Allow me to share a word with you that I coined back in August of 2001:
Dealbreaker: A vacation or journey with a friend that is so long, demanding, or epic in scope that you question whether you’ll still be friends with this person once the trip is over…
Now, imagine multiplying that Dealbreaker factor by eight people, adding in a Las Vegas coefficient, and raising it all to the Zillionth power… It was the first week of April 2003, and a brave fellowship set forth to get really wasted in the streets of Las Vegas. On the one-year anniversary of this trip, I’ve decided to share some of the highlights…
Thursday morning, approximately 10 am: Jeannette and I met up with the rest of the fellowship at SeaTac. Dave was weary after an all-nighter of Xbox, Julie arrived completely decaffeinated and lamenting the fact she had forgot to pack her lactaid, and Jace and Pete had spent the last two hours drinking margaritas in the airport bar. So far, so good…
As the plane was beginning to board, Dave decided it would be a good time to lay face down on a row of seats in the terminal. It was a full flight, and seats were filling up. Since Dave had neglected to get in line with the rest of us, he was among the very last to board the plane, and thus was forced to take a lone available seat several rows in front of us.
Normally, this seat wouldn’t be too bad, except Dave’s head now served as a target for wads of paper and airline peanuts for the next two hours of the flight. As the saying goes, it is all fun and games until someone loses an eye, or until Pete nails an air marshal with an errant wad of paper. (True story…) When the air marshal shot an angry glare in his direction, Pete adhered to the “drunken jackass school of etiquette” and challenged the guy to a fight. Fortunately, before a scene from Passenger 57 could be reenacted, a nearby flight attendant calmed tensions and informed us that the passenger Pete had chosen to antagonize was, indeed, an air marshal…
Since none of us were being detained by the FAA, we considered it a cause for celebration. Upon landing, we gathered our luggage and decided to take a limo from the airport to our hotel. The limo was fully stocked with alcohol, and naturally, we had to rectify that situation. In the fifteen minute drive to our hotel, the six of us liquidated every beer in the fridge and then began drinking whiskey and scotch directly out of the decanters. This probably goes without saying; moderation would not be the theme of this trip.
We were staying at the Sahara, probably a sweet hotel in 1965, but it simply lacked the pirate show, synthetic volcano or giant pyramid we’d come to expect in Vegas accommodations. However, this didn’t diminish Dave’s exuberance in the slightest, as he had never been in a casino before. In fact, he literally disappeared from the group for about 17 of the first 18 hours we were there. It was almost comical… The rest of us had at least a marginal interest in exploring the hotel, relaxing by the pool, and eating and sleeping. Not Dave, his first objective was to find a giant slot machine. When he located a ten-foot tall specimen, he pulled the handle and instantly won five dollars. Sadly, this initial stroke of luck would not last…
Friday Morning: Having little luck elsewhere in the casino, Dave and I decided to play something new, so we selected Pai-Gow poker. Thankfully, the table was empty and we figured it would be a good opportunity to learn the game. Unfortunately, our dealer, Bin, spoke only one word of English: “Ante.”
We’d turn over our hands, Bin would point at the cards, nod or shake her head, put on a sock-puppet show, basically anything to bridge the language gap and show us the proper way to arrange our hand. Needless to say, Pai-Gow soon became our game of choice.
Dave had some interesting logic when betting. After a few uneventful hands, he’d announce to me “Dude, this next hand is going to be a good one,” and he’d proceed to double his bet in anticipation of an unreal hand. Now, about half of the time, Dave would be dealt a winning hand and his premonition would pay off.
However, whenever he experienced a small losing streak, he would reach into his wallet, pull out $30, and announce with certainty that it’s “Time to win it all back!” In this scenario, Dave then bets it all on the next hand and unfailingly loses that as well. I watched him lose massive amounts of money quickly using this strategy, known henceforth as the “compounding losses method.”
Friday Afternoon: As is common in Vegas, our particular hotel had a roller coaster. The girls decided to do some shopping that afternoon, and so the dudes opted for some thrill seeking. The four of us stood in line behind a dozen 9-year old boys, waiting to buy tickets for the ride. While in line, Pete and Dave decided that a great deal could be had by purchasing the all-day ride pass instead of individual tickets.
Now, I am usually all about getting a volume discount with my purchase, but it seemed a little excessive to invoke this philosophy on roller coaster rides. When I objected, they attempted to explain the savings I would experience with the all-day pass instead of buying a massive allotment of individual tickets. I finally interrupted them and said, “Look, I understand the savings… I just don’t think we’re going to want to ride this low-budget roller coaster all afternoon.” Dave looked at me like it was Labor Day weekend and I was stonewalling an experience on the Gravitron.
