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Posts Tagged ‘las vegas’

I am honored today to present a guest post by the inimitable Sarah Von of yes and yes. If you don’t already read her site, you absolutely must check it out: she’s one of those gutsy, inspiring total badasses who we all dream of being, and every time I read a post, I leave absolutely grinning (even on these blah rainy New England days). Check out Sarah’s NTKOG experiment in my hometown — it’ll leave you shooting your beverage (not rancid fruity vodka, I hope) out your nose.

Also, if you’re craving a little TKOG, today I’m posting at Secret Society of List Addicts (another of Sarah’s projects!) about how to put down the wine spritzer and shake up cocktails like a big boy or girl.

NTKOG: who enjoys a) fruit flavored liquor b) attracting the attention of everyone in the bar

I am: the girl who frequents tiny, hole-in-the-wall bars where I can be ignored while I nurse my vodka gimlet, thankyouverymuch.

I am not: a fan of theme bars, sports bars, watching alcohol-related spectacles or being a spectacle myself.

The Scene: The BFF and I were in Las Vegas, escaping the icy clutches of winter for a three-day weekend, eating our weight in buffets and attending ridiculous, vampire-themed Vegas shows.  We had grand plans to meet up with an old friend from our hometown who’d been living in Vegas for nearly ten years. “Where would you like to meet, old friend?  What sort of awesome, locals-only watering hole would you suggest?”  “Why, how about this quaint little place called Kahunaville?” he responded.

Now, it is not a stretch to say that Kahunaville?  It was probably my arch-nemesis bar.  I could not have created, from scratch, a bar that appalled me more.  It was as though someone had reached into my brain and read my list of Things That I Never, Ever Want to See in a Bar.  Things like:
1) Flat screen TVs broadcasting a football game
2) Waitresses wearing skimpy Hawaiian outfits, handing out flower necklaces, asking if you want to get ‘lei-d’
3) Incredibly loud techno music
4) Drinks that stream/explode/are served with fifteen toys/flowers/straws in them.

Yes, I am actually 65 years old on the inside, in case you were wondering.  If you want me, I’ll just be over here muttering about those damn kids having too much fun with their skinny jeans and flavored beers.

While we waited for our friend to join us, the BFF  and I tried to yell a conversation at each other over the sounds of Akon and she picked an umbrella, two test tubes, a fake starfish and a skewer of fruit out of her drink.  But then?  Things got interesting.

In an attempt to make Kahunaville even more entertaining, apparently the management employs trick bartenders.  And apparently the half-time of the football game was performance time.  Just as we were settling into our $15 cocktails, an announcer came striding through the bar, with a microphone instructing us to “Get the F*ck up!  I want to hear you scream!”

With that statement sir,  you have now just guaranteed that I will sit here silently glaring.

As we watched, each of the bartenders on the three sides of the bar put a whistle in their mouths and began one of those Cocktail-caliber drink mixing routines.  Juggling mixers!  Catching the mixer on top of the vodka bottle!  Throwing cherries into the air and catching them on toothpick in their mouths!  All of this was accompanied by a promotional video about each other bartenders tauting their wins at various ‘flair competitions’ and previous occupations (Our guy was a former Chip n Dale’s dancer)

To be totally honest, it was pretty impressive, but once the announcer encouraged us stand on the tables and scream for free shots, I decided to clap sedately in my seat.  Because I’m an a-hole like that.

But as luck would have it, our side of the bar apparently won the hollering contest because, before you could say “pink favored vodka,” Steve “Big Show” Shrearer was standing on the bar handing out shots.  By this time, I had approached the bar out of pure curiosity.  I backed away from the bar as the free shots were coming around and was internally grateful when he ran out.

But as I turned around to head back to the table, the BFF shook her head at me, grinning and pointing back at the bar.  I spun around, with what I’m sure was a look of total horror on my face to see Mr. Big Show, astride the bar.  He was staring me down and doing his best former-stripper finger-curling, come-hither gesture, and pointing at his mix bottle and then at me.

I would be lying if I did not say that I wanted to immediately turn on my heal, walk to the bathroom and hide out there for the next twenty minutes.  But I honestly channeled a bit of our girl NTKOG and thought “Von Bargen, you get outside your comfort zone.  You go up there and let that man pour fruit flavored alcohol down your throat while everyone cheers.”

So I did.  I stood next to the bar while a man nicknamed ‘Big Show’ stood five feet above me and poured pink alcohol down my gullet. All the people standing on their tables whooped, I successfully avoided coughing, choking or melting into the floor with embarrassment.  Then I walked back to our table, licked off that tiny umbrella and drank two test tubes full of vodka.

