We ended up at In ‘n’ Out, which I hadn’t had in a very long time. I ordered a Double-Double combo and fell on that burger like a wolf on a lamb. The fries too. I added in a chocolate shake for dessert. I watched Vicky dip her burger in ketchup, which is something I’d never seen before. I offered her a straw for the ketchup, but she, having more common sense than Andy, refused. Meanwhile, the three of us devoured our meals. It was delicious, outstanding, and by far the best meal I’d had all weekend.
Norm, Vicky and I headed out to Red Rock Canyon to do some hiking and geocaching. It was about a half hour drive outside of Las Vegas. We stopped at the information building to get a map, as well as some water (which we had forgotten to bring), and then set about driving “around the loop”. We planned to stop for a hike along the way.
First, we stopped by a place where there was outcropping of sandstone, which we all felt compelled to climb. We sat on a perch of sandstone, tossing rocks, watching rock climbers. Vicky and I plotted Norm’s demise, and almost got away with it when he “slipped” on a rock, but he managed to regain his balance and we had to pretend it was an accident.
We got back in the car and headed out again and this time, we stopped at a place where we decided to hike. (We had nixed geocaching at this point because we’d have to go to far to do it.) We ultimately picked a trail that led to a waterfall. It was a fun, humorous hike, and believe it or not, there was mention of numerous jokes that would go into this blog, none of which I can remember now.
Vicky “made up” a new word on the hike. I’m not allowed to say the new work because it is a derivative of one of the Ten Words You Can’t Say On Television (the worst of them, actually). I thought I’d heard the word before, but Vicky insisted that she (or perhaps Howard Stern–she sometimes confuses herself with him) made it up.
The waterfall itself was an impressive trickle that in front of which Norm and Vicky had their picture taken. After the waterfall, we hiked back a slightly different way, decided to complete the circuit and then find something to eat.
I had an afterthought this morning about the bathroom in Olympic Gardens. It was an interesting bathroomin that it was “attended”. In other words, there was a man in the rest room, who made sure the sink was clean and dry and would provide you with towels, and to whom you could give a tip. (Why a man, why not a woman? Would this have been too distracting? Possibly, but it would have been more interesting.)
In any event, the most interesting thing about the bathroom was the products that were available in there. On the sink counter, in various containers, was an assortment of gums, mints, and candies. There were hair products (gel, combs, etc.) There were soaps and hand lotions. In fact, the restroom was better stocked than many restrooms of higher end hotels and restaurants which I have been in.
I went to the restroom twice while I was there, but the second time was more to get a better look at the gewgaws that were available than to use the facilities itself.
As luck would have it, I slept about 2-1/2 hours and was up, tossing and turning at 7:30 AM. I was stressed about going hiking, and going to breakfast, and decided that what I needed to do was take a shower. I still smelled like smoke from a few hours before, and while I felt a little bit better getting some sleep (and having a bizarre panorama of dreams), a shower would do the trick.
It did. I felt much better after a shower, and thereafter, crept quietly about the dark room, packing up my things, which would have to be moved to Carl and Poom’s room for my last night in Vegas. Andy woke up, complaining of Eric’s snoring, and decided to go to breakfast too, and when Eric found this out, he felt obligated as well. We all met for breakfast at 9:45 AM.
During breakfast, we recounted our adventures of the previous night. I didn’t eat to much, portions of a bagel and cream cheese was about it. Andy behaved as well, and did not suck down half a bottle of ketchup (already, that seemed like it happened an eternity ago). Norm, sneaky guy that he is, got the bill and paid for the meal.
After breakfast, Norm, Vicky and I said goodbye to Lisa, Eric, and Andy and got ready to head out to Red Rock canyon for a hike and geocaching.
This was the highlight of the trip–the part that everyone had been waiting for. After the girls left us downtown, we six guys piled into two taxis and headed to a placed called Olympic Gardens which bills itself as an adult caberet.
(Trevor, close your eyes if you are reading this.)
