Phish Vegas, Part 3: The Latch Was Left Unhooked

Grubby is a Las Vegas legend. The former playwright turned online poker pro turned slot machine designer was my first roommate when I moved to Las Vegas in 2005. If you read my book Lost Vegas, then you've heard about some of our hijinks. Grubby gambled so much, he had at least five free hotel rooms every week courtesy of the casinos. Sometimes more. He once earned enough comp points playing slots that he got free buffets (thrice a day) for a year. Grubby was one of two people who showed me the ropes in Vegas. I learned how to hustle locals' discounts (e.g. free admission to strip clubs with a NV license) and grind easy money fleecing drunken tourists trying to play poker. You heard stories about people living the high life in Vegas? Well, we did that for almost a year. One of the greatest years of my life. Gah, what goes up must come down. No one beats Vegas over the long term, especially folks like us with so many vices. Pick four or five of the Seven Deadly Sins and those were fast tracks to our downfall. I jumped ship first and moved to L.A. while Grubby hit near rock bottom before he got offered the job of a lifetime in Chicago... slot machine designer. Nearly a decade later, he's one of the many architects behind the electronic hustle to extract every cent out of your pocket... in the most fun way possible. As a former degen gambler, it's his twisted way of getting revenge. As the saying goes, if you can't beat them... join them.

Vegas Part 3: The Latch Was Left Unhooked

By @taopauly

The first batch of texts from Grubby appeared near the end of the second set on Saturday night. Grubby got sucked into going to a strip club with work colleagues. He provided the play by play of how one particular exotic dancer was trying to nickel and dime him. Grubby could hold his own against aggro strippers. As the Sun Tzu of strip clubs, he mastered various defensive techniques, but this particular one had superhuman powers of erotica and she had outwitted his Nimzo-Indian Defense. I told him to leave the strip club ASAP before he gifted her his car and the title to his condo around the corner from Wrigley Field.

Saturday night in Vegas. Nothing quite like it on the planet. I'm sure Bangkok and New Orleans and Amsterdam and New York City and Barcelona are ludicrous in their own ways, but Saturday nights in Vegas get bawdy and boisterous on an entire different level. You get the perfect glimpse of our excessive indulgent society, with each rung on the ladder of Americana represented while parading down Las Vegas Blvd. at Midnight on a Saturday night. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Throw in a bunch of schwasted bourgeois brosteppers, shithoused weekend warriors, dosed-out tree thuggers, spunout starchildren from Boulder, feral shoeless indigo kids, and k-hole'd sparkle wooks... then you have an extra steezy stroll down the Strip. The colossal light show itself on Las Vegas Blvd. is tantalizing. But for the ebullient drug crowd, the incandescent lights and accompanying trailers were sensory overload times forty million as you floated down the strip all jacked up after a smoking Phish show.

Wildo and Carrie Sparkles hosted the afterparty in their baller suite at the Cosmo and we popped in for bit to recharge our chakras that were bruised by the negative astral forces that powered up Las Vegas. We were among the many spacekids wandering around the Cosmo gawking at chandeliers and sparkly things. I showed John from Soulive Design all the art vending machines scattered around Cosmo and told him we have to figure out how to get his art on sale in Vegas.

Grubby was gambling next door at the Bellagio and I offered up my hippie friends for a chance of a lifetime... a tour of the Bellagio by the one and only Grubby himself. Schwilly sisbrahs, spun sparklewooks, and hard-to-impress Colorado coolsters were surprisingly amused by the Bellagio. Everything was eye candy at 3am from the Chihuly encrusted ceiling in the lobby to the floral arrangements in the conservatory with ginormous phallic crystal that was the second biggest wook trap in Vegas aside from the bright light atop of the Luxor (seven wooks and one techno-shaman were injured trying to mount the Luxor pyramid thinking it was a shortcut to get beamed up to the Mothership... fucking amateurs... everyone knows the grey aliens parked the cloaked Mothership BEHIND the Spearmint Rhino).

Grubby made sure our cabal of mountain wooks and sparkle ponies got a glimpse of the Bellagio's savory chocolate fountain. In true Grubby fashion, he busted out some Spanish and tipped the cleaning lady in the store to hook him up with some free samples.

