HOW TO ACT LIKE A KID BUT BE TREATED LIKE AN ADULT
“On ne peut désirer ce qu’on ne connaît pas.”
You cannot desire what you do not know.
PHOTOGRAPHED BY: ERIK HALE
Anticipation can easily exceed reality, and it often does.
The idea of almost any travel destination and the hope of what might be causes me great joy. I have always loved leaving my house. If you tell me we are going somewhere or doing something, I get extremely excited. I will start to imagine what it will be like, what I will do. I create a virtual reality of the trip, and that version of me that is vacationing is always having an amazing time.
Positive thinking and emotive projection has not always served me well. I can plan the most amazing trip, making sure to check every detail, rechecking dates, reading reviews and checking photo galleries. I set my expectations so high that when even the smallest thing goes wrong, my mental fabrication begins to unwind, and the fun begins to ooze out from between the seams. Very few things, much less vacations, can ever hold up to the scrutiny of my expectations.
Las Vegas has ALWAYS been this way for me.
I remember my first trip to Las Vegas very well. I was 16 years old and feeling very grown up. My parents suggested Las Vegas for a family vacation. I am sure they told us what every parent tells their kid (and themselves) when they reveal that their summer vacation plans involve the world’s largest adult playground. “There is so much for kids to do there, ” they say enthusiastically. Then they pause as anyone searching for a rational explanation in this argument would do before coming up with, “There’s a pool, and Circus Circus has a lot of games. We can check out the Hoover Dam and they have amazing buffets.” My 14-year-old brother was impressed; he had bought their sales pitch. I didn’t buy it, but that didn’t matter. The only thing I heard was that I was going to Vegas. This would be my coming of age party. They actually thought I was old enough for Vegas! I was so pumped. I bragged to all of my friends, got a haircut, talked my mom into some new Nikes and readied for adulthood. I was smiling for the entire five-hour drive. When we saw the lights approaching, I slipped into a euphoric coma.
Let me tell you how that trip went. I ate a late night $1.99 biscuits and gravy dinner at Gold Coast, took a picture in front of a million dollars at Binion’s and babysat my brother. I was chasing him across the threadbare red carpet, from game to game at Circus Circus, listening to the carnies spew lies about games of chance where we might win a fugly stuffed animal. Vegas. Blah.
FAST FORWARD 26 years. And several LAS VEGAS trips later.
I woke up to a cell phone “binging” so many times it had dropped off my nightstand and onto the floor. I leaned off the bed, picked it up and saw that I had 38 missed messages. There are only a handful of reasons to wake up to that many missed messages: when someone you know is in an accident, a week after you break up with a crazy girlfriend or when you get stuck in the black hole that is a GROUP TEXT.
“Noooooooooo, ” I bellowed. “Not a group text.” A friend of mine had moved to Australia and was planning a trip to the states to celebrate his 30th birthday and of course he wanted to meet in Vegas.
Certain things MUST happen in Vegas: your 21st birthday celebration, your 30th birthday, bachelorette parties and Nicolas Cage movies.
I scrolled through the growing list of texts. “I’m in, ” said one friend. “Me too, ” said the next, then similar echoed responses, then dumb jokes, then gentle razzing then dirty jokes and then, “I can’t go. Can someone take me off of this group text?”
“No!” came the in unison yet delayed response (over the course of an additional dozen or so texts). “You cannot leave a group text, sorry.” We were going for Memorial Day Weekend. Yes!
This trip would be different. I wasn’t going with my parents; I was going to meet up with my crazy group
of friends. There was no little brother to babysit; I was taking my girlfriend, and if I partied the way I planned to, she would have to babysit me. Just like when I was 16, I got a haircut and bought a new pair of shoes. This time we weren’t staying at the Circus Circus and I would not be eating $1.99 biscuits and gravy.
Time to find a hotel. I scrolled through the usual suspects and all of the usual apps.
NOPE. NOPE. MAYBE.
Then I landed on something new. I checked the photos, rolled over, showed my girlfriend, and she flipped. “We are staying there?” she almost screamed. I reconfirmed to make sure everything was correct and then pushed OK.
And with that, my old friend, “Anticipation” sauntered into my head.
We were going to Vegas, and we were staying at The Cromwell, a remarkably beautiful stone, recently set in the center of the Crown on the Las Vegas Strip. No more ugly red carpets and uncomfortable beds.
I was going to be LIVING THE LIFE I deserved…at least for the weekend.
