Sunday, June 24, 2012

Cesspool of Humanity

I got home from Vegas Thursday. I don't want to go back for a very very very long time, if ever.

I'm still so freaking exhausted.

Since what happens there, mercifully, stays there, some thoughts and highlights, while I work on pretending that the lowlights never ever happened and try to Eternal Sunshine them from my brain.

Here's the thing with Vegas: You want it to be super fun. You have all these expectations of the fun time that you will have and what you will do. At least I did. I wanted to make up for a couple awful memories from when I was there a year ago. But ya know what? It's just kind of an awful place and the pressure makes it more awful because it can't meet your expectations and there are girls who can't weigh 70lbs teetering around unattractively in $2k stilettos but they're getting all the attention which just makes you (me) and your (my) fragile ego feel worse.

It felt like when I was little and my mom would seethe through gritted teeth, "We're going to have FUN, goddamnit!" You knew from that point on that there was no possible way you were gonna have fun.

Before we even arrived, we had a rocking plane ride there. I've never, in my life, been air sick. I came pretty damn close on our flight in. It wasn't regular turbulence, that I could have handled. It was like being in a sports car where the steering wheel is touchy so every minute movement makes a slight jerk which makes you feel sea sick. I got off the plane and got a Dr Pepper. This should have been an indicator of how the trip would go but really you're just so excited to be in Vegas. Vegas, baby! (What everyone forgets when they quote that scene in Swingers is that Mikey and Trent drive home from their adventure looking about as beat as I feel right now.)

When we arrived, we got settled and went out in search of food. My dad heard about an Italian place from a coworker. He pulled it up on his phone and is all "It's about a 1/3 a mile away." My dad is not a Vegas guy at all. I rolled my eyes and told him that wasn't exactly an indicator. And it wasn't. The bell guy at our hotel, the Bellagio, said it was next door at Caesars. And sent us through the adjoining casinos and then through the Caesar forum shops. This ends up being a mile long trek. Which once I was oriented, I knew would have been much quicker had I gone along Las Vegas Boulevard and in.

I've been through the Caesar forum shops before. And every time I am in them, from a year ago, to five years ago, I immediately completely hate them. The low ceilings and low light and lack of maps and an inability to get the hell out of there make me feel claustrophobic and panicky. But I'd been given a destination and marched on. I got to the hostess desk at the indicated restaurant and the bitchy and uptight woman there informed me that the restaurant had a dress code. That my dad and stepmom's brother violated. Fine! We don't want to eat at your fancy restaurant anyways! It's at that point where I don't want to sit around and have another 20 minute discussion about where to go next or what to do. I needed to eat.

A digression about traveling with other people, and in particular other people's families: Having had a long term relationship or two, you figure out pretty quickly that other families don't do things the way your family does. Also in those relationships, I learned that I need to know my place and not be the pushy and overbearing person that I can be and to sit back and let them figure things out. My ex's family is similar to my stepmom's family though in that the no one is willing to actually MAKE the decisions. Everyone sits around hemming and hawing, neither wanting to make a decision that will lead to other people not having fun, or being responsible if things go sideways, or just really not caring, and nothing gets done until I reach the point where I'm ready to kill someone. It's a fun time. I try not to let this bother me but standing outside the fancy Italian restaurant needing food, something had to be done.

I remembered from my last visit to Vegas that a level or two below us was a restaurant I had been interested in eating at when solo but didn't. It's the Las Vegas outpost of New York's P.J. Clarke's. (Everything is an outpost of somewhere else in Vegas. Because nothing just springs up on its own in the desert.) This ended up being a great choice and we all had a good time, continuing to make jokes about how we didn't really want to eat at your fancy Italian restaurant anyway.

We head back to the hotel post dinner and celebrate my stepmom's brother turning 21 at midnight. I (re)learn to play craps with my stepmom's cousin and go on a bit of a roll where we play for three hours. The fun of craps is that you can play forever and not really lose. You won't really win either, but if you're in it for the entertainment and not the money, it's a good way to spend a few hours. It's now 4 a.m. and I'm back in my room, totally wound up. (Oh: I just assumed because I was the 7th wheel on this trip, I'd be sharing a room with someone. I'm pretty used to that being my role in life. When we checked in and I discovered I had my own room, I was elated. And pissed I hadn't put more pressure on one or the other of my friends to join me. Mostly the stepsis. Definitely always the stepsis. Who I think learned her own lesson about not deferring to her crappy post college job as super important and sometimes doing the fun thing is important instead. I hope, anyway.)

