“Happiness is unrepentant pleasures.” – Socrates
Vegas was an incredible amount of fun. I stayed in my off-strip hotel for a few nights, as I was certain that my co-workers would loosen up over the course of the week and want to go have fun–eventually I figured out they were losers and I’d need to make my own fun. Most of my stay-in activities stuck to a formula similar to x + y = FUN, where X = lots of alcohol and Y=swimming, bowling or gambling, whatever seemed right at the time. It would be RIDICULOUS NOT TO combine these things as one would then not be taking advantage of the separate bars in each location. There is something beautiful about floating around in a hot tub whilst one has three or four or six drinks under one’s belt, all of which one has managed not to pay for. Also interesting: I am far from the world’s most consistent bowler to begin with. Yet I still noticed a significant change in my game while under the influence–I rolled either gutters or strikes, with nothing inbetween. Now if I could just get some bumpers installed to give me some ‘it’s impossible to roll this thing into the gutter’ confidence, I could theoretically be the best cheating bowler of all time while on the sauce. At least I didn’t take any shots to the head this time.
Eventually I had all I could take of hanging out at the hotel. Caesars Palace was celebrating its 40th anniversary this week, and I definitely wanted to partake in the festivities, which included a toga party hosted by Jenny McCarthy (didn’t she fall off the face of the earth approximately 6 years ago?). I convinced a coworker attending the class to accompany me, and proceeded to smuggle a sheet out of my hotel. I knew something was wrong the instant said coworker showed up; all week long we’d been wearing jeans and t-shirts to class, and he’d been sort of following me around like a lost puppy, but I didn’t think much of it then. Now when he came to pick me up, he couldn’t have BEEN more overdressed, especially for a toga party–suit, tie, enough cologne to beat the band…and when he made a pass at me with the saddest line of all time “Well, whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” *wink*, I was out of the car lickety-split. He’d forgotten his sheet, and there was no entry without a toga, so when he left to go back to his hotel to get one, I took that as my cue to conveniently disappear into the crowd and turn my phone off. I don’t know what sorts of crap OTHER people get up to on business trips, but screwing a coworker is so low on my priorities list that I believe being systematically dismembered by the razor sharp teeth of clowns ranks higher. It’s almost like I have a miniature HR director standing on my shoulder giving lectures about personal space bubbles. As soon as he left, I went into the ladies room to begin the process of wrapping myself in a sheet. I’m afraid I fail at Sheet Tying 101 as I was adjusting myself all evening. I can’t decide if it makes a civilization more or less advanced when they can just take their daily wear off of the bed, tie it up, and proceed to have various ‘nighttime’ body parts attempt to spill out all day long. Regardless, it took me longer than I would’ve liked to secure my sheet, and I was in a rush to get out there as I wanted to have my picture taken as if I had some particularly hot servants attending to my every need—you can understand my rush, yes? If not only for personal gratification, think of the blog content! Unfortunately, hot men with grapes wait for no woman (or at least not women like me) and I’d just missed them–son of a @#(#&*$!! The party itself was a lot of fun–they had a band I can’t say I’ve ever heard of before, (something something)Day and the Nights playing old-school funk, and although everyone’s togas varied drastically, there was still an incredible amount of solidarity present; that feeling that we were all going above and beyond the call of duty dirtying sheets from our respective hotels. It felt really good to let go and laugh and dance with complete strangers.
The outdoor party ended at 10:30, and everyone who had attended was invited to the afterparty at Pure, which is their immaculate, exclusive nightclub. I would’ve gone, just to check it out, as it’s not the sort of place I would normally get into; hell, I was shocked that they let me into Studio 54 last year as ‘dress to impress’ is not exactly a major function of my wardrobe. But an evening of dancing in strappy high heels had taken its toll on me (out of curiosity, when one is wearing a sheet around, why are high heels more appropriate than, say, bunny slippers or any other variety of comfortable shoe?) so I decided to make my way back to the hotel. As luck would have it, the ‘Coast’ hotels offer free shuttle service, and Caesars Palace is right across the street from the Barbary Coast. For those of you unfamiliar with Vegas topography, at that corner, they built above-street walkways, for reasons that I can only surmise involve the fact that copious amounts of boozed-up patrons and massive amounts of potentially boozed-up traffic don’t make for a good mix. The walkway across was deserted, which is really unusual for Vegas–there is almost aways a decent amount of foot traffic going every which way. As I made my way across, a huge black guy appeared from the shadows and grabbed my arm with a vice-like grip. “You’re looking goooooood, are you married?” he leered. “…no,” I squeaked, not thinking very quickly at all. Was this my payback for ditching the coworker? For making fun of Celine? Oh god, how much trouble am I IN right now? “Where are you going?” “…just over to my hotel, that’s my hotel right there..” I stammered, trying to pull away. “Hey baby can I come spend the night with you?” Lip licking on his part, more fear on mine. “I don’t think my boyfriend would like that!” I called out as I yanked my arm away and ran as fast as my sheet-clad ass and high-heeled feet could go, right into the relative safety of the casino. I can make jokes about it now, like “this girl’s so easy, she takes the sheets with her wherever she goes just so she doesn’t miss an opportunity” but at the time I feel I was justifiably terrified. My nerves were still jumping when I boarded the shuttle from the Barbary Coast to the South Coast, and it didn’t help that the guy I was sitting next to was equally nuts, and kept trying to hold my hand. Was there another seat somewhere else on the shuttle that I could switch to? Of course not. Countless times I pulled my hand away and tried to maintain the integrity of my personal space bubble, only to have it violated once again by this stranger grabbing for me. Longest/most uncomfortable_shuttle_ride_EVER. When I made it back to my room, I turned my phone back on and discovered I had not just one, but three messages from the coworker on there, none of which I returned. He apparently didn’t realize he’d crossed any lines, as he called AGAIN and I stupidly answered. I made excuse after excuse to get off of the phone, and he kept trying to have a conversation with me. It eventually got to the point where I’d had enough of polite socialisms for the evening and told him “Look, I don’t care what YOU do, but I have shit to do and I’m hanging up now. Goodbye.” and hung up on him. If my attitude ever causes workplace drama, it won’t be because *I* was trying to get into someone’s pants, so I imagine I’m fairly safe from any and all retribution.
