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The Anti-Griswold

By bubafettt on Thursday, 9th May 2013 12:12pm
  » filed under Las Vegas  comments: 11

   

It is 5 am and I am laying wide awake in bed. The floor-to-ceiling windows let in a reflection of red sunrise off the Red Rock Canyon. My body has betrayed me and despite being on vacation, it is doing what it has done over and over for well over a year now. I have never seen Las Vegas at this hour (sober) and figure a trip to Starbucks is my best bet. On the elevator ride to the casino level, I wonder what my boy is doing. Probably sleeping in, because that is simply how these things work. I return to the room with coffee and pastries, and we plan our last day of our first trip to Vegas as parents.

Vegas is very easy to vilify, given the history of its creation and the general notion of "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." (To which I have proof otherwise: What Happens In Vegas...Will Be Here In Mid May). To suggest only debauchery, adultery and garden variety felonies are all that is happening speaks volumes of the shitty movies you have watched. It is ok to return from Vegas without having figuratively (or literally) buried a skeleton in the desert and you can have profound experiences where you learn a great deal about yourself, like how badly you needed a vacation or your alcohol tolerance at a lower elevation. Although I have been going to Vegas for nearly 10 years, each visit has offered a sincere and specific experience.

My Vegas "cherry" was popped with family (ew) when we went to attend NFR. My brother had just turned 18 and I was 3 weeks away from being 21. It was eerily like National Lampoon's Vegas Vacation, including such "hilarious debacles" as when our taxi driver decided a $100 tip was persuasive enough for him to forget all traffic laws and drive on the sidewalk to get us to NFR in time, loss of all hot water in the entirety of Circus Circus and staying at Circus Circus.

At a cowboy party at the Gold Rush, it became clear to me and my brother that our purpose here was to play "designated driver" to a better part of the NFR contestant pool, handpicked via my mother and aunts' shameless flirtation. I am still amazed I am as well-ish adjusted as I claim to be. My brother and I found entertainment at the great equalizer of Vegas: the fountains of Bellagio. If you don't enjoy a good fountain show to the tunes of Frank Sinatra, then there may be no hope for you.

My second trip was our honeymoon (8 years later) and in a word it was brutal. We had elected to stay off-strip, based on nothing more than "a contestant from Hell's Kitchen was supposed to be a chef at a restaurant there." The Red Rock, while a beautiful property (and still our favorite) is not a great place to stay when 1) it is your husband's first time to Vegas, ever 2) it is your first time in Vegas as someone of "age" 3) most, if not all, of your plans are on the strip and 4) you get motion sickness. We spent there better part of our days trying to figure out the shuttle bus schedule to and from our resort and The Strip or being taken for a long haul by a cab driver, who almost certainly learned how to drive via Mario Kart. He should be tried and convicted for crimes against brake pads and transmissions.

The following year, we went again and stayed on strip, albeit at the far south end. By the time we decided we wanted breakfast at Mon Ami Gabi and started to walk, we showed up just in time for lunch. Towards the end of our stay, we never went further north than New York New York.

The next stay was much better planned. We stayed center Strip to give us access to the things we had come to learn we liked or wanted to see, and despite the awful feeling that my body was rejecting itself (because I had quite literally just conceived my now almost 2 year old), we had a fantastic time and were granted the joy of a beautiful baby boy 9 months later.

And then there was no Vegas.

The usual Vegas visit time of our anniversary came and went, and I could not tell you what day of the week it was, only that it raced past us. It was almost an afterthought. As you may have gathered from earlier posts, I am only a bit of a harpy with some control issues and wavering self-esteem. Given how I was wholly convinced I was failing at being a parent, wife and human being, Vegas just wasn't going to happen. Aside from wanting desperately to be the provider of nutrition for my boy, I was not even remotely ready to be away from my son for more than a few hours (the umbilical cord has since been cut, sewn back together, cut into smaller pieces, glued back together and he has recently run away from it screaming and snapping it for good). Vegas was the last thing on my mind. Even if there was a lactation consultant at the casino, it wasn't happening.

As this "time" thing tends to do, it kept moving and soon it was only a few weeks away from my son's first birthday. That was when my husband was told he would be going to Las Vegas for a conference for work. Although he said he took no delight in going and was going to miss me, his incessant blabber about staying at Paris and his excitement over breakfast at Mon Ami Gabi almost made him a casualty. What exacerbated my frustration was his coworker had never been, so they were always talking about what to do and see. His coworker apparently dictates his entire destination itinerary off episodes of Man vs. Food, so they just had to eat the crawfish from a place called "Hot & Juicy". Luckily and mercifully for my husband, the Nascar Cafe was closed, so no giant burrito.

