Volume 6 part 031 All Hail Ceaser
Insurance companies didn’t pay-out for late departures unless in excess of twenty four hours. Arriving in Honolulu only twenty three hours and twenty minutes behind our original schedule disqualified our claim. American Airlines took a different position by awarding six hundred dollar holiday vouchers per person. The vouchers were conditional on being spent exclusively on AA tours, in the U.S and within the calendar Year.
Las Vegas replaced New York for the September break of 2004.
The “Griswold’s” as we had affectionately come to call ourselves were doing Caesars Palace for a week requiring a cash top-up to only eight-hundred and six pounds per person. Joe flew from Italy with Elena in plenty of time for leaving for Heathrow the following Friday Morning. Over tea on the preceding Tuesday she remarked that it must have been her excitement that caused her to put the flight in her diary for the Thursday and not the Friday. The chilling realisation that I had the wrong date required a swift reorganisation of work, packing, kennels and car parking for an early departure from Matlock to Heathrow on the Thursday.
We missed a long planned leisurely breakfast at T3 when security discovered Grannies twelve piece, leather bound manicure set which had somehow mysteriously slipped into her carry-on luggage by mistake from her double king sized bed when she had everything laid out to pack. Security sympathised with Bubble when I ordered the set to be destroyed. Instead, arrangements were made for me to take the offending item back to Check-in where AA would take it to Las Vegas as hold luggage. I made it back through security just in time for boarding having been fast tracked through first class by a sympathetic flight attendant. As to be expected, the whole saga was all someone else’s fault despite a twenty-minute lecture the previous night that no sharp objects were now allowed in hand baggage. The 120ml “eau de Cologne” went down the toilet.
Heathrow T3 to Las Vegas was entirely uneventful. Despite the promise in small print, there was no car to collect us upon landing. In the ensuing mayhem from multiple circuits of the airport looking for a ride Bubble suffered an event. I should have known that nausea and paralysis of the legs spelled “Stroke” but what the hell we could have done had we have been aware of the diagnosis anyway. Propped on both sides, we bundled her into a hi-jacked taxi. Getting her out required assistance from the driver. Fortunately the vast lobby at Caesars was well equipped with easy chairs. Whilst waiting to register I spotted a notice offering wheel chairs on free-loan and secured the last one. It was either get into a wheelchair or its going to be a ride on a luggage cart. Bubble begrudgingly took the wheelchair.
Rooms at Caesars palace feature lots of marble and mirrors. Pete and I shared a room with beige marble, gilt columns and mirrored ceiling. The two man Jacuzzi sat inside a colonnade within the bed room. The bathroom was equipped with a two person vanity unity. A shower room and separate, enclosed toilet cubicle led off the “bathroom”. Bubbles room was similar but without the mirrored ceiling. The bedroom colonnade and bathroom were black marble with gold embellishment. Their bath was inside the bathroom protected from the bedroom by a semi-transparent etched glass mural. Bubble was singularly unimpressed, complaining that the “black” could be a disguise for poor house-keeping. The place was spotless.
Snuggly tucked into a queen size bed for the night with an ice bucket to catch any residual puke we left Elena in charge of the invalid with the express instruction to stay away from the porn channels and that if the old thing died, we could probably be contacted in the Cleopatra Lounge. The Cleopatra lounge was a floating bar in the shape of Cleopatra’s barge. No call came but tired after a very long day, we turned in before ten that evening. Charging to the rooms required presentation of a Hotel ID card. Despite reporting the loss within two hours of arriving at Caesar’s, whoever found my lost card, ate very big breakfasts between bouts of downloading the same heavy porn I had instructed Elena to stay clear of. Needless to say I refused to pay the bill at the end of the week for anything charged after the first two hours.
By breakfast on the first full day Bubble was fully recovered. She kept the wheelchair as a holiday bonus to increase milking the sympathy vote. For the most part it worked, getting us to the front of most of the restaurant queues. I got well acquainted with the back of granny’s head that trip. Days were spent by the pool, doing brunch, the pool, doing shopping, the pool, and doing dinner after which we toured the strip to sample the wonders of neighbouring hotels. Gambling extended to a one time flutter on the “slots” when we accepted more in complimentary drinks than we spent on casino chips.
