Monthly Archives: November 2012

Dolla Dolla Billz

People were all over the place and wouldn’t get out of the frame. Stupid Europeans.

Las Vegas is a weird place. It’s awesome, fun, depressing, and absurd all at the same time. Awesome, fun, and absurd for the obvious reasons (crazy hotels and casinos, no open container laws, strippers, insane night clubs, and so on). Depressing though, in a way, because a lot of people actually live there. And they spend tons of money, gambling away their life. Old people are everywhere too. It smelled like crushed dreams and loneliness.

It’s also hot. Super hot.

Note the time. The sun was almost down, and it was still over 100 degrees. Although, if you’ve ever been there, you know that there’s also no humidity. Which is great because it really doesn’t feel that bad. If you’re a lizard.

We checked into our hotel, the Luxor (the pyramid one), and made our way out to the pool to have a drink and relax from driving and surfing. We knew we had a long night ahead of us, so we didn’t want to get crazy too early. We formed a plan that included casino hopping down The Strip. Neither of us really like clubs that much, so we ruled those out. We also decided to set a limit as to how much money we were allowing ourselves to spend: $100. In hindsight, that’s a ridiculously low amount. But with him still being in college and my funemployment status, we didn’t want to get stranded in Nevada.

We sat by the pool and drank an $8 Budweiser that got warm in 10 minutes. Check out the man in the white tee in the pool. What are you doing old man.

After showering and eating, we headed downstairs to start the night. We were both really excited to get to the casino, as neither of us had been to one before. We hit the floor and scoped out the area. After a few minutes of wandering, we came to a huge realization:

Neither of us knew how to gamble.

We didn’t even know how to start gambling. We sat at a penny slots and stared at each other as if one of us was going to miraculously figure it out. Never in my life had I felt the pang of being born and raised in Central PA so much than I did at that slot machine. Luckily, we saw a cocktail waitress and ordered a drink. Maybe if we got drunk we’d know what to do?

Nope. So, naturally, we went to the cashier. Dumbfounded, we asked “How do we get chips?”. The little woman sitting there was speechless. Upon seeing her reaction, I quickly followed up with “Sorry, this is our first time at a casino. Do we need to do anything in particular? Or just go sit at a table?”

Turns out you just sit at a table and pay there. So twenty minutes later we finally were at a BlackJack table with a minimum of $10. We got $20 worth of chips. The guy beside us got $100. Talk about feeling out of place.

After a few rounds of BlackJack we decided it was time to go explore. We headed down The Strip, staring wide-eyed and open-mouthed at all the lights, the enormous hotel and casinos, and all the people. Never had I been to a place like that. We waltzed our way along the road with our Coronas, stopping at MGM, the Monte Carlo, Caesar’s Palace (which is ridiculously insane how big it is), the Bellagio, and Mirage.

The Bellagio was my favorite – huge, fancy, and really ritzy. The definition of high class Vegas compared to the others we’d seen. When you walk in, you see this trippy ceiling decoration.

Those are hand blown glass flowers. And after several beers, it can make you go cross-eyed. We stayed here for so long it I thought we’d never leave. But no worries, when we did I decided to order a Vodka Red Bull for $15. I spent more on that drink than I did total at that casino. Crazy, right?! WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS STAYS IN VEGAS.

Around 3:30am we made the wonderful choice to walk home. Little did we know that we were 2 miles from our hotel. So the walk took nearly an hour. We had to stop at CVS along the way to get some food. Which homeless people then haggled us for.

Overall, great night. Although, if I went back, I’d be sure to go to a club. It seems more Vegas than casinos. And I wouldn’t buy a $15 drink at the bar when I can get one for free from a cocktail waitress.

At 4:30 we hit the sack. It was a brisk 87 degrees.

Goodbye, SoCal. Hello, American Southwest.

The time had come – my LA work vacation was over and I was packing up to head home. After a quick happy hour with some coworkers and goodbyes to my fellow interns, I headed back to my apartment to do some packing before my companion for the road trip back to Pittsburgh arrived.

The friend who came back with me, Betz, is another good friend of mine (I have the best friends) who was willing to fly out simply to drive across the country. I definitely wasn’t stopping him.

After about 2 hours of not packing a damn thing I headed to LAX to pick him up. For those who have never been to LAX on a Friday night, spare yourself the Hell on Earth that awaits. Bumper to bumper 6 lane traffic with more cars entering than you can shake a fist at. When I spotted Betz I stopped my car wherever I was and yelled until he found me. There was no way I was making it to the curb.

Since it was getting late on a Friday, we hurried up and went out to meet my roommate. We were leaving Sunday morning and wanted to squeeze in as much fun as we could with the time left. Saturday consisted of sightseeing, beach going, packing, and one last trip to the bars.

Finally, the time had come to leave. Unfortunately, my roommates weren’t around, so I said goodbye to an empty house and we headed down the coast. Our first stop was to be Vegas, however we had one last thing to do in California – surfing. I’d never gone before but always wanted to try it out. Luckily, growing up, I developed the grace of a warthog and the balance of a top on its last spin. So surfing sounded promising.

