Conventional wisdom dictates that "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas". Right? However, I’m not often accused of being conventional. Plus, this would be a very dull blog. Yes some of you are shouting, even more dull than usual.
So this blog is more along the lines of "almost all of what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas".
If last month was an ode to how much I love my mum, this month is an ode to how much I love my friends. And I mean my REAL friends. Not the Facebook variety. And by that I don't mean I don't have real friends on Facebook. I do. Lots of you.
But I mean real, get drunk with, argue with, fight with, joust with pool cues with, tell ALL your secrets to, play wing-man with, type of friends. The ones you fall out over football with. The ones you sit up with through the night drinking and putting the world to rights with. The ones you watch grow, get married, have families. And through all the changes life throws at us, we remain friends. These type of friends are my best friends.
I went to Vegas recently with 3 of these very same type of friends, and as we always find, before we have even finished our first pint, the banter is flowing like we have never been apart. Dissecting previous years trips, and the absurdity of our discussions. Who has ever heard of playing a guitar upside down? And had discussions about there "being winners and losers in this life"? I'm laughing just at the recollection. Greg Wallace has a lot to answer for.
Our annual tradition, for the last few years at least, has been to catch up somewhere in the world. The first agenda item on this year's Annual General Meeting was where we will go next year. Previous trips have seen us have quiet, cultural visits to Prague, the home of Kafka. And Munich, Germany's third largest city, and home many lederhosen clad gentlemen.
This year we revisited an old haunt. The same venue for my 40th birthday celebrations. Back to the very famous Las Vegas, Nevada. Named by a Mexican in 1829, Las Vegas (The Meadows when translated from the Spanish), has a very long and illustrious history.
Initially used as a water stop on trips between Los Angeles and eastern outposts, many of us are more familiar with Vegas's sin city reputation. The building of the Hoover Dam, which started in 1931, saw the population of Las Vegas swell and to entertain the mainly male working population, the casinos and show girls were born into Vegas history.
Organised crime wasn't far behind, and financed by the infamous Meyer Lansky (incidentally portrayed as Hyman Roth in the Godfather movie), Bugsy Siegel built the Flamingo hotel and casino. Still proudly standing pride of place on the Strip opposite our home for 4 nights, Caesar’s Palace.
I travelled from Sydney and took a very circuitous route, with a 2 hour delay in Sydney, and then an unscheduled stop in Honolulu, before travelling through San Francisco, changing planes, and culminating in a short hop to McCarran airport, Las Vegas.
I should probably be grateful I got there at all as when I checked in I was greeted by a very furrowed brow on the face of the check in assistant. "You don't seem to have a visa for entry into the United States sir". Oh yes I do. And I dug out the email to confirm it.
The email which states "approval to travel".
I was told "They don't mean anything. If there is a subsequent issue that confirmation is useless". It seems the "subsequent issue" was some problem with the actual processing of my visa. Oh dear. However, as you know, we eventually resolved this, and I did get to travel.
Having arrived more than 7 hours later than planned, my friends were already well on their way to their 2nd, or 3rd pint. I lost count, and evidentally so did they. By about 3pm it seems. I had managed to avail myself of numerous complimentary alcoholic beverages in the business class lounge at Sydney, and managed to keep suitably topped up en route. I hadn't planned to imbibe quite so much in the lounge, but the kind hostess kept bringing me beers. And I felt obliged to accept. I have read that declining such generous hospitality is seen as a slight in some cultures. Right?
Much of my travails of actually getting there faded away as we made our decent into the desert. Is there a better sight than flying into Las Vegas at night, with all the flashing neon lights looking resplendent?
The result of all of the proceeding hospitality (thanks Singapore Airlines for my gold card allowing business class lounge access) being that I was soon talking as much nonsense as they were not long after my arrival at Caesar's Palace. Not, I hasten to add, where the actual Caesar used to live. Just in case anybody was wondering.
Our quiet first night, turned into a quiet early morning. As is wont to happen in Vegas, where there are no clocks in the casinos, the early hours of the morning soon creep up on you. As we turned in slightly later than planned, we all agreed to a small adjustment to the itinerary. A little lie in in the morning, and reluctantly cross off library and museum visits planned for the following day, due to time constraints.
The following day was the England v Uruguay match, and by the 12pm kick off we were settled in front of a large TV screen in Gordon Ramsey's "Pub and Grill", with large burgers, and exceptional pints of Guinness. Hoping that Luis Suarez was not going to take a large bite out of England’s ambitions of progressing through the group stages. Alas.
|Whisky and cokes...with a ladyboy chaser|
The less said about the football the better. But the afternoon drinking set the tone for the rest of the trip. Maybe except for one of our travelling party. Know as “the bambino” for his predilection to warm milky drinks, and pineapple with every meal, at times I thought I was with Alan Partridge, and was going to have to order a “lady boy chaser”, also known as a Baileys. Indeed, at one point I did. The look on the waitresses face was a picture as she waited for the punchline from the Bambino. There wasn’t one. He simply wanted to enjoy a Baileys.
Things didn’t improve in Jimmy Buffet’s. Whilst we sampled what looked like the world’s largest margarita, the bambino plumped for a nice milkshake. I had to draw the line at him ordering a snowball. Things were crazy enough.
The days, and nights rolled on and we had a great time laughing and catching up. Probably more “Last Vegas”, than “The Hangover”, but we are very sensible chaps, what did you expect?
Our time together came to an end all too soon, and with sadness we parted on a hot and sultry Sunday afternoon. Already the conversation turned to our next trip, and possible venue. Reykjavík was mooted, as were the German hedonistic hotspots of Berlin and Hamburg.