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Weekend Shenanigans: Vega$ with the Other Ones edition

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Spent the weekend in Vegas.  I’ve mentioned before that I have two sets of Vegas-going friends.  One set does Vegas very low-profile.  We work on computers, watch violent television and eat like mid-westerners.


This past weekend was with the Other Ones The ones who stay at the Four Seasons, get a massage at the spa (legit, no hanky panky), sit poolside and eat at one or two of the enormous and trendy restaurants. 


Three of us took off from LAX via Southwest Friday afternoon.  If I'm flying out of LAX, I like to drive myself and park at Lot C.  If you’re travelling to Vegas or abroad, it’s a good feeling knowing your car is nearby when you land.  On the Vegas side of things, there’s always the chance you’re going to part company with your travel mates.  And if you’re arriving from a foreign country, you don't want to put your friends in the position of waiting around for you while you wade through customs.  And I refuse to do an airport shuttle on the solo tip. 


We were supposed to be four travelling together, but predictably, our friend was having his balls broken – again – by the on/off girlfriend.  It’s his fault, really.  He keeps going back to have his ass kicked.  To quote the episode of Miami Vice “Out Where the Buses Don’t Run,”  “You ever know a guy who goes to the bar, and plays song C-5 in the jukebox and expects to hear one song, but another one plays, but he keeps hitting C-5, thinking it’s going to be a different song...?”  That’s my friend and this chick.  She’s his C-5.


We had the usual winds throwing us around as we approached Vegas.  This is the part where I talk about my wife, so if you’re sick of it (understandably) fast forward from here.  The last trip I took with my wife was to Vegas.  I tried to surprise her for her birthday.  She was going through chemo and avastin at the time, but I thought I timed it well enough that the effects wouldn’t be as bad.  I was wrong.  She increasingly became scared of anything with high speeds.  Especially driving on the freeway.  Flying wasn’t a favorite either, as I would learn.  It was one of the weird side effects of the tumor.  Anyways, we’re on approach to Vegas and we’re hitting some pretty bad winds and resulting turbulence.  She started throwing up, but got most of it in the barf bag.  But she kept going.  I held a bag up to her mouth while reaching for my bag.   She went through that one so I asked the dude next to me for his bag.  People around us were complaining.  It probably smelled terrible.  Chemo has its own terrible chemically smell, plus it’s puke so we’re not talking roses and scented candles.  I felt so bad for my wife.  I have new respect for parents who have to deal with kids’ puke.  I didn’t have the time or mindset to tell those complaining that my wife was dying from a brain tumor so please forgive the vomit.  One of the few good things that comes out of cancer is that it teaches you humility and understanding.  I have mountains of empathy for anyone who looks like they’re going through medical issues. 


Back to the present:  Our flight had the dude who played Lloyd the Assistant on “Entourage” on it.  He got up to take a whiz or deuce just as the plane was beginning its descent.  I could see him waiting outside the door at the head of the plane.  But it was taking forever.  So he went to the shitter in the rear of the plane.  He got out just as our plane was being tossed around like a blanket.  I saw his spiky haired head bounding back to the seat to the rhythm of the turbulence.  He was getting flung.


We get to the Four Seasons which is pretty close to the airport.  It’s on top of the Mandalay Bay but on its own island.  The hotel has its own driveway and entrance on the other side of the Bay.  We were a little chagrined with the remodel of the lobby.  It used to be that you were greeted with a big round table with a giant floral arrangement on it.  It smelled like the anti-Vegas.  Fresh, clean, classy.  Now, there’s a bar to the side and a bunch of chairs and tables for Chinese tourists to sit and talk loudly, a hotel tradition started by Americans in Europe probably around 1976. 


The Four Seasons lobby used to be so refreshing.  You could go upstairs to the casino then enter a little door which takes you to an elevator for Four Seasons guests only.  Zoom up to your sequestered room or zoom down to your floral lobby with hushed tones.  Like walking into the Norton Simon in March.  Not anymore. 


The rooms have been changed too.  Very nice, but they’ve made them a bit smaller, presumably to fit in more Chinese tourists.  When you’re at the sink and you don’t shut the door to the toilet hard enough, it comes back to hit you in the rear.  American problems.


