-On this trip, I’m reading Blood and Thunder: The Epic Story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West, a book written by Hampton Sides during my downtime. I know I’ve mentioned this a time or two before, but this book reinforces how astonishing modern Las Vegas is. The fact that every square foot of this town is now crammed full of architectural monstrosities, fat guys and sluts is nothing short of a miracle.
Las Vegas is located in the corner of the continent that was considered absolutely uninhabitable during Manifest Destiny’s heyday. The most brutal portion of the trek from the midwest to Southern California was through this area. Traversing this desert on an animal’s back required stamina and perseverence, and those who successfully passed through seldom returned. The area was not settled for permanent residence until about 100 years ago, and the early settlers were a few brave souls who lived barbarous, squalid lives.
Today there are but two vestiges of Las Vegas’ early history: the streets downtown, which are named for the first white people to cross this then-forgettable corner of the globe, and the thin layer of dust that collects on your clothes and in your throat if you walk around for more than ten minutes. That layer of dust is telling us something. It’s saying “I would own you if not for the Hoover Dam and modern climate controls. All those fat guys and sluts would not be possible. I used to own this town. Bah!”
-As I’ve probably mentioned before, I have a friend who now lives in this desert wonderland: my boy Jonny Y. And so on this trip I got my very first taste of non-Strip, locally-flavored nightlife. On Saturday night, Jon, longtime DZ.com contributor Christian and I attended a party for one of Jon’s co-workers at The Griffin, which is a bar in downtown Vegas. I loved The Griffin. It stands out in this town for its mere refusal to make any kind of spectacle of itself. The place has two rooms. The front area is a tasteful loungy kind of scene, and the back room is a no-frills dance space reminiscent of New York’s Lower East Side venues. I say that first because there is no decor to speak of, but especially because the Griffin has something I had never experienced anywhere else in Las Vegas: local DJ’s with a clue! The dudes in the back room played a very enjoyable mix of old funk and hip hop, and not just the obvious stuff. Really well done. I danced my drunk ass off. Two enthusiastic thumbs up for The Griffin. Vegas nightlife is NOT one giant cliche. Who knew?
One place that hasn’t changed in many years was my next stop from Saturday night: Drai’s afterhours. Drai’s has serious lasting power, many other late night options have come and gone in the past six years, and Drai’s continues to hold its own. It still gets rammed full of nutjobs at around 4:00 am. The one thing that was different this time around was the music: apparently cheesy remixes and silly anthems have fallen out of favor with the silicone set (pun intended); the DJ’s at Drai’s now spin numbing tech-house for hours on end. Go figure.
-I am staying at MGM Grand right now, which of course can mean only one thing: You can say “this is where 2Pac got shot!” to yourself every time you get into or out of the elevator.
-I am down to almost zero tolerance for craps (the game). I used to love shooting craps, but I can’t stand it anymore. I say this despite being up a few hundred dollars in my two efforts on this trip. So why do I still play? Because I suspect that cheap room rate offers would stop appearing in my mailbox if I quit entirely. The first time I played on this trip, it was so obvious that I wanted to be elsewhere that the dealer on my end said “color coming in” (i.e., that I was cashing out) at the end of a roll, before I had even asked.
-Now that I have been to the actual Bellagio, I find myself pronouncing it the fruity way the guys from the Italian water taxis say it, in instead of the regular American way.
Some poker stuff:
-I am running really, really bad out here so far. And I don’t mean that I’m playing bad and but sugar coating things by saying that I’m running bad. I mean that I’m running baaaaad. I think it has to do with the fact that I’ve been placed in the one or ten seat for every single tournament I’ve entered so far. This means that I have to use the muscles in my neck instead of just whatever controls my eyeballs if I want to see what other players are doing. Unpleasant. Poker players’ neck muscles aren’t made for moving. Also, it really sucks to play flawlessly (if I do say so myself) for 12 hours and leave a two-day event empty handed.
-You know you’re a professional poker player when you start to recognize at least two or three faces at every table you sit at, even when you’re all the way across the country. Even when you sit in the MGM Grand’s nightly $125 tournament.
-Speaking of that particular tournament, playing in it was like playing a video game against a blind person. Well, not really. My point is that there was no discernable reason for any of the plays these people were making and it ended up confusing the shit out of me. Sigh….
Okay, that’s all for now. Bye!