Eight years ago, my buddy got married and we had a hell of a bachelor party for him. Each year since we’d talked about getting the guys back together for a guy’s weekend. This year we finally committed.
I’m used to the fact that I’ve got some travel karma issues. Things can frequently go badly. Sometimes big, sometimes small, but either way I think I’ve got a bit of a curse following me. Probably some kind of penance for having such a ridiculously awesome travel life in 2013.
So when it came time to fly to Vegas, it wasn’t terribly shocking that things started to go all pear shaped.
So: wake up at 5, to the airport by six for a flight at 7. All good. The path was PDX–> SFO –> LAS. Karma kicked in right as I got through security: delayed plane. Something about high winds in SFO wouldn’t let planes land. Wind? Please; planes don’t need wind. They run on magic and happy thoughts. People try to explain to me concepts like “lift” and “wing shape”. Balderdash: if you take a pressurized metal tube, fill it with people and luggage, then hurl it thousands of miles and expect it will just land, there’s some magic involved.
A couple of hours blinking sleep out of my eyes in the PDX gate eventually landed me in San Francisco’s terminal. My original itinerary had a one hour gap between connecting planes, but since we had to wait around for two hours in Portland, I knew that connection was missed. I felt strangely tranquil about this. The day was still young, and Vegas wasn’t going anywhere (and, apparently, neither was I). Checking in with United’s customer service yielded a slightly confusing interaction:
me: “Hi, my plane from Portland got in late, so I missed my connection to Las Vegas and need to get on your next plane”
her: “certainly, let’s see, I can put you on one at… 10pm?”
me: “er, it’s noon. I’d rather not wait in an airport for ten hours. Any other options?”
her: “oh, actually yes, it looks like there is one leaving in 1/2 hour.”
me: “Great, can I get on it?”
Her: “Let’s see… looks like it’s a full flight… let me see your ticket. Hmm. Oh, you are already on it!”
me: “But it was supposed to leave at 10?”
her: “yes, it was delayed. High winds, you know.”
I attempted to explain to her about the whole winds / magic issue, but her polite and dismissive smile was impenetrable. Regardless, I had a plane flight after all, so things were looking up. Karma, it seems, was only going to trifle with me this trip.
Upon arriving at my gate, they informed me that the flight had been delayed indefinitely. High winds, you see.
I did not attempt to educate the rather severe and harassed woman at the gate re: magic vs. winds. Judging by the fact she’d been holding off impatient Vegas-bound gamblers for a better side of three hours left her in no mood.
So, I wandered. And here’s where I’ve got to give Travel Karma an appreciative nod. I would have never known how cool SFO’s temporary installations in their terminals were if I didn’t have time to walk around and discover them. They had a museum-worthy collection of Japanese toys that I would have paid to see.
These pictures don’t really do the collection justice, and it’s less than half of what they had on display. Regardless: might be worth a flight in to SFO just to check these out.
Eventually whoever was in charge of such things decided we could go forward with the flight. And here is where Travel Karma gave me a little reminder that things can always be much, much worse. And also where my arguments regarding magic vs. wind were put to the test. Halfway through the flight the captain informed us that we would likely experience “turbulence”. Now, I’ve done my share of flying so I realize this usually means there will be some bumps and jostling. Enough to make you look around slightly concerned and ponder what actually keeps the plane flying.
Soon after that the captain informed us it was too dangerous to have carts in the aisle, and indeed too dangerous to have flight attendants walking around so the remainder of the flight would everyone please just stay glued to their seats.
This was a new wrinkle. But time passed without much more than a few shakes, so people started to relax a bit. The tension that had formed with the removal of the drink carts eased and dissipated.
Then we suddenly had one of those fantastic “falling elevator” feelings. The kind that last for just one moment too long, enough to make you go “oh God, we are dropping out of the sky”. But not long enough for full on panic to take over. People looked around, smiling and joking nervously as the plane again felt to be moving right.
Then the plane really fell. Long enough for actual full mouthed screaming and assorted things to fly up in the air. Like someone forgot to charge the magic fairy dust holders. We dropped, things flew, people screamed, and then a great tugging force as the plane eventually decided that it didn’t want to drop all the way to the ground after all. The joking was gone after that and people just clutched their belongings and white-knuckled it until we were on approach to the airport.
We did eventually land in Las Vegas (thus my ability to still type), but I would like to formally inform my Travel Karma that I fully respect how bad things could be, I really don’t need any more reminders or wake-up calls, thank you very much.
Sadly, my time in Vegas was not going to be the warm, sunny time I was hoping for. Here’s the view from my room:
Regardless, eventually I meet up with a friend and past co-worker who now lives in Vegas and who showed me an amazing burger joint (Holstein’s in the Cosmopolitan) and a beautiful cocktail lounge with a view of the strip.
We were joined later that night by the rest of the Seattle contingent: Rosebud, Dinjo, and Horns. So, there we were, a bunch of old dudes in Vegas. Things progressed as one can imagine a Vegas night would.
It did not, however, end up how I would expect a Vegas night might. More specifically: if you take a bunch of guys, put them in Vegas on a guy’s weekend (ostensibly in celebration of a bachelor party 8 years prior), where do you think this motley crew will end up?
Probably not at a dive Korean karaoke bar in a strip mall far away from the Vegas strip. But that’s where we found ourselves at 3am.
Now I have been to my share of karaoke bars before. Usually the best are the ones where you get your own room so you can be as ridiculous as you please, and I was happy to see this was one of those. But I have never been, and likely never will be in one again, like this:
First: there’s a TV on the back wall and a projector that plays videos on the front wall. That’s all well and good. However, the videos are basically a running loop of k-pop, little wayne, and maybe a Taylor Swift video thrown in the mix. There is absolutely zero coherence with whatever song you may or may not select, the video loop will just play on relentlessly.
Second: the song you select will be played for you in nothing but the cheapest of midi renditions. Any kind of production value or nuance to reflect the original song will be stripped for this midi version. We tried many, many songs, and every one of them was tinny midi playback.
Third: the words are obviously transcribed by pseudo professionals. Amusing misspellings and mangled translations on english songs are to be expected. And these words are projected on top of the incessant video loop.
Fourth: you can get food, but it may not be what you expect. For example, we opted to share a few delicacies of the house: pot stickers and sweet potato fries. The pot stickers turned out to be hard crispy heavily deep fried concoctions with a small cup of soy to dip in, and a small cup of… ketchup? Because; sure, that makes sense.
The sweet potato fries came out as long, thin cut pale potato fries, but with sugar instead of salt. And for dipping? a mound of fluffy whiteness on the side that turned out to be whipped cream. So, technically: sweet + potato.
We did our best to fully exhaust the potential of this place, staying for probably twenty or more songs. And now we know how a bunch of old dudes end a night in Vegas: strangely.