There was a UFC event this weekend and a bunch of enthusiasts and novice UFC fighters were staying at the Mandalay Bay.  You can imagine the  variety and color of Affliction shirts in the region.  When I stepped out from the Four Seasons into the ‘cardio center’ area of the Mandalay Bay, I was surrounded by a bunch of UFC wannabes running the stairs and doing any manner of stretching and shoulder shaking.  Cohen Bros. movie.



There's a low-pro door from the Four Seasons to the Mandalay Bay. You wouldn't really know it's there unless you look for it:




My Iranian friend made reservations for us at a restaurant at the MGM called Hakkasan.  The new, cool spot, I guess.  There’s the foo-foo dining part and then there’s the night club upstairs which is one of those places that starts off the night with you standing in line 100 people deep while there’s ten people inside.  No thanks.


The food was good enough.  It’s an Asian-Chinese oriented cuisine.  A little chewy and minimalist for my taste, but my friends were impressed.  I prefer Koi for this type of food.  Or the 2-for-1 pizza with my other Vegas friends at Ellis Island. 




The Other Ones played some blackjack at the MGM and I threw in my token $20 in the slots.  I didn’t feel a lucky streak coming on so I called it a night, leaving the Other Ones at the BJ table and hoofing it back to the Four Seasons.  I like walking by myself in Vegas.  You can observe the strangeness of others and you feel a bit like an alien. 


Back at the hotel, I hit the casino more to just do a walkabout.  I wanted to see if my wife’s favorite slot machine was still there.  Alas, Mr. Lucky wasn’t to be found.  We were always amazed that a slot machine mocking Chinese accents and stereotyping Chinese restaurants could survive.  Don’t have to wonder about that no more. 


Finally, I passed the video/slot machine my wife was playing when she had a seizure.  I was standing behind her and the machine lit up after she’d won some small amount.   I kept waiting for her to hit a button to play again.  She wasn’t moving so I bent down to her face and she was just staring into the screen, frozen.  It scares the shit out of you.  I didn’t roust her since you’re not supposed to disturb someone having this type of seizure.  I asked her a question and she finally looked at me, not recognizing me at first.  I told her she’d had a seizure and that we had to go back to the room.  She didn’t think she’d had a seizure which is normal.  I asked her where she was, my name, the date, etc.  She answered all correctly so I didn’t think a hospital visit was in order.  And what are they gonna do, anyways?  Keep her overnight, give her some keppra and send us a bill for $1000?


This night, when I walked past the machine, I got sad, naturally, thinking about our last trip together and how unfair it was that it would be a very unforgettably forgettable trip.


I went up to my room through the secret door and elevator.  I watched television, popped a xanax and floundered to sleep around 1am. 


I got a text around 8am.  One of the Other Ones was down at the Four Seasons buffet.  I was pumped.  This buffet is exciting because it has a mini-donut bar.   And pop tarts.  And little chocolate croissants.  It’s a carb and sugar Xanadu!  Here's the toppings at the donut bar:




I ate like a champion, not giving a rat’s ass about voguing at the pool.  I ate like it was winter and had three layers of clothes on.


The friend who keeps playing C-5 showed up for the buffet after landing a few minutes earlier.  We cheered him up and made our way to the casino where an awful eastern European woman took over dealing at our table.  No humor, only suffering.  She set the tone for the rest of the weekend’s gambling.  We got the hell outta there and fast, heading to Ceaser’s Palace for a little outing.  More blackjack, more losing.  I kept my money in my wallet and walked around by myself a bit.


We went back to the Four Seasons, sitting at the pool, licking our wounds, eating poolside nachos.  I didn’t last long down there.  I was late to the party and had the worst seat in the house, getting clipped by assorted children and hairy men on their way to the deck.  I went back to my room.  This, despite the little sno-cone making machine being wheeled out before me.  A Fellini movie.