The Verdict: I didn’t die – of embarrassment or alcohol poisoning. I’m glad I bucked up and tried something new, but at the end of the day, I’m just more of a corner-booth, nurse-my-whiskey Kind of Girl.  I think this is a situation where what happens in Vegas, truly stays in Vegas.  Unless you write about it on the internet, I guess.

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NTKOG #81: The kind of grizzled pawn of lady luck who slumps over the blackjack table, chain smoking while growling “hit me” through the tube of her oxygen tank.

I am: the product of ten years in the Las Vegas suburbs. Therefore…

I am not: a gambler. At all. I’ve played penny slots for free drinks once in a while, but never sat at a table.

The Scene: Sunset Station, a super-ghetto locals casino in Henderson, along with Brain Doc.

With Brain Doc’s encouragement, took $40 out of the ATM — with an absurd $4 surcharge, god bless America — and sat at a Double Blackjack table.

After a brain-scrambling lecture about pushing and buyback busts, promptly left a Double Blackjack table.

To recharge the ol’ synapses, stopped at a roulette table to put $5 on red for sandyb (holla, girl!). Fun fact about roulette: it’s exactly — but exactly — like dropping cash in the toilet, pulling the handle and watching it spin around. Same result too. (Sorry, Sandy.)

Against all of our misgivings, Brain Doc and I filled the last two seats at a normal blackjack table, crowded with a chain-smoking Chinese woman whose mouth was swallowed by a faceful of wrinkles, a gnarled old trucker, and a twitchy-eyed twenty something who kept muttering he’d been at the table for four and a half hours. A five-dollar table. High rollers, guys.

I bought two $5 chips and put on in the little circle. Dealer smacked me 13. Bad feng shui: I was sitting to the dealer’s left, and she glared me down while I shook like a chihuahua.

“Uhhhh, hit me? Can I say hit me? Do I say that?” The dealer just shook her head.

“You do it like this,” High Roller said, scratching his finger across the felt in a
come hither gesture. So I come-hithered a seven, stopped at 20 and — dude, what?! Five bucks for nothing?! Gorgeous.

Next hand was much the same: hit-me gesture; eighteen; dealer busted with an embarrassing 26. Another five bucks! I was starting to feel sorry for the big mean casino!

Third hand threw me for a loop, though. Nine and a five. I started to come-hither a little more free money from the universe, when Gnarled Trucker stirred for the first time: “Stay. You don’t need to go bust. Let the dealer go bust.” Clearly the dude was a tobacco-reeking angel sent from heaven: dealer just barely busted at 22, giving me a hat trick.

Quick mental math: even including my roulette failure and the absurd $4 ATM fee (unless your name is Andrew Jackson, when you gamble with the banks, you always lose), I was still up $6! Beating the friggin’ odds!

I hesitated to post this pic because it contextualizes just how really huge my bearpaws are. You can't even imagine the hell I go through trying to buy gloves. Might as well just wrap them in garbage bags. ...sorry, this tangent took a turn.

Money for nothing just barely beats out cigarette vending machines for reasons my hometown makes me PROUD TO BE AMURRKUN.

Even though I don’t know when to hit ’em, I do know when to fold ’em. Asked the cashier to magically transform my chips into money (yes, I phrased it exactly that way; yes, she looked at me like I was drunk), and used my ill-gotten gains to buy Brain Doc and me vending machine socks for bowling. Where, for the first time all day, I was a total loser.

The Verdict: All those very special episodes of 90210 were for naught! I now know that gambling is when you sit at a table and someone gives you free money! Can you smell a 12-step program in my future?!

Seriously, though, this was fun for novelty, but I doubt I’d ever do it again. Playing penny slots for free drinks is the only way to win in Vegas.

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Sorry I’ve been swallowed into the earth, guys! Vegas has been filled with much cavorting; apparently the antidote to over-prolific blogging is coming home at sunrise several days in a row.

NTKOG #80: The kind of scratchy-voiced tragic wannabe diva who sings not just absent-mindedly, not just for her own enjoyment, but intensely and often and totally on purpose. There are two types of singers: those who are better than they think and bombard you constantly; those who know they’re still awful and keep doing it anyway.

I am,: for your listening pleasure, neither. Showertime and iPod walks only, please.

I am not: the type to take things seriously when I know I’ll do badly at them.

The Scene: Q Karaoke Lounge in Vegas’s Chinatown, Tuesday night, sometime in the vortex after last call. High-school friend Aviatrix and I have hit a few great local bars, but are tipsy, not trashed. We head to Chinatown for the promise of pho, then drive by a karaoke lounge and agree to head in.

