editors note: the following is a ridiclously lengthy post about my trip to las vegas. today i'm subscribing to the idea that my blog is my online journal and that i simply want to record the events of the past few days. i don't anticipate that anyone will read all of it. i am comprised of pure hubris, but i'm not stupid.
when some people plan trips, they will try to optimize the amount of time spent at the destination. they will think it is perfectly reasonable to expect a duluthian to board a plane in minneapolis at 9 a.m. even if it is someone who is not able to sleep prior to 3 a.m. they will survey your lifestyle and think that being a night person is a lifestyle choice that can be fixed by an intervention or fat camp.
and so i leave duluth at 1:30 a.m., blessed that lil latrell works nights and can coax me through the dregs of sturgeon lake and barnum and straight through the white castle drive thru where i over-order: two jalapino cheeseburgers, chicken rings, moz sticks and hi-c. i roll my luggage into brother pista's at 4:30 a.m. with a whole new repretoire of songs i will some day karoake.
i sleep for an hour. then i find him standing in the doorway telling me it is time to wake. i drink coffee and right before the parent pista's pull into his driveway i'm overwhelmed with white castle intestinal mayhem. i writhe on his toilet, ruing a lack of reading material and this pain, this utter pain.
i can't board a plane in this state. the bathrooms are too small for the sounds, smells and matter that needs to come out of my body. i'm convulsing and sweating and thinking some pretty mean thoughts about white castle.
brother pista dumps tums into my open palm and sends me on my way. it seems to take.
"can i have the window seat?" ma pista asks.
"yes," i say. reluctantly.
"good because i like to look out the window," she says.
"really?" i ask. "because i like to stare at this fat man to my left. the one hawking bloody luggies into his handkerchief. the one with a fanny pack filled with prescription meds, strapped to the seat in front of him. the one balancing orange juice on his belly."
"perfect," she says.
ma pista's small head is the same size as the small airplane window. as we fly into vegas she coos in delight.
"lookee, lookee, chrissy," she says. "its the sphynx!"
"oh lookee! there is the pyramid!" she is thrilled.
all i can see is the back of her head and her new stylish wedge haircut. i want to tell her that i can't see jack through her melon, but remain silent. travel is about compromise.
we are staying at paris, centered in the middle of the strip. decorated with a faux eiffle tower and a hot air balloon. we are meeting up with my mom's friend, the woman's 18-year-old daughter and her daughter's friend. these two are little hotties paralyzed with a religious mission: jesus has called them to bronze themselves to pre-prom perfection. already they are so tan that they should accessorize with A1 steak sauce. but this is not yet enough.
ma pista and i ditch the rotissere and begin walking the strip. in and out of hotels: mgm grand, the belagio, the mirage, ceasar's palace, new york new york, mandalay bay. we walk for hours. my flip flops are creating freakish bubble blisters between my toes. the one on my left foot looks like the crumpled face of a dead president. my arches are black with street soot and sin. and they ache.
"what time is it?" i ask ma pista.
"1:30 p.m.," she says.
"really? it feels more like 3:30 p.m.," i tell her. a tiny joke. we've come from central time. in our bodies, it is 3:30 p.m.
she misses the joke. stares at the "statue of liberty" and says: "huh. it really does."
when i laugh, she punches me in the arm.
at dinner i learn that one of the prom girls has been seduced by a $400 prom dress and a pair of $100 shoes. this seems ... excessive.
"what time is it?" i ask ma pista.
"hmm ... 10 p.m.," she says.
"really? it feels closer to midnight," i say.
