Vegas Again - My Brother, Beer, Another Magician and Legal Weed

I was Vegas bound again, coming from Phoenix, standing on Grand Avenue just past the 303 where my friend Larry dropped me off, holding up a piece of cardboard with my destination written on it. I was off to see my brother, already in town with his girlfriend for the weekend.

It didn't take long to get a ride, a bigger guy heading to Vegas looking to score with some girl before returning back to Phoenix to deal with a lawsuit involving another girl, something trivial like a car payment or some such. "I'm not the guy you wanna try and kill", he told me in half jest as I got in the car, "Fair enough", I told him.

He was on a bit of a road trip, bouncing around coming from Sacramento. I gathered that he'd sold most of his things, the rest was in storage or in this car, the result of getting laid off, but a result not so negative in his eyes. He was also dealing with a series of chores, like the lawsuit matter in Phoenix. It seemed anything close to a problem in his life was ex-wife and girlfriend related.

I've had these types of conversations with many a person who's picked me up on the side of the road, and often these women in their life are more or less directly the reason they've been on the particular drive they're on when they picked me up. Often I've heard the line, "girls are crazy", sometimes with different language, but all the same. This is true, but only in the way that all people are crazy, and curiously too in the way that it's not true at all. Whenever possible I attempt to make people retract this line in the roundabout indirect way of making them dissect the very thought of it. "What makes them crazy?", I can say, and of course I angle this towards the specific girl they're talking about, and by just explaining why they're crazy they become less so. "Crazy" is often just a substitute for saying you don't understand something or you're simply too lazy or short on time to explain, to yourself or whoever else.

We swapped some stories and carried on, over the Hoover Dam, through Boulder City to the still day lit Vegas, which always looks dirty and depressing, even when guaranteed good times are in store. He dropped me off right at the doorway to Mandalay Bay, this is where my brother was staying and I'd gotten a comped room booked for the night. He even offered me a ride back to Phoenix, saying he'd be leaving Monday, he gave me his number and drove off.

My brother and his girlfriend met me in the lobby where I checked in, I dropped my pack off in my room and met them back downstairs and we headed for the Shark Reef, the aquarium in the hotel. We walked around seeing large and exotic fish, sharks and more. We came across a display near the komodo dragons, another lizard creature almost as big. My brother mentioned having hunted one down and frying it up with some buddies while overseas in the jungle, he's in the military, my brother. "Everyone always says it, but it tasted like chicken, it really does". I pictured him tackling the beast, knife in hand, laughing with his buddies around the fire as they feasted; it made me realize and wonder about what other stories and kicks my brother had over the years.

We decided to go to our rooms, shower up and regroup for dinner in an hour or so. While they went up the elevator, I headed for the cashier; along with my comped room came $50 in promo chips. I took my two $25 chips to the craps table with differing hope and anticipation. I placed one on a field bet, a six was rolled and my potential money making chip was pulled off the table. I placed my second and final one down, same result, I walked away with nothing. This feeble attempt was my last idea to finagle a couple hundred dollars to appease my monthly student loan, but with two more weeks or so until the bill, there was time yet.

I headed to my room and relaxed a bit until the hour was up, I met my brother downstairs. He stood with his girlfriend and asked if I had any ideas for dinner, but he in fact already had a great one, a fancy steak place in the hotel. It was a hell of a meal - I had duck to start and a tasty beer. My brother ordered Kobe beef in tar tar fashion, but had confused himself into thinking it was going to be steak. When it arrived, he instantly despised it, I munched it down. He got his nice steak as the main course, a kobe burger for myself, fancy macaroni and cheese for the lady.

It was too much food to handle, try as I may, and his girlfriend barely touched her food and I wound up with the hefty leftover bag. I ran the bag up to my room and we were off, bee lining for the the Burger Bar, easily my favorite place in Vegas for beer, a place my brother had heard more than one story about from me. They were packed when we got there, they took our name down and cited a long wait, we headed to the casino bar at the luxor for beer and cocktails while we waited. We played video poker with his girlfriend's money, going up and down until we lost just $3 in all.

We at last got our table at the Burger Bar, studying the menu in search of the perfect beer, I knew my brother was looking for a porter on the list he'd never tried. The waiter came, we ordered with our excited choices, they were out of what my brother wanted, we needed more time. He came back, we ordered again with new choices. The owner came by a piece of time later to inform me the beer I ordered was out. "I remember you.", he told me, and I remembered him.