The second we get there, we realize something is wrong: this karaoke bar has … no bar. Turns out instead of sitting around, sipping a drink while laughing at other gravel-voiced schmucks, this is a private-room studio, in which you rent a room with a screen and are your own schmucky entertainment with no schadenfreude breaks.

See, the thing about karaoke bars, is we all love to sing in them, but since it’s an experience of mass transcendence of dignity, we can pretend it’s peer pressure luring us in; to rent a studio, you have to really want to, uh, sing. Aviatrix and I hung back at the counter like a young couple in a joke about a motel, shooting each other shamefully earnest glances.

Long story short, after the first few moments of “um, why are we singing to each other” awkwardness — and a bucket of Smirnoff Ice (so NTKOG) — we actually got in the spirit of the thing and the time whipped past. Turns out it is totally possible to set aside your dignity and aloofness in pursuit of song, no matter how terrible you are.

After an hour of belting, giggling, and, um, maaaybe some impromptu choreography that relied extensively on high-kicking, we went to the counter to pay our bill.

“Man, that was awesome!” I gushed to the woman at the counter. “That was so awesome! We were awesome! I just wish we had like a friggin’ DVD of it or something!”

“Oh, you want DVD?” lilted the counter girl. “We have DVD. We record the whole thing. Ten dollars.”

… So. If you happen to see TKOG high-kicking her way through Korean energy drink commercials any time soon, then, um, just know that it was totally worth it.

The Verdict: Oh yeah, guys. I was amazed by what unbelievable non-embarrassing fun this was. So much so, in fact, that less than 24 hours later, I went back with Sister and three other friends — outspokenly non-karaoke aficionados — and we ended up belting out the questionable classics for four hours. Four sober hours.

I always thought the rooms sounded lame beyond belief, but now I just can’t wait to get back to Boston and go to another one. (Anyone else? I’m sensing a Boston bloggah meet-up here…)

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If the timeline to this one seems a bit wonky, it’s because I wrote it a few months ago. I NTKOG-ed like a champ in DC, but am too involved in another writing project to get to that ’til tomorrow…

NTKOG #42: The kind of girl who, ignoring the maxim that how much you spend determines who you are, cops to asking for free money or discounts during routine transactions.

I am: polite and friendly even to the point of chattiness with customer service reps in every field, and always secretly nurse the hope that being actively nice will net me the occasional secret discount, coupon or freebie (which happens more often than you’d think.)

I am not: my mother, whose unofficial motto is “What’s the harm in asking? The worst they can say is no!” Um, yeah, but what if they say it really, really condescendingly?

The Scene:  Back in Vegas, before the move, prowling every department store in every mall for clothes that I really, really love (regardless of the price – see also the revelation of my 400 friggin’ dollar suit of awesomeness).

I’m flipping through the racks, picking up every suit I see with basically nice lines, in search of one of those tricky bastards that looks horrible on the rack and to-die-for once it’s on. And there it is.

This suit is a fucking situation. The fabric is black and metallic silver, in this small brocadey pattern that is exactly but exactly what you’d use to upholster an ironic-cool-no-wait-is-that-actual-cool? armchair in a SF hipster museum-apartment. The coat is a duster that hits me mid-knee; the matching skirt is, to my slight chagrin, just a bit longer. And the thing that’s so amazing about this suit is that it’s a terrible. fucking. suit. It is, however, the greatest dress coat I’ve ever seen, and a perfect work skirt for a tailored-artsy young professional.

I try it on and it, miraculously, doesn’t make me look like a furniture floor display. And it’s marked down from $288 to $70! (What?! Scottish-Jewish! Not checking the sales rack would dishonor my lineage!) So I take it to the counter to attempt to work some discount magic, confident that I will walk away one full-purchase-cost-plus-tax lighter in the wallet.

The salesgirl is one of those spring-loaded little almost-natural blonde girls who are to regular woman as ponies are to horses. She wears a marquise-cut diamond ring on the index finger of her right hand, is the kind of woman she is.

S: Will that be all for you?
K: Yes, that’s all. And can I get a discount on the suit?
S: Do you have a coupon?
K: No.
S: Is there something wrong with it?
K: Not that I know of.
S: Are you Triple A? A student? An employee?
K: Not at all. I was just hoping I could get a discount.
S: It’s already been marked down twice.
K: …
S: I can give you 10% off. I’ll put it in the computer that there was a snag in the fabric.
The Verdict:  Wait, what?! That really works?! (Later, I tried my new trick at a few other department stores, and ended up having an employee apply an upcoming sale discount two days in advance to take 30% off a little black dress; when I tried it at another store, though, all I got was a suggestion to check the website for a lower price.)

