No two words in the English language, with the possible exception of “free sandwich” or perhaps “enthusiastic blowjob” bring a smile to my face like “Las Vegas.” I have always loved to gamble, and as a child, I mythologized the place to an almost unhealthy degree. Playing cards and shooting dice with the other toddlers was fun, but it could never compare to the glitz and glamour that embodied Las Vegas in my mind's eye. If it was the last thing I ever did, I had to see it for myself.

But the age of majority seemed so far away. I actually used to worry that by the time I reached 21, gambling might be declared illegal. Or worse, Vegas might be flattened by giant radioactive lobster creatures.

Well, neither of these things happened, and as soon as I could, I started polishing my skills at nearby Indian Casinos. I knew that one day, I would find myself in a casino with fewer reminders of systematic cultural oppression and more free booze.

And I'm happy to say that last year, I made my dreams a reality. Did it measure up to a set of impossibly high expectations, built up over a lifetime of watching and re-watching Paul Verhoeven's Showgirls? You're about to find out. They say that whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, but I'm about to break that embargo wide open.

Day 1

As the plane touched down, I was almost giddy with excitement. Some friends who arrived earlier had taken a limo to the strip, but I was happy enough on some kind of shuttle bus along with the Shady Pines Home for Elderly Stereotypes. Those guys really love to gamble. Sure, the bus smelled like Ben-Gay, but nothing could dampen my mood. I was on my way to The Imperial Palace.

Normally, I’m too refined to stay at a 3-star hotel, particularly one that was imagined and built by a group of retarded children who recently saw Mulan. But in Vegas, crazy architecture is the norm. The Imperial Palace, however, had other ways of offending my sensibilities. The first thing I saw as I approached the door was a giant sign for a so-called attraction that haunts my memory to this day.

They’re called “Dealertainers.” The casino marketing team probably thought that was a bit of clever word-smushing, but these abominations can’t deal, and wouldn’t entertain a group of stoned chimpanzees.

Perhaps you’ve played blackjack, and thought to yourself, “I would enjoy this experience a lot more if only my cards were dealt by, say, Tina Turner.” Well, such an experience can only be found at the Imperial Palace. Except that the dealer looks nothing like Tina Turner and has an Adam’s apple. Also, she has trouble counting to twenty-one.

And Tina Turner was the best of the lot. Elton John was just some normal dealer in oversized glasses, who probably wasn’t even gay. The Elvis dealer had a costume, but forgot to offer me insurance on his ace showing. Even an act as simple as the Blues Brothers was totally off. How hard would it be to find a couple of experienced dealers who look a bit like Belushi and Aykroyd, and stick ‘em in black suits and hats. Instead of Jake and Elwood, I got Ngongo and Toshihiro Blues.

After dropping about $50 with the Dealertainers, I decided to explore some of the other casinos, along with a friend. I noticed right away that every indoor surface in Vegas is thickly carpeted. And with all the metal slot machines, handrails, and stripper poles, there were static shocks aplenty. This would become a source of great amusement over the trip; one of us would build up an enormous charge, sneak up behind the other, and harness the power of science to deliver a hilarious shot of electrical pain.

But just like Spiderman said it would, having such an awesome superpower went to my head. I began to traverse the casino floor, proclaiming “Fear me, for I am mighty Zeus!” That shit might have fit right in at Caesar’s Palace, but it got me kicked the hell out of Treasure Island. I should have known better. Pirates fucking hate practical jokes.

Anyway, I made about $300 on a roulette table, so I thought I would treat my buddy to one of his Vegas dreams. I knew he wanted to visit that shooting range where you can fire a machine gun. Sadly, however, my hippie instincts took over, and suggested to me that a machine gun range was not the place to be when you’ve been spending the day drinking free casino booze. Rambo fantasies would have to wait for another day. We hit the buffet instead.

As a rule, I despise buffets. Yes, you can gorge yourself if you so choose, but your dignity takes a palpable hit. I was trying to live out a high-roller fantasy, and that’s hard to do while you’re toting a tray of heat-lamp food across a crowded dining hall, trying to get around an enormous woman in a flowered mu-mu. This particular buffet was not altogether horrible. I didn’t find any human fingers in my sloppy joe, which is more than some people can say.

After dinner, I signed up for a Texas Hold ‘Em tournament and got knocked out pretty fast. This was kind of upsetting, since I was accustomed to treating my local games as a second source of steady income. I guess in retrospect, I shouldn’t have stood up and danced the cabbage patch every time I was dealt pocket pairs.

I needed to redeem myself, but not at the continued expense of my bankroll. With that in mind, we headed for a lobby bar that was having a karaoke contest. I figured the people of Las Vegas would not be prepared for the levels of rock I was about to assault them with. Unfortunately, the screen that was supposed to provide the words decided that it would much rather hear “Karma Chameleon” than the song I actually chose, although it didn’t bother to inform the DJ.

We rounded out the night hopping from casino bar to casino bar, playing just enough video poker to keep the drinks coming. All in all, it was an inauspicious start to the vacation, but I knew I had all kinds of crazy adventures still to look forward to.

