Darkfriends in the City that Greed Built:
Bill Garrett's Trip Log

On or about Saturday, October 24, 1998

The Wheel of Time turns, and when you're sick to your stomach, the whole damn world seems to spin around with it. And ages coming and passing? Well, when you're sick as a dog, sometimes the passing of an hour seems to take an eternity. Saturday, October 24 was one of those days for me. But it was a red-letter day in the annals of rasfwrj. That was when the National DFS in Las Vegas really began.

You might argue that the NDFS started way before that. The idea had been discussed on rasfwrj as far back as 1994. We talked about it several times, but nothing ever happened. The discussions never got past the bare concept stage. Plenty of people are willing to talk about what a DFS should be, few are willing to contribute more effort than banging on their keyboards to make it a reality.

On this particular Saturday, four of us -- me, Hawk, Darkelf, and Drew -- were sitting in my living room after a local DFS, talking about getting folks from around the country to come to one big DFS. We were all excited about the idea, but it looked like this discussion might bear only as much fruit as the previous ones... until Drew boldly stated, "I will make sure this happens. I will do all the work myself, if necessary." And that's when the NDFS really got started.

Tuesday, July 27, 1999

Tuesday wasn't the Beginning, for the Beginning was 9 months earlier, as I just explained. But this was a beginning. And wouldn't it make sense if at least one of these beginnings began with some people actually arriving in Las Vegas?

Hawk, Chris Mullins, and I tooled into Las Vegas on Tuesday 7/27 after spending the previous several days visiting Zion National Park a few hours away in Utah. As befits all this pseudo-mythological mumbo jumbo about memories and legends and myths and the beginning versus a beginning, this beginning began with a wind. The wind gusted across the desert basin surrounding Las Vegas, sending against us dust storms that whipsawed our car back and forth across the lanes on the highway. But the wind wasn't even the beginning of our travel troubles, for previously on the trip we faced down death in many of its disguises. Despite the near-death experiences of almost spinning out and crashing at 75 mph, racing thunderstorms out of slot canyons on foot, and getting beaten by towering frozen dairy concoctions, we arrived little worse for the wear.

How does one celebrate taunting death and living to taunt it a second time? One stuffs one's face full of food, one does. So Tuesday evening the three of us gnoshed at the Golden Nugget's dinner buffet. After that we headed out for some gambling at the Nugget and other casinos in the downtown area. Chris wasn't much into gambling, so he bailed and went back to sleep it off (engaging in pitched battle against a towering frozen dairy concoction was hard work) while Hawk and I stayed out late playing the blackjack tables.

Wednesday, July 28, 1999

I awoke a bit before the crack of noon on Wednesday, suffering from the first of several mild hangovers the Vegas trip would bring me. Wednesday afternoon we went down to the Strip to gamble. Hawk and I ended up at Treasure Island while Chris tried a ride-film theater at Caesar's Forum.

John Novak, John and Annette Dilick, and Kenn Cavness arrived sometime around dinnertime, so the bunch of us headed to the Nugget's buffet for a group dinner. $10.25 for all you can shove into your face. I waved my player's card, and the seven of us got to use the VIP line and cut in front of approximately 100 little old ladies waiting to be seated.

After dinner I invited everyone to witness my blackjack playing prowess. Novak was the only one to take me up on it, so he alone watched me lose $400 in 30 minutes. Lady Luck is a fickle bitch.

Later in the evening we collected Jim Hill and Tshen and headed out to the Strip to see the evening displays. The Mirage has an exploding volcano. The Treasure Island has pirates attacking a ship. The Venetian has colorful gondolas plying the waters of canals. What will be the themed entertainment at the soon-to-open Paris Hotel.... Nightly invasions by Germans? Soldiers goose-stepping through the scale replica of the Arc de Triomphe?

Of course, we didn't see any of these displays. We were too busy tromping through one casino after another, doing god knows what, although things do become clearer after reading Jim Hill's description of the pointless promenade being a plot to prevent me from plopping down money at the blackjack tables. Alas, every genius is surrounded by a confederacy of dunces.

Novak took the early lead for highest return on gambling. He dropped 50 cents into a slot machine and won $2.50. I tossed in 3 nickels and lost them all.

Much later in the evening -- about the time good, god-fearing people have been asleep for several hours and I was just beginning to contemplate going to bed -- Drew arrived and wanted to hang out with everyone. Those of us who were still awake accompanied him to the coffee house at the Horseshoe, one of the few downtown eateries open at 3am. Drew ordered a steak and potato dinner for $3. Thor got a fruit fantasy. I got a hot fudge sundae hidden beneath a gallon of whipped cream. Other people ordered other stuff.