The next morning I checked out of the South Coast in preparation for checking into the Stratosphere the next evening. When in doubt when choosing a Vegas hotel in the $50 price range, it’s always better to choose the one on the seedier end of the strip that looks like a sad Space Needle. As soon as I checked in, I went up to check out the view from the top of the Tower–hotel guests have free admission between the hours of 10am and 2pm, mostly because everyone wants to go up in the evening to see everything lit up. As I had other plans for my evening, for me it was either an early afternoon viewing or nothing. Hotel guests also get free tickets to ‘Viva Las Vegas’ which I didn’t have time for, and half-price tickets to ‘Bite!’ which I would’ve been interested in, had the show not been dark that evening.
Next on my agenda was Fremont Street and classic Vegas. I’d asked the cab driver on the way to the Stratosphere how far away Fremont Street was, and he immediately responded that it was too far, and really too dangerous to walk there. Had it not been for my experiences in the ‘safer’ part of the Strip the evening before, I might not have heeded his warnings. As it was, I was glad I did, as there were some pretty sketchy areas inbetween. Why did I want to go to Fremont Street to begin with? Well, first of all, it was something I’d never seen before, and I was thrilled to see the giant cowboy and cowgirl that are universally associated with Vegas–I had no idea what the connection was before. But the main reason I wanted to go was the Fitzgeralds Chicken Challenge.
The Fitzgeralds theorem: Tic-tac-toe is so simple that even a birdbrain could play. Wouldn’t it be amazing if a casino found a really smart chicken who could play tic-tac-toe as well as any human? And what if they let you play this chicken, named Oscar, once a day every day from the moment you sign up to join their players club? Well, it has come to pass. Those who beat the chicken win a cash prize ranging from $25 to $500, the exact amount determined randomly. The game is played on an electric board and the chicken places his O by touching his beak to the empty square of his choice (the human is always X). The first to place their symbol is determined randomly. Early reports had indicated that Oscar is a formidable tic-tac-toe player, as he plays about 100 games a day and loses only about five times, keeping him from being coated with that delicate blend of herbs and spices that is the Colonels’ secret recipe.
I was determined to play this chicken, and establish my dominion over the animals of the land. I came, I saw, I handed over some personal information, I played….I tied. I tied with a chicken. I would feel as if this calls my intellectual capabilities into question; however, the more I think about it, the more certain I am that it’s a rigged game. Yes, ‘Oscar’ is a live chicken–one of 16. Is it possible that they trained 16 chickens to play tic-tac-toe? Sure, I’ll bite. But the part that makes me think is the board visible in the above picture that hides the chicken’s screen. The chicken needs to be pecking around in the general area for an ‘O’ to appear onscreen, but my hypothesis is that ultimately the human is playing against computer AI. If the chicken was truly trained to play tic-tac-toe, you wouldn’t be hiding its moves behind a board, you’d be (pardon the pun) crowing about its abilities. I still walked away with a string of mardi gras beads with a rubber chicken attached, so I still got mostly everything I would’ve wanted from the experience. They did, however, advertise that you could have your picture taken with the chicken and a showgirl/and or a sad Elvis impersonator, but no such offer came my way. Here’s what such a picture MIGHT have looked like.
After the Chicken Challenge, I wandered up and down Fremont Street a bit, drinking a yardlong daquiri made with vast amounts of Everclear. A strange guy (presumed wife in tow), ALSO drinking a yard of some brightly-colored alcoholic beverage, festooned with Mardi Gras beads, one with a giant rubber duck attached, announced it was his birthday and asked if I wanted to squeeze his rubber duck for good luck. I reached out and squeaked it, we all had a laugh, and he handed me all of his raffle tickets for a nearby casino as a thank you for playing along and squeezing the duck. The next raffle was happening in a couple of minutes, so I ducked inside and was excited when one of my many, many numbers was called! The winning ticketholder is allowed a pull on a special slot machine they’ve got in the back, which determines what you really win. I won some beads with a giant pirate medallion attached to it; the guy who won after me got $250, so as you can see, there’s quite a range there. Still, it was something for nothing!
