So the whole predicted “End of the World” thing didn’t exactly happen, to any sane person’s utter lack of surprise.
My month, however, was actually full of surprises.
It all started with an event to feed the homeless. The Burning Man community gets together to feed and clothe and provide supplies and phone calls for Vega’s homeless population (that subject is a story in itself). There was a huge turnout, and a lot of clothes given away. It was nice to see a lot of these people who trudge around in our city’s extreme heat and windy cold on a daily basis actually look happy for a morning.
But it was back to my winter “showtime” schedule with the American Country Awards. It was fairly standard run-through for the event, save that I had to stand in for the lead singer of Rascal Flatts. There I was, on stage with the rest of the band, when one of the guitarists asked if I wanted to sing, and if so, go ahead. So for about 3-5 minutes, I would have been the lead singer of Rascal Flatts with the full band behind me…. Except that I didn’t know this particular song at all! So foiled by by lack of still trying to better acclimate to country music.
I didn’t have much time to ponder that, as it was time for Santa Rampage down on Fremont Street. Santa Rampage, for those who don’t know, is a Burning Man organized pub crawl where people dress up as Santa (and other unusual variants), and basically run amuck through the streets drinking and yelling “Fuck you, Santa” at, well, everyone. Even more funny is the fact that it’s Rodeo Week in Vegas, so there were a lot of confused cowboys during all of this deviance.
Right after that was a Yelp event that was focus on KISS mini-golf. I kid you not. Vegas has a KISS themed mini golf course called Monster Mini Golf Presents KISS. Honestly, it becomes irrelevant if you like KISS or not, because I found myself wanting to rock ‘n’ roll some nights, and most of every day. Seriously, this place is amazing. I may love few things more than this place because it is AWESOME.
And then came Miss Universe back at Planet Hollywood. While I’ve worked Miss USA every year for a few years, Universe was new to me, and I didn’t know what to expect. Then again, I really couldn’t have expected my experience there.
I always have a good time with the organization, as I do pre-show co-hosting with my friend Anna, but the girls for this year were great. I made a number of friends over the next few days:
(Hanni has become a good friend of mine as she’s marvelously funny, and actually keeps her own blog. It’s a good read, and easy to translate.)
And of course, Miss USA, who went on to become Miss Universe. Nice girl. I knew her when she got crowned for USA, so it was nice to see her rise through all of this.
Don’t ask what was going on with my hair in these pictures. I honestly don’t know. :/
And then, there was Miss Cyprus….
Ioanna was this sweet, funny, extremely pretty girl who I fondly remember for always wearing Converse hi-tops as opposed to the high heels that the others wore. She approached me initially to tell me that I looked like George Clooney (though I think that she meant more Jim Carrey, but I’ll take what I can get). She was warm and friendly, and always seemed happy to get a moment to talk with me. How could I not find this girl charming?
The show itself was so different to me, seeing all the enthusiasm from all over the world. Fans from other countries saw me doing a good part of the hosting onstage, and thought I was the actual show’s host. So much so that I got this surprise shout of “Look! it’s the host!” when I walked out of the theater for a dinner break. “Oh, I’m not….” I began, but I was photo mobbed before I could even say anything further. “Live in the moment”, I mused to myself, as I just smiled and waved to my new international fans.
But with the actual pageant coming up, it was time to go. All the girls wished me good-bye and said that they were truly going to miss me once the experience was over, which I thought was very kind of them to say. Before we left, my friend Patty and I went to wish two of the girls well. Her, Guam, and me, Cyprus. I was invited to the afterparty, and I thought that would be that.
Not so much.
After attempting to ingest a martini that threatened to take all the skin off the inside of my throat, Ioanna and I had a chance to talk again after the party ended. With one free day left before she went home, we decided to hang out as she wanted to check out American stores. The next morning, I met with her, and her roommate during the pageant, Vasiliki (Greece).
(My hair decided to somewhat behave that day.)
Vasiliki had a very warm, kind, and intelligent personality, and I talked with her at great length about American culture and customs. So I took both girls to a mall, and that was a very full experience because let me tell you, those girls like to shop. But it was fun overall, and we later went to Fremont Street as none of the girls really got a chance to see Vegas proper due to their tight schedule during the pageant. I’ve said it before, but these girls work very hard during the whole set-up.
But I had to plan a party the next day, so couldn’t stay out all night. The three of us had a very nice dinner, talked a little more about the show and our day, and it was time for me to go. As I was leaving, Ioanna wanted me to have this:
To say I was touched was an understatement, and saying good-bye to both was very sad. But I did stop by to see them off before they went home to their respective countries. I still keep in touch, of course. Time and distance don’t diminish the friendships, and I found the whole experience to be profoundly moving.
Christmas came, and while it was a small affair, it was a nice one, spent with my family. Ended up with a new TV and Star Wars on Blu-Ray.
The rest of the year was spent at two final gigs: New Years’s Eve Live! and a nightclub event for the final evening of 2012.
Patty, Rick, and I did a very cold pre-show at the Mandalay Bay beach. For a brief moment, it was looking like I might have ended up being the actual host since the host to be was running very late due to some issues. But alas, it was not meant to be, though it was an enjoyable experience.
With special getting ready to air, I had to make my way back to Planet Hollywood one final time to be a door person for the Gallery Club there. Working the nightclub scene reminded me why I just generally don’t go to these clubs unless I’m being taken as part of some pre-planned event. And even then, I’d largely rather be somewhere else. Some of the people who frequent these places are some of the douchiest, most horrifically ridiculous stereotypical of stereotypes, and those are the ones who get to cut lines and get priority treatment over good people who still paid money and want to have fun. And it happened enough to where I complained on their behalf. It reasserted that the lifestyle is not so much for me because really, I just don’t care how many gold chains you wear around your neck that spell out your name.
Midnight rang, the casino went wild, and we were sent home shortly after. I took the long way in walking home, as I wisely chose to leave my car at Mandalay Bay. The Strip gets completely closed off to drivers, and the idea of parking spaces, much less driving over there, was a non-existent option.
I thought about 2012, and everything that had happened. It was a somewhat difficult year, and it was the experiences of living and meeting new people that made it worthwhile. I stood up for myself to some difficulties later down the road. I made new friends, now in different corners of the world. And I trusted in more than a few people that I shouldn’t have. But I was still here. Still here, and hoping out for something better.
I entered 2013 with a sense of hesitancy, but the end of the world never happened, nor were we consumed by a giant space whale as prophecy had foretold. I figured that was worth something.