Comrade and I are legendarily cursed with bad food service at restaurants. We've been mostly lucky this trip.
At JFK our server, who appeared to be serving every table in the restaurant, told us to take off our masks because "the days of fear are behind us." But he got us our food on time.
At Off The Strip, the place was packed with drunk football Fucks who were falling down stairs, shouting non-stop swears, and getting in every server's way. Our server was really good except that he wasn't really acknowledging Comrade. He handed the check to me, so Comrade was like Hell No, and got out his credit card, handed it to the server, who ran the card and returned it. To me.
Today were downtown at MTO, there was some sort of unbuttoned denim shorts party of twelve sharing a gigantic communal vat of champagne and Corona virus. A food runner went to drop off some bacon at a table, and a server pulled it away and said This Goes To Another Table. The customer said No, That's My Bacon. The server said he didn't remember ordering bacon, and the customer replied that she hadn't seen him in fifteen minutes, so she'd ordered it from someone else.
He is our server. He took ten minutes to get to us, chatting with the food runner while the other served worked his ass off dealing with tables and making another vat of champagne corona for a different table.
He didn't write down our order and hasn't been seen since I started typing this.
Send thoughts and prayers.
When Comrade and I went to Florida with a group of poets last October, it was mostly chaotic. I wanted to do certain things on certain days. Maybe they happened, maybe they didn't. Comrade found it either overwhelming or infuriating depending on the day, so when I told him we were going to Vegas, he said something akin to "Can you at least plan it out this time?" and was surprised when I turned my laptop towards him and showed him my Google Calendar completely filled in with certain events shaded for Won't Cost Us Anything Until We Hit The Gift Shop to Not Yet Paid For to Already Committed To And Paid for.
But just because I made a minute to minute schedule for our trip didn't mean there was any hope of us following it. Weather happens, transportation gets screwy, Comrade sleeps 23 hours a day, a butterfly sneezes in Saskatchewan causing a drunk NFL fan to shit their pants and pass out in front of you on your way to dinner. There are many variables to work a schedule around.
On our first day, the only things I Really Wanted To Do were hit up EggSlut for breakfast, and go to the Pinball Hall Of Fame. Everything else on the schedule was about checking out the casinos between The Flamingo and the Pinball HoF. And I didn't care at all if we failed to be in the proper casinos at the proper times.
We started about a half hour after I'd planned. Sleepy Comrade had to be lured out of bed with the promise of breakfast. "Are we going to The Nasty Egg?" he asked.
"The Nasty...do you mean Eggslut, you weirdo?"
He shrugged. "I don't hear the difference."
We zippered in and out of a couple of casinos on our way to The Na...Eggslut in order to balance fresh air and air conditioning, and because all casino interiors look the same to me, so I need to occasionally orient myself in the outside world.
EggSlut is in The Cosmopolitan, which may be the only casino in Vegas with proper signage. We found EggSlut immediately, and decided we would get our food there, and buy juice at a nearby juice bar. The juice bar, of course, ended up being like one of those "milkshake" places that actually sells powdered protein drinks in various gritty flavors that only visually resemble milkshakes. They sold alcoholic drinks and things like grass juice and vegan goat puss, and other things that aren't really juice.
By contrast, Eggslut was amazing and sold lots of egg products. I did not research how slutty the staff were. That's their business. Comrade had an egg sandwich that looked pretty tasty, but I had the actual EggSlut, which is a "cage-free coddled egg on top of a smooth potato purée, poached in a glass jar, topped with gray salt and chives, served with slices of baguette". Everyone not Vegan or allergic to eggs, potatos, chives, or salt, should try this. It was amazing.
We got soft drinks at a fake bodega where, not for the first time, I saw that everyone in Vegas is looking for tips. Tips are for food industry workers who aren't adequately paid for their work. I work behind a counter in retail. I work really hard at, and consider myself Very Good at dealing with customers. Don't tip me for it. It's my company's job to adequately pay me.
