On the John presents…
Revenge of the Grown Ups: Zany Breaking and Entrances and Entertaining Chaos at the Bizarro Disneyland
Originally completed June 18, 2007
PART II (click here for PART I)
If it is a camaraderie and connection that is rooted in greed, power, and a desire to avoid rocking the boat in the name of self-preservation, then at least it is indeed a camaraderie as opposed to the mistrust, suspicion, and disrespect that is found so often when large groups of strangers gather in a self-contained environment. In elevators, people were quick to interact with each other rather than standing quietly in their corners, often inquiring about others’ days and wishing them a wonderful remainder, and it was this cheerfulness that led to my brother and I making fast friends with the large group of college guys staying a few doors down from us.
I was stepping out of the shower, getting dressed for our night-before-the-wedding-dinner, when I heard my brother out in the hallway with about five or six other guys. Dried and dressed, I walked out to several enthusiastic Is this your brother?’s, and when that was confirmed…
“Yo you guys…this is Jack! This is Mike’s brother Jack! Somebody get Jack a beer! I don’t care if it’s the last one. It’s Jack’s. Get Jack a beer!”
When we finally did head out, we knocked on their door to wish them a good evening. Had we met at a random bar, polite yet guarded nods would have been our only interaction. Knocking on their door to wish them a good evening? Forget about it. But in Vegas, it was fist pounds and hand shakes and Have Fun’s all the way around.
We were meeting my parents at the elevator, along with my aunt and uncle and their two daughters, ages 13 and 10. Now these two girls, they are incredible in every way. They are adorable without being sickening, well-mannered without being robotic, intelligent and warm and ambitious without being boring or stale. We were meeting the rest of the wedding party at the Cheesecake Factory in the Venetian, and the walk from Treasure Island to the V was just brutal. 104 degrees, wind like a blow drier. But the Venetian was cool and breezy, and soon we were enjoying a walk and talk with family we loved but did not often see. And yet…
After my first trip to Vegas in March of 2005, I wrote: “Vegas is, somehow, a city made specifically for everyone.” This is not entirely true. In fact, there is one group of people for whom it is specifically not made. It is not made for children. And never was I more aware of that than walking through the Venetian with my little cousins. Perhaps I could have managed keeping their eyes from darting over to the occasional Playboy store front, but if that was it, we would not have had a problem.
No, the problem was that every other girl we saw was a Playboy store front on her own, a true wannabe Bunny, with no regard for age, looks, or body type. And certainly no regard for my two little cousins.
This is what my brother meant when he called Vegas “The Adult Disneyland,” that most unholy of vacation spots that blows kisses to the kids while kicking around the parents, displaying a smirk that is misread by children as an honest and caring smile.
Not to say that both the Land and the World of Disney don’t show kids a wonderful week. Mike and I certainly enjoyed our time down in Orlando, and it seemed as if our grandparents did too. But I’d imagine that much of their enjoyment stemmed from being with their grandsons and not from being at Disney World, because as I remember it, Disney World is to adults the equivalent of taking the kids out to a lousy kids movie that has nothing to offer anyone over the age of nine, except that this is not a two-hour, eight dollar movie but rather a week-long overpriced vacation.
And that’s how we get the Bizarro Disneyland, this place called Las Vegas, a closed society that begins with the basic assumption that children do not exist. Las Vegas is the bartender that greets the patron’s mumbled, trailing off, under-the-breathed “My kids really pissed me off today” with a slap on the table and a shout for all to hear: “Yeah! Fuck your kids! Goddamn bloodsuckers. Here, have another double.”
So I was a bit guarded as I strolled through the wide walkways of the Venetian with my two little cousins, but soon my thoughts were onto dinner and the coming together of friends and family, not to mention the coming together of one family and another. That was the coolest part of the whole deal. I actually had a ten-minute conversation with my cousin’s soon-to-be-wife before realizing that I was talking to someone who my kids would regard as family. Weird.