Jewellery shops can administer miracle cures. The first sight of an enamelled broach depicting a Yorkshire terrier and Bubble was on her feet strutting her stuff around cabinets of bling long enough to outshine Dubai. Meanwhile, back in the mall Pete had taken up the post of the wheelchair bound invalid. First, right to left and then, left to right and back and forth, a high speed blur of orange designer pants flashed by the entrance into the shop in a “now you see him , now you don’t” … sort of pantomime manoeuvre. The orange cargo pants were acquired during our first trip to New York when Greenwich Village was authentic gay and had the shops to match. Las Vegas was altogether more conservative.
Alighting from the wheelchair booming “Alleluia” and declaring the second miracle of the day simply to indulge in a little window shopping, so impressed the Bible bashing saleswomen of oriental decent that she gave us a further ten percent discount. He chose diamond studded earrings in the shape of a distorted crucifix. We left with only the enamelled Yorkshire terrier broach. Bubble won the battle of the wheel-chair by pulling the sympathy card on a passing family from Georgia. Apparently they don’t eat Black people in Georgia anymore which corroborated the indignation displayed by the man from South Carolina of whom we had asked the same question in a souvenir shop in Castro in 2000. I went back for the diamond crucifixes on the last day as a surprise for Pete. Not to be outdone, Bubble bagged a set of Ruby Pendant earrings at the same time.
We did the top of the half-scale Eifel tower above “Paris” and shopped along the canal in the “Venetian”. A half kilometre mock canal complete with gondolas lined by designer outlets the full length on both sides is something to behold. Being constructed indoors, fully air conditioned and on the first floor over a gaming area the size of Wembley stadium is an engineering marvel. From the “Rialto Bridge” we watched a volcano erupt across the street on the half-hour in the forecourt to the “Mirage” Hotel. The pirate fight involving two full size galleons at “Treasure Island” was a bit of a drag played out by bored wannabees exiled from Hollywood. “Bellagio’s” musical fountains were interesting. Consuming half the water in The Hoover Dam every half hour and dancing to Frank Sinatra, the fountains appeared rather pointless unless seen from the top of the half-size “Eiffel Tower”, at night and where the full effects of the colour changes could be enjoyed without the interference of “doing it my way”.
A Monorail links Caesar’s to the South end of the strip. “Luxor” was novel. We took drinks in a bar area inside the base of a Pyramid whilst Elena sat twenty feet away in the lobby separated only by a row of sixty centimetre high Sphinx. Under 21’s aren’t allowed in bars in the “States” but they are allowed to witness alcohol abuse first hand, drive at 14 and shoot each other by the dozen. Joe and Bubble bottled out of a ride on the great “New York- New York” roller coaster. I got front seat with a black boy whose finger nails scarred the back of my left hand as we topped the first peak, so high you could see almost as far as the real Empire State building. Never again!
“New York- New York” is one of the tacky resorts on par with “Camelot”, “Circus-Circus “and “Bally’s”. The only redeeming feature of the “Stratosphere” is the tower from which it gained its name, and particularly the revolving restaurant at over a thousand feet above the desert floor. Twenty five dollars gets you a ride on the fun-fare that tops the tower. Pete took front seat in a chariot that delighted in flinging itself so far over the edge of the parapet that spectators in the observation deck below were treated to a close up of the state of the rider’s underwear as they flashed across the window. Elena retained her ticket unused. I retained my dignity intact without even considering what would have undoubtedly amounted to an act of suicide.
Dinner in the Stratosphere was pre-booked. We arrived early and suitably attired. Pre-drinks in the lobby bar were marred by, once again having one of the party quarantined in the cloak room. Dinner was okay. The view was spectacular even on the second time round. Anxious dowagers provided sporadic entertainment by spontaneously leaping from their chair to do an impromptu circuit of the restaurant. Bubble found this all very amusing until she realised that she, too had place her hand-bag on the floor level window sill. The floor revolved while the sill and external wall remained stationary. Waiting to be reunited with your bag could take the best part of an hour. The wine waiter obliged!
