Day 4 – 7 December – 0715 hrs.
Why am I up this early in Vegas? It might have been the screaming of my liver, which has surpassed the saturation point and is now swimming in a sea of liquor, that awoke me from slumber. But no one likes a quitter, so I soldiered on, taking the last of the beleaguered bottle of Jagermeister sitting on top of my room's 1987 Zenith into my gaping maw.
Strolling the strip early in the morning, one might be reminded of The Walking Dead, if that show was populated by Mexicans handing out slick business cards for extracurricular adult-oriented activities. Yes, even at this ungodly hour, the porn slappers were out pounding the pavement. Everyone else, your humble narrator included, looked as if they just stepped off the set of a Romero movie, with dark circles under their eyes and communicating through barely audible mumbles, as to not disturb the jackhammers resting on their brain stems.
I thought about once again heading to the Stage Door to start my day, but common sense prevailed – at least, as much as one possesses after three days in Vegas – and so I headed to downtown via the Deuce, which I believe is so named because the inside often smells like someone just dropped a number two in the back. Actually, at this time of morning, the Deuce, which can be packed fuller than Oprah's mouth after she gets in a fight with Stedman, was refreshingly sparsely populated, though of course every other passenger that got on was still mystified at the concept of “pay before you board”.
Downtown was even more desolate than the strip, with only a few oldsters puttering around in Rascal scooters. Thankfully, a lone gift shop was open, and I was able to secure two tallboys of Icehouse for three dollars. Though Icehouse is one of my cheap beers of choice, a warm one is enjoyable as a strike to the thorax, so I quickly downed the first one and then headed to Fitzgerald's.
The Fitz is a bit on the grimy side, with quite possibly the lowest ceilings in any casino I've been to, giving one the sense that the whole place might come crashing down on you at any given moment. But it's the sort of place that doesn't care if you walk into it holding a tallboy, and when you tip the waitress five bucks for your next drink, they act like Donald Trump just walked into the joint. Despite the good vibes from the drinks and Gertrude from Poughkeepsie sitting next to me, the Wheel of Fortune machines were yanking cash from my pocket at too rapid of a pace for my liking, so I ambled over to the Golden Nugget.
It might have been the Icehouse and rum and Cokes percolating my brain, but I was served here by what I thought was one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in my life. I say “thought” because I couldn't get a second glance at her visage, as she only strolled by once. The lack of service combined with tight slots made this a relatively short stay.
I thought about grabbing a roadie from the gift shop for the Deuce ride back, but the cop perched at the bus stop gave me second thoughts. I boarded the bus and did a double-take. At thirty-six, I was clearly the youngest person on the bus by about forty years, to the point that I asked one of my fellow passengers if this route went to the bingo hall. He gave me a quizzical look, and then asked, stunned yet excitedly, “There's a bingo hall here?”
At this point, the realization that I hadn't eaten anything today set in, so I got off the bus at the Stratosphere stop and went to Ocha. It's a cheap Thai restaurant located next to a seedy motel that undoubtedly has seen its' fair share of visits from Las Vegas' finest over the years, but the staff is genuinely friendly and they serve gargantuan portions that are enough for two, or, in this case, a lone besotted traveler such as myself. For about twenty bucks including tip, I got a mammoth plate of squid and a couple of Heinekens. Not too shabby.
I headed south, past the now shuttered Sahara. I had stayed there about a year and half ago, and while the once glistening desert oasis was clearly on its' last legs, I still had a fine time, and it was sad to see another Vegas icon put to rest.
Keeping in the same direction, I went past the graveyard that is now the north strip, with skeletons of half-finished buildings lining the streets as a testament to the folly of some deluded entreprenuer's failed dreams, the only sense of color coming from the bright yellow newsboxes dispensing promises of little darlings delivered directly to your room.
With the promise of eleven, count 'em, eleven draft beers on tap, I popped into the Riviera, another resort that has seen better days after being one of the highlights of the strip when it was built. But there has been a small resurgence here aided by the light in the financial tunnel that is the threat of bankruptcy, including the addition of some of the contents of the Pinball Hall of Fame. As a big video game and pinball geek, this was music to my ears. After grabbing a cold one from the first bar I came across, I wandered around in circles for a bit until I found the arcade.
