It’s a Thursday, for what it’s worth, and
I’m knackered. A big week in Vancouver and the emotional toll of making new
friends and leaving them has me drained. I need to go somewhere quiet and
The flight is uneventful, and I’m swiftly
in a taxi and at my hotel. I step out of the taxi to the sounds of Springsteen
“you can’t start a fire without a spark”
…and I know I chose the right place to
It’s good to be back at the Hard Rock
Hotel. The girl on the desk doesn’t welcome me back this time, but she does put
me in a suite. I’d ticked the box for a cheap upgrade if any suites were unsold
and ended up with a corner suite. It’s huge, has a vast bathroom with an epic
bath, and not just a 42 inch TV, but two! I plug my ipod into the sound system
and crank AC/DC’s Sin City.
I can’t take it easy in Vegas.
On the way I check out the displays of rock
memorabilia. There’s one for a girl called Orianthi. I’ve never heard of her
but she’s on the cover of Rock Guitar magazine, and playing a gig tonight at
the HRH so I buy a ticket.
I head for the Pink Taco and a Sabana de
Pollo. It’s as decent as I remember. The lady next to me isn’t very chatty, but
the guy on the other side is. His name is Danny. He’s from Huntington Beach,
California, but he has an English girlfriend from Shrewsbury, so seems excited
to talk to another English person.
I join him for another drink at the new “Culinary
Dropout” restaurant bar, then he goes to gamble while I go to the gig.
Sadly my timing is way off. I catch the
last two songs of the support band Future Vilains, and they’re really good!
D’oh! Then I have to hang around waiting for Orianthi, double d’oh!
Eventually she starts and, well, I’m not
convinced. To me she looks like Christina Aguilera trying to be Jimmy Hendrix.
She’s technically very good, but I wouldn’t call it Rock and Roll. Where’s the
venom? Where’s the passion?
Other people seem to like it, so I leave
them to it and go look for Danny. He’s propping up a blackjack table and making
the most of the complimentary drinks. Though by the time he’s tipped the
waitress they’re not that complimentary.
Danny explains the secret of how to win at
BlackJack. Bet ten bucks. If you win, leave fifteen on, if you lose three in a
Er, yeah, sure, that makes up for playing a
game designed so the house always wins. No thanks.
Danny keeps winning while I stand there,
and it looks temptingly easy as the players invite me to join in. But this is
one of those occasions where being cynical is good.
But Danny’s off to the loo, and is
trusting/drunk enough to ask me to watch his chips, and play while he’s away.
It’s a mug’s game, but I still get a slight
buzz from at least having a go at something new.
I follow Danny’s three strikes rule and
stop losing his money. He returns from the bathroom, doesn’t seem surprised
I’ve lost three, doesn’t want his thirty bucks back, and proceeds to lose the
rest of his three hundred dollars.
They built this city (not on Rock and Roll)
but on games like this???!!!!! There really is one born every minute.
I point out that if we’re going to blow
money in Vegas we might as well blow it on getting drunk, listening to loud
music, and failing to chat-up attractive girls, so we head to a club.
But first we’re stopped by a skinny black
lady named Lianna, who is apparently a masseuse, and is very keen that we take
her upstairs so she can show how good a masseuse she is, but I decline.
“I already had a massage at the airport before
my flight. I’m still quite loose, thanks”
Lianna gives me an odd look. She obviously
takes her massaging very seriously.
The club is much more fun and me and Danny
have a great time, until Danny gets too drunk and wants to fight people. I
start to distance myself from him, I don’t want to be thrown out. I hope the
bouncers can’t see us.
Then Danny decides he wants to fight me.
I hope the bouncers can see us!
But it’s just talk, he’s wasted.
I’m pretty tired too, and it’s the weekend
tomorrow!!! Time for bed.
Exhaustion, hangover, and no “Do not
disturb sign” in my room are a bad combination. There’s not even a notepad to
make one. I yell at the persistent maids until I think to have reception bring
a sign up.
Eventually I stagger out to the pool, and
my hangover is quickly forgotten.
Oh, the Hard Rock Hotel pool. How I’ve
It’s a beautiful place, more like a beach
than a hotel pool. With exotic plants and trees, music blasting, beautiful
people, beautiful landscapes …and no fricking kids!!
I swim around for a bit. Soak in the hot
tub. Then find a rare luxury: an unoccupied Lounger.
There’s a girl about my age on the next
lounger sunbathing alone. I ask her how it’s going but she doesn’t say much.
Think of something, think of something…
…If she’s almost my age, she’s long since
stopped being a girl…
No. Think of something useful!!
Think of something, think of something…
“I hear Prince is playing here tonight, do
you know anything about it?”
“Yeah, my boyfriend runs up for Prince”
comes the reply.
Wow. With one short sentence she’s
destroyed any hopes of hanging out, created a likelihood that I can learn a lot
about the show, and confused the hell out of me.
