We decide to head over to Carnaval Court, which is one of my favorite bars, since they’re open air, have a DJ, flair bartenders, and no cover.
Drinks are expensive at $9 a pop, but they’re STRONG. My whiskey soda is 3/4 Jack Daniels and 1/4 water. Just how I like it; the recipe not only for a delicious cocktail, but a late night and early morning of debauchery.
Halfway through my Jack, I’m feeling friendly. I strike up a conversation with a guy who is dancing near me. After a while, he leaves and comes back with two drinks. I’m not one to say no to a free drink, so after watching him drink from both of them, I gladly accept his offer. It’s some gross vodka concoction, but hey… free is free.
As is all too natural for me, I blatantly misread obvious signs that he is hitting on me and remain blissfully oblivious to his advances.
Until he starts hitting on me incessantly and trying to dance with me. I begin looking for an escape. Eugene catches my eye and senses my desperation. He comes over to relieve me.
I quickly retreat to the bathroom to break the seal.
On my way to the facilities, a middle aged woman with stringy blonde hair compliments my tiara and says she wants it. I jokingly tell her it’s not for sale unless she has a good offer.
She responds by pulling her shirt down really low and leaning towards me seductively. My dignity may not be worth much… but my tiara is. So I laugh and shake my head, inadvertently pissing her off as I continue to the bathroom with my tiara. (Sadly, it’s only now writing this that I realize she wasn’t actually interested in the tiara…)
On my way back from what feels like an eternity peeing, I find Costas. We have a quick pow-wow with Eugene, and Costas decides to call it a night since he’s got an early flight tomorrow. Eugene heads back out to the dance floor, where he’s befriended a group of people.
I say my goodbyes to Costas now, cause I know I’ll be sound asleep when he leaves tomorrow, and head back to the dance floor. On my way, I run into a girl.
She’s there celebrating her birthday, which I know because she’s wearing the same birthday girl tiara as me.
I compliment her tiara, and the rest is history; next thing I know, I’m dancing with Becky from Canada.
Impressed by our fashionable headwear, the lady who flashed me on the way to the bathroom is back and in hot pursuit of a tiara again. But Becky is not a hardline negotiator like me, so she trades hers for a drink, which she asks me to hold for a bit.
In what feels like a segment off Candid Camera, her friends preserve this moment for eternity.
At this point, it’s 1:45am.
There’s a classic saying that nothing good happens after 2am. And although it’s proven true time and time again, it’s also proven to be one of those lessons Eugene and I just can’t seem to learn.
So while Costas is sound asleep in our room, Eugene and I are laying the groundwork for a series of questionable choices that will lead us from gay club to an extended stay motel in a campervan full of strangers as the sun rises.
I’m still dancing with Becky, and Eugene is hitting it off with his friend group. Everything is going great until Carnaval Court announces that it’s last call for alcohol.
Becky reconnects with her friend group, who are planning to go back to MGM. She invites me to join them after a quick pit stop at the bathroom.
We both head into our respective bathrooms, and after another eternal urination, I head out to find… noone.
I wait a little bit to see if she’s coming, but there’s no sign. I peek out of the casino and see her and her friend group stumbling South on the Strip. I briefly consider running after, but then realize how intoxicated she is, and turn back to find Eugene.
Eugene is still with his friend group. It turns out they all know each other from their Burning Man campsite last year, and are having a mini reunion in Vegas.
Eugene, being the constant charmer he is, is basically an honorary member at this point. He seems to be hitting it off with a girl named Ashlee, so I change gears and go into wingman mode.
I strike up conversation with the group as they all congregate outside of Carnaval Court where they’re debating where to go next. They’re a friendly bunch, and quickly welcome me into their ranks.
Lo and behold, the stringy blonde haired lady is there! Fortunately, she seems to have forgiven our earlier interaction now that she has a tiara of her own.
Unfortunately, she’s equated my lack of interest in her breasts as a lack of interest in women; she’s convinced that I’m gay and is trying to play matchmaker with me and her friend Nate.
My adoptive group drunkenly stumbles down the LINQ Promenade towards the High Roller rideshare pickup.
Nate has been very vocal about going to Piranha, adding progressively more vowels to “Piiiraaaaanhaaaaaa” with each plea. The group finally decides to go. I’m still not sure exactly what it is or where we’re going, but I’m along for the ride at this point.
The group splits up into two Lyfts, and Ashlee invites Eugene to go with her. Their car is full, so being the ultimate wingman, I tell Eugene I’ll meet him there and head over to the other car with Nate.
As is the all-too-familiar story, apparently I’ve been sending mixed messages to Nate. He is making moves that even I’m not too oblivious to notice in the car. As he places his hand on my thigh, I explain that I’m not interested and apologize for any mixed messages.
Nate takes it well and says that Piranha is a gay club, and that even if I’m not interested, he’s going to show me a good time.
The ride is a quick five minutes, and before we know it, we’re at Piranha.
We’re slightly southeast of the Strip. The neighborhood is slightly industrial, so there’s no missing Piranha; not only is there a roped off entry with a bouncer, but there’s also a food truck across the street and the audible boom of club music.
