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Vegas beyond the view: Tales from a night out with drunken tourists

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The $13 billion CityCenter project on the Strip.
Photo: Sam Morris

Vegas residents understand that by living here we are automatically volunteering ourselves as tour guides (and sometimes hotel rooms) to family, friends and friends of friends. Most of us have airbeds ready to inflate and the FAQs memorized. No, prostitution is not legal in Clark County. Yes, the Strip gets old. Finally, the latest addition: No, I have never stolen a tiger from Mike Tyson.

Quite possibly, I am too sympathetic to out-of-state visitors. Or perhaps I have that type of curiosity that kills cats and journalists. Either way, when the opportunity arose to spend a night on the Strip with three out-of-state guys, the possibilities for amusement seemed too good to pass up.

This is how I find myself standing in a small, one-bedroom apartment littered with empty Coors Lite cans listening to a debate on possible means of transportation.

"Let's take a cab," suggests one of the tourists, a preppy boy from Princeton wearing a pink shirt. "Cabs are expensive; you might as well take a limo," jokes my fellow local in the group. Princeton tourist no. 2 loves this idea. "Let's rent a limo," one decides. "We can't be driving. We need to get wasted!" The debate momentarily ceases in order for the tourists to shotgun a final beer.

Fifteen minutes and 30 Hangover references later, we've convinced the tourists they are not going to rent a limo, and we're driving to the Palms in a blue Corolla driven by the designated (local) driver.

"I hope Jennifer Aniston is there," quips tourist no. 3, a small town-boy from Oregon who recently moved here, but hasn't achieved local status yet. "I just can't believe you guys live here," says bro-dude (no. 2). "I'd be out every night if I lived here." I don't bother to explain the concept of Vegas locals having jobs, families and a preference for $1 beers and pizzas at Roadrunners over $12 mixed drinks at ultraclubs. Instead, like any good host, I go with the flow.

(I'd also been reminded of the futility of arguing with drunks five minutes earlier during a debate on why prostitution should be legalized in Clark County. My argument about the value of protecting women from rape, the government being able to tax brothels and the fact that most people already thinks it's legal here fell on deaf ears. All I managed to evoke was an exasperated, "How can you, as a woman, want legal prostitution?" from the bro-dude. A sound argument, if there ever was one.)

Like most guys in their early 20s, these three had come to Vegas to partake in our nightlife. The plan is to visit Rain inside the Palms. "Make it rain, make it rain!" sings small-town boy. He continues singing throughout the night, mostly changing the LMFAO line "I'm in Miami, bitch" into 'I'm in Las Vegas, bitch!" His creativity is mind blowing.

Indeed, we were in Las Vegas proper. If the beautiful, leggy women walking around Palms didn't tip them off, the ability to smoke indoors did. "I am smoking just because I can," says bro-dude (originally from southern California) as he lights up a cigarette between chugs of his $4 beer. Meanwhile, no. 3 is trying to figure out why the line to get into Rain is long enough it might actually stretch all the way to Lake Oswego, Ore. Seeing the Paul Oakenfold sign, his eyes light up. He's no expert on trance, but he recognizes the big name. "Is that the Paul Oakenfold? He's huge! No wonder it's crowded."

I don't bother to explain the other high-profile events also going on at the casino that night. Instead, I suggest the drunken and growing-restless troupe move across the street to VooDoo at the Rio. It may not be in the same league as Perfecto, but my hunch is that the stellar view will satisfy their fascination with Sin City. Plus, the roof is a great place to scream "Vegas, bay-bee!"

With it's reasonable wait, mysterious atmosphere and reasonable crowd size, VooDoo satisfies both the drunken trio of tourists and the locals in our group. The tourists are prepared now to drink some more, make out with girls on the dance floor (despite girlfriends back home) and try their hand at blackjack - but first, the view!

"Look at that," one of them says, awestruck. The token local, my eyes fall on the dark shadow of CityCenter, and I briefly contemplate what it means to live in a city where the drunken tourists I'm humoring are vital to the survival of the hard-working and struggling waiters, cashiers and auto mechanics I know.

Now, I need a $12 drink.

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