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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Jose, Can You See Me at Boar's Head?

Unless you happen to have a Golden Retriever, there's no warmer "welcome home!" reception than from one Mr. Internet Famous Jose, bartender extraordinaire at the Main Street Station Boar's Head Bar.

Word was getting out about this beautiful little wonder, because there almost every seat with a VP machine in front of it was taken. There aren't any old bartop machines. These are full pay, 9/6 Jacks or Better at the quarter level VP.

My friend found a couple of coveted spots, side by side, and we settled in, the smooth marble bar cool and refreshing under our forearms. The giant fern leaf fans rotated slowly overhead from the high ceilings. Jose's glorious countenance appeared in front of me, his broad smile like the sun.

"My friend!" he exclaimed! "Welcome back!"

He extended his hand for a warm, familiar handshake as he did every time. And as he does countless times a night, to so many of us. Robert called out and waved from behind the bar. He used to live where I live, which is a place that is a bit obscure. We caught up a bit while he somehow kept up with everyone's orders.

Caesars Statue sans fountain

Indeed, it felt great to be back. It was my first return trip to Main Street since the shootings two weeks earlier. Jose said he was doing OK, but other friends weren't so lucky. One cocktail server had not been able to return to work yet. She had been at the Route 91 concert, and everyone around her had taken a bullet. Some died.

I hope she is able to get some financial assistance from the emergency fund. If you're not at work as a cocktail server, you're probably not getting paid. Anything. At all. But she wasn't injured, so would she qualify?

I doubled down on my intention to tip everyone especially well this trip. A sign at the airport summed it up perfectly with these words behind a simple drawing of the Vegas skyline: "We've been there for during the good times. Thank you for being there for us now. #VegasStrong".

We played video poker. I can't remember if I won or lost or how much. Bad, bad blogger lady. I know. But I do remember feeling OK, feeling happy, feeling at home, deeply content and truly grateful to be back. Was Vegas ever going to be the same? No. Was Vegas going to be better than ever? Somehow, yes. I believed it would be. Heck, even before October 1, Vegas was never exactly the same place twice, yet still felt like a refuge from the world at large and all its insistent obligations. Vegas is re-inventing itself, again. This time, still an oasis of fun but with a heart as big as the world.

No Friday night in DTLV would be complete without a trip to Pizza Rock. The menu comes on old school album covers, and an additional menus on the records inside them. The decor here never fails to make me smile:
Pizza Rock Las Vegas Mens and Womens Bathroom Signs
Pizza Rock embraces bathroom humor. 

Pizza Rock Soap Dispenser
More Pizza Rock bathroom humor. Heh. I was laughing on the inside AND the outside.
I love to get up when the rest of Vegas is going to bed, so back I went to the California. I had a west-facing, west tower room this time, 2122. Completely and beautifully remodeled, the Cal is the Cosmo of Downtown. OK. That's not exactly true. But it is large, luxurious, clean and comfortable. I slept like a baby. Well, except that babies wake up crying a lot, and crap their pants overnight. Not me. I slept like a cat in the sunny spot on a clean pile of laundry.
Somewhere, though, someone in Vegas no doubt woke up crying and/or crapped their pants.
I woke up early, before my alarm, to the beautiful sight of Vegas in the morning. Still a little dark, still a little neon glow. Bounded down the Hawaiian place for coffee, LapUp. Lapperts. You get a free donut with your large coffee.

My free room offer came with $10 to spend in restaurants at the Cal. I know with only 51 hours to spend in Vegas this weekend, there's no way a precious moment would be spent waiting for sit-down food like a civilized person. The Cal restaurant Aloha Specialities doesn't participate in the promotion, so, LapItUp it is. Decent coffee, decent donut. For $4, it's a steal. Well, for zero $, even better. I Lyft on outta there to TI. It's first light, baby. I got things to do.

Why TI? Because it's a lovely 5k run from TI to the Las Vegas sign. One universal truth is that we all go on vacation, and do the thing we love the most. For most people, it's golf. Or tennis. Or finally getting a chance to slowly savor a great book while soaking up the sun.

For me, it's running. I love, love, love to run.

And there is no better running than first light on the Las Vegas Strip. It's flat, it's warm, and features no snow or ice - ever. Amazing stair-training avoids lengthy stoplight delays. A million flashy, fun things to distract you from the fact you are running at dawn. Free, clean, fancy bathrooms abound - no Mad Pooper problem here. (Well, not from the runners.)

