Vegas At 40

Too-old-for-this-shit

[Also at Esquire]

Sunday morning in Vegas, and a couple of long married men are rounding off a weekend away from their wives – both of them as naked as monkeys and dripping in oils, sitting on a big warm slab of marble.

“Dude, this might be the gayest thing I’ve ever done,” says Greg. He’s a father of three from Boston, in town for a real estate conference.

“Me too,” I tell him. “But hey, what about those Bears?”

Greg’s a pal from LA who left. That’s the thing about LA, people always leave. So we planned a Vegas weekend to catch up, just us and our comfortable shoes. We’re not gambling types really and we’re too old for mad benders and parcels. There would be no gurning on this trip. No multi-storey strip clubs. And definitely no Pepe Le Pew horndog nonsense on the casino floor at 4am when we both know that it’s mostly whores at that time of night.

No, this would be a gentleman’s trip, a weekend of fine wines, naps, and room for dessert. The years of leaving Vegas malnourished and slightly brain damaged are over.

We picked the Cosmopolitan on account of a couple of dubious Vegas rules of thumb.

A) Always avoid the marquee hotels you see in the movies, because half of the Midwest is already there, taking selfies on the escalators.

B) Newer hotels work harder for their tips. They’re trying to compete with the big guys, but they haven’t quite got there yet, so the smile hasn’t quite curdled. They’ll do you a deal.

I don’t know if either of those are actually true, but they feel right. They’re truthy.

And anyway, the Cosmopolitan is a hotel you can root for. And that never happens on the Vegas Strip. Those casinotels are monuments of moral bankruptcy, shining towers of Babel, glittering with ill-gotten gold. Yes yes freedom and tits and all those fine things, but we know in our hearts what Vegas is – the way it shamelessly swindles the bovine hordes out of their hard-earned, the lies it tells as soon as you cross the threshold, pumping oxygen through the vents, painting the ceilings with sky and clouds… And the Cosmopolitan is as guilty as the rest.

But it’s also a monument to surviving the recession. It’s the Rocky Balboa of Strip hotels, coming off the canvas for the win. Building started in 2005, and it was launched five years later, in the rubble of the crash. The original concept was a half hotel and half apartment complex. Mixed use is a big thing out west, especially in LA. There are people here who actually choose to buy apartments in malls. But the Vegas Strip? That was a leap too far. No one went for it. So they rejiggered the apartments into hotel suites – it’s one of the reasons they’ve all got balconies (other hotels wall you up in glass to protect against jumpers). And even though the bankers took a bath – Deutsche Bank sold the place for $2.2 billion less than what it cost to build – today, in 2014, it seems to be finding its mojo at last.

I could pitch the place to you – the rooftop pools, the Jose Andres restaurants, the yadda yadda. But for Greg and I, it came down to the simple pleasures. Flirting with the bikini waitress who’s way out of our league. Paddling up to the pool bar for another fruity vodka cocktail. And bless the Cosmopolitan for having a variety of pools. We took a look at the party pool for a minute or two. It was all banging house and a zillion dudes in 12 inches of water. Greg’s like, “dude, let’s get in!” I’m like – well, you can see from the picture he took, how enthusiastic I was about the whole thing. I said, Greg, I’m not getting into that swamp. You can stay and party with all the undergrads, but me, I’m taking my paunch to the lazy chillout pool for old people.

The highlight was probably the club – or “club concept” as it’s known – called Rose. Rabbit. Lie . It’s a restaurant, a nightclub, a speakeasy and a cabaret, with a bit of Cirque thrown in, and stand-up comedy, and magic acts, followed by dance music… Everything basically. And the punters are right there in the middle of it all, practically part of the show itself. Singers jump up on tables, acrobats dangle from the ceiling. That’s how it goes now – in the absence of any discernibly new youth culture, club life is all about this-slash-that – bar-slash-circus, tasting menu-slash-comedy. Everything’s a mash-up, a fusion, a “concept” – chuck it all in, who cares? It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.

Well, it worked. We staggered home that night, properly spent. A little disco activity goes a long way when you’re over 40. Greg passed out and I went onto the balcony for my nightcap. This is what it’s all about. Fifty floors up, watching the strip glitter and twinkle, as the muffled roar of a million parties wafts up from below, the unmistakable chorus of ‘Turn Down for What”.

When we woke up, we were eager for our spa business. It’s what you do when you’re north of forty, you leave Vegas on a spa. And at the Cosmo, they’ve got this traditional Turkish Hammam, it’s their pride and joy. It’d be our treat for behaving so impeccably.

Then the spa called – they only had one of us booked in. So I said, never mind, we’ll just skip the whole thing and go to breakfast. Bit of a bummer, but hey. And they said hold on – actually, they could fit two, but only one of us would get a female masseuse.

“Whatever, dude,” Greg said. “I’ll take the guy, you take the chick. It’s cool.”

But when we got downstairs, there was no chick anymore. Some other customer had “insisted” apparently, and snapped up the last masseuse. I wasn’t happy about it. I’d always rather be pampered by girls. By babes. Who wouldn’t? And we’d been so good on this trip, a cute masseuse would be a well deserved treat…

But instead, here’s Eric and Marko, leading us into a big grey, marble chamber, and sitting us down for the official introduction.

“OK, you boys are in for a treat!” says Eric. “You’ve booked the bridal package. It’s customary in Turkey for the bride and groom to get a traditional bath and massage on their wedding day before the ceremony. So you’ll both be getting bathed together, side by side!”

We both laugh. “We’re actually already married you know,” says Greg.

And they just beam at us. “Oh congratulations!”

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