It all started with a bachelor party….
The movies are not always correct in that every pre-marriage soiree in Vegas ends up like a scene out of The Hangover, but it was time for Alex’s night out as he and Gina were getting married on the 4th of July (Besides, losing a tooth, or getting a facial tattoo both lacked a certain appeal for me). It was a night of eating, drinking, gambling, more drinking, and touring the Strip.
It didn’t prepare me for the next few days before the wedding.
One of my friends in another country committed suicide. I had no indication that anything that bad or drastic was happening in his life. I was left with only the question of “Why”, and no answers or clues as to what prompted his decision. On a much smaller scale, my favorite animal at the Museum, a bat ray which I affectionately called “Slappy” due to his penchant for slapping the side of the tank as he swam around, has mysteriously died. I usually would start my day with a greeting to him (and a quick pat on his head on the sly), as he swam over my way, and mooched for food. Two different types of deaths made the month a lot harder to begin.
But the Missus and I drove out to Pasadena to attend Alex and Gina’s wedding, which was a very light and fun affair, filled with a lot of great moments through the night. It was nice to support my friends through such a happy ceremony.
And of course, since we were already there, we stopped over at a stop to Disneyland/California Adventure to check out the revised Star Tours. But with fun aside, I got back to Vegas just in time for the air conditioner going out yet again, and Vegas’ version of “monsoon season”.
The film scene was keeping busy with another film called My Mother’s Curse starring Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen. Production gave us enough advance notice that it was going to be a long night, but I don’t think anyone really factored in that it was going to end up being an all-nighter.
I was initially cast as a bellman for Caesars Casino, which was funny because tourists thought I was the real thing and kept asking me to take their bags until I corrected them that “I’m not a bellman, I just play one on TV.” But after the meal break, I was recycled as a tourist for another scene.
There was a scene in which the camera panned over to Streisand planning a slot machine and cheering over her winning. That scene lasted all night long. Take after take after take after take of the same thing. The crew was thinking 4:30-5:00 A.M. We wrapped at 7:30. I wouldn’t have minded the late hours so much, except that I had work and an important meeting at 9:00 A.M. I drove home and went to sleep for an hour (and immediately regretted that decision), only to stumble into the Museum to guide this meeting/facility tour of a 25-30 volunteer team. I had been trying unsuccessfully for days to have this group come in on the weekend when we needed them more for the Museum’s 20th anniversary event, but they insisted they wanted in on a Friday, and I reluctantly agreed without knowing I would be cast for the film or how late it would run.
Not only did I had to train these people, I had to simultaneously run a 9:30 tour of children. In order to make everything work, I had to rush the training, drop some factoids to a group of kids (I can’t remember what I said, but the teachers assured me that I was brilliant), and then deal with the angry volunteer supervisors from their agency that they didn’t get what they wanted from the experience.
So our Education Director and I sat down with them, where they looked at me, half-crazed from no sleep for 32 hours, and said that both I and the experience were not what they were expecting. I merely smiled in reply. When I am overly tired (or have had a few to drink), I can be remarkably candid. Though sober, I felt a remarkable combination of both exhausted and punch drunk.
“I accept responsibility that this was not a ‘normal’ experience, though nothing around here ever truly is”, I offered. “We’re a small organization, we could have found more use for your people tomorrow, where I could have devoted more attention to them instead of coming in before one of my tours, I’ve had a completely shot computer all week, one hour of sleep, and frankly, I’m amazed I’m sitting upright right now. It may not have been what you wanted, but I think we can sort this out. I assure you it will be better, and you’ll find more of the experience that you’re looking for.”
They looked at me for a moment and agreed. “I think you handled that just fine”, our Education Director said as we saw them out. “Really”, I asked. “I barely remember what I said to them.”
It was lunch time by then, where I ran into the Museum’s Director in the break room.
“I’m sorry I was twenty minutes late this morning”, I offered. “The film I was one lasted much longer than expected, and really, if anyone is to blame for me being late, it’s Barbra Streisand.” I looked my Director squarely in the eye. “And I defy you to find a more original excuse than that today.”
My Director looked momentarily surprised, then began to laugh. “These things only seem to happen to you.”
“I’m glad you agree”, I said, slumping to the ground, “Because I am really tired right now.”
I went home and right to bed shortly after.
Life mellowed out again, with wine and cheese events at Lake Las Vegas, and having to rush Junie to the vet for an injury she got. I worked CSI: Las Vegas at the Golden Nugget again, and while there were no robot sharks involved, I did get to briefly meet Ted Danson. And of course, I ran into Carrot Top again, bring my total meetings to four.
During one of the down times, and a particularly long scene, one of my friends introduced me to an older woman by the name of Kim Krantz. Kim had to have been in her seventies by now, but she was a showgirl from when Las Vegas really became Las Vegas. She started telling me a lot of her own personal history, watching the mob and their effect on 1950′s Vegas, the first topless show being at the Dunes, not the Stardust, the year she spent living in Mexico, her time in Hawaii, how things in Vegas have changed from then to now, even when she learned to be her happiest when she stopped caring what other people think. It wasn’t even halfway through her conversation when I was already sitting on the floor just listening intently like it was storytime. She even showed me a picture of when she was a showgirl at the Riviera. Good Lord, what a knockout.
And yet, through all my strange experiences in Vegas, I was truly starting to feel like I was settling in and making this place “home”. It provided me a constant string of adventures, my own house, and still the closeness of California so I could keep all of my experiences and friends there. For all my constant on the go schedule, I was finding myself strangely content.