Monday, July 28, 2008

Viva Las Vegas!

I used to think I hated Las Vegas. The snob in me looked right down my nose at the tackiness, the gambling and the overall concept of the city. That all changed, however, in September, 2002, when the Go-Go's played the Las Vegas Hilton. Seeing the Go-Go's in Sin City was too hysterical an opportunity to pass up, so I corralled Daniel, Melanie, Sean and April, and we took a little trip to the desert. The concert was fabulous, of course, but more importantly, I fell in love with Las Vegas that weekend.

Everything I thought I'd hate about Vegas I loved: the excess, the tackiness, the sounds of the slot machines and roulette wheels. While I didn't gamble that weekend, I nonetheless loved the energy in the casinos. I then took three more trips to Vegas over the next six months. After all that, our love affair lost a little steam, and I hadn't been to Vegas in more than five years. Until this weekend, that is.

My friend Andrey (pictured here with me as the party was getting rolling) has celebrated his birthday in Las Vegas for the last four years, but for various reasons, this was the first year I could attend. The affair is about four and a half days long, and actually is still going on now, as Andrey, Tom, Chris and Eric, at least, are not planning to come home until tomorrow morning when they pile into their rented van and make the 10 hour drive back to the Bay. I couldn't take any time off work; so I joined the celebration only from Friday night through last night.

I didn't mind the abbreviated stay, however. In a city where 3 a.m. is considered early evening and sleep is for suckers, I figured I'd be awake for most of the 48 hours I was in town. And to a certain degree, that was the case (that just means I got less sleep than I do at home). It is said on commercials that was happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but I'll share some details of the trip.

As would be expected in the desert in July, it was very hot. 100 degrees, in fact, when my plane landed at 9:30 Friday night. It clouded up and rained a little bit Saturday morning, however, and the temperature dropped about 15 degrees, making Saturday afternoon quite pleasant. The mercury climbed again yesterday, but I just spent most of my time indoors.

I still don't really gamble, but I do enjoy the nickel and penny slots in Vegas. Here's the thing, though. Because I'm not a gambler, I tend to regard slot machines more like video games that happen to cost money. It never occurs to me to bet aggressively or strategize in any way because I like the game and am not thinking about cash. That said, I did win $7 on Saturday night and $5 in the airport last night as I waited for my delayed flight home. That may not sound like much, but keep in mind, I'm talking nickel and penny slots. My new favorite slot machine is the I Dream of Jeannie game, and yes, it's just as horrifying as you would expect.

Like the television show, which, for the record, was my favorite when I watched it in reruns at age 7 (I had a huge little girl crush on Larry Hagman's Major Nelson), this game is extraordinarily sexist. However, once you get past that, it's really very funny. Jeannie talks to you as you play, calling you Master and saying things like "I thought you'd be pleased!" and "I am happy here with you!" when you do well. Also, when her bottle pops up during a spin, she proclaims "YES!" in a tone of voice that really sounds like she could use a little privacy. The game is so ridiculous, it's nothing short of incredibly entertaining. All in all, I spent about $50 over the course of my stay to win 12 bucks, but given that I'm just interested in playing, as opposed to winning, I didn't mind dropping $38 for the privilege of participating in the game. I'm such a high roller, I know.

As for the birthday party itself, we revelers danced, drank, ate and spent a lot of time by the pool at the Mirage. On Friday night we went to a club called Revolution, which was created by the Cirque du Soleil people in honor of the Beatles and Love, which is playing at the Mirage. You'd think that I'd love a club like that, but except for the decor, there was nothing Beatles or 60's era about the place. The music was the same horrible techno, hip-hop nonsense you hear at any dance club these days, but I made the best of it.

After lots of pool time Saturday afternoon, the entire party gathered at the Paris hotel that night for Andrey's official birthday dinner. Toasts were made, wine and champagne were consumed and lots of delicious food was enjoyed at Mon Ami Gabi. Do we not look well sated in this post-dinner photo? Frankly, I think I'm still full. Not so full, however, that Patti, Kevin, Chris, Eric, Tom, Andrey and I couldn't go to the Bellagio for a three hour champagne brunch yesterday afternoon. Yes, three hours. We drank more than we ate and played games (Keno and non-gambling games the boys made up) at the table. I may not gamble, but I'm all about the Vegas indulgence.

The only part of my trip I didn't enjoy was the journey home. My 9:00 p.m. flight was delayed two hours, and when we finally did land in Oakland, we sat on the tarmac for 40 minutes until a gate opened up. I was sad my mini-vacation was over, but after all that, I was very happy to see the inside of my apartment when I finally got home.

Not only am I still full, I'm still tired. 48 hours in Vegas apparently is enough for me.

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