What the hell does “runs up” mean? He makes
dresses? Climbs hills? Comes in second place at every contest Prince enters?
Instead of asking that, I ask about the
show. It seems Prince is indeed performing, but the tickets are 250 a pop. Now
as a fan of music, I respect Prince’s achievements, and would like to see him
perform, but I don’t particularly like his own songs, so 250 is ridiculous.
Speaking of value, I head to Mr Lucky’s
diner for dinner. It’s rubbish. The service is slow, the décor is plain, but it
has one thing going for it: The Gambler’s Special. Not on the menu, but a big
salad, shrimps, steak and spuds for 7.77 is a bargain in Vegas, especially at
Afterwards I wander into the trendy clothes
shop, but the assistants tell me where to go.
They’re more interested in my night out
than selling me anything and suggest I head downtown. This is a good idea, I’ve
been meaning to go and see Fremont street since Ben recommended it last time.
I hop in a taxi, and only 25 bucks later(!)
I’m under the giant LED canopy. There’s some bloke blaring a saxophone, people
dressed as all sorts of celebrities and a real buzz about the place. It’s less
dressy than the strip. The strip tends to be a mix of everything from shorts
and sandals to suits and shiny shoes. Here there’s no suits, just happy people.
There’s lots of live music. I find a
fantastically energetic band playing covers of chart hits, with a guy and a
girl taking turns on the vocals. There’s an outdoor corner bar to watch the
action from so I can rest my weary bones and thoroughly enjoy the show.
Eventually they take a break for the
lightshow. It’s pretty impressive. The canopy is huge and there’s a live Bon Jovi
video playing through the masses of speakers. All kinds of spaceships blast
around overhead, the Battlestar Galactica flying past the Enterprise, Klingon’s
dueling with Thunderbirds and Cylons.
Somehow I make it back to the hotel at a
respectable hour and get some sleep.
Saturday. Rejuvenated I head out to the
pool again. After a soak and a swim I nip to the gym for a long overdue
workout, though it means running on a treadmill, yawn!
Back to the pool and I meet an hispanic guy
who’s celebrating his 22nd birthday with a group of mates. He tells
me I look 25, until I take my cap off.
It’s a nice day at the pool, a good warm-up
for tomorrow’s insanity - anyone who read RTW1 should remember what Sunday at
the HRH pool means.
But it’s Saturday night. Where to eat?
I can’t believe I’ve been travelling for,
what, 48 days? ..and not been in one Hooters Bar!
I taxi to the Hooters casino and head for
the bar. There’s an epic queue for tables, but I get a spot at the bar. People
who misunderstand the appeal of Hooters should see that queue. It’s Saturday
night in Vegas. There’s plenty of places where you can go and eat and stare at
girls wearing a lot less than the Hooters waitresses. Yet here’s a huge queue
of men, women, couples and families waiting to get in.
Of course the barflies are good for a
conversation. The guy next to me is from South Dakota, but seems to have a kid
in every state. He always stays here when visiting Vegas and seems confused
that I’d want to stay elsewhere.
Strengthened by my Philly Cheese Steak I do
the epic casino trek. Through MGM Grand, across to New York, New York, and down
to Planet Hollywood. Red Light Vegas recently ended their residency here, but
I’m pleased to find a band called Evenflow playing. They’re extremely good, and
throw in some heavier songs with the usual uninspired requests.
“No, we’re not playing Journey!”
Two years on and people still want the same
song?! Sixty years of rock and roll and that’s the best song you can think of?!
Being “Evenflow” they can knock out some
impressive Pearl Jam, and the guitarist is particularly impressive, playing
behind his head at every opportunity. There’s some drunken tall guy next to me.
Keeps mumbling things but I’m not sure what. A small blonde woman arrives with
a bloke, both looking a bit worse for wear – but then it is a Saturday night in
Vegas. She introduces herself as Jen, and Andy is leaning on the bar.
“Does my head look alright?” she asks.
“Er, eh? You mean your hair?”
“er, yeah, sure, they both look fine”
“erm, I’d say Hair down, head up”
This gets me a free beer from Jen and is
enough to convince drunken tall bloke that we’re a match made in heaven.
“Why aren’t you dancing with her?”
“Because that’s her husband!” I explain,
for the fourth time.
Suddenly everyone wants to find me a woman.
Jen is asking ladies politely, Andy is drunkenly yelling at them, and Tally
McPissed is insisting that me and Jen are the perfect couple.
“There’s nobody here right for you” says
“I know. Thanks. But the music’s great
I really wish she’d stop and leave me alone
to enjoy the…
“Hang on. She’s gorgeous!”
“The white girl in the black dress with the
black girl in the white dress” I answer, monochromatically.
Yeah, right. Like a gorgeous,
early-twenties, brunette is going to respond to the “my friend fancies you!”
level of chat-up lines and come over.
