Does anybody really know what time it is?
Does anybody really care?
It’s 4 a.m., or maybe 5, and the waitress has just delivered another free cocktail in between plays at the craps table and my flirting with a tall blonde from the North County part of San Diego whom I have nicknamed, enthusiastically and somewhat creatively, ‘North County.’
This is Las Vegas, and The Bartender is on a roll. Literally.
This is Las Vegas, and I’ve been drinking since late afternoon, have had a beer in exactly six locations during the day and have yet begun to fight. So what if I don’t wake up the next day until well past noon? What am I going to miss? It’s all going to be there whenever I return. Besides, there’s something cool about ordering a drink at 5 in the morning in a place still buzzing with activity.
To be sure, The Bartender is far better suited to be at a bar than a gaming table. In fact, the only time I could be considered a high roller is when I hit a string of 10s at the craps table.
But there’s something very James Bond-ish about downing a few beers with the beautiful crowd at, say, the Hard Rock Cafe, then slipping down to the tables for some gambling.
Yet what is really intriguing about this place is the simple fact that it’s Las Vegas. Just the sound of the place makes one feel an obligation to cut loose. “Hey, we’re in Vegas” is the calling card heard ‘round the city. It’s almost as if your parents, the boss or some other authoritative figure aren’t watching, like you are getting away with something behind someone’s back.
The constant availability of alcohol, and the ease at which is obtained, is remarkable. Pick a time, pick a place and go there. Beer is waiting.
Because of its fairy-tale existence, Vegas attracts an interesting crowd. The classic gold-chained guidos are still here, walking blindly past what has to be the world’s geekiest tourists. Sloppy rednecks co-exist among well-dressed movie executives. Does this place really exist? Am I really here?
I keep pinching myself to confirm my reality. (Or could it be North County doing the pinching?)
I recall, some years ago, consulting a Vegas veteran prior to my first visit on what I might find in the way of entertainment. The friend, a fairly well-known retired professional athlete, responded, “Man, you can get anything you want in Vegas.”
Asked to clarify, he simply repeated himself: “Anything.”
Within a few hours of my inaugural arrival, I undersood. I was being given a lift to a place called the Shark Club by a sharp-looking “working girl” who spent the trip telling me of her many professional skills. When I politely rejected her offers, she ejected me at the club, but not before kissing my cheek. How many people can say they were given a free ride by a hooker?
Little has changed over the years, except that the Shark has swam away to deeper waters. Now, if they could just do something about all those cigars.