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Weekend Shenanigans, Part One: The Vegas Edition...wherein DR asks for a phone number

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This is a long one folks.  Sorry about the length but hopefully it's worth it...


I have two very different sets of friends I meet-up with in Vegas.  They are extreme in their differences and their paths rarely cross.  I drove to Vegas on Friday to meet with my two friends from college who enjoy the following:  drinking, sitting, watching tv, working on computers, blackjack, downtown Vegas, eating.  As you might imagine, neither of the two are in the best of shape.  One moved from L.A. about five years ago, taking his girlfriend with him.  They got married in a drive-thru chapel in Vegas on the way to their new life in Utah, where my friend grew up.  The other friend has never had a girlfriend in his life.  He gave me some advice this weekend:  wait until a girl asks you for your number.  He agreed with me this tactic hasn’t worked out too well for him over the years.  We’ll get to why this matters in a bit.


I like to drive to Vegas.  Wouldn’t do it every day, but I like being in the car by myself and playing my music.  I usually pick the music well ahead of time in anticipation of the landscape and what type of experience I want to have.  I hate Southwest airlines and airports.  I’d rather spend the extra hour in the car and have my own personal space.  This is the first time I can remember where I didn’t stop once on my drive.  I purposely did not drink too much coffee or water before my drive so I wouldn’t have to stop much.  It worked.  3.5 hours.  I didn’t go crazy with speed but I didn’t shy away either. 


I met my friends at the M Resort which is a shiny glass structure plopped to on the landscape to the right as you wind your way into greater Vegas.  This is about where you really want to drop your speed since the patrol knows that all those people pouring into the Fun City have been stuck in their cars and can now taste the booze and have visions of next month’s mortgage floating out of their wallets.  So instead of going 80mph, they kick it up to 85.  Anticipation is a very dangerous thing when it gets behind the wheel. 


My friends move slower than Hamilton on a ground out, so I got in line to pay for the buffet, which was getting longer by the tour bus.  Half-hour from beginning to till.  (Hint:  I asked, good naturedly, for a ‘waiting in line forever’ discount, and it turns out residents of Calif. Get $5 off their bill, but ya gotta ask).


The buffet used to be pretty good, but it felt off this time.  Maybe it was the people. Everywhere I looked I saw fat people sitting with their legs spread into the walkway.  Their guts need the extra space lest they get a rash from the edge of the table so a leg out buys an extra couple inches up top.  I wonder if these people even taste the food.  Americans will tell you a restaurant is good if the food is served in heaps and mounds but tastes average.  Ever heard of the Cheesecake Factory?  It’s good, but we all know it’s about the giant servings and the doggie bags.  “They have the best chicken marsala...!”  Not really.  It’s just that there’s 25 pounds of it and you get a boner when you think about microwaving the leftovers at the office for lunch the next day.  And don’t pretend you don’t throw in the bread from the table when the waitress isn’t looking.


Obamacare would never have happened if the signing ceremony took place across from the 300 lb. lady murdering a third round of spaghetti in-between gasps from her oxygen tank.  As her motorized scooter sits tableside. 


I blew a gasket at lunch.  Like my fellow Americans, I ate five times more than needed.  My mouth said yes while my heart said attack.  After lunch I drove to my friend’s house where the three of us do what we always do in Vegas:  sit, recover, watch tv (discovered a show on Cinemax called ‘Banshee.’  No story, tons of violence and a bit of the ol’ nudity.  Perfect for me and my nerdy friends as we recovered from buffet assault).  It helps to have a friend with a house in Vegas.  I get my own room and don’t have to walk an hour - then wait an hour - for a hotel elevator.  You know you have a good friendship when you can stand-up, walk upstairs to your room and fall asleep for an hour or two and you don’t need to provide explanation or excuse.  My friend and his brother purchased the house when the Vegas market went way south.  Including HOA fees, they each pay $500/month for a three bedroom/three bath.  I wonder if the neighbors would by the speed I would cook if I got a house in the neighborhood. 


My friend – we’ll call him ‘Utah’ since that’s where he lives – wanted to check out a bar called Frankie’s Tiki Room.  It was cool.  I loved the florescent sign out front.  It coulda been in Miami Vice



The inside was mellow, with some hipsters and average Joe’s.  A local’s spot.  We were met by this odd gal who is sort of friends with Utah and the Arab.  (We’ll call my other friend ‘the Arab’ because he’s from the Middle East.)  This woman has a brutal voice...high pitched and without clarity since she was raised in Thailand or Malaysia or the Philipines.  She once told me but I couldn’t understand what she said.  I couldn’t wait to get out of there after round two...there’s a huge downside to not drinking.  Tolerating high-pitched voices in geographically non-specific accents being one of them.


