If a picture says 1,000 words, then the picture on my cell phone said everything you need to know about my trip to Vegas for my brother Tickle’s bachelor party. It was the torso of a naked man from neck to mid-thigh. The abundant follicle density told me it was the torso of Trapper, one of Tickle’s friends and a
It was not the first semi-naked man I had seen over the weekend.
Like Danny Ocean, we assembled a crack team of Vegas professionals for the bachelor party:
Tickle...my younger brother, groom-to-be, and the glue holding the weekend together
Snake Anthony...my youngest brother, the youngest guy attending, and by far the most sane and mature
Z...the best man, the biggest man, and the straightest man
Hawkeye...Dr. Feelgood, the loose cannon who is a dangerous mix of beauty, brains, and pantslessness
Trapper...hairy, happy, and happening, The Cleaner who gets rid of the messes Hawkeye leaves behind
Double Down...playing the role of the guy who hates gambling and yet loses more money than everyone else
Smitty...Double Down’s Trapper, friendly and a generous laugher
Smoke...our local connection and the man who knows how to get things
Me...official chronicler and officially the old man at the club
Before we left, Hawkeye devised a roommate draft, creating a spreadsheet listing our ratings in various categories, from 1 (good/none/safe) to 10 (bad/exessive/dangerous). A few notable ratings:
Hair left behind
Double Down—1, freshly shorn
Smitty—1, the new guy
Brando—8, old and angry
Gay tendencies when drunk
Z—1, almost too straight
Hawkeye—10, I apologize in advance
We secured the perfect lodging scenario: two regular rooms and one suite at the MGM Grand. The suite became our tenth team member, like a stadium supporting the home players on the field. It gave us plenty of space to drink, rock out, and get weird.
We Wear Short Shorts
I arrived late on Saturday, so I passed on gambling and headed straight to the suite, where everyone save Double Down and Smitty had gathered. As I exchanged handshakes and man hugs, I saw Hawkeye. He wore black biker boots, a black t-shirt, and a thin mustache that accompanied his long, trim sideburns. He had grown the mustache specifically to get a laugh out of us. “You look like the Dread Pirate Roberts,” I said.
Smitty and Double Down arrived shortly thereafter, with Double Down putting the “short” in shortly. I had not met either of them before, and for our first encounter, Double Down sported a pair of jean shorts cut so high, the pockets peeked out from below the cut. He also wore a white, see-through, mesh shirt that ended just above his manscaped navel. It was his version of Hawkeye’s mustache. I asked him where his rollerblades and headphones were.
Double Down was happy to attend the bachelor party festivities, but he was the least excited about coming to Vegas because he doesn’t like gambling. That’s a bit like deciding to become Amish even though you hate barn raising and love zippers. However, like so many others who come to this town, the sticky Web of wagering snagged him. He told us he had been playing blackjack (in his current outfit) and had been up $600 before crashing winding up $60 in the negative column. We all felt sorry for him. All of us had our own Gambling Icarus stories, tales of plastic chips stacked invincibly toward the sky, only to melt under the burning sun of house advantage. At least he looked fabulous while he was losing.
We departed to our separate rooms to clean up before going out. I luckily had drawn Snake Anthony as my roommate. My youngest brother is calm, cool, and collected, with the demeanor of a jazz drummer but minus the heroin habit. Tickle threatened to get our keys and still do things to us, but for the first time in my Vegas history, my middle brother would not be waking me up with his snoring.
When I returned to the suite, Double Down had changed into clothes more Gap display than Abercrombie spread. I was also horrified to see Hawkeye had shaved his 'stache. It would have been the perfect complement to the tasseled white loafers he wore. Hawkeye had arranged a special event for us: prix fixe drunkenness at a local dance club, where we could drink all the Ketel One vodka we wanted for one flat rate. At least when my liver went into shock, I would be in the company of doctors.