When I wake up, after only about 4 hours of sleep, I head to the pool for awhile. But I didn't pack sunscreen and as much as I know I tan, I also didn't feel like burning myself to a crisp in the midday sun, so I took off on a solo adventure down the strip to scope out Wynn for the NHL awards the following day. I mosey around the strip, doing that thing where I can't make my brain work to make decisions. I head to Lagasse's Stadium, a sports bar, and end up catching the last five minutes of the England game in a bar packed with the English. I wish I'd been there earlier to catch the whole game, but alas...

I head back down the strip and realize I am starving so stop at Serendipity3 (which has none of the charm of the original) at Caesar's and enjoy a frozen hot chocolate and some food. I stop by my dad's room just to check in. We were going to the 9:30 show of Ka at MGM. The last text I had received from him said we'd leave our hotel around 7. I'm BSing with him in his room when my stepmom, at 4:30 says, "Shouldn't we get ready to go?" Uh, what? Apparently the leaving time had been moved up to 5 and I hadn't gotten that text. I've been out traipsing around all day and thought I had a few hours to breathe and unwind, to get a nap in before another long night. I now don't. I wanted to fight on this one and say, "I'll just meet you over there later, really." But I just had that feeling that this was not the battle to fight. (I find out later from my stepmom I read that situation correctly.) So I freshened up and headed off...for 5+ hours at MGM.

Ka was...interesting? All Cirque shows begin to look the same. Amazing acrobatics, a ridiculous set piece, a thin story line that seems impossible to parse out. I was trying to figure out the story, attempting to understand why they moved from one place to the next when my stepmom's mom finally said, "You're thinking too hard about it." She was right. I stopped.

I had wanted to go to a club on Tuesday night. Specifically this one, which is the same one I had wanted to go to last year. I had also learned in my adventures that Henrik Lundqvist, goalie for the NY Rangers, was hosting a club night at LAVO. But as I sat in Ka falling asleep, and as Kyle, the birthday boy, pointed out, we all needed a good night sleep. I relented, even though I didn't want to. I don't go clubbing in SF. Ever. It's not my scene at all. But something about Vegas makes it seem like a good idea and I do like to dance, even if I do it infrequently. I have audacious sequined covered clothes that don't see the light of day in SF. I wanted a reason to wear them in Vegas and to dance to Call Me Maybe. But we can go Wednesday night.

Back at the hotel, my stepmom and I grabbed a drink while we waited for the boys to arrive, who had walked back from the MGM. I was beat. I had another drink when my dad returned and then announced I was going to bed. As I walked through the casino to the elevators solo, I noticed a bunch of activity at one of the craps tables and thought, "Huh. Quite a crowd for a Tuesday night." As I passed the table, I realized that Matthew Perry was standing at one end playing craps. I get pretty excited by celebrities, I see them so rarely. I was more excited by one who I knew was presenting at the NHL awards and could possibly get me in. Not that I was gonna talk to him. I made casual friends with the midwestern lady who was in awe of him as well and we chatted. She said she wanted a picture and I said, "Oh no! You can't do that!" I'd had my fill of him and was gonna move on when I saw the guys I'd been playing craps with the previous night and went to their table. We played for awhile, my stepmom's cousin joined me. My dad and stepmom stopped by.

Everyone I texted the next day asked if I talked to him. No. He was at a table with his boys and adorably cute girls playing $25 minimum craps. I was at the adjacent table with my back to him, literally about five feet away playing $10 hands. What would I have said to him? I'm not a gushing fan girl type. I just really really really wanted to go the NHL awards. "Hey Mr. Perry? I know you don't know me and I'm just a girl in a casino that looks nothing like the smoking hot girls you're with, but wanna get me into the NHL Awards?" Had I said something to my dad about him presenting, he would have done something about it because my dad defers to exactly no one. But I didn't. I just played a cold craps table for way too long because we were distracted by the table behind us and I lost all my money.

Things I considered saying to him were I the kind of cheeky person I am in my head:
A. Wasn't your dad in Veronica Mars? That show was AMAZING!
B. Didn't you play the male version of Ainsley Hayes on West Wing? I love Sorkin.
C. Are you related to Corey Perry? He's good at the hockey.

