Friday, 15 June 2012

Fuck it, we're going to Vegas!

You know you've set the tone of any trip when the crucial, impulsive decision to undertake it is sealed with the words, 'F**k it, we're going!' There is a delicious recklessness in the moment, because, though the sensible part of your brain has scouted carefully and gurgled up reasons why it's a very silly idea to do this now - a low bank balance, for starters - you have cheerfully given it the finger and declared, 'No matter, we're still going!'

Which is pretty much how our trip to Las Vegas unfolded. 

It is a lazy morning in San Diego. The previous night, I'd singlehandedly caused an 8-strong group to have possibly the shortest night out of their lives - not only had I spoilt people's plans of partying, I'd effectively doused carbon dioxide, water AND sand on their night of merry drinking and dancing at Pacific Beach on account of my absent passport, without which entry to any bar or club was a resounding, unbending 'No ma'am.' (The bouncer would not be moved by my detailed description of the exact spot that I'd left it on my bed back in LA. Nor, it seems, would the driving licence I proffered up pleadingly do). Turns out the bars of Pacific Beach (or PB as the locals call it) are as inpenetrable as the M16; don't expect to be let into any, even if you can prove your identity right down to the blood cells in your body. Now, as flattering as I find it that the security team wouldn't believe I was the twenty-something year old I claimed to be, I suspect the real reason is a bit more cynical than that.

We traipsed back home, the lot of us giggling over the variously disastrous attempts to sneak me into a bar. ('I'll distract him with this poster I've just found...' said Charles as we waited in one line. 'Walk close behind me, and follow my lead...' said Sam through pursed lips at another). My protestations and apologies for ruining their night were heartily waved away ('Don't be silly, Davida! We wanted to show YOU a good time, but don't worry if it hasn't gone to plan. We've still got each other, and that's the most important thing, right?') If that is not the best speech you've heard in a while, I don't know what is.  

Somewhere during that leisurely morning, a cacophony of growling stomachs signalled our collective need of a big, dulling breakfast. (I had the pizza omelette after wading through the frankly alarming selection available)

Did you know there could be many different types of omelette? I didn't.
In the aftermath of that, as we lounged about, three of us contemplating the drive back to Los Angeles, the idea floated casually.

'Hey, we should go to Vegas!'

'Oh yeah? How long is the drive?' I asked, merely out of politeness, playing with the cute white puppy belonging to one of the flatmates. Really, I'd had no intention of leaving the couch I was currently on after that big breakfast. Ever. Until someone offered a padded wheelbarrow or something.

'About four or five hours' drive from here.'

Las Vegas...

'Is it anything at all like Venice Beach?' I asked slowly, remembering the fun afternoon from days ago when, in spite of being several thousand miles away, I'd felt as though I'd walked into another version of my London neighbourhood - Camden Town - right into the arty, quirky and characterful Venice in Los Angeles.

Charles looked at me; saw I was moments away from bursting into laughter at the memory; probably remembered at the same time as I did, the colourful people we'd interacted with:

- The man who had tried to sell me marijuana as we walked along the promenade full of vendors, artists, performers and fortune-tellers, and whom, upon my refusal to patronise 'the good stuff', had screeched aggressively, 'Why don't you want it?! Hey, if God made it, it must be good, right?' The same man whom I'd have stubbornly stood by the beachfront and argued with, had Charles not ushered me away, probably noticing the dangerous tick in his eye.

- The older black man who had given me an unblinking appraising look.
'I like your haircut,' he'd said at length. 'It suits you. Got the cheekbones for it.'
I beamed. 'Thank y -' I started to say.
'But you should keep it natural,' he'd cut in, wagging his finger sternly.
'Oh. Er...yes sir!' Mock salute.

- Then the basketball player who'd yelled as we walked further down the promenade, 'Hey, you! You! I know you!'
I'd turned, nonplussed by the insistent tone of his voice. 'No, you don't!' I challenged.
He didn't miss a beat. Smiled broadly, in fact, as he said, 'I know. But I should, right?' Cue rakish tilt of his head.

His name was Ramith.

Venice Beach. With its vibrant scenes of art, culture and the bizarre - a combination of things that had made that afternoon my favourite outing thus far in California.

