Monday, August 22, 2011

2 Very Different Vacations

Sorry for the absence. I've been off living my life. I know, right? I just had two consecutive weekends that were both fun for very different reasons. But both served, again, in very different ways, as ass kicks that I need to be out LIVING my life and not endlessly reading my Twitter feed. (That shit is SO hard to kick as addictions go, you have no idea. Which is annoying because maybe 5% of it is even memorable. But there I sit, reading everything 140 characters at a time. ANYWAY.)

First up: Vegas. Just the highlights as you don't need every detail of my trip. That'd be hella boring.

Saturday night I was just about the only girl in a room of 150 sports bloggers. I was stone cold sober and COMPLETELY out of my depth in sports knowledge when first sitting there. Since you only know the outgoing version of me, as that's what I write about, know that version is not the totality of me. Being outmatched in a room full of guys? This makes me clam up like whoa and I sat there paralyzed in fear of looking like the giant moron I always assume I am for a large starting portion of the evening.

But as I took full advantage of the open bar, I gradually opened up. Even if not completely. I never did talk to the Caps blogger at the table (I know, I KNOW, okay?). But I did talk to the guys that run this website and they were all hysterically funny, smart, unendingly knowledgeable and amusing. They also put up with me. I enjoyed them so much, I forgave their allegiance to burnt orange (god I hate burnt orange). After the open bar closed, as we were staying at an off strip hotel with no casino in the lobby, I headed off with them and my traveling companion to Wynn. Me and seven guys. I feel like a lot of my stories start that way. That's not a complaint.

As it's a Saturday night in Vegas and we're at freaking Wynn, the table minimums were all $50. That was too high stakes for any of us. But as we're wandering around the casino, wondering what to do, and no one wants to leave but no one wants to play $50 hands of blackjack, the booze kicks in and I suddenly become assertive vacation me. I ask one of the guys, "Don't casinos want our money? Won't they lower the table stakes if we just ask?" He sort of half shrugs and tells me sure. I then march myself over to an empty blackjack table and explain the situation to the pit boss and dealer that are standing there. This was a fortunate choice, even in my buzzed state. It was an older, handsome pit boss, and a tough looking dealer and I did that doe eyed girl thing that, frankly, I thought I was completely incapable of pulling off. "Um, if I fill the table, can you lower the stakes?" At first he jokes with me that, yeah, he'll lower it to $49. He asks what we want to play for and I say $25. He says he won't change the sign on the table but yeah, we can play for $25 a hand. I go grab the rest of our group and say, "Hey! I got the table limit lowered to $25. Let's go play!" Three of the Texas guys sit down. The Vegas odds maker stands to my right and the rest of our group heads off to the bar.

Seriously, one of my greatest victories ever is pulling off the lowered table limit thing. I mean, maybe they do this for everyone ever, I don't go to Vegas enough to know. And kind of don't want to know. Don't tell me. But that I, non supermodel, walked into one of the nicest hotels in Vegas and got them to let us play for less was AMAZING. Super thrill. Way to make me feel important, Wynn.

Even still. Playing for $25 a hand when you are seriously broke is TERRIFYING. I do not have money to lose. I could feel my heart start to race. I was anxious. I was also good and buzzed. I also kept winning. Like, a lot. I only changed $100. I know at one point there was in excess of $500 in front of me.

The thing about gambling, in my fairly limited experience, is that being with a group is what makes it fun. Being at a table and being loud and rowdy and having fun and the attendant banter is what makes it awesome. And that's what we had. Me and four dudes. The various dealers we had (the amazing Romanian guy and the...Thai guy?) were super engaging and loved us, and the pit boss was always nearby, laughing that I am incapable of counting to 21. In fact I sat down and said, "I can't even count to 21!", because it's factual. My brain sees numbers and just shuts the hell down. He says, "We love to hear that!" Vegas dude was telling me how to bet because no matter how many times I hit "bet" on my cell phone when sitting bored someplace, it does not translate to being at a table. I never know when to split or double down (that one I've sort of figured out), so Vegas guy was guiding me continuously. Let alone the whole counting thing. And yet despite all that: winning.

