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Part 2 - Friday
Friday greeted Matt and Stinky with all the warmth the Western had to offer, which was quite a bit since the heater was stuck on high. Matt woke up first and couldn't get back to sleep, so, to wake Stinky, he used a technique his dog had taught him. He dipped his nose in cold water and then pressed it against his friend's face until he grudgingly awoke. Stinky noticed a cigarette burn hole in his bedspread. Not wanting to be outdone, Matt found one in his. Then Stinky found another, so Matt did too. Before long they were having a contest to see who could find the biggest hole. Stinky won with a doozy that he could put his fist through. There were also some burns in the carpet, as though people often passed out in bed with cigarettes dangling from their sticky lips. The cigarettes finally fell to the ground and continued to smolder, searing straight black marks the precise length and width of the cigarettes.
The boys took no chances with their $2 key deposit, and returned them by 11:30. While collecting their dough, a girl asked the registration clerk if her father lived at the hotel.
For breakfast, they walked down to the Plaza's faux '50's diner where, on a previous trip, Matt had unsuccessfully tried to eat the "Pound of Pig". At $3.95 the pig was out of their price range; but eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast for $2.25 suited Matt just fine. They were terrible, but filled him up and gave him that logy feeling that eggs often do. Stinky had biscuits drowned in gravy, accompanied by eggs he could not get the waitress to leave off the plate no matter how hard he begged. They left their blunt waitress a $1.00 tip.
The next thing Matt and Stinky knew, they fell in love. As they ate, two impossibly beautiful young women walked into the diner. Where they came from and what they were doing at the Plaza, they boys didn't know. They only knew that the two gorgeous temptresses were staring at them. So much so that one of them bumped into the hostess as she was being led to a table. Once they were seated Matt couldn't see them, but Stinky could and he said they continued to stare. Stinky saw one of them mouth, "Oh, my God."
Now, Matt's no Cary Grant and Stinky is flat-out ugly, so the girls weren't drooling over their looks. Rather, they probably thought the guys were someone they aren't, like celebrities. Many say Matt looks like Charles Kuralt, and even more say Stinky looks eerily similar to a "Frankenstein" era Peter Lorre, only more hunched over and decrepit. But there's no denying the girls were staring. As Matt and Stinky left the restaurant the ladies' faces followed them with these sly smiles that meant either they had taken their wallets, or wanted to know them better.
The boys still had their wallets.
Matt is married, and happily so. He was not interested in these girls for any of their feminine charms because his wife's got charm by the buckets. Stinky is not married, and he was interested. Matt said, "If these girls think we're somebody we're not, let's get them to buy us some food." Stinky figured, "Me like girls. Me want kiss girls. Girls soft and smell nice. Why girls always laugh at me and run away?"
When the guys paid for their meal there was an old '50's song on the radio, and the cashier said it was from "before your time." Matt told her he was 47 years old. She couldn't believe him. "Oh, yes, ma'am. In fact, this is my son," Matt said as he pointed to Mark. She was flustered, telling him how good he looked for his age. "Really, she said, you really do look good." Then a little doubt crept into her voice and she said, "If you're 47, who's singing this song?" The singer was a somewhat whiny woman and so Matt figured it was either Leslie Gore or Connie Francis and he guessed Connie. The woman said "That's right! You really are 47. Boy, you really look good for your age." For the record, Matt is 30 and a liar.
Later he was consumed with self-conscious doubt, wondering if she thought he looked really good because he only looked 42. That would be depressing.
Since both Stinky and Matt are kind of dorky they didn't muster up the courage to speak to the girls until they had already left the Plaza and their bewitching presence. Standing on Fremont Street, the boys devised a clever way to ask the girls for free food and they marched back into the Diner. The girls were gone. Gone for good? More on that later.
Their plan for the day was to walk from Downtown to the Strip and sightsee.
Between Fremont and the Stratosphere, there is not too much. Stinky kept referring to it as "the Naked City" but he just likes to be melodramatic. Actually, it's just like Motel Drive in Sacramento, or the low rent business district of any other western metropolis. They passed lots of seedy motels, fast food restaurants, adult gift shops, pawn shops, thrift stores and some Federal buildings. It wasn't dangerous, but neither was it very interesting. Just about when they reached the Stratosphere's intersection, a car drove by with the two winsome lasses in it. Stinky ran, but couldn't catch up before the car turned left and drove out of sight.
