Wicked Campers’ Vancouver depot dude said through the cigarette haze surrounding us that no Goddamn way could I walk from the Marpole area where the depot was located, to Vancouver International Airport. Funny, it perhaps deceivingly looked a walkable distance, just across the north arm of the Fraser River delta. I must take a cab, he said. So he called one for me, then we chatted in the meantime about how I was supposed to have dropped the Dragon back the day before. This lateness was the result of miscommunication between me and my mate Wicked’s marketing manager Mr Dudgeon, who said I had to have the van back on Wednesday, roughly November 21, 2012. What he didn’t stipulate to me was that he’d meant Wednesday Australian time – which was about the next day, Thursday, North American west coast time. It was confusing, and I don’t even know if that clarifies things. If you’re confused about why I’ve begun the next part of this ongoing blog about Las Vegas, via Vancouver, when I apparently had only just left San Francisco, please read this future literary award-winning eight part series in order to catch up: http://colingilmore.wordpress.com/2013/01/17/the-dragon-part-one/ Updated? Good, ‘cause the cab had arrived. Off to the airport, without a flight booked I might add. I wasn’t sure how getting a flight to Vegas would go without booking, but I rolled the dice, as they say, and it turned out very well. This is an important point of difference between the US and UK – and perhaps even Europe, generally. In America, “first you get the money, then you get the power. Then, you get the woman.” And in order to help you get “the money”, the Yanks are all about offering cheap deals to people who arrive last minute for things like theatre shows, train journeys and, of course, flights. The reason is because they’re keen to fill up the capacity of whatever’s on offer, so they’re willing to offer discounts to people who arrive late and might never have been in the audience, or on the train or plane, otherwise. I hope you’re with me on this. In the UK, it’s different. There, unless you’ve booked a few weeks or at least days in advance, you will be charged more for arriving last minute. And of course be less likely to get “the woman”. The UK’s approach makes less sense, which is understandable if you’ve ever met or had a conversation with a drunk English or Scotsperson. And I guess North America’s approach is a very real testament to their free market, economically chaotic values. And their national pride for gangster films. Point is, from memory, after simply wandering up to the Vancouver departures terminal, I managed to secure a flight to Las Vegas, via San Francisco, for about $150US. Fucking, excellent, yo.
So, yeah: cheap flight to Vegas. More drinking/gambling/possible problem with the law fine money. Boom. There was nothing much worthy of note about the flight itself. The connecting flight from San Francisco was where the action happened. This was only my third experience with international connecting flights. The first was Gold Coast-Jakarta via Kuala Lumpur and the second was, only weeks before where we’re at now, Gold Coast-LA via Auckland. Both of these were straightforward affairs with plenty of layover time, which lulled me into a false sense of security for my third-time-almost-unlucky. So, I sauntered casually out of the San Francisco international arrivals terminal, lit up a cigarette and scoffed at the 15 minutes or so I had to get to my Vegas-bound plane. Then started slowly walking to what I thought would be the domestic departures terminal. It wasn’t. It was a monorail. This confused me. What in God’s name? I thought. I had never come across trains that had to be used within an airport before. A little frazzled, I got on the monorail, and after five minutes felt a little bit fearful. Like I’d maybe got on the wrong one and was actually going away from domestic departures, to God-knows-where. Turned out my fears were well-founded. Ok, I thought, it’s alright: I’ll just get off, get back on a train going the other direction, and make the plane. Or so I hoped. When I finally got off at domestic departures I had to do the frenzied run to my gate, and made it with only seconds to spare. Wasn’t terribly embarrassing; plenty of other people were running madly past me to their gates during my sprint to mine. This experience would come in very handy a few weeks later, during an extremely hungover dawn run to New York’s John F Kennedy airport via the subway from Manhattan. Regardless of how scattered I was upon arrival, I knew I was in Las Vegas. There were poker machines in the airport, for Christ’s sake. And I would find out they were also in the city’s convenience stores, and probably churches. Not that I was cynical enough to visit a place of worship while visiting the most evil city in the world. When I arrived at the extremely seedy area at the northern end of South Las Vegas Boulevard (otherwise known as The Strip) to check in to the Todd Motor Motel, a grizzled old chick complimented me on my ripped jeans. I was rooming with Fred (not his real name) – a Catholic 50-year-old poker junkie – and Estefan (another nom de guerre) – a Brazilian 34-year-old teetotalling new dad who was in Vegas not to drink and gamble, like most people; but to indulge in adrenalin junkie activities like sky-diving, Camaro driving, machine gun shooting and motorcycle death-defying. Oh, and buying stuff, for his very young son, that was much cheaper in America than in his homeland. Estefan’s wife was and is very hot. I hope if he’s reading this he takes that remark as a compliment 🙂 Estefan, particularly, may have saved my life in Vegas. Which you may come to understand, should you keep reading. It was 11pm when I arrived at the hostel. So I pretty much went straight to bed, hoping Fred on the bunk above me wouldn’t wet himself from dreams about poker or Jesus or playing poker against Jesus. I swear he at least spoke in tongues while he slept.