Friday, April 14, 2006

"I Love Vegas!"

I was waiting to write about Vegas until Pamie gave her account of Karaoke Girls Gone Wild, because really, that was her story to tell. Though she did manage to forget one of the underrated candidates for Line of the Night, when Sara M told some (possibly fictional) gambling addict that she'd "see [him] in the Debtor's Office." (Pam: "Is that next door to the Cobbler?")

But I'm getting ahead of myself. We'll start at base: I have an awesome job. And the chief perk of that job is that I get to work with a collection of smart and funny writers who occasionally get together in the same place to be smart and funny all at once. Me being new, this would be my first time meeting most of them. It would also be my first time in Las Vegas, a city I've never had all that much of an urge to visit, though Danny Ocean and his crew sure made it seem like a fun place. One of the few TWoP souls I had met before was Sars, who somehow came down with the plague the week leading up to the summit and had to back out. Ever the compassionate soul, I e-mailed her almost instantaneously with: "Oh, come ON! I won't know anybody!" Mother Teresa, eat your heart out. So. Flying near-blind here. Metaphorically. Literally, I was flying Southwest and got to experience their cattle-herding seating policy for the first time. The low fares are nice, but I'm not sure how much I'll be looking forward to standing in line for two hours just so I can be seated in the middle of the fraternity of Vegas, Baby, Vegas in the future. I keep mistakenly thinking I see the Grand Canyon as we cross the desert. The pilot is clearly fucking with me.

The Vegas airport offers me my first glimpse of the city. I resist the urge to get back on the plane. Nothing against actual Las Vegasians ('sup, Mathan!), but … okay, if you're looking for a place to go and hang out with your friends in a city where you never have to a) sleep, b) stop drinking, or c) stop smoking, Vegas is the place to be. However, if one were to describe the city of Las Vegas as "tacky" and the tourists crowding their streets and casinos as "trashy," well, I'm not sure I'd object. Bear in mind I don't think I ever left the Strip, so what do I know, really? I do know the view out my hotel window of the mountains was fucking gorgeous. Anyway. So the first people I meet after checking in are Wing and Glark, and we commiserate over tales of Wegmans subs and Scarborough, Ontario. We're later joined by Stee, Couch Baron, and Keckler and the Evil Dr. Mathra. The story of Vegeena, what it is, and what you can do with it, is best left to Keckler, I think. Suffice it to say, it was the most popular word of the weekend.

The next morning, Stee and I ventured out for coffee and met up with the just-arriving AB and Vince Chao. And my weekend would never be the same. I quickly start absorbing the Monroe, LA accent. Breakfast is … oh jeez. Breakfast. So our waiter is Doc, a one-time aspiring stand-up comedian whose life deposited him in Vegas and he never managed to escape. Or so we surmise. Because Doc is Funny! Or "funny," to be accurate. He forgets to ask AB for her order! He pulls the "Oh, I forgot to place your order … no I didn't!" fake-out on me. I'm so embarrassed to have to play any part in this. Finally, after seeing AB has failed to clean her plate, Doc busts out with the perennial grandma favorite, "There are starving people in China, you know." Except at "China," his gaze turns to Vince, and his voice sort of slurs ("Ch-ch-chiiiina") and suddenly he's all "Feed the Children" about how sad poverty and starvation are and how very not racist he is. He leaves to go bash his head into an aluminum pan in the kitchen: "Stupid, stupid, stupid!!" Vince: "But there are starving people in Ch-ch-Chicago, you know." Me: "Ch-ch-Chechnya." Couch Baron: "Ch-ch-Czechoslovakia." Vince: "Ch-ch-chew Zealand."

