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July 27, 2003

Vegas Vacation


5:00am my alarm went off. No problem, I was awake anyway. I slowly got up, showered and dressed. No, I wasn't planning on putting in a long day at the office. I wasn't planning to go to work at all. I made sure Josh (who spent the night on the couch), and Andy were awake and ready to go by 6:00. That was when Paul and the cab would be arriving to take us to the airport in time for our flight to Las Vegas, Nevada.

The flight was uneventful. Apparently this was also the weekend a graduating class decided to also go to Vegas, so we shared the plane with a bunch of frat boys who thought nothing of getting juiced on a plane at 8:30 in the morning. They turned out to be loud, but harmless (no emergency landing in Utah was necessary).

As soon as I stepped off the plane, I knew we were in Vegas. Slot machines with bright flashing lights greeted us at the gate as we entered the airport. I dropped in whatever change I had in my pocket, but didn't win anything. Little did I know, this was foreshadowing of the next few days.

We grabbed a cab to the Mirage Hotel, where we would be staying. Looking out the car window at the beige ground and bald rock hills, it really felt like I was a different world. The cabbie was a Russian with a thin moustache and huge sunglasses. He told us how he drove a cab during the day and dealt blackjack at night, then recommended some places to visit.

The Mirage is by far the largest hotel I've ever stayed at. They had a huge fish tank in the lobby and a mini tropical garden you had to walk through to get to the casino. They designed the hotel with the lobby at one end and the elevators at the other with the casino in between. I don't think it was by accident. It didn't take long before we were seduced by the flashing lights and the clinking of coins falling into metal trays. We bought some chips and set off to lose some money.

We grabbed a buffet lunch, then Andy and Paul went to the room to study a blackjack strategy guide they got on the Internet (it turned out to not help them much in the long run). Josh and I said nuts to studying and went straight for the tables. We unfortunately picked the dealer who never busts. He was making four- and five-card 21s, and really pissing us off. After losing enough money for one sitting, fatigue finally hit us and we retired to the room for a nap (hey, this is Vegas, you sleep during the day and stay up all night).

After my nap, Paul and I spent some time by the pool. It was easily the largest swimming pool I've ever been in, complete with waterfall and slides. It's the kind of pool that would not look out of place in a water park (but really stands out in the desert). It was about 45°C (115°F) so we cooled off in the water then sat in the shade of palm trees and drank piña coladas.

We grabbed dinner at a teppenyaki Japanese restaurant, then took a long sweaty walk down the Las Vegas strip. For those of you who have never walked the strip, if you plan to do so at night, I don't recommend you bring children along. Standing on the sidewalk are rows and rows of people with stacks of little cards. As you walk by, they flick a card from the pile, snap it between their fingers with a thwap and hold out the card in front of pedestrians. What's on these cards, you ask? Why ads for prostitutes, of course! As some of you may know, prostitution is legal in Nevada (but not within the Las Vegas city limits). So technically these ads are for women who are only strippers but come on, we're not that naïve.

When we got back to the Mirage, the other three guys (Justin, Saeed and Newman) were there. We all walked back down the strip to the MGM to go to a club. We got there around 2:00 am, and there was an hour-long wait to get in. We decided to gamble instead, and I won $10 on the slots, while everyone else watched Justin play craps.

We got back to the hotel around 4:00am, and went straight to bed.


We got up late and went for a buffet brunch. We then went downtown to try our luck at some of the cheaper casinos. We tried our luck at the Golden Nugget, with it's $5 blackjack tables. It was here I learned the meaning of "schooled". I bought $60 worth of chips and won ONE LOUSY HAND! Josh joined me and had similar luck. While I was playing there were two older women behind me watching me play, who, judging by their comments, had no idea how to play (when I was dealt a 12, one whispered to the other "Ooh, that's a good hand!", and when I was dealt two aces, they kindly recommended I double down).

After losing our money, we went back to the hotel, got dressed up and went for dinner at the classy (and expensive) Delmonico Steakhouse. Since I'm not the biggest steak fan, I had the rack of lamb, which was amazing. Most of the others got the chateaubriand, which they enjoyed immensely. I had a bite, and was sent to steak heaven.

After dinner we took a stroll down the strip, stopping to watch the various fountain shows put on by the hotels. The Bellagio's ode to America was most impressive, while The Mirage's "volcano" was lacklustre.

We returned to the hotel, not for more gambling (I was beginning to resent the blackjack dealers at this point), but to see the most flamboyant magic show Vegas has to offer: Siegfried and Roy. For those of you who don't know, Siegfried and Roy are magicians of the highest calibre, conjuring up white tigers and making elephants disappear. But they're more than just magicians; they have a story to tell. They said so themselves: "Don't call us magicians or conjurers--storytellers would be just right."

The show was a lot of fun. I have no idea what the story was supposed to be (something about a cobra-woman, beast-men and a giant mechanical dragon, all calling out "Siegfried! Siegfried! And ROY!" At one point Siegfried ran around the perimeter of the stage, shaking audience members' hands, including mine! "Glad you could make it," he said. Well, I was glad too.

After the show most of the group wanted to go to a club. Remembering the luck we had the night before, Josh and I declined and went back to the hotel. From what I heard, the $35 the rest of them paid to get into Studio 54 wasn't worth it.


Another late morning and breakfast at a deli. I'm always up for a Kosher meal, and the pastrami on rye and matzo ball soup were excellent. We shunned the casinos for most of the day, and explored the shopping centre known as The Forum at Caesar's Palace. There we saw an animatronic rendition of the fall of Atlantis, which was pretty lame, and did a little shopping.

We decided to hit one more casino, to see if our luck would change. By this time all of us were in the hole, Justin had lost his voice from all the yelling he had done at the craps table, but Andy and I had to try just one more time. Surprise surprise, it didn't pay off, and our wallets a little lighter, we left the casino. For the rest of the day we lounged around, enjoying drinks at the bar and relaxing by the pool.

That afternoon, the first group of us headed back to the airport to catch our evening flight home. While waiting in the terminal for our flight, I spied a 5 cent slot machine, and thought, what the heck, and tossed in a buck. That one dollar kept me entertained at that machine for over half an hour. At one point I had quadrupled my money (yes, four dollars!), but since I didn't want to carry around 80 nickels, I just kept playing until it was all gone.

The flight home was quiet and uneventful (my favourite kind of flights). I had a great time in Las Vegas. It's really a place everyone should experience once, if not to gamble, but to experience the city in the desert that never sleeps.

00:00 | Misc Rambling

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