Windswept Stars

Friday, July 15, 2005

My First Trip to Las Vegas (Cross-Country Story #1)

At the age of 21, I went on a cross country trip. I had just quit my summer job (telemarketing felt like working for the devil) and school wasn't starting for a month. We had gotten through Colorado, and I should mention this is my first time west of the Missisippi since age 2.

I had never seen REAL mountains before. That was nuts.

Anyway, 3 weeks into riding cross-country with my best friends, Chris and Paul in a beat-up Chevy Astrovan with no seating in the back, except for a lawn chair...we're supposed to go to Slide Rock, a cheap state park that has a NATURAL water slide. Its in Arizona, near Sedona -- sounded great until we arrive at 6PM and learn the slide is closed to due to an E. Coli infection.

"But you can spend $15 bucks to stay the night..."

We peel the fuck out of there.

We're on the highway clueless...until we see the only city within driving distance worth going to.

I shit you not...colllectively for one hour, we're shouting one word like seabound vikings chanting to their gods.

"VEGAS! VEGAS! FUUUUUUUUUUUUUCKING VEGAS!"

Not much emotion could be expressed in any other terms.

For all of us, it was our first time.

Virgins, we were.

Upon the turn of a certain corner coming down a mountain, you just know. I don't even fucking think the third Matrix touched the expansiveness of light that laid out before us.

I felt like a 3-year old with his first Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.

Watching Empire Strikes Back at the age of 8.

Seeing smut at a jewish summer camp at the age of 10...

A hushed "Holy shit" could only be whispered out of our mouths.

For the next 20 minutes, our mouths crusted over from not closing as we drived up the strip.

You're 21, 400 dollars to your name walking into Vegas on a cross-country trip. Its early August...Potentially, the trip can end real quick...or it can be a miracle.

Naturally, these are the stakes as we now must decide any courses of action as we arrive pretty late at 1 AM. Of course, the city is TEEMING with people everywhere -- my eyes can't focus on anything as this smorgasborg of lights, 99 cent steak dinner ads, strip clubs w/ attached wedding chapels.

The first night starts off rather uneventful, deciding on the Stardust since its 50 bucks for the night and we're beat. We lose a little money, while getting severely hammered at the tables...as we're all introduced to the best thing about Vegas.

FREE DRINKING WHEN GAMBLING. At this point, the whole mania of the car ride experience of knowing your going to Vegas for the first time, combined with the arrival has us a little wired. We decide to overzealously roll a rather large joint that completely FUBAR's us. 30 minutes into this, we remember the $1.99 Breakfast at the hotel...

Making a beeline, we arrive screaming about pancakes. We sit down, letting the 20 drinks and weed pound our skulls to the point where I'm truely introduced to the carpets in Vegas a la Depp in "Fear and Loathing," whereas I'd like point out that the movie came out a year AFTER this experience of mine.

They nailed it perfectly.

Those carpets are evil and never look down my friends. Its an actual reasoning by casinos to keep you focused on their slot machines.

We freak out the waitress badly because we cannot stop laughing for reasons I'm not even sure of at this point. I remember it being about pancakes and then I'm pretty sure the direct result of all our brain cells malfunctioning was loud laughter. People watching us, only made us laugh louder.

Thank god the staff must be well-versed in the 'tripping balls' manual because they were gracious and served a fine meal.

Around 6 AM, we all blacked out in the hotel room.

Naturally, the next morning we go off in search of a campground...out of the hotel at around 10 AM per checkout orders. We're not exactly ready for what becomes evident about Las Vegas during the day.

ITS FUCKING MIDSUMMER.

ITS FUCKING BRIGHT AND HOT.

THE VAN HAS NO FUCKING A/C.

This introduces us to the hell of what we learn over the next 2 weeks during the trip.

THE DESERT FUCKING SUCKS.

Enter: Lake Meade Campgrounds

Upon entering, the first thing we notice is that there's nobody camping there. Ok... We shrug it off as to the weather being 110 degrees and only idiots like ourselves would camp out in that shit. That day, we hang out on a public beach at the Lake...as the weather increases to 120 degrees, we can't spend money -- so we stay at the Lake and turn a color of bright purple/red I've never, ever seen.

At around 2 PM, I said fuckit and even took off my shirt, it was too fucking hot and I figured sunblock could withstand the Vegas rays...I spent 75% at the bottom of the lake, the only place outside where the temperature was less than 90 degrees.

