“We do this for tips, you know,” the Jack Nicholson impersonator said to me as I put an arm around him and leaned in close for a snapshot.
“I know,” I replied, handing him a crumpled dollar. And I smiled for the camera, trying my best not to look too drunk. My hosts, a couple of savvy spendthrifts in their own right, were taking me on the budget tour of Vegas, from crummy crack hotels in neighborhoods littered with the refuse of discarded humanity to the towering heights of the Stratosphere in which we gained free entrance to the top to ride the Big Shot, and stopping off at many sorted places in between such as a tattoo parlor boasting $13.00 Friday the Thirteenth themed tattoos and the Belagio for free Mojitos. As my buddy snapped the photo I belched and tasted French fries. At least that was better than tasting vomit.
Our excursion started at four thirty on a Tuesday afternoon when they picked me up at the Las Vegas airport. We proceeded immediately to the aforementioned crack house they were presently occupying (only $195.00 a week!) and drank most of a bottle of vodka while sketching out our plans for the next three days. In a drunken haze we determined we’d mostly wing it, but much to my relief they’d booked a room for two nights at the Circus Circus. As it stood, that first night I’d be sleeping on the floor. The following two nights I’d at least have a bed, even if I didn’t get much sleep in it (not what you think; I am a lousy sleeper).
The next morning was met with a pounding headache and sinuses (thanks to a cold I’d picked up two days before the trip) and in a daze I showered and shaved, anxiously awaiting better digs. I didn’t have to wait long. We checked into the Circus Circus and after dumping off our things we made our way to the lobby floor to hit the slots.
“We never pay for drinks,” Amir told me as we walked out into the mild winter sunshine to hit the Circus Arcade. “You sit at a slot machine, put in a buck, then wave over the waitress for a cocktail. Drinks are free as long as you are gambling.”
The trick for me became how long I could make a dollar last. By winning twenty-five to fifty cents here and there I found I could get about three beers off a buck. And to keep the waitress coming around my friends and I would take turns tipping her. As long as she was making a few frogs it was worth her time.
We whiled away a lot of time doing that, but in between we realized there had to be other activities to make this trip memorable. Since the three of us weren’t exactly what you would call ‘rolling’ we priced out shows until we found one for ten bucks apiece. It was a comedy club in the Riviera, which was perfect because it was right across the street from the Circus Circus. At all costs we did not want to drive, not with how heavily we were drinking. The show was a hoot, presented by two comedians whose names I now forget (I think one of them had the last name ‘Bizarre’, but I could be wrong) in which a drunk girl from the crowd was incorporated to our ensuing hilarity. This chick was either a plant or a total random score for these comedians. After the show we ended the night at the slots, drinking ourselves silly while losing pennies.
The next day we started by walking from the Circus Circus to the Belagio and drinking our way back through the casinos. The photographs accompanying this post adequately show our drunken procession from one end of the strip to the other. Suffice it to say I’ll let them tell the tale. Our walk ended at the Stratosphere where Amir showed us how to get to the top for free and avoid the $18.00 charge: take the elevator that leads to the cocktail lounge (under the guise that that is your intended destination) and when you are let off the elevator just wait a few minutes and then take the stairs up to the top floor to the viewing platform and the rides. We rode the Big Shot (a wonderful contraption that catapults you two hundred feet into the air where you experience zero gravity before it rapidly descends and then hydraulics bounce you up and down a time or two for a giddy extra thrill). Upon its completion we used a coupon on the ticket to get a five-dollar slab of pizza and a large beer. Good times. We then drank our way back to the hotel and I ended the night with a tallboy of Miller High Life purchased for ninety-seven cents at a convenience store.
The next day’s highlights can be summed up as such: 18 holes of mini golf at the official Kiss mini golf course (using a half off coupon it was only six bucks apiece); lunch at the Hard Rock Café (the gambler’s special which is only $7.77) and a tour; a mid-day showing of the latest Hobbit movie in 3D (had trouble staying awake after two nights of lousy booze sleep) and then a $13.00 dollar tattoo from a parlor that just opened (I got Charles Manson and my buddy got $6.66). And in-between all of these shenanigans we did the usual: played slots for free drinks
The last night we spent in the crack hotel, me sleeping on the floor again, but after all the partying I got the best night of sleep I’d had in days. The next morning I awoke refreshed and after serving me pancakes my buddy and his wife took me to the airport where they went the extra mile and accompanied me inside. They had a reason, of course: one last bet on an airport slot. Throughout my visit his wife Aline had been winning ten and fifteen dollar bets (maybe even the occasional twenty) and at the airport she went one further and managed to coax $80.00 out of a machine. Lucky them.
It was a whirlwind of an adventure (as the pictures readily indicate) and I won’t soon forget our exploits there on the Las Vegas Strip.
Vegas On A Budget or Surviving The Circus Circus