The rest of the night was spent downtown.  Unlike my other set of friends who only go to the Strip, Utah and the Arab like to see humanity, and man, do they get it on Fremont Street.  We went to Hennessey’s which had a terrible band playing.  However, they played a not bad version of Billy Bragg’s song “New England,” which is not an obvious choice.  I love it.  It’s on my ipod.  “I don’t want to change the world, I’m not looking for new England...I’m just looking for another girl.”


We strolled under the Fremont Street canopy, optimistically called “The Fremont Street Experience.”  Here’s the experience:  Two bands play on the street.  One is a general cover band.  Not great but good enough.  People downtown aren’t in the business of being a critic when the clock strikes 10 on a Friday night.  They want their giant, colorful drinks in a long souvenir glass which they’ll pack for their flight back to England or Arkansas.  They want to walk where they won’t be judged for smoking 20 cigarettes in a row as the 6-year old cries to go to nighty-night.  They want to party where they won’t be analyzed for the suspicious truck stop tattoo on their left boob or the fault line teeth.  Every once in a while, you spot 20-something white chicks and it’s not unlike the feeling you have when you see a fellow American in a distant part of the world.  You feel like you should say something like, “Hey!  I’m an American, too; where you from?”  Only, you’d say, “Hey!  I have a dentist and I shower too!”  The three blonde chicks below did not belong on Fremont Street.  The hammered lady on the right, dancing the night away did belong here.



Once you get to the end of Fremont Street, the Plaza Hotel looms like a reminder of better days before Steve Wynn raised his middle finger up the 15 freeway from the Strip.


About here you’ll see a metal cover band called Arena.  They are great.  Terrible, but great.  The singer rocks a Vince Neil meets David Lee Roth (1983 version/hair) look.  They play all the arena rock sing-a-long hits.  You can’t help but sing with them and the crowd.  Near the stage, a pretty good sized group of homeless tweekers and alcoholics dances and chomps on their gums while playing air guitar.  They are never not there when Arena plays.  The brother of the bass player hangs out and plays air guitar (or bass?) in the crowd near the tweekers.  I’ve never seen the tweekers fight here.  They get along swimmingly.  It’s amazing.


The whole area has that diarrhea dive bar smell.  The dry air hurts your eyes and you imagine how awful the homeless tweekers must smell.  But you feel good that they’re having fun.  It’s not like they’re going to wake up tomorrow and think, “Well, enough of that; today’s the day I turn it all around.”  They are toast.  So why not have a little music to rock out to?


Saturday, Utah and I headed over to the Peppermill.  We like the lounge which looks extremely Miami Vice, especially season 1.  It looks like this:




And once seated in the adjoining restaurant, I like the hash browns.  Next, we went over to the outlet mall where Utah likes to get his clothes.  It’s not really that much cheaper, but like the buffet at M, you can linger and there’s alot of choices, so it must be good. 


I split up from Utah and went into the J.Crew Factory Store.  One of the shop girls asked me if I needed help.  She had a nice face, and a pleasant demeanor.  She asked where I was from and she told me how much she likes the area.  I started getting nervous as we talked.  I don’t know where it came from, but I asked for her number.  That’s not like me.  I’m way too shy when it comes to this business.  Always have been and likely always will be.  But it just sort of presented itself.  I put her number in my cell phone.


A few years back, when my wife was going through her first round of chemo, we were driving on the 73 freeway overpass.  I remember it so clearly.  It was a Sunday afternoon, about 4pm.  I could tell she was having a rough day, but she wouldn’t say as much...she didn’t want to sound like a ‘whiney-butt,’ as she used to put it.  Out of nowhere she told me she didn’t think she was going to live.  It was the first and only time I’d heard this from her.  She was going somewhere with this, and I will always be grateful for what she said next.  “If I die, I want you to mourn for a while.  I want you to be sad, and think about me.  And then I want you to find somebody else.  You’re too young to be a widow the rest of your life.”


At the time, I didn’t think much of it.  I didn’t have the room for thinking this way.  I spent my energy trying to keep my wife comfortable and looking for the best medical advice.


Years later, I see her words as a genuine gift.  How selfless to think of me at what was then the worst time of her life.  How could she know this is something that would relieve me of guilt (or a fraction of it, anyways), and give me piece of mind?  When I think of that moment, I picture her looking out for me from where she is.  She knew then what I would need to know now.  It was okay to ask for the shop girl's number. This is all part of it.  Despite what the Arab says, you can't sit around waiting for people to give you their phone numbers and my wife knew that.  You need to deal with life because it's too easy to sit on the couch and mope.  And then you go no where.


