sanghoki Holiday Gathering: A prelude

 

The rubdown girls at the sanghoki room wear black shirts. A tired designer in some backroom Las Vegas t-shirt shop has created an Old Vegas logo on the back of the uniform. The one word logo looks like it was based on a casino sign from Fremont Street. It’s gold, blocky, and has just the right amount of of flair to give a sense of importance and drama.

I was working on a decent amount of sleep–six hours–and was not the least bit hungover. Further, I had only sipped a couple of beers over the four hours I had been sitting at the poker table. I convinced myself I was not at all on tilt. Not half an hour before, someone had suggested it might be time to take a alk and do something else.

“I’m fine,” I said.

Now, I was looking at the back of the black uniform and my eyes registered the one word on the back. It read:

MASSACRE.

***

The night before I left for Las Vegas, I worked together a regimen of Airborne and Zicam. I figured, if I was going to lie to myself and believe I wasn’t actually getting sick, I might as well slurp down a placebo cocktail and hope for the best. The anticipation for this adventure was greater than any since 2004. It came together in such perfect fashion that I knew it was going to be an important trip.

My relationship with the Excalibur has been an odd one. It was home to most of the blogger shenanigans in 2004. Since then, it’s conservative attitude, lax comping policies, and general surliness had turned most of us away. However, when I received a comped three-night stay in the mail, I knew where I would be sleeping during this year’s blogger event. Embarassed that I was going back on my word to never stay there again, I created my code acronym, the Otis F.A.R.C.E (Free-Ass Room, Courtesy Excalibur) and booked the trip.

Wednesday night at 9pm, I was edgy and tired. I rolled up every bit of cash I had hidden away in the house and sat it beside the $57 worth of medicines I bought at CVS. I hit the hay early and tried to drift off. Just after 11pm, I got the first text message from Vegas. Dr. Jeff, an early arrival, sent this dispatch: “Excal–all wheel spins doubled all weekend.”

By 5:35 am Thursday I had picked up BadBlood and we were on our way to the airport. The air was frigid and we only cut through it with a sense of anticipation. At the airport, the gate agent looked us up and down and said, “Must be going somewhere warm to not be wearing a coat.” We nodded, but didn’t give up any information. The lady snagged our boarding passes and gave them a glance.

“You know, it’s winter in Las Vegas, too,” she said.

It was likely a sign of too much optimism that we completely disregarded her warning and boarded the first leg of our flight. I felt the sickness start to come on a little stronger as I settled into seat 2A. Yonder Mountain String Band and String Cheese Incident guided me over the Blue Ride Mountains and did their best to calm me down. My head against the airplane hull, I stared out over Appalachia. Low clouds looked like an infinite carpet of brain tissue. I searched for any relevance and could find none. Dreamy, sleepy, and sick, I couldn’t get a handle on what I was about to do.

Just a few hours ahead rested the potential for great success, great failure, or a great letdown for two months of anticipation. I gave up on predicting what would happen. I couldn’t lay odds on what kind of luck Al Can’t Hang would bring me or whether he would try to win back my favor by paying someone to give me a Pai Gow massage. I couldn’t predict how likely it would be that a pit boss would suggest I go to the gift shop and buy $20 worth of adult pleasure items. I had no way of knowing The Rooster would play such an odd and important role in my weekend.

I only knew I was going to Las Vegas for the third time this year and I was ready to put everything on the line for one last grasp at making something important happen in 2007.

Though my eyes and heart would deceive me a couple of times, it would soon become clear that the word on the back of the shirt at MGM was not MASSACRE. It was:

MASSAGE.

Now back at home, I once again realize the small difference between the two words lies not only in the spelling.

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