Generally, Las Vegas is not a gastronomic success although the “Bellini” starters are worth a wait. Equally you can give the Gay scene a miss. Leaving Joe, Bubble and Elena to do the late window-shop while Pete and I went further afield wasn’t a problem as they preferred to retire to the hotel TV channels by ten. Elena rarely made it passed dinner before reaching for the remote! Two blocks away, on the airport side of the strip was the largest and busiest of the “gay” bars located opposite a Swiss chalet housing the Wienerwald restaurant. The chalet was as fake as the Vegas, gays but altogether more easy-on-the-eye. We thought better of taking Bubble to the Wienerwald for fear of getting a window table. A view of all those clones would seriously detract from the knackwurst.
For twenty-two dollars a cab took us to an empty bar in a retail park somewhere far enough to leave the glamour of the strip a dusky glow on the distant horizon. The two of us entertained the sole barman over a beer before taking a forty-four dollar cab ride back to the Strip. In the forty minutes it took for the taxi to arrive not one other person entered the bar although the blacked out lorry park opposite appeared to be doing roaring trade. A regular procession of artic’s drove into the gloom seemingly, never to return. We spent the rest of that evening fending off high-class hookers in the Caesars Palace casino bar. They convinced themselves that Peter and I were not gay but simply to “cheap” to indulge in whatever they were selling.
We received intelligence that there was a “Bar” tucked away on the edge of a residential development in the no- man’s land, half way between “The Venetian” and “Circus-Circus”. Tuesday night was go-go-night featuring male strippers. Worth an eye-ball we thought if only for a laugh. We cruised a shanty town in a taxi for an eternity. The cab driver was so keen to give satisfaction he turned off the meter, taking CB directions. He became a man on a mission. Stopping outside a shabby pine boarded double garage the driver reconnoitred whilst Pete and I obediently stayed put in the back seat of a black and white cab, closely resembling a cop-car. It wasn’t the sort of neighbourhood in which you wanted to be seen left unprotected in the back seat of a cop-car! A hand beckoned from the pass gate in the unmarked garage door. Inside was dark and cosy. Air Conditioning would have been helpful. The drinks were already on the bar ordered and paid for by the cabby already half way down a pitcher of piss Americans call beer. Flashing lights from the stage periodically picked out the odd punter lurking around the perimeter of the shed. We remained firmly glued to our bar stools observing the golden rule in gay bars of not making eye contact. Free pizza, still in the box was on offer to keep us in place until show-time. As the intermittent flashing lights rarely made it through the grime in the beer glass I was in no mood to trust the safety of the congealed pizza bread.
It transpired that the cabby was also gay. This explained his fastidious interest in finding a previously undiscovered gay venue. He being totally enamoured with the place confirmed that not only was the driver from “out-of-town” but that Kentucky has few gay bars worthy of note to boys with fewer than three thumbs. Before he could down a second pint we took advantage of his generosity by asking for a ride home. Our insistence on paying the return fare was more about rebuffing his advances than people-pleasing by accepting a free ride. The cabby had already volunteered his shift pattern and would be “available” after midnight!
For the rest of the week, Cleopatra’s with Josephine in tow, and the happy hookers received our undivided attention.
Afternoons were too hot for anything but the pool, shaded only by the construction of a new thirty-two storey bedroom extension. The management kept the noise and nuisance to a minimum. The sun striking the top of the Eiffel tower glinted through a convenient gap in the scaffolding. An elegant stage set of white marble columns topped with Corinthian capitals, carved pediments and white linen sun shades surrounded a deep blue pool cooled by its own refrigerator. Shallow steps aided access for the drunks and disadvantaged. A perimeter shelf just below water line gave sufficient purchase to avoid too many being drowned. Bubble took a daily dip perched on the shelf. Pete and I supervised from the bar. Tiny, minimally clad white female slaves had mastered the art of simultaneously delivering multiple ice buckets filled with chilled bottles of “Bud” on one arm whilst balancing a cocktail topped, twenty-four inch serving tray on the other. In the event that the waitress lost her load the drinks would be free! Americans have perfected defying logic and gravity in so many ways.