After breakfast, we toodled around the Cosmopolitan, seeing some creepy statues, an art vending machine, and a much more interesting food court than any of the surrounding casinos'. We then jetted towards The Pinball Hall Of Fame, which is barely on The Strip. Its nearest bus stop is actually at the Welcome To Las Vegas Sign. It's past the point where The Strip becomes visually split between Lavish Opulence and Impoverished Abandonment. As practically across the street from Mandalay Bay's shark reef bar and water slide are three shuttered motels with dumpsters full of furniture, a Subway sandwich shop, and a McDonald's that looks pretty depressing, even for a McDonald's.
We were ten minutes into the wastelands (coming soon: a new motel; vote for this candidate in last year's election!; check out this creepy pink elephant statue) when we saw the bright Pinball HoF sign, as well as the building with a stark white front that read PINBALL in giant red letters.
I hadn't been to the PHoF since 2014, when it was in a different location. Their website is still the same Angelfire garbage it's been since ... 1994? ... but I thought the new location might have given a little more life to the hall of fame.
Not so much.
It's still a warehouse vibe with lines of mostly pinball games. Some ripped open, so you can see the guts and how they work, some fully operational, some with sad little signs that say "Currently out of order, check back tomorrow." each sign with about two years of dust on them.
I expected the average age of the clientelle to be middle aged. But it was mostly people around my parents' age, playing a game or two, going outside for a smoke (no smoking, no vaping, no pot in the PHoF), and then coming back in. They looked as bored and zombiesh as most of the casino dwellers. It was rather sad.
Comrade and I did have fun, but I do wish one of my super-invested-in-pinball friends was also there. I like pinball, but I'm not super knowledgable or talented at it. I'm reasonably good at the Addams Family Pinball Game because that's what they had at my high school. "Pfffft." Emily snorted when I mentioned this to her twenty years ago. "That's THE most popular pinball game in the world. There were over 20,000 of them. That's like being pretty good at Pac-Man."
I am not especially great at Pac-Man but I can hold my own.
Before I could find the Addam's Family, I found a Twilight Zone pinball machine (same designer and basic game play as Addam's Family) and tried that out for a bit before moving on.
Then we stumbled on Addam's Family. I was Not As Good At It as I had been the last time I played it, which was just before the pandemic, but Comrade watched, asked questions, and settled into play for a bit, as I moved to a Star Wars pinball game next to it.
When a ball gets lost in a game, the machine clacks several times looking for it until it can push it back to where it belongs in the game. This was most of the soundtrack to the Star Wars game. I'm not sure what was wrong with it but I was constantly getting mutiballs that I did nothing to earn, and then the flippers would just shut down until there was only one ball on the board, at which point they might start working again. I got some insane scores that I did Not deserve, and was on my fifth consecutive free game when I asked someone at another machine if they wanted to play the remainder of my games.
I found other pinball games like Bad Cat (terrible), South Park (awful), WWE Royal Rumble (hilariously mediocre), Nightmare On Elm Street (broken in a similar way to Star Wars, Comrade played it for over a half hour), Aerosmith (wicked pissah), two very different Indiana Jones games (both pretty decent), and a variety of unmemorables.
Next to a delapitated claw machine with no interesting prizes was Super Mario Brothers. An original 1993 machine clearly marked with "If you hit this machine, you will be banned for life. NO SECOND CHANCES." It was only a quarter per play, so Comrade and I decided to do some 2 player action.
I used to be As Great as most people my age were at SMB. I knew all the tricks thanks to Nintendo Power Magazine, and they are Still Lodged In My Brain. So while Comrade struggled to make it past world 1-2, I was in 8-3, strutting my glosious plumber's behind.
That was about as good as it got. We spent exactly the $20 I'd budgeted for pinball, and were there for two and half hours, each of us having used some quarters to buy sodas, and also lose a few in various machines that weren't quite working. I'm really glad we went but I wish it wasn't quite as depressing to be in. I'm not advocating for loud music, showgirls, or zany mascots, but the warehouse vibe is even sadder than the casino floor aura to me.
We walked all the way back to Mandalay Bay, and waited for a tram to take us to Excalibur. There were no adequate signs for the Tram, you had to guess where you thought they might be, so we walked around (literally, not within) the building until I saw where the tracks went in, and then worked our way back inside. Many people on the tram seemed to think it went further than the three stops it contains, and definitely went back and forth at least once before getting where they wanted to. We would have joined them, but I couldn't visualize another hotel past Excalibur with tram tracks, so we hopped out. Just in time.
