Trip Start Sep 09, 2004
394Trip End Ongoing
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After playing Wiii into the wee hours and supping on a few hello Heiny's, we crashed out.
Marco's a top fella, as good as it gets on the hospitality front and seems well up for the randomness that a road trip can bring. He's originally from Guatemala but grew up in Hollywood, and kind of reminds me of an exact cross between The Kul and Skipper Hodges, a couple of mates back in England. Very surreal.
We started the ball rolling with a drive up to the Hollywood sign, and went as far as we could physically go, up and around the labyrinth of winding residential avenues (all ridiculously priced) which took a few second guesses by the sat nav to get us there. If you haven't got sat nav forget it, the roads up there are designed to mess with your head.
The 'letters' were much smaller than I imagined (this is America after all) but gimmicky enough for us to get all touristy and take some silly catalogue mug shots before hitting the road to Vegas.
It was only moments before joining the main highway out of California that the in-dash computer started screaming problems, tyre problems, pressure low, too low, check now for god's sake, not good, this is not good, pull over, pull over! Windows were lowered and ears strained to listen as an unwelcome confirmation bitched and dragged along the tarmac. A flat. We pulled off the highway and rolled into a nearby residencial area. Andris immediately sprung into action and disappeared under the car with a fistful of tools.
Fixing tyres on monster trucks and standing watching keen individuals fixing tyres on monster trucks generates an appetite beyond measure and so after refuelling we piled in to the nearest Taco Bell for a feed. This was a first for me so I left the ordering to the experts. Marco brought the heavily weighted tray over to where we were seated. A 'selection' is what they call it here, a 'piss-take' is what I would call it. Taco Bell is another McDonalds, with the same silly push button system, robotic staff and health diminishing cuisine - just a different 'style' of fast food that's all, mexican style. The tray was maxed out with soft tacos, hard tacos, burritos, nachos, tortillas, fries, dips, coke and a mass of processed cheese. I can be a greedy little shit at the best of times but seriously, two burritos and I was rammed to the neck line. I was out. There was no more going in, not today. Andris packed it in, wedged it and twisted it in until he turned pale and felt sick. There was still loads left, and Marco bagged it up to take in the car for later. Just in case.
It was only when we crossed the state line and broke the main leg of the journey through Nevada that I realised once again just how little I know. I never realised Vegas sat alone like a sparkling oasis in the middle of the desert, surrounded by pretty much nothing. The endless stretch of road through the desert en-route to Vegas, while continuous and monotonous, was an absolute pleasure. The view was sparse yet spectacular. I loved every minute of it. Tunes were played, songs were sang, the banter started up and thus did the piss takes. The trip had begun. Trips with strangers is always going to be potentially tricky and open to a range of outcomes. After all, this is just Big Brother in a car. The fact that things were evolving positively and lively meant the first sweet layer of icing on our American cake. Or pie.
By the time we hit Vegas it was dark, which was just as well as the full on, ever changing display of light and sound here is like nothing on earth. It's stupid, bordering on overwhelming. How much choice do you really need?
Six phone calls along three lengths of the strip later and we'd found a half-decent deal on a hotel. Hotels in Vegas are surprisingly cheap, as low as $40 dollars unless you happen to time your visit during a week of exhibitions as we did, where you then pay around $90 for a room. We stayed at a place with bright red vertical letters called Bally's which is where the gambling started and the lights came alive. It's one kaleidoscope after another and if you don't strain to keep your eyes in focus the whole collage blends in to one. It appears they employ a particular genre of waiting staff in these places, those who patrol the casinos taking orders and delivering them with a dainty twirl. They're confidently large-chested and are made to wear short skirts and a plastic smile, though many I noticed were middle aged and wore make up that might've been put on with a firework.
Marco kicked off the night: $20 went in and $450 came out, along with a wide smile that spread slowly across his smug little face. His whole visit was paid for, if he was sensible. Actually he was part-sensible and ended up walking away from Vegas about $8 down. I was also sensible and ended up walking away from Vegas about $60 down, which took all of ten minutes.
Vegas is definitely worth it, at least once. It's so not me but I had a fantastic night, finishing up around 5.30am after watching Marco win and lose so much more, and Andris trying his luck with someone probably older than his mother. And it was the constant walking, the head spinning, the touting, the incredible live music, the complimentary drinks, the tempting prizes (and the tempting ladies) and it was the endless bustle of people flittering about with purpose like a city centre on a Saturday afternoon. The early hours here are actually daytime hours of the real world. If you actually got into all this you'd wake up refreshed mid-evening, go mental throughout the night and sleep all day. It's a flytrap..
Where I stayed