Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sixteen – Leaving Las Vegas

As the sun ducked behind the buildings it was still hot, so the party continued. Clouds gathered and light rain began to fall but that’s not really an issue at a pool party. What is a problem, is lightning. A fork crackled across the sky, we cheered, but the party poopers decided that lightning and a thousand people in a pool was a bad combination. They cleared the pool with only a light resistance, promising to continue the party once everyone was clear of the water. But the storm grew more intense and within a few moments everyone was running for cover. Well, they ran for the casino, most people didn’t bother putting on any cover!
After Tiesto and Rehab I was knackered. But this is Vegas, you can’t just have a quiet night in. So I looked around the HRH and found the duelling pianos were on again, but with 3 different performers to last night. (The 3rd person means they can rotate off for a break without stopping the fun). People came and went. There were only ten to twenty people in the bar, but being Vegas we made a lot of noise. It also meant we felt part of the performance, being heckled for making obscure requests, and encouraged to join the singing or dancing. Songs ranged from “Ice, Ice, Baby”, the ubiquitous “Sweet Home Alabama” to Barry Manilow. Though Barry was only used to encourage us to come forth with more requests!
I’m refreshed by 3 dollar cans of Budweiser (Happy 4th July!) brought by a blonde waitress called Britney (Of course!) and when “Lucky Lee” announces that it’s approaching their 2am finish I’m stunned to realise five hours have passed! We end the night with everyone singing “Don’t stop Believing” and I stagger off to bed wondering what happened to my quiet Sunday night.
Monday is 4th July. There’s another pool party going on, but it’s a smaller version of yesterday’s. All the same music but less atmosphere. I swim around some of the other pools and pass a guy who looks like an aging rock star and is urging the lifeguard to get some Van Halen on the speakers.
I find a hot tub and chat to a couple of middle aged guys about Vegas. One mentions that he spotted Sammy Hagar, and the other guy is awestruck.
So that’s who he was! Now if I could just remember which bands Sammy Hagar was in…. possibly Van Halen, but didn’t they have David Lee Roth singing?
The guys go to talk to Sammy and his entourage, and I lounge around. Sammy’s shouting random celebrity names at passing people, and I smile as it reminds me of the QM2 where Neil and Aidan had celebrity lookalikes for most people we met.
As “Ross Perot” swims past me I pass Sammy to be greeted with a shout of “Joe Satriani!”. I stop to talk to Middle Aged Guy No.1 who points out yet another gorgeous brunette.
“She’s going to be on the cover of the new Chickenfoot album”
Ah yes. Sammy was the singer with Van Halen after DLR. He recently formed Chickenfoot with Joe Satriani on guitar.
Sammy comes over and we talk about why there aren’t more bands with a saxophonist, given the edge it gives a rock band. We share a thought for the passing of the great Clarence Clemons, then Sammy’s off playing Rock Star with other people’s girlfriends, and they don’t seem to mind.
(I shoulda learned, to play the guitar…)
Monday night and I’m ready for a quiet one, having been in a bar every night since San Fransisco!
But its 4th July in Vegas, so I really can’t stay in.
Only a fool would walk the mile from the HRH to the strip in 90 degree heat, and its unusually humid tonight. So as I saunter down the street trying not to sweat I’m wondering where the fireworks are. It turns out I’m not the only one wondering this. When I reach the strip I can barely move for people. There’s thousands of them lining the sidewalks, gazing expectantly skywards. From the general hubbub it seemed nobody knew if there’d be a display, they were just hoping or assuming.
9pm had just passed and the Bellagio fountains were swishing around across the street. It was hard to judge over the hundreds of heads but I reckon the Mirage Volcano was better.
Didn’t I mention it last time? As I staggered back from the Western bar on Friday night I happened to reach the Mirage at bang on midnight. Tribal drums bang and bong, accompanied by wailing voices. Flame spits into the air, building to a crescendo with the almighty volcano eruption. It aint Tiesto, but it beats Pirates vs Sirens into a three pointed hat.
Back to Monday, and I found a rock band playing covers in planet hollywood. Fitting with the bizarre coincidences on this trip I arrived as they were playing Van Halen’s “Jump”. Unfortunately they then took a break, so I headed off to New York.
NY NY have their own duelling pianos show, purportedly the best on the strip. I arrived to find them playing “Sweet Home Alabama” and realised I didn’t fancy another night of similar requests. So I found the Coyote Ugly bar and was impressed when the doorman wished me an early happy birthday! (One week to go!)
Inside there was a lively atmosphere. The bar’s based on the movie, so picture waitresses on tables, soda hoses being used to spray the customers etc. There’s also plenty of stuff that wasn’t in the movie!
I’ve stuff to do in the morning so I drag myself away from the craziness after midnight and head back to find the rock band are on another break. Dammit!
Still it gives me chance to talk to a cute blonde girl from San Diego (who’s too young for me) and her mum (who’s too old for me) and I get some free blackberries!
The band finally show up and play some hard rock. I think they were called Red Light Vegas, though I’d be careful googling that! My mate Sammy H pops in to encourage the band. He’s involved in the Cabo Wabo bar next door.
The band finish with a rousing rendition of, of course, “Don’t Stop Believing” and it’s bedtime. But not til after one last gawp at some of the memorabilia in the HRH. There’s Tom Morello’s guitar, and Christina Aguilera’s chaps. It’s annoying being off the strip, and there don’t seem to be as many things to do as most hotels, but the décor at the HRH is in a different league. Also, where others have muzak and the incessant racket of the slot machines, the Hard Rock has a never-ending string of great rock songs issuing from speakers at a reasonable volume. It’s been a great place to stay.
Following the inertia principle, I’m loathe to hit the road again. Perhaps I should just stay in Vegas for 2 more weeks?
But I should see San Diego, I’ll probably get bored of Vegas (?) and I’ve a new toy waiting at the airport.
After six weeks of faithful service I’m abandoning my Toyota. We’ve come through a lot together, but I can no longer bear to be part of the “car as a utility” collective. A car should make you say “wow” whether that’s by driving it or simply looking at it. To achieve both I’ve booked a Chevrolet Camaro
6.3 litres, 400bhp, sod-all mpg
But this means another game of “Doing the mess-around”. Deep breath…
Take Hertz car to Avis return. Park outside on meter to avoid getting trapped.
Big Queue, argument about satellite radio, finally get Avis booked and back to Hertz car just in time to beat the meter.
Take Hertz car into Avis lot, attempt to get a Camry’s worth of stuff into a Camaro convertible. (quart into half-pint pot!)
Off to return Camry to Hertz, with time running out, then realise I’m supposed to return full so dash to petrol station. Pump wants to know my zip code! “Oh for the love of Pete!” Cross to other petrol station, fill car, back to Hertz, drop off car, wave goodbye. Back to Avis.
I then head out across the desert, where it’s raining! It’s a straight road with a lot of hold-ups so time to play with my new toys. I’ve a Heads Up Display, and a satellite radio with killer speakers means I can roll down the highway listening to country music.
In need of a rest and to do some Laundry I stop early and contemplate how I’m ever going to make boot space so I can actually drop the roof of my convertible.
Well I didn’t get where I am today by doing things the easy way!
…and where I am, is Barstow, in the middle of the Mojave Desert.

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