Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Las Vegas: My Destination of Choice

Across the USA, sales of Jose Cuervo and Plan B skyrocket as college students are either recovering from, enjoying or about to embark on their Spring Break adventures. While my college Spring Breaks usually just meant doing laundry at my parents' house, many more fortunate students take epic vacations to Cancun or the Bahamas for a week of fun in the sun.

I recently returned from yet another adventure in my favorite vacation destination: Las Vegas. Despite being way past my college years, I partied right next to college juniors getting their first taste of Sin City and all its glory. It probably didn't take said college juniors a week of bed rest to recover like me, but I digress. No matter how many times I visit Vegas, I never get tired of it. With so many shows, clubs, restaurants and attractions to choose from, you can never "do it all" in just one trip. And so I return, year after year, while my liver silently judges me and my blistered feet beg for mercy.

People often ask me why I visit Vegas so often and why I love it so much. Here are my top ten reasons I find Vegas so awesome:

10) You can drink anywhere, anytime. Despite my millions of Facebook pictures that suggest otherwise, I am actually not a heavy drinker. I enjoy going out and having fun, but at home, I’m more of a “glass or two of red wine with dinner once a week” kind of girl. Of course, all that goes right out the window the moment I land at McCarran International. There’s something appealing about being able to carry a large fruity drink down the street at 2 PM that I can’t seem to resist. The “open container” law does not apply in Vegas.

9) The shows are amazing. I realize that a lot of concerts in Vegas cost twice as much as anywhere else and that many of the shows tour the country. But there’s nothing like seeing an authentic Vegas show such as Jubilee! or a Cirque de Soleil performance in its home. And unlike most other cities, you can have a cocktail while you watch them. I know. I have a problem.

8) You can be anyone you want to be. When I talk to someone in Vegas, especially at a bar, I automatically assume they’re full of shit. I’m usually full of shit, too. There’s an app on the visitlasvegas.com site that allows you to create a custom alias for a reason. In Vegas, nearly everyone will give you a fake name, occupation, even reason for visiting. Go ahead, give them a fake name. Odds are, they won’t remember or care. That’s half the fun.

7) You can visit nearly everywhere in the world from the comforts of the Strip. Yes, I’m aware that a fake Venice casino is really nothing like the real Venice. I have been to the real Venice. It’s amazing and I mean the actual places the casinos emulate no disrespect. But it’s still fun to go from Rome to Paris to Venice in an afternoon. Besides, unlike the real Venice, the Venetian offers Gondola rides without having to endure the smell of 200 year old sewage.

6) You can wear things you wouldn’t get away with wearing anywhere else. I live in North Idaho. While living here certainly has its benefits, there’s no way in hell I’d wear half the dresses or outfits I wear when I visit Las Vegas. People don’t dress up often here… and on the rare occasion they do, their outfits still aren’t very dressy. Vegas gives me an opportunity to wear all the things that rarely see the light of day.

5) The people. During my last trip, I walked by a homeless man playing a guitar like an expert singing Billy Joel’s Piano Man perfectly on key. Next to him was a Gene Simmons impersonator wagging the longest fake tongue I’ve ever seen. I also met a dentist who complimented my teeth at random. You just never know in Vegas.

4) I would never… EVER… want to live there. I don’t mean to insult anyone who has made Vegas their home and I certainly see how it would appeal to some people. But here in my hometown, I own a very nice home in a nice neighborhood. If I lived there, I’d be sharing a ghetto apartment with roommates being serenaded by sirens every night while enduring the God awful summer heat. The traits I find endearing on visits would quickly annoy me, I’d soon run out of money, and my liver would pack up and leave me. The locals hate the Strip. I do not want to ever hate the Strip. Other places I visit make me want to sell my home and move immediately. Not Vegas. Vegas will always be the mistress I visit for a few days before eagerly heading home to my wife.

3) On that note, Las Vegas makes me appreciate where I live. Don’t get me wrong, I love it there. But after a few days, the city turns on you. Humans can only go so long without adequate sleep, with too much booze and too little nutritious food. I’ve found that after 72 hours of hardcore partying and endless walking, I’m ready for the clean air, the beautiful trees and mountains, and my soft bed. At home, it’s not nearly as likely that I’m going to be hit up for money aggressively by a middle aged man in a cheap business suit or incessantly handed “Live Nude Girls!” cards by cocaine-peddling non-English speaking gentlemen. Just sayin’.

