Going to bed at 7:00am, a time when most people are starting their day, usually means that you’ve had a fun night.

But it also means that your morning is going to suck. And Eugene and I went to bed fully aware that we owed the fiddler.

Mercifully, when the alarm rings about 5 hours too early at 10:00am, Eugene and I are feeling surprisingly good for having had less than 3 hours of sleep.

There’s no sign of Costas, except for $90 of casino chips he’d forgotten and a ton of unused marijuana and paraphernalia. I vaguely remember him leaving for the airport halfway through my restless slumber and managing to eke out a “thanks for everything, see you next year bro” before returning to my stupor.

After cursing the alarm, Eugene and I do what comes naturally; I get out of bed and crack a breakfast beer to stave off the impending hangover, while Eugene hits snooze and opts for a bit more sleep.

I’m headed over to Planet Hollywood for the last leg of my trip, so I hastily throw my belongings into a bag and bring my beer out on the terrace to take in the breathtaking views a little while longer.

Shocktop is normally served with an orange. Therefore, it constitutes an acceptable breakfast beer.

I savor the sweet taste of beer in the morning. I’m well aware that it’s 10:30am, but it’s Las Vegas… no parents, no rules. Further cementing my rebelliousness, I bust open my package of birthday cake truffles from Milkbar. That’s right, cake balls for breakfast… move over, Marie Antoinette.

In typical Eugene fashion, he’s saved everything to the last minute. But the birthday boy’s vanity is not fully fulfilled yet, so I rush him along.

Eugene and I taking your stereotypical narcissistic millennial glam shots.

We take a few last photos on the deck as we try to process the insanity of last night.

Love the Cosmo, but still hate resort fees.

We check out on the TV to avoid a late charge, since I’m still paranoid of “fuck you fees” after I was charged $9 for a Stella that was displaced (but sadly not drank) when I was Iced during my 24st.

Then we head out to the balcony to catch the 11am Fountain Show.

One last Fountain Show.

There’s no putting it off any longer. It’s time for the only bad part of my Annual Destination Birthday Trip: the goodbye.

Thank you COSMOPOLITAN. The pleasure was all mine.

I give Eugene a bear hug before sending him off to McCarran in a Lyft.

So my solo trip begins.

Where the Hell is the Bell Desk?!

Total Rewards/Caesars Rewards came through clutch with two comped nights at Planet Hollywood, so I’m staying in an Ultra Hip Room for $83.90. Which is “free” before fuck you resort fees. Regardless, it’s a great deal for the location, so I can’t complain.

I lug my bags across the pedestrian footbridge and enter Planet Hollywood through the Miracle Mile shops entrance. I proceed to meander through the casino for 15 minutes trying to find the hotel check in.

I attempt to follow the signs, but keep going from one end of the casino to the other without seeing a bell desk. And I’m not even drunk yet!

Eventually, I realize my mistake: I missed the escalator. I head downstairs with my tail between my legs, and the adventure begins anew as I look for the bell desk. I follow the signs and, yet again, find myself walking end to end fruitlessly. Until I finally ask for help and am directed out the doors.

In order to protect my fragile ego, I feel obligated to complain that the valet/ride share/bell desk/registration setup at Planet Hollywood is the worst I’ve seen in Las Vegas. The layout is very counterintuitive, and the signage does little to help — and this is coming from someone who has navigated the LINQ’s horrendous parking garage rideshare pickup location.

I’ve got 4 hours to kill before check-in, so I drop my bags off and walk south down the Strip. I’ve been to Las Vegas 16 times without taking a photo in front of the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign, and that is FINALLY going to change this trip. I know I’ve said that every trip, but this time I mean it, damn it!

The Strip Walk

Since I’ve been in the polite company of Costas and Eugene up until this point, I haven’t been able to scratch my degenerate gambling itch. So it’s time to unleash the gambol.

If you think I can walk past all of the casinos on the way to the Las Vegas sign without gambling, you’re horribly mistaken and clearly don’t know me well enough.

