Oh Las Vegas with your flashing neon lights and empty promises, the alcoholic playground for adults… we meet again. This part of the road trip was going to be the hardest for several reasons. It was The Gannet’s last night with us and we knew that we would not come out unscathed, it was my bridesmaid’s hen’s party the following night and if I wasn’t going to be chewed up and spat out on the Friday night, it was sure to happen on the Saturday. It was where I would meet up with one of my best friends, Wiggles, and if the Friday and Saturday night hadn’t broken me, then Sunday would. And the most difficult part of all would be visiting again; just shy of five years before, Mr T and I had the most hilarious renewal of vows with Elvis, at one of the gazillions of chapels there.
We finally arrived at the onset of nightfall, to our hotel that was off The Strip. It reminded me of one of those truck stop meals that you get when you’re out on the road; cheap, but fills the gap. The Gannet was amping and ready to go, it was actually his second visit within two weeks. Snitch, No.2 and I were a bit more languid from the long day of travel.
Ready and hungry, we caught the last shuttle bus that dropped us near Flamingos. The Gannet had a bottle of Fernet tucked under his wing and drank it with his mixer. Lining our stomachs in a food court with some greasy Chinese, we kind of wondered what was in store for us that Good Friday. Even worse than the dinner was the dive of a bar that we were coaxed into with the promise of all you can drink for $20, at ‘the most happening place’; that and the huddle of real flamingos that balanced on a tiny knoll outside. Drinking from the classic frat party red cups, it turned out that we couldn’t have any liquor, just a selection from their no-brand bottles that sat under the bar. I felt like a uni student drinking Kristov vodka, again.
It wasn’t until we started reeling off trip quotes, that we started having fun. We ended up sharing a table with some Swedes, who taught us how to say ‘Squal!’ when we clinked our drinks. And being in Las Vegas, one of those magical places where random s&^% happens, a guy who looked like Alan’s (from The Hangover) doppelganger was dancing around in the same demeanour as Alan. When we left with The Swedes to Caesar’s Palace, and after No.2 was picked up and fireman carried to the toilet, another miracle happened when Wiggles had appeared after her friends were getting in trouble from security for splashing their feet around in the fountain. At 4am we’d fallen into bed and by 5, The Gannet had packed, jumped on the beds to hug as goodbye, and gapped it out of Vegas.
Down to three, Snitch, No. 2 and I, tried our luck at one of the outlet shopping malls. This was probably one of the saddest excuses for shopping in my life, where we dragged our sorry arses from store to store, trying to pretend we didn’t have hangovers. With a time frame to get back, we left so I could have a 20 minute power nap, before getting ready for round two. Applying make-up and swigging Red Bull, I snuck out the door and headed to Caesar’s Palace once again.
I was to meet the hens in the Absolut Suite, so when I turned up I thought that this would be easy to find. When the ‘help’ in Caesar’s had never heard of it before and has to ring to find out where it is, was a little unnerving, being given a floor number and arriving upstairs to find that I needed a room number, was a wee bit unsettling. Going to the front desk and asking what number the suite was and then not specifically having my name on the list, because I wasn’t staying there, made me suck up my tears; attending this party in the first place was a big enough milestone for me. I think he took pity when he saw my distress and I was finally allowed to be given the room number and knock on the right door.
I didn’t expect anything less from the most heartiest of party planners. Welcoming me with a squeal and a hug, instantly made me feel better. I was shown around in a suite that was most deserving of my friend. A pink and black themed dance floor overlooking the pools and out to Flamingos (shudder), with poles and booths flanking each side and a bar, downstairs were two large themed bedrooms with ensuites and spa baths, upstairs there were two more bedrooms with spa baths in the rooms; enough space for ten other hens and the bride-to-be to get ready while sharing mirror space and drinking strong cocktails.
That night was something you’d imagine that would come straight from the guidebook on ‘How to Have a Bat-S@#t Crazy Hen’s Party in Las Vegas that Would Make Everyone Jealous Back Home’. After the preening and prepping with the hens dressed as brides in white and the bride-to-be donning a black suit, the stag do invaded as they’d lost their night’s drinking kitty gambling red or black. Photo shoots, shots of whatever was left, dance offs and cigars (from the bride and her maids, no less), and then we kicked out the boys and headed to Pure for a night of dancing on couches in our own private booth with our own private waitress and our own private bottles of vodka. At closing outside the club, was a pile of white and legs; a couple of guys had fallen over and some of our troops had decided to go and ‘rugby-fy’ the scene. The night ended with a ‘philosophical’ debrief over spilt pizza on stained dresses.
I spent most of Sunday under the safety of the covers on my bed. The girls laughed at my state and then left to see Old Town Vegas. When the cleaner apologetically walked in and the sunlight scored through the gap in the door, I retreated like a stray black cat into the shadows of its disturbed nesting place. And when the girls got back, I readied myself to play tour guide on the parts I’d been to on The Strip.
I don’t know where it comes from, but somehow you manage to elicit ‘pep’ from second-hand smoke filled desert air. I took Snitch and No.2 to M&M’s world, MGM Grand and Excalibur. I shuddered a little on the inside when they sipped on the obligatory Fat Tuesdays and I nearly withdrew into exile when Wiggles had suggested Round 3, after I said I was coming to visit her. Thank all of the holy cows in India that instead, we chowed down on the perfect lamb burger with marinated feta and fries, at Gordon Ramsay’s Pub & Grill. I then followed her around while she shopped, until I basically dropped.
By Monday I was happy my stint here was coming to an end. The maximum amount of time that an out-of-towner should spend in Las Vegas is three nights, unless you’re on a winning streak or you can run on empty. Snitch and No.2 had left early for a Grand Canyon helicopter tour. I picked up Wiggles and we asked Carmen the GPS to take us to the chapel where Mr T and I had re-wed. I couldn’t return to Vegas and leave without stopping by, it was just something I had to do. I sat in the reception of the chapel glorified in tack, thinking of the last time I had been there with Mr T and our best man; wishing he was there… remembering the laughter that escaped through the pews and the intense sorrow at losing him just three days later.
Wiggles and I decided to end this memorial in the best and most Vegasy way that we could, by gorging ourselves on a buffet. If ever there was a time to summarise the fear, loathing and filth of Las Vegas, it was in the platefuls of mass produced cuisine. There had been no gambling, just drinking, eating and self-regret. We said goodbye to Wiggles and drove off in Ron, with me in the back; sprawled with my top two skirt buttons undone, a blue plastic boot filled with slushie margarita mix, and my souvenir hat upside down on my head. Goodbye… I’m not sure I will be seeing you again.
Until part five, be kind to yourselves.