"Yes, I'm the one who got the Life & Limb", I told him.

"Yes", he said, "sitting next to those other beer lovers from Portland", I remembered the night well, it had been a great one, an exploration of Dogfish Head Brewery's finest, paid for a by a streak of video roulette winnings. He suggested a couple other beers, then came back with a big bottle, he stood talking to us more as he peeled the wax off the top and poured me a glass, The Abyss from Deschutes Brewery. I asked if he had anything that wasn't on the menu, "West Coast IPA", he told us, I looked at my brother, we knew this beer well and had been to the brewery, the manager was surprised we knew about it at all. We ended up trading the bartender a sip of The Abyss for a pour of the Green Flash.

We carried on at the table, great beer after great beer telling stories of our younger days, his girlfriend perked up in curiosity and entertainment from the gained perspective into her boyfriends youth from his brother. Mostly we ignored her though, not intentionally, primarily because we were busy catching up, reminiscing and generally having the type of night we'd some day also reminisce about.

She'd had too much to drink she said, she looked to be fading. At that time I got word from my friend Mark who was in town, I'd met him at the Stagecoach music festival, he was done with whatever plans he had the night and looking to meet up. My brother and I convinced his girlfriend for a little walk and perhaps another drink to go meet up with him, she followed along.

We paused at New York New York on the top floor where they have a kiosk looking bar with a good beer selection, there was no going back to crap beer after what we'd just been though. We went straight for some stouts and relaxed, soon Mark arrived with his friend or cousin, all excitement. We caught up, telling stories of our Joshua Tree camping and whatnot. Soon my brother took off with his girl, off to their room for the night.

I stayed with Mark, ranting and raving, bouncing up and down on the bar stools. A slick looking guy came over to us and started doing card tricks, he called himself smoothini. He had us laughing and amazed too, they were pretty good tricks he was pulling off. At one point he had Mark's friend's watch, pulled it out of nowhere, and none of us, including his friend, could figure out out how he took it in the first place. We got to talking with him and the girl sitting nearby, the story was she was a girlfriend of sorts, or at least someone he'd end up the night with. Something in my drunken mind thought it was all a con, even though there was nothing we were getting conned for. It resulted in more jumps and kicks and laughs, babbling comments and more card tricks.

Soon we parted ways, all of us, I started making the walk towards the Mandalay Bay and my room. I struck up a conversation with a girl in the Luxor that I passed, she had a british accent playful suspicious eyes. I was certainly hitting on her and told her as much, but told her also that I was not in the capacity or motivated state to pursue anything other than the conversation we were having. I figured out she was in town for a conference, and was in fact now waiting for a colleague to attend a meeting. This struck me as odd, I wondered who had such meetings in the middle of the night, but it was then that I discovered it was now 9 or 10 in the morning, perhaps I was the odd one.

Her colleague, or someone, came over to meet her, I scurried away without a goodbye to her turned back; I'd gotten my fill and had no interest in waiting for her interaction to complete and possibly being introduced to someone as the raving lunatic who appeared from a previous day to spout about nothing in the dawn of a new one.

I reached my room, I don't think it clicked that check out was just in an hour, I don't think there was much of any clicking, just a thud as my head hit the pillow.

A moment later, which was actually five hours or so, my eyes peeked open and the reality of the non-dream world came pouring into my consciousness all at once. I checked the time, 3:45pm. No time to check for missed calls from my brother, I'm sure he'd called wondering if I wanted to ride back to California with him as we had talked about, the possibility at least. I hopped into the shower knowing he was certainly out of town by now, I rushed through the shower thinking if the hotel had checked my room, seen that I hadn't checked out, billed me for another night perhaps, useless paranoia.

I packed quickly and left the room, never officially checking out, never giving them an official record that I stayed hours and hours beyond checkout. I figured it wouldn't be much of a problem, it never would be. I then checked my messages, my brother had tried me once or twice and was now on the road, Mark had sent me messages too along the lines of, "Are you alive?", I responded all around.

My ride to Vegas had offered me a ride back, this seemed to be the route, all though he wasn't leaving until the following day. I confirmed with him that this ride was still on, he said yes, leaving me with the task of finding a place to sleep the night. I was quite tired at the moment too, I found a chair to sit in and nod off, but only for seconds at a time.