There was a $20 cover charge to get in, and once inside, Andy arranged for us to get a place to sit. This was an entirely new experience for me. The women walk around the room, stopping at the tables and asking the guys if they want “a dance”–which refers, of course, to a lap dance.
I got a lot of pressure early on from Andy, Norm and Eric, who offered to buy me one of these lap dances, but I resisted. I was nervous; in fact, I was anxious. I had the same feeling I used to get back when I was flying and I would be sitting at the end of the runway at Van Nuys airport, just before takeoff, with my left leg shaking nervously. I ordered a Jack and Sprite, and couldn’t even drink it. Plus, these girls just kept coming, relentlessly, asking us if we wanted a dance. Andy and Eric had said to me earlier that all I had to do was say, “I’m good now.” So when one girl say on my lap, I immediately said, “Thanks, but I’m good now,” which Eric and Andy found very amusing. All she wanted to do was talk to us, find out where we were from, etc.
After a while, we were sick of the incessant offers and moved into another room, where we sat around a “stage” to watch a dancer do her thing for 3 songs, after which she was replaced by another dancer. What you were supposed to do here, is hold out dollar bills to get the dancers attention, after which they would take the bill from you in various strategic ways that highlighted their creativity as well as their dexterity.
As it was approaching 3:30 AM, I saw, from the corner of my eye, Andy, Eric, and Norm doing something–which I later realized was handing money to one of the dancers, Nadia. I only realized it later because I didn’t have time to realize then. This dancer, Nadia, took my hand and whisked me away to a dark corner of the room. By this time, my resistence to this sort of thing on moral and ethical grounds had completely broken down. Furthermore, my physical resistence had broken down as well. For one thing, I was exhausted. For another, I was honestly curious.
I assume I need not go into any details about what a lap dance entails. I will say that I was surprised at the physicality of it. It lasts for an entire song and the song they played when I got mine seemed to last forever. And ever. Also, I was somewhat speechless. When Nadia asked me what my name was, all I could say was, “Baaaahh!” It went on and on. I was getting worried. I had to, in fact, resort to the old baseball trick. You guys will know what I’m talking about: setting up a scenario in your mind: 2 outs, bottom of the third inning, runners on 2nd and 3rd. Do you bunt? Hit and run? You know, think about anything but what was actually going on. It became a race and after a while I started wondering if that song would ever end.
Eventually it did end. And when it was over, Nadia asked, “Want to continue?” By this time, her “sister” had come over. I said no thanks, popped up from my seat and headed back toward the table I’d been sitting at. As I looked over there, I could see Andy laughing his ass off at me. Eric said, “Why are you walking funny?” No sooner had I collapsed back into my seat, in a daze, did the dancer at the table say, “Oh, good, you’re back!” and turned her attention to me.
So who won the race? Well, I guess it doesn’t really matter, does it?
We left a little while later. It was after 4 AM. There were no taxis out front, but for $40, we got a limo to take the six of us back to our hotel. I was in a kind of daze the whole way back. We were back at the hotel just before 5 AM and I collapsed into bed, dazed and confused. In theory, I was supposed to get up to go hiking at 10:30 AM, just a few short hours away.
I felt bad for a lot of those girls there. Clearly, many of them did not want to be doing that. Other people justify it by the enormous sums of money they make. I didn’t try to justify it at all after a while. I gave in, but I chose to give in. In the end, as nervous as I was, I had a really good time, and I have Andy, Eric, and Norm to thank for that.
So what about those guys? What did they do during all of this? Well, that’s up to them to tell, if they want. From my vantage point, they were all very well-behaved.
We ended up meeting for dinner at 10 PM at P.F. Chang’s, where I ordered what I thought was a small salad. I turned out to be one of the biggest salads I’d ever seen in my life.
After dinner, we literally squeezed into two taxis and headed “downtown” to Fremont. Some of the guys wanted to play at the $2 blackjack tables. I went to one place with Eric and watched him turn $20 into $10 within a matter of minutes.