All the guys kept making fun of me for winning. I am a superstitious freak. You have NO idea. All my Irish Catholic Russian Jewish roots kick in and I expect the worst at every turn. So every time one of them would loudly point out that I was winning like whoa I would aggressively shush them. No lie. I would go, "SSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHH!" I mostly do this as a no jinx. I also do this because winning freaks me the fuck out. I was also cupping my hands next to my eyes (like fake binoculars, ya know?) because I just couldn't handle all the other stimuli of the casino. One of the guys was at one point imploring me to bet more. "Please. Please! Just put more for each hand!" I couldn't do it. I knew the second I did, I'd lose. And sure enough, I acquiesced for a hand and the money disappeared. The introduction of the cocktail waitress and several crown and cokes likely did not help with my ability to bet but did help with the banter. It was a damn freaking good time. I handed Andy a large portion of my chips at one point, soon busted out, and went and met the rest of the guys at the bar. I walked away definitely up.

On Monday in Vegas, I was curious about the craps table. I've always been curious about the craps table. I've watched Guys and Dolls far too many times. But it also scares me and I don't know how it works. I was wandering the casino post hanging out at the pool, so I'm in a swimsuit, tank top, shorts, flips and a baseball hat. I mosey past one table and then stop to watch another one for a bit. I finally lean in conspiratorially to the woman standing at the end of the table. Her name is Theresa and she is from Midland, TX. Which means she is wwaaayyy Texas. It didn't take long to surmise that her business was definitely oil. Or ooooouuul as they say. She has three daughters who have alliterative names and was hysterical. She became my new best friend at our hotel (I switched hotels from off strip to Aria on Sunday). She showed me how to place bets at craps, and we laughed and chatted at our table. And then it was my turn to be shooter. AH! Again with the anxiety. But I shot for a long time. Or it felt like a long time. Beginners luck, y'all. I finally learned how to bet the pass line and that I like placing money on 9. But mostly I liked hanging out with the big haired Texan making comments about the other people at our table, like the quiet and observant woman who changed a $1,000 and left with far more than that. Theresa was drinking bud light and jager bombs. And is about my parents age. Even I can't stomach jager bombs. Every time after that I would walk through the casino, she'd see me and say in her deep Texas accent, "Llllllleeeessaa! Come play!" I declined as it turns out I'm kinda bad at craps/don't win money, but I had fun with her. I also got dressed up all fancy like because I was gonna take Vegas by storm on Monday night (this did not end up happening). I looked amazing. You know me, generally not with the self congratulatory comments but I was in a skirt and heels which is rare and I was just freaking rocking it. As I was traveling with a dude friend, I get no comments on this. But Texas lady, who met me in my scrubby pool outfit, made sure to tell me "You sure clean up niiiice!" "Thank ya!" I replied, because when around accents, the mild one I had in college dials up a few notches.

Funny that I am not the biggest fan of the state of Texas and yet had an amazing weekend with people with allegiances to that state (the blogger guys live all over the country now). I came home from Vegas and slept for 12 hours straight.

This weekend: River rafting. My dad has a friend (of course he does!) who owns a river rafting company and has been asking my dad to go up for many years. I don't do much camping. Trust me, Aria is much more my scene than roughing it. The last time I went camping? Yeah, I have no idea. A long ass time ago. I went rafting once when I was 15 and that's the extent of it.

We show up Friday night, take the bus down to the campsite, set up, grab some grub and start drinking beers under the stars. It's pretty awesome.

Then they showed a movie outdoors. They were going to show Deliverance, the humor of which I just loved. Sure! Let's show a movie about people on a horrible rafting trip before you head river rafting! But since it was the end of the season, they show the movie all summer, and there were repeat visitors, they switched the movie to Old School. I honestly loved sitting under the stars, drinking beer, watching a stupid movie. When Frank the Tank streaks, 5 guys ran in front of the screen. I slept in a tent. I peed in a port-o-potty. The moon was so bright you didn't even need a flashlight to find your way to the bathrooms. I really need to sit and drink on a river more often. Reminded me of Louisiana. We all know I miss Louisiana.