Day 2

I got up at the crack of dawn for a non-celebrity blackjack session prior to breakfast. Later, several of us met up for some grub, which we washed down with a few breakfast beers. It was going to be that kind of day. Some of us took off to see a Cirque Du Soleil show. In spite of my gruff demeanor and criminal record, I do have a childlike sense of whimsy. That might surprise you. But the thought of paying top dollar to watch dudes in leotards climb ropes is somewhat off-putting to me.

Instead, some of us decided to take in as many crappy free shows as we could find. First we took in the very impressive Bellagio fountain, then, the Treasure Island Pirate Show, which featured music that could not have been worse if it grew arms and started stabbing you. Then there was some kind of animatronic mythology thing at Caesar’s Palace that sent me into paroxysms of delight. These robots could talk, swing swords, and shoot fucking fire. That’s the kind of robot that should be installed at Chuck E. Cheese instead of a god damn banjo-playing octopus.

With our gambling and entertainment needs temporarily satisfied, we decided it was time to take in a bit of culture. That was the plan, anyway. Where we actually ended up was the Las Vegas Hilton, home to The Star Trek Experience. I know the ladies out there love guys with fake pointy ears and powerful armpit odor, but I couldn’t really get into the whole experience. People dressed as aliens and cyborgs kept approaching me, and I was never entirely sure if they worked for the exhibit or not. For my own amusement, I did everything I could think of to make them break character. For the record, Klingon women don’t like it when you grab their tits and yell “Khaaaaaaaan!”

Later that evening, we ventured up into the older, seedier part of the strip, where the opulence of the themed casinos gives way to long-time favorites like Slots of Fun, Westward Ho’s, and Circus Circus. The walk over there was a real eye-opener. I never realized how easy it is to be a pimp. You don’t need zebra-print clothes, feathered hats, and diamond-topped canes. All you need is a bunch of pornographic business cards and the ability to repeatedly flick them against your hand as tourists walk by.

I realize that Las Vegas is a buyer’s market and all, but this approach is pretty crass, even for prostitution. You’ll never find a hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold (and a chest to match) on a damn brochure. On the other hand, free porn! We collected as many as we could and later wallpapered a friend’s room with them. Not sure how his fiancée felt about that.

The older casinos might be a bit run down, but they had some crazy shit going on. Westward Ho’s had a group of unspeakably hot girls out front, wearing very little and giving shoeshines. Are you reading this, Home Depot? Because that is quite frankly the best marketing ploy in the history of the universe. My shoes have never been so shiny. I cheerfully dropped some money into a slot machine, just to thank the casino. When I won some back, I had trouble convincing a casino official that I was actually attempting to make a donation.

We found a place that sold Heinekens for a dollar, as well as frozen margaritas served in yard-long tubes. So, after some more heroic drinking, we set out for the hotel, pausing only to take a piss on the golden statues of Siegfried and Roy. I don’t know much about voodoo, but I like to think that somehow, we were responsible for one of them getting eaten by a tiger, months later.

Day 3

Again, I was up earlier than my friends, so I killed some time on the slot machines. Some of the ones I saw were pretty fucked up. Every single game show, board game, sitcom, or cartoon seemed to have a slot machine based on it. And there’s no thrill quite like lining up three Ellie Mae Clampetts in a row for a big win. But the best slot machine I saw was called “Crazy Chef,” and featured a picture of an Asian that was so racist, I could almost hear it saying “Ah so… prease pray me.”

The last day of my Vegas adventure was one filled with conflict. I nearly got into a fight with a flailing retard, and then I was molested by a fucking mime. Both of these incidents have been described in earlier columns, as Essential New Words of the Week.

Thankfully, however, I was able to spend my last day living the fantasy I’d been chasing my whole life. I fit in as much drinking, gambling, and womanizing as I possibly could. We had a gourmet Italian meal at the Venetian which I’m pretty sure gave me an orgasm right there at the table. Life couldn’t get any better.

In summary, I encountered a whole lot of weird stuff in Las Vegas. I saw two guys eating someone’s discarded room service food. I had a street hustler investigate my family tree and wish me a happy Hanukkah. I even sat next to an incontinent woman on my plane ride home. But the bottom line is, I enjoyed every minute of it. The whole experience lived up to my expectations and then some. I’m probably going to take another flight out there in the near future, and when I do, rest assured I’ll be ready for it this time.

Essential New Word of the Week:

goach \’go? \ n: An individual who is habitually flatulent, particularly after the consumption of a specific food. The world of gastrointestinal biology has given the English language many fun slang words. But while there are many words for farts, there are precious few for their progenitors. All that changed during one memorable fishing trip. Nobody had caught anything, so I was surprised to pull the first fish out of the lake. Unfortunately, it was some kind of gross bottom-dweller that gave off an unimaginable stench. The foreign guy driving the boat informed us that it was a “gochi,” which I admit I’d never heard of. But I did notice that it smelled almost exactly like one of my friends approximately one hour after eating some dumplings. We lopped off the final “i,” and he became known as a goach from then on. And let me assure you, he put the “dump” in “dumplings.”