Fuzzy Memories of Neon

by Steve Ginter

My "Vegas experience" began Thursday afternoon. I hopped a short flight at 5:35 bound for the lovely city of Cleveland, Ohio. The flight was without incident, but when I arrived in Cleveland I was dismayed to discover that my connecting flight to Vegas had been delayed. A half-hour delay stretched into an hour, then two, then more. Apparently, the plane meant to take me to Vegas was stuck in Newark on account of bad weather. I was supposed to arrive in Vegas at 9:02 PM, giving me plenty of time to get to the hotel and attend the dinner reception which was running until midnight. I landed at 10:50, and by the time I got my luggage, rented the car, and got to the hotel, it was 12:15. Still, it wasn't a total loss, because as I walked into the hotel's spacious lobby I saw about a dozen people clustered next to a bank of slot machines, talking. I recognized Kenn Cavness (and was very hurt that he didn't recognize me), so we hooked up, and we proceeded to the casino where we commandeered a blackjack table and commenced to gamble away our first-borns. I gave up after a while and Bill Garrett invited me along to watch him play the "other" tables (meaning the blackjack tables with the $25 and $50 minimum bets). It was morbidly fascinating, until I realized that any one of his hands represented my entire gambling budget for the trip. We all headed back to the hotel, and I fetched my luggage from the car and got to sleep about 3:30.

I awoke at about 8:45, at which point I called Drew's room. I woke him up (oops), and he said that he'd call me when he found out more, butfor now nothing was planned. I got dressed and headed down to the pool for an early morning swim. I got back up to my room, showered and got dressed, and waited for Drew to call me. It was after 10 when I gave up and went back down into the lobby, only to run into a whole crowd of Darkfriends. We went to breakfast, and afterwards went out to the pool area to try to find that singular bastion of depravity and wit, Mark Loy. We eventually located him and Deb poolside, and we all congregated beneath a vast awning in the middle of the pool deck, in a great circle of deck chairs, about 20 Darkfriends in all. We sat around and joked for several hours, and there was much depravity, debauchery, and mocking of the social institutions around us, during which time I realized that since it's impossible for a normal person to be that fucking funny, Jim Hill isn't entirely human. I went back into the hotel and ran into Maggie and David. The four of us (we three along with CD Skogsberg) went and grabbed some light food (at which point I discovered that my ATM card didn't work in the hotel's ATMs...great.). Afterwards we went back to the hotel to grab a quick nap and prepare for the reception and dinner. We had much alcohol, and then the food came and we all gorged ourselves. Hawk stole someone's (Chris Mullins?) cell phone and proceeded to call around the country trying to find Darkelf so she could administer a sound verbal thrashing. David Hemming regaled us all with tales of acid trips gone horribly awry ("You know, that's a very boring movie that you're watching there." "Dude, that's a microwave."). Drew whipped out his trusty gee-tar and played some tunes for us. Cassandra didn't show up as planned, and nobody knew her telephone number, so some of them commandeered a laptop and logged online to try to locate her there. That proved to be fruitless, but it all worked out when Cassie materialized towards the end of the dinner (which was about eleven, I think). We were kicked out of our meeting room at eleven (not that we were really using it anyway; most of us had taken to lounging in the halls, and we were told that there was an empty Keno room in the casino that we could use. Imagine a group of thirty-odd slightly tipsy Darkfriends milling through a crowded casino trying to find this room. We eventually did but it was entirely unsuited for our purposes (no place to put the candles and the establishment's management frowned upon live poultry or sharp knives within the casino itself), so we gave up and caught a late dinner. Trina Dykstra (who'd had entirely too much to drink that evening) finished eating and asked what we were doing now, and announced loudly that it was only midnight, and entirely too early to go to sleep yet. There was an audible thud five seconds later as she passed out and her head hit the table. Someone (Eric, I think) dragged her back to her room, and the rest of us started gambling (which was probably the hotel's plan all along, anyway). We all finally called it a night at about four.

