Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Here I Go, Ridin' Off Into The Sunset. Alone. Again...

Ok, I can't just leave you guys for two months with nothing, so I'm re-posting one of my favorite stories that took place a long time ago in a neighborhood not-too-far away. A lot of you have read or heard this before, but some of you may have missed it. Regardless, it's a favorite of mine, always brings a lot of laughs, and I think it's a good sendoff before I pull the plug for a couple of months. Enjoy!

I remember one Friday night back in the go-go days of the technology bubble of 1999. At the time, the four of us original gangsters were working together at Schwab, making decent money, huge bonuses, and day-trading our own accounts, thinking the party would never end. Between our own trades, Derek placed a few for clients, Ed W managed a team of eight brokers, I taught option trading classes to the rookies and did margin sellouts, and Eddie B was in charge of putting the hammer down on those clowns who exceeded their buying power. We were all pretty good at what we did and were rewarded generously every quarter for our hard work.

The cool thing about the quarterly bonuses was that they were paid on Fridays, thus guaranteeing an entire weekend of irresponsible behavior. Usually, ‘Bonus Friday’, for me, went like this—

1) Skip out of the office as soon as possible after the market closed.
2) Run down to the cigar store and pick up some fine stogies.
3) Meet up with the fellas at Aunt Chilada’s for happy hour.
4) Get drunk and stupid and hit on all the girlies we met.
5) After not scoring any love at happy hour, head over to the Highlighter with the fellas for lap dances and a little voluntary wealth redistribution.
6) Call it a night.

This particular time, the bonuses were so generous, that damn near every dude that worked at Schwab was at the strip club, so there were no good seats available, and getting four seats together was deemed a fruitless endeavor. So instead of dumping $300 or so, one Hamilton at a time, into the g-strings of chicks who only pretended to like us, we all took off and headed for the driving range.

It was late evening on a Friday night, and we were the only ones at the course besides the ranger and greens keepers. Derek was smart enough to make a quick stop and pick up (and sneak in) a cold twelve pack, and the four of us stood out there hitting golf balls, smoking cigars, drinking beer, and talking smack under the lights for about an hour when Eddie came up with the Best Idea Ever…

Hey, why don’t we road trip to Vegas tonight?

At first we all needed to be sold on the idea—we had no hotel reservations, it was already after 9:00 pm on Friday night, and we had to be back at work on Monday morning at 7:00 am. But we had plenty of money in our pockets and just enough alcohol in our systems to make it sound like a workable plan.

We agreed that in order to make it happen, we’d have to commit immediately. Of course, I was in. Ed was recently single again, and if the three of us went, Derek wouldn’t have anything to do for the rest of the weekend anyways, so he was in by default.

It. Was. On.

The plan was for everyone to run home, pack a bag, and then meet up at midnight at Ed W’s house since he lived in north Phoenix and was technically closer to Vegas than the rest of us.

Eddie B drew the short straw and had to drive, since 1) it was his idea, and 2) he was the only one with a four-door vehicle. He also went above and beyond and reserved us ONE room at the Westward Ho, because, according to him, nobody else would allow Saturday check-in.

We were on the road out of Phoenix before 1:00 am, and of course traffic was a breeze. Hell, we barely had to slow down to cross Hoover Dam.

Although we dozed most of the way up, we were wide awake and eager to Get Our Vegas On as soon as we saw the lights of the Strip glowing in the pre-dawn darkness.

Knowing we couldn’t get our room for several hours, and not wanting to sleep anyways, we decided to get our blackjack fix at the nearest available casino. But we’re not *total* degenerates, so we overruled Ed W and bypassed the Hacienda and the Railroad Pass and made our way to the Tropicana.

We managed to get a $5 shoe game all to ourselves, and spent the next five hours playing the blackjack combined with the WORST drinking game ever. The game was, if all four of us got a blackjack in the same shoe, during the shuffle we’d order a round of tequila and do a shot. If anyone got more than one blackjack, they had to do two shots.

At three to four shoes an hour, that’s a lotta tequila…

Eddie was breaking even, Derek lost his ass, and Ed and I were on fire, so we were the ones chugging the most booze. And it wasn’t the good stuff like Patron or Don Julio. Nope, straight up Jose Cuervo. At least they were kind enough to chill it first.

Finally, around 11:00 am or so, we decided to get out of there. I was up almost $400, as was Ed. Eddie B didn’t have too much damage to his bankroll, but since Derek was down a couple hundy and never had to double up on the shots, he was our designated driver. We ended up stumbling into the Riviera coffee shop, taking advantage of some sort of all-you-can-eat pancake deal, trying to absorb some of the alcohol.

After lunch we somehow made it across the strip and checked into our luxurious motel room there in the rear of the Westward Ho.