We hung out at the Bellagio's "hooker bar" and observed the local working girls work the Saturday night crowd. It's just like that Lou Reed song, but just switch out Vegas for NYC in the lyrics.

Everybody had to pay and pay. It's a hustle here, it's a hustle there. Vegas is the place where they say, hey brah, take a walk on the wild side.

Along the walk from MGM to Cosmo, change100 taught her Colorado girlfriends how to play Hooker or Ho. It was my favorite past time in Vegas, especially with out-of-town friends who were total noobs. I always had an easy rule when I lived in Vegas... if a really hot woman approached me after Midnight and struck up a conversation out of the blue, then she was a working girl. The sisbrahs also got a huge kick out of the overemotional, drunken, overdressed barefoot club girls clutching their shoes while walking home after an unsuccessful night getting groped and getting GHB'd by Chads and Sergeis.

By 4am, Grubby got the Colorado crew pumped up for another adventure through the Bellagio. Grubby led everyone on an expedition to find various slot machines his company designed. The newest generation of slots capitalized on popular pop culture brands like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. Grubby had designed ones with different Egyptian themes with ferocious wild animals and another with an Oktoberfest theme fronted by a busty Fraulein barmaid. The slots included a 3-D element, which captivated the crowd of spunions that gathered around a bank of slots. Grubby happily gave a demonstration and one by one, each of us inserted a bill and gave it a whirl. No one had a clue what we were doing, yet the 3-D images and constant stimulus had the crowd mesmerized and begging the machines to finally give someone a payout.

After whiffing on the German boobie barmaid game, I sat down at an Egyptian slot named the Sphinx. The 3-D eye on top of the pyramid freaked me out. I was convinced the eye was a real 3-D camera linked up to the eye in the sky motherboard in the heart of the casino's security center, which automatically zapped my ugly mug and retinal image into the security office's facial recognition software, which in turned pinged every major data collection service on the planet (e.g. NSA and CIA). So in real time, Big Brother knew that I was stupid enough to drop $10 bill into a slot machine at the Bellagio at 4:14am while spun out of my fucking mind. Traditional slot machine included simple things like bars, bells, cherries, and lemons... yet on the Sphinx 3-D slots, I rooted for a black cat...this particular black cat was a baller with gold necklace and super-heady crystal wrap for some reason. If I got three black cats, then I hit the jackpot. I kept mashing the buttons like a hopelessly addicted slot junkie and could only conjure up a single black cat.

I had one final spin left with five wheels. The spunions were huddled three deep around me and harnessing a collective vibration. I let it rip. The first wheel stopped on a cat! My rail went berserker. The second wheel stopped on a Sphinx head. The third wheel stopped on another cat. I screamed out, "Let's fucking go. One time, motherfucker! CAT CAT CAT!" The spunions screamed back "CAT! CAT! CAT!" so loud a bevy of humorless security guards took note. The fourth wheel was a blank. One more wheel to go. "CAT! CAT! CAT! CAT! CAT! CAT!" chants echoed through the Bellagio as the last wheel came to an abrupt anti-climatic stop. It was... an eyeball. No third cat. I lost amid a chorus of boos. Like a sore loser, I threw my hat at the floating 3-D eyeball as Grubby shrugged. Las Vegas is fucking rigged, man.

As a consolation Grubby suggested we sit down and ride the walkway that typically took lazy pedestrians from the Bellagio to Las Vegas Blvd. At that late hour around 5am, no civilians were lumbering around so we could actually sit down. The entire group popped a squat to align our chakras with Mother Earth Gaia and I can only imagine how much the thicknecks in the security room at the Bellagio were making fun of our hyperspace tribe while we slowly made our way toward the Strip.
Two hundred agents sit at TV terminals observing various subjects at different spots inside the Bellagio. A portly supervisor hovers over one screen with an surveillance agent.

AGENT: "These drugged out dopers are everywhere. I heard stories about the Phish. Those dirty hippies shove Bath Salts up their ass! And shoot ketamine into their eyeballs!"

