With Chris (from the Faces and Aces podcast) leading the way, we left the Wicked Spoon seeking the new Virtual Reality mecca on the west side of MGM. The Tipping the Odds boys set off for another adventure, but the rest of Oceans 14 XL gamely (heh) made their way to the Level Up lounge to sign up for a round of 3D pretend in the greatest pretend land of all.
Wicked Spoon was Wicked Good. Eric and I enjoyed a Squatter’s Brewery Hop Rising, a fabulous double IPA out of Utah on tap at the Level Up bar at MGM. It’s a fav beer of mine (detecting a theme yet?) and the first time I’m seeing it on tap.
The beers were $11 each, or free with the tickets that print out while you’re playing. It’s similar to the Cosmo drink system. The drinks here are less fancy schmancy, but no less precious. No tickey, no drinkey.
Eric is an expert on all things Total Rewards. You can catch him at Zork Fest in Atlantic City in December, speaking on what he knows best. https://travelzork.com/zorkfest/
As we chatted, around us at Level Up were the trappings of what MGM believes will attract Millennials. The cool, interactive games, the multiple TVs on the walls and in the glass tables, foosball, beer pong, the chic furniture, the hip design, beautiful sound systems, and of course, three courses/games to choose from at Virtual Reality.
People? Not too many people, actually. Well, there was THIS guy, who clearly felt Level Up wasn't nearly stimulating enough.
Eric wisely noted that everything was geared to the younger set, except the one thing that made Level Up an exceptional place to be for me: awesome late 90s music. Nirvana, Bruce, Alice in Chains, Metallica--it was like very best parts of my Pandora 90s channel. Grunge, rock, alternative--all that stuff we played in college, way back when the CD concept was new and shiny and felt like the format of the future.
It reminded me of the music the Hard Rock Casino played before its expansion, before Peter Morton sold the place for $775 million just before the big financial crash. The Level UP volume was just right, and the sound quality fantastic. Yo, the D! Are you listening? Take a tip from Level UP. Turn down the volume, and mix up your playlist! I SAID, YO, the D! TURN DOWN THE VOLUME…
I literally wear ear protection while sitting at the Long Bar at the D downtown. It’s the most fun hip place on Fremont, for sure. But the music volume there hurts, and I don’t mean hurts so good.
Back to Level Up. Soon Eric’s buddies and I were suited up into the VR gear, complete VR goggles and a gun. About 30 minutes cost $50. You can read the official MLIFE info here.
I’m not a gamer, but I am a team player. We walked around and shot these laser choices
creepy things that flew at us. Exciting? Yes. Cool? Definitely. For an middle-aged mom who feels weird about shooting at anything that isn’t made of tin or aluminum and sitting on a fence post, it was a onetime, one-off experience. Glad I did it.
Now give me my ol Jacks or Better, a decent beer, and you can keep that side of adrenaline for the young uns. MGM, the big green behemoth, is a fascinating beast. The hotel has five hotel rooms for every one person who lives in my town of one thousand residents. The Level Up bartenders clearly aced Zero Fucks Given class. I guess the rude ‘tude is part of the Level Up outré culture. Give me Oleg, Robert, and Jose from Boar’s Head Bar at Main Street any day. Heck, I’ll even take a scowl from Cranky Jeffrey on a fine Sunday morning at Chandelier at the Cosmo over these guys.
I left to find a bathroom, and of course, investigate the solo female traveler drink shelf situation in the stall. On my way, I stopped at a sports hats store along the way. I went to buy a Kansas City Chiefs cap. The tag said $25 in big enough font that even I could read it. The hat wouldn’t ring up on the clerk’s scanner. My pals were waiting.
“It’s $25, here’s my money.”
“I have to call my supervisor,” she said.
Into the phone, she explained that the ballcap for “a Kentucky Football team” wouldn’t ring up.
I left without the cap. If you work at a sports hat store, you could at least have heard of the KC Chiefs. Right? A major football team in the country’s biggest sports franchise? It’s not soccer. It’s not lacrosse. I did go back later, and buy a fuzzy, warm hat with a poof ball on top. KC Chiefs. Kentucky or not, this time the poofy hat rang up and I was allowed to throw money at MGM. Geez. FINALLY.
I realized I had left my red tattered and battered UNLV ballcap back at the Wicked Spoon, where I had so delicately removed it, trying to demonstrate my (ability to fake) decent table manners. I bid adieu to the Oceans 14 XL crew.
Well, I did so in my mind.
I got so wrapped up in finding my hat I might have ghosted them. On accident. Besides, they were headed to Mandarin Oriental to unwind after that heart-pounding session of shooting Virtual Zombies. And you KNOW I can’t wear my stinkin’ hat in that kind of joint.
Back to the Cosmo I went. And that’s when things got a little crazy. When I first met the gang at Wicked Spoon, I couldn’t find the place. Eric had to keep giving me directions via text. I love the Cosmo, and spend a good bit of time there. On this day, though, I realized I never made it past the Chandelier Bar, which is about 200 feet inside the strip door. There’s a whole purple world inside that I had no idea about.
This time, though, I walked right into Wicked Spoon. I know nobody really cares about my hat. I know better than to ask. I spotted it on a shelf behind a register station, and I snagged it. YES. I’m out. I saw an exit sign, and I took it.
Annnnd, then, rather abruptly, the purple haze lifted, and I was not in the Cosmopolitan anymore. I had stumbled into the employee cafeteria, called CoStar, and the uniform return area.
Next to the uniform check in, a wall had framed drawings from earlier eras in Cosmopolitan fashion. I think Ben Stiller posed for this one:
Finally, I stumbled back out into the casino’s glittery floors and tasteful decadence. I’d breached the Talon room a time or two. I have swum in the Boulevard pool, as a non-guest. I definitely hadn’t experienced free-range roaming in the employee area hallways.
A little stunned by that glimpse behind the curtain, played a little $25 minimum craps. I actually made $100 there, before deciding that sitting made more sense. I found the high limit area, and sat down with a free Fiji water bottle and a macadamia nut cookie.
So this happened:
To somebody. I'm guessing he or she didn't blog it, so I will.
I made my way back to a familiar seat at Chandelier bar. Another Oceans 14 XL event was scheduled for the evening. Cosmopolitan magnetically pulled me in, as it does. The fatigue of the day was setting in. Why leave the place I daydream about so often, on so many cold, snowy afternoons? I played video poker next to a nice Midwestern lady who, like me, accumulated more drink tickets than she could (I mean, should) possibly consume.
Thursday was about to meld into Friday. I took a Lyft back to the Cal, checked into my room, and retrieved my bag. I had played video poker most of the day, between Boar’s Head at Main Street Station, Level Up at MGM and especially, the Chandelier at Cosmopolitan.
In my wallet, I had two Level Up drink coupons, four from Chandelier, and… Oh MAN! Just half my bankroll remained.
I counted, then recounted. My Vegas trip had just begun. I had another three days to go, to gamble, to live it up. It had been a truly epic Vegas day.
Half a bankroll for four days to me is probably not a lot for most frequent and savvy Vegas gamblers. I get that. And I'm here on free rooms and a free roll. Still. It’s what I brought to play with. I was 20 hours in, with 3 more days to go. Gak!
No matter. I slept hard, slept easily, wonderfully, in the Cal’s west tower renovated room after a hot and much needed shower. I’d be up early for a little run before the VP tourney began. Tomorrow is another day. Another day to be free and wander.
This is Vegas, baby. Anything can happen.