Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Vegas Baby…Wait, What?!?

Warning: If you love Las Vegas then you will probably hate this blog post. On the other hand if you have been to Vegas and were not totally sold on the “experience” then you might find this post something you will enjoy. If you have never been, this may help you decide whether you should go or not. For the record, I think everyone should go to “Vegas”…once.

Two months ago a work trip popped up on my calendar that was going to require me to be in Las Vegas for at least three days and adding a fourth day made sense and was easy to do. I saw an opportunity to mix business with pleasure so I decided I would bring my wife along. I called her excitedly from Seattle to tell her the “good” news.  “Hey, I have to go to Vegas for work (I was calling it “Vegas” because I thought it made me sound like an “insider”…a veteran Vegas goer) and I get to bring you.”  I expected her to be thrilled but instead I got a long pause followed by “Wait…what?” Having been married to her for nearly 24 years now I know what the long pause followed by the “I did not quite get that” reaction meant. This is her tactic she uses to get out of something when she does not instantly have an easy “out”. She was buying time. I chimed back with “C’mon…it will be fun”. After some coercing or maybe cursing she agreed. It was official…we were headed to Vegas Baby!

We left on a Saturday and arrived mid-afternoon allowing for the three hour time change. Back home we left two of our three children to watch the house and keep the dogs alive. The dogs by the way looked concerned as we left. We arrived at the hotel not knowing what to expect and then it all began… The Las Vegas “experience” was underway. We exited the cab by our hotel entrance and were greeted with a mob of people. There were people everywhere…many who seemed to have no destination in mind…they were just going with the people flow. Others looked like they were going to the beach…which confused me since we were in the desert.  A few like us were trying to get into the hotel but with bags and bellman helping people try to leave the hotel we were not making much progress. Eventually a gap developed and we made it inside. We were greeted by not nearly as many people but still too many for my liking. There was loud “beats” music; cold smoked filtered air and…darkness. We had just left the sunny outside entrance of mid-afternoon and now it looked like it was midnight inside. There was plenty of artificial light but not an ounce of sunlight.

We checked in pretty quickly (which I hear is often not the case) and made our way from the West Tower section to our side over on the East Tower section. To get there we had to walk through the casino. Not an easy task with bags in tow considering everyone else appeared to be trying to get to someplace in a hurry (or not at all) or was gambling. We were now in “it”…”Vegas” I mean. Part Disney, Part Sandals, Part Hell’s Kitchen with a strong side of The Jerry Springer show thrown in for good measure…this was our hotel. We grabbed a music filled elevator along with six other people much younger than us and exited on the 32nd floor.  For the first time in thirty minutes it was quiet. We found our room and before opening the door we looked at each other and knew what each was thinking.  “What day do we go home again?”

As the door opened we relaxed. Our room was spectacular. We had a large entry way, to the right was a huge bathroom; it was open to the room but could be closed off by a door or blinds. There were two sinks, a walk-in shower, tub (we never got near it) and a separate…you know. Ahead of us was a living room with a huge sectional couch, a table, two chairs and a desk. There was a kitchenette and a large flat screened TV as well. Beyond that was our room (again open to the living room) with a king bed another huge TV and beyond that a very large balcony. Sun was also visible. This was nice. Very nice. I opened the door to the balcony and walked out. The music was back. Below us was the Las Vegas strip visible for miles on either side.  Across from us was the Planet Hollywood Resort…and Britney Spears. All twenty stories of her staring right at us.  From the marquee below detailing her “show” in town I gathered she had “Twenty hits”…this seemed very high to me, “New shows” had been added to “Meet demand”… I found this surprising and it was  “A can’t miss Vegas Experience”. We missed it.

Below I could see one of the two pools at our hotel. It was 28 floors below us but we were basically right over it. It looked like the entry to the hotel…Wall to wall people dancing and drinking. I realized this must be the “beach”. Not a chair or lounge was free. Had it not been for the empty deep end I would not have been able to tell it was a pool. Water was not visible. The hotel entry looked empty compared to this. We decided to get a snack and to explore the hotel. We had a dinner reservation in 5 hours which would put us at the table at roughly 11:15 PM our time so we thought we should get some food. We found a Greek restaurant with lots of windows so we sat at their bar and had a couple of “Small Plates”…they were. Good food but small. We also each had a “specialty” cocktail…gin with cucumber, lime (maybe) and some “Infusion of herbs and rose petal”. A gin and tonic would have been fine but who can refuse rose petal? The food and cocktails worked. We relaxed, felt better and set out to explore the hotel. We paid the$100 bill and left. We were slightly buzzed, slightly stunned at the cost of “a snack” and bobbing to more throbbing techno music.
We discovered you did not need to go through the casino to get from east to west. We found the fitness center (we actually used it Tuesday) another rowdy pool and a walkway out of the hotel to a shopping area that connected our hotel to another hotel. Our dinner restaurant was there so we located it and made sure it was acceptable and returned to our hotel. We found “our” pool on the east side and verified it was “off limits”. Based on the muscle bodies, tiny bikinis, travel hats and excessively tattooed bodies it appeared most of southern New Jersey had arrived and taken over the pool. We then went to get the elevator. It was now roughly 5 PM. At 5:30 we still did not have an elevator. A few showed up but they were full of “Pool relatives”.

