Lucky Number Thirteen

Encore

Cafe Society

My thirteenth trip to Las Vegas was the start of a new tradition.  For years and years, I had been on my friend Tracy’s back to plan a trip to Sin City.  Finally, we decided to meet up for her birthday (this is a different Tracy than the other Tracy I accompanied on another birthday trip).

My sister Karen joined us.  We were all going to book at the Encore, but the hotel wasn’t going to guarantee us a room with two queen beds.  So Tracy and her significant other, Roland, booked the Encore and Karen and I booked at Treasure Island — just because it was relatively close to the resort.

This was probably 2010.  Treasure Island was fine.  It’s no Wynn resort since it was sold, but there was nothing wrong with the rooms.  I had a friend who visited the hotel last week and she told me that the casino could use some work, but that’s not a big deal.  I play at the Flamingo all the time and it’s more in need of a refresh than any other big resort on the Strip.  The Encore, on the other hand, was divine.  Wow, those hotels are something else!  If it wasn’t for my current relationship with Mlife, I’d book there in a minute.

Highlights of the trip included a visit to Cafe Society at the Encore.  While I’m pretty easy to please in most breakfast joints, the environment of a restaurant like this is not lost on me.  We stuck to the north end of the strip mostly because that’s where we were staying. We made it as far south as the Aria on the west side of the road, and only as far as the Flamingo on the east.

This was probably my unluckiest trip — number thirteen, go figure!  Tracy would get on a good run every now and then, though.  She even felt sorry for me and split some winnings with me when I was near rock-bottom.  I’m still waiting for the day I need to return the favor.  I don’t believe that Karen and I went to any shows, but Tracy and Roland saw Le Rêve.

The best part of this trip, though, was finally introducing Tracy and Roland to Vegas.  Now we go all the time!  They’re the best people to travel with because they like to do all the same things that I like to do.  They don’t complain and they don’t need to be accompanied 24/7.  I’m going with them again in five weeks.  I can’t wait!

When Things Got Interesting

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Desert Passage

It wasn’t until my eleventh trip to Las Vegas that I discovered what it meant to use a player’s club card in the casino.  As a result, my twelfth trip was booked directly with the Aladdin hotel as “complimentary.”  I’m always skeptical of getting something for nothing, and I accepted my invitation to a slot machine tournament with a bit of trepidation.  We’re they really going to pay for everything?

Anyway, I met my American friend Suzanne there.  She’s the girl version of me.  Suzy had a friend living in Vegas so she was the perfect traveling companion; sometimes I just want to be left alone.  I played in the three-part tournament over two days and I ended being the last person to get a prize, but it was $500!  I went down with $800 in my pocket and woke up on my last day there with $700.  Of course, I blew it all before I got on the plane, but I didn’t visit the bank machine once!

What I remember the most about this trip was the heat.  It was July and I could barely leave the casino.  One day it was 45°C!  We walked from the Aladdin to Paris next door (probably a ninety second trip) and I thought that I was going to die.  The heat radiated from the concrete even though it was the middle of the night.  It felt like being inside a pizza oven.  I vowed to never go back to Vegas in summer ever again.

Other highlights included a trip to the buffet where I had to get up and pee four times.  I don’t know what came over me.  I also remember shopping for a souvenir collector’s spoon for Suzy in the Desert Passage.  She didn’t collect spoons, but I once had told everyone that she did so that they would start buying them for her.  Ha!

The big highlight, though, was checking out of the hotel with the casino host.  She comped everything we had charged to the room and then told us to go for another meal because we hadn’t spent enough of our resort credit.  I paid something like $27 for the whole weekend, all because of using the Aladdin’s player’s club card.  And there was some sort of cash-back feature that gave me another $130 to blow on the slots before I left.

Finally, all my experience was paying off.  I was a high roller!

Charo!

Alladin

Aladdin

My eleventh trip to Las Vegas was probably the best I’ve had.  My sister Karen and I stayed at the brand new Aladdin Hotel.  We met up with my friend Korey and her friend Heather.  They were staying at the Flamingo.  I had tons of money to spend that trip, and it was nice to feel as if I wasn’t on a budget.