Knowing myself, and that my degenerate tendencies could easily prevent me from making it to the sign, I wisely limit myself to one spin on a $1 slot machine in each casino. I reach this conclusion after spending 30 minutes in the MGM Grand (to be fair, half of that was spent trying to get out of the maze and back onto the Strip).

Before embarking on my journey, I need to hydrate! And there’s no better fuel for walking the strip than $1.19 Miller High Life tallboys. I stop by my trusty shop and buy two waters (one High Life, and one Dasani).

The only champagne I can afford is the champagne of beers in $1.19 tallboys.

I double-fist my way down the Strip until a man in a Batman costume compliments my button. I usually ignore street urchins and don’t make eye contact. But something about him catches my attention (let’s be honest, it was the happy birthday wish). He was genuinely friendly, so I give him a single and get this amazing photo.

I’m a sucker for a compliment on my Birthday Boy button.

I continue down the Strip, navigating the clusterfuck of escalators, pedestrian bridges, and sidewalks near the MGM to make my way to the Trop. Spoiler alert: it’s not worth it.

The award for the most bland hotel/casino on the Strip goes to…

This casino could just as easily fit into a retirement community in Florida. And I’m not just bitter because I lost my $3 bet. I cross the street to the MLife stretch; Excalibur is next on the list.

What does the Excalibur have in common with other castles? It was cool at its peak, and is now run down and forgotten.

After an eternity on what has to be the longest moving walkway known to man, I’m inside the Excalibur. I know this not only from the kitschy castle motifs, but also from the faded carpets and odor of stale smoke that permeates the place; if I didn’t know any better, I’d think I’ve been banished to the MLife dungeon.

Of course, being the degenerate I am, I’m right at home. $5 blackjack? Fuck me up! I don’t even care that it’s 6:5… daddy’s got needs, damn it!

I buy in for $40 just to scratch the gambling itch, quickly disregarding my previously established guidelines.

The dealer clearly hates being at the Excalibur. As does most of the table.

A medieval castle dungeon isn’t a very jovial atmosphere, so I hit and run after the cocktail waitress returns with my second Bud Light, netting a quick $10 profit.

6:5 blackjack is not a good value, but gaining 2 beers and $10 is.

The next stop on my tour of “90s theme hotels that aged worse than Lindsay Lohan” is the Luxor.

The inner child in me wants so badly to be impressed by the theme, but tragically the corporate bean counters at MGM resorts have stripped most of its personality, leaving a pyramid-shaped shell in its place.

E-sports in E-gypt seems like a bit of a stretch to me.

The Luxor is nothing like the Travel Channel special I was so mesmerized by in 2002, and I’m reminded that denial isn’t just a river in Africa.

I move onto Mandalay Bay, which might as well be fool’s gold. It seems so close, but the walk there is LONG and there’s nothing interesting in between the other casinos and the resort.

Trust me, Mandalay Bay is a lot further South than it looks from the airport.

After an eternity, I finally get to the tropical oasis of Mandalay Bay. The tropical scent that they pump into the casino has a pronounced cocoa note to it, and is strangely comforting. I’m not sure if the scent was good luck or not, but I hit my only profit of the Strip crawl on a Green Machine with a $13 hit on my $5 spin.

The first (and only) profit on my 1 spin per casino shtick, courtesy of Mandalay Bay.

I cash out and return to the Strip. I’ve never been so close to the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign, so it’s time to scratch an oft-procrastinated item off my bucket list.

The Sign

If the area between Luxor and Mandalay Bay is desolate, the area between Mandalay and the Sign is a barren wasteland. I’m honestly pretty sure there’s more going on in my small Nebraska town of 800 than there is on this long-ass stretch of the boulevard.

Eventually, the sign appears.

So close!

I finally get to the front of the sign, and I’m far too impatient to wait for the pedestrian to appear on the traffic light. I apply my CC minor in jaywalking and dart across the street in between traffic cycles, and am met with a huge line.