The Downtown part of Vegas had a distinct feel to it, very different from the Strip. It was clearly a lower-class part of town.
We spent a few hours there total. By 1 AM, the ladies decided it was time for them to head back to the hotel. Meanwhile, we six gentlemen had other plans…
Today was my first real, prolonged exposure to casinos. They are a bizzaire phenomenon, an interesting evolution of architecture, desire, hope, and dispair. If I believed in an afterlife, I would think that a large casino floor would make a perfect hell.
First of all: the huge, tremendous spaces. From one end, you can’t see another end. They have an interesting light quality to them; from within the belly of a casino there is no way to tell what time it is, or what the weather outside is like. Whether it’s 2 AM or 10 AM, casino floors look the same. Even the number of people you see doesn’t seem to vary much from one time of day to another.
Second, there is a haze. It’s a kind of fog created by a mixture of smoke, alcohol, sweat, hope, and dispair. The fog permeats the entire floor. It’s a kind of phermone and to just that right kind of personality, it is irrestistable.
Third, there is the hum and buzz in the air. It’s the sound of wheels spinning, levels being pulled, buttons being pushed, the sound of dice clicking together, bouncing off velvet surfaces, the smack of a card being turned over, the ripple of a deck, the clanking of coins, the intake of a breath as a roulette wheel spins, all of it, all of it mashed together into a hum and buzz that fills the air and absorbs the more natural sounds. Voices are lost. As cavernous a place a casino is, there are no echoes.
Finally, there are the people. There are the tourists, playing the penny and nickle slots, cautiously inserting a five or ten dollar bill. There are the high rollers, placing five hundred dollars on a single bet, or a single spin of the wheel. There are the occasional hollars of the big winners, whose voices act as a kind of accompaniment to the blaring jackpot alarms. There are the hoots at the craps tables. And then there are the losers. These are not the tourists. These people, the losers, stand out and blend in at the same time. They are easy to identify. They sit in front of a slot machine, gray complexions all of them, so much so that they seem to mute the color around them. They are expressionless. Their eyes are completely empty, pits of dispair. Their movements are mechanical. A cigarette hangs from their lips, a long trail of ash waiting for an ashtray.
I used to say that a cross country-flight would be my idea of hell, were I to believe in an afterlife. Having seen a casino, however, I have a whole new image in my mind. It’s a image of a vast, endless casino, where busty, emotionless waitresses serve drinks that never quite dull the pain, where each pull of the lever, each “hit me”, each turn of the card, or roll of the dice holds out the potenial hope of recovering losses that can never be recovered. It’s a place where it’s always 2 AM, and where no one wants to face the horror of having to explain to their loved ones what happened to all of the money. But people keep betting and betting until there is nothing left to bet but their souls. And when they are ready to bet those away it’s too late–by then their already gone.
After the tournament, Norm, Vicky, and the UConn contingent had to get ready to see the Cirque show that they had tickets for. We agreed to meet for dinner after the show at around 10 PM.
In the meantime, Lisa decided to nap, and Andy decided to go off and wander the casino.
Eric took me on a walking tour of several of the hotels on the strip to which I had not yet been. We walked through Bellagio, Caesar’s Palace, past Treasure Island. We came back down the opposite side, going through the Venetian and Paris. The detail but into the interiors of the hotels and malls was impressive. And the number of high-end stores was also pretty impressive. I spent a lot of time wondering who actually spends money in those stores.
After New York, New York, it was getting close to the time we’d been planning to hold the Texas Hold ‘Em poker tournament in our room. We headed back up the strip, stopping to buy some beer on the way (for outrageous prices) and then returned to the hotel to set up for the game.
This was one of two times that I gambled during the trip. The buy-in was $20 and there were 8 of us playing: myself, Andy, Carl, Norm, Vicky, Eric, Lisa, and Poom.