At the Stratosphere, Matt and Stinky were determined to get to the top of Stupak's Shaft for free. They wandered around the enormous, haphazardly-themed casino in search of someone that could get them up there. They went to a pit boss that ignored them. They went to the slot club booth, but the ladies there did nothing for our heroes. Then came the water works, Matt's and Stinky's eyes slowly filling with tears, then trickling, finally pouring. In one of his famous tantrums, Stinky threw himself on the floor and slammed his fists. Still, those cheap, uncaring bastards gave them nothing but disrespect.
So, on to the Aztec, which is next to the Stratosphere and a real dump. The little coffee shop in the casino offers $0.69 strawberry shortcake and a bunch of other foods for under a buck. Having just eaten the big Plaza breakfasts, the boys weren't particularly hungry, so they only stopped for a free photo with two fake bags of money. While doing that, they met some dumb chump about 20 who just moved out to Las Vegas from Matt's old hometown, Huntington Beach, CA. HB is mostly famous for producing really dumb skinheads and skateboarders. This guy was definitely dumb, and he had dreams of being famous in New York, but for now he spent his days seducing the desk clerk at the Aztec and polishing off 40 oz. malt liquors before lunch.
The Sahara is just south of the Stratosphere, and is the northern terminus of the Strip according to some people. Beyond that it is just Las Vegas Boulevard. Inside, Matt and Stinky met Fred, the guy who runs the slot club booth. They chatted with Fred about what a great guy he was and how, because he is so great, he should give them a lot of free stuff. He gave them slot cards, pens, slot card chains, and funbooks, but they knew old Fred was holding back. Stinky hinted some more about what Fred had behind that counter that he wasn't forking over. Finally, in a conspiratorial tone, the man pulled the boys aside and handed them a couple of slips of paper that he assured them were very hard to get. The papers were coupons for $2 off the Sahara's Virtual Speedway. Like they had extra dough for video games.
The boys chatted some more, trying to cajole a free meal or gift out of Fred, but he never budged. After maybe a couple of hours of persistent pestering, they gave up and left to check out the new Sahara casino. On their way back out of the Sahara, they passed Fred and he yelled out, "Fellas, you forgot your coupons!"
In short order Matt and Stinky knocked off the Stardust and the Riviera, where they got free keychains and decks of cards. This part of Las Vegas is now more run down than Downtown and seems to be the seediest area. Plus, the Riviera's facade is the most garish, incongruous sight in a city full of award-losing grotesquerie. At Slots-a-Fun they got some free popcorn to tide over their tummy-rumblings for a while. The joint is too cheap to butter the popcorn, but it is still worth stopping.
At Slots-a-Fun, they have a suggestion box and Matt shared some thoughts he had concerning casino management. He told them they should have magic slot machines that levitate when someone wins, "prize dwarves" who run around the casino giving out little gifts to the slot players, and that they should change their name to something that isn't so stupid. To make it look like the "prize dwarves" were a good idea, Matt said they do it in all the Australian casinos. At the Silver City casino, he made the same suggestions, and now he will sit back and wait for both casinos to offer him a job as their head of promotions. The first place to make an offer will win. If anyone goes to either of these casinos and sees "prize dwarves" or levitating slot machines, let Matt know so he can demand compensation.
