Vegas Part I: Miami And Some Of Whats After
The air in Miami was sticky and wet. I remember that much. Alex was already wired when I met him. He was in front of the baggage claim with a suitcase of his own, smoking Marlboro lights and watching traffic cops police the freshly departed. He had a wad of cash in an envelope in his front pocket that he showed me in the car on the way towards the beach. I don’t know how much it was but I faked like I was counting it by flipping quickly through the bills and saying, “Looks like it’s all there,” all Hollywood drug dealer style. That night we played video games high on cocaine and Demerol. The next afternoon we went to the gap and I bought a couple t-shirts, then we hit a restaurant and I had a bacon cheeseburger that looked like the kind you see on Food Network. That evening we were at the airport, in a line that stretched out into the rain outside. We thought our flight would be delayed because of the weather, but when we pushed off to Vegas it was right on time. In the skies, the thunder roared below us.
Vegas was warm. That I remember too. When we stepped through the automatic doors, the squeal of their rusty hinges announcing us into the city of sin, the first thing we thought was, it’s warm. Then we saw the line. Or at least, the part of it that was within our sights. It stretched on so far it looked like it fell from the edge of the earth, but you knew it didn’t, because it stretched back in a loop then stretched back again to the edge of time. It did this 6 times. This was the line for a taxi and everyone stood in it. Once we realized this, we resigned ourselves to the experience. We surveyed the herd for pretty faces. We made fun of people. We laughed at ourselves. We shuffled our feet. We sighed. This went on for an hour. Finally, we got a taxi. When we climbed in and gave him the address to the hotel he whistled bleakly. “That’s a long way,” he said, then shifted into drive and hit the gas.
It was a long way. A hell of a long way. We barreled down the highway in light traffic and watched as the Vegas skyline drifted off behind us like an insignificant memory. Our hotel was miles out. Miles. A poor decision by Alex to save some money which he cursed himself for the entire trip. “The said ‘9 miles away,’” he would say. “”They made it sound so close,” he would whine. Cest la vie. We were in the middle of nowhere and still in Vegas. We settled into our room and headed back to the strip. The total cost in cab rides at the point was at $80.
We meet my friend Theo, who was in town for the same show, on the strip, at the Venetian Hotel. He had a friend who is bartending at a spot called Tao there, and he needed to hook up with him to drop off his bags. The security at the door was having none of it. There was a dress code. No t-shirts. No jeans. No tennis shoes. No Luggage. We were fucked on all strikes. I noticed the girls were all gussied up. Wearing shiny evening dresses that hung low enough to hint at their secrets. The guys wore blazers and shoes with slight heels. We said fuck it and dropped his bags off at a hotel concierge and hit Harrah’s for some drinks. I ordered my first Manhattan of the night. The city had a strange buzz.
After a few drinks and $20 on the twenty-five cent slot machines, we decided to head to a strip club. At this point it was 6 of us. Me, Theo and Alex, and three friends of Theo’s we had just met at the casino. One was a girl, one was a nerdy loud guy, and the other was an equally nerdy but quiet guy that didn’t make an impression on me at all. We pile into one cab and then, around the corner from the club, three of us pile into another. Neither car charges us for some reason. We had done them some sort of service just by having so many go to the club in the first place. I shake my head, confused, when the second cabbie doesn’t take any money. The system is curious in the desert, but I just went along with it.
The club, called the Spearmint Rhino, has to be one of the best strip clubs in America. I mean, I'm the type of guy that prefers a club that’s dark and seedy and populated by shy, silent perverts. It’s where I'm most comfortable when surrounded by pornographic sex, sex of the fantasy. But this place was the exact opposite, and it was awesome. It was set up pretty much like a nightclub, packed wall to wall with loud music, but when you asked a girl to dance they always said yes and then they gave your lap crazy booty action. Most of them were too thin for my taste, though they were all pretty hot. I got a few dances, and ordered a couple drinks in between. When we left Alex was in love and I was sort of hungry. We hopped in a cab and told him to take us through a fast food drive-through before we went home to the hotel. He gladly obliged.
He was Armenian, the, surprisingly enough, first non-American cab driver we’d had. High on lights and sex and cocaine, we started a conversation with him. First explaining why we were so desperate for fast food, particularly jack n the box (they don’t have that chain on the east coast and being on vacation is the best time to eat fast food, especially the rare kind), then, because we didn’t know what else to bring up, the resolution on the Armenian Genocide.
Now, I suppose bringing up the genocide of a race, especially the race of the person you are talking too, isn’t the best opening conversation to friendship, but we were feeling chatty and I think we felt that, in some way, we were on his side, which I suppose we were, but when I think about it, I probably don’t really care.
Anyway, as it turns out, he pretty much feels the same as me, because he hardly has anything to say about the issue. He seems more interested in where we are from. We tell him. Alex is Dominican and lives in Miami, I am obviously an old Asian woman and live in New York. Then the guy looks at us in the rearview mirror.
“Hey have you uh… you ever have any problems with the… um… Puerto Ricans?”
Alex and me looked at each other. We knew that if we said the wrong thing a fountain of hatred for the Puerto Ricans would come gushing from his mouth. This seemed strange, considering we had just been discussing the attempted extermination of his nationality, but you know, different strokes, I guess.
“No man. I know some pretty cool Puerto Ricans,” Alex said. He didn’t.
“No! No! No1 I mean, you know, just working with them.” The cabbie started back tracking.
“”Nah man,” I said, “I work with a few. They’re cool.” I lied.
“Oh,” the cabbie said,”Ok.”
We drive the rest of the way in silence. When we got to the hotel it was almost dawn and we tipped him well for his troubles. The cab rides at that point were up to $120.
When we got back we didn’t even want the food. We did another line and talked about death and Vegas and women. I smoked some weed and when I went for my cigarettes couldn’t find them so smoked his. After a few drinks from the mini-bar I ate my Grilled Sourdough Chicken Sandwich and Curly Fries with Ranch dressing. The sun was coming up. I looked for my phone and it was missing too. I cursed and picked up his to call mine and find it. It didn’t ring. The room was still. It was gone. I’d only been there one night.