Monday, July 27, 2009

Vegas '05 Part I

When I have spare time, I like to read Bill Simmons articles on Page 2 of ESPN. I love his writings, and it doesn’t really matter what his topic is. They’re all good. But in particular, I really, really enjoy the ones he writes about his trips, nay, pilgrimages to Las Vegas. That said my inspiration was motivated to recount and recollect my own Vegas experiences in kind. One of them I touched on in my very first blog entry ever, and another was when I was a mere lad of 14 and went out for a wedding, not being of age to do anything worth talking about anyway. But I’ll touch on highlights of what would turn out to be the second, just for continuity.

August, 2001: In the works for years, literally, my grandmother took me to Vegas for my 21st birthday, which was actually that May. My dad and roommate, Andy, went with us. The majority of the trip was spent with Grandma Karen doing things with another friend of hers who happened to be there too, while the three of us crammed into a room and played blackjack at $3 a hand. To sum up, we all got our butts kicked and came home broke.

February, 2005: Katrina and I get the bright idea that in several months time, we are going to take Josh and a friend to Vegas for his 21st birthday. Brilliant!
October, 2005: A routine is born. Teeming with excitement and overwhelmed by our preponderance of procrastination, of course we aren’t yet packed. So hot pizza and cold coke became the dinner of choice while we taking turns packing and cleaning our house, all while talking about what we would do if we won a stupid amount of money, and watching the movie Casino for the umpteenth time.

At 0-dark-30 the following morning, I arose to rally the troops, get them dressed, pack their stuff in the car, brush their teeth, put in their contacts and all other manner of early rituals, just to drop them into the car and watch them all fall right back to sleep as I have to drive us to the Dayton airport, roughly 40 or so miles from our apartment to catch a 6 am flight. It’s an odd set of circumstances to deal with, driving before dawn with a bunch of people sleeping, trying not to wake them, but playing music loud enough and keeping the cabin temperature cool enough to keep them asleep but you awake. A delicate dance. A ballet, if you will.

After being hassled and searched just short of requiring a dinner for my time and services, we work our way on to the plane to be greeted by none other then a shoulder to shoulder packed flight and scattered seats to the point that we couldn’t even negotiate with a near-by passenger to swap with us. The only available seat on the whole plane is right next to me. Not a week before, Trina flew to New York for work, and was totally freaked out, no thanks to me, about flying to New York, near the anniversary of 9/11, and on the Ramadan. Now was time for payback as a lone middle-eastern gentleman with a turban was making his was to what was the only open seat left on the plane. I’m sorry to stereotype, but you came thought security, were “randomly” searched, then sniffed by bomb dogs, right? Glancing back and catching Trina’s eye as if to telepathically convey my fear, she just grins and nods as if to say “paybacks a bitch!” Yeah, if the plane explodes at 30,000 feet, you’ll live. All in all, I was fine until we started to taxi to the runway, and this guy puts his head down and starts to pray in Hindi. Dude, reach for your shoes, and I’m taking you out. I’ve never gotten off a plane so fast in my life.

After a quick jaunt through Dallas, we find ourselves on final approach to the aeronautic gateway to the majesty that is Las Vegas, Nevada. All I can hear in my head is Elvis signing “A Little More Conversation” as the early morning sun reflects off the Mandalay Bay hotel blinding all those who dare to look right at it. If you haven’t ever been to McCarren airport, it’s a trip. The excitement of the city swallows you immediately as you are greeted by clanging slot machines, and chain smokers fighting to the death to get a spot in the smokers lounge in each terminal. And thinking we would be smart and beat the rush, we just packed light, carrying everything on. Fat chance as we hit the sidewalk and find ourselves 30 people deep in line for a taxi. It’s 9:37 a.m. local time on a Monday in September. Don’t you people have jobs?

A short time later, the cousin of the guy that I sat next to on the first leg of the trip drops us of at the Luxor, we check in, and then review the plan of attack; gamble, drink, gamble, eat something, gamble, and gamble. Josh, God love him, comes strong with his $200 to gamble on for the week thinks he’s going to sit down at a poker table and pull a Mike McD, parlaying all that jack into several grand. Ah Hollywood. So on the fly, while walking the strip and seeing what all there is to see, I start briefing him on the rules and etiquette of the illustrious game that is Black Jack.

Our first experience at the table went up and down, but ultimately we came out with more then we sat down with, all in all netting probably $60 or so a piece. A little more walking found us back at the Luxor with all of us retiring to our rooms to rejuvenate a bit, not that I slept. I was wired. I was bitten by the bug. The sights, sounds, smells, all of it; I just wanted more.

I guess it was just a little while later, probably 7 or so, that Josh knocked on our door, and it was time to hit the trough again. Sarah was still asleep, so Josh, Trina, and I went down to enjoy the Burger Bar in Mandalay Bay. Then, like the Sirens beckoning Ulysses to the rocks, the tables called. Trina took her leave, went up to bed, and still riding the high of where we were, Josh and I took our seats at a $10 double-deck table.

Then, as if ripped from the pages of the “You know you should go to bed when…” manual, Josh quickly lost his buy in, while I couldn’t lose a hand. Ordinarily, I hate being the only one at the table, but when you’re winning four out of every five hands, you don’t leave. About the time the four wannabe high-rollers, a.k.a. IT guys at a conference away from their wives, sat down and immediately started complaining about my play. “What? You’re doubling down? Oh man! Split those. No not those. Why would you- ugh.” Hey, I’m all for table mojo, and these guys were doing their best to screw it up. So with my eyes crossing, I’m pretty sure I said something snarky about how I was the only one at the table winning, when Josh helped me to understand that it would be in my best interests to go to bed. Probably a good idea since it was a little after midnight local time, and I had now been up for 24 hours straight.

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