Saturday morning I was up at some bizarrely early hour, which is apparently what happens when you have no clock. I was sitting outside for a full hour before they said breakfast was available and orientation would take place in an 8 a.m. The hell...? I wasn't scared about the rafting. I can swim. I'd been assured this was a class 3 river. I saw all the drunken people getting on the river. It was definitely a crowd that skewed younger. There were also people not svelte like me. I figured odds were good.

Y'all. I got my ass KICKED by a river. I got dumped from the boat three times. I think a lot of this was related to my dad sitting behind me and trying to rudder, which caused water to fill the boat, which caused me to get flipped out. We were in a three person boat, me, dad and Angela. Dad's friends Dave and Allison were in a two person boat. The 2 person boat is shaped like a banana and we would later find out was more porsche like. Ours was like driving a 1980 Dodge Caravan. We had no maneuverability. We would also later find out that we should have gone rafting 3 weeks earlier. The water level was perfect then and there were far less exposed rocks. The problem was that as soon as we navigated around one rock, there would be another. And as we're not expert rafters and this was a self guided trip, this led to a lot of missteps.

The first time I got dumped, I just laughed the whole time down and kept repeating "Toes up! Toes up!" to myself. This is apparently how you keep your head above water and make sure you don't get smashed by rocks. Fun fact! When the water level is low and the rocks are everywhere and the water is rushing, good luck keeping your toes forward and your head above water. I smashed my hips good. I got done and it was sort of exciting. If not frightening.

The second time it happened I was destroyed. I bashed my shin, for which I still have a nasty bruise, and spent a good minute coughing up river water.

We stopped for lunch and I said, "This is not happening again." I didn't want to work against the river, that wasn't going to accomplish anything. After eating we start again and we navigate a couple rapids and my dad and I get dumped again. More bruises. We land on a beach and he asks if I'm okay. I tell him no, not really. I was done. DONE. I was getting my butt kicked.

I felt a little like a failure. I like to finish what I start. I like to think of myself way more athletic than I am. I don't like losing. I have been working out like a maniac (okay not recently but still!) and I couldn't finish the river. We apparently made it only half way. When we got a ride back to our campsite, the guide who gave us a ride told us that lots of people ask out of the river. That made me feel a little better. I also watched the river from the seat of the truck and thought, "Yeah, that woulda been miserable." As my dad said, when it starts being survival and not fun, it's time to go. When I got the info about going earlier in the season and the crappy 3 person boat I felt even better.

And funny enough, as much as I hurt, I'm also glad I hurt. I can handle it. I need more workouts that kick my ass. Like, I'm tough, ya know? It felt good to know what I can handle. And I want to be able to do that more often. And next summer? Gonna kick some ass.

We had giant camp dinner of steak and potatoes and corn. The owner dude has this thing down to a science. He's crazy, rich, and likes a...certain type of hard partying woman. He is a very interesting character and owning a 100 acres of river adjacent property in the middle of nowhere but really only 2 hours from San Francisco seems kinda awesome. I met a cute guy. He immediately told me about his wife. Sigh.

Then that night? It was black light disco. The entire dining area turns into a giant dance floor and we all got glow stick necklaces and the place goes crazy. They play loud music and have go-go dancers. Disco is a misnomer because it's all just top 40 stuff. Since I'd been drinking since we got back from rafting, I'm on a river, haven't showered in a day, and am never gonna see any of these people again, I do what I've been wanting to do forever: I danced my ass off. My dad later told me he was impressed. No one knows I can shake my ass like that because I rarely get a chance/am too self conscious. THIS is why I was itching to go to a club in Vegas, something I didn't get to do. I also miss the stepsis because we seriously need to get into some trouble. I had a blast dancing, finally giving up on it once I was left alone. I wasn't really meeting any dudes or anything and everyone else in my group peaced out. But our area of the campsite was pretty empty, still adjacent to the music, at that point so I continued to dance there. Why not?

I watched the moon rise over the river and finally went to sleep, as much as I could with loud, drunk 20 somethings around still being noisy.

I was exhausted on the ride home, slept like a rock last night, and headed immediately back to the gym.

It's been a good, if not completely exhausting couple of weekends. And now I just need to figure out a way to distract myself for one last weekend before my version of Christmas: the start of football season.

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