Eventually the elevator “rush hour” cleared and we were back in our room by 6 PM. We pushed up our dinner reservation, got ready and were seated around 10:15 PM our time. It was a very nice seafood restaurant. We both had steak. For some reason they thought one of us was having a birthday so we got a free dessert. I looked around and it appeared like many people were having birthdays. Thankfully no one sang to us. We were back in our room by 1:00 AM our time and passed out from exhaustion. Trust me it was too expensive for us to be drunk.

The next morning I had an early tee time with friends from work. Sue had decided she would find a hot yoga place off site so she got up with me. I opened the curtain to blinding sunshine, walked out on the balcony, nodded to Britney and looked at the strip below. It was quiet but not deserted. Southern New Jersey had not yet returned to the pool. I changed for golf and headed to Paris. Yes…Paris. It seems that someone somewhere in the real estate world decided that Vegas was not complete without a little slice of France right smack in the middle of it so they built a hotel called Paris…complete with a large scale but smaller version of the Eiffel tower outside the hotel. As I made my way over to “France” I saw a couple my age heading back to my hotel apparently making their way home for “The night”.  It was 7 AM. We made eye contact and I gave them the look that said “You guys know you are way too old to try this right?” They looked away in shame. When I arrived in France I encountered signs for  “Le Casino” and “Les taxi’s”. I walked past “L’ATM” and “Les Shuttles” and found my golfing buddies. We hopped in “Le Limo” and went off to play “Le golf”. It was a blast. The pace of play was swift (the only way I enjoy golf), I only lost three balls (thanks in large part to valiant efforts to rescue three others) and the views/vistas were beautiful… I could even see “France” at one point. Instead of being home at 3 that afternoon I was back in “darkness” by 12:30 PM. Perfect. Sue and I took advantage of the extra time and had nice mother’s day lunch back at the expensive Greek place. The lunch was very nice, more reasonable and the place was packed with families…also celebrating mother’s day. We toasted to Sue over wine and forgot to call our mothers that night.

Later, after a work meeting we went to a show at the Bellagio where we enjoyed both the fountains and the show. We wandered through their casino minus the “Le” and dropped $100 in a slot machine. We realized it was gone faster than the time it took to get it out of the ATM. We went “home” lost another $100 by having some “Acorn fed pig” from another tapas place and two glasses of wine. As we collapsed into bed I said to Sue “I hate Vegas”.” She promptly agreed and we slept.

Monday things got better and after work meetings ended two hours earlier than I thought we were actually able to get chairs at the pool and hunker down. We guessed New Jersey had either returned home or was still hung over.  We were greeted by a waitress “wearing” a bikini. We ordered margaritas (not frozen) and she seemed surprised. Over the Omni-present music  I asked what she thought we would order and she just giggled and walked away. This was not the first time we experienced “Age discrimination” in Vegas but the alcohol took away the sting. About 1PM the pool area began to fill but not terribly. The crowd was of course much younger and over the next three hours became much drunker. By 4 PM the pool was no longer usable for us. There was a flotilla of empty plastic cups making their way around the pool, a variety of citrus slices bobbing in the water and most of the “bathers” were invading each other’s personal space. One poor guy had a beer in one hand and a margarita (no longer frozen) in the other  and was standing in the not so deep end. But it was hot and he would cool off by dipping himself up to the neck. The problem was he kept forgetting not to take his drinks with him. He drank a lot of pool water in addition to the copious amount of alcohol. We guessed Tuesday was not his best day. Looking down upon us Britney did not seem to notice or to care.

Monday night we met up with some more people from work over in “France”again, had a fun dinner and lost more money at a roulette table back in “darkness”. It took a lot longer to lose that money so we had that going for us. Tuesday I had more meetings which took longer than expected but we managed another nice lunch outside by the Bellagio fountains. Two salads, two cocktails and $100 later we found ourselves back in our room. We tried to get to the pool but another meeting was added and by the time we made it to the pool there was not direct sun, there was plenty of wind and the water was cold. We packed, drank two beers from the mini bar (less than $100 but not much) and found a decent place for dinner. We spent less than our allocated gambling money and called it a night.

Wednesday morning we awoke at 4AM local time, waved goodbye to Britney, made our way through a not totally empty casino and hopped on our plane home. As the plane lifted off from the runway I smiled across the aisle at my wife. She smiled back and said “Philly Baby!!”