Friday. November 23, 2012. Word Journeyer headed out for his first solo night deep into Old Las Vegas town. It could have gone much worse. In vaguely recalled reality, it really was a good time. I now understand that quote from The Hangover by the random dude out the front of Caesar’s Palace, just before the Wolf Pack is surprisingly returned a cop car by a valet, in reference to the mattress apparently thrown out of a hotel room: “Some guys just can’t handle Vegas.” It’s true. A group is best. You can look after each other. After all, as long as you have money or at least a functional credit card, Vegas is practically lawless. It’s a place where you can shoot, fuck, drink, gamble, drive, jump from, marry or really do anything you want, for a price. The only danger is that anyone with enough money can also do anything to you that they want, if you don’t watch your own back. I was reasonably under control. Lost $40 dollars at the Stratosphere, first. Then wandered to a McDonald’s adjacent the Circus Circus for a Quarter Pounder burger. Stimulated by red meat and hard liquor, I found myself quickly within the circus the Circus Circus was, for some roulette fun and games. For the record, it had clearly changed a bloody shit-load since the time Hunter S Thompson and his Samoan attorney had spent there. No carousel bar to struggle to escape from; but if you drank enough, it certainly felt like the place was spinning. It was there at a roulette table I vaguely recall at one point turning probably 20 or 40 bucks into a stack of $5 chips totalling $100. Which I naturally lost all of before the clock tolled midnight. From there I wandered upstairs to the arcade where I blew the heads off arcade game zombies while drinking frozen margaritas – one of which was almost criminally added to with tequila by the bartender who said he was “just doing his job”, after I light-heartedly accused him of trying to kill me. “His job”, I quite accurately imagined, was to get me so heavily liquored that I would lose all of my money as quickly as possible at the closest roulette table. Instead, in spite of the bastard and his evil casino management, I wandered back to the Stratosphere where I lost another $60. Then I remembered there was a strip club right across the road from my hostel. I’d started the evening at the Olympic Garden Gentlemen’s Club. Only a short walk across the road from the Todd Motor Motel, that I was staying at, the place wasn’t terribly animated at 6 or 7ish o’clock. I drank the minimum entry requirement of two $10 drinks, smoked a couple of cigarettes and gave a Marlboro Light to one of the B Team strippers who was there that early. Then I left for the abovementioned shenanigans on The Strip. This time, roughly, oh, I dunno, 1am, after walking in and quickly nursing a Scotch and Coke, I was rapidly set upon by Francesca: a breathtaking brunette in her early 30s with Italian blood and fabulous breasts. I paid $100US for 15 minutes’ alone time with her. Details aside, it was the best experience I’ve ever had with a stripper, even though I baulked at paying an extra hundred for even more private sneaky sexual happenings. Blissfully and drunkenly ignorant of the fact that I’d left both my bank card and license at the strip club, I stumbled deliriously across the road, and finally to bed.
The next part of my notes are interesting, as they were apparently written while for “three days now I’ve been slowly dying from a sadistic head cold in the Treme-Lafitte, America’s oldest black neighbourhood, north of the French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana. But the show must go on.” Even now, many months later, I can remember that I really had felt not far off death as these scribbles were placed upon their notepad, and I probably should have seen a doctor. But, obviously, I survived. And as far as you know I’m still in Vegas. So, where were we? Oh: “I checked out The Strip’s older yet equally gauche sister – Downtown Vegas – on Saturday.” I was a little weary after the previous night’s sampling of that mythical American Dream. But the show certainly did in broad baking desert daylight go on. At this point in writing, it occurs to me that I had almost completely stopped taking note of philosophical ruminations while in Vegas. The reason is simple: Vegas is not a very philosophical place. If my introspections had in any way been spiritual, then they had no place in Vegas – which is so devoid of spirit it’s tragic. Back to the present journey. After retrieving my licence and bank card from the strip club – and checking my bank account to ensure it’d not been cleaned out by some fucking fraudster – I took a roundabout route from South Las Vegas Boulevard to Downtown, through East St Louis Ave then up the South Maryland Parkway. This trajectory took me past very low-set, colourful and eclectically-styled suburban homes. It was so dry and full of tropical trees and suburban-lower-middle-class it was reminiscent of Los Angeles. Northward of Maryland, I came across one of Vegas’ few parks. This being a Saturday, the park was of course open. But it was interesting to note that it was and is never open Monday to Thursday. I laid in the park awhile, pondering the US’s often bewildering ways – such as generally not open parks – and caught up on some reading. After a burrito from a shop in an area that was so Hispanic it might as well have been Mexico, I was immediately confronted upon entering Downtown with groups of striking hospitality employees. Also, when I reached the intersection of Fremont Street and North Las Vegas Boulevard, I could see apparently purposeless scaffolding heralding the entrance to the Fremont Mall. While crossing into the mall and past the scaffolding I was shocked by the reason for it: four people whizzed into the mall’s shade over my head from behind me, suspended from wires I hadn’t noticed and to more scaffolding which received them about a quarter-mile north-west into the mall. Crazy. Downtown felt like a more condensed, out-of-date and focused on gambling, drinking and eating area of Vegas. It was raw, stripped back and unashamedly trashy. Vegas, ’70s-style. I wandered through it, out of it, past the Main Street Station Casino Brewery and Hotel, doubled back, had a coffee, cigarette then headed back south to the Todd Motor Motel along the Boulevard. Thoroughly unimpressed though not regretful, during this last leg of the day’s journey I noticed an older man stumbling toward me. He wanted to know where the strip was. I enjoyed the sick pleasure of telling him he was on the South Las Vegas Boulevard; but that The Strip itself began at least one mile back much further south in the direction from which he’d come. He, too, was clearly recovering from a big night. I didn’t hold it against him. We even chatted a bit. He didn’t try to steal my wallet. He was alright, that guy.