The Grand Canyon is obligatory. A short walk down the strip to evaluate the competition settled us on a tour-group offering a personal plane for five, coach connections to the Canyon and a Barbecue with the Indians on the cliff top. Right on schedule, a dilapidated people-carrier banged its way under the Port-Cachere to the main entrance of Caesar’s Palace, vying for attention in the midst of a sea of shiny long wheel base limousines. Had we not already paid we would, and should have done a runner right there and then. A pretty boy dressed in shrink-wrap short-shorts and with hairy legs escorted us from the portable cabin that served as an airport terminal building to a “private plane” about the size of a VW Beetle but with wings. Although certainly not old enough to drink, the hairy legs offered a modicum of reassurance that the pilot was old enough to fly. With Pete and Elena in the bogy seat, Joe and Ma squeezed into the middle row and I up front with my nose pressed up against the window screen it was clear to see why the Pilots were limited to the size of school-boy anorexics. A single engine dragged us spluttering along a runway capable of taking a 747 which was just as well as the combined weight of the Griswold’s needed every metre for take-off. With tail down and the morning sun diffused by a front window with more cracks than a Kurdish Taxi cab the forward view was non-existent. The hairy legs provided the only worthwhile view.
We touched down like a homing pigeon in the middle of nowhere. about forty-five minutes later With Joe pushing and me pulling we succeeded in extricating Granny from the bucket seat into which she had melted through lack of fresh air or air conditioning. An equally dilapidated, former Greyhound Coach took us on a half hour ride to the rim of the Canyon. We eagerly anticipated the promise of a barbecue speculating on what kind of meats and “vitals” would be served at a Native American camp fire.
The Indians were, in fact, Pakistanis!
Nike baseball caps replaced eagle feathered head gear. Instead of being skimpily clad in Chamois-leather loin cloths they wore shiny bri-nylon Walmart “trackies” direct from a sweat shop in Bangladesh creating enough static to replace the anticipated camp-fire. A Mobile food truck with a fold down front under a hydraulically propped striped awning provided the platform for the “eat-all-you-can” self-service bain-marie. A choice of baked beans or sweet corn complimented cremated sausage or four-legged chicken portions topped off with generous helpings of rehydrated powdered mashed potatoes. The pudding course would have been a second’s of the main course.
Home-Brand “Cola-coke” was served in wax impregnated paper cups the size of a waste paper basket. Wooden picnic tables sited on a promontory overlooking the Canyon would have provided an idyllic look-out post had it not been for the roar of the diesel generator powering the twenty-first century chuck wagon and the fragrant aroma of the nearby three seater chemical toilet.
On the way back up a half-mile trail that had led to nowhere Pete and I met Joe and Elena, undecided as to whether to make the perilous descent. Ever gullible, they scurried off down the steep and rugged path in search of the Indian market selling an abundance of blankets and rugs at ridiculously low prices. We were on our second bucket of “Cola-coke” before they caught up with us and none too happy at being so easily duped. What had they proposed to do with all those carpets and rugs? Their luggage was already at bursting point.
With the wheelchair back at Caesar’s we weren’t going to be trekking far. Granny hadn’t ventured to the Cliff edge for fear of a premature reunion with Walter. Elena wanted to shop and Pete needed a pint. We’d been and we’d seen so nothing more to be done.
Back at the airport the very considerate pilot shouldered Bubbles arse into the front seat while I pulled from the middle row in the rear. We had concluded that because the gaps around the door accessing the front seat were the only source of ventilation she might moan less if sat with the pilot. We hadn’t counted on the seat belt being so short that it constricted the blood flow so efficiently we had to carry her to the terminal upon landing.