Caesars Statue sans fountain
This Caesar's beauty's expression is: dude. Where's my fountain? A Samsung store covers it right now. On the way back, an employee stood outside, bored and... staring at Apple iPhone 6. 
Caesars #VegasStrong
Et tu, Caesar
Brahma shrine @ Caesars
Stopped at the hidden Brahma shrine outside Caesars to light incense in honor of #VegasStrong

Destination next: Bellagio. The pescatore rose with the sun to procure the day's fresh catch for Harvest and Hyde. OK. These dudes weren't really fishing. They do fountain maintenance in their cool little skiff, the only non-gondola sea-worthy vessel on the whole strip. I always look for these guys during every morning run. Something about the normalcy of their daily routine put an extra bounce in my step this fine morning.

Oops, nope. That bounce was from a little plastic bottle filled with, well, something that doesn't belong in a bottle on the sidewalk.
Fishing at Bellagio
The little boat is in the shadow just in front of the bridge
Second fishing at Bellagio
Whatcha catchin', boys?
The Bellagio pulled me off the sidewalk and into its grand lobby. We all have our favorite Vegas rituals. Spinning three times before sitting a VP machine. Taking the cut card and putting it in your wallet, with a pretend-confused shrug. One of mine is zipping up the sidewalk into the Bellagio.

I gazed skyward in the lobby, taking in the radiant beauty of Dale Chihuly's glass work on the ceiling. You'd think a one-eyed glass-blower would be a menace in foundry, what with the depth perception compromise. That makes me respect his work even more. The Bellagio has replaced (or covered?) it's famous horse of a million tiny mirrors with this Samurai guy:

Samurai Bellagio
The new Samurai exhibition begins in November in their fine art gallery. I immediately put it on my long list of things I really want to do in Vegas next time, but never will. Then I scooted on into the conservatory, which amazes me every. single. time.
Peacocks Bellagio
Pea. Cock. 

Geezer tree
I love how the artist so accurately captured the essence of the ubiquitous creepy dude that always sits right next to me at El Cortez, even though every single other seat is available. Well-played, Bellagio.
Somehow, I was able to resist the pull of Chandelier bar at Cosmo, which is my usual running bar crawl destination. I ran across the fake Brooklyn bridge, happy and warm in the sunshine peaking over the Green Behemoth of the MGM Grand. I've run across the real Brooklyn bridge, too. The fake one is a LOT cleaner, safer, and less windy. And way closer to libations, VP, and bathrooms. Just saying.

As is always the case with one staircase or another at the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana, the stairs up to the walkway between NYNY and Excalibur were closed. Fine. I doubled back and crossed over to MGM. Next thing I knew, I'm was the always deserted Millennial Pit of MGM, aka, Level Up.
There were some new games to check out. I put $10 into a snazzy looking Jacks or Better without really paying attention, then looked at the pay table.

Excuse me?

A Royal Flush pays WHAT???
Bogus VP MGM

But hey. At least I could charge my phone, right into the VP machine:

USB on VP machine MGM
Owners of 3A cell phones are shit out of luck.
After a few hands (I know, I know), this little beauty popped out of the TITO area:

MGM drink ticket. also bogus

Winner winner, free drink dinner! I am well conditioned by Cosmo to think that this is worth something.

no beer for you!

I cashed out, and took my nifty little coupon over to the Level Up bar. The beer selection looked Breakfast Fabulous. I can already taste the Space Dust.

But no. I waited for a bartender to materialize. No one did. I walked out of Level Up to the next bar over. The bartender looked at my little coupon.

"That's not good here," he said.

"OK, I didn't see a bartender over there," I said.

"Yeah, that bar is closed." he said.

"Oh. When does it open?"

"I don't know. It should be open soon. I think."

"So that bar isn't open, and I can't use the coupon it here?"


And that, MGM, is how you lose the business of someone with a bit of expendable cash, willing and able to hang out, make bad decisions and play your 2500 credits for a Royal Flush JoB machine because the atmosphere is pretty cool. Isn't that what you wanted when you made Level Up in the first place?

I leave MGM with what I came in with. Well, except for the dollar I spent at the arcade-style basketball machine. I did okay, but it didn't give me any tickets. Not for beer, not for stuff animals, not even for those cute little fruity-smelling pencil-top erasers.

Tune in tomorrow, friends, for the rest of the run.

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