For many years Las Vegas has been my home away from home, it’s been my favorite vacation spot since I turned 21. The nightlife, the gambling, and the luxury have always drawn me there but most of all its always been a fun way to catch up with the friends I grew up with from my hometown. Lately Vegas has been far from my mind in the midst of this global pandemic, civil unrest, and looming election but that changed with a phone call from my friend Allen. Him, Kent, and Rick (friends I grew up with) planned a trip to Vegas to celebrate Kent’s recent engagement and Allen’s Birthday. At first I had told him no and that I would love to come but under different circumstances. Though I said no at first it was too late, once the seed was planted the FOMO (fear of missing out) set in. I have been very responsible in this pandemic staying home and turning down chances to meet in big groups. I have been trying my hardest to do my part to stop the spread. After that phone call I received a text message with a flight itinerary to Vegas costing a total of $75 round trip from Allen. I clicked and bought the plane tickets on impulse. I said fuck it.
I chose on making it a quick trip to limit my exposure to keep myself from spending too much money. I called Allen that morning and had him put in some sports bets for me before the games started. Rick and Kent had no clue I was coming, it was a surprise. Called an Uber to pick me up and they took me to the airport, this was my first Uber ride in over six months. During the ride he didn’t say a word to me, thats 5 stars every time. Once I got to the airport my boarding pass was on my phone and I got through security quickly because I just had a backpack. The officers were behind glass, masked, and had gloves. Arriving early I had enough time to grab a latte and a blueberry muffin that I pulled my mask down to scarf every bite and sip. I did notice that the airport was less busy because of Covid and the seats at each gate were separated. I bought the tickets under the presumption that the flight would be socially distanced, I was wrong. Of course I was assigned to the middle seat and felt my anxiety beginning to bubble up before take off.
“Am I going to get it?” “Did I fuck up by coming?”
Once we were in the air i relaxed a little bit and like every flight from San Diego to Vegas it was over before it started, 45 minutes later I was in Sin City.
Allen greeted my in the lobby of Caesar’s Palace, my anticipation was through the roof. I get it every single time I see the strip, the Casinos have that effect on me. We went through the labyrinth that is Caesar’s to get to the room and surprised my friends. I got dog piled on, they had no clue. I put my cash in the safe, and changed clothes because we had a pool party to get to at the Cosmopolitan. After getting our reservation for the daybed we got our temperatures checked and were instructed to wear your masks everywhere but inside the pool. We got to our bungalow and our waitress came with a menu and a limit we had to spend, the guys got a bucket of white claw and a bottle of Grey Goose. I don’t drink anymore but I enjoy watching them let loose. Our table was poolside so we were in and out with little interaction from anyone at first, we were the first in the water and enjoyed a 45 minute heart to heart. Before we could realize it people’s bravery began to pick up and they were trickling into the pool.
As time went on the number of people rose exponentially, doubled, tripled, and got to the point were you were feet apart from the person next to you. No one had a mask on, per the pool regulations they were not required to wear one while in the water. You had to have one on entering and exiting the pool but not while inside. I met a beautiful girl from New Orleans that I was chatting with who told me “Covid was never a thing for me, I just lived my life. I think it’s fake.” While I was socializing I saw my friends getting drunker. Pouring frozen cocktails from a pitcher into each others mouths, taking shots, ordering bottle after bottle. With the drinks flowing I saw the people around me getting reckless, I sat there and thought “from this vantage point it doesn’t even seem like there is a pandemic.” I felt stupid and hypocritical because I have passed judgement on people doing exactly what I did on social media but you can only beat yourself up so much. After my friends had their fill of splashing civilians, drinking, and getting sunburnt I finally talked them into leaving.
It was time to gamble.
Gambling is tricky because for me I don’t know if I’m addicted to winning or being right. You have to be careful of not chasing that winning high and putting yourself in a hole. Policy has changed in Vegas during the pandemic but table games have stayed the same mostly. My friend Kent loves to play high stakes blackjack and I love to watch the drama. Under current restrictions I cannot spectate according to the Caesar’s palace pit boss. So I took myself to my favorite game, craps. Under current rules I had to wear a mask at the tables at all times and spots at the table were disinfected and whipped down upon request. After the pool I got to a hot table and came up $250. Craps has some of the best odds Vegas can give you, all it takes is one good roller. I have the ability to sit at a table for hours and the dice have saved me more times than I can count. There is something spiritual about the dice, it’s almost as if you can manifest the outcome by putting faith the shooter. I have had some legendary rolls in my life but not this time. I earned most of my money this trip by just betting on the side. If you want some advice in craps always bet the pass line and bring good vibes to the table.
I walked away when I started losing and went up to the room to shower and get ready for dinner.
While I was playing craps I had sports bets going that Allen had put in for me that morning. I bet on Baseball and NBA. My strategy is to spread it around and hopefully one of your parlays can make your money back, win two then your in a profit, win three your’e trips paying for itself. I won two so I had some walking around money.
Kent on the other hand had just won $5,000 playing blackjack while I was on the craps table, he told us he was paying for dinner and none of us refuse.
We had a reservation at the Blue Ribbon in the Cosmopolitan and I absolutely pigged out. Sashimi, Crab Legs, and I split a steak with my friend. I was happy. The only restriction at the restaurant was wearing a mask from the host stand at the front on your way to the table and from the table to the restroom. All the staff and kitchen were required to wear masks as well. This was my first time sitting inside of a restaurant in over six months. When we were done Kent paid and we walked the strip back to Caesars to gamble some more.
The strip is always a complex sight, seeing people of all walks of life on vacation. The poorest of poor people begging for change right next to monuments build from peoples bad decisions and losses. This time it was different, that many people all in masks walking in herds just made me feel weird inside almost disappointed in myself to be among them. It was one of these things you’ll never forget. When we got back to the hotel me and Rick went to play more craps and Kent came with us to see if he could take the black jack tables again for more money. Allen stayed in the room absolutely destroyed in every which way possible. Me and Rick both made serious money in the next few hours and let’s just say Kent wasn’t too happy when he got back to the room.
After getting home safely i’m not going to lie to you and say that it wasn’t a fun trip. It was an absolute blast but Vegas has definitely changed. Under current safety restrictions (which I am for) made it not the same city I have grown to love in my adult life. While i’m back home in San Diego and currently social distancing while not seeing friends or family, I do count my blessings. I’m lucky to be healthy and secure because so many people are not right now. I don’t see myself going back to Vegas till the pandemic is over even thought that is an ambiguous unforeseeable date currently. I got my fill, one thing about Vegas is you need to know when your luck may have run out and its time to walk away.