A dual- (and duelling-) perspective account of a half-hour in Las Vegas.
“Part Two” © Sarah Alban 2010; used with permission
Part One: Alan
We got bored with cigars and Scotch and headed to Serendipity 3, to meet the shoppers for lunch. We commandeered a bunch of tables in the Caesar’s courtyard and settled in for a snack. Uh-oh. Out came the phones. Fuck. A little small talk, and then it’s smartphone time. I have seen this point in the trip before; a fleet of naps is steaming this way. The team has lost focus. Might as well lie back and enjoy it. Maybe I can go bet by myself or something. Find a sportsbook. Go hunt up a Mr. Rucky. Whatever. I can feel it. Goddamnit.
And then I looked to my left, at Sarah, the little sister of a friend, who got dragged along on the trip with us as a 21st birthday present. Poor kid. This must be as much fun as coming with her parents. What a heartbreak. 21 years old, on a sunny Saturday in Vegas, watching old people check their work voicemail.
I said, “You bored?”
And she started to say something I suspect was going to be a standard lie, the Polite No, and then shrugged and said, “Yeah, a little.”
And I said, “Me too. You want to go find some trouble?”
Now, we’ve been at this point in these trips before. And the response is almost always, “Nah, we’re going shopping.” Or, “Nah, I’m still full.” Or, “Nah, we’re just gonna hang by the pool til dinner.” Or just “Nah, I’m good.”
But hopes springs eternal. So I asked.
We got up and walked over to the slurpee-machine-margarita place, hoping for Mother Pucker Tooters or Cherrybombs. No dice. Mango and Pina Colada and Blueberry and Cherry and Lemonade and Cola and Margarita and Orange Dream, but no shots and no cherries. Frozen yards only. And frozen takes too long.
Said I, “Let’s run across (the street) to Bill’s (Gamblin’ Hall) and see if there’s a shot special.” (Fully expecting, “Nah, it’s too far.”)
We hustled over the Vegas Boulevard overpass, past a guy selling sunglasses and three guys selling water.
Sarah says – and I don’t know if she knew the fuse she was lighting or not, and I think I don’t I want to know – “Jeremy says these trips have gotten tamer.”
Yes, they have. Had. You and me are gonna start fixing that. Right fucking now.
We bounced down the escalator and into Bill’s.
No shot deals.
“$2 Tecate & Tecate Lite Bottles”
I laid a ten on the bar and asked for four. Of course, with limes. (I didn’t know Tecate, not Corona, invented the beer-with-citrus. The things you learn when you befriend cheap cerveza on Facebook.)
Handed two Tecates to Sarah, and took my two. Said, “Take a swallow out of the right one.”
Looking quizzical, she did.
Said, “Now a swallow from the left one.”
Now looking outright confused, she did.
Said I, “That’s your head start,” and lifted my own Tecate and the bottle went up and the Tecate went down and the eyes screamed “You motherfucker!” at me.
We both started laughing somewhere in the the second beer, causing choking, foamy chins, and a dozen cellphone cameras to click in our vicinity. Knocked them down anyway.
In about 1996, our eleven-year-old German Pointer was on his last legs. He wasn’t on life’s back nine; he was teeing it up on eighteen. He’d had a stroke the previous fall, and had already come through cancer. Figured he had five more months, tops. And then the neighbors got a puppy. Middy.
We introduced them, as they’d be sharing a fence, however briefly. And the Old Man was reborn. He chased the puppy. He chased a ball. He trotted all over the yard with Middy. He ran. And he lived five more good years.
If you have an old dog, get a puppy.
And now I’m in a low-rent casino, with two Tecates (and three mimosas and a couple free beers from the Sportsbook and some nicotine) in my bloodstream, and a huge crush on someone younger than my cassette tape of “Born In The USA” in my heart. I’m blaming the Tecate. (Especially the chin-foam.) Kid’s a gamer. I like that.
