Heroes & Villains Goes To Las Vegas

I’m back!

Only after posting last week’s H&V column did I realize that I mention that I was pressed for time but not why. You see, I took a little vacation where I actually went somewhere other than my couch for a “staycation.”

Some months ago after I was fully vaxxed and ready to freak, Tom Hanks’ son declared that it was to be “White Boy Summer” this year and since I am uncomfortably white I set to making plans. On some level I had decided that the universe owed me a small vacation after being stuck inside for over a year. Please note that this is very out of character for me, I honestly believe that not only am I owed nothing by the universe but that my existence doesn’t even register on a galactic scale.

I also uncharacteristically thought that we may have been turning a corner there for a second and that the necessary number of people were going to get vaccinated and I wouldn’t currently be agonizing about if I should go to a theater to see Shang Chi or not. “Things will be fine,” I thought, “I’ll be able to hop on a plane to visit my old pal out west and have a good time. White Boy Summer.”

The “out west” I mentioned above is Las Vegas and, to date, it’s the farthest west I’ve made it. A pal of mine had decided to move out there almost a decade ago, for reasons that still mystify me, and we don’t see each other as often as we once did. It’s a curious destination to be sure. My boozing days are largely behind me and the neon nightmare of The Strip is something I should object to on a purely conceptual level. Some would argue that the town is the death of western culture where everything from the rest of the world is stuck in a blender and poured into the shape of hotels.

You don’t actually have to go to France to go to Paris, you can visit a scale replica of the Eiffel Tower. You don’t actually have to go to Italy to see Venice, you can take a gondola ride down an artificial canal…that goes through a shopping mall. You don’t actually have to go to Egypt to see the pyramids, you can stay inside one without even having to be mummified.

It’s like crossing into a strange alternate universe where every comedian or band you forgot about over a decade ago is still packing them in, twice a night and five nights a week.

Speaking of bands…the other thing that bolstered my decision to go out there was that yet another friend of mine is a musician that has gone back to touring after a year of cooling his heels. It was the perfect plan…see one friend (and celebrate his upcoming 40th birthday) and support another friend by seeing his band play (and *cough* getting comped a spot on the guest list).

Were I to have my own travel show it would probably be called Farts Unknown Some Reservations. After I booked my flight and hotel for an unbelievably inexpensive price, I marked the date on my calendar, arranged to have my cats looked after, and set to counting down the days. Then, predictably, the pandemic wasn’t going away. By my estimation, I really enjoyed the two weeks in July when I felt okay not wearing a mask.

The word “delta” started getting mentioned an awful lot along with more variants than your average episode of Loki (worked in a comic book reference, this still counts as an in-canon H&V column) and the virus finally hit close to home. I won’t go into specifics but several of my family members ended up catching it and thankfully everyone was okay…especially those who were vaccinated and experienced only the most mild of symptoms.

It was around that time I started circling back to the cancellation policy of the site I had booked my trip though. They had ended up reversing their long-held “no backsies” policy and I could cancel and get a refund all the way up until the week of the trip. It was a nice ace to have up my sleeve just in case shit really went south.

But before I knew it I was at the airport being herded on to a plane with the rest of the human cattle. Weeks prior I purchased a case of KN95 masks and an assortment of pleasant smelling, pocket sized hand sanitizers. I tossed a few changes of clothes into my duffel bag (if the airlines think I’m paying for luggage they can fucking suck it), charged my e-reader, headphones, and Nintendo Switch and got to traveling.

I’ve never really traveled anywhere of note or particularly exciting but I’ve decided I’m good at traveling. Given enough advance notice and the necessary amount of compressible space bags I can get a week’s worth of luggage into a single duffel bag and still have extra space to cram it into whatever rapidly shrinking dimensions the airlines are currently allowing for carry on items. My goal is always to get into an out of the airport as quickly as possible since few thing are better than walking straight off the plane and to a waiting car.

It wouldn’t be a proper trip without some epic miscalculation on my part, however. My flight to Nevada landed around 9 AM due to fun with time zones you arrive almost after you’ve left despite being in the air for about four hours. My hotel’s check-in time wasn’t until the afternoon which is where things start to deteriorate slightly.

Fortunately, I was able to stow my bag at the front desk and I headed out to procure breakfast. The three pieces of chocolate and bottle of water I had during my flight weren’t cutting it anymore. I then began to meander around the strip looking for something that would fit the bill. Unfortunately, a lot of restaurants I had visited in the past were either operating on reduced pandemic hours or had closed, possibly never to reopen. I ended up having a crêpe…I had never had a crêpe before. It was fine.

Eventually I checked into my room and tried to nap. I’m never known to nap so it didn’t happen and by then it was dinner time (since this is running long I skipped several hours of aimless wandering and a subsection of all the Lyft drivers I had while there). I met up with friend #1, saw the band play and maintained an appropriate distance from the rest of the concert goers. I had a solitary nine dollar PBR and headed back to my hotel. By the time my head hit the pillow I had been up for 24 hours straight and walked just over 14 miles total. The absolute best thing I purchased on my trip was a small bottle of ibuprofen since I neglected to pack any of my own.

The next night I met up with pal #2 who took me to a brewery far off the beaten path in a hipster neighborhood that, I can only assume, had been heavily gentrified at some point in recent memory. After that we ended the night at a nerd-themed bar that came complete with it’s own R2-D2, Millennium Falcon hanging from the ceiling, four of the five elements from The 5th Element, several lightsabers, Klingon weapons, and a Tardis in the corner for good measure.

I returned home the following day and had a Covid test scheduled for the day after that. I didn’t hit any slot machines while in Vegas due to my biggest gamble being around crowds of people. Thankfully, I tested negative…not that I had acted willfully irresponsible during my trip at all but it was more risk than I had engaged in over the last 18 months.

It was a super weird experience trying to reclaim some sense of normalcy after a year of insanity. The whole trip only served to make everything seem so much more surreal coming off the back of a year of isolation. I’d like to say it still blows my mind that there are states out there that don’t have this thing under control by operating under the guise of “freedom.” Some states mottos may as well be changed to “Fuck That And Fuck You Too” or whatever the Latin equivalent is.

Now as my novella draws to a close I can say that I went a place, saw some things, didn’t die, and made it back in one piece.

I doubt it. Photo by me

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