Day 2 – 5 December 2011 – 0938 hrs.

People who have near-death experiences often speak of seeing a bright light beckoning them into the sweet hereafter. People who have a near-bankruptcy experience in Vegas also see a light. Often, as in this case, it is a piercing ray of sunlight coming through the quarter-inch of the window I had neglected to cover with the shades last evening.

Glasses, check. Wallet, check. All limbs intact, check. $300 cash advance from an ATM? Ouch. But besides the faint taste of paint thinner in my mouth, I felt surprisingly good. So, of course, it was time to put that to rest.

After a shot of Jack chased with a shot of Scope – gotta keep the breath minty fresh – it was off to the Westin Causarina.

Not as desolate or creepy as some stories would lead you believe, the Westin is actually fairly clean and offers good drinks. I did feel a bit strange being the only one at the bar besides some old-timer who looked to be nodding off while the ash on his cigarette threatened to fall into his mai tai at any moment. I wasn't into gambling at this time, so after a couple of belts, I made my way to Ellis Island.

EI is famous (or rather, infamous) for being either one of the best or worst off-strip places in Vegas. As you might guess, I fall into the former camp. No, you're not going to run into any supermodels here, and there is always the sense that saying the wrong thing might earn you a punch in the breadbasket. But there is a sort of grizzled happiness to the staff and clientele here that makes me feel welcome. I bellied up to the video poker bar, and continued the losing streak for the trip, but at least the bloody marys were good. By now, the drunken munchies were starting to hit. I wanted to go to the restaurant, but there was already a gaggle of people waiting, probably souls such as me who were looking for cheap greasy sustenance to mop up the debauchery of the night before.

I satisfied myself instead by going to the 7-11 next door and getting a hot dog covered in something that would approximate cheese, if cheese had a green tint to it. To keep things classy, I also got a Slurpee, dumped half of it out, and put a can of Mike's Hard Lemonade into it. Minus the brown bag, I fit in with most of my fellow pedestrians as I headed back to the strip.

After a quick stop at the Stage Door, I headed into Bally's, where that damn Dark Knight machine took another twenty out of my wallet. Losing at slot machines while Christmas music plays in the background is akin to going to a strip club and seeing someone that you went to school with dance on stage. It's a good time, but it all feels somehow strange, awkward, and out of place.

At this point, the liquid breakfast, brunch, and lunch wasn't cutting it, and I needed actual food, so it was off to the Tequila Bar for two dollar tacos, which aren't as horrible as the price would lead you to believe. Of course, the two dollar beers – which are actually twenty four ouncers, not the little plastic shot glasses some bars tote out for beer specials – washing down the frugal feast helped matters immensely.

After placing a few bets at the sports book for friends back home, it was time to head back to the room for a nap, as I was to meet up with a buddy to watch Monday Night Football. On the way in, I was treated to a “Dealtainer” who was approximating singing like Smokey Robinson by strangling a cat.

It was hard to sleep with the concerto of dueling bedsprings eminating from the room next door, but the booze soon did it trick, and I was off to the land of nod for a couple of hours. Awakening in a still semi-buzzed state, I hopped on the monorail and headed to the Hilton, where I promptly took the wrong staircase and ended up outside of the casino. Maybe I was more lit up than I thought.

There's really not much to speak of about the Hilton. It's pretty much what you would expect from a casino in the middle of a Hilton. But the sports book is one of the better ones in Vegas that I have been to, and I had a good time with my friend watching the game, even though I knew my bet was in the trash by halftime, as Phillip Rivers stopped pouting and actually played football. It's the sort of thing that would normally drive me to drink, but I actually stayed with soda for the most part during the game, as I was reaching that plateau of not able to get buzzed until you take that final shot that acts as a one-way ticket to blackout island. And I had no intentions of making that dark journey this evening.

I hopped the monorail back to Bally's, where, you guessed it, more play on the Dark Knight machine. I actually got the bonus round, but then promptly tanked my money by upping my bets. Sensing no luck, I bid adieu to Bally's and headed to Planet Hollywood, snaking my way through a gauntlet of dudes selling rap CD's. They weren't mixing too well with the throngs of cowboys, and I actually saw two sheriffs stop ogling underage girls for five minutes so they could break up a fight.

I switched to Alien Vs Predator and had better luck, actually managing to build up a decent bankroll, which, of course, I lost in about ten minutes at the blackjack table. I generally like the staff at PH, but here's a tip to the ditz who was working the table. Don't giggle when your clients lose. Yes, I know you're trying to be cute, but stop it. Just stop it.

At this point, with the day's gambling budget long gone and a growing buzz consuming the recesses of my brain, I headed back to the room. Along the way, I grabbed one of the cards the porn slappers were handing out, and in a moment of loneliness, the sort of loneliness you experience while being alone in a massive group of people having the time of their lives, I contemplated calling that number.

However, good sense and a stunning need to not contract a disease that would stymie the fine minds of the Mayo Clinic prevailed, and it was back to the hallowed halls of Imperial Palace. The glass was still in the elevator, and when it clinked in the corner as the elevator creaked its' way to the twelfth floor, it seemed to be trying to tell me something.

Day 1 / Day 3 / Day 4 / Day 5

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