The international adventures of a singing, dancing zombie queen.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Vegas: Bipolar Republican Wonderland Part IV

It seems that the time has come for me to finish the harrowing tale of Vegas, and perhaps shed some light on the semi-mysterious titles of said postings.

During my final 24 hours in Vegas, I took a lot of cabs. After the novelty of the size vs. distance mirages has worn off, you get to like the idea of spending eight bucks a pop to take a cab. There's nothing quite as fun as walking around in 105 degree heat wearing black and a fashionable dislike of sunshine outside of a fifteen foot radius of a swimming pool. The big bonus with cabs, though, is meeting the drivers.

The Sage Cabbie, of course, was my first lovely initiation into the benefits of taking cabs in Vegas. If I could've, I would've gotten him to take me on a personal tour. I imagine him saying things like, "and this is where the Corelione family shot down ten men; which is why you can still get cheap surf and turf in this restaurant...." And he probably would've driven me into the non-tourist parts of town on a wild hunt for the CSI van. In any case, the Sage Cabbie certainly made me sad that I was being taken to the airport in order to go home. I hopped out and tipped him well, and made my way to the gate with time to stop and buy some of those lovely trinkets that your friends just can't live without; namely two black coffee cups with writing in the same design as a Jack Daniels label that say: "Las Vegas Old School Player - Loud, Lucky and Out of Control - Push the Limits - Guaranteed Good Times," and a little purple pencil sharpener that looks like a slot machine and rings up two out of five as triple BAR. Yeah. The smoking section was in a little slot machine area, so I decided to give gambling another try.... but apparently those cups didn't give me any luck sitting in a plastic bag. I should've filled them to the brim with whiskey and balanced them on the angled chrome top of the machine so that when I pulled the arm they'd fall off and dump whiskey down my throat. That would've gotten me a triple BAR. Or at least a wet shirt.

When I got back to the gate, people were starting to board, so I positioned myself in a chair next to the gate and waited for my seat to be called. It was soon afterwards that I heard the footfalls of the four horses trotting down the runway.
"Now boarding seats 23 and higher for America West flight to Phoenix."
Wait a minute; Phoenix??? Was I at the wrong gate? Well, no. But apparently, the flight to Phoenix had been delayed, and we would be boarding right afterwards. The man sitting next to me was balding and chubby, and he was whining into his cell phone in a flaming drone. (Yes, that is possible.) "So I asked Jim if he would share a room with me, since he'd had the space, and we could both save some money, and everyone else had someone to share with and he said no! ....I offered to take them for coffee and they all ordered seven dollar desserts with their coffees, and they just left the whole tab to me, which was way more than I'd paid for lunch that day. It was so inconsiderate! I know people think I'm cheap, but it was over thirty dollars, and they didn't take me anywhere! I mean, couldn't they offer? I mean, really! I'm not cheap, but that was thirty dollars I didn't offer to spend. Really!" From my side of things, I suppose the guy had a point, but he was so incredibly whiney, I could understand how those other folks would want to take advantage; you don't feel much gratitude when someone whines about a gift they're giving.

When he got off of the phone, I started chatting with him. It seemed that he was cursed with a whining disease, but I offered my condolences anyhow; after all, he had a cell phone, my flight was going to be late and I figured that he might be from the Bay Area as well. I explained my situation; and that I didn't have a cell, but that my ride would be heading to the airport in Oakland unawares of my situation. He didn't seem to care; just blathered on.. I gave up, but by the grace of some lovely spark in his soul -probably the same spark that encourages him to let himself be jerked around by people over seven slices of cake- he offered me his cell at the last minute before he got on the plane to Phoenix. I left a brief message and thanked him profusely. Hopefully he'd spend his flight feeling proud of having done something sweet instead of continuing to mull over cake-eaters.