I managed to post on couchsurfing.org that I was in need of a couch, figuring that was my best bet, and if that failed, it wouldn't be the first time in Vegas without a place to stay, I'd figure it out. In the meantime though, there was a Lakers game to watch. By halftime I'd gotten a response from couchsurfing, a guy downtown had a place for me to stay. After the game I walked a good ways and shelled out two bucks for a bus downtown to his place.

He was an interesting guy, Jeri was his name. He lived in a small place, mostly small because he already had three other people couchsurfing there at the time, all from Europe and excited to be in Las Vegas. One of them questioned me a great deal about the finest details of my travels, I answered and sipped on water in a daze, sleep deprived and dehydrated.

Jeri was smoking spice, a sort of legal marijuana he knew a great deal about. I'm not sure if it was the smoke or simply his personality, but he held a sort of goofy intelligence, his kicks came from the subtleties of emptiness and inflections. When the Europeans went in search for food, I shared some of the spice he was smoking and got on the level. He spoke in what would otherwise be ridiculous stoner fashion, saying things like, "Look at the ceiling", all giggles, voice almost cracking, "Imagine if people just started falling out of it!", laughing at himself and the idea all at once, but really in his mind seeing people falling out of it, not in a hallcination kind of way, but a forced day dreaming way for no reason other than to laugh, I saw it all with him.

He had a small stuffed rocking horse on the floor, something he'd often been seen riding at the end of drunken nights. From the corner of my eye I thought it moved, I told him as much, we both started staring at it, "I wonder if it could just hop off of there and start walking around", he gasped hard in a quick fit of giggles, we stared at it intently, as if we were in a lucid dream where we could make such things happen just by willing them. The horse never did jump off it's rocker, we laughed it off, but I believe we were both secretly disappointed.

The Europeans came back and ate, we laughed some more, talked some more, I smoked a bit more outside with one of them. I laid out on my sleeping bag, closing my eyes to wild thoughts and waiting for my second wind to give in to the true tiredness I knew was inside me.

We woke in the morning, I munched on the leftovers from the steak house, the Europeans spoke of plans for the day and soon settled on one, more or less, it began with walking to downtown and finding a slot machine to give a go. It took us a while to get going. At one point, as Jeri and I talked, there was movement as the rocking horse fell form it's nook and on to the floor, unprovoked by any of us. We laughed and wondered, the Europeans were confused.

We walked towards Freemont street and chose a casino where we all watched Jeri play the slot machine, then a few of the others went to the Blackjack table. I put a one of my three remaining dollars in a penny slot machine and slowly lost it all, just before getting a call from my ride, I told him I'd meet him at the Greyhound bus station.

I parted ways with the couchsurfing bunch and waited at the bus station, every person and piece of luggage was a story in my head, pieces of cell phone conversations and expressions on faces hints to there going ons. I waited a bit and he arrived, I was excited he actually showed, I'd been saving my last two bucks just in case he didn't and I'd need to take the public bus to the edge of town.

"How was your weekend?", I asked him, "How was the girl, what'd you get into?". He had no response much beyond, "Nothing", he hadn't done a thing. Never hit the town, never hooked up with the girl, just sat around doing paper work. I started to tell him a bit about my weekend, but he seemed to engrossed in his own boredom, distant.

In Boulder City he filled up the gas tank, "You have a license?", he asked, now I was driving. I enjoy driving and was happy to take the wheel. He told me I could drive right to my friend Larry's place when he figured it wasn't too far out of his way, and off we went. We didn't talk much, really at all after a certain point. Stand up comedy was on the radio, he made a phone call or two, and he slept a great deal. The only thing I remember him saying past the Hoover Dam was, "Woa! Where are you going?", jolting from his slumber like a lighting bolt, startling me with an accusatory tone. This happened was when I was turning off I-40 to head south towards Phoenix, I calmly explained this was the way to Phoenix, he glanced at his GPS and quickly realized this was true, then drifted back to sleep.

By the time we got to Phoenix I was really all over the place, getting detoured through neighborhoods and finding my way to Larry's. He said nothing then, although it was a great deal sketchier than my turn off the freeway. We at last arrived, I hopped out, thanked him, he hopped in the drivers seat and drove away.

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