2) The shopping. The girly girl in me absolutely loves the shopping. The Fashion Show Mall, the Forum Shops, the Miracle Mile Shops and the designer outlet mall hold a special place in my heart and are the reason I will probably never retire. Any money I don’t spend on overpriced food and alcohol goes to the stores. Having shopped all three last year, I can honestly say I prefer shopping in Vegas to shopping in New York. Vegas ties with LA shopping, however. I haven't forgotten my insanely discounted finds on Melrose.

1)At any time, there are hundreds of things going on. I do not understand boredom in Vegas. Between the free entertainment (the Treasure Island show and the Bellagio fountains) to observing the guy that is sloppy drunk by noon, there’s never a dull moment in Vegas. At the Rio, the servers randomly jump up and start belting out oldies like professionals and there’s never a shortage of mimes in the Venetian. Every tourist, whether it’s a first visit or a hundredth, should have something to do at all times. The biggest problem with this is trying to be everywhere at once.

When I return from Vegas, I always look like I just spent a month in a third world country. My feet are torn up and I hobble from all the sore muscles that come with spending three days in heels. I’m broke, I’m fat, I have awful skin and I’m exhausted. But eventually my skin clears up, the blisters heal and I find myself craving the sound of the slot machines and the lights of the Strip again. There may come a day when I’ve had enough Vegas, but I’m nowhere near reaching it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Waking up in Vegas

I don’t care what skeptics say. There are moments, now and then, where you can look at a couple and just know in your heart that they are absolutely going to be together forever.

It was Sunday night in Sin City and the eight remaining members of the Wolf Pack who hadn’t flown home after Saturday’s debauchery had just enjoyed the Penn & Teller show at the Rio. N was craving dessert so we headed back to our hotel in search of some sweets. The only thing open was the Pyramid CafĂ©, where I have eaten more times in Las Vegas than any other restaurant combined due to its decent menu, low prices, and being open 24 hours. After all of us had stayed up much later than usual, drank much more than we were used and been screwed out of an hour of sleep by Daylight Savings time, our energy levels were low and we had reached the point in exhaustion where everything becomes funny.

Our waiter was an older gentleman who apparently learned English from his TV (seriously). His repetition of “Good times!”, “Let’s get this party started” and how seriously he took everything had us all giggling every time he turned around. We ordered some pretty oddball things (a side of french fries and some strawberries for me) and J’s sister, E, ordered herself the biggest and most delicious slice of mud pie I’ve ever seen. Once the pie was gone, E decided to get creative with the leftover food on the table. Apparently this is a hobby she’s had since childhood which makes it even more awesome since she’s now in her mid-twenties.
Intent on creating a masterpiece, E scanned the table and got to work. Before long, the pie plate had morphed into a lake with two canoes made of celery, people in the canoes made of chicken, and oars made of baby carrots. It was an impressive display which got even better when some guacamole became seaweed. All of us were laughing, but no one laughed harder than J. He was thinking about growing up with E and all of her previous food sculptures and that, combined with the exhaustion, caused one of those laugh-till-you-cry moments. At the sight of J losing it, N lost it too. As I looked at them laughing and crying together at the same time while E diligently (and quite seriously) worked on her project, I thought, it’s these moments of silliness that really make marriage the amazing adventure that it is… and I sure am glad to be marrying these two.

I hadn’t entertained a single thought of staying sober or classy for the Vegas festivities. But I knew we were all in trouble when I turned on my Blackberry when my plane landed and immediately received a text from F that said simply, “I’m f*cking tipsy!!!!!!!!” F had arrived earlier along with E and her boyfriend and the three of them immediately decided to drink their way up the strip. After an agonizing hour at McCarran airport, J and N arrived along with two more members of the Wolf Pack and we enjoyed a limo ride to the Luxor. After showering the airplane germs off me and hitting the buffet where I ate all the crap I hadn’t allowed myself for the past month, four of the ladies headed to the Palms to have drinks at the Playboy Club and dance at Moon.

The club was packed and before too long, F and I discovered our feet were swollen (never a good sign). Wanting to ensure we were able to keep up the following night, we went back to our room where we ordered spinach and artichoke dip and I enjoyed a wonderful 2 am bubble bath. Room service has got to be the greatest thing ever.