There isn't a huge amount of machines, maybe about twenty, but they had Taxi, one of my all-time favorite pinball machines, and Vegas, a lost gem from my youth that I thought that I would never play again. Ten dollars and a few games of Donkey Kong later, my gaming jones was satisfied, so it was time to head across the street to Circus Circus.
Circus Circus has never been a favorite of mine. Even with my level of debauchery, it still gives me, as the kids say, the heebie-jeebies. One night, I had a man approach me and my friend selling “real” driftwood crucifixes – or is it crucifii? And what is real driftwood? At any rate, there was nothing that exciting here this day, and the connected Slots-A-Fun was anything but, so it was time to continue the great southern journey.
The Peppermill was along the line, so I thought, why the hell not? Actually, it's a very cool place, an oasis of oldschool Vegas vibes sandwiched between two small strip malls. I didn't take any pictures inside of my grossly oversized, yet still delicious, fruity drink because this is the sort of place that frowns upon people capturing minuta to post to their Facebook page, and I was all the more glad for it. This is truly an establishment you can really unwind at. As pleasant as the atmosphere was, once you start not being able to feel your legs, it's probably time to move on.
After a stop at a 7-11 for another tallboy, the next stop was the fabulous and luxurious Wynn. The Wynn is definitely not a establishment that tolerates drunken wanderers coming through their pearly gates with a frosty one in hand, so I had to down the suds quickly before I made my entrance. I can see why people really like this place, but, as you might surmise if you've suffered through my rambling prose to this point, it's not really my kind of scene.
I bellied up to a video poker bar – where no one, save Steve Wynn himself, is comped, and ordered a 25 year Jameson. Hopefully, now some of you can see why I skimp on my drinking budget at points. Fully warmed from my cockles to subcockles, I was feeling no pain as I left. In fact, it was to the point that I had to abstain from drinking, at least for a little while.
Hunger had set her fanged smile into my flesh once again, so it was off to Canter's Deli in the Mirage, where I dined on a club sandwich that was literally bigger than my head, and washed it down with a icy Blue Moon. Oops. Guess that no drinking thing didn't last.
I made a brief stop at the Venetian, which is a place I would really like if the artificial scent they pump in didn't give me the feeling of a pending aneurysm. I don't mind the smell of coconut. Just please don't shove it down my nostrils with the force of Tony Montana taking a line of Peruvian marching powder. The Christmas displays also seemed awkwardly placed, though not as uncomfortable as the wives taking pictures of their cowboy husbands with the statue of Whoopi Goldberg in front of Madame Tussaud's.
I was knackered at this point, so I headed back to IP, where I planted myself in front of a Wheel of Fortune machine and had as many bottles of water as I could get from the waitress. Even though I hit a good run, drunken fatigue set in to my weary bones, and I cashed out to head back to my humble abode for a quick catnap.
I awoke three hours later to my phone chiming that a new text message has been received. It was my friend Mighty Peking Man. I'm not going to get into why he is referred to as that, but he is an old friend and a good drinking buddy who I enjoy spending time with in my journeys to Vegas. We hung out at a video poker bar a bit before heading upstairs to Ginseng 3, which is actually a damn good restaurant despite the silly name.
Run by a couple of ladies who could be mistaken for my grandmother if GamGam was Korean, to the point where they pseudo angrily correct you for holding the chopsticks the wrong way -- which my asian friend MPM should have done in the first place if not for the sake he had already consumed. Ginseng 3 offers up Vegas sized portions of asian cuisine done surprisingly well, given the surroundings. After a feast of spicy squid and ribs, MPM and myself parted ways.
Reinvigorated, I made the trek down to Planet Hollywood, where my Total Rewards card got a workout on the Alien Vs. Predator machine. The drink service was much better tonight. Propelled by a gaggle of quickly delivered slightly watered-down rum and Cokes, I managed to counteract much of the dent I had made in my wallet that day. Which, of course, I quickly lost after an ill-advised trip to the blackjack table. Damn you, Vegas, damn you.
With my bankroll eaten up like Kane's face in Alien, I put my tail between my legs and headed back to my room, with dreams of the fabled and oft-chased big comeback punctuating my last night in Vegas.
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