Monday, October 27, 2008

Report from Vegas

I spent last weekend in Las Vegas with my two brothers for a boys weekend that celebrated Jim's 47th birthday, the midway point to my 50th birthday, George's escape from a houseful of sick daughters, and, of course, MY FIRST JIMMY BUFFETT CONCERT IN 15 YEARS!

Huge it was. Here is the report.

After spending a few days visiting with Mom in St. George, Utah, we arrived in Vegas shortly before noon on Saturday. By previous arrangement, we headed first to Fremont Street, in dumpy old downtown Vegas, in search of cheap gaming tables. The photo shows Jim (black shirt with words) and George (silent black shirt) upon our arrival.

We walked through venerable casinos like the Golden Nugget, Binion's and Fitz's, and found exactly what we were looking for: $3 blackjack tables. Despite the fact that the tables had cigarette burns in the fabric _ and most of the other players looked like the casino might be their only home _ we had a blast. We settled into a table at Fitz' and played for quite a while before losing our stakes.

From there it was up to the Nugget for a modest lunch. We ate light (I had a chef salad, a meal I first enjoyed in the deli at Buttrey Foods more than 3 decades ago) to maintain our energy for what would be a long day. We passed through Binion's for a bit of slot machine losing. Then came a key decision point.

We had originally planned to go to the Strip, check into the Tropicana and lounge poolside for a bit to soak up some rays and gaze at silicone. But Jim and George were lured to the roulette table as we passed through Fitz's again and there we stayed. I had never played before, but put $20 down and ran into a mountain of beginner's luck. Soon I had towers of lime green chips in front of me. Then I started losing, which got me to looking a my watch. 5 p.m., and we were no where near the Strip! We hustled out of there, battled heavy traffic down Las Vegas Blvd, and finally got to the Tropicana about 6.

As we rushed toward the front door, we were stopped in our tracks by a couple of Folies Bergere dancers who were handing out discount coupons to the show. They were at least 6-foot-4, with towering heels and even taller head feathers, but little clothing. George thought they might be creatures from another planet.

We got a room on the top floor, with a stunning view, but had little time to enjoy it as we had to clean up and get into our carefully selected concert ensembles. George, as expected, went with a light colored suit and striped shirt. I did a basic black, topped by the Vegas Jacket. Jim, who is a country-western musician and thus has no sense of fashion, wore jeans and a jacket.

All of us were wrongly dressed.

It turned out that the vast majority of the crowd at a Jimmy Buffett concert dresses in grass skirts, hats with fruit on it, Hawaiian shirts and the like. What losers.

I of course was in the Vegas Jacket, which never fails to draw stares and comments from pimps, priests and everything in between. The best occurred while I was in the bathroom at the MGM Grand, where a young fellow told me that he flew jets for the military, but nothing in his life was cooler than my Jacket. I had to agree. George and Jim like to walk behind me through crowds so they can enjoy the amazed looks from passersby.
The MGM Grand was overwhelmed with Parrotheads, many enjoying the $6 margarita specials. The bar we went into was so packed that we couldn't get any attention from the bartender. So I caught the eye of a waitress (the magic of the Jacket again) and quickly ordered three margaritas as we grabbed an empty table. We guzzled them down and then joined a river of Parrotheads heading to the MGM's arena.
The concert was completely sold out to approximately 15,000 of the geekiest, most middle-aged, white bread, cubicle-dwelling drones this nation has ever produced. I refer to them as my people. The douchebag in this picture was actually on the town in Vegas with a fake parrot on his shoulder (and some people make fun of my Jacket).

Anyway, we paid $8 each for some Land Shark Beer, and listened to nearly 3 hours of Jimmy's brand of Gulf and Western music. The audience knew every song and we all sang as if someone had paid $100 to hear us croon. I paid $30 for a t-shirt.

Unfortunately, we had to leave before the second encore because I really had to pee and all the bathrooms in the arena were closed from some plumbing problem.

At this point we made another key mistake. Our Buffet tickets guaranteed us free entry to Studio 54 at the MGM Grand. But Jim insisted on going outside to get some fresh air (the Buffett crowd had been engaged in some agricultural burning). Once outside, we decided to head to the Paris casino to get a light dinner to keep our energy level up. We made a brief detour at Planet Hollywood for some gambling, but were horrified at the $20 minimum stakes at the tables there. Unable to afford that, we spent a few disconsolate minutes staring at the go-go dancers working in the gaming area, then headed back to the nickel slots. These demon machines emptied our pockets the way the lady that's known as Lou pinched the poke of the half-crazed miner in ``The Killing of Dan McGrew.''

If we'd been thinking clearly, we'd have returned immediately to Studio 54 and spent a few hours on the dance floor, where the Vegas Jacket would no doubt that drawn the spotlight often. Instead, we headed on to Paris, where we found all the cafes closed for the night even though it was only about 12:30 a.m. (and they say Spokane is a hick town).

It seemed like a bright idea to take a $20 cab ride back down to Fremont Street, where we could play some cheap table games. The cabbie insisted on giving us a long discourse on O.J. Simpson's recent trial, saying it was all over when the Juice got a lady judge who was going to make him pay for killing his wife. We also discussed Mike Tyson, and the length of these conversations got me thinking that we might be taking a long and expensive route to the cheap tables.

Back at Fitz's, we found that our luck had run out and quickly lost our money. I headed over to a penny slot machine, which is generally the last stop before a guy enters a life of male prostitution or journalism. But my $2 stake quickly grew to about $40 and I cashed out. Then, while waiting for Jim to go to the bathroom, I threw a quarter into a slot and 90 quarters spurted out the bottom. George, who'd been losing like a Chicago Cub the entire trip, unleashed a string of expletives entirely unsuited to his profession as a high school guidance counselor. I gave him one of the quarters, which he stuck in a machine and lost.

Exhausted, we took a cab back to the Trop. The other two went to the room while I threw a $20 bill into a slot machine and lost it all in about 10 pulls (insert joke here). We were all in bed by 3 a.m.

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