Friday, December 27, 2002
The Vegas timeline kicked in quickly since we had dropped into bed at roughly 4 a.m. that morning, so it was almost lunchtime before we got up and moving good. After a quick shower and the by-now familiar daily chore of fitting our extracted belongings back into the car, we headed out in search of some potential breakfast. As we drove toward old Vegas, Dave mused aloud, "You know what Dottie would suggest: we should go somewhere and drink Bloody Marys!" As soon as the utterance left his lips, we both knew Erin had served as the muse for a perfect plan. Dave dialed Erin up to grill her on the best Bloody Mary venues in town. As the two of them refined the list, I interrupted Dave whining, "There's the costume supplier I saw in the Yellow Pages! Can we stop, puuuuhhllllleeeeeeese???"
Not being much of a gambler, there are only two things that have ever drawn me to Vegas: the Liberace Museum and the probability that with all those showgirls in town, there are BOUND to be good costume stores somewhere. The night before while Dave was picking out his escort, I had made use of the Yellow Pages to research costume shops that looked like they might be interesting, and we now suddenly found ourselves in the parking lot of the one that had looked most promising: Williams Costume Co. Divine intervention! It was an old-timey store that probably looked only slightly different from the day it opened in the 30s? 40s? The back half of the store was crammed full of elaborate hand-made rental costumes. Proximity to the Christmas season made for one particularly colorful rack filled with bright reds and forest and Grinch greens, all trimmed with swags of cartoonish white fake fur. When I poked around on another rack, I found "Norma Desmond" all done up in silver, red and black, topped off with an intricately patterned cloche that was festooned with a bold little clump of red feathers. The store was filled with every type of spangle imaginable. Every surface, right up to the ultra high ceiling was densely packed with the ingredients of show business. I cooed aloud when I found some diffraction grating sequins, and ended up taking home a number of different round and star-shaped ones. A coterie of wizened old broads perched on stools behind the glass counter that ran the perimeter of the store. A young customer inquired where she should look for a cheap feather boa because she was going to a party out in the dessert for New Years Eve. In a thick Brooklyn accent, the saleswoman said, "Oh! Is it for that there Laughing Man? I've heard of Laughing Man!" Dave and I didn't dare look at each other for fear of dissolving in giggles. The old gal who seemed to run the place had a lovely Veronica Lake-like head of lustrous gray hair. I imagined her in her day, gyrating behind elaborate feather fans in nothing but pasties, a sequined g-string and chunky heeled dance shoes.
Nancy Williams Baker - owner of Williams Costume Shop
The woman who wrote up my ticket had the raspy croak of a 3 pack-a-day smoker, her skin deeply wrinkled from the generous amount of sun she had soaked up over the course of her amassed years. She wore a half-face of clown paint eye shadow drawn in huge panes of red, white and blue, resembling a greasy close-fitting party mask. It really was quite fetching with her blue crepe blouse and patriotic earrings. I have a feeling that the old Vegas would have been much more to my liking.
A long-enduring itch had finally been scratched and the Bloody Marys were calling. We drove back down to the strip and parked the car in the garage of the Mirage hotel, where we envisioned big cold spicy tomato juice drinks while threading our way through the throngs of people milling about. We found a nice little table in the corner of the rainforest and sent our waitress off to fetch our libations. Sitting there in the middle of the brightly colored fake foliage, sipping the tangy/spicy/sweet/salty drinks we had so laboriously sought, breakfasting on the nutritious fresh vegetable garnishes from inside the glass, I at last gained the summit of the bell shaped curve representing the lack of having an agenda. I attained a state of having absolutely no plan for the rest of the day. Weird. In the gentle Disneyfied twilight, Dave and I sat and talked like we hadn't seen each other in ages. It's amazing that it was so easy to spend all that time together and not really tire of one another's company - what a great traveling companion Dave is.
After a langurous stay in the polished cotton forest, we decided to engage in one of the quintessential Las Vegas rituals: partaking of a buffet. We waited in a long queue as multitudes of people streamed by with mounded plates, youngsters, hipsters and oldsters in tow. When it was our turn, we noshed on a cornucopia of different steam table favorites, and I washed mine down with a carafe of day-glo orange soda.
We waddled back to the car to check into our next lodging: the Monte Carlo. We lugged our bags upstairs looking forward to the rare luxury of being able to stay in one room for TWO whole nights. As was his constant ritual, shortly after gaining entrance to the room, Dave scooped the Gideon's bible from its nesting place in the night stand and gingerly placed it outside the door. This secured the area and made it safe for the disco nap. And what better place for a disco nap than Vegas. We opened the window to the cool desert air and the rhythm of the nearby New York New York roller coaster lulled us gently to sleep in the afternoon twilight.
When we woke, darkness had fallen transforming the strip into its flesh colored power net and false eyelash manifestation. When we disembarked from the hotel room after only a little primping, our mission was to visit a variety of places and light where we felt like lighting. We headed over to the Luxor to start our casino crawl. We soon found ourselves in the Mandalay Bay, and after a bit more wandering about, we chose a table at a large open air bar area far removed from the din of the casino. We whiled away many happy hours in that dazzling spot, drinking vodka martinis, watching the ebb and flow of humanity, critiquing the different uniforms forced on the hapless wait staff. The hideous version sported by the Mandalay gals looked like it was fashioned from a discarded Westlake floral print sofa. Flounces appeared in all the wrong places like an awkward slipcover. We gambled for a bit after we started moving around again, and I was pretty pooped so I left Dave to it and returned to the room. It wasn't too terribly long before Dave himself returned and called it a night.