Friday, October 21, 2011

Viva Las Vegas: Fear & Loathing

The first day of the trip (10/5) was, in fact, Dupa’s birthday. Our 6:20 a.m. departure had us groggily trudging through the Pittsburgh International Airport with a muted sense of anticipation. Really, how excited can you get for an orgy when you’re barely able to keep even your eyelids up? “If we look like this now,” I thought, “what the hell are we going to look like when we come back?”

Thankfully it was a direct flight. While T.C. snoozed a few rows back, Dupa and I alternated between states of reading, sleeping, and shrinking patience. By 9 a.m. Pittsburgh time we were nearly at our destination; Dupa looked at me and said “Jack & diet?” Why not? He pushed the flight attendant call button, and shortly thereafter we each had a surprisingly-strong plastic cup of party on the tray table in front of us. As we snapped pictures of our respective drinks (right), the older guy in the aisle seat next to me muttered, “That’s trouble.” Oh, if you only knew sir.

Once we were on the ground, the giddy schoolchildren inside of us took over. Facebook and Twitter updates were launched, announcing our arrival. Jokes were cracked back and forth as we claimed our bags and waited for a shuttle to the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. Suggestions about where to go for breakfast, where to gamble, and where to lose all hope of ever going back to Pittsburgh were all tossed around. We were kids in the admission line to an amusement park, competing over which rollercoasters we were going to ride first.

We arrived at the hotel around 8 a.m.; being well ahead of the check-in time, we left our bags with the bellhop and headed to Pampas Brazilian Grille for a steak and egg breakfast. Dupa washed down his breakfast with a Bloody Mary, which was one of the restaurant’s two morning drink specials. I chose to go with their other special: a mimosa. I was on vacation, after all. And feeling fancy, damn it. …Fight me.

As we wrapped up the meal, we each ordered a Shock Top draught for the road, drinking them down as we strolled through the Miracle Mile Shops. [If only all malls were void of open container laws. Can you imagine how much greater Christmas shopping would be? Black Friday would be one big kegger. Picture handing your mother a box on Christmas morning, and neither one of you has any clue as to what might be in there. Is it a blouse? Is it a piece of Sbarro pizza with a bite taken out of it?] We thought about cruising the Strip, but the unseasonably cool weather (low 60s) and overcast skies encouraged us to limit our exploration to the lands within the Planet Hollywood. And there was plenty to see. The casino floor is a purple, pink, and black playground, with slot machines, blackjack tables, roulette wheels, and TVs playing promos for Holly Madison’s “Peepshow” everywhere you look. Cocktail waitresses and “Pleasure Pit” dealers, dressed in bustiers, hot pants, and thigh high boots, patrol the grounds to catch any male eyes still standing after that onslaught, before they can stray towards the elevators. The poker room—really just a roped-off section of floor real estate—was the closest the PH came to disappointing me, but even it beckoned like a half-naked siren.

In the last year, Dupa has nurtured a blackjack obsession, starting with online play and then moving to the Rivers’ video blackjack games and low stakes tables. He found a $15 table on the PH floor that seemed to have his name on it, and changed in for $300 worth of chips. T.C. and I watched a few hands before realizing that neither of us planned on joining him at the table; T.C. suggested we find two open seats and video blackjack games at The Heart Bar, and I readily agreed. Free booze while you play—suck it Pennsylvania and West Virginia gaming laws! $20 in a machine meant we were drinking on the house, and my vodka tonics were like little reminders coming every ten minutes to say, “Hey, good for you; you made the right choice. You are very intelligent, and an exceptional human being. And have I told you how charming and handsome you are?” …Did I mention I was going through one every ten minutes?

After a short while, T.C. wandered off to the men’s room, but soon came back with Dupa. “Cashed out; I’m up $700,” the birthday boy said, grinning from ear-to-ear like a Cheshire Cat.

We played a bit more, slugging drinks and blinkingly taking in our surroundings, still in shock to be in Vegas. I took repeated breaks from the electronic blackjack cards to watch a sugar daddy across the bar who was seated with a hot woman. He was pushing 60; she was in her mid 20s. She pretended to find everything he said to be hilarious, and he kept shelling out money for drinks. Ah, the American Dream. As for this American, such pay-for-pleasure pursuits are just that—a dream; I cashed out at $10, down $50 to that point, slurping up the last of my drink as we finally made our way to the front desk to check in.

Every room in the PH is based on a different movie. The three of us were given the Forrest Gump room. It just felt…right. We made a quick trip to the ABC Store in the mall for supplies. T.C. bought a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black; I picked out a bottle of Belvedere and grabbed some cans of Red Bull. Happy birthday, Dupa. We also purchased two gallons of bottled water. This wasn’t our first rodeo.