Once the Phoenix flight had taken off, the remainder of us stared out the windows like unblinking fishes, waiting for our plane to pull up. The empty asphalt stared back at us blackly. It wasn't for a full half an hour that the staff announce that, in fact, our plane had never left Denver, apparently because of some sort of security issue. We slumped in unison. The blonde couple beside me and their two adorable blonde girls kept stirring themselves in circles. The young husband was holding the older girl, who was no more than three, while his wife went mad with the stress of it all, insisting that they had to get out of Vegas right then. I think her head was going to explode. The younger daughter had discovered that somewhere under my seat there was something delicious and inedible, and the wife kept yelping at her husband to stop her, but his hands were full with the other little girl, so I ended up repeatedly snatching her by the back of her soft, cottony baby outfit. The wife was far too upset to thank me, even when I ran out into the hallway after the toddler a few minutes later. I was in good spirits, though; fatted on the irony of the situation, so I didn't mind.

The airline hostess took a poll of hands to see whether people wanted to get hotel rooms or to try to get on the next flight, once she had finally figured out that our plane wouldn't arrive for another four hours. Luckily, I had not been sure which flight I would take home, so I had told my boss that I wouldn't be back the next day for work, so I chose the hotel option. A strange Middle Eastern couple let me use their cell phone to call my friends and let them know that I was heading back into town. The husband was the loudest customer I'd ever seen; he plowed in front of every line, nearly yelling, while his wife sat quietly by, chatting with her friend over their bad luck. His plump arms were still waving about in the air like an indignant Arabic Santa Clause as I marched downstairs to get my hotel voucher.

With my vouchers in hand, I headed away from the downstairs counter towards the cab lines. I'd been warned by the airline that not all of the cab companies would accept my voucher. Two of the cabbies were so confused by the question of whether or not a voucher was okay that I took the cab driven by a blonde woman who looked as though she liked to run over kittens and scream at small children. She slammed herself into the driver's seat and growled at me that all cabs have to accept vouchers. Judging by her attitude, though, I could understand why people might not accept them. You'd think that is was a paper bag full of dog feces that she would have to present to her superiors.

I'd asked for the hotel out of the two choices which would be closest to the strip so that I could more easily get back to my friends. We passed the other choice heading away from the trip on our way to my hotel. The blonde cabbie was kind enough to tell me that gratuity for her extra efforts at acting completely put out by the universe, was not included. I tipped her a buck just because I didn't really want to incur any of her wrath myself. After checking in, I got another cab and headed back to the strip.

Once again, the bipolar nature of Vegas revealed itself. This cabbie was a sweet guy, in his thirties who gave me no trouble about the fact that I had to return to my hotel room to get my other card in order to get cash from the ATM to pay him, since it turned out I had given my last dollar to the crabby blonde lady. I was feeling completely frazzled at this point, and I was running late to catch up with Ariane and co. I told him about my flight having been cancelled, to which he responded, "Lemmie guess; America West? They cancel at least two flights a night. Any time they have a plane which isn't full, they claim some sort of 'security issue' and force everyone else onto a different flight." Herm.... I asked him about the vouchers. "Well, not every cab has to take the vouchers, but any cab could, and why wouldn't they? Sure, they don't include gratuity, but you can write yourself in any amount that you like. The fare shouldn't have to tip, because everyone always adds on a good fifteen or twenty dollars to the tab."

I arrived at the Bellagio just after last call, but it was a froo-froo bar right in the main entryway. The seating was raised from the main floor, and a grand piano centered in the middle of the pale marble tables, reflecting the white molding of the ceilings. I greeted my friends and headed up to the bar to catch a drink at the last minute. The bartender fit right in with the decor; white tuxedo shirt, black vest and a smooth scalp which reflected the white molding on the ceiling. He was on the phone to room service, and I think he served me mostly out of a feeling of gratitude for my patience and sympathy since I was putting up with the same man who had forced him to get on the phone with room service at 1:50 am while he was trying to close up shop. This man was in his forties, with thick dyed black hair and a black mock turtleneck sweater and Kakhis. He was at the end of the bar, with another man in between us.