We were scheduled to hang out in the Bellagio Gardens but we had accidentally done that on our way to the PHoF, so there was nothing other than casino walking on our schedule until sunset. Bellagio Gardens are totally worth about 15 minutes of your time. A few couples saw me positioning Garden Duck for some fancy shots and falsely assumed I knew what I was doing, and asked me to take pictures of them with their phones.
When we crossed the Strip to the Balley's side, there was a massive sign that said Monorail Station, and because we'd walked quite a bit, we thought we'd take the monorail back to the Flamingo. But, you know, it's Vegas. GIANT MONORAIL SIGNS on the walkway, pointing you into the casino. No signs within the casino to tell you where to go. After many false starts, I found a guy selling problematic hats who told us we had to hug the walls all the way to the back, go down a flight of stairs, walk through a food court, and take a left, and THEN we would see signs for the monorail.
He remains the only helpful person I've ever met inside a casino.
The GooglePay app for the monorail didn't work intuitively (it does sort of work), so I ended up putting a twenty in the machine, and now have enough dollar coins to blind a dozen and a third casino sign makers, whould the opportunity arise.
Per the recommendation of a friend, we decided to hit the Holy Roller (think, the London Eye style ferris wheel) around sunset. We made it up two minutes before peak sunset, and got some good shots in, making friends with a trio of Phillipino tourists who needed their pictures taken at various stages of our 30 minute trip around the wheel. There was also a family with children. We avoided them.
The Holy Roller is kind of worth it. It's not transcendent. It won't in any way change your life. But it's a nice view of the Strip and the mountains, and we saw a massive area being set up for something...it was an ominous warning for the next few days. They tried to sell us $50 photos they'd taken of us before our trip, but they were worth, at most a $10 flash drive.
For dinner, we headed over to Gordon Ramsey's Fish & Chips. Where Comrade had ... ummm ... fish and chips, and I went off menu for the G Spot, a chicken, shrimp, fish, and chips sampler. I thought they were all really good but Comrade thinks the awful restaurant he used to work at made better fish and chips. I disagree. The people on staff at Fish & Chips were some of the happiest food service workers I'd seen anywhere in a long time. They all seemed to genuinely like their jobs, and were having a good time. I plan on heading back there one more time before we leave.
I also went into the I Love Sugar store, which is a Disneyesque super store of candy with Nostalgia Brands, a wall of jellybean flavors, a Make Your Own Pez Flavor Pack, and an upstairs "martini" bar that specialized in Diabetes.
I bought several slices of fudge to compare them to the various companies I've made fudge for. They were okay. They were priced pretty well, but the overtired woman behind the counter gave me a peanut butter instead of tiger butter. I'm still working at finishing them, several days later.
Comrade had requested something "brownie-like". So I got two marcreamcakes from Sweet Sin. These are basically filled cupcakes with macaron hats. They were both delicious. Way better than the fudge. We finished them instantly.
I looked back at the schedule, pleased to see we'd hit almost every stop. Sometimes in the wrong order, but we hadn't missed a thing.
Then I got a text telling me that our kayaking reservations for Thursday were cancelled due to wind. And not the wind caused by eating too much EggSl... Nasty Egg.
We were stalled on the runway for twice the duration of our eventual flight from Boston to New York City, and were worried this was somehow going to be emblematic of our trip. Our lastish minute trip. Our We're Both Boosted Against Covid And Need Some Time Away That Doesn't Involve My Family Why Not Just Go To Vegas And Not Gamble Vacation.
The cabin pressurizer was busted, so our ears were all doing a weird pop and lock routine that was going to get real old if it happened for the whole flight. The issue, of course, is connecting flights. We were okay, as we had two and a half hours between our flights, and New York to Vegas isn't some Golden Pheasant that only leaves the nest two or three times a day. But there were people trying to make a connection to Madrid who were ferried off our flight and back into the airport so they could catch a faster flight. Then they were brought back on. Then many of them left again, and then I believe most-to-all of them came back. It wasn't at all interesting but the forty-something guy across the aisle from us kept saying things like "This is the craziest thing I've ever seen. Have you ever seen anything like this? This is insane." I assume it was the first time he ever left the studio apartment he shares with his overprotective mother. He was invested in getting Comrade to agree how bonkers it was that people would try and make a connecting flight but he was ultimately disappointed.