I never really was one for going to production-style shows, but I decided that we should go see something while we were there.  I booked tickets to Charo (at the Riviera, the Stardust or the Sahara — I can’t remember which one).  I slipped the maître d’ fifty bucks and he seated us in the front row.  We laughed our heads off while drinking Midori melon balls.  Halfway through the show, Heather discovered her shirt was inside out.  Korey kept making snorting noises while Charo was playing her flamenco guitar solo and I could barely keep it together.  It was so much fun!

I also remember eating at the buffet, of course.  Korey was barely able to cram anything else into her mouth, but she insisted upon finishing her meal with some cherry pie.  She sat back like Jabba the Hutt, stabbing at the pie with her fork, and then she proceeded to drop a big blob on her clean shirt.  So classy!

Another time the four of us had met up for breakfast at the Flamingo.  Korey and I were facing the hallway that runs alongside the pool.  A woman with a cowboy hat, Wrangler jeans and Farrah Fawcett hair walked by.  Then another one walked by, followed by a dozen more, then another few dozen.  There were fifty of them!  I remember looking at Korey as we both thought “what the hell is happening?”  It was the Miss Rodeo USA Pageant!  Why didn’t we buy tickets to that?

As for gambling, this was the first time that we were able to play those “Fifty Play” and “Hundred Play” penny poker machines.  I actually won a bunch on a nickel version when I was dealt four threes straight-up with twenty-five hands in play.  I got a hand pay at Paris, too, playing a game called “Big Tippers.”

The other big highlight of this vacation was my solo trip to the Liberace Museum where I spent a pile of money in the gift shop.  I bought Korey a lovely, red-sequined sun visor that she kindly obliged to wear for an afternoon.  It was a great trip all-around.  Vegas is way better when you don’t go on a budget!


 

Pineapple Chicken Balls

Tom Jones

Tom Jones

My tenth trip to Las Vegas was with my friend Tracy Q and her family.  Tracy was turning thirty, so I suppose it was 1999 (I have a difficult time remembering what year she was born because she looks so much older than me).  We stayed at the Flamingo.  Because we took the early-morning flight, we couldn’t check into the hotel when we arrived.  Tracy’s mother and I sat down at a bank of slot machines to pass the time until we could go up to the rooms and she won $4000 on the first $20 she played.  That set the tone for the trip!

We had a lot of fun.  I got drunk a few times.  Once I even had to go by myself and sit half-submerged in the pool while I waited for the Advil to kick in.  I rarely get drunk enough to give myself a hangover!  I also got really loaded at the MGM Grand where Tracy and I went to see Tom Jones.  We visited the Stratosphere just to see what it was like.  Bellagio was open, so we went there, too.  I remember being in Via Bellagio pointing out a silver, leather dress in the window at Chanel to Tracy and she said “I couldn’t fit one thigh into that.”

Of course, I also remember the Flamingo buffet.  We were discussing what our favorite fruits were and Tracy answered “pineapple chicken balls” while stuffing one into her maw. I laughed so hard I’m sure I shot something out of my nose.  It’s been a running joke since.

I also recall that it was blistering hot and that every time I went outside, my eyes began to water uncontrollably in the heat.  It looked as if I was crying!  I don’t remember having any luck on this trip, but it was memorable, nonetheless.  I’d go with Tracy again in a minute, except that nowadays I go with another Tracy and that would just make things confusing.  Maybe if she changed her name to Trudy.  Hmm . . .

Number Nine

Canyon-Pumping-Station

MGM Grand Adventures

My ninth trip to Las Vegas set a new standard for fun.  I went with my sister Karen and four other friends.  We all stayed at Treasure Island.

What I remember the most about this trip was the theme park that used to be at the back of the MGM Grand property where the Signature is now located.  My sister, my friends Marjie, Mitch, Sean, Serena and I visited the park and we had a blast.  I think we rode on the inner tube ride in the photo a couple of times because there was no lineup.  You could try to steer the tube away from water hazards that would get you wet. For some reason, Serena got the wettest every time we rode.  We also went on one of those log rides that plunges you down a ramp at the end.  It had cameras that took a photo of you just at the worst possible time.  Marjie ended up buying her photo because it looked as if she was having an orgasm on the ride.  We took it back to the restaurant where most of worked at the time and hung it up on the wall.