Dinner was nice, but it was also shvitz-central, and by the time we left the restaurant and headed back to the hotel, Mike and I were both set upon changing into shorts. We were meeting our cousins, the bride, and the wedding party at a bar in the Venetian, and we had been assured that shorts would be fine, what with the heat and all. But shortly after arriving at the bar, (a trip that included questioning looks from the bouncers) the two of us became uncomfortable, as we did indeed want to look our best. Mike and I had been in agreement from our first steps into the hotel that if we went the entire weekend without getting at least a BJ, that somehow we had failed at proper Vegasing. So after one drink we hustled back to the hotel to change into pants, and then scurried back over to the bar to rejoin the others.
I was working on pure adrenaline. It was fast approaching midnight, heading into Saturday, which meant that I had been awake for some 36 hours and change. This kind of marathon was routine during my high school and college days; now it’s scarce. Still, it’s always a kick to splice two seemingly unrelated days together; by the end of it, you begin to feel like Marty McFly at the end of Part III: just a regular dude on a different timeline than everyone else around.
After putting in a sufficient amount of time at the bar, the fellers split off from the ladies, hopped into two cabs, and high-tailed it over to Seamless, a strip joint that looked like the Earth-to-moon waiting terminal from 2001. Everything curved. Red chairs dipped inward. The bar swooped around in a half-circle with glass-ridges on the sides. The bathrooms were located between multiple, interlocking, circular walkways, with men to one side and—I am only assuming, as I did not see any go in—women to the other.
Our group put in for a handle of Jack Daniels, which came with four or five tall and narrow pitchers of Coke along with a bowl of cotton candy. Well, I thought, that’s a new one. And then, after a toast, along trotted the girls.
Though it may be hard to believe, this was in fact only the second strip club venture of my career. The first was in Duluth, Minnesota, where the “girl” checking IDs was in her early 70’s and looked like she should be playing bridge with my grandmother at the country club. Needless to say, it was a frightening experience, and certainly not the kind of “first time” that a healthy, young, American male would relish. No such problems here fortunately, but in a way, I found Seamless’ first line of defense to be just as unnerving.
That’s because Seamless’ guarding gate was a typical Las Vegas take-no-crap man-crew. Tons of guys show up to Vegas every week, guys who are positive that they are Da Shit, guys who want to be Vince Vaughn in Swingers but are usually closer to Vince Vaughn in Made, the kind of guys who froth over The Ladiez and are intent on Making The Scene. These guys were off-putting and annoying in high school and college, but Vegas pushes them into new levels of Vaughniness. They will walk over anyone…
…except for the Take-No-Crap Man-Crew, which wears suits and slicked hair and has muscles and headsets and tough guy faces, but along with all that, they embody one characteristic that sets them apart from every other guy in town: they seem to not care one lick about tits, ass, pussy, hair, legs, eyes, heels, dresses, skirts, lips, necks, or nails. They are impervious to sex, and that gives them an Edge, because it means they are not distracted or tied to the Ultimate Goal that nearly every other guy their age is focused on. And we know it.
Not that I would be undertaking any strip-club chicanery that might induce the rage of the Man Crew…it’s simply that their mere presence adds a certain level of uneasiness to the proceedings, the same way that going to a museum with my parents was never quite as much fun as it could have been, what with my folks quickly enforcing a “hands behind your backs” policy, a sort of guilty-until-proven-innocent type deal that made museums less about appreciating great works of art and more about not wrecking stuff.
The other oddity of the strip club is the negotiation process. Now, to be sure, I am all for the proper handling of business transactions. But I am used to set prices and clearly marked signs. Not so in the strip club, where the product is handed to you, followed by a coy request for the appropriate funds. It is the equivalent of walking into a burger joint and having the cook immediately hand you a burger. It all seems so mature:
“Here, have some burger.”
“Ooh,” you might say, “that’s a good burger.”
“Yeah it is. It is a good burger. Here, have some fries with that burger.”
“Ooh yeah…” you might say. “Those are some good fries.”
“Yeah. You like those fries, don’t you?”
“Yeah I do. Those are really good fries.”
“I thought you might like those fries. They go well with the burger. Here, have some more burger.”
“Ooh yeah, I think I will have some more burger.”
Then, when there’s no more food…
“Now how bout some money?”