Eddie had arranged for two queens and a rollaway bed, but there were four of us, so we had a dilemma on our hands. We decided to settle it the old fashioned way and have a quick Rochambeau tournament. Rock-paper-scissors, baby. I beat Derek and Ed beat Eddie, so Eddie and Derek had to spoon up together on the one queen bed, then Ed’s rock crushed my scissors, so he got the other queen bed to himself and I ended up with the rollaway.

We got settled in, and as tired and drunk as I was, I was all for taking a quick two-or-three-hour nap before going back out, but the guys would have no part of it. It was to be a marathon weekend, and sleep wasn’t really a priority. So we headed out again.

Wanting to stay close and avoid driving, we walked up to the Stardust for more gambling and buffoonery. We played some dice for awhile, looked at some futures bets in the sports book, and ended up at another blackjack table for the balance of the afternoon, with the same brilliant drinking game going on.

It’s amazing how good the cocktail service is when you really don’t want to drink…

So we sat there, glued to our seats, playing blackjack for about seven hours straight. And at some point—as you may have already guessed—due to all the tequila and lack of sleep, the wheels came off.

No, I didn’t get sick or anything like that, but my position in the pack went from ‘Alpha Dog’ to ‘Giant Drunken House Pet That Will Do Anything We Tell Him To’.

The blackjacks kept coming, which meant that the tequila shots kept coming too, along with the required stupidity.

I remember at some point saying, just a little too loudly, that we "needed to see some titties", because we’d gotten shut out the night before, and the old-ass cocktail waitresses just weren’t cuttin’ it. Somebody in our group, thinking that it was probably a better idea to leave the casino on our own before getting thrown out, suggested that we head over to Déjà Vu and get some lappies and bed dances.

So we colored up, hit the cage, and caught a cab for the quick trip to Industrial, one step ahead of casino security.

I don’t know if we had to pay cover, had to pay the cab driver, or had to pay the bouncer—I was completely smashed by that point, barely able to walk. I remember one of my pals suggesting that I switch to bottled water, because by then I was just drinking whatever they put in front of me.

One of the favorite strip club traditions amongst my buddies is that we’ll always scout out the nastiest, skankiest chick in the joint, call her over, and buy a lap dance for one of the other guys, offering her a little extra cash if she makes the dance ‘extra special’ for the victim recipient. It’s always funniest to do it to Derek, since he will only get dances from blonde super-hotties, so it’s the highest of high comedy to find a chubby biker girl with bad teeth and too many tattoos and send her his way. That never gets old.

Of course, since I was no longer calling my own shots, Eddie thought it would be good entertainment to send me a dance from a gal who I swear looked just like Reggie Miller. They were even chanting “Reggie… Reggie…” as she was grinding on me.

I was beyond caring at that point, and the combination of Skank Ho and tequila had conspired to keep me far from turned on and I wasn’t really enjoying the experience. So instead, I was dropping gems like “Hey guys, next time could you do me a favor and arrange a dance from Cheryl Miller, instead? I prefer chicks…” or “Hey Reggie, would you rather sink a three in front of Spike or dunk on Shaq?” My buddies were laughing at my antics, but I think she finally snapped when she turned around and put her ass in my face and I said “Hey dudes, check it out—She has THREE brown eyes!!!”

Well kids, that’s where the story gets interesting.

She didn’t like that remark, so she thought she’d be funny and pressed her nasty smoked ham directly on my face, so I pushed her away. Well, she was off balance, and immediately knocked over a table full of drinks trying to right herself, cursing me the whole time and then she turned around to get all up in my grill. Two bouncer/security types came hustling over just about the time I stood up to back her off. Suddenly, everyone in the joint was watching me, thinking I was going to brawl with an NBA stripper.

But they pulled her away and one of the bouncer guys started getting on my case about how I should respect the ladies or some other such nonsense. I wasn’t in the mood for listening to that toad, so in my drunken state, I said “F*ck this—I’m going back to the hotel. My buddies were kind of in shock at the time and were sitting there looking at each other with the “What now?” look on their faces.

Not exactly coherent at the time, I didn’t realize that when I stood up, my denim shorts had dropped to my ankles, leaving my yellow and white Homer Simpson boxers glowing under the black lights for all to see.

I took one step towards the door, tripped over my shorts, and went down in a heap.

The bouncer types tried to help me up, but in my drunken state, I thought they were trying to tackle me or arrest me or something, so I broke free and sprinted for the door, stepping out of my shorts and leaving them laying on the floor behind me, with my buddies sitting there pissing their pants laughing.

I kept running, like Forrest Gump did that day after Jenny disappeared. But since I’m so out of shape, I only got about 75 yards down the street before I was winded. I could hear the bouncer guys yelling at me to come back, and Ed, Eddie, and Derek joining in the chorus too.