The drive into Las Vegas is always fun for me. I let my friend, “Anticipation” take the wheel, raise my hands and scream “Vegas!” every 40 miles or so. The miles always fly by on this end of the journey. The conversation between my girlfriend and I is frenetic. We talk about what we will do, where we have to go
and relive tales of trips in the past. I am pretty sure the trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas takes about 45 minutes. I might be a little off on my estimate, but that’s how fast it seems. By contrast, I once sat in the backseat of a truck on a trip home from Vegas that took approximately three and a half days.
Our excitement grew as we crested the last hill and saw the city outline. It continued as we passed billboards, resorts and other cars (we were
flying along in the fast lane).
We were here. THE CROMWELL was gorgeous. Everything about it was sexy. The windows were framed by black Parisian-style awnings. The windows of GIADA DE LAURENTIIS’ new restaurant reflected the sun into our eyes, which caused us both to look up. What was that? Perched precariously atop The Cromwell was the glass lined, palm tree topped, sparkling, three story mega club, Drai’s.
This weekend was going to be amazing!
We entered the lobby and looked for the front desk, which wasn’t the typical experience you would expect. We were greeted warmly and directed to a lobby desk. This was check in? The man behind the counter stood up, shook our hand and offered us a seat. Behind him sat beautifully detailed dark wood cabinetry filled with volumes of books. They gave us our room number, called over more staff and escorted us to our room—one of only 188 rooms and suites.
We exited the elevator, made aware of the fresh selection of teas and coffees every morning available on every floor, and made our way down the dimly lit hallway, towards our room. This was more of a Parisian apartment, with its luxe, buttoned-down leather couch, distressed coffee-colored plank floors, black and white mini subway tiles (spelling out French-English quotes), amazing surrealistic photos by Deborah Anderson and as I stop to look out the window; the Eiffel Tower (or at least a pale imitation of one).
So far my expectations were WINNING.
It looked like we would be staying on the strip
literally but not figuratively. We had somehow been transported. I was in a room that I didn’t want to leave. But we did. Just a quick two hours to allow my girlfriend to primp in front of the in-room showgirl makeup mirror and we were out the door. Wow, that was fast.
I left the room with the intent of regularly uttering one of my TOP FIVE SENTENCES.
“Just charge it to the room.” It was like having a mini American Express Black Card.
“First spot we hit it was the liquor store, I finally got all that alcohol I can’t afford…”
—Sublime, April 29, 1992
As we stepped into the 40, 000-square-foot casino, the doorman guarding the elevators said, “Hello, Mr. Hale.”
“Shit.” I looked over my shoulder fast. My dad had come after all.
No dad back there. He was talking to me. I composed myself and said something like “Good Day to you sir.” What a dork.
The lobby was full. What surprised me most was that the number of people in bathing suits headed for the rooftop of Drai’s Beach Club far exceeded the number of people there to gamble. I liked this. Gambling was something better done at night in my opinion. It was 107 degrees out, there was a rooftop pool (on the Las Vegas Strip) and some famous person pushing buttons—errr—DJ-ing to a crowd of thousands, splashing about in pools and downing cold cocktails. Gambling could wait.
We rode the elevator to the top floor (using the fast pass line since we were hotel guests) and exited into a hallway that led out to an amazing site. We were on the second floor of the day club looking down on everything, the frolicking in the pool, the DJ, the four- story tall perfectly placed palm trees and out onto the strip 11 stories below. Jaw-dropping for sure. Victor Drai had taken time to consider how every detail would be perceived by the guest. He had designed this club it seemed, first and foremost, to put the club goers’ jaws directly onto the sparkling white floors. The entry alone was Instagram worthy.
We were lucky enough to score a cabana on the far side of the pool. When I say cabana, I don’t mean a palapa covering a hammock like you might find in the Dominican Republic. I mean a luxurious indoor/outdoor condo replete with flat screen TV, private bathroom with shower, misters, comfy couches, optional mini pools and bottle service. We posted up, ordered a few bottles and did what most every couple does nowadays when they arrive some place cool. We took a selfie. Or was it an ussie? When we looked at the photo, we realized we had just been photo-bombed by a couple thousand people!
THE WORST THING IN THE WORLD?
Losing your friends in Vegas.
THE BEST THING IN THE WORLD?
Finding your friends in Vegas.
Here they came. All 11-teen-thousand of them. It was like being kindly crushed by a stampede of high-five waving animals. My first bottle of vodka was finished before I gave the last of my friends a hug. The music was blaring, shirts were off and more vodka was on the way. This was going to be fun.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENED NEXT? YOU DON’T? WANT ME TO TELL YOU? I’m not sure I recall the critical details. I would love to share more, but there are rules about sharing these secrets. I will make a list for you though; a list you can try on your next trip to the desert.