Editorial: Ebbs And Flows
Dear Las Vegas,
Saying something like this is never easy, so I'll just do it. I've been seeing other cities.
Surely, you've suspected it for a while now. I'm know it was awkward for you to see my Instagram feed after our four-day fling last July with the progression of interactions I had with Reno, Tahoe, Yountville and San Francisco.
It's time you knew. My frequent visits to Houston and DC are not by chance. And, most importantly, Charleston and I are not just friends.
I won't go in to my close-to-home booty call, Asheville, or even Spartanburg when I'm feeling a little dirty.
It's just getting a little more frequent for me to forget to give a shit about you.
. . .
I started writing that maybe three years ago. I was done. I was bored with Vegas and I was about to declare something I would have regretted.
It wasn't anything in particular, but more of a general malaise for the city. It wasn't even the recent trip. Quite the contrary, it was a really fun visit with small exception.
I arrived on Craps Day, or 7-11 for the uninitiated. Our customary car service picked us up at McCarran. The ride was a not-yet-fully-ironic stretch Escalade, complete with a bottle of bubbly and a driver who tolerated my hijinks with the LED lighting system and radio on the way downtown to the Grand -- two nights there before a little upgrade to Aria.
Four nights goes quick in Vegas, a blurry haze of searching out speakeasies old and new with Middleclassbuzz, long days vegging at the pool and chasing down a few nice craps sessions.
The only real bummer of the visit was a smarmy bartender at the bar in front of the Aria Sports Book who gave me a pre-PGP glimpse of things to come.
I won't go into great detail but he made a big deal about comping a gin and tonic at a greater frequency than one per half-hour.
Forget the fact that my friend and I were playing max bet quarter video poker very intently, each with a hundred bucks plus or minus in the bartop machines.
Forget the fact that we had spent the previous two hours playing dollar machines down at the Lift Bar where one of my favorite bartenders in town brings me Bombay Sapphire almost faster than I can drink it.
Forget the fact that the first bartender at the sports book bar gave us great service and several drinks the first 45 minutes we were there while he was finishing up his shift.
I'm not a high roller. I just like playing cards or dice or machines and getting some free drinks. I tip well and usually enjoy a great rapport with whomever is serving me.
This guy, though. Ugh.
No, sir. You have to wait seven more minutes before I can give you a drink.
A quizzical conversation yielded little besides some condescension and a bad attitude. Seven minutes passed. I got my drink and continued to play. But, by the time it was gone, I was so pissed at the little jackass on the other side of the empty-except-for-me-and-my-friend bar that I cashed out and moved on.
We walked over to another MGM property and sat down at the bar in front of the sports book there, fired up the vp and resumed having a good time. I questioned one of the bartenders there whom I've known for years if he knew of any of the MGM properties having a time limit on comped drinks.
Nope, sounds like you just got a turd,” he said.
For whatever reason, that whole interaction at Aria just flew all over me. The more I thought about it, the madder I got. How could they expect to run a casino in that town with piss-poor people like that guy on the front line?
We left the next day and went to Napa Valley for a few days of unmatched experiences - a really nice end to a vacation.
Yet, the memory of the bartender kept gnawing on me. Fuck that guy, I thought. I went as far as contacting the F&B manager at Aria to lodge a complaint. Despite the highly appropriate and cordial response, the whole thing just left a bad taste in my mouth.
How's that for not going into great detail?
"Why do I need Vegas?" I wondered. I like gambling. Other than that, I can go to lots of places for good food, cool rooms and nice service. I'm not saying drink service is the only reason to go to Vegas, but it doesn't hurt. Couple diminishing drink service with endless barrage of cartoon characters and porn slappers parading on the Strip or the thonged and duct-taped masses on Fremont, and I'm starting to question my vacation choices. Is it getting to be more of a pain in the ass to go there than it's worth?
I don't know what brought me out of it. I almost made up my mind to never return, or at least to give it some time.
All I know is I just got back from a seven-night trip – three nights at TI, upgraded for free to a Tower Suite; four nights at Bellagio, two comped, upgraded to a Salon Suite for $25 per night. The gambling was great. The food was great. The spa was great. The pools were great. The drink service was great, although I still cast a stink eye over at that Aria sports book bar when I walk past it.
But mostly, the camaraderie was great.
We traveled there with two of our favorite couples from home and met up with another couple from two-thirds of a continent away. We spent some time with MikeE at Hyde, Mandarin Bar and Baccarat Bar. We split a cabana at Bellagio with MeltYourSelfDown, his sister and one of his best friends. I randomly ran into Vegas Fanboy. I went to breakfast with Dr. Dave at Harrie's Bagelmania, which – he informed me as we drove away – is next to one of the most crime-ridden intersections in Clark County. They made a fantastic omelet, though.
My point is that Vegas has become about much more than a vacation for most of us. It's where we've made memories and friends. It's where we'll continue to make memories and friends. It's where informed visitors can stay in four- or five-star rooms for less than what they might pay for a night at the Holiday Inn Express down the street. It's always changing, yet mostly the same.
I listened to the latest VegasTripping podcast yesterday (Episode 23 - Ledge) and heard Chuckmonster's plea to talk him off the ledge. I thought back a few years ago when I was ticked off about my attitudinal bartender. Chuckmonster told me I'd be back. He told me there was an ebb and flow with Vegas. One minute, you're done. The next, you are buying a return ticket.
So I looked back to see if I saved my "Dear John" letter to Las Vegas and I did. It seems silly to read after the great trip I had a few weeks ago. I figure Chuck will do the same with the latest podcast in a few years.
Ebbs and flows, pal.
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