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Friday, March 2, 2018

Dogs Days of Vegas

Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, Strip
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

Charles Dickens didn’t know how apt his lines would be to describe Vegas in 2018 when he wrote them in 1859. Vegas is its own Tale of Two Cities. Really, it’s a tale of a thousand cities within a city.

When I bring my parents to Vegas, it’s a completely different trip than when I bring no one, or my friends, or a friend, or co-workers, or even (gasp, true confession), on rare occasion, my kids. Same city, different trip. Sometimes they overlap a little. Sometimes a casino will set you free.

Venetian, Las Vegas, Strip
Never dragon on Vegas time, baby
One morning as I ran to the Vegas sign, and my mom walked on the strip, I made a quick stop into Mandalay Bay. As has been my habit since October of last year, I give them some play and find a staff member to tip.

Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, Strip
Nothing like the smell of MB in the mornin'
I pulled up a chair to my favorite Mandalay Bay bar, the one by Mizuya. The bartender greeted me with a friendly good-morning, a free Dogfish 90, and an ice cold glass. I settled in to watch a little sports center with a crisp, new Benjamin inserted into the bar top VP. The Super Bowl highlight reel played happily in front of me.

An older man in sad, ill-fitting suit, looking both under- and overdressed at the same time, sat down next to me. He asked the bartender to turn the channel to Fox News to check his stocks. Then his rant began. “Can you believe all this Me Too bull crap? They are all just a bunch of liars.”  He didn’t seem drunk, and sipped on coffee. He looked at me for support. The sweet bartender had disappeared, and I was already cashing out.

“Hey wait,” the creeper said. “You’re not leaving because of me?”

“Yup,” I said.

Off I went, me and my Year of the Dogfish 90 Minute IPA, released from my self-imposed duty to support Mandalay Bay. I wouldn’t think their target demographic is weird, old freaks-in-the-bad-way who feel entitled to spew their hate on the public at large. Then again, it gave me pause.

Cosmo, cosmopolitan, Las Vegas, Strip
Later, giving Peach a Chance at Cosmo
I still like Mandalay Bay. I have so many good memories there, and hope to have more. As much as I hope their staff find its way, and business climbs again, most of us like to patronize places that appreciate us.

We all encounter obnoxious behavior wherever we go, but in Vegas, it’s almost always some drunk tourist letting loose a little too far into your personal space. (Wait, that happens where I live, too.) It’s like not having quite enough toilet paper in a public stall: harmless but annoying. The Mandalay Bay bar creeper-geezer’s rant felt more ominous, or at least, just plain icky. I took off again into the morning sun, bankroll intact, and my feet happily bouncing over the fake grass outside Luxor.

Mgm, The Park, Monte Carlo, Las Vegas, Strip
The Monte Carlo under construction, Aren't we all?
Runners are known for their long runs and even longer contemplations. I’ve spent too many miles wondering about conundrums like: Do I go to work so I can go to Vegas, or do I go to Vegas because I go to work? As with many people, the nature of my work suits me well. It’s the little things that stress me. We could use more parking, better scheduling, and the opportunity to take a good long chunk of time off to reset, to appreciate, and to re-up for another decade or two, without having to birth a baby to qualify for such a reprieve. Vegas does this for me in a short period of time, for a decent period of time. Vegas does this for so many of us. We forget our own personal struggles, and those of our society at large. We are one big community of love and risk, alone together, people-watching each other, feeling the sun on our shoulders as real world worries dissipate into the desert breeze.

Bellagio, Las Vegas, Strip
This moment of Zen brought to you by Bellagio.
After we concluded our hers and hers morning strip workouts, we met up with our group for an early lunch. Pizza Rock had my number. Really, I gave them my number. They will text you when your table is ready, so you can go all degen while waiting. We were too hungry, though, and found our way to Freedom Beat across the street.

This place rocks, and like all things Downtown Grand, stands so underappreciated, uncrowded and deeply deserving of affection. The Cast Iron Chicken Pot Pie tastes like nothing that has ever come out of my cast iron, not to mention my freezer.  I don’t usually eat stuff (that tastes good) like that, so I figured I’d eat half. Kind of like when I insert a Benjamin and think, yeah, I’ll just cash out if it gets down to $50. I ate it all, just like I usually play it all. Go big, so you can go home. I ate it all so fast, I didn't even get a photo.

After some blackjack with my dad, I dropped my parents off at the airport, and their friends left for the long drive back to Long Beach.

McCarren, airport, Vegas, Las Vegas
Joyful vista from the airport when you are not the one leaving
The Hard Cock resides ridiculously close to the airport, and while the deal has since fallen through, its Hard Rock days were numbered at the time. I parked it at a quarter DDB machine. The music thumped in a beautiful Hard Rock way, even though the loud 90s grunge and metal rock I love was interspersed with SMIDK. (S@#$ Music I Didn’t Know). I was down to the last $300 of my trip bankroll. Time to double up or lose it all trying.

Venetian, Las Vegas, Strip
No Shar-Pei or Hand Pay at the Hard Rock
Um, yeah. It took a few hours under the Hard Rock’s glorious speakers, but soon dreams of double up turned into embracing the suck.

I asked for a comp at the desk, and got one. A pretty good one--$45 at the Oyster Bar near Smashbar. I ordered the All In.

Fifteen years ago, the Hard Rock All In meant something completely different.  It's not the jewel of the Fruit Loop for nothing, people. For my last night in Vegas, it meant lobster, shrimp and crab in a tomato, cream and creole base. The All In used half my comp, so I spent the rest on something green and crispy from my pre-Vegas days called a “salad” (again, no way would I have said the words “tossed salad please” at the Hard Rock in early aughts), and something from the bar that came in an ice-cold copper cup, and tasty like a waking dream. The waitress, beautiful, inked in full sleeves, funny and friendly, shared stories of her 3-year-old twins. She made sure I was laughing and fed, then she left me alone. Perfection. This is, she is, the Hard Rock I (sort of) remember and still treasure.

I ran up the bill to $44. I left the last of my cash, $9, as a tip, just the tip, and called it a trip.

Hard Rock, Vegas, Las Vegas
Hard Rock and I rekindled the romance of our mutual younger days at the Oyster Bar
Sometimes (every single time), I end up toggling between writing these guest blog posts, and looking at Vegas flights/comp hotel rooms/events. The more I get to know my blogland boss, AKA the Boss of Fun, the more I appreciate how Vegas IS the Venn diagram of our lives. Specifically, Boar’s Head bar.

Without Vegas, I wouldn’t have met this shy, funny introvert who lets me blog about the events I fondly remember, and text him about the ones he’d rather we both forget. He’s a solid dude with a deep love of hockey, a deeper love for his wife, a spew-beer-outta-your-nose wicked hilarious sense of humor, and a truly generous spirit. I’m a wacky, wandering, wondering, and walking bad decision waiting for the next distraction. Without Vegas, our paths would have never crossed.

So, thank you Vegas. Thank you, Sir Flusher. And thank you, gentle reader, for landing on these words between your epic sessions of Pointies galore.

Flusher's best advice: stay incognito.  Here I am, back home after Vegas, in my everyday brilliant disguise.

Vail, Colorado sky, top secret, shred betty
You ain't seen nuttin' yet

    1 comment:

    1. Very nice tribute to our beloved Flusher down near the end.


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