Friday, September 26, 2008

Las Vegas, Day 1 - Let me upgrade ya

I’m not cheap. Overall I would say I’m a liberal spender in the realm of frugality.

Still, en route to Las Vegas, we rode Marta to the airport, arranged to bring mini bottles on the plane to avoid buying cocktails, and we stuffed six people in our friend from L.A.’s car to avoid a taxi fare.

Once in Vegas, frugal is a little different.

My bribe to the woman at the front desk was $20, not $100, I preferred my chips in the red $5 variety, not the green $25, and I collected ‘free’ passes to the clubs vehemently.

They know my type in Vegas. I’m the type that doesn’t keep the city going, but I certainly don’t hurt. At the front desk of the Treasure Island they responded to the $20 bill that I not-so-coolly placed between my license and credit card appropriately. Our room near the top of the hotel with a strip view was adequate, but more importantly they acted like they gave a damn.

From work, for weeks leading up to the trip, I’d proposed lists of ideas for each night. Before I could finish my first unpleasant drink, consisting of whiskey and Rockstar, I knew that none the plans that I’d longingly anticipated would take place. And this was perfectly ok.

We left our room and gambled, uninterrupted, for the next five hours. It didn’t matter that our combined salaries couldn’t buy the Lamborghini parked in front. When you’re young and bright, sometimes you bank on what’s to come. Knowing you’re going to succeed and giving yourself a little a preview - an incentive to work hard. I’d say that’s the American Way.

It took a little work, but by 2 a.m. we’d all congregated, and were ready to try to get in a club. We were on a list at Tao, one of the more popular clubs in Vegas, and we crossed the street to try our luck.

It’s my experience that there are quite a few types of lists. Lists that actually mean something, lists that get you to the front of the line, lists that get you in a different line, and lists that don’t exist.

I’m not sure what we had. We kept dropping our contact, Jessie’s, name. Unfortunately we thought Jessie was a girl, so our pronoun form was she, instead of he. Eventually we bypassed the line, and were granted entry for the bargain rate of $30. As a group we declined, and proceeded to aimlessly wonder around the Venetian Casino.

The Baby Maker found a group of drunken Eastern Europeans, and attempted to hold all three of their hands at once. The Red Lobster, Hyphen and Westin went off for untold gambling adventures. So that left me and The F Man.

We spotted two good looking girls headed toward Tao, and asked them if they would help us get into the club. We talked to the same guy as before, and he put is in the final queue for entry. We paid $20 to get in, and the girls got in free. After entry, they didn’t say another word to us. I won’t say this act alone shattered my confidence, but over the next couple of hours, and countless uninterested dance partners, it was crushed.

The place wasn’t a complete bust. A substance I still believe is most closely associated with snow fell from the ceiling, there were beautiful women in bathtubs covered only by rose petals, and I danced near some pretty hot girls.

We got back to the room just before 5 a.m. The Hyphen was in an unknown location gambling. I was slightly concerned he was out by himself, but my general exhaustion and the fact there was nothing I could do comforted me as I fell asleep.

We’d been in Vegas less than 12 hours, and already I was dreading Sunday, when we would return to reality.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Las Vegas - The Second Annual

For me, a good trip to Las Vegas requires a period of reflection in order to grasp what took place. I had no idea what to expect when I left, and when I got back I didn’t have much better of an idea.

We left nearly two weeks ago, equipped with a dozen mini bottles for the plane ride and a certainty that many of the stories that took place in the next 72 hours would be repeated for the rest of our lives.

I never blacked out. I know that my friends - The Baby Maker, Red Lobster, The Fuck Man and The Hyphen - all got nicknames. I know pictures were taken with Mike Tyson, and we shared a cabana with a Playboy Playmate. I now know that my company, AIG, was considering bankruptcy, while my primary concern was not jinxing myself on the craps table.

I guess what I’m trying to say, is that throughout my time in Vegas I had a pretty good idea what was going on around me, but I’m just now trying to figure out what really happened.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Panama City, Day 3 - How did this happen?

A few murky brown drops struggled to cover the bottom of the sandy ‘Margaritaville’ tequila bottle on the kitchen table. Empty beer bottles, of varieties we never purchases, laid strewn around the room. A mysterious pair of smooth, bare legs rested perpendicular to Tyler’s on the L shaped couch, both of their heads buried under pillows to block the light.

Behind me was a sheet-covered body, asleep courteously on the far right side of the bed. It was Sunday, our time was up in Panama City. The clock read 10:30. Multiple alarms had been set for 7 a.m., so Tyler would have a chance of making it to work. Let’s just say he wasn’t going to make it.

Let's flashback 24 hours to see how we got to this point ...

Saturday started much like Friday, except that the newness had worn off. Although I’ve been on a dozen trips with John and Tyler, this was the first of the three person assortment. After 48 hours of straight hanging out, pleasantries were nonexistent. With such a small group, the mood is incredibly variable. We slowly congregated over different breakfasts. Golden Grahams again for me, Pop tarts for John, and a cheese stick for Tyler.

In a matter of minutes we faced the reality that we were out of alcohol. The fact that more money would need to be spent, in addition to the impending trip didn’t help morale. What’s more, the passenger side window was left cracked on Tyler’s car, and somehow the entire side of the interior was soaked. Tyler, not getting the sympathy he felt he deserved, slumped into the saturated passenger seat. Justifiably, negative remark followed by more negative remarks flooded into my right ear. We were near an all time low.