Matt and Stinky stopped at the new Desert Inn and it sure is swanky. Never did hear them page "Burt Cohen" over the intercom, though, like they always did on VEGA$. The casino is small but all ritzy, and the boys expected management to start yelling at them at any minute for being such slobs and messing things up for all the rich people. Their feet were getting tired from all the walking, so they sat and watched a slot tournament that was under way. The time limit was a half hour during which each contestant hit his or her "spin reels" button with as much skill and dexterity as possible. This fat, abusive man sat beside Stinky and watched his wife compete. He must have been her slot coach because he was shouting helpful little tips like "That's not good enough!" and "You can do better!" Sometimes he would just yell, "Triple Sevens right now, Joyce!" or "You're falling behind!" Another fat guy dressed up like he just came from a prostitute's wedding walked around with a microphone and berated the contestants. This tournament was so exciting that before long Stinky and Matt got wrapped up in the action. Stinky kept screaming "Jackpot!" so all the players would look up. Matt liked saying "You're so bad at the slots, honey! I don't love you anymore." That made a lot of the players look to see to whom he was referring. While our intrepid scouts were egging on the slot players, the cocktail waitress came around and offered them drinks. It was pretty clear they weren't gambling, but as long as she didn't mind, they didn't either. Matt got a whiskey sour. Stinky got a gin and tonic. And they were big drinks in real cocktail glasses like you'd have at home, not those cheap pieces of junk most casinos use. They tipped the waitress a buck and drank up.
Even though the two young men were having fun at this point, they still couldn't get the girls out of their minds. The ladies' haunting beauty kept creeping out of the corner of their minds and saying "Boo!" Not only was it a bit scary, it was incessant. Who were they, where did they live, what were they doing without men? Why were they staring at Matt and Stinky?
Feeling refreshed by the free booze, Matt and Stinky walked down to Caesars Palace where Matt got $30 cash rebate from Caesars Mastercard. Then they got the hell out of there before Caesar saw them goofing around and sicc'ed Cerebus the three-headed dog on them. By this time it was getting late, anyway, and they needed to catch a ride. They walked over to Bourbon Street where a shuttle picks up passengers and takes them out to Sam's Town on Boulder Highway. From there, the boys planned to take the California Hotel shuttle to downtown. At Sam's Town, they had a half hour to kill between shuttles.
Sam's Town was pretty nifty. The place has a big, phony park with a bunch of animatronic animals that didn't fool jaded cynics like Matt and Stinky for a minute. Santa was in the park with a bunch of phony looking deer and some elves that Matt told to go over to Slots-a-Fun to apply to be Prize Dwarves. Stinky was all excited to sit on Santa's lap, not to give him his list, but to apologize. The last time he sat on Santa's lap he was four years old and wet Santa's knee, and he still feels pretty crummy about that. So, the two of them got in line and waited behind a half dozen three and four year olds. When it was Stinky's turn to step up to Santa, he got all scared and said, "No, I don't want to. He's going to remember me." And so, they went outside and sat on the curb until their shuttle arrived.
It had been morning when the boys last ate, and now it was moving into evening. By the time their shuttle reached downtown, Matt and Stinky were starving. Stinky even had some flies buzzing around his lips. They decided to go for the foot long frankfurter at the Lady Luck because, if it didn't fill them up, it would at least make them too ill to eat again soon. The foot long the Lady Luck used to give away was a half-pound, which is neither a good nor a bad thing since a lot of weird crap can be shoved inside a half pound hot dog casing. Later, the casino reduced the freebie's size to a foot long wiener of unstated weight. And now, it isn't even free. Our two hungry stars had to use a coupon from the Lady Luck funbooks to get wiener for $0.75 apiece. The mustard and onions were free. The hot dogs were thin and flavorless.
After this light snack, the guys checked in at the Gold Spike and treated ourselves to a newspaper and a couple of sodas from the casinos vending machines. They headed up to the room, kicked off their shoes, read the paper and relaxed for an hour. Stinky asked Matt, "You know those girls that were staring at us?" Matt said, "Yeah?" Stinky said, "I think I'm in love." "Which one?" Matt asked. "I don't know," he said as his eyeballs wandered dreamily about in his eyesockets.