There’s where we surfed and said goodbye to California.

I did surprisingly well, and after two hours I was able to stand up for upwards of 3 seconds. Additionally, I got a great surfer’s tan comprised almost entirely of a terrible sunburn on my shoulders, face, back, arms, and chest. Which called for a great car ride.

By noon we were off to Sin City. If you recall in an earlier post I mentioned that Eastern California is similar to mutants and movie settings and so on. This time it was even more painful – the Mojave Desert. Sounds kind of cool right? It is. For the first 20 minutes. Then then next 4 cell phone receptionless hours are dreadfully boring. And hot. Very, very hot.

Finally, as we came over the top of a mountain/hill/crest thing, we could see Nevada. Las Vegas is about 40 miles into the state, but right along the border they get you excited by having the biggest tourist trap I’ve ever seen, including but not limited to: mall, strip mall, hotel, casino, roller coaster, and something involving cowboys.

I decided that this trip was going to be different than the last. I made a promise to myself that I would finally focus and take clear, great pictures of the State Signs. My disappointing performance in round 1 resurfaced as we approached the border. This time was going to be different. I had my phone out, HDR off, camera open, eyes peeled. The anticipation was welling up in me like a pubescent teenage boy getting ready to touch his first boob. Then suddenly –

Don’t see it? Let’s take a closer look:

Yes, there it is. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the worthless photographer in me resurfaces to get an awesomely bad photo. Maybe it’s a first day of a road trip thing, like when we got to Ohio. Either way, things weren’t looking good for round 2.

A couple minutes later and we finally entered Las Vegas. Let the games (literally) begin.

2 months of life in 43 pictures.

I promise this is my last post about being in California. I was going to detail every single day from waking up to going to sleep, but decided that everyone would be so overwhelmed with excitement that you’d pass out before making it through every post. So I compromised. Below are 43 pictures that pretty accurately describe my time in SoCal. Enjoy.

LA. I used a filter, but it’s about that smoggy anyway.

They have the coolest street names.

And some of the most famous.

The generic tourist pose. Not getting the sign in your hands.

Chinese Theatre filled with tourists.

Once again, I’m a tourist.

They really put us interns to work.

We didn’t really work much though.

See? Told you. This is at 9:30 AM.

And then at the end, we had a beach party.

Our team enjoying the last few days of our internship.

Oh and one day this is where we ate lunch. No tables. Kind of a bitch.

Each Sunday I sat, read, and normally fell asleep underneath this palm tree on the Santa Monica cliffs.

Leo Cabrillo State Park  has awesome rocks and cliffs that often collapse on people.

EVERYONE OWNS A SAILBOAT.

There’s no way you can live here without taking the generic lifeguard stand beach pic.

This dude didn’t even care.

Venice Beach.

Those are my feet because I’m artsy.

The snazzy Santa Monica Pier.

Why is it awesome? Free Thursday night concerts on the beach.

And this badass Ferris Wheel.

One weekend I went to San Diego because my girlfriend was visiting.

This is the amazing house we were at. That’s an outdoor living room. Such a thing is unheard of in Pittsburgh. And mostly everywhere in the country.

Another concert on the beach.

Mmmm eating a breakfast burrito and watching surfers.

This house has no relevance to my trip except that it’s sweet.

But this is more awesome.

One night I went to a bar with some friends. One by one, Waldos walked in until they filled three-quarters of the bar. I have no idea who any of these people are or why they were there, but as you can see I’m thrilled about it.

Burgers. In my mouth.

Fourth of July rocked.

A girl at work wore these. They’re as cool as America and as impractical as a phonograph.

‘MURICA

I lived really close to Malibu.

So one day my roommates and I took a hike.

This pond was cool.

And so was this view. However to get to this view, we took a wrong turn but kept going. Essentially, we free climbed up the side of a very, very dry mountain, hopped a fence into private property, hopped two gates that said “No Trespassing”, then walked about 2.5 miles until we could hitchhike back to the car. So that was a weird day.

Pepperdine University is in Malibu. Most beautiful campus I’ve ever been on. There’s absolutely nothing around it though.

Malibu Lagoon. Ignore the woman reading. She snuck into the frame.

One night there was the most beautiful sunset I’d ever seen. I was running on the Santa Monica cliffs as it set over the water and made the clouds orange, yellow, pink, purple, and blue all at the same time. Every single person was taking pictures of it. I turned and looked behind me to see a huge rainbow on the other side. It was incredible.

So naturally I didn’t have my phone and missed it. This is what my roommate got from a golf course.

There’s nothing like seeing the sunset behind the mountains.

Or over the ocean. (This was my last run of the summer there, down on the beach.)

Lots of other things happened while I was there, but that’s pretty much the gist of it. Work, beach, play. All day everyday. It’s definitely not the worst place in the world because it’s actually the best place in the world. Well, at least for two months in the summer when you’re 22.

Next up, the trip home. Spoiler alert: we didn’t go to Toledo.

And if you’ve stuck it out this far through the post, I give you this Fourth of July gem. Go America.