Lifestyle

Las Vegas is one long happy hour

I love martinis. I average about two a year, usually here in Las Vegas, where they are known to spawn. A cold glass of beer is a splendid sight, and a glass of Chardonnay has a lovely sort of moon glow. But a martini comes with that great stiletto heel.

And after the first sip of my very first martini, I become disoriented and hopelessly lost. We'd arrived in Vegas at 5 p.m., Posh and I, and by 6 we are sitting in a cocktail lounge at the MGM Grand, me sipping a vodka martini, her one of those cosmos, pink as a baby's butt.

"Where to next?" I say.

"We just got here," Posh says.

"We have to keep our fluids up," I say.

"We do?"

"Follow me," I say, and head off in the completely wrong direction.

For me, Las Vegas is one long sobriety test. Can I get through the revolving door alive? Can I keep from losing a foot on the escalator? I swear, if Vegas were a cruise ship, I would've fallen overboard years ago.

"This way," I say.

"No, I think it's this way," Posh says.

She's absolutely right. My wife is younger than me and has better eyes. In fact, she has magnificent eyes. And a Cheshire smile. Wait . . . that's not Posh. That's someone else's Posh. Poshhhhhhhhhh!!!

"I'm over here," she says.

OK, that's it, I'm switching to beer -- a far superior lubricant anyway. Vodka is for losers, the hooch behind most failed Eastern Bloc regimes. Beer is better. In the right light, a glass of beer looks like the Lombardi Trophy.

Fifteen minutes later, we're sitting in an Irish pub in New York New York, which is like heaping falsehood upon falsehood. There is nothing Irish about this pub. There is nothing New York about the desert.

What to make of Vegas. The place both fascinates and repulses me. I like the audacity of it all, and the energy too. I can skip that whole high-roller shtick -- the big cover charges, the limos and the bottle service. Go with it if you like; it's just "not my bag," as Sammy would say.

But for people-watching, good food and a little fun, Vegas is fine by me.

"Are you 21?" I ask Posh as we head into a casino.

"Yes, finally," she says.

"Good," I say. "Because you look so young."

In fact, we're celebrating what she tells me is her 21st birthday. To mark the milestone, I've scheduled spa visits and romantic dinners. We might see a show, though many of the good shows are dark and I refuse to take her -- the mother of four redheads -- to see Carrot Top. It's the very thing we're fleeing.

So we knock about town like this -- me hobbling around with a torn schnitzel, her atop her perfect martini legs. It is bliss. For once, we're not worrying about getting back at any hour or even what time to eat. When we're hungry, we'll eat. When we're thirsty, we'll drink. When we're tired, we'll drink some more.

"Where are we going now?" she asks.

"Mix!!!" I say, climbing aboard the Deuce bus with the $5 all-night pass.

I dubbed this surprise getaway Operation M-O-M. In the planning stages, secrecy was paramount. No one could tell Mom or the little guy, who would spill like some loopy French spy.

"We're going where?" Posh asked when I finally broke the news about the trip.

"Vegas, baby!"

"When?"

"Right now," I said.

Turns out, women need a little more advance warning than "right now." Six hours later, we were screaming across the desert in the minivan.

"I knew all along," she said.

"Sure, you did."

So now we are at the Golden Nugget, playing blackjack on her birthday. I'd played earlier, and now it's her turn. Since she's turning 21, I thought blackjack would be the perfect game for her. Not so. But I like downtown, which seems to offer a more vintage Vegas vibe, sort of brassy and Western. I keep stepping in spittoons.

Posh is less enamored with downtown. She thinks it's coarse, particularly the blackjack pit where the dealers have cleavage that rivals that of the Grand Canyon.

"That's just gross," she says.

"It is?"

"Let's get outta here," she says.

And back to the Strip we go, where we have a marvelous dinner at Nob Hill, one of the many fine restaurants at the MGM Grand. The MGM may not have the buzz of some of the newer joints. But it has the best chow in town.

"This is sooooo good," Posh says with every bite.

Tomorrow morning, we will sleep in. That's right. No kids. No dogs. No clogged toilets. No baseball practices. No hamsters.

After that, we might go to a spa, or maybe just lie around and do nothing. When you're the mother of four, nothing can be as magnificent as doing nothing.

I, on the other hand, am the master of doing nothing. What a fortuitous occurrence.

Blackjack, baby. Remember, you're only 21 twice.

chris.erskine@latimes.com

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