My friend surprised me with an appointment for a massage at the Four Seasons spa.  I’ve mentioned before here that I’m not big on massages/personal space invasion (see Serbia Shenanigans).  But I wasn’t entirely against it.  It felt good to be included with the high-flying Other Ones.  While waiting for my massage, sitting there in my robe watching the news of the Asiana crash, I got to talking to another robe-dude.  He’s a doctor at the hospital my wife was treated at and knows my wife’s oncologist pretty well.  I swear my wife drops me these little coincidences from time-to-time.  When I told him how my wife’s treatment ended up, he gave me one of the best responses I’ve heard in some time, and it was so simple:   “I wish you happiness.”  I’ll take it.


Our friends’ band was playing the Mandalay Bay pool later that night, so I rested up a bit for that.  I could see their tour bus from my room window.  I went down after a while and hung on the bus.  But it was hot and gross, so me and the Other Ones went for a bite in the hotel.  It didn’t help that I was wearing some kind of skinny jeans my friend forced me to buy a while back.  He was trying to get me out of my safe, baggy clothing; trying to get me out of the doldrums.  If there’s one place I’m going to wear jeans like this, it’s Vegas.  I forgot about it being 105 degrees.  Here, we're on the tour bus trying to look zany and crazy like Motley Crue.  We're not:





We ate at some random place in the Mandalay Bay, watching all the women walk by in the shortest skirts known to woman, on the way to clubs and bars.  Impossibly short skirts.  I always wonder what kind of man these women are looking for when they go out in Vegas.  Are they looking to score like some men are?  Do they simply want attention and then have to push back when they get some dude mad dogging them?  What’s the end game here?  I understand that Vegas has the ‘Do whatever you want!’ component to it, but how far does that go?


After dinner, we went back to the tour bus and had a nice cold drink.  Coke Zero!  I went to the side of the stage to watch the Gin Blossoms play.  They sounded great.  They are a simple, unpretentious band without any sizzle or stage antics.  Just plain but good tunes and a solid performance with no surprises.  Gin Blossoms, stage left:





My friends’ band hit the stage and the crowd was pretty pumped (that is, wasted) at this point.  The Mandalay Bay pool is a great concept for a show:  The stage juts into part of the pool so you can stand in 1-3 foot deep water and watch the show, or hang back on the sand or near one of the bars. 


There were some sound problems and I’m pretty sure the sound board dude got fired after this show.  The tour was only a few dates old at this point so the learning curve was finished by now.  Still, the band played a good 45 minutes and the crowd was really into it.  There was a marriage proposal on stage near the end of the set.  I recorded it.  The chick said yes.  Nothing says love like a poolside proposal in front of a couple thousand hammered and sun burnt crispies in Vegas.  Love conquers all.  Even tequila and bottomless adios mo-f’rs.


I’m amazed how this band can still get a crowd going.  And it wasn’t all 40-something housewives.  There were loads of teens and even the dudes who were too cool to sing the band’s songs back in the day were now singing every single word to nearly every song without embarrassment or apology.  When you’re half-naked in a pool you’ll submit to most anything.  Here's the singer wondering why I'm so close to his shitty shirt:


This was probably taken sometime during "Fly:"




When the band finished, we hung for a bit than gave the crowd their space.   Back in the casino, I went to the sports book and watched some highlights before the shut the screens down for the night.  The Other Ones went to a strip joint after the show (Crazy Girls III, I believe), but they were back soon after.  DR is not a fan of strip joints.  I don’t like the smell of the coconut-vanilla lotion, nor do I like the constant money grab.  It’s a giant bummer for everyone involved. 


The Other Ones came back pretty quickly, unimpressed with the action.  They tried their luck a bit at the tables, but not for too long.  One friend went to a high-roller table but didn’t last long.  He disappeared soon after.  I hit up a slot machine.  After investing $40(US), DR got himself a lil’ jackpot of $187.  I walked away with most of it in pocket, walking around, marveling at the skirts.  Me and a coujple of the Other Ones got a late night snack where we ran into the rhythm guitarist of the Gin Blossoms.  I told him how good the band sounded.  He told me he was stoked they were headed to San Diego later that night/morning for the next show.  His girlfriend lives there and he'll be able to do laundry. 


I bid him good luck and then went to my secret door and up to the room.  I was kind of wound up so I stayed up until about 3am. 


