As if I haven’t destroyed my body enough throughout the course of the past 72 hours, it’s time to permanently deface my arm with some ink to provide a constant physical reminder that what happens in Vegas doesn’t necessarily stay in Vegas…
I’ve got an appointment with Chad James at Studio 21 for 1pm. He’s going to add on to the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign he tattooed onto my left bicep last trip, starting a Vegas band.
The default iPhone alarm tone rouses me from my slumber at 10:30am. After chugging a bottle of water, I’m feeling 80%. Which is about as good as you can hope for waking up on 6 hours of sleep on the fourth day of a bender (shoutout to da real MVP, my liver, for making this entry possible).
I shower and make my way down to the clusterfuck of a rideshare pickup, where I’m greeted by this disappointing sign.
Jokes on them! I’m drinking water this morning to hydrate in preparation for 2+ hours of being repeatedly poked and scratched with a needle that’s subcutaneously injecting ink.
I have my Lyft drop me off on the 4900 block of West Flamingo so I can stop at Capriotti’s for a Bobbie sandwich to carboload before my session. Don’t ask me to choose if the turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, or bread is the best part, because I can’t pick.
Being the cheapskate I am, walk the five blocks to Studio 21 to save a few bucks. The irony of saving $5 before spending $500 on a tattoo is not lost on me, but cheapskates gonna cheapskate.
I’m immediately greeted by Aileen, the friendly receptionist. Chad comes out soon after with a sketch that looks even better than I could have hoped for. He goes to the back to print it on transfer paper, and I go to the bathroom to nervously pee in preparation for my masochist marathon; fortunately, I’m a Vikings fan (who watched the entire 2018 NFC Championship game), so I’m used to three hours of continuous discomfort.
Chad has me stand up with my arm down by my side, explaining that gravity pulls the skin down and it’s the most natural. He applies the stencil, sits me down on the chair, and gets my arm in position.
And let me tell you, it’s uncomfortable. No, not the gun — that hasn’t even started yet. The position. Since it’s on my inner bicep, I have to contort my shoulder into a semi out out socket position, which is only slightly less natural than the people who say no to free drinks.
Chad fires up the tattoo machine, touches it to my skin, and there’s no going back. The sensation is surprisingly manageable, and feels like a butterknife scratching fresh sunburn. After about an hour, my inner bicep looks like an adult coloring book.
A quick bathroom break, package of fruit snacks, and liter of water later, I’m ready for shading.
Chad’s stories of crazy clients and Vegas shenanigans keep me suitably entertained until about the two hour mark. By this point, my skin is raw and irritated, and the fatigue is starting to set in. What used to be a gentle scratch now feels like hot nails digging into a fresh wound, and small droplets of blood are starting to surface on the areas that are getting hit the hardest. The only merciful part is that the contortion of my shoulder has effectively numbed half of my arm, so the tingling sensation in my forearm periodically distracts me from the intense pain above the elbow. Beauty is pain.
At last, after about 2.5 hours, Chad shuts off the tattoo gun and wipes my arm with a paper towel for the last time, unveiling his masterpiece before taking some glamor shots and wrapping it in saran wrap.
I love it!
I burn a $25 Visa giftcard and put the remaining $400 on my card, along with a $50 tip.
I leave the shop triumphantly in a Lyft back to Planet Hollywood, where I have to explain to the driver “yes, it’s real” and “no, it’s not a joke.”
My carbohydrate reserves are depleted, so I need food fast. I go for the closest option, Pin Up Pizza. I’ll be able to use my $10 food credit (for not using housekeeping), so it’ll be cheap and easy (the meal, not me…).
Pin Up is a fairly good value by Strip standards, offering a beer, gigantic slice of pizza, and a garlic knot for $14. This would be a great deal if the pizza was good.
Unfortunately, reheated New York slices aren’t my favorite. Especially when the crust is more reminiscent of thin cardboard, the sauce is bland and flavorless, the cheese is crusty, and the toppings are dried out.