Ain’t nobody got time for that. Especially when there’s gambling and drinking to be had.

I head off to the side and snap a selfie, which is enhanced by the family in the background.

Who wears it better: Paradise, NV or my left bicep?

Photo in front of the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign: check. Most people would probably get the photo before the tattoo, but I’ve never been one to follow the rules.

On the way back, I stop by a gas station to buy a half-gallon of water and another High Life tallboy to hydrate for the return trek.

Walking back on the MGM side of the street proves even more boring than the walk to the sign, so I cross over to the Luxor side again.

I kill some time in New York-New York, where I quickly abandon my 1 spin policy. I bounce around, playing a variety of slots including Wheel of Fortune, Double Diamond, and a kitschy King Kong slot where I hit a bonus round. I have no notable wins or losses, and basically tread water for a half hour until cashing out even.

On my way out, I swing through Hershey’s Chocolate World and the gimmicky New York City theme of the property. Walking by a pretzel stand, I’m reminded how hungry I am, but I can’t justify the markup, so I continue onward.

I cross the street to Park MGM, which I haven’t been in since they rebranded the Monte Carlo. I walk through Eataly hoping to find something to eat, but am put off by the lines, exorbitant pricing, and the limited seating.

I decide to head back outside to The Park to find some grub. On the way out, I see the player’s club and remember that I forgot my card in a machine in NYNY. The lady is super friendly and compliments my tattoo; when she notices it’s my birthday, she loads $25 of free play on my card.

My $25 of free play went extinct faster than actual buffalo did. 

The siren call of a Buffalo Gold machine beckons me. I load up my $25 of free play and hope for three gold coins; instead I get three big zeroes, in the form of $0.00. Easy come, easy go.

The inside of Park MGM is about as exciting as my Buffalo game. Read: not at all, and actually quite disappointing; lots of lights and potential, but it ultimately falls flat.

I head outside, and in an act of divine blessing, the beautiful words “the original waffle sandwich” catch my eye.

Bruxie

I head into Bruxie, and their menu is everything I could’ve hoped for.

There are no more appealing words to someone who needs to soak up a day’s worth of booze.

Miraculously, there is no line, so I am able to order my first real meal of the day at 4:30pm.

I opt for the chicken and waffle sandwich with a fried egg on top, and get a cinnamon waffle dessert sandwich on the side. I’ve already got my roadie Bud Light, so I’m covered on drink.

As Tom Petty wisely said, “the waiting is the hardest part.”

As I wait for my food pager to buzz, I realize just how hungry I am. I’ve already put in close to 20,000 steps on my Fitbit, and I’ve been drinking on an empty stomach since 10:30am.

I don’t know what was more amazing: the sandwich, or the fact that I managed to take a photo of it before inhaling it.

My sandwich comes out, and it may be the most beautiful sight I’ve seen all day. The chicken is still piping hot, but it’s so good I’m willing to burn my mouth. I scarf it down and instantly feel the curative power of chicken and waffles.

Now that it’s after 3pm, I can check into my room at Planet Hollywood. I walk that direction, and this water fixture catches my eye.

The most exciting thing at Park MGM.

Photos don’t do it justice, but the changing gradient of lights was mesmerizing. I didn’t gawk too long, cause the running water made me had to pee.

Planet Hollywood

Now that I’m in the know, I’m able to find the bell desk right away. I retrieve my bags and head to the check-in area, which is overrun by self-check-in kiosks. I can’t work my charm on a machine, so I’m not about that game (and I’m not prepared to get fucked over by another machine today).

I get in line, and it moves fairly quickly. I turn on my charm and tell the agent it’s my birthday, and they tell me that they’ll hook me up with a “nice view.” I’m assigned room 2849.

Since I’m only staying 2 nights, waiving housekeeping for a $10 food/beverage credit is a no-brainer. I proceed up to my room, and am pleasantly surprised by how big it is.

2848 in all of its glory.

The halls are well-lit, and the black and white motif extends to the room.