So, I relented. We strapped on our “All-Day-Loser-Pass” bracelets, handed our beers to the ride operator, and proceeded to ride the roller coaster six times in succession. It was
kind of extremely pathetic. First off, the roller coaster was called “Speed: The Ride,” apparently attempting to capitalize on the movie franchise from 8 years ago. However, the ride itself had no overt tie-in with the movie. Instead, I think they merely arrived at the most unimaginative name they could think of, essentially settling for a name slightly better than “Fun: The Ride,” or “Eight Bucks: The Ride.”
Anyway, each time the ride would end, we’d race around the turnstiles to get back in line, jockeying for position with the other juveniles wearing the All-Day-Loser-Pass. Sadly, Julie and Jeannette met up with us later that afternoon, and witnessed us still wearing our wristbands. Granted, the girls had never thought of us as paragons of maturity to begin with, but I think they legitimately wondered if our evening plans would somehow include playing with Transformers or having a water balloon fight.
Friday night, approximately 2am: I had been in bed for about a half hour, when a phone call awoke me from my passed-out state. Thinking it was yet another prank call from Bailes, I answered the phone thusly:
Matt (picking up the phone): “Dammit, this better be life or death…”
Hotel Security Guard: “Sir, sorry to bother you, we’ve detained a Mr. Kyle McPherson. He claims to be a member of your party. Do you mind if we escort him up to your room?”
Matt: “Sure, send him up.”
Turns out Krusty had arrived in Vegas a day early, and had tried to contact each of us, but due to the fact that we were in Roaming Territory, none of us bothered to have our cell phones on. So, Krusty made the most of the situation, drinking and gambling for about six hours in the casino. Unfortunately, he was doing all of this without any identification. Eventually, hotel security apprehended him and here we are. As he told me his tale, he rummaged around my hotel room, picking up half empty, lukewarm beers and downing them between pauses in his story. He explained that Maleah would be driving up the next day, and until then, he needed a place to stay for the night.
Being the loyal friend that I am, I immediately sought a place to ditch him. Figuring the janitor’s closet would be locked this time of night, I needed to find the next best alternative. Picking up the phone, I knew just who to call…
Matt: “Hey Julie, how’s it goin’?”
Julie (groggily): “What do you want?” she began, “It’s 2 am!”
Matt: “Krusty arrived here early, he needs a place to sleep. I’m going to drop him off at your place to sleep in Dave’s bed.”
I detected a slight whimper on the other end of the phone, but I hung up before she could protest. Within ten seconds we were pounding on Julie’s door. Krusty greeted Julie with a massive, drunken bear hug and then flopped loudly on Dave’s bed. Julie let out a sigh, and I excused myself, thinking that although it would have meant getting the worst night of sleep in my life, I wish I could have witnessed the sheer hilarity of Dave and Krusty sharing a bed.
Saturday Afternoon: We took to the streets, doing a walking tour of the various hotels on the strip. If you’ve ever been to Vegas, you know that there is a cottage industry for people to stand on street corners and intrusively pass out pornographic advertisements for strippers and hookers to all passersby. Personally, I’m convinced they have the greatest job in the world.
Anyway, after enduring the porn-barrage for several blocks, Dave has an epiphany. He begins collecting the ads from a few individuals as we’re walking. Once he had a healthy stack of pamphlets, he proceeds to redistribute them aggressively back to the peddlers on the sidewalk. Sadly, Dave’s attempt at teaching the porn-pushers a lesson in the Golden Rule (“Distribute pornography to others, as you would like to receive it yourself…) didn’t stick.
How the sexes differ:
Dave and I had just finished one of our many gambling sessions and Julie could tell Dave had lost big. Now the girls on our trip spent very little time gambling, and when they did gamble it was via a nickel-slot machine. Not wanting to embarrass Dave, Julie walked over to me and privately asked me how much he had lost.
Matt (shrugging it off): “About $100 or so…”
Julie and Jeannette had a look of shock.
Julie (putting it in girl-perspective): “That’s like two outfits!”
Since Dave had been losing so much money lately, I decided I would extend a helping hand to allow him to recoup some of his losses. We were standing next to a large potted plant in the Mirage, and I fished out a medium-sized piece of bark from the planter.
Matt: “I’ll give you a dollar if you eat this.”
Dave: “Do I have to swallow it?”
Undeterred by this requirement, Dave snatched the bark from my hand, tossed it in his mouth and began pronounced chewing, occasionally opening his mouth to show us the progress he was making.
Krusty walked over, surveyed the scene, watched Dave struggle to swallow the bark, and offered the most classic quote of the entire trip:
Krusty (boasting) : “God, that’s nothing, I’ve eaten ass-loads of wood before.”