Back we run to the team on the verge of quitting. No. Oh, no no no. Not today. Not anymore.
“ATTENTION! ATTENTION! Get your shit up, Old People. Me and Sarah have just invented Tecate Races. Who’s in? We’ll explain it on the way. Now. Bring $4 and your livers. Let’s go. Now.”
Part Two: Sarah
As the last whore ass giving show to Serendipity 3 slipped out of my view and ostensibly its skirt, I fished for a purpose:
— What, noon already? Not enough.
Alan suddenly appeared at my side eating a carton full of hotdog. He had removed his black sunglasses. He ate, observed, and finally lit those naked eyes on me:
“Are you bored?” he inquired.
Them eyes knew.
“You have a choice,” said Alan. “Drink gamble eat shop.”
I reflected. (For show.)
“Drink,” said I.
Them eyes narrowed. Alan leapt, poked me up too, and ran a circle around the nearest bar.
(Jeremy, my brother-in-law, shushed the table. “Guys,” he said. “Alan’s taking Sarah somewhere.”)
Nobody moved. Let them make their own mistakes, their wiser dispositions said. And do let’s watch.
Absolutely nothing at the bar.
Booze, booze every where nor any drop to drink.
Alan sized up a staircase nearby. “Come here,” he said. The stairs screamed white-hot promise. Every step blinded me, and I wasn’t even drunk.
Alan’s eyes scanned the Strip, then darted one direction. The strip flew by. We turned our noses at everything. Nothing sang to us. A tramp or two may have, but they only fed our hunger.
Truthfully, I believe neither of us knew exactly where we would end up nor into what trouble we would be getting. We just kept a nondiscriminatory, open invitation.
We hopped a down escalator.
My brain was reeling, just anticipating. I grabbed the rail, steadied and remembered a seemingly relevant fact.
“Jeremy says these trips got tamer over the years,” I ventured.
“Tamer,” said Alan. “Calmer?”
“Tamer,” I shrugged.
“To a certain extent—” Alan began, but
RED ALERT. RED ALERT. RED ALERT…
You could hear the electricity snapping behind those eyes, breeding reparations. That’s when this sign appeared:
$2 TECATE BEER
Oh it nailed us. Had us at “Hello.” We suckered through Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon, wheeling past whores and slot machines and whores on slots en route to the bar proclaiming the beers. My eyes couldn’t adjust. This casino was a cave. I felt like a rookie bat pushing painfully into darkness. My eyes kept squinting for Big Elvis.
We surfaced at the bar, me disheveled. Alan slapped a ten on the counter. Four TECATE appeared, clinking in front of us like a good idea. Then the bartender slipped a lime in each and we were off.
Four. I mused. That’s 13 short.
Alan and I skedaddled through the casino, high-pace before stopping suddenly.
“You want lime?” he said.
“Yes!” said I, unsure of everything happening except want of lime.
He squished two into my bottles, then his.
I swigged big from each hand, at his behest. Would we be adding more lime? I wondered. Irish-car-bombs? Red-eye? Liquor? Midgets? What maketh one from $2-TECATE?
“That’s your head start,” he clarified.
“You ready?” he said.
Fuck you, mouth. You’ll pay.
No one said, “GO!” the way I remember. The way I remember, TECATE fizzled down my cheeks almost immediately. I remember carbonation and pain and more carbonation. I remember TECATE creeping into my brain near second-bottle finish. I remember an indefinable ambience of normalcy and total toleration of these two drunkards. I remember looking over at Alan and feeling part of a species that knew how to live.
Maybe we drew because he’d raced tipsy and I sober. Perhaps those handicaps he’d lent me really had worked. Losing sobriety on the millisecond, squinting, we destroyed the evidence. The good ideas clinked into the garbage, and we returned to Serendipity to announce a new pastime.
Alan recruited three daredevils via rhetoric, while I helped by trying not to appear in pain.