But I would have none of it.

Disregarding my pants, my buddies, and common sense, I caught my second wind and started trotting off down the street in the general direction of the Westward Ho. A taxicab came by and slowed down, obviously amazed by my awesome physique and fetching undershorts. I tried to get him to stop so I could catch a ride, but as soon as I got up to the drivers’ side door, he floored it and took off.

In a stunning coincidence that defies all odds and would probably never happen again in a million years, a big bald guy who was about my same size and age decided that it would be a good idea to rob a convenience store three blocks away at the exact same time that I was getting my last lapdance of the trip...

Taking a page from the drunken Mikey playbook, he too made his escape on foot. So now there were TWO big bald guys running the streets near Industrial, one was a criminal, the other was just a drunk with no pants on.

At the time, however, I had no idea that this was happening.

Suddenly, there were about a dozen cop cars speeding up and down the streets in that area, lights flashing, sirens wailing, doing the perp hunt. But the drunken paranoia I was experiencing said that they were obviously after me.

So when I heard a siren go off about a half block behind me, the only logical thing for me to do was turn down a side street and dive under a tour bus that was parked on the side of the road, skinning up my knees and elbows.

Yes folks—I’m living proof that loads of tequila is always helpful in the decision-making process.

Catching my breath, I thought I was free from everyone who was obviously chasing me. Of course, I was too far in the bag to realize that there was no way the bouncers at the strip club could’ve had the police there that fast, but in my state of mind, they were after me.

In fact, they wanted me so bad that they sent the K-9 unit! And I wasn’t under that damn bus for thirty seconds before I knew the jig was up.

Yep, that barking noise I heard was not somebody out taking the dog for an evening stroll, but Officer Fido coming to take a big bite out of my ass. About that time I figured it was time to stop living like a fugitive, turn myself in, and face the music for insulting the stripper and causing her to dump over a table full of drinks.

Fine—I’ll pay for the broken glass! Just call the damn dog off!, I heard myself yelling to anyone who would listen.

In a moment of clarity, I thought the response was a bit excessive, but I just chalked it up to all those times as a kid when my dad told me there was no crime in Vegas. Damn—the old man was right--These boys had their shiat wired!

I crawled out from under the bus, drunk, bleeding, cut up, hands in the air, contrite—basically a perfect candidate for the next episode of COPS. Of course, I wasn’t even 300 yards from the strip club, so in addition to three cop cars, several officers, and a police dog witnessing my finest hour, one of the bouncers was there, along with Derek and Ed, and finally I saw Eddie standing there holding my pants and talking to the officer in charge of this particular train wreck.

I, however, was the center of attention, standing there on the side of the road in my boxers, sporting a new set of matching bracelets.

In another lucky coincidence, the words “Suspect in custody” came across everyone’s radio just a minute or two later, lending a little bit of credibility to Eddie’s story that I was just a dumb paranoid drunk running away from the strip club and not an armed criminal. Everyone else, of course had a big laugh while I sheepishly just put my pants on, relieved that I wasn’t going to jail. At least not for armed robbery...

I did, however, get a stern talking to about public drunkenness and running from the cops, but they had bigger fish to fry, so I was free to go after only a few minutes once they realized I wasn’t much of a danger to anyone but myself and the occasional exotic dancer.

My boys, however, thought it was the Greatest Thing They’d Ever Witnessed, and gave me endless shiat about it as we made our way back to the hotel.

I took a long hot shower once we got back, and spent some quality time pulling the cinders out of my knees, elbows, and palms before crashing in the rollaway, hard. I also had a pretty good gash on my leg that in any other circumstance probably would’ve required stitches, but after all that, I was content to just bandage it up and go. I didn’t feel like retelling the story to a doctor at the Quick-Care center, so I went to bed.

My boys weren’t in nearly as bad of shape as I was, and spent the balance of the evening playing blackjack and craps there at the Ho.

The next morning, I was so hungover and stiff that I could barely move. I was miserable. The only bright spot of the visit was that I was up over $600 on Sunday morning, and we were headed back to Phoenix.

We checked out of the hotel, hobbled out to the parking lot, and poured ourselves into Eddie’s car before hitting the road. Breakfast consisted of bottled water, Advil, and McDonald’s drive-through. I slept all the way back home instead of listening to my boys feed me smack for four hours.

It was a very rough weekend, but one that I’ll never forget.

Of course, once we got back to the office on Monday morning, that story had made it around the entire building before 9:00 am. Walking around with a limp was all I could do to get people to feel sorry for me.

But chicks dig scars, and I still have one on my leg that serves as a reminder that you should never drink tequila all day long, never get a lapdance from a chick that looks like an NBA player, and never ever run from the cops in Vegas.

I'll see ya when I see ya...