Thursday, July 29, 1999

Thursday morning reached my consciousness after too few hours of sleep, bringing with it the second of many mild hangovers for me. A bunch of us decided to head down to the Treasure Island for round 2 of Let's Not Let Bill Gamble. Fuck 'em. We splintered into smaller groups and went our own directions. Hawk, Dave Hemming, Thor, and I ate lunch at the buffet and then headed for the blackjack tables. Novak and the rest of the "We don't like to gamble, why don't we hold the next DFS in a city with more bookstores" contingent went off to do something else. Like play slots. Which isn't gambling. Unless dropping your money in a locked box belonging to someone else can be called gambling.

Thursday evening was our cocktail party reception. Most people were in town by that point, and the bunch of us had fun mingling and drinking in a room overlooking the pool. Lots of funny things were said. I'll have to defer to the Grand High Geek, Jim "For the First Time" Hill, to remember them. He was scribbling them all into his Palm Pilot.

I think we went out to the Horseshoe after the party. I was having no luck there. The dealers couldn't have beat me worse if they'd had sticks. Oh, well. "Lady Luck must've been a wonderful gal; she never was a friend of mine." At least the only money the 'Shoe got from me was the Treasure Island's. At that point I felt like a sneakernet for exchanging money between casinos.

Friday, July 30, 1999

Friday morning, another mild hangover, crack of noon, etc. I dragged Chad, Thor, and Nathan down to the Strip to gamble at the Bellagio. I won a few hundred bucks and started bragging to the guys about it. They came over to watch me play, and I lost it all back. Fuckin' whore, that Lady Luck. At least the Bellagio is a beautiful place with a friendly staff. It makes losing a few hundred bucks an almost agreeable proposition.

We came back in time for dinner. We were in the same room as the previous night, with largely the same cast of characters. So forgive me if the two nights blur together in my memory. The blurring has nothing to do with all the Long Island Iced Teas I was drinking, I assure you.

Drew dressed up for dinner but made the mistake of looking like a waiter. With his black slacks, pressed white shirt, and clipboard in hand, he was the butt of jokes from many people trying to order food from him. Drew lost it when Nathan barked, "Some wine, boy." He fled back to his room to change into casual attire.

Just after dinner, Drew made his second mistake of embarrassing proportions by taking out his guitar. As he sat down at the front of the room and began to play, someone placed a coffee cup at his feet and dropped a few coins in it. A few other people did the same. Then people started tossing money in his open guitar case. Shouts of "Freebird!" were lobbed repeatedly at him from one table.

Drew either got embarrassed by all this, or decided he'd raked in enough of a profit, because he gave up playing. Dave Hemming, Jim Hill, and John Dilick at the back of the room raised a bunch of cigarette lighters to call for an encore. John Novak showed his disappointment with the shortened concert by going back to the guitar case to withdraw some change from his previous donation.

The group got up from their dinner tables and resumed mingling in the room and out in the hallway. Eric Milota picked up Drew's guitar and offered to play while Drew sang. He began "Hotel California" and I joined in. We had fun, but Don Henley and Glenn Frey we ain't. Next we tried "House of the Rising Sun." The lyrics are very dependent on phrasing, and we had a hell of a time staying in sync. Drew was probably secretly wishing the whole time that I'd shut up and go away.

Later in the evening Hawk borrowed Chris's cell phone to make prank calls around the US. She made several attempts to call Darkelf and taunt him about not coming to the DFS, but he was never home. Or so his sister said. The dim imp was probably hiding in the bathroom, or something. So we left rude messages with his sister. "Tell your brother he's a lame ass uncle-fucker!" I shouted when someone else was holding the phone. I just hope that was actually during the call to Darkelf's house, and not the call to Judy Ghirardelli.

{Darkelf later told us his sister left him the message, "Some of your friends called." Dammit, doesn't anyone understand that sometimes when you leave a rude message you mean for it to be delivered word for word?}

The catering staff got pretty sick of us by about 11. Lucky for them our contract for the room was over by then. The group broke up and I went back to the Bellagio to try to win back some of winnings I lost there earlier in the day. Leigh Butler and Sydo Zandstra went with me. That gambling session went well, and I left with an extra few hundred bucks in my pocket. Just as we were going out the front door to catch a cab ride home, I reached into my pocket to make sure I still had my room key and I found another chip. "Wot's this?" I asked. Hoo-ah! Another black chip! It seems I was playing 'possum with myself. Oh dear, you know it's a good night when you're feeling great before noticing that you missed an extra $100 on your first count. I won so much I was nearly out of the red.