Everything about this trip was great.  I got to eat my beloved date-nut bread thing that I used to eat at the Golden Nugget because they had it on the menu at the breakfast joint in Treasure Island.  Marjie and I splashed around in the pool.  We played tons of fun slot machines including a Sigma Derby at Excalibur with a King Arthur theme.  I remember ordering pina coladas there and getting kind of drunk.  I also remember that everyone but me and my sister went to see the Cirque du Soliel show at Treasure Island.  When they came out, I was already in bed because I got so loaded drinking one of those skull drinks.

There’s one other thing that really sticks out in my head from this trip.  We were in the buffet and I was trying to get past some people in the lineup who wouldn’t shut up about the types of bagels that were offered.  I remember telling them “Hey, you’re not the only people in line” and they gave me this death-stare like I’ve never seen before.  Oh, how people with terrible manners hate when you point out their terrible manners!

It was a good time all around.  It made me realize that it’s better to go with lots of people so that you can ditch them if you feel like it.  The nice thing about going with my sister Karen is that she never takes that personally.  Plus, she ditches me as much as I ditch her.  It works for us.

Eight Ain’t Enough

flamingo

Flamingo

My eighth trip to Las Vegas was memorable because it was probably my luckiest trip to Vegas.  I went with my sister Karen again and we stayed at the Flamingo.  It was probably 1997.

The Flamingo was really nice in the late 90s.  Much of the hotel had been renovated, the newer towers were finished and the pool area had just set a new standard for what swimming pools in Vegas should look like.

What I remember most about this trip was walking into the casino and getting dealt four nines at Caribbean Stud poker within my first hour of arriving.  Then I won a couple hundred bucks on a dinosaur-themed dollar slot by lining up some Stegosauruses.  I went to bed up about five-hundred dollars.

The next day I was playing a progressive quarter poker machine over by the Sports Book. My sister came down from the room and I told her that I had been playing for a long time and that I had doubled my twenty-bucks into forty.  I offered her the chance to buy in with a twenty of her own.  She did and immediately after we hit the progressive for $1700.

That was the first time I ever really hit a big jackpot in Vegas (big enough to have to pay taxes on the win, anyway).  The rest of the trip was pretty lucky, too.  We went into the Mirage and almost repeated the same thing on a dollar machine shortly afterward.  The royal flush didn’t come up, but we won a few hundred dollars there, too.  Barry Manilow was playing there that night.

I remember visiting the Forum Shops and buying a wallet at El Portal.  The reason I can pinpoint the date on this trip was because Gucci was still a tacky, overpriced boutique that made me wonder what the hype was about.

All in all, it was a good trip.  It was fun to actually win something and to feel as if the pressure was off for the rest of the trip.  Budgets be damned!

Lucky Number Seven!

Treasure-Island

Treasure Island

The funny thing about trying to chronologically order all these trips I’ve taken is going through my memories and being surprised by what I remember and what I don’t remember.  Why do I remember so much about what I ate while I was there?

I suppose that this is the trip that I remember the most.  I went with my friend Ryan for my thirtieth birthday during the first week of 1996.  We stayed at Treasure Island.  When we got to the hotel we ran into my sister’s friend, Tammy, and her husband.  Ryan and Tammy knew each other and liked to hang around together.  It made it easier for me to be there without feeling as if I had to act as a tour director for my traveling companion.

Treasure Island was awesome back then.  The pirate theme was so over-the-top — like a drunken Disneyland with slot machines.  The location was great, too, because we could spend hours and hours playing one-dollar blackjack at O’Shea’s right across the street.  I also remember that the dumpy Imperial Palace had a little casino area that practically spilled out onto the sidewalk with nickel Bally Game Maker machines.  I got on a good run and probably played for four hours on a dollar or two.

We got a coupon book for booking our package vacation, and there was a two-for-one buffet coupon at Maxim.  I remember that because it was the first time I ever visited a custom omelette station at a buffet.  I remember those awful blue drinks that came in the crystal skull mugs at Treasure Island because Ryan spilled his all over a blackjack table while him and Tammy were getting hosed.  I also remember going downtown to see the Freemont Street Experience for the first time and also stopping in The Topless Girls of Glitter Gulch, a seedy bar with some seriously ugly strippers.  This was also the trip where I discovered that you could buy booze in convenience stores.  We bought a jug of awful wine and drank the whole thing before going out one night.

However, the best part of the entire trip was getting asked for I.D. on my thirtieth birthday.  Nothing could beat that.  I still think it might have been the best birthday I ever had.