"We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the Denny's began to take hold."
Vegas is a mecca to some, a wasteland to others. The self-proclaimed eternal optimist and I set sail for the Promised Land early one Tuesday fueled with hope and giddiness (pretty much the same menu the Hybrid we drove ate from), only to return two days later as vessels of fear and loathing.
Eric barely survived the experience and has chosen not to relay a walking fever dream. Rather like Kenickie handing over the keys at Thunder Road, he recognizes his limitations and has entrusted me to tell the tale.
Our goals for this adventure were vague. Eric does not drink nor gamble. I, however, subscribe more to the When-in-Rome philosophy. In this case, it was a cheesy facsimile of Rome... but I'm getting ahead of myself. We decided that our common intention was to find or create "fun," and possibly score tickets to see the Amazing Jonathan, so we hit the road.
Our first stop was in Apple Valley. Breakfast beckoned in the form of a friendly hole-in-the-wall called Denny's. To mark the occasion, Eric took a picture of us blinded by the sun. Consider this the "before" shot. I ordered French toast with bacon, while Eric got an omelet, bacon, sausage and a side of Ebola. We hit the road soon after and encountered the first symptom of "Dennebola"-- the wavy arms. We planned for our next stop to be the spooky Calico Ghost Town... unfortunately we had to first make it past the spooky Giant Penis Man. We thanked him for pointing us the way and continued on down the road. Sadly, the Ghost Town wanted too much cash from us, so we steered the car back around towards Nevada. However, we first had to travel through the land of missing vowels. Eventually we crested that great illusion of a hill to see the Promised Land. It may look about five minutes away but it is more like twenty. Having been too cheap for Calico, we decided to scare out the beast that Eric's immune system was battling by taking it on Desperado at stateline. Again we journeyed into the sun. We soon discovered that this was not your momma's roller coaster. We were much braver than the pre-teens behind us. Damn you, French Toast!
Eventually we made it to the not-so-lovely Imperial Palace. We got in the elevator where Eric took out his camera and I took out my teeth. Since Vegas has huge malls (unlike L.A.) and as I didn't want to come off like a card whore, we checked in and headed out to the Venetian. Rather than waste time with the mundane casino or art galleries we found a Brookstone. Because the Denny's and Desperado hadn't destroyed Eric quite yet, we decided to assist with large vibrating chairs.
A creepy frozen statue mime-man was entertaining the masses outside the store by doing, well, nothing. Refusing to reward his non-efforts with dollars like the sheep that came before, Eric busted out the two quarters. Creepy frozen statue mime-man was not impressed. Add karma to the list please. Soon after, realizing that a cigar would add to the Vegas look, Eric seized the opportunity to to check for quality. Yes, smells like victory! I had my own ideas of fun fun fun.
Sadly, the big, big city doused the soul of my friend as all the previous abuse caught up and came crashing down. Only a few hours into our big adventure and Eric was crippled by the virus. He said he needed to lie down a bit and would catch up to me later. Twenty minutes later he was dead. No, just kidding. I quickly put this unfortunate turn of events to my advantage and packed in enough "real" Vegas to make up for the previous sin of a mall visit. This is not my website, so I will spare the glorious details (and if it was my website, I sure as hell wouldn't give the address out to students, so I could actually write the gory details). Highlights? Blackjack. Dealers in Bikini tops. Shots poured directly into mouth. Double Down. Split. Winner. Repeat. Eventually I remembered my friend (and my room number) and went to wake Eric from his nap. He was fucked. I bought him some Gatorade and some kind of barf or shit medicine and sat around for a while faking how concerned I was. Eventually he cut me loose having admitted defeat for the evening. Usually on our adventures, Eric and I are very much in sync, yet this strange town had whammied that synergy almost at the border. The irony of me drinking and him barfing was not lost on either of us. We continued to do our respective parts all night. I was lucky at the tables; he was unlucky at the toilet. I saw people, he saw no one. I had fun...well, you get the idea.
Three things of note during that lost solo evening:
First, I had the cocktail waitress bring a round of Kamikazes for my new friends who didn't have the Denny's omelet for breakfast. The guy next to me (who was losing btw) looked confused (one normally doesn't buy "free" drinks for strangers while at tables) and pushed the drink aside telling me he stopped drinking three weeks ago. Oopsie! I felt lame... then drank his.
Second, Imperial Palace busts out the "Dealertainment" after 11:00pm. This is where the dealers are also celebrity impersonators. Shit yeah! With Patsy Cline I fell to pieces, but when Elton came out of the bullpen, he didn't let the sun go down on me, the bitch was back, and I was still standing (yeah, yeah, yeah). Kamikazes and Cher. Surreal.
Third, I won enough money to impulsively buy expensive non-refundable Penn and Teller tix for the following evening. I had faith in my boy coming around, despite what we all saw before.
I crawled back to my bed sometime during the night and slept rather soundly between Eric's rather loud (and inconsiderate) bathroom jaunts.