SUPERVISOR: "You know they're all voting for that crook Hillary. Can't believe we let these drug fiends run our country. A true patriot like Mitt Romney would never let this happen. Too bad Mitt didn't run. He'd never let America sink this low."

AGENT: "Should I call Metro police?"

SUPERVISOR: "Nah. These dumb fucks are harmless. Just keep recording. I sell these clips to a Japanese video app company DUMB GAIJIN. I get $50 a pop for every video of wasted people doing stupid shit in Vegas. The kid from before?"

AGENT: "With the dreadlocks? The one taking a shit behind the row of Wheel of Fortune slots in Sect 3?"

SUPERVISOR: "The zombie zook-wook-whatever is gonna fetch me at least $200! That kid was gold! Cue it up again. I want to watch it one more time before my break."
Johnnie Salami could only see the first two nights due to work reasons. He had an early morning flight on Sunday, so we stayed up all night and sent him off to the airport at sunrise in style. Then we rolled into the sportsbook at MGM. A line was wrapped around the corner with dudes in their favorite football jerseys. The NFL scheduled another game in London with a 6:30am PT kickoff. Local sportsbettors and other degen gamblers tried to get a last minute wager in before the first kickoff. Wildo stood a couple spots in front of me working his magic after cashing a monster dog parlay on Saturday games. I gazed at the near floor to ceiling big board at the MGM sportsbook, marveling at all the glistening numbers and over/unders for Sunday's NFL action. The ladies wanted to degen it up too. change100 and Carrie Sparkles were double-fisting cocktails while picking their football games. After a huddle, our schwilly Funky Bitches Betting Syndicate threw down cash on the the Detroit Lions because as the wife explained it... "Carrie's from Michigan and we both love cats."

I woke up a couple of hours later with utter humiliation looking right at me: a betting slip on the fucking Jets. I made squarebear bets at 6:25am that I had not intended to do. Rookie move. Never make bets while still sparkly! One of them was a big bet on my hometown Jets. Yes, the LOLJets. I lose my wanna-be wiseguy card for betting on the fucking Jets and thinking they'd beat and cover the spread against the WORST TEAM in football. Somehow, the LOLJets miraculously won barely covering, let alone winning. I'm glad I dozed through the shitshow.

I woke up in a groggy Valium fog at 1pm with a text from my Deadhead bud from Reno. "I respect DO NOT DISTURB signs," texted Dr. Steve, well aware about my pet peeve about maids who ignore the DO NOT DISTURB SIGN and barge into the room. Alas, I was awake and sifting through 100+ texts and the next thing I heard was a knock at my front door. It was Dr. Steve.

"Nice pajamas. Get dressed. We got football to watch and a Halloween cover set to gamble on, son!"

Thank God Dr. Steve dragged my ass out of the room, otherwise I would have stayed curled up in bed with the wife (who pulled the ultimate pro move and slept nearly up until Sunday showtime). Dr. Steve and I went down to the Pub which was packed with heads. Felt good to catch up with an old friend and monitor bets and fantasy action. I hydrated with three drinks (H20, iced tea, and beer), crushed a kobe bacon burger with bacon jam, and sweat the Denver Broncos game, which I bet more money on than I should have. And yes, I had stiff woody when I won the Denver bet. I force-tucked my junk while I made an awkward exit out of the Pub and ran to the sportsbook to cash my ticket hoping my stiffy didn't pop out while rushing by the craps tables. I fucking missed Sundays in Vegas during football season.

I anticipated a mellow Sunday show. The proverbial and cliched "calm before the storm" so to speak. Overall expectations were low after a pair of heaters. Since the Joker wasn't in Vegas with me, I could not wear the Sunday tracksuit without him. In homage of Capt. Funk Max, I mimicked Max and dressed up like Max for the show with a Captain's hat, Hawaiian shirt, and a red solo cup. My buddy Dusty showed up to the preparty with freshly-minted stickers he created specifically for his Halloween costume as a Trump supporter. He gave out MAKE VEGAS GREAT AGAIN stickers and they were a ginormous hit.