Back in the room, Dupa decided he needed a nap. Why he also felt that he had to be naked to take said nap, I’ll never know. I can only hypothesize he felt it poetic to be in his birthday suit on his birthday. Then again, this is Dupa; taking his clothes off in public is as common as a handshake. (And, ironically, it’s also the next step for him in the course of an introduction.) Before he could climb into his bed, there was a knock at our door—the rollaway bed we had ordered was being delivered. Dupa jumped up to answer the door, but T.C. stopped him, and told him to go to bed. Thankfully he did, because when T.C. opened the door a cute girl in her early 20s pushed in the rollaway bed. Sexual harassment lawsuits – 0, Three Drunk Guys – 1.

After an hour or two of rest, we got ourselves together again. Showers, shaving, and Johnnie Walker on the rocks prepared us for our short walk down the Strip to O’Shea's. We grabbed a quick meal of traditional Irish cuisine at the in-house Burger King, and then found a $5 blackjack table to call home. Cheap blackjack, free drinks, and a bounty of skin populating the nearby beer pong tables. It was like a yinzer paradise. We soon learned the names and bedside habits of just about every dealer the casino employs, as we didn’t leave our seats for the better part of four hours. Unfortunately, they don’t hire from the same headhunters as Planet Hollywood. Nice people, all of them, but… Not that my boys or I cared, as long as they kept flipping over 23s to our doubled-down 18s.

One dealer (“Raw Deal”), who took over our table early in the night, reinforced my theory on O’Shea's “We don’t need hot, half-naked women to keep people playing” policy. Though, to be fair, I didn’t go any lower than her face. Dupa and T.C. stated that she had a very large rack that was eager to be freed from her uniform’s blouse. I don't remember that myself, but I highly doubt it could have salvaged anything for her.

[*pauses* God I’m an asshole.]

I asked the guys where the bathroom was; when T.C. pointed off in the distance, I couldn’t see anything. After leaning over and looking around Raw Deal, who was directly in my line of vision, I spotted the elusive men’s room sign.

Me: “Ah, couldn’t see around [Raw Deal].”
RD: *teasing* “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Me: *slightly embarrassed, trying to save face* “No, I mean, your beauty was just so overpowering, how could I possibly look anywhere else?”

This obvious (I thought) instance of back-pedaling bullshit managed to win the moment, as we all laughed and returned our attention to the blackcrack. And that was pretty much the only winning I did that night. But, I bought in at $100 and managed to play that same Benjamin all night. Not so fortunate was T.C., who made a trip or two to the ATM. Dupa, though, was actually up (call it birthday luck). Alcohol, however, was up on all three of us. To the point that, as a new dealer began at our table late in the night, I managed to spill my beer all over him, the table, and the deck of cards. “FLOOR!” [I vaguely remember joining him in yelling, “Floor!” As if I wasn’t the drunk that had caused the problem to begin with?]

I can’t imagine, though, that this is the first time they’ve had this happen at O’Shea's. Bellagio, Wynn, Caesar’s Palace—at those casinos, a couple of guys in colored blazers probably tap you on your shoulder and point to the doors when you soak a dealer, table, and cards (the trifecta!) with beer. At O’Shea's, they just walk your party over to another blackjack table, and call over a waitress to replace your drink.

Around 4 a.m., T.C. called “no mas” and stumbled out the doors. I hung on for another half hour or so, finally losing the last of my chips to a dealer’s 20. As I bid Dupa adieu and began following T.C.’s footsteps, I felt a tug at my arm. I turned to find Raw Deal, smiling at me. “Uhhhh…oh fuck.” [I mean, that’s what I said in my mind. I wouldn’t say that out loud, of course. …Then again, it was closing in on 5 a.m. and I’d been drinking all night. I can’t guarantee that I didn’t.] I gave a quick smile back, said a hurried and awkward “Be safe,” and power walked out the door.

Here’s the fun part. Ever have that dream where you’re stuck in a maze, disoriented in a haze of sleep, taking turn after turn that leads you right back to where you just were? Get sloppy drunk and stumble into the Planet Hollywood from the entrance on the Strip. I promise you, it’s the closest you’ll get to living that nightmare. I knew our room was on the 38th floor, and I knew that there were two sets of elevators—ones that went past the 23rd floor, and ones that didn’t. When I finally found a set of elevators after wandering through the casino floor, they were the wrong ones. I walked back out, and circled the floor again. Finally, I found a set of elevators. I hopped on one, and looked at the buttons; nothing higher than 23. Fuck! Another voyage out onto the casino floor, another set of elevators located. I peeked inside of one; nothing higher than 23. Fuck!

I took the escalator back down to the lobby and check-in counter. I knew we had gone up to the room from there that afternoon, and I remembered the elevators being down a hallway off to the left of the counter. I staggered past people just arriving from—or just leaving for—their what-happens-in-Vegas sin stories, and got to the elevators. I stepped onto one, feeling triumphant…only to see no buttons above 23. FUCK!

When I walked back out to the hallway, I wondered how hard the clerk would laugh at me when I asked for help getting to my room. Then a thought hit me. I had walked in from the left, where the lobby was. I turned and looked towards the right. Down the hall I saw a sign reading “Elevators: Floors 24 – 52”.

*sigh* Day One was officially in the books.

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