The sun starts setting thank god, as all of us are burnt so bad that you could fry eggs on our faces. I shit you not, I'm bubbling by dinner. As were my friends, who also had fun at the bottom of the lake that day.

Dinner in Vegas = cheap, not a problem.

Losing $100-150 at the Pyramid in less than 1/2 hour -- FUCKING SUCKS. We leave deflated, burnt more than the fucking devil himelf, and all-around miserable at around 10 PM, where we pass out at the sketchy Lake Meade site at around midnight -- knives under our pillows.

By 8 AM -- its 90 degrees outside. At this point, we HATE Vegas. All of us wake up in extreme heat, sweating and looking like The Thing has been skin-grafted to us. Smartly, we decide that today is the day that Chris' van is getting an oil change because by hell or highwater we are going to be INSIDE and AIR-CONDITIONED in a Pennzoil waiting room.

We get breakfast first, do some tourist shit and arrive for the oil change in the mid-afternoon. Hoping to be inside for the worst of the day, at this point, Paul learns a very valubable fact about Lake Meade Campgrounds from the piece of literature he's reading.

In reference to a junkyard car once found in the Lake that the police use, "We mostly use these types of vehicles to cruise around places like Lake Meade Campground at night in search of heroin addicts, crack addicts, drug dealers and other criminals."

He also happens to learn this is where people get shot in Vegas and never seen again.

The van can't be fixed fast enough, which turns out true as some other issues are found that makes the process longer. We get it back around 4:30 PM and JET to Lake Meade hoping to beat sunset -- cause like idiots, we left all the camping gear back at the site.

We get packed up at 6:30 PM, just as the sun is setting and coyotes are howling in distance as if hearing our own inner thoughts of wonder -- "God, I hope there wasn't a serial rapist nearby last night. WHAT WAS THAT SOUND!?!?!"

Upon leaving, Christ stops the van to walk into the bathroom upon which Paul and myself are screaming at him to just hold it in, whereas he just holds up a piece of trash he wants to throw away.

Seconds later, Chris walks out pale as a ghost -- which should be impossible due to the fact he's sunburnt to all holy hell.

"That has got to be the BLOODIEST bathroom I've ever seen in my life."

I don't even ask for details as Chris speeds away.

After this experience, we hit the tables for one more last shot. We're each down about $200-250 at this point in this godforsaken town. Thank god for the free drinks. I just start ordering Jack and Cokes w/ Coronas as a chaster at the same time. As if Dionysus herself finally said, "Give these guys a break," we get a dealer change.

Enter: Mary Jane, Santa Monica, CA; age 45

I shit you not, I win back my money in fifteen minutes. My friends are a little slower on their comebacks, but all of us are winning. We're betting fifty bucks and hitting blackjack, SHIT IS INSANE. For some reason, there's no dealer change for a good HOUR. I'm suddenly up $250 for the whole trip and my friends are up a little themselves. Dealer change, I'm plastered. Whoever replaces her, we keep winning BIG.

I'm dragged away from the table (literally, I couldn't stop laying DAMN YOU VEGAS.) and we're all RICH. I'M UP FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS FOR THE TRIP AND DRUNK AS HELL.

Naturally, we find the Rock N' Roll Denny's to celebrate.

Honestly, I can't remember anything but two things about my time in that place...

1) Eating Moon's Over My Hammy
2) Taking pictures of ourselves with hundred-dollar bills in our mouth.

We leave Vegas, since we have no place to stay -- completely plastered. Along the ride at 70 MPH, Paul decides to open the side panel door to the Astrovan and starts vomiting out the side and telling us not to worry.

I'm screaming shit like "THIS IS THE SOUND OF VICTORY!" "I LOVE VEGAS!" as Paul keeps vomiting with his head in danger of being decapitated at any moment...Chris, the driver -- COMPLETELY PLASTERED.

Paul falls back into the lawn chair after closing the door, and passes out.

I pass out for 30 minutes and wake up to Chris passed out.

WHAT!?!?!

I punch him as hard as I can -- NOT SMART.

After a swerve, he screams "WHAT THE FUCK!?!"

"YOU WERE PASSSED OUT, PULL OVER!"

"Oh."

We don't even know what the next rest stop is...only recognize the icon, pull off and park. Somehow alive.

I wake up the next morning with the taste of dried whiskey in my mouth, which is uncannily like vomit. We all relatively get out of the van at the same time for a much needed stretch.

In front of us, we can only accept the Karma of the situation as a large billboard reads the only thing that can sum up this experience.

"WELCOME TO CALIFORNIA."

I shit you not.

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