For the past 10 years I've been flying to Vegas out of the NYC area airports - mostly JFK and Newark. Friday, however, I had the pleasure of dealing with the much more mellow Manchester NH airport - with no traffic on the way there and no mass of humanity at the airport. After parking my car in the outdoor lot (a decision that would later prove disastrous), I took a quick shuttle bus ride to the terminal, and made it through a 10 person security line without incident. I enjoyed a few beers at the gate-side pub, and then sat down for 5 minutes at the gate when I saw the inbound flight arrive.
A K-9 unit, which I assumed to be sniffing for explosives (not drugs), came through the gate and checked out every single person. I'm a huge dog fan, so this always wows me, and I'd never seen it before in all my time at NYC airports. Although the dog put his paws up on the woman sitting next to me, he was unfazed by the wealth of aromas I presented to him: I had about a kilo of cigars in my bag, 40 grams of watermelon Trident, a pesto chicken panini, and of course I was covered in my dog Oscar's scent. This dog was a true professional, however, and was undeterred by my distractions, barely noticing me as he sniffed on by. This was also my first time flying Southwest Airlines (Manchester --> Vegas direct!), and I was impressed at how efficiently their "pick your own seat" boarding process worked - relying on people to line up according to a numbered boarding pass.
I arrived in Vegas at 7pm local time, and my cabbie, Hoss, took me on the highway. I wasn't too tilted, however, as he kept me entertained with stories about how he met Bill Russell (after he found out I was a New Englander) and about how he had a reputation with the ladies for his talented tongue. Now, Hoss was an obese dude who could hardly be classified as attractive, and I was even more confused at why he told me that he liked to do the Nsync "Bye Bye Bye" dance on the treadmill (which he demonstrated with pac-man-esque hand moves). Fortunately, we were arriving at the Venetian, so I paid him and hightailed it out of there. I picked up the keys to my comped room, dropped my gear, and hit the poker room while I awaited the arrival of the rest of my crew.
The Venetian 2-5NL game was very good - some real fish and only 1 or 2 local pros. In one early hand, a young pro made it $20 from early position. When I later recounted this hand to Big Show, he interrupted me, "Wait - young pro - what does that make you, an old pro?" Which made me laugh and realize... YES! I'm a grizzled 33 years old - ancient compared to today's young gunners. So, this young pro makes it $20 to go, and I smooth call with JJ two off the button ($500 stacks). The big blind, a nitty old man (NOM) smooth calls also. On the 9-6-4 flop, the NOM checks, the pro bets $60 and I elect to smooth call again. The NOM called also, which generated a simultaneous head jerk from both me and the young pro. When the turn paired the bottom card - 4 - they both checked to me and folded when I bet $115.
After a few hours, Dirty Dave, Junior, The Professor, and Matty arrived. Dirty Dave had sent an email earlier asking Matty to pick up a bottle of Crown Royal. Now, the crew on this trip is a very sharp bunch - on top of pop culture like no other, and spewing a non-stop stream of sarcasm and advanced metaphorical enunciations. I thought Dave's email was a joke, even though he didn't use the sarcasm font, but lo and behold, there was a handle of Crown up in Matty's room, which adjoined mine. We got cleaned up, I was peer pressured into drinking Crown & Coke, and we rendezvoused with Big Show and his wife at Lavo - the "club" at the Palazzo, where Dirty Dave had reached back into the time machine and hit up his club host from the bubble era to secure us a table, with buy one get one free bottle service. Of course, the BOGO means that instead of being insanely stupidly expensive, the bill is merely expensive. We were downstairs at Lavo, which is more of a lounge than a club. It's part restaurant, which was closing down for the night, but the downstairs vibe still suited us fine, as it was much less loud and obtrusive than the upstairs melee. Matty executed a purely amateur move by indulging the shot girl, buying shots immediately after Dirty Dave had just placed the order for a bottle of Ketel and a bottle of Macallan's from the waitress. Rule number 1: when you have two bottles coming, you don't order shots! Big Show rolled his eyes, and joined me in steadfastly refusing shots.
Over the next few hours we polished off the majority of our bottles before the host moved us to a table upstairs. The club part was packed, loud, and cold. Big Show and I decided to smoke a cigar and then head downstairs to play blackjack. After a few minutes, a young Asian guy came by and asked "Hey man - can I have a puff of your cigar?" Huh? DYKWTFIA? I was confused, and not sure what to say. Big Show muttered, "No, dude, that's just creepy," while I responded "I have swine flu." We finished the stogies and retreated to the serenity of the double deck blackjack pit at the Palazzo. After running up a nice profit in less than half an hour, Big Show decided to pull the plug, and I bumped into Dirty Dave (who was staying in my room with me) on the way back up to the room. Now, I immediately closed and locked the door between the two suites, explaining that there was no way I was having Dance Party USA in my room, as I knew that the other guys were still raring to go at 5am. Dave agreed, but when there was a knock on the door a few minutes later, he had a moment of weakness and wanted to open it.
"Don't you dare open it," I warned him.
"But what if it's Junior seeking late night asylum after being sexiled?" Dave had a point, and checked the peephole just to make sure the knock wasn't coming from the hallway.
I dozed off, but was surprised when I heard Dave in the shower before 9am. I looked over at his bed, expecting that he'd had some sort of alcohol related accident, but the sheets looked dry and there was no sign of puke anywhere. When he came out of the shower he explained that he was suffering the classic Red Bull symptoms - you can't sleep, and lie awake barely able to move like a dying cockroach. I know these symptoms well - with cards flashing across your eyelids every time you close your eyes - and it's why I don't drink Red Bull anymore. He went downstairs to absorb some negative EV in the 6-deck blackjack game, while I slept for another 90 minutes before rallying the crew for brunch at BLT Burger at the Mirage.
The Professor, on a serious bender, has some Budda-esque words of wisdom. "I may have been born yesterday, but I've been up all night," he told the table, before ordering a bloody mary accompanied by the astute observation: "This drink will either make things much better or much worse." No mean reversion here - The Professor was hitting the tails of the distribution. BLT's burgers, fried pickles, milkshakes, waffle fries and nachos refueled us and got us ready for a big day of picking NFL playoffs losers and expounding on the theory of the evolutionary cycle of the young American female, which I'll get to in Part II...