Vegas. A town that floats on a sea of vodka-Redbull; where daytime drunkenness is almost mandatory, and cocktails are served in six foot long plastic penises. Can you imagine a worse place for a former alcoholic to live?
In fact, moving to Vegas was (I suspect) a large part of what helped keep me sober in those first couple of years.
Getting wasted in Vegas is a singularly unpleasant experience. The drinks are comically expensive, but also weak enough to facilitate all day consumption while still remaining vertical – after all, comatose people can’t spend money. I lived downtown, in the Ogden building, and there was literally nothing about seeing a gang of bros waddling down Fremont St, dressed ‘ironically’ and identically as Zach Galifianakis in the Hangover and clutching plastic WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS alcophalluses, that made me think ‘Man, I wish I could still do that.’
In San Francisco, New York or – god help me – London, drinking is cool. Wine tasting in Napa, sipping a full-bodied red over dinner in Manhattan, downing a pint or six after work outside a West End pub in summertime. These are the things I missed from my drinking days. Chucking a snot-colored shot from a tiny Eiffel Tower, not so much.
Despite the ugly parts, and occasionally because of them, I soon fell love with the city. I’m not sure if it’s because Vegas is such a transient place, or because it gets so much bad press, but never in my life have I felt so quickly embraced as a resident. The people; the weather; the almost British levels of self-deprecation shown by locals about their town, all made me feel instantly at home. Unlike most locals, I even fell in love with the Strip – as only a former magician who literally wrote the book on living in hotels can.
It was also the perfect place to build NSFWCORP. In Vegas, I quickly discovered, no idea is too ridiculous, no dream too big (see most recently: The success of the Vegas Knights), no office space too unaffordable. All this with no state income tax, for people or corporations.
I moved back to San Francisco in 2014, when Pando bought NSFWCORP – but I try to get back to the city whenever I can.
This past weekend the stars aligned when the kids went to stay with their dad and Sarah went on a gal’s trip to Tahoe, leaving me and my new car with no reason not to go on a nine hour road trip into the desert.
Even better, it turns out the Cosmopolitan now accepts Starwood/Marriott points so I was able to trade roughly a year’s worth of loyalty for a ludicrous suite replete with wraparound view of the Strip. Last time I stayed in a room that size at the Cosmo was for NSFWCORP’s 24 hour election coverage broadcast. On that occasion we crammed maybe 50 people into the room. This weekend it was just me.
Not that I spent much time in my enormous room. The moment I arrived, Tony Hsieh summoned me to his hipster trailer park off Fremont Street to hear about his latest wheeze: A 26 day diet in which each day he only eats food beginning with the same letter of the alphabet (Jan 1st: Apples, apricots, albatross… Jan 2nd: Bacon, beef, Benadryl… and so on). Tony has, apparently, lost six pounds already, although he admits that might be water weight. He has also bought himself a pet sloth.
Plus il change, plus il fait la même chose.
I was looking forward to spending a few hours browsing The Writers’ Block, the best Vegas book shop (/world’s tallest midget) owned by my friends Drew and Scott. Normally I only have carry-on bags when I visit Vegas, this time I had a whole car trunk to fill with books! Imagine my gnashing of teeth, then, when Dayvid Figler told me the store is closed for relocation to a larger space. Great timing, Drew and Scott!
Instead, I went to Soul Cycle’s Vegas studio at the Wynn. Impressively, they’ve found a way to make the experience even more nightclubby than normal Soul studios – think strobe lights and urgent entreaties to “make some noise” at 9am. Would it have killed them to pump a little dry ice into the room? (Would it have killed me had they done so?)
To recover from the pedaling I got a Swedish massage at the Cosmo’s “Sahra Spa & Hammam” which was so relaxing that it took me two hours to realize that Sahra is an anagram of Sarah.
Then I went to see Penn and Teller’s revamped show. They’ve been at the Rio for 21 years now but, unlike poor old David Copperfield at the MGM, the 70! year old magicians show absolutely no signs of fatigue – or of going through the motions for $$$. The show is so good I’m willing to overlook their insufferable politics and affiliation with the fucking Cato institute.
I arrived home on Sunday evening, an hour after Sarah got in from Tahoe. It’s a tired old cliché that couples should maintain their own interests and hobbies and that occasional time apart is important and healthy. I’m sure that’s true but, even after four years of dating, I still love every minute we spend together. Travelling with her is always more fun than the alternative.
But the point of my solo trip to Vegas wasn’t really about having my own space, nor was it entirely about seeing friends or revisiting a city I love. It was also about doing something fun, impractical, and entirely selfish, just because I could.
I urge all recovering addicts to do the same. To occasionally allow yourself a spontaneous trip, or treat: Something ridiculous and decadent that feels almost sinful in its self-indulgence. For me, one of the great appeals of unmoderated drinking was the ridiculous adventures that often along with it. The escape from normalcy; the lack of accountability. If there’s something I miss from my drinking days, it’s that freedom.
This past weekend was my periodic reminder that it’s possible to be just as solipsistic, and to have just as much fun as I did a decade ago, but without a bottle in my hand.