Because I am a sadist, I marked on my phone calendar when he would be gone and got reminders every day of the impending visit to Vegas, most notably without me. I would be home with our son, by myself, all day and night, for several consecutive days, for the first time ever...while my husband was in Las Vegas. Whatever patience I had left was being worn thin by the constant reminder that HE was going to Vegas without me.

It is astounding what one can convince themselves of when the streets of tired, scared and angry converge. "Fine, let him go to Vegas. He'll have to show that newbie around. Ha! He'll be a glorified tour guide. They'll do the Death March and won't be able to walk after that. That'll show him to go to Vegas when his company tells and pays him to." The look my son gave me upon my attempt to dupe myself into happiness was either he could not have cared less or needed a new diaper. It was shortly before Mother's Day/our son's first birthday that I learned I was to travel to Vegas at the end of the conference week and spend the weekend with my husband. All arrangements had been made and it was a sick, cruel joke he kept going in an effort to see just how far I could be pushed before he was left to sleep on the deck. This would be the first time I would go to Vegas as a mother and I was...devastated.

No one can take care of my boy the way I can, so now I can't go to Vegas because I can't be away from him. Everything I had previously convinced myself of was quickly thrown into reverse, until 2 sleepless nights later and I was ready to board a plane. I know what grandparents are capable of and I was willing to do the work to undo whatever my mother would more than likely do, because I needed a vacation. And him coming with us was not an option. Years before, I took an oath before social media and Five Hundy By Midnight, that I wound not take a child to Las Vegas, so help me Dean Martin. And I mean it. I have been involved in heated online discussions about it and have yet to be convinced otherwise.

I treat Las Vegas with the same fervor my son treats his Lightning McQueen race car; it's mine! I have been deterred from going to the mall because what I feel is necessary to pack for my son when we leave the house makes space travel look like packing light, so you can imagine just how little I wanted to try and pack 3 days worth of stuff for a toddler. And when I am with my boy, it is all about him, but Vegas just can't be that way. At least not how I "do" Vegas. Aside from a reservation at a restaurant or two, my time in Vegas is the polar opposite of my time at home. At home, I live on a schedule that has been known to be rigid and cause people to address me by the name of a 4-star general, but it has been to the benefit of my son and me. Seeing as I am the person usually home for 23+ out of the 24 hours in a day, it is how Frank Sinatra says "my way". Whereas in Las Vegas, I am floating on a cloud of casino noise and Rat Pack music, only bending to bodily necessities. I can say, for a matter of fact, I could not enjoy Vegas with my son there as a child. As he will always be my child, there will come a time that I can share with him what Vegas means to me and he can decide what it means to him, if anything. But what Vegas meant to me changed, drastically, on my first visit as a mother.

My mother came to help me pack what should have been a U-Haul full of anything and everything my son could feasibly need while he stayed with her. I was a mess. I had never left my son overnight, but a time would eventually come. I cried all the way thru security at the airport, on the plane and into my husband's arms when he picked me up at the airport. Just like every time previously, I packed light so I wouldn't have to check bags and to make getting to the Strip that much faster and to accommodate the unholy amount of shopping I planned on doing. For the first time we (smartly) rented a car and went to my husband's suite at Paris. The nostalgia was fun, but we had no intention of adding to our family in another 9 months. We enjoyed food we can't find at home, spent some time with my husband's coworker and went back to our room with every intention of sleeping like the dead.

There is a cruel untruth to "sleeping like a baby", because that is precisely how I slept. I woke every few hours because I thought I "heard" something. There just wasn't a way for me to turn of what had been biologically, and permanently, switched on over a year ago. We went to breakfast early enough to play "just up or still up" and made our way to the Red Rock. It would be easy to assume that as a parent you become hyper-aware of the perceived perversion of Las Vegas. I should somehow be disgusted with porn-slappers or the billboard trucks driving down Las Vegas Blvd where women's "private parts" are "hidden" by stars, the shops where one pair of shoes are equal to a year's worth of car payments and vice of many other variety.

What I became aware of was how MANY GODDAMN STROLLERS THERE ARE! EVERYWHERE! People traveling in what felt like regimented fleets of space sucking strollers, stopping in foot traffic to make an adjustment to something/someone or to negotiate with a clearly over-tired and over-stimulated toddler in the throes of a total meltdown. I could hear the pleas for the children to quiet down, but it just wasn't going to happen. I imagined myself in my room while my son slept. Wanting him to rest but secretly hoping he wakes up a little early, then realizing he'd have to go to bed early. I couldn't have done it. I would not have finally been able to meet the wonderful Tim and Michele Dressen on Fremont, something I am still grateful they gave us their valuable time to do (and whom I later learned were part of my husband's sick joke to push me closer towards homicide when I was not aware I would be traveling to Vegas.) I would not have been able to experience the single greatest meal of my life at Gordon Ramsay Steak, although I know for a fact my son would have eaten all of it. I could not have sat for hours at Book & Stage playing some abysmal video poker and having some of the best crafted adult beverages I have ever experienced.