The morning after, despite dire expectations, was a welcome sight. So was my first episode ever of Dawson's Creek. (This picture was not posed and I was that interested). Eventually Joey vanished...as did my attention. Our first endeavor that morning was to take in some breakfast. Eric contributed an opinion as to destination. Cruising through a casino, I spotted a kid who looked so fucking ridiculous I had to take a picture with him, knowing that a mere description would not do him justice. He was game. Next we found a gigantic slot machine, and rather than take the advertised free pull, I seemingly took an unexpected free shit.
Three words...and they aren't Prime Rib Buffet.
Eric made some new friends outside (note the security fence between the camera and the subjects). We decide that we only need a large cat to be as cool as the boys. So we went to get one...only to find that Valerie Washington already beat us to it. He's thinking, "I'm gonna shit sequins tonight." All this hard work inspired us to next visit an old haunt. And then buy toys. And visit Eric's mom. After a quick stop at Mos Eisley for a drink, we continued our adventure...IN ATLANTIS!!! Honorably, I ran into an old friend on the way out of the casino-- Et Tu Brian?
As punishment for my betrayal I visited the smallest bar in the world.
Wanting to fulfill our dream of seeing The Amazing Jonathon, we steered towards the Flamingo Hotel. Needless to say, Eric was feeling much better. Sadly our quest took an unexpected turn as Amazing J was on vacation. Shit. However all was not lost as the cheesiest Vegas show of all time was soon to begin. It may have been called The Best of Bottoms Up, but we got free tix standing around outside (meaning we had to buy drinks), and figured "what the hell?" I slipped the host $10.00 as slick as I could to grease us a good seat. He examined the cash in the most unslick manner as possible and hooked us up big time. Right in the front center! This show was beyond description. Old school vaudeville jokes (and performers), topless showgirls, Gong Show-caliber skits and, of course, an old man dressed as Cher. Awesome.
Our next destination was the Aladdin Casino (and, yes, mall). Before we both joined a slot machine tournament, I rubbed a rather famous belly
(and then some) for luck. Feeling good, we hit the slots. Please note the cool Aladdin's lamp pin I wore for the rest of the trip. Having won junk we hit the bazaar with hopes to find a good hookah shop. I apparently was on a winning streak. Whatever was in that pipe affected me like Alice in the rabbithole for I felt myself shrinking and shrinking and....
Actually, hiding inside the world's biggest Hawaiian shirt led to arguably the funniest moment of the trip as I popped out (just before this picture) and scared the shit out of this Asian woman walking by. Ah, good times. Later in the parking lot, we found her car!
Tiring of the Aladdin, we decided to take the city back in full force and drove to the Rio. A local whom I had my eyes on greeted us. Eric would, of course, make this move his own months later on Jimmy Kimmel Live. The Rio was a weird place. The middle of the casino had a guy spinning giant triangles and squares. O.K. Whatever. It wasn't until the dancing girls on the giant ceiling floats came out that we really cared to appreciate what this city had to offer. And then came the two words that will haunt me forever: riverboat mime. Yet, it was not until the giant peacock arose amidst the dancing girls that we suspected we were still in the Aladdin's hookah shop screwing around.
Freaked out, I gambled a bit, and then we headed over to the food court to chill before the Penn & Teller show. It was there that we saw Eric's dad.
They say one picture speaks a thousand words. I hope just one of those words is "sorry."
The Penn & Teller show kicked major-ass and we got to hang
with the boys
afterwards. Since this long day's journey into night hadn't been quite surreal enough...we boldly headed over to the Hilton and found our inner nerds. Yes, that is the freakin' USS Enterprise over our heads. Thankfully Gorn wasn't around to scare us. Aaargh!!! A true scare came inside the Star Trek gift shop when Eric put on a really spooky Kirk mask and creeped over to me. I seriously shit myself. And then we found a Spock mask
for me! We had to kiss some serious ass to make it out of there alive, and then headed downtown!
Downtown is where things got even weirder. Eric had a very bad reaction. The reek of despair (without the polish that the Strip provides) mixed with the tail-end of a very long day and a struggling immune system proved to be a liability. For Eric. I, however, was home. Eric was a good sport and endured a quick lap of the area. We pretended we won $10,000.00, tried to talk each other into eating things that Fear Factor would balk at. Hell, we even spent all of six seconds in a nudie bar, just because I found a free pass. This was a really seedy atmosphere and like a mental Denny's omelet, Eric was done for. Our biggest gamble of the trip was the Downtown Plaza hotel where we originally almost stayed. This would have been serious bad news. Never will I complain about the Imperial Palace again. On our way back to the parking lot we watched an urban vampire movie being filmed. It was that kind of night.
The next morning as we crossed back into California we reflected on our savage journey into the heart of the American Dream (in between numerous assertations of the fantastic gas mileage Eric's Hybrid was getting), and acknowledged that Vegas is a fun, dirty, fucked-up little town. And we made the most of it despite health problems and Patsy Cline. Yes, I may have had Tuesday night to myself, but Eric was the one who was hanging loose.