Still not sure how I feel about the dangerously-close-to-an-upskirt-artwork on the wall, but the wide entrance is nice.

Walking in, there’s a hallway with a bathroom on the right.

This tub would be nice… if it wasn’t a Vegas hotel tub.

The bathroom is more spacious than some NYC apartments, with a large tub, spacious vanity, and separate toilet and shower.

Way more space than I need for my toiletries bag.

The fixtures are nice, and the mirror has great lighting.

A square showerhead is as impractical as you would imagine.

The shower has a glass door that opens outwards (getting the floor wet) and a square showerhead, which adds nothing after the novelty wears off in .2 seconds.

This toilet has seen some shit.

The toilet is a normal height; nothing special.

The only time the TV was on my entire stay.

The TV is a good size and located directly across from one of the beds.

2 queens for 1 king.

The beds are comfortable, without being too plush. They have a nice firmness, and I sleep (and nap) wonderfully on them. The sheets are a decent threadcount.

I opted for a two queen room because a king size bed feels too large by myself and I don’t like having all of the extra space.

My “nice view” pales in comparison to the Cosmopolitan, but free is free.

The view is underwhelming, especially coming from a Cosmopolitan private terrace. But, seeing as my window remains closed most of the time for sleeping’s sake, it’ll do.

Speaking of sleep, my three hours of sleep last night have caught up with me, so I decide to take a nap. I set an alarm for 9:30pm.

Late Night Gambling

After a quick shower, it’s 10:00 and I am far too sober for 10pm in Las Vegas.

So I hurry over to the LINQ, which remains the best place to drink since they will give you a shot of liquor AND a beer on the same order.

“A shot of Jack and a Bud Light, please.”

I buy into a $15 Pai Gow table for $100.

As the shots begin to catch up with me, I manage to get the crusty old men at the table to loosen up and start conversing with the dealer.

I cash out an hour later.

In for $100, out for $175 (and 6+ standard drinks).

I lock that in, and make a pit stop in the bathroom on the way to Carnaval Court.

An 8oz water and a 12oz water on the convenient urinal shelf that the LINQ provides.

Walking across the casino, my drunkenness hits me. This means it’s time to dance.

Unfortunately, Carnaval Court is already winding down since it’s a Sunday, and it’s pretty chilly out by Vegas standards.

Closing down Carnaval Court again.

A wise man would cut his losses at 2:00am and call it a night.

But as you know by this point, I am not a wise man, and degeneracy never rests. So I head back to the Cromwell for some 3:2 blackjack.

I swing through the Dirty Bird en route, and somehow find myself playing 1¢ hundred-play Super Times Pay Deuces Wild. It’s not until I look at the timestamps on photos the next day that I realize that I played for 45 minutes (I’ll spare you the photos of the No Deuces Royal Flush and 4 Deuces that I hit, since nobody cares about 1¢ hundred play hits).

If that’s not the pinnacle (or nadir, depending on how you look at it) of degeneracy, I don’t know what is.

When I finally make it to the Cromwell, I’m pleasantly surprised to find a $5 3:2 Free Bet Blackjack table. I plop down and buy in for $100.

$5 Free Bet? More like $5 Free Push 22.

My surprise turns to elation as I talk to the dealers, who are changing every 20 minutes. Turns out it’s a new game at the Cromwell, and they’re still training on the rules.

And apparently the trainer forgot that everyone pushes on a dealer 22. So every time the dealer busted on 22, the dealers would pay out.

The first time it happened, everyone at the table looked at each each other with raised eyebrows.

Fortunately for the table, nobody was the tattletale that reminded the teacher they had homework, so we all rode the gravy train all the way to the bank.

After doubling my initial stake, I stack my chips and color up for a nice $100 profit.

In for $100, out for $200!

I cross the overpass and make my way up to my room at about 5:00am.

I pound some water and electrolyte powder, since I’ve got a tattoo appointment tomorrow at 1pm and I can’t risk a hangover.

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