At least it’s keeping Jen busy so I can
“Your friend thinks I’m a prostitute”
“Does she?” I reply. Given the scenario,
Jen has a point. But Monique explains that she works in “Promotions” so that
clears up any possible doubt. And she’s French.
“Vraiment?” I ask, hoping that’s a French
“Oui, Parlez-Vous Francais?”
Somehow I manage to babble in French for a
while without accusing her dog of smoking hosepipes and she’s smiling at me. I
switch back to English.
“Why is your friend wearing a Tiara?”
Of course it is. Now I can’t really buy
Monique a drink and ignore her mate, but what the hell, I haven’t been blowing
my money on blackjack.
Her friend comes over and says “Adios”
“I need to see their IDs”
“Oh. I don’t have my ID”. Says Monique.
“Here’s my club wristband from earlier”
Her mate doesn’t have ID either.
“We’ll nip home and get them” says Monique.
And so ends one of the weirdest encounters
of both trips. I watched the band for another hour and a half. They were very
good until the end, though they did of course play “Don’t stop believing”. They
finished with “Enter Sandman” by which time Jen and Andy had left, and I’d
found myself someone to dance with.
Monique didn’t return, so I’ll never know
whether she was just a nice, forgetful woman with a penchant for older English
As you know by now, Rehab is an ironic
name. So a late night with evenflow wasn’t the best preparation. Luckily the
queue was short at 1pm:
“We’re having a lull, but it’ll soon get
busy again…and we go on til 7pm”
I passed the security check, stepped out
into the bright sunshine and took in the sight that greeted me.
How can you possibly improve on perfection?
Sunshine, drinks, beautiful happy people dancing, jumping and splashing to loud
It’s madness in the pool. Balls are flying
everywhere. Some are being kept aloft through impromptu volleyball games, most
are being launched at anyone not looking.
I exhale as one hits me in the face,
knocking my cap off.
“I’m really sorry!” apologises my extremely
attractive, bikini clad attacker, and gives me a big hug.
Awesome. Forget opening lines. Just smack
‘em in the face with a beachball!
And so went the next six hours. I didn’t
even drink. Just splashed in the pool and danced like a fool.
I love rehab. It’s all the fun of a
nightclub without the pretension. Instead of prancing about on high heels in
tonnes of make-up, the girls let loose. The guys are still prancing about
showing off their muscles, but there’s plenty of chubby, pastey, old, bald, or
crazy guys just having fun.
As one of the more direct song lyrics puts
“This is f**king awesome!”
There’s just one disappointment. The
dueling piano show no longer happens at the HRH. This is a real bummer for me.
After a day’s partying it was the perfect way to spend the evening last time. There’s
no point going clubbing again, and leaving the hotel seems like hard work. I
eat in the Pink Taco again, and for once get a free drink by gambling the
minimum on the bar machine.
Stick a fork in me, I’m done.
Monday. Last day in Vegas. One last chance
to enjoy the glorious pool. I meet some guys who are going to ride Harleys for
a week, then see Santana and some other bands in Vegas. Sounds awesome.
There’s a man desperately searching the
pool for his wedding ring, egged on by his wife. Poor sod.
I somehow manage a workout, though I don’t
last long. Gym’s are boring at the best of times, but with the sun shining and
the pool calling me back..
There’s still some beachballs knocking
around. After rescuing a ball a couple of times I’m invited to join in a game.
There’s a very intense dude keeping count and insisting we can keep the ball up
for 50 hits. (Well, yeah, if we all stand together and make small hits dude…)
We reach 95 and I think he’s going to
explode with joy.
Tattoos on girls are getting more popular
and larger. One girl has two angel wings and a devil tail all over her back.
She’s talking to some pretty boy.
“Do you know what it symbolizes?” she asks
She pulls a face and asks me.
“Yeah, sure. It’s the duality of your
personality. As a Gemini you have two distinct sides to your character, pulling
you in different directions…”
Her face lights up, glad to be validated by
a clearly intelligent human being. Then she returns to talking to the good
As the sun’s beginning to set I find a nice
spot to take in the last hour. But I’m dragged into yet another game of
volleyball. This one’s great fun. No intense dude. The circle is widely spread,
the ball goes high, and there’s great delight in the extremes people go to in
keeping the ball aloft.
Full stretch dives are the norm.
Re-emerging to cries of “again!” as the ball falls back on the spluttering
hero. Even those who are not playing are joining in, with “celebrity shots”
from the sun loungers rescuing our ball and keeping the dream alive. Every
rescue is greeted with a cheer, none more so than when a wayward shot is
returned by the lifeguard from her high chair.
Sadly our numbers eventually dwindle as
people have to leave. I rescue my shirt and towel, and as I leave the pool area
I take one last look around.
If I ever came into a fortune I wouldn’t
buy a big house. I’d rent a suite here.
…and a second one so you can come and