I left the store feeling weird.  I told Utah that I had asked for the shop girl’s number.  He didn’t know what to say.  He just let me babble like good friends will do when they know some babbling is necessary.  I told him, “The funny thing is, I don’t even know what to do with her number.”


End Part One.




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Nice story DR.  I also like driving to Vegas, and usually do stop at the M for brunch before heading into town.  Plus I love the Downtown area.  It's so entertaining.  And, wait, what did you write.  Aw crap, I'm the one on the right.  

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Great read once again. The part about the conversation with your wife really got to me.


A few things I will add: When I came here as a tourist, and it seemed that they were always tearing down Strip hotels to build bigger and more expensive ones (the Dunes was my original hangout), I discovered the Plaza and Fremont Street. Downtown is a place where you don't want to stray very far from the hotels, but it's a great place to people watch. I also liked the atmosphere. The people who work in Fremont Street casinos seem to realize that most people choose the Strip, and they are friendlier. Sure, the hotels don't have 5,000 rooms or an exploding volcano or a pirate battle out front, but you get a good value for your money. Incidentally, the Plaza has been completely remodeled. They got an unexpected windfall when they remodeled the rooms, as they were able to pick up a lot of high-end furnishings and fixtures for pennies on the dollar from a failed condo project.


The Fremont Street Experience isn't. The main show is a light display in the overhead canopy set to music. It is rigged so that the copious neon all shuts off right before the show starts. It was novel when it first started, but for a generation used to digital music and high definition television, it has become decidedly low-tech and blasé', very cartoonish. The fees that were required of all the downtown hotels for its construction (conceived in a desperate attempt to slow down the Stripward migration of tourists) drove the Pioneer out of business and silenced Vegas Vic probably forever. No longer does he say "Howdy, pardner! Welcome to downtown Las Vegas!" Part of the first floor has become a chintzy souvenir shop. I also hate it that they blocked off the street when it was built. One of the first things I used to do when I arrived in town was to drive down Fremont at night and look at all the tightly-packed bright lights.


My boss' office used to be not all that far from the M. A 30-minute wait at the buffet there is practically a front of line pass. The first time I went (shortly after it opened, and I couldn't leave because I was with a group from work gathered for our monthly meeting), the wait was close to an hour. While I can't speak for the cetacean clientèle you observed there, the last time I was there I noticed a definite decline in the quality of the food. I haven't been back since.


If you're ever in town and want to chat a bit, drop me a PM.

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James, the bartender was named Jaime. Just rad as shit and great to drink with. One of the last times there she remembered me even though the bar was packed and would just randomly show up with Jameson shots for us......"Did you see how much of an asshole that guy was? Here." "That couple just stiffed me. Here." I thought the raspy Asian chick he mentions is that bartender with the voice we were debating.

I hope you had a blast there, DR. When we chatted I had no idea you would hit this spot. A bunch of us from here went to a 66ers game and it somehow turned into Vegas and hitting this spot. (Morale!!)

Downtown is a trip. I used to know the dude that started Bum Fights (it may be inhumane to pay people to fight for no reason, but people are also paid for sex and it's ok) and Fremont/Downtown was his stomping ground for people to star in his next feature. I can only imagine the people you ran into.

Great read man. A couple of solid gems to quote and share with those around me as they ask why I'm laughing. I shared the wife portion with someone next to me because she would greatly appreciate it and she says, "He sounds great, I should give him my number too."

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I should be able to remember that name. Will always be one of my favorite places to drink. They released a book about the tiki culture in vegas and includes their drink recipes. 


Finally had time to read the whole story, great stuff. 

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I feel like it was about 10 years ago. Made a new friend and his brother or cousin started it. We got to see all the videos early, but no real perks. I mainly just remember all the lawsuits and press before, I assume, they folded.

I'll never forget one of the serious shows on CNN or the like had the main bum on for an interview. Talk about a trainwreck.

The craziest one is the dude that talks about how crazy he is and just picks up a crowbar and starts destroying some blue PT Cruiser sitting in traffic at a red light. Just boxed in and nowhere to go.

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I'm glad to hear everyone likes the long-ass Vegas Shenanigans (Part One).  Thanks for appreciating it.  There's alot more stuff I could've put in there but I try to edit out most of it and streamline it. 


Vegas is an attention-getter and everyone's got an interesting take on it.  For clarification, the chick at the Tiki was not the bartender.  She's a friend of Utah and the Arab.  I didn't interact witht the bartenders, one of whom was female. 


Brandon, go ahead and give your workmate my number.  I'm always looking for another shenanigan.  I can't leave y'all hanging.

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