The plan for Saturday had been set for a month: dinner at Tao at the Venetian at 6 pm, a 7:30 limo pick up, an hour long cruise, the Thunder from Down Under Show at 9, another hour in the limo and then a nightclub. It sounds simple enough, but throw in six ladies and lots of booze and things will get confusing. After getting my hair done at the salon and getting dressed with F, we headed to E’s room to meet the other ladies around 5:30. There we found poor N, who was nowhere close to ready and about to panic. F grabbed a curling iron, the rest of us hauled ass to Tao to hold the reservation, and luckily N and F arrived in time for us to enjoy a delicious dinner and thank goodness for that because I wouldn’t have wanted to see us on empty stomachs.
The limo driver, Joe, was prompt and patient. I could tell he was a New Yorker before he told me as he just had the air of being cool without even trying. We cruised around, drinking champagne and talking about inappropriate things. The Thunder from Down Under show was even better than I remember it being and N got some special attention without having to go up onstage and fake an orgasm, much to her relief.

After the show and some raspberry kamikaze shots, we located Joe while simultaneously being devoured by the eyes of the lecherous men in the Excalibur. The second hour in the limo got a little fuzzy as N and I desperately tried to polish off the rum we’d bought for the limo. The last thing I clearly remember was chugging pure rum out of a champagne glass which is possibly the worst idea I’ve had in years.

We arrived at the Bellagio intending to go to The Bank nightclub but found ourselves distracted by the pretty flowers of the Conservatory. We took some pictures there, most of which I ruined with my incessant boob grabbing and obnoxious behavior. At that point, I was too far gone for it to be anything but awesome. At last, we located The Bank where we learned that we were not on “the list.” I am eternally grateful that my Blackberry mercy-deleted the number of the woman who coordinated the evening as she had assured me this would not happen.

We had an adorable little angel in our group named Megan who had never been to Vegas and thus was not jaded to the ways of the city. She kept asking sweetly for things and getting them….no excess tipping or flirting necessary. So it’s not surprising that before long, we found ourselves in the guest list line bypassing the general line like we’d wanted. And mere moments after that, we were on the dance floor making asses of ourselves like we were meant to.

Then things got even fuzzier. I have no idea how long I was at The Bank but I do know that suddenly my beautiful sparkly stilettos turned on me and we all needed out, stat. The next thing I knew, we were back at the hotel where I traded my stilettos for flip flops and went to the lobby where we found the men fresh back from the strip club and congregated at Liquidity Bar for…ugh… more drinks. I vaguely remember telling the Wolf Pack I really shouldn’t drink anymore. But before long there was champagne in front of me and moments after that it was gone. We told stories, took inappropriate pictures and participated in some debauchery. Some of our group has known each other for over 15 years, some of us had just met but that weekend we were all friends and that made me warm and fuzzy. Actually, that may have been the champagne. Suddenly it was 5 am and we crashed.

I woke up in a complete face plant, clothes strewn all over and my stilettos on the ironing board. F was nowhere to be found. I sent a mass text to the group:

 1. I think I have a brain aneurism 2. Why it is noon and not 11 am? 3. What’s the plan for the day? 4. I AM IN SO MUCH PAIN RIGHT NOW.

 I soon learned that Daylight Savings had cursed me while in Vegas for the second time and spent the rest of the day attempting to hydrate myself and apologizing for my behavior that fortunately nobody seemed to mind.

I love Las Vegas. I shouldn’t. I spend entirely too much money there, eat too much, drink too much and act in ways I normally wouldn’t. It always takes my body a week to recover and my bank account and mind far longer. My feet always look like I stepped on a landmine and I always lose something… this time it was a sweater. But I do love Vegas and it seems that as soon as I return home, I want to go back. So after everyone had headed off to the airport on Monday, I walked myself up the strip to the Paris and bought myself a cappuccino and a French pastry.

I don’t want to go home, I thought as I savored the chocolate goodness and much-needed caffeine. Maybe I’ll walk out to the casino and win enough money to fly Mr. W down here for the rest of the week. I don’t want this to be over.

As if on cue, a creepy man in a cheesy Wal Mart-esque suit approached me, attempted to charm me offered me a free massage and hit me up for five bucks. Every fantasy about Vegas came to a screeching halt and I hauled ass outside, grabbed a cab, got my luggage and headed to the airport. Over my third liter of water I decided to look through my camera and burst into laughter for the millionth time that weekend. I looked up to see a group of young guys doing the same thing with their cameras and we grinned at each other.

There are certain memories that can only be made in Las Vegas. And though I am having issues with recollection, it’s safe to say good memories were definitely made.

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