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A scene from an airport

About a year ago I wrote a story.

Wait, there’s more.

About a year ago I wrote a story full of vignettes gleaned from McCarran International Airport, where I spent more than a month talking to bar patrons sitting at the same stool at the Budweiser Race Track Bar & Grill located outside the gates, across from the Cirque du Soleil boutique just past the escalators. I’m sure you know the place. Glass-encased bar, opened 24/7, is what it is.

I was back there Sunday night. Not to tie one on at the airport, but to pick up a friend flying in from Guam or some such locale. I sat next to Stool No. 8, which was the exact stool I used in the story, and ordered a Diet Coke, over, in a tall glass. Moments later, a guy wearing a leather coat, beige shorts and a “Las Vegas” ballcap set his rump down on Stool No. 8. I’ll call this guy Uncle Grumpy. He makes John McCain look like Richard Simmons.

Uncle Grumpy asks the bartender, whom we’ll call “Karen,” because that’s what’s stamped to her nametag, how much a beer costs at the Bud Race Bar & Grill. Actually, he prefaces the question with, “Don’t take this personally …” which is about the worst way to preface any form of verbal communication. Uncle Grumpy is told that drafts are $6.99. “What!” he says, then asks, “Who owns this place?” HMS Host Corporation owns the Bud Grill. “Then I’m gonna call HMS!” Uncle Grumpy was then told that he could get a bottled beer for $6.45. “Oh, great!” he says (I think employing sarcasm, but with Uncle Grumpy, it’s hard to tell). He is given one of those But Lites in an aluminum bottle and proceeds to rail on Las Vegas. “You know why this airport is so dead, and no one is coming to Vegas? Hotel room rates! Show tickets – who’s going to spend $150 on a show! And you’re charging $6.99 for a beer. I’m writing a letter to the mayor!”

I tried telling Uncle Grumpy that writing a letter to Mayor Goodman made no sense, as the airport sits in unincorporated Clark County (over which, Oscar Goodman holds no actual authority), but there was no talking to this guy. I figured Uncle Grumpy had a rough weekend at the tables, or maybe shredded his retirement account by betting the 49ers on the money line. I thought he probably bought a flight/room package at the Flamingo, three days/two nights for $99 or something, and proceeded to get fleeced in the casino.

I finally asked, “Where did you stay?” His eyebrows arched, “I live here!”

And with that, Uncle Grumpy stepped off the stool and lurched out to spread his own brand of Vegas cheer.

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