We got to JFK with an hour to spare before our flight, and decided to grab something to eat. But at three pm on a Monday, virtually everything was closed. There was one sad American style cafe that was open but which also had high chairs blocking the entrance. We were about to give up and stay hungry when we were waved in by the single beleaguered server, who tossed us into a booth, and said "You know you don't have to wear your masks in here, right? The time for fear is over. Where are you from? Boston? Don't people in Boston know that Covid is over?"
We did not remove our masks until the food came. The food was exactly the quality I'd expect in a generic airport eatery, which was actually a pleasant surprise. The table next to us boasted four strollers and a couple of parents who looked about ready to start preaching abstinence education in high schools. They kept waving to the oblivious server while their kids fussed but had the decency not to wail or shriek. Their table wasn't cleared by the time we left, and I believe those plates are still there, possibly overseen by one of the couple's abandoned children.
We transitioned from eatery to Getting On The Plane (fuck you, I'm getting IN the plane) flawlessly. The flight was packed. The attendants kept making announcements about not switching seats until everyone was on the plane because the flight was sold out and something something something. I only noticed because, of course, Comrade and I were not quite seated together. Somehow, we had seats B and D, and were prepared to be seperated for the whole flight. Except that nobody ever came for Seat C. So Comrade snoozed next to me while I talked to a very nice British motivational speaker about Covid in England vs Covid in the US, what we liked about Vegas, and other nothings that passed the time.
Our Hugely Stereotypical Flight Attendant announced "Welcome to Vegas, Bitches." as we landed, and then had a horrendously long improv comedy discussion with the middle-aged flight attendants about the differences between their generations. He mentioned that he'd just turn thirty which is Dead Years Old in gay. I've been hearing that ha ha line for at least twenty years now. It never gets better informed or more valid.
We arrived at The Flamingo around 10:30pm. The promised Express Check In Kiosks were all manned (and I mean that, not a single woman, or non-cis robot was behind a desk, they were all white dudes) by Happy Go Customer Service People who were too chatty to be Express Anything. Apart from a quick glance at Comrade and I, and asking if we had the same last name, our assigned white guy was surfacey nice, and warned us that it was NFL Draft weekend. "GO TITANS!" yelled the thirty-five year old meth dealer behind us, fumbling through his tattered Scooby Doo backpack while his either 17 or 50 year old companion scratched at her drug rug. Clearly, the age difference between us was the least interesting thing going on in that check-in line.
In 2003, Steggy and I stayed at Bally's Casino. I remember it being great. In 2014, a bunch of us rented a house that was pretty close to the strip, and very well maintained. The Flamingo is ok. We booked it because there was a special (there is always a special everywhere in Las Vegas), and because Comrade loves flamingos. The flamingos have been absent all week. A sad little pink sign informing us, every day, that due to nebulous reasons we should be satisfied gazing at a bunch of mediocre ducks swimming around a glorified koi pond. Also, their pillows are filled with razor sharpened pigeon quills. Our request for foam pillows was initially met with "Oh, we don't have any extra pillows in the whole casino right now, try again later.", and then we were given pillows that have been in circulation since the casino opened in 1946.
I have been mostly unable to sleep. Comrade hates the pillows but claims I'm "spoiled" because when I buy pillows, I don't pick them off the curb during Allston Christmas, but actually try out pillows that are comfortable and support my neck. I would not recommend staying at The Flamingo, although I'm sure there are worse places.
Before we fell asleep, we went over our plans for the next few days, and confirmed that all four of our parents had been relentlessly asking us if we were going to Vegas to get married. No. But we didn't come here to break up, either.
While we are at JFK, most of the restaurants were closed but we were hungry. Eventually, we found an overpriced fast food place but on the way there....
Comrade: Should we just grab something to eat at Dunkin Donuts.
Me: Despite our cultural heritage, you know I won't eat there. They're a donut place that can't even make good donuts.
Comrade: Are we desperate enough, though?
Me: I once saw a seagull spit out a Dunkin Donut and fly away.
