After peeing two or three times in the night, I groggily check the clock and it’s 10:30am. I realize that I’m in Las Vegas, and am too excited to fall back asleep.
Miraculously, I’m not hungover. I drink my Verbena anyways, cause why not?
I text my mom and she just woke up too; we’re always on the same page, and today is no different. I take her order and provide my own cheaper, better version of room service.
I head to District Donuts and get my standard Monte Cristo, as well as the Vietnamese Coffee donut, a chocolate donut, a Vietnamese Coffee for my mom, and a Matcha Latte for me.
I find my mom on the balcony with the bottle of André already cracked. She’s taking in the views of Vegas by morning, and I do a kitschy room service charade as I unbox our brunch.
We crack some Heinekens and toast to a new day in Vegas.
Everything is delicious as always, and OH. MY. GOD. is the Vietnamese Coffee donut divine — it takes home an honorable mention for being even better than good.
We hail a cab downtown, with no plan other than the loos idea to check out Downtown Tattoo.
The cabbie drops us off by the Golden Nugget, so we’re at a literal fork in the road: Circa or Downtown Tattoo. Knowing myself all too well, I know that if we go to Circa we will never make it anywhere else, so we opt to walk downtown.
On the way, we notice that happy hour has started at Banger. We take all of 3 seconds to convince each other to stop for a beer. My mom goes for a cream ale, and I go for the limited release DIPA. It’s nothing to write home about, but beer is beer and I like supporting a local craft brewery whenever I get the chance.
With some added liquid courage, we make our way to Downtown Tattoo and ask if they have any walk in availability. Drew Curcio, who. may be the sweetest and gentlest soul I’ve ever met in a tattoo shop, told us that he was free and happy to tattoo us. My mom and I talk, and she says she’s in for her previously decided-upon touchup of a Mardi Gras head she got a while back. We commit, and I start scanning the walls and ceiling for some flash that catches my eye. There are quite a few gambling tattoos that are cool, but nothing jumps out at me.
Then I see a horseshoe that says “good luck” and it speaks to me. It tells me that it belongs on my right inner bicep, next to my pride sun/rainbow (which is appropriately located on my bi-cep). My mom agrees, so I show it to Drew and he begins the stencil.
The next few four hours won’t make for exciting blogging, so suffice to say: my mom and I get our tattoos. Drew had a gentle touch and made great conversation, but as per usual, I’m over it by the time the shading starts (I’m the freak that prefers the outline… I blame the masochism that comes with the lifelong suffering of being a Minnesota sports fan).
Drew does mine first, and then I head next door to get a High Life to put in the souvenir koozie that I got.
I’m pretty sure my mom drinks most of it as she’s getting inked, but she deserves all that and so much more so I’m not even mad.
Tragically, Drew wraps our tattoos up in black pads so we can’t show them off. My mom pays $175 for hers and I pay $350 for mine, and we’re off to Fremont.
Now oozing plasma from the ~artistic~ open wounds on our arms, we’re both ravenous. We go to the first place we see, which is Evel Pie.
It’s an absolute clusterfuck, but we’re too hungry to care at this point. There’s a horde of hungry people outside, a mob of people that’s supposedly a line, and a bouncer who clearly hates his job more than I did when I supervised college kids. My mom works her charm, and we head inside with their blessing to take our order… after I leave my water bottle outside the fence.
We order two slices, one each. As we wait for the slices, my mom goes to get us beers at a convenience store. She crosses the Rubicon (Las Vegas Blvd) and into the madness of Fremont in pursuit of liquid salvation.
Amidst the chaos, our dinner emerges, so I make my way under the canopy to find my mom. As I take a sip of water, one of the rubber straps on my N95 breaks, so I’m having a mask emergency as I enter the most densely-populated crowd I’ve been in since COVID started: the drunk/high revelers of Fremont Street on a Saturday night.
I find my mom, and we inhale our pizza and gulp our beers in the least ceremonious of places: on top of an electrical box across from the White Castle, with the aroma of some dank urine occasionally wafting up to remind us that we are on Fremont. I’m so ravenous, I fail to take any pictures before inhaling my slice.
After nourishing our bodies, we make our way back under the canopy. And let me tell you: it SUCKS. Y’all know I’m the least snobby (who am I to call the kettle black?), and am usually a big proponent of DTLV, but this… was horrible.
I have literally never had a more negative experience Downtown — or even in Las Vegas — and my Vegas resume includes being kicked out of a night club, having my phone stolen, and projectile vomiting into multiple trash cans (all in the same night… like I said, not one to call the kettle black). But this was a special kind of trashy. So trashy that I’m gonna switch to past tense so that my harsh critique will have the added credibility of hindsight.
My mom and I felt like we had entered into a circle of Dante’s hell. We watched in horror as a mom, who unfathomably thought it was a good idea to bring three toddlers to Fremont on a Saturday night, literally dragged her son across the dirty ground with her foot while screaming at him to get out of the way of drunk tourists; we saw couples arguing, people double-fisting slushy hangovers in a novelty cup, and clouds of pot smoke that would put a Snoop concert to shame. Somehow, even the buskers felt trashier and more obnoxious; in a sick sense, it felt that the painted chips on the ground were no longer sufficient to contain seedy underbelly.
