Even though my bank account was getting dangerously close to "E," when Natalie asked me to accompany her to Las Vegas, I knew I'd find a way out there. Something about a hot 22-year-old blonde asking me to accompany her to Sin City just struck a chord within me -- probably in my pants.
And when she told me she'd never been to a strip club and wanted me to take her to the Crazy Horse Too, I sounded just like Jules Winnfield: "Shiiiit, ne-gro, that's all you had to say!"
I was in my normal Saturday morning daze when Natalie showed up. We hit the bank to withdraw the remaining pennies from my account and began our journey listening to Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger." A montage of previous trips to Vegas played in my mind while we talked and took turns playing DJ.
It was a beautiful day and it would soon turn into a beautiful night when the booze was flowing, the cards were being dealt, and the strippers were taking my remaining dollar bills.
We made pit stops at Del Taco in Upland and Bun Boy in Baker (home of the World's Tallest Thermometer!) before descending upon my favorite city in the world. Like a football player going through his pre-game rituals before the Super Bowl, I, too, have certain things I do before hitting Sin City: singing along to Tenacious D, eating the exact same meal at Del Taco (cheeseburger, two tacos, chili cheese fries, small Mr. Pibb), and popping in the Swingers soundtrack as soon as we roll into town. I'm glad Natalie hasn't been scared off by my Vegas road-trip idiosyncrasies. At least not yet.
At the Excalibur, we met my cousin and Natalie's friends. I was feeling a bit antsy, seeing that almost 30 minutes had passed since we'd been in Vegas and I hadn't had a cocktail or made a single bet.
Luckily, before I passed out from a lack of drinking and gambling, I found myself in the Excalibur poker room. It's a new and spacious room, obviously put together in response to America's recent obsession with poker. The lighting wasn't that great, but the service was excellent. Within seconds of sitting down, I had the first of an endless stream of vodka tonics.
The cards weren't falling for me and while I'm not winning money, I'm not losing much, either. That's poker. I was having a good time with my fellow players, who were a mixed bunch of locals and tourists. The drinks were flowing, the laughs were plentiful, but I knew I had to eat soon before I ended up plastered and face down in some random Vegas gutter. Again.
My cousin and I grubbed down some fast food before kicking it at the bar. We caught up on each other's lives: life had thrown some curve balls at us, but we were still in the batter's box, taking our swings. And even though we hadn't seen each other in a few years, our brother-like bond had us joking and laughing like no time had passed at all.
We pounded a coupla more cocktails before heading to the greatest strip club on the planet, the Crazy Horse Too. I don't care what Disneyland says; for my money, the Horse is the Happiest Place on Earth. Whenever I'm here, I have a smile on my face that goes on for days and days. It only disappears when I check the dozens of ATM receipts from the night.
We kicked it near the bar before Natalie and her friends showed up. We're short a chair and I asked the guys next to us if I could take one of their unused ones. They said yes and as I'm moving it to our party, I recognized one of the guys as John Dolmayan, drummer for System of a Down. I've seen plenty of celebrities at the Horse, but he's the only one I felt the need to say "I'm a big fan" and shook his hand.
Adhering to Strip Club Etiquette 101 (Thou Shalt Not Talk To Guys Who Aren't Your Friends For More Than 30 Seconds), I left him alone and returned to the party. Soon, Natalie and I moved to center stage for a better view of the action. We were making references to the strip club scene in Beverly Hills Cop when Vanity 6's "Nasty Girl" started blaring through the sound system. We were cracking up and I checked to make sure nobody was wearing trench coats inside the club, although I doubt the Horse's security force would have any problem handling any two-bit crooks that showed up.
The dancers were showing Natalie a lot of love, among other things. As I threw back drinks and watched stripper after stripper grind, fondle, and lick* Natalie for her dollar bills, I'm reminded why I love this town so much. The World's Tallest Thermometer might be in Baker, but that night, it was in my pants.
Like a Jedi Master's pride in his padawan learning how to use The Force, I'm beside myself at how quickly Natalie had taken to her strip club lessons. She knows when to tip, but, more importantly, she knows how to tip. Anyone can toss singles onto the stage, but she'd already mastered the art of tipping with style by stuffing dollar bills down her shirt, where the dancers had to be a little more, uh, creative in retrieving them.
Obviously, this was the Greatest Night in the History of My Life.
At 3am our stack of dollar bills was gone and although it was still early, we decided to call it a night. After a few hours of sleep I was back in the poker room for breakfast, which consisted of more Texas hold'em and no food whatsoever. Natalie showed up around noon and we said our goodbyes to my cousin and her friends.
It was another legendary trip and, much to my surprise, I'd had a few hours of sleep, I wasn't in jail, and my wallet still had some money in it.
Booze, poker, and boobs: when you absolutely, positively got to have a good Saturday night ... accept no substitutes.
*Okay, I didn't actually see any licking, but a guy can dream, can't he?
NOTE: The Crazy Horse Too is no longer the Happiest Place on Earth, ever since they were busted for having ties to organized crime. It was the worst-kept secret in town, but somehow the Feds finally got some charges to stick. Long live The Horse.