Goddamn Vegas, man.
Nothing – nothing – is real in that place. The Venetian Hotel has an interior roof painted to look like the twilight sky, and gondolas weave down canals filled with water of the kind of deep and rich blue that you see in children’s storybooks (See Spot Run Into Trouble At The Beach, Courtesy Of BP). The air is gusted with perfume to disguise the stench of cigarette smoke and when my body started craving salad (little did the poor chump know that a roadside Arby’s was soon to prove its nemesis), the closest I could get was a sole lettuce leaf alongside a turkey wrap that was not a colour I will ever believe could be found in nature. Unless it was the colour of Mother Nature puking after a night on absinthe and green chartreuse. That, I could believe.
But it’s not as if we went to Vegas for the authenticity.
We came for the prostitutes.
I mean, the gambling.
Very quickly, we discovered that the gaming floor of the Venetian at twelve in the morning showcased Zara and I’s different approaches to testing our luck. My belief has always and will always be that when you hit a streak, you gotta ride it out until either you go bust or complimentary drinks start raining from the sky. Zara, by far the more level-headed, decided that as soon as she was ahead, she was going to cash out. Also, she wore her pajamas.
Armed with our $25 in complimentary chips, we hit the slots.
Once you are in, man, there is no respite. Constant light and noise bounce off the deep red carpet, the high ceilings, the endless ranks of grim-faced gamblers who surge in to try to break the poker tables. I think this is what disconcerted me – no one here actually appeared to be having fun. They just sit and push the buttons and feed ever more money into the deep black cash slots, or determinedly place their bets on red again for another spin of the wheel.
I would have been more upset that the Sopranos slot machine was out of commission and the Elvis machine wouldn’t take our complimentary credit but I was frankly too distracted by the old lady with the oxygen tank and an ashtray feeding quarters into a slot machine.
Zara, by dint of playing carefully and luckily, ended up $16.20 and cashed out immediately.
I ended up $15 ahead and did not.
Very quickly, I subsequently found myself $0 ahead.
I think the lesson here is that if I had have spent more money, I surely would have won millions.
I have learned everything I know about cards from Bond films, which is that every single card game in the world falls into the following three steps:
3. Have a bunch of sex.
4. Kill some guys.
And while that would have been fun, something told me that wasn’t exactly how things would go down, and so we left the casino floor to go back to our room and prepare for the following day.
We headed out of Vegas in what the GPS told us was a Coloradan direction the next morning. An hour into the trip, as we hit the straight of the long, long highway, the truck ahead of us blew a tyre and veered crazily across and off the road. Immediately, another truck behind us pulled over to offer assistance, while the hood of the first truck sprang and smashed into its front window. Tiny dust and rocks caromed off our car as the truck threw up earth by the side of the road before coming to rest.
Whoever and wherever you are, man, I hope your luck was as good as Zara’s.