Robert was coming later on that night, which is why they upgraded from the Western to the Spike. With the room cost split three ways, they could afford a plusher room. And they didn't regret it for a moment. A standard Spike room is $22 a night and pretty nice. They've put in new furniture, wallpaper, beds, linens and carpet. Everything is clean. That's exactly what's expected for the kingly sum of $22 plus tax, split three ways. (1-800-634-6703, ask for the Gold Spike)
They went back over to the Plaza to get more photo keychains. This is something patrons can do every day, many times if they like. Using more coupons from the ill-gotten Santo funbooks, they got some more pens and free beers at the Las Vegas Club. After leaving a buck for the barkeep, Matt and Stinky made like a couple of bananas and split. See, they wanted to take the beers over to the Plaza and sit in the Omaha Lounge looking like they bought the booze there. Matt hoped the girls would be there, and if they saw the boys with beers, the ladies wouldn't think they were cheap bums. The lounge act was the same crappy band it always is. It's some Filipino family that plays all these patriotic songs that gets the WWII and Korean war vets on their feet, clapping, cheering and thinking "Where the hell is the nearest slot machine?" They pander so shamelessly that it's hard not to like them.
After getting fed up with the lousy lounge act's antics, Matt and Stinky strolled over to the Coin Castle to score some free food. The women in front of this dumpy slot joint usually make passers-by press a button and then give them a bunch of what they call "Crazy Cash" but are commonly call "Stupid Bucks." Customers can redeem these inside the "castle" for a funbook with cocktail and food coupons, but they have to wrestle with the very aggressive change ladies. This time, though, the woman out front was as disillusioned as we'd ever seen. She said "You don't have to press the button," and gave the two young men as many Stupid Bucks as they wanted. As they went inside, she warned them, "You know they're going to try to get you to play the machines?" Matt and Stinky said they knew, but that they would resist the urge. So they walked inside and tried hitting up the cocktail waitress for free nachos and cocktails. She was all nasty and rude and barked that they had to play the slots to get the goods. When the guys refused, she pointed to the door. As they left, tails between their legs, the woman out front said, "See? That's the mean cocktail waitress anyway."
By this time, Robert had taken the CAT 109 from the airport and the other two boys met him in front of the Gold Spike. Trying to impress Robert with their wealth, Stinky and Matt tried their luck with the slots at the Spike. Matt quickly lost $0.20 on the pennies and then moved up to the nickels. He spotted a nickel machine called "Filthy Rich" and thought, that's what he wants to be, filthy and rich. But, the piggy machine swallowed his nickel and he decided that that was enough gambling for one night. Robert was already hungry and making "mooing" sounds. Even he didn't understand why.
After Robert dumped his crap in the Spike room, the three caballeros headed to the Las Vegas Club's Upper Deck coffee shop for a late night special. When they hit Fremont Street, though, they saw the girls again. Matt and Stinky couldn't believe their eyes because they girls were so quickly becoming gauzy wisps of memory. But seeing them in the flesh made them real again. The girls were walking way up by the Plaza so the boys started to walk really fast to catch up. They didn't want to run because that would look uncool and desperate. Or more uncool and desperate than they already looked. The girls reached the end of Fremont and crossed Main Street. The boys panicked.
Screw decorum! The three guys ran, past the little boutiques on Fremont, through the teeming mass of stupid-looking cowboys, past the Sassy Sally shills, and through a red light on Main as a Downtown security guard yelled at them to slow down. They burst through the front doors of the Plaza, only to have their progress blocked by two dozen Japanese tourists headed out for the night. The girls were lost somewhere in the casino and the boys (now Robert was in love with them, too) beginning to think they'd never get the free dinner they dreamed of. If these girls were playing hard to get, they sure were doing a bang-up job of it.
Sullen and kind of grouchy now, the boys headed back to the Las Vegas Club for dinner. Matt had the chicken plate, which is $2.75 and comes with cole slaw, fries, three pieces of chicken and coffee. Stinky had the same, Robert had two orders of their big, fluffy pancakes at $1.50 an order. It was a pretty good meal. Not enough to make them forget the girls, but good enough so that Matt didn't punch Stinky or Robert.
And then it was time to for these three young men to go to bed and dream of firetrucks and red balloons. Before they hit the sack, Matt drank one of two free samples of Nyquil he got in the mail at home. He wasn't sick, he just had never tried Nyquil before and was hoping it would knock him flat on his ass for the night. It did.
Free crap they got: Aztec photo; Sahara Slot card chain; Desert Inn cocktails; Riviera deck of cards; Stardust keychain; Slots-a-Fun popcorn; Plaza photo keychain; Las Vegas club cocktails and pens.