"i know!" she says. "it really does."
again i laugh. after a pause she gets the joke again and rolls her eyes.
she conks to sleep and i roam the streets for another hour. by day, vegas feels like a garage sale wrapped in the county fair.
by night, vegas feels like a good reason to wear body glitter and stilletos.
day two brings more walking. more shopping. i break a cardinal sin and opt for running shoes and capri pants. this seems okay as we are in sin city, after all. it is pefectly acceptible to look like i drive a minivan.
later i fall asleep face down on a lounge chair. a copy of "the robber bride" for a pillow. my cell phone gauging my rib cage. i wake groggily to the phone vibrating against my body. it's my mom. it's time to eat. i wander back into paris in a sun stroked haze, my legs bruised by the stripes from the chaise. i stick my key card into a room three floors above our's and officially wake when my error blinks red.
on an ordinary day, i consume my weight in water. in vegas, you have to be connected to the mtv beach house to find a drinking fountain. water costs a pink pancreas. keeping your urinary tract free of bacteria requires wads and wads of fresh bills or a private detective. magnum pi.
our room doesn't have wifi. it costs $12 to use ethernet.
we don't even have a coffee maker in our room.
"i can't find a 'do not disturb' sign," my mom says.
"gift shop," i tell her. "six dollars."
i feel a freaky kinship with our 18-year-old friends when i realize that two of us are in a constant state of text messaging. walking the strip with our eyes trained on tiny screens. punching out long messages. mine are things like: "much like you, [ma pista] gets drunk without drinking." and "hi cute stuff, i like you."
and "oh my. he just called me and asked me to place a 50 dollar bet on north dakota."
i've had it with the strip. when i close my eyes, i see neon streaks. i want to go downtown toward the career gamblers and streets splayed with urine samples. i want to see where nic cage barfed in "leaving las vegas" and i want to see the giant glowing cowboy.
"i want to ride a mechanical bull," i tell my mom.
"i've heard that really hurts your crotch," the $400 prom dress says.
i want to say "lots of stuff does" but that seems inappropriate in front of this audience. instead i shrug.
"a mechanical bull?" my mom says. furrowed brow. "what if you get hurt?"
"i'm an athlete," i tell her.
"so was christopher reeve," she responds.
ma pista, her friend and i board a bus for downtown. it takes 40 minutes to travel a few miles. i'm gripping a pole and aching to wash my hands. i'm staring at the other passengers, my armpit assaulting a stranger's sensory system.
my mom has a look ono her face. a cross between stifled hilarity and disdain for public transportation. i hear the phrase "let's take a cab back," from about four other passengers. including my mom.
"you know what really would have upped the resale value on that bus ride?" i ask her. "chickens roaming in the aisles."
i'd scoured some travel literature and become enamored with the idea of my mom and i hitting some sort of trendy nightclub where we could potentially spot justin timberlake or elvis or belinda carlisle.
"the cover charge for men is like 40 bucks," i tell my mom pointing at jet. "but its free for women."
i look at my gap cargos, my adidas running shoes, my dirty hands and her similar look.
"course, we'd try to walk in and the bouncer would probably say, 'nice try mister,'" and i'm so simultaneously spent and wired that i laugh for a half hour repeating "nice try mister" between sobs of hilarity.
downtown is fan-frigging-tastic. if i should ever make my way back to las vegas, i will stay downtown. it is seedy and pungent and real. it is an old fashioned version of plastic. my mom is convinced we are one left turn from being stabbed to death.
we wander into a casino and ma pista and her friend plunk money into a slot machine. i lag about, i want to learn to play craps. instead i'm lured to the bar, where a rockabilly band is rockabillying. i settle into my stool with a sam adams, cheerful about getting something for $6 instead of just jamming it into a machine.
a man in a suit takes my hand. he wants to teach me to swing dance. his name is legion and he is from los angeles and he's in town for the rockabilly convention. i follow his lead for about two minutes and realize that i don't really want to be touching this stranger and since it is my vacation and i can do whatever the hell i want, i decide i want to drink the rest of my beer and watch the band passively.
"i have a car," he tells me.
"i'll pick you up tomorrow night and take you to see 40 rockabilly bands," he adds.
"live a little," he coaxes. "you can bring your mom."
