Like lemmings to the edge, we were. Unyielding, undaunted, unable to walk a straight line ten minutes after waking...
Gears and Closing in Las Vegas, Part two
The Westin, 1100 or so, Saturday Morning.
I wake up smelling mildly of scotch. Whether it is because I'm emitting the scent from my pores, or because I'd managed to fall asleep with a glass of it on my chest, and rolled over in the mid-morning remains to be seen. Perhaps a little of both, I suspect.
I awake to find my roomate, Mike Griffin, gone. I know him to be a college football fan, and realize that most of the east coast games are currently in progress. I surmise that he's either down at the bar watching football with St. Michael of Ann Arbor, or that I returned from gambling at 0530 and woke him out of a sound sleep in an attempt to interest him in a debate regarding the efficacy of a minimalist government in these modern times, which resulted in his hasty departure in a state of abject frustration. Again, either explanation probably works, and in fact, both probably apply in this situation.
So I awake and spend the first thirty or so minutes of my day in a futile attempt at making the impossibly complicated hotel-room coffee machine work as it was intended. After sticking my head out of the room door and summoning a member of the housekeeping staff who was cleaning the room across the hall, she and I found the problem.
It was unplugged.
A shower and an irished-up cup of coffee later, I feel like I may just actually survive until happy hour. I sail down to the casino bar and find St. Michael, et al, firmly ensconsed and enjoying bloody Marys. I order one, take a sip, and receive a renewed appreciation of the concept of a "Shampoo Drunk".
You know how when you shampoo once, and "repeat" as is demanded on the bottle, it takes less than 1/3 of the amount used in the original treatment to obtain a similar quantity of lather? Well, booze seems to have many of the same properties. Day two of a bender is always a cheap date. Maintaining a buzz in this state is relatively easy, but unfortunately somewhat difficult to control. Much like coming off of an interstate highway, where one travels at speeds of up to 80 m.p.h., it seems like you're standing still when you're going 55 or 60. Likewise, when you've spent the prior night pounding alcohol in an effort to consume it all before it becomes extinct, it is sometimes difficult for the inexperienced to awake from a good drunk and continue to drink without crashing into the mountain before the sun goes down. One must realize a fundamental truth here: drunkeness should be a rather flat sine curve, where x="how long I still have money", and y="how long I am still ambulatory". Unfortunately, many of us think that we are still in our young twenties, where drunkeness was a bell curve, and where x="how much fun am I having?", while y="how much of that have I poured down my neck in the last ten minutes?".
What resulted in those days was inevitably this:
We'd be having a great time. All of us were handsome/beautiful, funny, and charming. Someone would get the wonderful idea that everyone needed to do shots of Jaegermeister, so that we could become exponentially more handsome/beautiful, funny, and charming. Now, this ignores another of my favorite tenets: The Law of Diminishing Returns. This principle maintains that a continual increase in effort or investment does not correspond in a continual increase in output or results. When applied to drinking, we notice that there is a point where a continual increase in volume-consumption stops leading to a corresponding increase in the aforementioned personal characteristics, but rather, a decrease in those characteristics. Unfortunately, we did not discover until our early thirties that the solution to this conundrum is not continued intake of large volumes of alcohol. What happened in those days is that, after the initial shot of Jaegermeister, we would stop exhibiting the ability to speak coherently, move in a bipedal fashion, or continue to concentrate on a single point in space. We felt that the solution to this was that we needed more booze. Predictable outcomes were in evidence. Thus, I can never return to that bar on Broadway and Ave X in Lubbock, where I projectile vomited, with my hand held firmly over my mouth, as I ran down the plush spiral staircase towards the front door and my good friend's pick-up truck. (Giving new meaning to the phrase "Let's paint the town red!")
Adult boozing is knowing one's limits, and understanding when it is acceptable to cross them without incurring corresponding damage to one's reputation as a man. When we were young, "being a man" suggested a psychotic willingness to drink until one was comatose. Friends, we ain't young anymore. "Being a man" means knowing where the line is between "buzzed" and "fucked up", and then riding that line like Tony fucking Hawk. Many of you may be frankly surprised to hear me characterize drunkeness in such responsible terms. I submit that you can't do what I've done to my liver since the late-80's without becoming a little smarter about how you go about doing it. I've told my Marines for years that the new-puritanism that is being forced down our throats is wrong, that a man CAN imbibe and still retain his judgement, that being a true Marine is just that, in fact. The challenge isn't how stupid you can be after downing a fifth of something that could take the paint off of a ship in one draught. The challenge is how long you can go while enjoying the finer things...a good bourbon, a fine steak, a good band, a fine martini, etc...without losing the ability to appreciate these things. To me, a good bender is not me tromping, weaving, and stumbling about for hours without end. A good bender is me enjoying as many of these good things as I can, with minimal sleep. "Being a man" equates to ENJOYING the finer things, not simply CONSUMING them.
Back to my learned discourse.
So I sip into this bloody mary for a reasonable amount of time (side note: Absolut Pepper makes fantastic bloody Marys). At some point in that milieu of football and conversation, we decide to go to the legendary dive in Vegas known as the "Double Down". We quickly assemble, catch a cab, and become motile.
The Double Down Saloon, Somewhere in the neighborhood of 1600.
A quick note about the Double Down Saloon: until sometime in the 1990's, this bar did not show football on the TVs surrounding the bar. Not NASCAR. Not Music Videos. The Double Down only showed midget porn, for twenty four hours a day, for seven days a week. I knew this coming in, by the way.