So, I paid him the dollar, he walked over to a slot machine and instantly won five dollars. True to form, he then proceeded to sit there and bet it until it was gone…
Saturday Evening: So, with all the free porn we were accumulating, I figured it wise to put it to good use. Julie had foolishly failed to lock down her personal belongings in some sort of safe or armored car. Sensing our opportunity, Krusty and I began stuffing the free porn we’d collected into every nook and cranny of her belongings. Throughout her purse, in the pockets of her clothes, stuffed into her shoes, and filed liberally amongst her study materials was a massive quantity of sleazy pornography. There was something especially satisfying about placing a topless picture of the stripper known as “Jade” in her Business Ethics book. With our handiwork complete, we left the scene praying that she’d get randomly searched by airport security the next morning… (no such luck.)
On a side note, Julie told me that as recently as a month ago, she was still finding pornography amongst her belongings. I had to smile with pride, because it’s rare that a practical joke has that kind of longevity.
For much of the trip, Maleah functioned as Krusty’s portable ATM and financial conscience. You see, Krusty knows how to live it up in Vegas. Drunken sailors marvel at his spending. However, usually on the hour, Krusty would find himself low on cash and immediately seek Maleah.
First, like any loan shark, she would ask the whereabouts of the last $40 she gave him. Knowing the routine, Krusty would recite 2 or 3 various legitimate expenses, (omitting the 20 or 30 frivolous ones) that he had responsibly spent some of the money on. Maleah would roll her eyes, knowing that the three dollars he spent on cab fare and a corndog was significantly dwarfed by the remainder spent on temporary tattoos and having the corndog bronzed into a necklace.
Cruelly, Maleah would ask what he intended to spend the money on. This was a trick question, as there was no possible right answer for Krusty to give. Everyone knows there isn’t a single responsible, worthwhile expenditure in Vegas; it’s like the entire city economy is based on the plot of Brewster’s Millions. (Personal note: Incorporating a reference to a Richard Pryor movie from 1985 is a landmark achievement.)
Eventually Maleah would relent, but as she fished money out of her purse, she would caution Krusty to “spend it wisely.” Of course, Krusty’s definition of conservative spending in Vegas meant that he shouldn’t “hit” on 20 in blackjack. With money in hand, Krusty would head towards the craps table to let it ride on “snake eyes,” while Maleah monitored his winnings, eager to perform the duties of a “repo-man” in case there were assets to be taken.
Saturday Night: Somehow, Pete always managed to be wearing a Mr. T-esque quantity of Mardi Gras beads wherever we went.
I’m pretty sure his daily morning routine went something like this:
1. Shower, get dressed.
2. Brush teeth.
3. Put on 14 strands of Mardi Gras beads.
Anyway, no matter where we went, he would proposition every female we passed with the opportunity to “earn some beads the hard way…” Being completely non-discriminatory, Pete solicited all walks of life, and was particularly insistent with the elderly. Essentially, walking the Strip with Pete was like participating in a never-ending skit from The Man Show.
Now, the entire trip was full of drunken mayhem, but Saturday night definitely will go down in infamy. I won’t go into all the details, mainly because I was too wasted to remember any of them. Anyway, we all stayed out until about three in the morning, and unfortunately had to get up at 6 am to catch a 9 am flight. There was one catch, daylight savings time kicked in that night, meaning we all lost a crucial hour of sleep. So, our three hours of sleep was reduced to two, on the most inopportune night possible. Up until that day, I don’t think I’d ever cursed the concept of daylight savings time.
Sunday Morning: Now, Jace happens to get a little uneasy during airline travel in general, and being extremely hung over with a bunch of jackassy friends doesn’t exactly help the situation. While most of us treat the flight attendants with as much respect as a substitute teacher, Jace is the type of nervous flyer that really takes the flight attendant warnings seriously and follows their instructions closely.
So, just to annoy Jace, Pete would make every attempt to do the exact opposite of whatever the pilot or flight attendant had instructed. His seat was always reclined, seatbelt unbuckled, and his tray was never in the upright, fastened position. During takeoff, he fired up every portable electronic device in his possession. I’m sure he would have disabled a smoking alarm had the opportunity presented itself. All of this behavior literally drove Jace nuts, and several times I witnessed him slugging Pete to make him comply with the flight attendant’s directions. (Moments like this are the genesis of the the term: Dealbreaker…)
Sunday Afternoon: Finally, consider this fair warning to all airline personnel, casino dealers, air marshals, limo drivers, elderly tourists, hotel security guards, roller coaster operators, pit bosses, street corner porn-peddlers, taxi drivers and the general public:
As we disembarked the plane, we said to each other, “We should do this again, real soon!…”