Stee and Couch Baron hit up a Texas Hold 'Em tournament. As seen on TV! Except without Ben Affleck pretending to be a card shark. Vince and I move on to the video poker machines, which proceed to clean us out. Every once in awhile, Stee will stop by, win eighty bucks, and be on his way again. It's very big of Vince and I not to hate him. After a big group dinner at a place that is not called The Cheeseburger Factory (but that's what I'll call it all weekend), word gets out that there are darts at Rio. Rio looks like it's very close by. Just down the street! Yeah, that's what Vegas wants you to think. By our third hour passing Caesar's Palace, we realize we're actually getting farther away from our destination. We run out of sidewalk. We have to make a thrilling run for our lives across the highway. I think one or two of us may have died along the way. And once we get to Rio, we find the bar that is … a scrubbed up version of every South Buffalo pub I've ever been to. Awesome. After an evening of darts (I suck) and surly bartenders, we return to the hotel by cab and walk past a most enraging sign in the lobby: "Free Shuttle to Rio." Grrr.

Saturday, the crowd heads to take in the cinematic pleasures of Antonio Banderas in Take the Lead. Surmising that while the movie will be funny, it won't get us drunk, AB, Vince, Sarah B., and I opt for shopping/boozing at the Aladdin. The girls shop at Sephora. Vince and I, however, rock Sephora. We abuse the free sample policy on cologne. We moisturize. We drink oddly colored elixirs which promise things like skin replenishment and eternal life. Then: the margarita stand. Apparently the only ways to comsume frozen alcoholic drinks at the Aladdin are in childrens' plastic sippy cups or in giant yardstick-height plastic tubes. Vince orders his piña colada in the sippy cup. Sarah, thinking she's getting away with something by muttering, calls us "pussies." Oh. It's on, then? I'll take the yardstick, please. It's like I've adopted a child made of booze. Y'all, that is a lot of piña colada to drink at once. I had to lie down on a bench just to angle myself correctly so I'd be able to finish what was left on the bottom. Vince and Ed couple off and hit up the roller-coaster at New York, New York, leaving my girls AB and Sarah and I to ferment in the lovely warm sun. AB explains Chao Camp to me, informing me that, having only been to Florida and Austin, I have yet to travel to The South. I start to make tentative travel plans.

After a couple hours of business meeting (we work hard, y'all), the herd heads to the Westin, where I meet Pam and Dan in earnest. All the attention tends to gravitate to Pam and Dan whenever they're in the room. That, or else I spent an inordinate amount of time creepily staring. I really hope it's not the latter. But what can I say? They're "so fucking funny." I bum about half of Pam's cigarettes -- because my pledge for the day was "no more smoking," so I'd left mine in the hotel room -- and she proceeds to fill me in on six years worth of summit history. I tell her how I came to find her "Wonder Killer" story, and how I'd printed it out and showed it to my parents one day ("This is what I mean when I say I want to write on the Internet."), and their response was the same as it is whenever they read my American Idol recaps: "I guess we just don't get your generation's sense of humor." Pam is nice enough to find that funny rather than insulting. I find that's the best way to take it.

After dinner is impromptu karaoke at the Westin, and everything Pam said is entirely true. "Some other drunk." "Fun's over." "Wesley Snipes 86'd at Mandalay Bay." (M Giant: "He always bet on black.") Pam's Treo somehow thinks the word "pardon" is actually "ferden." We make her sing it the wrong way, because why would the Treo lie? I about die when AB throws a "Vince Chao" into "The Gambler." Vince was somewhere among the slots at the time, probably thinking the Wheel of Fortune machine was talking to him.

Sunday is spent traveling and, before that, dreading traveling. By some miracle, I'm able to Advil my hangover away just as we're boarding the airplane, so it's not as bad a flight as I feared. I got to reflect on how I now know all these crazily cool people … who live in Louisiana and L.A. and San Francisco and Chicago. Damn Manifest Destiny and its resulting huge-ass country we now live in. But if it's only once a year we get to do this, it's worth it. "Wesley Snipes 86'd at Mandalay Bay," people! Starving people in Ch-ch-chicago.


StickyKeys said...

Joe R you are fresh to death! This was excellent (writing and reading wise), I'm amazed that you recovered enough to actually write this entire entry!

Glad you had such a great time.

Glark said...

You forgot my spectacular win in safety dart cricket. I'm sending you all plaques to remind you of it.

wolfchick said...

So no muggers or C.H.U.D.s or Pepi in Vegas then? Good deal.