The Big Easy Liquor Store was the first we saw. John, lacking an I.D., and Tyler, lacking a positive attitude, decided to stay in the car. I walked in and again, instead of a liquor store, with liquor on the shelves and beer in coolers, I saw a full bar. There was a handful of old men working crossword puzzles at the bar, while the women sat at a table talking. Including me, the average age was in the upper 60’s. They sensed my confusion, and the ring leader, a woman of 90 pounds, told me that the liquor store was just through the door. A statement that she's surely made over 10,000 times.

The kitchen-sized store, although not ideal, ended up being sufficient. For Consistency sake, I bought another case of Miller Lite, and added the cheapest vodka I could find that was in a glass bottle. It ended up being from Australia, and was somehow made from grapes. It took a painfully long time for her to ring me up, and I struggled to carry the alcohol in addition to two bags of ice through the bar and back to the car. My efforts would quickly be rewarded as Tyler, ever grateful, asked, “What took you so damn long?”

While I loaded the cooler, John scoped the beach for the most happening spot. We’d already confirmed that from over 1,000 feet it was impossible to tell if someone was attractive, but he was more confident than ever. He guided us to the right, roughly 100 yards down the beach. We were flanked on our right by two girls with the nicest beach chairs I’ve ever seen and just beyond them was a group of 15 girls of varying sizes. On our left was a slightly overweight guy, easing Bud Ice’s out of his cooler every couple minutes. We tastefully cracked jokes at his expense, until his good looking girlfriend greeted him with a kiss and a glare at our shabby setup – me sitting on the cooler, John and Tyler in second-hand chairs, and our gear in a plastic grocery bags.

It was a truly beautiful day. Any tension was released after the fourth and fifth beers were opened, and soon after we had struck up conversation with the two girls next to us who were college students down from Ohio. They spotted dolphins, and John corrected them, since they were probably porpoises. Not to be outdone, I confirmed the fact that they were porpoises by explaining that dolphins swim west to east, and these were going east to west.

Things were going good, I was proud of my clever comments, and for the first time Panama City seemed to have some potential. Moments after this realization, four young men showed up. It turned out they were with the girls we’d just met. They proceeded to chase and throw sand at one another. Disappointed with the recent development, we threw the Frisbee for a bit, and eventually decided to explore the other side of the beach. Time was flying by, and clouds were starting to roll in.

Down the beach we ran into a group of girls that we’d talked to briefly the day before, and decided to move our stuff down and sit with them. One of them was training to become a courtroom reporter, the other a teacher in Dalton, and the last was a student at Kennesaw. These seemed like satisfactory achievements to celebrate, so we got out the bottle of vodka. Along with a two liter of coke, the bottle was passed around. Somehow it came out, as I’m sure it always does, that one of the girls brother was Cohutta from the Real World Australia.

The conversation was engaging, nevertheless I was distracted when I saw a group funneling beers, an activity I hadn’t enjoyed in years. I used the distraction to escape our conversation, and as I approached I noticed a couple of girls heading the same way. We arrived at the same time, and within 30 seconds, one of the girls had the funnel full of beer. I waited patiently, beer in hand, for my turn. I doubted my funneling abilities were going to impress her, but I was at least hoping for conversation.

I never funneled a beer, instead she started talking to me about her infatuation with ducks. And since my shirt had a duck on it, saying , "The duck stops here," I was in luck. In an attempt to play it cool, I went back to my group, only to see John teaching Cohutta's sister how to throw the Frisbee, and Tyler still drinking straight vodka with the other girls. Somehow they were being entertained without me, so I stumbled my way back up to the intriguing duck girl. After more conversation we decided to go on a sea slug hunting adventure. We grabbed a cup to collect our findings, and headed down the beach.

She showed me how purple ink comes out when you smush them, and with sea slug ooze seeping out from under my heel, I smiled at the amazingly random absurdity of life. She was beautiful, and seemed to be enjoying my company, or at least my shirt. It was a nice shirt, but I agreed to give it to her if we met up later.

When we got back, we proudly displayed our finds. Nobody was overly impressed, and the first group of girls decided to go back to their room. We agreed to meet up with them for dinner. I exchanged phone numbers with the duck girl, and we filled Hot Wheels with all of our empties.

We got ready for the night, and about an hour later the girls were there to pick us up. At dinner Tyler seemed frustrated, John displayed his knowledge of fish, and I made up lies to entertain myself. I talked for way too long about living inside of a whale. I don't think they believed me, but I considered it a win just because I was allowed to talk on the subject for nearly three minutes. One of the Ohio girls from the beach was seated right next to us, and the young man she was with sat quietly. I secretly studied their awkwardness, until I heard a roar from the bar. I immediately knew what it was, and hurried in to see Michael Phelps win his eighth gold medal. I enjoyed my patriotism for a minute, and headed back to the table.

We finished up, paid our tab and headed back. On the way home we stopped by the Winn-Dixie liquor store, and bought the aforementioned 'Margaritaville' tequila. We decided to go over to their condo. Impromptu drinking games were created, and eventually a game of charades broke out. Camels and Ostriches were easy, even a sexy lizard was quickly guessed. Still, all of my efforts couldn't get anyone close to the butterfly that I was trying to be. My tactics were solid, and they knew I was some sort of flying object, but my coming out of a cocoon act merely confused my teammates. Frustrated, we walked to the Tiki bar, where the other girls from the beach were waiting. On the way we tossed the tequila bottle into the bushes for later.

End of Part 1