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Vegas staycation

Getting away from it all—without really getting away from it

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Rick Lax on staycation.
Rick Lax

This is a huge generalization, so i probably shouldn’t make it, but I’m going to anyway: Easterners (Buddhists, Taoists, Hindus) are taught to find peace and relaxation from within, and Westerners are taught to find it through material things. A candle, a glass of merlot, a Yanni CD, a pair of cucumber slices laid over our eyes—you get the idea.

We’re also taught that to find the “ultimate relaxation” everybody’s after, we need to “get away from it all.” We understand that the farther we go, the more relaxed we’ll become. Mexico is good, Hawaii is better, Fiji is best.

The trouble is, it costs a lot of money to fly to Mexico, and even more to fly to Hawaii, and still more to fly to Fiji—around $1,500. So when the economy flipped in 2007 and we ran out of cash, we started taking “staycations.”

Now that NYE and CES (the Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur of Las Vegas) have passed, we have the Strip mostly to ourselves. Vacancies are going up and room rates are going down. So if you’re thinking about taking a staycation, now’s the time.

As you probably guessed from the above photo, I just took a staycation myself. At Wynn’s Tower Suites. My stay lasted just 24 hours, but each of them was glorious. Including the ones during which I was asleep.

As I type this, I’m wearing a bathrobe, which, according to its label, was designed specifically for the guests of Wynn Las Vegas. Behind me is a flat-screen TV showing a montage of nature photographs and playing “Clair de Lune.” I’m 52 stories up, and I’m peering over the top of my laptop at the Wynn golf course. Intellectually, I knew the course was big, but didn’t really understand how big it was until this moment. It’s huge.

Or maybe it’s not. Maybe my judgment is askew. I just finished one of the most surreal lunches of my life, and it’s hard to know what’s real and what’s not …

Unlike people who talk about “getting away from it all”—as if!—I strive for existential exactness in my writing. When I say my lunch was “surreal,” I wasn’t just throwing the word around. Let me explain:

The Wynn

Walking into the Wynn Country Club for the Cookin’ With Jazz Brunch, I felt as though I’d been transported into a Ralph Lauren commercial. The people looked posh, the room looked posh, the tables looked posh and the food looked posh.

Do people really live like this? How do I accumulate enough wealth to make that happen? I already knew the answers. Yes, people really live like this. And if I want to do the same, I have to save my money.

I knew the answers to those questions because a couple of months ago I’d flipped through Ben Stein’s book Yes, You Can Still Retire Comfortably! at the bookstore. The cover of the book features Stein wearing a pink shirt beneath a gray blazer, and standing in front of a golf course.

And that leads me to the surreal: When I sat down to eat lunch, I looked out the window and I saw the real Ben Stein, wearing a pink shirt and a gray blazer, in front of a golf course.

How’s that for a mindfreak?

I drank Texas Tea and ate French Toast Bread Pudding, which came with Vermont maple syrup, mixed berries, candied pecans and applewood-smoked bacon. And then I started in on the protein: shrimp, crab, oysters, beef, ham, sausage … I could have gone on eating various animals indefinitely, but I had a haircut appointment at 4.

Master Barber D.T. does this thing where he switches the position of his comb and his scissors in an eighth of a second. One-handed. If this guy ever gets his hand on a pair of loaded dice, I thought, the casinos are done for. A half hour later, my hair looked good, and I walked across the hallway, to the health club, to feel good, too.

After my cardio session, I returned to my room and slid into the bathtub. I flipped to Japanese-language channel 47—there’s a TV next to the mirror—and watched sumo wrestling for 30 minutes. The bigger guy won.

I dried off and headed to the buffet so I could undo the good I’d done at the gym, and so I could look like more like the men I’d been watching on TV.

It’s 2 a.m. and I’m sitting in the parasol Up bar. I’m drinking a “Pear-A-Sol,” a cocktail that combines Absolut Pear Vodka with pear liqueur and pear puree. I really like pears, so the drink works for me.

Now I’m drinking an Acai & Kiwi Smash (kiwi vodka, acai liqueur, agave nectar). And now I’m doing a shot of tequila, Granny Sour Apple Schnapps, and Goldschlager. And now I’m doing a shot of Grand Marnier 150 Year Anniversary.

And now I’m drunk and going to bed.

The worst part about going to bars and clubs on the Strip is the ride home. You can never drink as much as you want, because you have to drive home safely. The inevitable ride home stays in the back of your mind all night, and dampens your cocktailing, your schmoozing and your freak-dancing.

But not when you’re on a staycation. When you’re on a staycation, you can drink as much as you want.

At 3:12 I finished my GM 150 at the bar, and at 3:17, I was back in my room. At 3:50 I was fast asleep in the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept on.

I did find the relaxation everybody’s after, and I didn’t have to “get away from it all” to do so. I didn’t have to fly across the globe to Fiji. A mile due east was all it took. Yes, I needed the help of a couple material things along the way, but I don’t see this as a failing; I see it as an inevitable byproduct of my upbringing.

Rick Lax went on staycation and all he got were these 16 free items.

Rick Lax went on staycation and all he got were these 16 free items.

The irony is, the one thing my staycation has left me with is immaterial. I’m referring, of course, to the wonderful memory.

Okay, now that I think about it, my staycation did leave me with a couple material things as well: my hotel room’s loofah, shampoo, conditioner, soap, sewing kit, razor, shaving cream, Q-tips, cotton balls, shoe polish, buffer, toothbrush and toothpaste. And an apple and an orange and a pair of sweaty headphones from the Wynn health club. But aside from those 16 things, I’m left with only the immaterial memory.

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