A couple days before, I overheard someone complaining that it used to be that you could lose all your money gambling in Vegas and still be able to eat, and that was no longer the case. That may be true of the luxury resort megacasinos on the strip, but on Fremont Street and even in the lesser-visited areas on the strip itself, I have photographic evidence that you can eat for a dollar.
Sure, you should probably have some money stored away at home for that triple bypass you’ll need when you get back after eating naught but hotdogs and fried twinkies and oreos for a week, but you can still technically eat on the cheap in Vegas.
This showgirl has more attitude than pretty much anyone I’d ever met. I was still working away on my daquiri, and we got to chatting about her costume (those shoulderpieces are SUPER heavy), and she loudly exclaimed when someone won $400 on slots “BIG WHOOP, it’s not like *I* get any of that money.” Her attitude reminded me of me when I worked at Guitar Center–you get to a certain point of working at a sucky job, and you just don’t give a crap about maintaining that “I’m here to make you happy” illusion.
Time out! This is not the only oxygen bar I saw while I was in Vegas–what’s the deal with those, exactly? I would’ve thought there would be more yuppies willing to pay for AIR in California. Set that thing up right next to a yoga class, and after people have paid money to spend an hour sniffing their own crotches, you’ll have a gold mine on your hands. Seriously, you guys. I don’t get it. It’s OXYGEN. It’s IN THE AIR. IT IS THE AIR. IT IS FREE. WHY ARE YOU PAYING FOR IT?
I would’ve loved to see the Fremont Street Experience, which is a lightshow on the biggest screen in the world, but I could quickly see how that could become a very bad area after dark and did not want to go it alone. Maybe next time, if I can convince some people to go with me. I took a cab back to the Stratosphere and began walking my way down the strip. It’s still fairly hot outside, but with a decent amount of .50 beer along the way I did all right.
At my first stop, they were holding a raffle to see which patrons of the casino were able to spend 20 seconds in the cash cage, grabbing as much money, comp points, and gift certificates as humanly possible. Both people I saw play did pretty well, leaving with over $100 apiece. One year in junior high I won a chance in a cash cage for selling a hojillion Entertainment Books…and I did not do nearly so well. Allow me to say that it looks far easier than it actually is–I have videogame coordination, everyone. And it’s still not easy.
I would’ve gone back to see the bikini bull riding, but unfortunately by the time midnight rolled around, I was just too exhausted to go see and do anything else. Next year I will have to check out the mud-wrestling…right after the Star Trek Experience. Yes. I am a nerd. The next stop was Treasure Island, to see their pirate show. They’ve changed the show up, and it’s now Sirens Vs Pirates….all this time I’ve spent studying mythology, and I never realized that the default costume of a Siren is hot pants. Thank you, Treasure Island, for showing me the light! I also learned that the shoe choice among most pirates is not the boot as is widely presumed, but rather the Reebok.
After Treasure Island, I went to the Mirage. Supposedly they have tigers on display. These tigers apparently keep the same hours as the managers of my apartment complex. Every time I walk by the office, the little clock is on the door, indicating when they may be back. If I go back at that time, there is no evidence of anyone having been there except the time on the clock is different. Sometimes I wonder if the clock is electric and no one actually works there. After the Mirage, I walked all the way down to Mandalay Bay, because I really, really, really wanted to see the Shark Reef. Sharks? Awesome. The very best part of the exhibit was where you got to pet shark pups. Wow. Just…wow. It was amazing, this feeling of touching something that could just as easily rip your finger off if it wanted to. They also had golden crocodiles there, which apparently are not in captivity anywhere else in the United States…pretty cool, I thought. The thing that bothered me the most about the exhibit was that all throughout they kept declaring “This species of shark has never hurt anyone,” “This species of shark is only curious about humans”, etc, trying to lesson people’s fear about sharks so that people are less likely to support sharking. Yet as you walk out the door, they talk about the divers who go into the tanks and state that they use tons of precautions because “they are sharks, after all”. Way to undo all of your work in one sentence, bub.
Why are there no pictures of the sharks, you ask? Because neither I nor my camera are very good at taking pictures of moving things. I like to blame technology for my shortcomings. It makes me feel better.
When I bought my ticket for the Shark Reef, they had a package deal that for 3 dollars more, I could go see a movie at the IMAX theatre at the Luxor. The one I chose was Under the Sea 3D, and it wasn’t until I started watching it that I realized it was narrated by Johnny Depp. Oh joy! 3D has certainly improved since I was younger–before, it always had the distinct aroma of cheddar pervading the experience. Now, I was so captivated I actually had to stay my impulse to reach out and touch the fish that appeared to be swimming all around me. I highly, highly recommend it, if you happen to be in the area. By the time I got out of the movie, it was already 11:30pm, and therefore time to head to Margaritaville for some wonderful tequila, and shortly thereafter time to go back to the hotel and try and get some sleep before my early-morning flight out.