We pull up in the cab and find a single motorcycle in the parking lot. Most of us thought it was closed. I pulled on the door, surprised to find it open, and we entered. What a great fucking place! There was nothing on the jukebox but punk rock, most of which I'd never heard of. While the bartender looked as if he could bench-press a small church, and growled like a starving pit bull, he seemed pacified by chewing on an ashtray, after serving us. I laid five on the bar for a two dollar beer. I waited for change. The bartender put my change down and actually sniffed as he lowered his head. That's called a three dollar tip.
The TVs had college ball on (damn, no midget porn!), and they were having a special on Pabst Blue Ribbon in the longneck variety. ("Goes down like candy", I've been informed.) My kinda fuckin' place, by God! Griff quickly put fifty dollars in the juke and flatly refused to leave until he heard his last song. I played a few games of billiards, until I recognized that I had the fine motor skills of a three-toed sloth. We maintained pretty well, but you could just tell on every face that each one of us wanted to stick around all night and just howl at the fuckin' moon. I think each one of us said, at some point in the hour or so that we spent there, that "man, I'll bet this place is fucking sick after about eight o'clock." To which the bartender would nod.
We left about 1700 or 1730. Off for the Hard Rock Casino.
Before leaving, we found Clubber's sainted cousin, Augusta, in the midst of this bender. Promised by Clubber that she'd find a bunch of fun and exciting Marines to hang around with for the evening, the lady found a bunch of former Marine Officers who were as boring as saltine crackers and drunker than Otis on The Andy Griffith Show. Despite her disappointment, Augusta proved able to needle us as was appropriate, was outrageously funny, and was accepted as a member of SCAM-D by the end of the evening.
The Hard Rock Casino, at some point in the late afternoon
Buzz maintenance is difficult when you're surrounded by Eric Martin. Eric is one of the few men that succeeds in surrounding an individual. He's large. He's aggressive. He drinks a lot of beer. He moves constantly. Looking at my cell text messages just now, I've got like five messages just from the few hours that we were at the Hard Rock. "We're over at the Restaurant". "We're at the Circle Bar". "WTFRU". "We've moved to the CP bar." It was exhausting.
We did find a great restaurant that had a great Saturday special on Steak and Shrimp for $7.77, and ate in good company. I paused to have an extended cell phone conversation, and when I rejoined the group, I found half of them gone. Asking what had happened to them, I received another text from Eric: "I'm down with Pink Taco" (very freudian, I may add). So over we went, after much drunken wandering, looking for the right route, to a bar with the unfortunate name of "The Pink Taco". When we found them, I lit up a camel and was taken to task by the bartender that it was "against the law of the state of Nevada for [me] to smoke that". I was shocked: 1) I didn't know that Nevada actually had laws; 2) I had no idea that there was a place in this state besides the airport and hospitals where you COULDN'T smoke. I made a snide comment to Eric, and walked out to the bar across the hallway to finish my smoke. When I returned, I attempted to order another Sam Adams. Apparently, they don't have those either, at the Pink Taco.
We left soon after.
Napoleon's Piano Bar, The Paris, sometime in the late evening.
Following almost an hour spent wandering Bally's/The Paris, with the only noteworthy event being my loss of a hundred bones on three tens at the Bally's poker room (to a set of jacks, for the love of God), we found a great bar. Of course, there's a non-smoking concourse that leads up to the door of the place, but I've come to expect this.
Great fuckin' place. Good music. Comfortable seating. Competent wait staff. We procede to drink even more. Augusta, God bless her, managed to find an excuse to ditch a bunch of old men about 0100. Griff, St. Michael, Craig, Clubber, Eric, and myself maintained and continued. About 0130, St. Michael checks out to make a head call. We maintain conversation in his absence. About five minutes later, I get a phone call. Puzzled at the fact that the caller ID said "St. Michael", a man who, until five minutes ago, had been by my side for the past 12 hours, I answered: "Unclean"
"Hey, it's Mike. I went to the bathroom, and someone locked me in here. Come let me out."
Suddenly, I'm on my feet. Walking down the fifty yards to the bathroom on the concourse between The Paris and Bally's. Walking into the Men's room. Looking everywhere. Nobody. I walk around and look under the stalls. Nothing. "Hey Mike, I'm in here. I don't see anything."
"Well, I'm locked in here. Find me."
I see a locked janitor's closet in the back, and walk up to it. "Okay, I think I understand. Knock on the door where you are."
[faint knock, knock, knock]
"Hmmm. Well Mike, you're not where I am, but I can hear you. Hold on"
I walk out into the hallway, between the Men's and Women's rooms. "Okay," I say, "try again."
[clearer knock, knock, knock]
"Mike, are you sure that you're in the Men's room?"
[Like he's talking to a bright but unfortunately addled child] "Of course I'm sure, Larry! I just used the bathroom, turned to get out, and THEY LOCKED THE DOOR ON ME!"
"Alright, alright Mike. I'm on the motherfucker. Just give me a second," I say, grinning as I begin to understand. I walk to the entrance of the Women's room..."Okay Mike, knock one more time."
[BANG, BANG, BANG]
"Okay Mike, gimme a sec. I think I've found you."
And so I walk through the open Women's room door, make a hard right, and find my good friend. He was standing at the back of the room, between two rows of stalls (note: not a single urinal in sight) with his left hand leaning against the top of the locked janitor's closet, and his right hand holding his cell phone to his ear. Thank God, not a single woman was present, cowering in her stall as Mike hammered at the janitor's door. I close my phone.
"Mike," I say, sticking the phone in my pocket.
Mike slowly turns, hanging up his phone, his face defining the term "rueful".
Smiling from ear to ear, standing in a Women's room, in The Paris Casino, on the Strip, on a Saturday night, I look up at my friend...
"Hey Mike, I think I found the way out."