'It's literally hanging three feet off the ground.' 
The wheels were turning now. Somewhere along the line, between catching each other up on stories missed, between reminiscing over shared memories, and basking in being alive, we'd taken to shouting 'YOLO!' at the most random of moments, sometimes admittedly displaying behaviour that was more suited to a pair of pre-teens. Were we staring at another of those moments in the face right now?

I opened my mouth to speak. But Sam beat me to it.

'F**k it, we're going to Vegas!' He hooted gleefully.

Ah well. My expression must have given it all away, anyway.

Stretching my legs after a loo break somewhere on the drive to Nevada
It should have been a trip we'd end up ruing (see earlier comment about our general penniless state), but, as it turned out, the stars shone brightly in our favour.

Walking through the luxurious lobby of The Aria Resort and Casino, finely turned out as we were, a blonde, well-suited man approached us.

'Leave this to me, boys.' I murmured under my breath, not exactly sure what I myself meant by this - except, fuelled by the incredulity of the series of events that had caused us to drive four or so hours from San Diego to Las Vegas, as opposed to two odd hours in the opposite direction back to Los Angeles, I was brazen in my attempt to get us into a posh joint. Without paying, of course. Entertaining the right amount of delusion is always healthy, I often say.

'Hey,' he said, flashing a practiced smile. 'Were you guys looking to go to the Gold Lounge?'

'Where's your accent from?' I stepped in, smiling my most charming smile.

'New York.' If he'd been caught off guard by the question, he didn't let on. 'And you're from...Australia*, I'm guessing?'

Heavens. I thought I was doing a good attempt at an upper class English accent. But it's just like my geography to show me up at a crucial moment like that.

'Ghana, actually. But I live in London now.' I said, hurriedly moving on. 'So - tell me about yourself. Have you lived here long?' We fell in step with him as he led us up the escalator.

Three years. He loved the life, although it could really be something out of a weird fantasy know? Yes, Luke, I know exactly what you mean. It is Luke, right? 

We got to the entrance of the Gold Lounge. My heart started to beat fast as a slender beauty with glossy red lips looked expectantly at us, presumably waiting for us to cough up the money. As though by some unspoken agreement, the three of us turned, mimicking Slender Beauty's expression of expectancy, and waited for Luke. 

He hesitated. 'It's ok, Slender Beauty,' he said, charming smile back on. 'I'm taking care of these guys tonight.'

An imperceptible nod - and then the velvety ropes were being loosened, and we found ourselves in the plush lounge. Oh, Luke!

The other Eiffel Tower

The enchanting floral glass ceiling by Dale Chihuly at the Bellagio Hotel

Struck by Las Vegas' unapologetic love for the bright and over-the-top, I took it all in, endlessly fascinated by contrasting scenes of life: the soundtrack of slot machines against one song or other from an Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson impersonator; the girl-next-door type walking hand in hand with her boyfriend against the ballsy, heavily made-up woman with the weathered neck and suspiciously perky breasts; and the opulence sitting side by side with poverty as a long walk the next morning showed that here too, within this playboy city, homeless people lined streets and begged for food and money. And I thought, there are real human needs everywhere. 

A whirlwind night and day in the city that never sleeps, and before long, we were bundling back in the car for the return drive to Los Angeles, with me entertaining vivid fantasies of a cold pool opening up in the earth for my exclusive use. So hot I could feel my insides frying!

Pulling up in the driveway back home, we sat still in the car for a moment.

'I can't believe we just drove to Vegas and back,' Sam said, a dazed smile on his face. 'Man, how fast did the time go?!'

'I know,' I nodded sagely, then said in my most solemn voice, 'That's the thing with time...'

'What about it?'

'It flies when you're with me.'

Cheeky, much? But then again, so had the entire trip.

Everything within reason, of course

* This post is dedicated to the Australians with my sincerest apologies.


Cy said...

lmao davie you crack me up with your posts! Ramith's chat up line though...think i'll try it one of these days. 'hello, you don't know me. but you should.'

Anonymous said...

What happens in Vegas...

Etoile Oye said...

What happens in Vegas... I hope Luke at least got your number, thou daughter of Jezebel. :P

Davida said...

Aw my buddy Luke!

DiDi said...

Vegas!!!! i should go too :)