"i'm staying at the belagio," he adds. "it is across the street from paris."
i decline with much enthusiasm. head back to ma pista, who has won $29 playing wheel of fortune.
again i roam the streets as my mom settles into acapella snores. i see enough six-year-olds trailing after their parents that i'm convinced i've stepped into kindergarten round up. in front of paris at 1:30 a.m. (which feels more like 3:30 a.m.) a woman is passed out with her head against a railing. she has a baby carrage parked in front of her.
it seems reasonable to offer the infant a cigarette and firecrackers.
ma pista and i walk miles to the stratosphere. in line we get into a heated debate: i think that it is okay for women to make babies out of wedlock. ma pista thinks it is cruel and she would feel badly about any child who's parents did not love each other enough to get marired. we spar for 15 minutes on a hypothetical topic, realize we are getting hot and bothered about something we don't need to even talk about. eventually we find common ground: we both think it is assinine to go on a ride that sends its passengers shooting out over the ledge of the stratsphere. and we wonder how they clean the puke off the windows of this building. we are friends again.
that night we go to "mama mia." i leave with dreams of unearthing my abba cd. i will now always sing abba in the shower, i promise myself. i feel sad that i am not in musicals. meanwhile, the plotline is thin, the female lead scampers too much and annoys the fuckola out of me. but the rest of it is fantastic and silly and well-worth my mom's 49 dollars.
ma pista wants to find a unlv hat for pa pista. this involves more walking. finally, in the middle of a street i stop. i'm spent. i've created a geriatric hate-crime against my body.
"i'm going to go into this bar right here and wait for you," i tell her.
unfortunately, it is margaritaville. jimmy buffet's bar. a testament to my need for a drink and the state of my complete lethargy: i loathe jimmy buffet. i'd rather eat my own eyeball than listen to "cheeseburger in paradise." i settle into the bar and drink an $8 margarita and consider the number of ways to hate a parrot.
then i have another margarita when she and her friend return.
i wander in front of paris with a small buzz, cooing romantic monologues to chuck into my cell phone.
i'm buzzed enough from margaritaville that i decide it is imperative that chuck see the outfit i'm wearing. when we hang up i solicit a man.
"will you take a photo of me with my cell phone?" i ask.
"um. okay," he agrees. "but wouldn't you rather be in front of like a fountain or something?"
"nah," i tell him. "i just want my boyfriend to see my cute outfit."
he snaps a photo. it is not satisfactory.
"i need my jeans in the shot, too," i tell him.
he snaps another photo. this one is better. he eyes, cocks his head and says "are you sure you don't want something sexier?" he asks.
"nah," i tell him. "he already knows."
i'm in the elevator when a couple tells me that tony danza is in the bar downstairs. i weigh my options: this means returning to the casino. but this also means a celebrity sighting ... something that doesn't really matter to me but feels like it should. and besides, its TONY DANZA.
i spot him immediately. i text chuck: tony danza sighting.
and since i have my phone out anyway, i decide i can probably take a photo of him. i walk past, but am too scared to push "capture." i don't want to be THAT GIRL. i stand in the bar, ignoring him for a few minutes and giggling to myself at this sighting.
"what's so funny, christa?" the man who took my photo asks. he's standing alone next to a pole.
"tony danza," i tell him. "over there. i want to take his photo, but i don't want to take his photo."
picture man drags me back to the bar.
"take it over my shoulder," he says.
"nah ..." i say.
"come on, christa, live a little," he says.
"i can't do it," i say. scurry back to the elevator.
we leave the next morning. ma pista gets pista because i eat summer sausage on good friday. she also gets annoyed when i make a jesus joke, which, as you know, are some of the funniest jokes.
pa pista is late picking us up from the airport. i'm seething like a diva. i want to get back to duluth with a level of angst unrealized in the prechuck era.
chuck makes us fresh margaritas. we settle into the couch. i'm lapping salt off the rim of the glass like a porn star.
"i only had three drinks in vegas," i tell him. "and that was over the course of three days."
"you went to the most hungover city in the world and only drank three drinks?" he asks incredulously.
i nod and proceed to get wrecked on margaritas.
its good to be home.