The truth is, I probably would have been angry. Not at my son, or my husband, but at myself. As a new parent, I am learning that despite the initial feeling, taking time and space for myself is necessary. I failed to publish anything I wrote over the last year because it felt selfish. But Vegas is necessarily selfish. It is my place to be necessarily selfish.

Vegas is always in the midst of some change, be it physical or mental. Vegas changes every time I visit, both physically and how I experience it. Strollers I never gave a second thought to before now enrage me more than misspellings on Facebook (Uphalled?! You are "uphalled" by that? By contrast, I am appalled by how you spell "appalled".) What started as a destination I knew so little about with a brutal learning curve turned into an escape to remember who and what I love and make me love it all that much more.

It is time to call our boy to say good morning and that we are bringing something home for him. We can both feel our physiology pulling us home, but we need one more day. One more day to see what has changed, what hasn't changed and what laying in bed at 3pm feels like. But no more than one day because I'll be damned if I am in the same hotel as a Beach Boys Concert. I may be a parent in desperate need of a vacation, but I still have standards.



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Comments & Discussion:

"And then there was no Vegas." Great. Thank you for sharing your story, I'm sure lots of Vegas freaks with kids can identify with this.

and this statement right here "I have been deterred from going to the mall because what I feel is necessary to pack for my son when we leave the house makes space travel look like packing light..." is exactly why I never want kids.

Don't let that deter you from having kids. I travel just about anywhere now with only my purse and his water. Let the crippling weight of knowing you are responsible for the physical, emotional, mental & social well-being of another human , & that despite all your best intentions, efforts & beliefs, you will go to bed every night feeling like you have no clue what you are actually doing, stop you. (I may have personalized that, just a bit)

I tried to read this but it kept going and going, much like an older grandparent who rambled on.

You could read this to your son as a bed time story and he'll be out cold.

I've been regarded many a time as an old soul. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. Will help me be a better writer. The boy tends to prefer books or my terrible singing, but I'll remember your suggestion next time we have a sleepless night.

Ha - I thought I invented "just up or still up". We also play "working or not" when out for an early-ish breakfast stroll.

And people who bring anyone to Vegas who isn't 21 should be shot and dragged down the strip behind a limo full of drunks. F-in strollers. Don't get me started.

We had our first a year ago- this coming June will be our first trip to Vegas together since her birth, so this story really hit home. Thank you. We actually gave some thought to taking her, but no way. @sturmgeist: your a leaking asshole.

@fatbastard-I remember hearing about the "just up or still up" on the Five Hundy By Midnight podcast. I will have to start playing "working or not" now!

@radgambler-glad it resonated with someone. I love my boy dearly, with all my heart and soul, but mommy needed some Vegas time.

As someone who's a parent to three (3?!?!) kids - we've had this same conundrum - in fact this spring was the first time we both got to back to Vegas in 3 years. My wife used it completely to decompress and went to bed early and woke up late every day - she needed the decompress time! On a side note, my wife agreed that every place I took her that I learned from VIMFP last year (Tacos El Gordo, GR Steak, Holstein's, etc.) was a hit with her!

While I'm looking forward to VIMFP 13, I also remember to facetime the little ones back home while Daddy's asked if he's winning yet each night. Gotta love the comments from the peanut gallery....

-B

As a Vegas freak and a father of three (4 & ½, 3 & ½ and 1 & ½) I can totally relate. Thank you for posting this.
We live in Southern California so it’s only a 4 hour drive and before our third kid was born were able to get the grandparents to babysit for us no problem. After our third kid was born we had no such luck. Last month my wife and I finally convinced the grandparents to take all 3 kids and we had a glorious time. I think my wife enjoyed this past trip more than any before it. We certainly needed the time away, but she really needed it. We also made a point to have absolutely no agenda….no show tickets, no dinner reservations….we just did what we wanted when we wanted.

Interesting article. Didn't like the Beach Boy crack, though.
We have a 13 month old, but I am lucky as my wife HATES Vegas. So basically I can go solo, or if the ladies did come, I would still be promised evenings alone while they went to bed.
As far as these selfish pricks who threaten parents who bring their kids to Vegas go, I think you can go fuck yourselves. Vegas is a destination for thousands of visitors around the world, not just for you.



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