I lost, went back to my room, found $10 in chips and went back downstairs. I wanted to see how it was gonna play out, not even gonna lie. Life lesson I always forget: sometimes you should just walk away. I looked over at his table and saw a rack of $100 chips in front of him. He was on a 2 hour tear at the craps table, mostly up, judging by the excitement, and had $10k-ish in $100 chips. My stepmom's cousin looked over and said, "You missed the fact that below that he has $1k and $5k chips." He had, I dunno, $50k in chips at the craps table. And is so wealthy I'm gonna guess he could have walked away from them and not have missed them. Instead he was winning. Nothing to make you question your own self worth when you literally only have $10 left and a celebrity has more in chips at a craps table than you're gonna make all year. It made me hate everything. More than usual.

He finally left the table at around 3:30 a.m. His friend got the number of the two cute girls they'd been playing with, who happened to be the girlfriends of the guys I'd been playing with (they'd sent them over there). I thought it was weird that HE didn't get their numbers. Then I realized he doesn't ever ever have to ask for a number if he doesn't want to. You just send your boy to do it. It was like a real life version of Entourage.

After brunch buffet in the morning (is it weird that the gluttony of a buffet bothers me?), I had a decision to make: head to Wynn and stand in a crush of humanity attempting to get a glimpse at the NHL Awards or go to the pool. I decided on pool. This was likely the right call. I was feeling out of sorts and texting with the stepsis who said, "Mimosa!" Kathryn's answer to everything is alcohol. In Vegas it's not the wrong answer. She also knows how to pick the right drink for the occasion. I sat there by the pool, people watching, enjoying my day, charging a few over freaking priced cocktails to my room. It didn't suck.

I would have loved to go to the awards (obvious comment is obvious), but I didn't think I was gonna be plucked out of the plebes queue and get to magically go in. So it didn't make sense to go over to Wynn and just hope. Besides: they'd be at clubs that night, right?

We went back to the fancy Italian restaurant that night. The bitchy hostess from the first night wasn't there. And it ended up being incredibly awesome. We had a good time. Adorable waiter didn't hurt things. Excellent food also didn't hurt. I had put on my gear that night. I was dressed to impress and think I was impressing. Heels, sparkly top, makeup. We get back to the hotel around 11:30. Everyone takes a breather to get into more comfy clothes. I stay in what I am wearing and head to the casino floor. No one else ever rejoins me. I had pondered going to clubs solo but I didn't know what was open or where to go and as independent as I can be, sometimes I just don't have the energy to go wandering around by myself. I didn't have the wherewithal to compete with 22 year old stick girls on my own. I've done it before, in Hawaii and D.C. but...sometimes I want someone to snark with and to help me have fun. This was one of those moments. Running into hockey players at clubs was apparently not on the agenda for me.

Instead I went back to the craps table, and paying attention to feel of the tables this time, found a rowdy table full of mostly guys. I was at the opposite, quieter, end playing with couples. I was having a good time. Again, not exactly winning but if you want to spend 3 hours without losing your shirt, craps is the way to go. I had an awesome time, making friends with the girl to my right, having the really nice female craps table person chat with us, a little bit of cross table flirting from one of the guys in the group... It was a lot of fun. Until it suddenly completely wasn't.

I went back to my room feeling defeated. And antsy. I couldn't sleep. Too many thoughts running through my head that weren't pleasant. I packed my bags at 5 a.m. and considered heading to the airport right then, 12 hours ahead of my designated departure time. Instead I moseyed around most of the rest of the day with our group wanting more than anything to just get out of there. It was a wasted day. And our flight was delayed by five hours due to fog in SF. Fortunately, it being a Thursday, there were plenty of seats on the earlier flight that left when our flight was supposed to be leaving. Thanks for small miracles.

The sensory overload of Vegas is just way way too much. And it's all artificial. There is never not pop music being played in the background. And the clang of slot machines. Constant rotating spinning lights but no actual sunlight. The press of people trying to win money. It's all too much. And it never lives up to what I want it to be. Under a very limited set of circumstances will I be heading back.

So: I didn't sneak into the NHL awards. I didn't dance on a table at 4 a.m. I didn't see a single freaking hockey player in a town that was teeming with them. I didn't even go to Cane's (there was never a time when I was appropriately hungry and ready to take a cab to get junk food. Holding out for a trip to BR, I guess)

You win, Vegas, master of breaking people's spirits. 

Late nights, pumped in air, artificial light, and cigarette smoke and I am so so so relieved to be back in San Francisco. Never thought I'd be the one saying that.

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