Harvard Student #1: Ooh. Duck breast with orange risotto. That sounds good I'll have that.
Harvard Student #2: You can't eat duck, you're a pescatarian.
HS1: So? Duck is a fish?
Harvard Student #3: What?
HS1: A duck is a fish.
HS3: What are you talking about? A duck is a bird.
HS1: But...it goes in the water.
HS3: It's A BIRD. Oh my god. It flies.
HS1: There are flying fish.
HS2: How is this still happening?
HS1: There are.
HS3: Ducks are BIRDS not fish. I don't even ... How do you look at a duck and a fish and think they're the same species?
HS1: They hang out in water, though. They're fish. They swim.
HS3: My DOG swims, is MY DOG a fish?
HS1: I don't know. IS IT?
(At this point the server, Comrade, has to excuse themself to keep from belligerently laughing at them. By the time they return, things have calmed down, and HS1 orders the salmon.)
HS1 will grow up to be either a US Senator or a Republican Supreme Court nominee.
Last night, around 1000pm, I made a joke about how the Moon Knight comics were so bad that I would rather mop the floor.
Last night at 10:30, I mopped the gaming room, the TV room, the kitchen, and the bathroom. Only the office (which is too cold to use right now), the spare room/library (which only I use, and not very often), and the bedroom (where Comrade was doing online D&D were not mopped. I planned on doing those rooms tonight when I got home from work, or tomorrow.
This morning, at 10:30, I went to work.
This morning at 11:00, Motherfucker Goose took a wet, sticky poop, none of which she left in the litterbox. Instead, she dragged it across every inch of the kitchen, straight through the gaming room, into the TV room, on to the still newish couch, back through the gaming room, into the bedroom where she dragged herself across various piles of laundry that needed to be folded before hopping up on the bed, and waking up Comrade.
Just poop, Everywhere.
Tonight, at 7:15ish, I arrive home.
Comrade: "So, I looked at a couple of apartments that don't allow pets today. I'm not leaving you, or moving out, because I love you. But I just wanted the thrill of imagining what it would be like to never live with cats again."
Tonight at 8:30, I remopped the gaming room, the TV room, and the bathroom. I bathed the very sad cat who had spent the day in jail (the kitchen). She screeched. Selina (who hasn't had to have a bath in a year because she takes care of herself) screeched in sympathy. I dried off the still yowling Motherfucker. I mopped the kitchen. Comrade put the couch cushion covers in the washing machine (he'd cleaned them with the products they gave us with the couch earlier, but hadn't realized the covers come off and can be machine washed (but not machine dried).
The cats are still in jail.
Comrade: I'm in the Harvard Square T station and Tone Deaf Beatles Guy is in here playing one of the three songs he knows. The train arrived and as she got on, a young girl waved to Tone Deaf Beatles Guy and said "Bye! You're so good." I scowled at her and said "No. He's not."
Shortly after we moved in 2020, Comrade and I decided to buy a couch. But the Pandemic was reigning hell on the supply chain even then, and we weren't able to order one that we liked until February. It took about two weeks to arrive, was exactly the style Comrade wanted but it was hella uncomfortable. We gave it nearly a month where neither of us ever really used it for more than a few minutes at a time, and then we returned it.
It wasn't too long after that that I became weary of Granny Entitlement, and didn't want to buy a couch and then immediately have to move.
So we haven't had a couch. We have a dozenish semi-comfy chairs from Comrade's parents, one comfy chair that we moved from JP, and some matchy furniture that we don't love, but no couch.
On Friday, we decided to go to Jordan's Furniture. We figured we'd find a cool couch, be told it was no longer available, and after three or four "What about this ones?", we'd finally settle on one that would arrive in March. That's just the way thing are right now.
So we grabbed a Lyft, and arrived at a store that Comrade informed me was the place he used to go to hang out when he was bored growing up.
If you ever want to feel popular and antagonized, just be a gay couple trying to buy a couch in a nearly empty warehouse-sized store. I think there were three other couples spread out amongst the building, and we were all outnumbered at least 5-1 by bored staff members.
Employee #1 greeted us at the door, asked what we needed and if they could help, and we politely told them we were looking for a couch, and possibly other furniture, but wouldn't need any help for quite a while.