The game lasted about 3 hours. It was a winner-takes-all elimination type of game. I’d never played before, but I did pretty good considering. I believe that Poom was the first person to go out, followed by Eric, and then Andy. I hung in for a while–long enough to consume 4 bottles of Dos Equis. And when I did go “all-in”, it was the right move, even though I lost:
I had drawn an ace and a three and stayed in because of the ace. Eventually, the cards on the table showed 2 3’s. Everyone had folded except Vicky and myself. I was in control. Holding that three, I had been raising all along, knowing I had three-of-a-kind. Vicky kept seeing the raises. When it came to my last bet, I figured that she probably had the other 3. that meant we both had three-of-a-kind, but I was also holding an ace, which was high. So I went all-in with my remaining chips–something like 42 chips.
Vicky had a full house and that’s how I ended up as the fourth person out. But even so, I still think I made the right move.
Vicky ended up winning the entire tournament. Carl came in second. Vicky took home $140 and Carl got his $20 back. Andy had managed to get a whole bunch of World Poker Tour stuff (t-shirts, cards, keychains, etc.) as consolation prizes for the rest of us.
I had a good time, and didn’t mind losing at all for two reasons: (1) it was among friends, and (2) had I won, I would have spent the winnings buying them all drinks anyway.
After MGM, Eric, Andy, Lisa and I headed over to New York, New York because I wanted to ride the roller coaster that they had there. Lisa is not a roller coaster fan, and so she headed off to find a slot machine. Meanwhile, Eric, Andy and I followed the lines on the floor up through the arcade and into the line for the roller coaster.
We probably had to wait in line 20-25 minutes or so. It was mostly uninteresting. However, not too far in line behind us was a minor celebrity, someone I’d never heard of before named “Constantine” who was apparently a former contestant of that popular game show, “American Idol”.
Andy treated us to the ride, which was generous considering it was something like $12/person to ride the beast. But it was a pretty good ride. There were at least two good drops, both of which produced negative gees (not much–probably just over 1 negative gee). There was also a barrel roll that ended up as a reverse Immelmen. And toward the end of the ride, there was a 720 degree clockwise turn that probably produced about 2 Gs of force. We all survived and the picture that was taken at the end was pretty amusing. But not worth the money they were charging for it.
I thought I would end up sleeping in pretty late, having been up so late and for so long, but I was up sometime around 9 AM. Eventually, Andy, Eric, Lisa and I headed out to visit some of the other hotels and casinos. The UConn contingent headed off to watch the UConn game. On our way out, we stopped at the sports books so that various people could place bets on various games. It was all a mystery to me.
We headed south down the Strip and eventually wandered into the MGM where we put our names in for breakfast and then split up to gamble in the casino. I didn’t gamble, I just watched. Andy seemed to win money wherever he sat down. Including when we sat down at breakfast.
For some reason, when we were seated and wating for our food to arrive, I said to Andy, “Five bucks if you drink this entire bottle of ketchup.” There was no way he’d do it, I thought. But come on, this was Andy. He took the bottle, opened it up, stuck in a straw, and proceeded to suck down half the bottle of ketchup without stopping. We couldn’t stop laughing. Half was enough for me. I gave him the five bucks, even though he didn’t finish the entire bottle. It was just like being back in high school.
A few words about the following blog entries:
It was my initial intention to write these blogs in a way so as to hide everyone’s identity, but the truth of the matter is that really isn’t necessary. While “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” is a good philiosophy for that town, as it turns out, everyone was pretty much very well behaved. So with very minor exceptions, this is what really happened.
A thanks needs to go out to Eric, who wrote up his own “minutes from Las Vegas”, which, as it turns out, was incredibly useful to me for these blog entries because a lot of the weekend was fuzzy in my head–mainly because I got very little sleep and experienced major sensory overload.
Anyone who was there, feel free to post comments and correct any errors that I might have included. Just remember to sign your name if you post using the anonymous option.
Finally, you can read all of the Vegas blog entries in one single page by clicking on the Vegas.2006 tag link below or by clicking here.
Okay, preface over.