I was in a nice slumber when my phone woke me up with a 7:30am text.  C-5 was alerting us that he was jumping on a Jet Blue flight to get back to you know what.  I was pissed he woke me up.  I went back to sleep for a bit but eventually made my way down for the breakfast.  I pulled way back on my carbs. 


We were all looking a little salty and it was evident we were ready to get home.  The Vegas Affect. 


We headed to the airport before long.  One of the Other Ones was smart enough to grab an earlier flight.  Me and the Iranian tried to get on it but it was booked solid so we had to wait.  And wait some more while the aircraft was replaced.  Southwest.  Love the free baggage.  Hate the pilots and their hard landings and the over-use of the aircraft.  BUT!  There’s always another Southwest plane somewhere to fill in.


We landed and I walked over to Lot C, my little car waiting for me.  It looked like home.  I started it up, paid my $36 for parking and headed down the 405 with zero traffic. 


My mail included a certificate from a friend of my wife’s.  The friend had a Koa tree planted for my wife in Hawaii, on the Big Island.  My wife loved Hawaii.  It gave her happiness.

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"There was a UFC event this weekend and a bunch of enthusiasts and novice UFC fighters were staying at the Mandalay Bay.  You can imagine the variety and color of Affliction shirts in the region."



My friends and I jokingly refer to the Right Field Pavilion at Angel Stadium as "The Affliction Patio." Good to hear you had a fun time out in Vegas man. It's impressive that McGrath and those guys can still pump the crowd up and put on a good show. Did you text that chick from a couple weeks ago to let her know you were in town?

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I will get to your points and questions in descending order as able:


1.  Mota-isms.  He had a real beauty before last night's game.  It takes alot of eneryee to pause the video and correctly type in what he says.  Accuracy is essential.  But I will try to get back into it.


2.  Donut bar:  An obvious idea.  Hipster threat level: 8.4


3.  Mark McGrath:  We we've been friends since about sophomore year in high school when a mutual friend sent him to pick me up to go see our friend's band.  We would become room mates down the road, etc.


4.  Texting the Vegas Chick:  Did not even think of her.  In the words of Bryan Ferry, "Over You."


5.  Miami Vice:  I watched an episode every night while my wife was on hospice.  It was my way of unwinding after putting her to bed.  Part of this journey will soon include a trip to Miami.  It got me through some rough times.  But, since high school, I've probably watched each episode at least 20 times.  My favorite episodes, I've seen at least 100 times.  There are 111 total episodes.  It changed television forever and was one of the major inspirations for me to pursue television writing.


6.  Mr. Lucky: 

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Re: Miniskirts. This is the miniskirt capital of the world - so much so that a lot of women who have no business wearing them do. It's a great place to people watch, and the way some people dress it is obvious that they don't plan on running into anyone they know. I get the distinct idea that many of the outfits were bought just for the trip, because they would never wear such a thing out on the town back in Wisconsin or whatever other frozen place they came from. I remember one woman in particular, who was wearing a blue dress so short that you could pretty much see her panties without  her bending over. She asked her boyfriend (and as soon as she opened her mouth, I knew that her hem length and her IQ were pretty much identical), "Why is everyone looking at me?" I like eye candy as much as the next guy but, like you, I have to wonder what the end game is in showing quite that much skin in public. Not too many secrets in that outfit.


I remember the Mr. Lucky slots. I always believed that they were incredibly insulting, and beyond inappropriate for a city that caters heavily to Asian tourists. The MGM Grand even removed the original lion head that once framed the doors at the main entrance (at no small expense, I'm sure), because in some Asian cultures walking through the head of the lion is considered bad luck. Asians were avoiding the casino there.

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Thanks.  I was the lucky one. 


If I learned one thing, it's do the little things when you can:  show affection without provocation, do something surprising big or small, such as a dinner or trip, be excited that you have someone to spend what will hopefully be the rest of your/her life with.  And show it.  I did most of that but wish I woulda done more.  Such is life.



Your wife was very lucky to have you, DR.

Sometimes when I read these I hope that I soak up a lesson or 2 on becoming a better man.

I wish you happiness.

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