We reconvene with the Burning Man group, get our IDs out, and head in. The girls aren’t allowed to bring in any purses; in the wake of the Pulse shooting in Orlando, security at LGBTQIA* clubs is very tight. Ashlee and her friends call for someone to come get their purses, and tell Eugene and I to go in and meet them inside.
Nate pays cover for Eugene and I, and with that, we’re inside Piranha.
Any doubt that this is a gay club is quickly removed by the abundance of muscular men dancing on boxes wearing only banana hammocks.
Nate brought us over to the bar, where he buys a round of whiskey sodas. Much to my chagrin, as the excessive hydrator I am, there is no free water; on principle, I refuse to buy an overpriced bottle, so I stick to my good friend Jack.
Drinks in hand, we take in the insanity of Piranha. Not only are there the scantily gogo dancers, but there are also buff men walking around in slightly-too-short shorts peddling test tube shots for $4. Nate buys a round and we suck down the overly sweet concoction as we watch people tip the dancers by sliding dollar bills over their bodies and into their crotch.
Nate gives me a single and tells me to tip a dancer. I hesitate until Eugene puts me up to it, at which point I have no choice but to send it. The dancer graciously accepts the tip, and sensing my trepidation, leans down and whispers “thanks cutie.”
While I’m surprisingly well-versed in gay bars in the Marais district of Paris, this is my first time in a gay bar stateside. And it’s shockingly fun. Everyone is so friendly, and having a genuinely good time. Maybe it’s the aforementioned ambiguity of my sexuality, but people of all genders are talking to me, dancing with me, and showing me an all around great time.
Meanwhile, as I’m dancing off all of my alcohol, Eugene is outside talking with Ashlee. They still seem to be hitting it off when I go out to check on them.
At this point, it’s 4:30am and we’re starting to fade. I’m at the point where I need to commit to more alcohol or switch to water. In a rare demonstration of responsibility, I embrace the full development of my prefrontal cortex and head to the bathroom to fill my glass with tap water – since I’m still too cheap to pay for a bottle.
I head out to the patio to take a breather and cool off. Nate joins me and lights up a cigarette, further destroying the chance he never had.
In my effort to text Eugene, I accidentally snap a blurry photo of God only knows what.
The Burning Man group reconvenes, and decides that it’s time to make moves to the next place. They decide to go back to their hotel and keep the party going. Ashlee’s in.
Since it’s now approaching 5:00am, Eugene is apprehensive; he’s hitting it off with Ashlee, but he also has an early afternoon flight, and doesn’t want to oversleep. I double down on my wingman duties and convince him to go.
We stumble out of Pirhana and across the street to an empty parking lot, where a friend of the Burning Man group is supposed to pick us up. The only vehicle there is a white conversion van that is running.
One of our new friends shouts out “there he is” and points at, you guessed it: the conversion van.
As if it couldn’t get any weirder, they open the doors and there is a mattress that covers the entirety of the back seat. And there are already people sprawled out on it.
If I hadn’t recognized the driver from Carnaval Court, I would’ve called law enforcement. Instead, I used my fully developed prefrontal cortex to carefully weigh all the facts and make an informed decision in the moment.
We get in.
At this point, we’re fully committed to the ride, so we pile on top of the twisted mass of bodies. The door closes, and we start moving.
Who’d have thought that, on a day I went skydiving, I would manage to take a bigger risk?
Every bump and turn shakes us, but it’s so crowded in the back that we don’t even need the seatbelts that don’t exist. After a mercifully short ride, we stop and the driver gets out.
The doors swing open and we find ourselves in the parking lot of an extended stay motel.
Extended Stay Motel
There’s no turning back now, so we follow the Burning Man crew up a flight of stairs and into a suite that has a living room, bathroom, kitchen, and two bedrooms.
Ashlee is sitting on Eugene’s lap and talking with him at the kitchen table, so I accept my solemn duty as wingman and soldier onward. Nate has renewed his efforts to woo me, but without the titration of Jack Daniels, they are again falling flat.
He offers me a beer from a 24 pack of Modelo bottles, but I opt for glasses of water instead. After being deprived for so long at Piranha, it tastes like the nectar of the gods.
Our driver had bought some eclairs from a bakery earlier in the day, and he offers me one. I oblige and, in my drunken hunger, enjoy the most delicious eclair I’ve ever had. Nate offers me a charcoal pill, which he swears will prevent a hangover. I’m skeptical, but when he shows me the bottle and takes one, I reluctantly accept; I’m not ready to pay the fiddler.
With some food, water, and the mysterious pill in my stomach, I’m starting to sober up. Seeing the clock strike 6:00am sobers me up far more than any subsistence could.
Eugene looks beat, so when Ashlee heads to the bathroom, I tell him it’s time to make a decision. Always the gentleman, he opts to take her number and gives her a good night kiss.
We catch a Lyft back to the Cosmopolitan, and quietly sneak into our room at 6:45am.
We set our alarms for 10:00am in preparation for our 11:00am checkout, and pass out for what promises to be not nearly enough sleep to recover from our shenanigans.