turned out to not be the wisest move in the universe, since we had to be out of the room by 11am on the 1st. We were all pretty hung over, miss Cleo in particular.

We traded stories, I learned Kaz’s age and occupation, I learned that Cleo got several booty calls from Vin during the course of the evening, which she ignored, having found other, ahem, things to do. It was mostly a “goddamn, that was bizzare” moment.

I was surprisingly okay given the amount of alcohol I drank. Standard oversensitivity to light and dehydration, but I was not too bad otherwise. I would estimate that I drank about a third to half of a fifth of Jim Beam. I will pay for this someday…

After groggily showering and packing, we checked out shortly before the 11am deadline that would have cost us an extra couple hundred bucks.

We all piled in my car and went to In-N-Out Burger, which Liz and I had never eaten at before (well, I had about three days earlier, but never before that) and got us some double-doubles, although Cleo’s stomach was still in full revolt, so we ate outside.

I dropped Liz and Nate off at the airport for their respective flights to Miami and Chicago, and took Cleo to New York New York so she could try and catch some sleep in Katy’s room (which I learned later, helped immensely).

I got turned around trying to leave the airport, so I got to drive up the south end of the strip to get back to NYNY, and had a plane fly about 20 feet overhead as it was landing at the airport and I was sitting at a stoplight. Cleo saw it fly over and was like “What the fuck?!”

After dropping her off with Katy and making sure they got up to the room okay, I took off for Arizona, intending to go back over the Hoover Dam to get there, but getting foiled by traffic and ending up taking a ridiculously large detour across a giant stretch of desert.

As I flew across the desert towards Laughlin, I looked back on the previous thirty-six hours, and really the past four days, and shook my head in amusement. Las Vegas will make you do funny things with funny people, especially if you’ve been drinking.

But it sure was fun.

There is no way in hell I’m ever going to top this escapade next year.

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