We locked down a couple of rows with the Colorado crew in Sect 202, where my actual seats were. I chatted up Lawn Memo most of the preshow. Memo is one of the coolest guys in the community. I love his Daily Ghost blog and his summer jams group project. Plus, he's really a Buffalo Bills fan and told me insane stories of the sheer inebriated lunacy at Bills home games.

Phish opened up the third show in a row with an homage to 2014's Haunted House. The Dogs and barking samples kicked things off. Then things got weirdly surreal after generous friend from NoCal dosed me with a half of some old school white fluff. Hadn't gone that particular rabbit hole since Dead tour in the early 90s when I was a teenager. I got insta-schwasted before Ghost ended and could only imagine what a full hit woulda done. Before show began, I doubled down on trip-tastic moonrocks I acquired from a femme fatale in a merkaba flatbrim with a thick Jersey accent. I didn't need the lunar additives but took them anyway...the fluff fucked my face so hard, I could smell colors I never even knew existed before and saw sounds floating in the rafters between CK5's beams.

The moonrock+white fluff combo blasted me through a couple of wormholes and sent me fucking sideways through the time/space continuum. I was slurring my speech all night like the village drunk in a 19th century Irish novel. My friends knew I was in my own galaxy and had accepted that I was talking to myself the entire show, so they shined me on and did not worry about responding to my external dialogue.

Huge chunks of the show were a blur. I can pull up vivid memories of Theme, plus DWD > Birds was fucking insanely raucous and fun. Have Mercy bustout came outta nowhere and I lost my cookies. I vaguely recalled the Beatles cover and another Halloween throwback Day In the Life. The rest of the second set and encore was a blurry whirly swirl of C5's lights and music. I didn't tweet much and had zero notes scribbled down.

Yeah, on Sunday I had a Memento show. A dozen or so pictures on my phone were the only clues to piece together what exactly when down mid-way through the show when things go truly seriously demented and weird and late into the night.

The above picture is the visual representation of thinking your soberish during the end of set 1, then the house lights go on at setbreak and everything is a big psychedelic whirl!

Yeah, been a while since I had a Memento show. I'm pretty sure I went to the Sunday show, but can I even trust those memories? How could I even tell if my own Colorado friends weren't Reptilian shapeshifters? I have next to no recollection of the Sunday night events, aside from appearances on random Instagram feeds, plus a series of photographs of me on my phone at said show and other wild post-show activities like betting $20 a race on the Sigma machines and shooting dice with meth heads drumming on buckets on the pedestrian bridge by the Excalibur. know the saying...never miss a Sunday show.

I finally returned to Earth's orbit and sobered up enough to gamble it up in the pits. I ended up at the Excalibur, which was that gigantic Castle across the street from the MGM. We all went there for some low stakes gambling. Wildo and change100 played blackjack with other heads. Sean from Cash or Trade hit it big on the slots. He never gambles, yet on his first or second pull he snagged a luckbox jackpot. He didn't even know which game he was playing! Gotta love Vegas, man. If you never take a shot, you'll never win money. Sometimes have to let it rip and gamble it up because every once ina  while, someone actually wins.

I achieved peak schwilliness while playing heads-up Pai Gow against a fun dealer from Ethiopia at Excalibur on at 3am. I was having fun until the pit boss sent my dealer on a break and they brought in the robo-cooler from Hong Kong. As soon as I build up a big stack, the eye in the sky always orders in a cooler (slang for a dealer that cools off a hot table). This one dealt super fast and never said a damn word. Another fucking bot. The cooler harshed my warm fuzzy vibe, so I cashed out and watched a bunch of Spreadnecks shoot dice and try to win enough money betting hard eights then score blow from a Lyft driver/pimp who slung $200 8-balls and $150 beejers out of the back seat of his Escalade. Everyone in Vegas is hustling... from the non-judgemental maid that will find you extra straws, to the bartender's roommate who sells shitty blow to tourists who don't know any better and end up with a clogged nose and shitting fire bricks all night.

Three down. One more show to go....Halloween.

* * * *

Phish Vegas Part 1: All These Dogs Just Want To Play

Phish Vegas Part 2: Page EDM


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Anxiously awaiting part 4...
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