So am I that kind of girl? Um, yes. I felt a little bit sketchy about accepting a discount for a fabric imperfection that wasn’t there, and probably wouldn’t do that again, but asking for secret promotions or shiftable upcoming sales prices? Hella. I guess my mom was right: if you want something, just ask.

Plus, by giving me incentive to become a loyal customer, department stores are really helping me help them. And what helps them helps the economy slash world! So basically, just doing my part as a well-dressed citizen of the universe.

[Edit: Dude, since I tried this ages ago, I do this all the dang time. It has gotten me a free boxspring for my mattress, a cheap-as-free preassembled chest of drawers that had been a floor sample, and countless hidden coupons. Do this, guys!]

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NTKOG #32: The kind of bold, vivacious creature who, standing on a street corner, catches the eye of a stranger, banters for a moment, then asks him out right then and there.

I am: shy. Deeply shy. Surely by now you all know that I’m an extreme introvert?

I am not: convinced I’ve ever even actually been on a date with a guy whom I hadn’t been seeing exclusively for at least several months.

The Scene: Wednesday after work, and after my hyper-uncouth spitting adventure, I was wandering around Harvard Square, trying to kill an hour before my creative writing class. I decided to cross the street and get a cupcake, and waited for a light, standing next to a tall, nice-looking Asian guy.

Also, for context, I was wearing my Alice-in-Wonderland dress, a light sweater and flipflops, and basically freezing my eyelashes off.

Stoplight Guy: Aren’t you cold in that?
TKOG: Yeah. But I just moved here from California, so I’m just pretending it’s an unseasonably cold summer day. In late September.
SG: Where in California? I’m from [Prestigious West Coast University’s rival school].
TKOG: Oh, I went to Prestigious West Coast University. I guess we hate each other now. Where are you headed?
SG: Nowhere, really. You?
TKOG: I have an hour to kill before class; I was going to grab a coffee. Want to join me?

And guys! He absolutely said yes!!!

We found a cafe — where it transpired that neither of us actually drinks coffee — and both independently asked for the orders “for-here”. So no awkward-out escape hatch.

There was a moment in the line. I felt like I should pay for his order because I’d totally instigated the hang-out, but the line was confusing and I couldn’t find my wallet. At one point I asked if we were even in line, to which he responded: “Well, I am. And you’re with me.” in the sort of paternalistic way that I don’t really hate, and I resolved to pay for his drink, but then lost my nerve.

As we waited for our mugs o’ seasonal beverage, we talked about our academic and career trajectories. He’s currently pursuing a law degree from Hahvahd, but claimed he wants to retire early from corporate law to focus on oil painting. Whenever men say things like that, I wonder whether it is only what they think we want to hear, and if so, why the devil they think we want to hear it.

He was very frank about money — wanting to make it, and lots of it — in a way that, on paper, would have seemed crass. But I have a soft spot for men who are appallingly forthright with a hint of egotism. Similarly, he gave the obviously overworked barista a hard time about making him wait for his drink, and although I hated it, I kind of admired it.

We ended up sitting outside and talking intensely for about an hour. It was all the standard terrible first-date stuff (undergrad experiences, the weather, out-of-reach career fantasies), but done quite well. The conversation was mile-a-minute and clever. He did not make me laugh, of course — very few men do — but we enjoyed each other’s company. It was all the terrible first date conversation, true, but I felt we were working through it. I could see the first-date slipping into a second date with the same natural flow, but more off-the-wall, engaging, whimsical, real.

Then I mentioned growing up in Las Vegas, which is always a mistake: it always, always causes men to grow slimy and disrespectful, at least a little, even the nice ones (let alone barista beraters). I had mentioned not knowing Cambridge well, and we talked about finding a bar and going out for post-work drinks one day. But after the Vegas discussion: “Oh, when is your class over? We could just have drinks at your place…”

Sorry. Did I miss some sort of critical transition in the evening? We made tentative plans to see each other again for drinks (at a bar, not my apartment, obvi), exchanged information, then I had to book to my class.

The Verdict: I would absolutely, totally, 100% do this again! It comes off sounding a more negative experience than it was: to be fair, it was nearly entirely enjoyable, and only took on a weird tone right at the end.

As of right now, he has called a few times, but I keep missing his calls. I texted and he responded with a voicemail asking what I was up to (and for my blog address — whoops, shouldn’t have mentioned that). I think I’m going to ask him if he wants to grab drinks on Monday.

But truly, guys, it was totally pleasant and there was no awkward at all. If you’re reading this and you’re single, I totally encourage you to stop a stranger this weekend and ask them to hang out. Just try it! You’ll feel like a ballsier, better person. (Unless the person turns out to be a total sketchmonger…)

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