Saturday, July 31, 1999

Saturday was my day of revenge against that bitch Lady Luck. I grabbed her by the scruff of the neck and had my way with her three times: first for $125 in 10 minutes at the Four Queens, then for $500 in 30 minutes at the Horseshoe, and finally for $400 in an hour at the Venetian. With that streak I recouped all my losses and then some. By the time dinner rolled around I was up several hundred dollars on the whole trip. I was floating on cloud 9, what with several stiff drinks in my stomach (the Big V makes a mean L.I. Tea) and enough money in my pocket to buy a small third-world nation.

Drew was trying to herd everyone in for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory at Caesar's Forum. Oh, yeah, let's try to get a table for 20 on a busy Saturday night with no reservations. Eight of us defected to Bertolini's and had an excellent Italian repast with minimal waiting required. After an enjoyable and relaxing dinner, we wandered back to the other side of the Forum to find the others still waiting for a table at the Cheesecake Factory. They, at least, had the rousing hourly entertainment of the King of Atlantis, complete with animatronic actors, thrones on elevator pedestals, fountains of flame, and a very convincingly lifelike dragon throne. Alaric (I think) remarked that kids today are very spoiled by getting entertainment such as this, compared to what we late duogenarians enjoyed while growing up. "Yeah," I said, "kids today have great stuff like this. We had Howdy Fuckin' Doody."

After dinner Hawk and I dragged Thor off to a sex toys store to fulfill his wife's shopping list. I won't comment on what Thor bought, but I will reiterate that Hawk and I emerged proud owners of a 3 foot long stuffed purple penis and a large, pillowy pair of stuffed purple breasts. We can now make one *HELL* of a scary Barney costume next Halloween....

Leaving the profane toys prominently displayed on the back seat of the car, we headed back to the north end of the Strip to go another round with Lady Luck. Circus Circus was crowded as all hell, so we tried Slots o' Fun, which was also crowded as all hell, and was dumpy enough to make the CC look like the Bellagio. We crossed over to the Riviera, where I found that Lady Luck had a couple of ruffian brothers who didn't take kindly to the way I'd treated their sister the day before. They, with the help of bad cards and my willingness to keep pulling out c-notes to prolong my punishment, beat me for $700 there. At another table, Hawk won almost as much as I lost. I guess I had a monopoly on the bad luck. I could have sworn I heard her dealer say something like, "Another blackjack for you, madam. Your third in a row! Will you be needing a tray to carry all those black chips?"

Well, it seems Lady Luck and I have a love-hate relationship. She must have felt sorry for me getting roughed up by her brothers at the Riviera; she was back to being my lovepuppy when we crossed the street to the Stardust. She was still with Hawk, too, so I guess you could say we had a threesome of fortune going. Hawk and I each withdrew several hundred dollars from the House of Ziggy. After that we went back to the Treasure Island, where I won another $100 and Hawk lost about $200.

Dawn arrived as we got back to the Nugget. Before going upstairs to sleep, though, we decided to walk over to the Horseshoe to see if Steve Ginter was still playing. He was, along with Kenn. We made fun of their gambling habits and whacked them each a few times with the 3 foot long purple shlong. (Yes, we walked through town with a grossly oversized sex toy at 5:30 in the morning. Why is your jaw hanging down like that? This is Vegas. Stuff like that is normal.) Then we went to bed.

Sunday, August 1, 1999

Sometime Sunday morning an earthquake hit Las Vegas. I awoke to a feeling of being shaken, figured it was just the throbbing of my hangover inchoate, and went back to sleep for another few hours. When I got up and started loading the car for the drive home, I bumped into a few DFs in the lobby and said goodbye. I wish I could have seen more people one last time before we all bailed out of town, but alas, it's amazing how screwed up one's schedule gets when one only gets to bed at 6am.

Before leaving the City That Greed Built, Hawk and I stopped at the Bellagio for lunch. Hawk had wanted to make a quickie at McDonald's instead but I wanted to take advantage of the comped meal for 2 the Big B had given me. We went to their cafe expecting it to be a dinky little coffee shop and were pleasantly surprised to find it an elegantly decorated restaurant overlooking a sprawling pool area so perfect it looked like a shot from a James Bond movie set at a Mediterranean resort. She ordered a chicken salad and I ordered a plate of ribs. Each meal was the best of its kind we've ever eaten, and would have cost many times the amount of equal sustenance from McDonald's had we actually had to pay for it. The tip alone was about as much as the trip to McDonald's would have cost. So we had a James Bond lunch on a George Jefferson budget. And we got to skip past the long line of plebeians queued up to get in because we were VIPs. God, I love the Bellagio. Now if only their rooms weren't so expensive.... Of course, because I'm such a VIP there I can get them for a mere $100 midweek, $140 weekends.

It was a fun time! I'm looking forward to the next one.

Bill Garrett
Copyright 1999