Saturday, April 24, 2004

FRIDAY in Las Vegas: Monets and Jaguars

I woke up late...or vary late, depending on what time zone you choose, and shambled downstairs for coffee and breakfast. The line at the coffee shop was daunting so I decided to try that very staple of the Vegas hotel and casino, the all-you-can-eat buffet. For those of you who've never been, a Vegas Casino buffet is a site to behold. All imaginable types of dishes, nmost of it not very good, in industrial sized portions. I've never quite understood why the buffet is such a staple of the Las Vegas Casino. I guess the casinos figure either that you'll load up on food so you won't have to take a food break from the slots or tables for a good long time or if you've lost most of your money, you can still live on one meal a day.

After the buffet, I went back to my room for a shower and a change of clothes. Then it was off to The Bellagio for their Monet exhibit. Walking to the Bellagio, I passed some Vegas landmarks including Bally's, Paris, Ceasars Palace and Jimmy Buffet's "Margaritaville". Oddly enough, I think the walk once I got inside the Bellagio was longer than the walk to get there. I walked all the way down the Bellagio's "via Bellagio" shopping area and then all the way through the acres of casino floor then past the convention center and the pool to the "art gallery".

The Bellagio exhibit consisted of 21 Monets on loan from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston spanning about 50 years or so of his painting career. It wasn't much of an "art gallery", more like a series of rooms with paintings on the walls and no place to sit and just gaze at the works. Still, the Monets were just spectacular. I'd never seen so many in one place at one time. The cumulative effect was so overwhelming that, when I exited the gallery and walked out to the pool area, I had a brief vision of Las Vegas as one giant Monet. Very cool.

After the brush with greatness, it was back to Harrahs and up to my room where I called The Bride and asked if The Groom's dad had arrived yet. Ah yes, I had been informed the night before that the Groom's dad was, like me, a Star Trek fan and that he's like to go to Star Trek: The Experience with me, if I was going.

So The Bride says her dad has arrived and that in about an hour, after they'd all had something to eat, she'd call me and let me know what they were doing. I settled down to read and about four hours later I realized there likely would be no call. Yes, she is The Bride...but still...

I called my Uncle and asked him what the pan was for the evening. He tells me, we're all meeting up 8:30 PM downstairs in the lobby. We'd have drinks in the bar until 10 and then a van would be sent to pick us up and take us to Jaguars for the bachelor party. Since I was on my own for dinner, I made my way down to The Strip and wandered around for a while until I found a place where I could have a nice steak. I read my book, ate my steak and flirted with the waitresses until it was time to meet up with the bachelor party party.

Down in the lobby at 8:30, things were already getting weird. My cousin, the Groom's brother-in-law to be, had bought our hapless guest of honor a "boobie collector" shirt, a shot glass necklace and a blow-up doll. Not to mention that Groom was already two and a half sheets to the wind and the night hadn't even gotten started yet. Slowly, the rest of the invited guests began to show up as the normal guests of the hotel would wander by and see the Groom's inebriated, boobie shirt-wearing, blow-up doll holding state and react with either amusment or alarm.

When all of us had arrived, we made our way to the hotel bar for a little pre-stripper drinking, Unfortunately, Harrah's doesn't actually have a hotel bar. There's a little club area where you can get drinks, but being Friday night it was all full-up. We all wandered outside to the little bar area they have there so we could at least get some beers and kill time before the stripper van arrived. Let me tell you, you haven't lived until you've hung around a Las Vegas, open air bar with a man wearing a boobie shirt an holding a weirdo-looking blow-up doll. We were like chick magnets.

As the 10 o'clock hour drew near, we all headed for the hotel lobby to meet the stripper van. After about ten minutes of "is that it? is that it?", the van of sin arrives, fifteen of us pile in and off we go to Jaguars.

Let me point out here, dear reader, that I am not a frequent habitue of strip clubs, although I have been known to visit them from time to time when I fall prey to a certain darkness of the soul that is best cured with generous amounts of liquor and boobies.

After a short drive from the Casino, we arrive at Jaguars and spill out of the van like a troupe of horny, circus clowns. The Groom, having been denied hard liquor for more than 90 minutes, is starting to sober up a bit and we just couldn't allow that. As we're escorted to the back of the club by the manager (Maitre D? Stripper Wrangler?) more drinks are arriving for the Groom.

We settle into the back of the club in big, comfy chairs and some of the Jaguar ladies come out to greet us. A pretty little asian girl sits down on my Uncle's lap and I warn her to be careful with him, because he's old. A big, blond, russian lady named "Ilsa" settles down on my lap and after a very short amount of chit-chat, she asks if I'd like a lap dance. I tell her no and she's up like a shot and I don't see her again for the rest of the night. Sad really, but you have to pace yourself. Meanwhile I look over at my little brother and he's up and off with his new ladyfriend to get the first lapdance of the night.

Meanwhile, my uncle starts giving strippers money to take care of our Groom. My Uncle, in case I didn't make it clear, is the Groom's prospective father-in-law. It seems a bit odd, but we're not a family to stand on convention.

A tiny girl with long dark hair and skin the color of coffee splashed with milk and tinged with cinnamon introduces herself as Michelle and asks if she can it on my lap. I readily agree and she sits there, on and off, for more than an hour while I amuse her with jokes and humorous comments on the bachelor party. It is some time before she offers me a lap dance and then she forgets to ask for the money afterwards. I eventually pay her, and get another lap dance later on, but I decline her request to join her in the Champagne Room. Because, like Chris Rock says, there's no sex in the Champagne Room. She reveals to me towards the end of the night that she's half Indian and half Thai.

The night wears on and I'm getting pretty lubricated and low on cash. Uncle is buying me a watery Irish Whiskey from time to time and I'm relaxing some and enjoying the view when a tall, dark-haired girl wearing thick-rimmed glasses and dressed in a Catholic schoolgirl motif wanders by. I point her out to my brother and she stops, turns around and gives me a big smile. She sits on my lap (oowf...big girl) and introduces herself as Tara (a like in car). Tara doesn't have the standard stripper body. She's a little bottom-heavy, not that I mind that at all.

Tara and I get to talking. I told her what I do for a living and she seems interested (no, really!) and that segues into a conversation about how much she fiction. It turns out Tara is an artist. She lives in Seattle and comes down to Vegas every once in a while to make some money dancing so she can pursue her interests and avoid a mundane. She apparently is a glassblower. She mostly does work for other artists, but she recently had a show of her work, glass-blown koi.

Eventually she asked me if I'd like a dance, so over we went to the couch off by the side of the club. Tara takes off her top and shows me her breasts. I think about how nice they are and about how I'd rather sit and talk with her some more. But I accede to her ministrations and thoroughly enjoy myself. Afterwards, we sit on the couch with her leg lazily thrown over mine and we talk some more. Then, she has to get up and work, so I let her go. I tell her how much I enjoyed her company and how I'd like to see her again. Her expression is hard to read in the darkened club, but she points out that I live in New York and she lives in Seattle, but I'm welcome to come and visit her again tomorrow night at the club.

Then it's time to go and we all pile back in the van, our numbers greatly reduced since the Groom had finally succumbed to multiple watery drinks and was ferryed back to the hotel early by his dad and a couple others in our crew.

We get back to the hotel and I make it up to my room. I take off my clothes and tumble into bed, my head feeling like it's stuffed with cotton. I turn of the light and stare out the window, thinking of Tara; happy to have met such an intersting person but a little melancholy to have met her in a Las Vegas strip club. I lie there wondering if I'll go on my own the next night and see her again. With that thought in my head, I give myself over to sleep.


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