Suffice to say, the “stimmy crowd” was out in full force. That is a phrase that you truly can’t understand until you experience it, and I hope you never have to experience it.
After a quick pitstop at the trusty ABC store to buy a mask, my mom and I escape the crowds and go into Circa.
This is supposed to be the highlight of my trip, but between the persistent hanger after my delicious yet inadequate slice of pizza and the traumatic experience of Fremont Street, I’m not coming in with the right mindset.
The TL;DR is this: lost $400 without hitting shit or having any fun, and I was in such a sour mood I couldn’t even appreciate Circa. I’m a donkey, so of course I kept chasing, but this was the biggest waste of money ever and returned zero value except for the four $100 “free” drinks that I had.
But for you, my loyal readers, let’s delve in a bit more to what I can remember (for once, the lack of memory is from repression and not alcohol).
After scanning my ID, I walked into a huge, bright casino. It just feels new, which is very foreign downtown. I immediately head to the player’s desk to try and get my Cosmo tier matched; the lady informs me it will take 24 hours to be reviewed, and apparently it isn’t approved as I’m still the low level.
I then introduce my mom to Invaders from Planet Moolah; she is skeptical at first, but is quickly won over with her first bonus round. She doubles up her $20 as I lose 3 of mine. We don’t even see a cocktail waitress, nonetheless get an order in, so my mom takes pity on me and buys me an overpriced beer from the gift shop despite my pleading.
Next I pose for some obligatory photos with Vegas Vickie and CircaPennys before heading upstairs. As we’re doing this, a flamboyant gay guy compliments my romper and says that somebody raised me right. I point to my mom and go “yes she did, didn’t she?” and he is absolutely gagged. They end up hugging, which my mom still reports as one of her favorite spontaneous parts of the trip.
We head upstairs and belly up to the overhang bar overlooking the sports book. It has drink tickets that come out faster than the cocktail waitress comes around. Even though the speed is acceptable by drink ticket standards, in my losing sadness, I lament that drink tickets have made their way downtown and at a Stevens property nonetheless.
My mom is treading water in Bonus Poker, as I’m getting my ass handed to me in Double Double Bonus. As she nurses her original $20, I run out of $20s and start feeding in $100s straight from the source. Keep in mind, I’m still playing fucking single line quarters so this is ugly. But it’s so ugly that it has to get better, right?
Any DDB player knows the increasing desperation that comes when you fail to hit a quad in a while; as the stingy 5 coin payout on two pairs begins to wear down your bankroll, you just have to pray for salvation in the form of a quad to keep you going, a premium hand to break you even, or a kicker to put you in the winning category. Unfortunately, as I keep shoveling money in, it gets to the point where even a premium hand would have me down and the only way to break even is 4AWAK or a Royal. Naturally, as the frustration of failing to connect on dealt pairs mounts, my rate of play gets increasingly desperate — and fast.
At this point, I’m numb to the money I’m funneling in, and in a trancelike state. The only thing that will break me out is a 4OAK.
But it never comes, and when I reach into my wallet, it’s empty. Just like my camera roll worth of winning hands.
All I have left is $20 of tip money and two drink tickets.
In stunned disbelief that I just managed to lose $340 in single line quarters in less than an hour, I head to the bar and throw down my drink tickets and the $20. I order two shots of Jim Beam, which the bartender pours into two separate plastic glasses. Much to the amazement of the couple next to me on my right and horror of my mom on my left, I silently pour them both into the same cup and slam it in two gulps.
My mom, with her instinctual maternal concern mixed with a strange hint of pride and silent awe, simply says “Wow. You’re gonna get fucked up tonight.”
What else can you do after getting your ass handed to you like that?
Main Street is a mess, and there is no order to the crowd of people trying to get a cab. So my mom does what she does best: flex her “clueless [but actually very aware] mom charm” to hail a cab.
As she will never fail to recount, my absolute boss of a mom steps off the curb, gestures at a cabbie, makes eye contact, and waves a cab over. We get in the car, bolstered by the almost palpable rage of everyone around us.
When we get back to the Cosmo, we head up to my mom’s room and
eat inhale our leftovers from Momofuku and District Donuts. This food gives me much needed life. So does the shot of Johnnie Walker Blue that I bring down from my room.
I down a few Heinekens on the deck as my mom dances to Barry Manilow with the Bellagio Fountains erupting in the background. The backdrop of the fountains will never get old, but seeing my mom in her element is a whole new level of joy and a fresh look on a familiar sight.
After our refuel, we head to the Bellagio Conservatory for some sightseeing, since that’s all I can afford for the rest of the day.
Maybe it’s my dour mood from my gambling loss, but the show isn’t as impressive as usual. My mom enjoys it though, so that makes it worth it.
We’re both pretty beat, so we head to our respective rooms after the fountains to rest up for our last day.