I slept in Saturday until about nine, at which point I went and grabbed a quick breakfast at McDonald's (the hotel's restaurant had a very long line) and played blackjack for a few hours. I had made plans with Maggie and David and Kenn to go to Star Trek, the experience at the Las Vegas Hilton, and I was supposed to call their room and wake them up after noon. I wandered out onto the pool deck only to find them out there with about a dozen other Darkfriends. They left shortly thereafter, and I stayed for quite a while and spent my time listening to Jim Hill (who once again proved that he's the Devil's Spawn when it comes to making you laugh so hard your head hurts) and swimming. I fried my wristwatch in the pool (and I'm still upset about that too; I had that watch for years and I was very attached to it). I went backup to my room, got changed, and got back down to the pool deck to meet Maggie at 2, but she wasn't there. I was just about to give up at 2:30 when she strolled up. We went up to Drew's room where they were coordinating the evening's dinner and other random acts of wanton vileness, and we made plans with Leigh Butler to go to the Belaggio. Myself, Maggie, David, and Dennis Higbee went to get some lunch, then to the Hard Rock, and we were late in getting to the Bellagio. We couldn't find Leigh, so we phoned our hotel and rang her room, only to find her asleep. She was too tired, so we told her we'd see her at dinner and walked the strip for a few hours. We happened upon Ghirardelli's ice cream shoppe and treated ourselves to an "Earthquake" (eight scoops of ice cream, eight toppings, bananas, whipped cream, and cherries). It was very well built, but soon fell beneath the onslaught of our combined might (translation: we devoured it). Afterwards I sang an old Scottish drinking song for them and Maggie impressed us by tying cherry stems in knots with her tongue (ObQuote: "Stop, before I choke on this thing"). We got to Caesar's Palace and hooked up with the rest of the Darkfriend contingent. There was about an hour's wait, so we wandered the Forum for a while. There was an animatronic Battle of the Gods, complete with smoke, jets of flame, and fireworks (and a dragon bat throne), that was very well done. The massive Trojan Horse at the FAO Swartz was rather well done, but somehow I doubt that the real one had lights in it's mane and breathed smoke. All in all, the wait was about 2 and a half hours, but it was well worth it. We ate, we drank, and we definitely intimidated the other patrons and the wait staff when we told them that we needed sacrifices to appease the wrath of our dark master (and yes, the rumors of our waiter are true. He most definitely had Issues). We all staggered out of the restaurant and sacked and burned the FAO Swartz while waiting for our food to settle. Then we went on an Imax 3-D ride called "Race for Atlantis" and Mark and Deb Loy invited all of us back to their hotel room to watch the Matrix on TV, so we all piled into two cars (12 of us at that point, I think) and went back to our hotel. We watched the whole thing, alternating between raucous laughter and taking turns passing out from alcohol and sleep deprivation. I was all set to call it a night but Cassandra hadn't yet had the chance to gamble, so down to the casino we went (me, her, and Kenn). This woman was unreal. She's 18, just graduated High School, and here she is knocking back Mai-Tai's and tripling her stake at the tables. Hawk and Bill showed up towards the end. Hawk had won $800, so she spent part of it on a huge three-foot long bright purple stuffed penis, with a matching strap-on set of stuffed breasts. What she and Bill plan on doing with those, I don't _want_ to know. Kenn, Cassandra and I left the casino and saw that it was now light out, and decided that breakfast might be a prudent move at this point. After that it was about 7:30 AM so I crawled back to my hotel room shaking my head wondering what I was doing with these people and dead certain that I was going to go to Hell because of it.

I slept late on Sunday morning (go figure, I got to bed at 7:30), and I pried myself out of bed at 10. Cassandra was flying out at 11:15, so I showered, packed and threw my suitcase into the car, and then set out to find her. She wasn't on the pool deck (indeed, no Darkfriends were in evidence), and I thankfully just happened to run into her in the lobby. We ran up to Leigh's room because Cassie had left her pager there last night, and Leigh looked quite the worse for wear. Then we ran to the airport and I dropped her off at 11:05 (I hope she made it). I dropped my car off, checked my luggage, had some lunch at Burger King, and flew home.

I wasn't particularly looking forward to going to Vegas; the city itself with all it's attractions doesn't hold all that much interest for me, but I had a very good time because of the people that I met and hung out with. I think the next National Darkfriend Social in New Orleans was scrubbed when Mark Loy announced that he was going to have a NDFS for New Year's 2001. Cool. I'll definitely be there.