…which, of course, is exactly what was going to happen anyways. You came into the joint wanting a burger and fries, you were prepared to pay for them, and that’s what happened. But for a minute there it seemed as if you might be getting a free taste, and then before you realized it you’d finished the entire meal.
And of course there is always the question of what is or is not included with the burger. Does that twenty dollars include ketchup? And if so, how much ketchup? It’s all a mystery, and all the while the short-order cook is trying to keep everything as informal as possible in the name of unfettered eating…but that never really works, and you end up with two teenagers speaking to each other in super-confident manners but with different slang.
Still, things were good. Even after my awkward getting-to-know-you name game with Devina, things were good. And as I munched on my cotton candy and sipped on my whiskey and watched Devina saunter over to my brother’s lap, and then to my cousin’s, and then back to my brother’s, I smiled, because even though we weren’t getting the Vegas civilian-BJ’s that we’d been so intent on lassoing, at least we had boobs in our faces. Boobs and cotton candy. That was good.
And in an unforeseen development that threatened to surpass the excitement provided by both the boobs and the cotton candy was the fact that I was beginning to feel like a certified gold-standard member of the Take-No-Crap Man-Crew. After all, here was this great looking, sexy, naked girl gyrating atop me, and I was maintaining an air of classy confidence. No matter what she did, I managed to remain cool and detached. I’d always stayed away from strip clubs, feeling they were pointless—all that build-up and no release. Now I felt the opposite, as if the release came from my control of the build-up.
Sadly though, all of that went straight out the window when our dear friend Devina whispered ever-so-sweetly into my ear: “You guys are pretty cool. You should stay for after-hours.” And with that, the uncertainty was back: Uh oh. What did that mean? Does she want us to stay for after-hours? Or is she just saying it for more tips? Indeed, she seemed sincere, but maybe that was a common practice. Were fellers like us often invited back for after-hours? And what exactly would be going down at after-hours? And how sincere could she be with money involved? Yes, money tends to taint any potential stripper sincerity, but then one could argue that money is involved in a high percentage of sexual encounters. What is the difference between buying a girl a couple of drinks in hopes that she will go home with you and paying a professional for a lap dance? In its way, an exchange with a stripper or hooker may be the most honest sex of all.
But honesty or no, our goal was unfinanced Vegas sex, and so there was only so much gratification we could take from Devina and co. We finished off our cotton candy and set out on our way…
…and it was at this point that we decided it would be in our best interest to avoid both cabs and streets and simply follow the lights. This led us into the aforementioned construction site, and into the path of a polite young gentleman who looked like the comic relief in a cop movie—young and husky, with a niche intelligence, a lack of street smarts, and a polite face. “Sorry guys, there’s no way through.”
“You sure?” my brother asked, as if that alone would spark his brain and remind him that there was in fact a way through.
“Yeah, I’m sure. Sorry.”
“Alrighty,” my brother said, with an acceptance that I found unusual for him. Off we went.
But no sooner were we out of sight from the construction worker did my brother hop a chain-link fence and head for the parking garage that was, as far as I could tell, closed off by another chain-link fence. It was no dream. And before I had a chance to evaluate any possible Kafkaesque elements to our evening, I found myself scaling the fence, following my brother up the links and through the garage before heading back down the other way, cutting my hand on the fence in the process. My brain was still a bit hazy, what with the whiskey and cotton candy and boobs and 36 hours of awakeness and all.
When we finally did reach the hotel, we met a pair of girls in the elevator who were being accompanied by a dude. For some reason, my instinct told me that this dude was not competition for our unfinanced Vegas BJ, and when we all got off on the same floor and they told us their room number, it seemed as if we’d struck gold. I figured we’d go back to the room and change—our clothes being quite dusty from the jump down the fence—and then head over to their room.
“You wanna head over?” I asked Mike.
“No,” Mike said, kind of trailing off. Perhaps he hadn’t really heard me? But no, it seemed as if he had, and instead he went into the bathroom. It was 2:44, now Saturday morning, early by most Vegas standards but way late if you’d last woken up at 11 A.M. on Thursday, and so, with seemingly nothing more to do, I snuggled into the big hotel bed, my head resting upon a pillow for the first time in many hours…
END OF PART II of IV