American’s can be notorious for their over-attentiveness. In the case of the Pilot it was not that he was gay or anticipating a fat tip but because he was studying somewhere close to Palm Beach. The prospect of a local sponsor was too good an opportunity for the boy to miss. His interest waned rapidly after explaining that I had never been to Palm Beach, wherever that was. The bright yellow tee shirt bearing the “Palm Beach” logo had been a two-for-one bargain in the end of summer sale at the Sheffield C&A.
I was one of the few people in England who liked C&A and there’s me thinking I had acquired an admirer, half my age with hairy legs! All-in-all a very disappointing day.
The “Griswold’s” did the desert. The car-hire company insisted we take a Toyota. We insisted we did American and preferably something with tail fins. We settled for a Chrysler C300 with a V8 engine and eleven miles on the clock. It was the biggest they had…
There is an awful lot of sand in the desert. A tourist information centre was infested with little creatures resembling tiny kangaroos the size of a large mouse with the tail of a rat. Quite cute but hand feeding is hardly to be recommended in a State where rabies is endemic. Some former hiding place for some non-descript native American involved a twenty minute trek down a sand filled whadi to reach a steeply sided rock pool so deep that the itinerant Indian would have needed to travel with a thirty meter rope ladder in case he fell in.
Boulder Dam was hot. One hundred and thirty degrees hot. Misting sprayed the crowds. Free bottled water was available. Anyone not fully covered risked assault by the sun-block gestapo carrying barrels of lotion on their backs. Fast-food outlets fed fat families. We straddled the Arizona- Nevada state line just like on the TV. The visit to the turbine hall was just like a visit to a turbine hall.
Been there, done that, got loads of Tee shirts to avoid the necessity for a return trip.
On the way back to “Vegas”, I never tire of saying ”Vegas”, a traffic pile up brought the highway to a crawl enabling the peasant classes to salivate over our recently released, brand new, top of the range C300. Pity we hadn’t taken a “GB” sticker. It put me in mind of the story Walter told about going to a union meeting with his boss in a Rolls. When overtaken by a Mercedes, some achievement back in the 50’s and being cajoled into racing the transgressor the boss responded with a … “ in a car like this, we are here to be seen and not to race!…”
We dropped the car off in a multi-storey car park above Bally’s casino across the road from Caesars, leaving just enough time to change before catching the Celine Dion show. In the foyer of the Arena, a much admired C300 was up for raffle blocking the way of bubbles chariot. Almost a week into the holiday she maintained her cripple status with commensurate style. Unfortunately, wheel chairs can’t negotiate the ski slope stairs on the balcony of the upper circle where fifty-five-dollar tickets get you almost the back row.
For someone in a wheel chair and their accompanying slave it’s a platform located way behind the back row. Peter, Joe and Elena were centre stage although only about ten rows below us taking great delight in waiving into our “eagles nest” each time they headed for the bar. Rotund pink and pasty solitary spinsters squashed into a variety of mobility contraptions surrounded us. Curiosity is a strong point for spinsters with no business of their own to mind. Pointing over balcony enquiring “is that the family” in a particularly grating southern drawl progressed into “this must be your Mother?” expanding into “is that your wife and brother?” was firmly rebuffed with a … “yes this is my mother, the big one is my sister and the little one is her daughter. My “brother” is my Lover!” I enjoyed the rest of the show in stunned silence. For the very first time, I think Bubble too, realised this was more than just a special friendship and that she would need to raise her game. Nothing was said on the subject. In true confederate style the spinsters left without so much as a “Goodnight”! At the very least I had expected a visit from man or two in a self-igniting burning bed-sheet carrying a crucifix the size of barn door.
Revenge is sweet.
If you want to make a dramatic exit make sure that your mobility scooter has enough charge in the battery. We later discovered two of the old dears marooned next to the roulette wheel as we glided by to take front row in the queue for the Italian restaurant specialising in the Bellini’s. A push start got them to a baguette takeaway across the mall.
In so many ways, “Vegas” was also very trying.