Mr. Mock Turtleneck had decided that he was going to have caviar with his vodka. He didn't want any toast points, no, no; just the caviar in a little bowl, on ice. He wanted to see my back piece, so he got up from his bar stool and walked up behind me and, without my permission, pulled my shirt away from my back so that he could see the bottom half of it. My teeth would've ground if it weren't for my instant recognition of his type. The man sitting to my right looked slightly embarrassed at Mock's drunken rudeness.
"So, what I want to know is how do you kiss with that thing in the way?" Mock said of my lip ring, "I want to find out!" "I'm sure you'd have to ask my boyfriend about that," I replied, to which he shouted drunkenly, "Well then, you'd better call him right now and have him come down here so we can settle this!"
The man on my right squeezed the corners of his eyes in an effort to keep them from rolling. He asked me politely how I was, but Mock interrupted him, "Do you like caviar? I'm ordering some caviar. I'm having it sent right here. I shouldn't have to wait to get to my room; I want caviar with my vodka!"

I ordered a dirty vodka martini with Belvedere and extra olives from the bartender. I could see where this was going, and I wasn't about to order some piddly well drink in circumstances like these. It was gambling time. I responded that I hadn't had caviar, but that I love tobiko and salmon eggs in sushi. Mock turtleneck insisted that I have some caviar with him, then. "But I want to find out about that ring." The polite man recommended the blue cheese-stuffed olives in my martini, but my drink had already arrived. I sipped at its salty smooth rim, the flakes of ice touching my lips with their sharp, crisp edges.

"Shall I put this together, then?" asked the bartender of Mock Turtle-man. He balked. Suddenly his bragging that he'd made three trips to Vegas spontaneously in the past month had run in with the bill. I sipped politely and smiled at my icy alcoholic bliss, but moved my wallet into my hand where the bartender could see it but Mock Turtleman could not. "uuuuh... uuuuuh.." I let my eyelashes down gently and put on my most innocent face, deliberately not looking at him, and then turned with a clear and confident smile of challenge towards him. He slumped into his leather stool. "Yeah, I guess so." I smiled and thanked him. "But now I want to find out about what it's like to kiss that ring!" He shouted. "I should be getting back to my friends," I said. "Where?" "Right over there," I said and nodded. "Oh.... Well maybe I'll just come over there." I turned away from the bar, exchanging a smirk of success with the polite man to my right, and waltzed my huge expensive and glorious martini back over to Ariane. Ahh. That's my favorite gamble.

By the time I sat down with Ariane, I was exploding with laughter at the entirety of the evening. Finally the sketchiness of Vegas had caught up with me, and I liked it. We all leaned over to look back at Mock Turtleman and laugh. By the time I had finished my drink, he was leaned over a chair with some poor woman who worked for the hotel massaging his shoulders at the bar. He kept turning around to flirt with her, and she kept leaning away from his vodka caviar breath. On our drunken way out to the cab lines, two working girls were standing outside, looking bored in their six inch stiletto platforms. I regret not having trusted my instincts and given them the hint of who to hit up. If the city were really on her toes that night, they would've stolen his wallet after he'd passed out.

Back in my hotel suite, I watched some music videos before crawling into one of my double beds. I considered ordering some food from the menu, but apparently the food service was delivery, and therefore would probably not have accepted my vouchers from the airline, so I passed.

Well, it seems that there shall indeed be one more part to the Bipolar Republican Wonderland after all....

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Dance & Fitness Faculty member at San Francisco Peninsula Community Colleges, Director, Choreographer & Featured Dancer, Founder of the Living Dead Girlz, and Owner of the Steele Dance Company, which provides entertainment for festivals, corporate events, conventions and private events. Teaching private dance lessons and creating choreography since 1997, Steele graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a Double Major in Dance and Comparative Literature and completed her Master of Fine Arts in Dance and Choreography at Mills College. She has toured all the major cities in Germany and performed at the Cannes Film Festival as the featured dancer in TRIP -- Remix Your Experience, a multimedia exhibition of film, live music and art. Steele has also performed as a featured dancer for RJ Reynolds (CAMEL) promotional events. Steele currently manages the go-go dancers of "Poor Impulse Control," who perform frequently in San Francisco's industrial, alternative, and rock venues.