The garlic knot has the most flavor, but this is mainly due to the fact that it’s greasier than a closeted Republican and has enough garlic salt on it to send an elephant into hypertension.
The Miller Lite is the highlight of this meal, which is telling.
What is also telling is that I devoured the whole thing, burning the roof of my mouth, because I was so hungry, while power walking to the Flamingo.
Thanks to my brisk walking pace and multitasking ability, I make it to the Dirty Bird at 4:58pm. Just in time for the “It’s 5:00 Somewhere” happy hour at Bird Bar. This hour of wonder features 50¢ domestic light beers, so you can hydrate while you get drunk.
I quickly order two Coors Lights for a total of $1, tipping a buck a piece, for a grand total of $3.
I find a spot at the end of the bar, and settle in next to Dee and her boyfriend Jay, who are talking with an older gentleman who is escaping from his wife to get drunk before a Cirque show.
It’s about 5:20pm when I order my second round of beers, doublefisting of course. I’m on pace for my goal of another round before last call.
I alternate between chugging beer and talking with my new friends, and hit my target. At 5:50pm, I order my final two beers.
As the 50¢ beer rush ends at 6:00pm, the bar begins to clear out. I’ve still got a bit of work to do before I can stack my final cup, so I keep talking with Dee and Jay. It turns out that they’ve never been to Vegas before, and don’t know what they want to do next, so I decide to take them under my wing.
After finishing our drinks, we head back to the Flamingo casino to get our gamble on. With a pit stop at the bathroom first, of course.
The vodka that Jay drank is catching up with him, so immediately after he takes this commemorative photo, I triage him to the Flamingo cafe.
This 24 hour joint, located across from the flamingo habitat, gives you a quarter slice of a delicious, greasy pizza for $9, making it a great drunk play and an incredible value for the Strip. Don’t take my word for it, though; in between bites of drunken bliss, Jay repeatedly raves “this is the best pizza I’ve ever had.”
The best pizza ever? No. But the best way to soak up 6 beers in an hour? Absolutely.
After watching Jay house his pizza, Dee decides she is hungry. So I bring them to the LINQ Promenade for one of my favorite drunk plays: In-N-Out
I know better than to order the cardboardy fries, so I stick with a classic cheeseburger. I want to keep room for beer, but I know that it’s a marathon not a sprint, so I need some sustenance/absorption for all of the booze to come.
With satisfied appetites, we head back to the Flamingo to gamble.
I belly up to a Pai Gow table at the Flamingo, hoping to get Dee and Jay in on the action. They’re intimidated by the $15 minimum, though, so they watch me over my shoulders. The dealer is great and helps me explain to them what’s happening.
I hit a pretty good run, and double up my $100 buy in to $200.
The booze has hit them hard, so they decide to go back to their room to get some sleep.
Meanwhile, I’m ready for more booze, so I make my way back to O’Sheas.
I pop a $20 into the bartop machine, order a frozen Bailey’s, and promptly cash out at an even $20.
I then proceed to drunkenly gamble for the next few hours, before deciding I’m ready for some good pizza. I make my way to the Cosmopolitan, to finally try out Secret Pizza. I opt for the Detroit style, since I’ve never had it before.
As I’m drunkenly devouring my pizza, a lady comes up and offers me her beer because she “doesn’t like it.” I’m never one to say no to free hooch, so I gladly oblige.
After wrapping up my meal, a series of those “only in Vegas” moments occur, and I end up talking with a guy named Chris who invites me up to his balcony to look at the fog.
The fog is totally surreal, and provides an almost ethereal quality to the Strip.
As if it’s not quiet enough at 3am, the fog amps up the eerie silence.
I make my way back to my room, since it’s 3am and I’ve got to check out tomorrow.
I call down to the desk, get approved for a 12pm check out, and attempt to find a position of comfort with my freshly tattooed arm.