The couches in the front room were terrible, so we started a counter-clockwise circuit which Comrade immediately suspected was wrong. "Should we ask where the couch room is?" he asked, as we walked into a room with thirty couches. "Nevermind."
My goal for a new couch is: comfortable and grey (because Selina and Goose are going to shed all over it). Comrade has style needs, and an idea of what else to get to create a room around the couch. So we satdown on the first couch in the room, just in time for Employee #2 to welcome us, and ask if we needed any help, and to let them know if we had any questions. We politely told them we were looking for a couch, and possibly other furniture, but wouldn't need any help for quite a while.
The couch was great. Firm on the back, soft on the butt, not too deep. Also, comfy and grey with the legs that Comrade approves of.
We hit every other couch in the room and none of them was quite as good.
"Should we ask if this is the only couch room?" Comrade asked.
""I thought you hung out here all the time. Surely there are other couches."
"That was forever ago. Also, it's much different now. This place used to be Mardi Gras themed, and had a musical interlude every hour. Plus there was a Kelly's Roast Beef with an aquarium globe in it. I wonder what happened to the fish?"
There were many more couches. There were many more "Can I help yous." Some were concise and to the point. One guy, though, saw us sitting on a couch that seemed to be made entirely out of springs and thumbtacks, and said "Great couch, right? It's made of Sunbrella." He said this, standing under a GIGANTIC Sunbrella sign. "Everything in this room is made of Sunbrella."
"Thanks." I said.
"You can get that couch in any of the Sunbrella colors available over there on the Sunbrella fabric wall." And I think he said Sunbrella fifty-leven more times before letting us know that he was happy to help us if we had any questions. We didn't give him our rote polite response, we just fake smiled and nodded.
"That guy is The Worst." Comrade said.
There was a leather couch room (no can do with they tiny grey terrors), a These Couches Were Designed By Contestants Eliminated During The First Episodes Of Various Project Runway Seasons room, an abstract art for people with broken spines room, a Millionaire's Lounge with sleek black couches and expensive looking art, a room of Tilt sofas that recline at the press of a button and have their own cupholders built in, and a couple of rooms of random sofa assortments. There was also a "sleep laboratory" but I knew if Comrade went in, I'd never see him again.
There was a terrible table designed to look like an early 20th century car, where the two square feet of table was supported by six or seven feet of car. There was also a weird little cubby chair that looked hideous and uncomfortable. While Comrade was demonstrating how the wooden back brace pushed directly into your spine if you tried to sit back, Employee #72 told us how cute it was, and how easy it was to maintain before realizing that the brace was supposed to be covered by a piece that had fallen underneath. We left her still struggling to figure out how to put the "easy to maintain" chair back together.
Eventually, we had completed the full circuit, and decided that the very first chair we'd tried out was the one we would first try to get.
Nearly every employee had mentioned the Supply Chain, and that they hardly had anything in stock, and we should pick out a bunch of alternates. We already knew this, and it was a little disheartening to realize we probably wouldn't get a couch until March or April.
"Yea, I'm sorry." said Employee #80-something, "I'll check and see if they have this in the warehouse, but we really don't have much right n---Oh. We have it. And in that color. That's a nice surprise. I never get to give people good news anymore. Unfortunately, because of Christmas and The Supply Chain, we don't really have many delivery appointments available. Unless you could do next Thursday."
"I have next Thursday off."
"And where do you live?"
I gave him the info.
"It says here we've made a delivery there before, so that's good. But I guess we had to take out a window because of the narrow stairs."
"We live on the first floor. This will definitely fit."
"Then, congratulations. You will have a new couch next week."
Comrade: I was going to lie down on this seat but it's not very comfortable, and it smells.
Me: Well, an infinite amount of butts have been pressed to it.
Comrade: Now that you're here, I'll just lay my head in you lap.
Me: But an infinite amount of butts have been pressed to it.
While I'm away, Comrade is playing the role of me in Harvard Square.
Insomnia Cookie Employee 1, eating a cookie his coworker just made: "This is underbaked, m'dude."
Insomnia Cookie Employee 2: "They're the best that way. Insomnia cookies is the top of the underbaked cookie game."
Comrade: "Insomnia Cookies , where the cookies are less baked than the staff."