Upon hitting the club, Hawkeye and Trapper immediately hit the dance floor. The place was packed, and the light display above us periodically shot out flames. As I wrote the last time, Trapper is a dance machine, and I spotted him getting his groove on. He looked so completely happy that it inspired me. Normally when it comes to dancing, I am a wallflower. As The Lovely Becky often tells me when she tries to get me to dance, I need to unclench. Well, I unclenched. The combination of booze, Vegas, and Trapper got my feet moving and kept them going for several hours. It was merely a hint of things to come....
The Amazing Hawkeye
We packed it in after dancing and drinking our money’s worth. As we left the club, we spotted an empty fortune teller booth in the lobby area, a small alcove covered in red satin furniture, with only beaded curtains preventing us from entering. Hawkeye immediately ducked into it. He sat down, put his palms flat on the table, and lowered his head with menacing meditation. The rest of us went to work, telling passersby to come get a free fortune from The Amazing Hawkeye. I stopped a couple of women leaving the club and repeated the offer. “He looks like Criss Angel,” one of them said. I asked them if they were taking a cab and they said yes.
“Listen, I was skeptical, too, but this guy has a gift,” I said. “He told me I was going to be in an accident, and I swear, five minutes after I left, I was in one. Just a fender bender, but nevertheless an accident. He might tell you whether you should avoid a white cab or a yellow cab.”
“What about a blue cab?” they asked.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “That’s why you need to talk to him.”
They politely declined, but we did manage to convince one woman to sit for her fortune. Hawkeye took her palm and read it, staying silent for several minutes as he examined the lines. “Do you have two children?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said, “two sons.”
Peering at her palm intently, he said, “You will have a third...a girl. She will go to medical school, where she will study psychology.” He filled his voice with soothseering foreboding. “But she will not finish!”
Business socks, feats of strength, and potions of healing
The next morning, my phone rang. “Put your business socks on,” Tickle said. “It’s business time. Come down to the room, we have IVs.”
I arrived at the suite to see Z in a chair, a blanket over his legs and a tissue in his hands. Hawkeye, wearing a T-shirt with a giant airbrushed image of Michael Bolton on it, stood over Z, prepping his arm for a needle. Trapper held a saline solution IV bag, attaching it to a hotel hanger and hanging it from the folded-up rollaway bed.
“Oh my God,” I said. “You really have IV bags.”
“Of course,” Hawkeye said as if he merely was applying some Head On and mixing a Bloody Mary. After a little blood and sweat but no tears, Z had sweet hangover salvation flowing into his veins.
It was before noon but happy hour for Hawkeye. He mixed a Red Bull and vodka, clearly not his first of the morning. I abstained, as my liver was still trying to process the Kettle 1 that had given me happy feet the night before. Somehow we got on the subject of pushups and how many we could do. With it being Vegas, this led to betting on how many we could do. Hawkeye set his over/under at 48. Tickle took the under. Hawkeye stripped off his Michael Bolton shirt and, for reasons only known to him, his shorts.
Technically, Hawkeye was wearing underwear. But the tidy whiteys he sported were so tight, they formed a second skin over his pelvic area. It looked as if he had been twelve years old the night before and, a la Big, had woken up as an adult, still wearing boys' underpants. He dropped to the floor and began pounding out pushups. He nailed the first 30 without any problem, before stopping and holding himself up over the floor. With the same lack of explanation as the stripping, he spit a couple times before pushing on to 40. After another camel imitation, he did 41 and then collapsed.
Tickle, wearing a shirt with a giant picture of Elmo on it, set his at 38. My brother is in good shape, and his shoulders are wide enough that he could have won the Republican presidential nomination based on that alone. I took the over for five bucks against Hawkeye. Tickle pounded out his push ups without stopping, propelling himself off the floor and clapping his hands together for good measure when he reached 39. My first wager of the weekend had paid off.
The Saga of the Speedo
Tickle, Snake Anthony, and I had poker plans for Sunday afternoon. As a present, a bunch of us chipped in to buy Tickle a spot in the $540 tournament at the Bellagio. Snake and I chose much cheaper waters. This kept us occupied through the afternoon and into the evening. When we returned to the suite, the whole gang was there. Hawkeye sat in the IV chair, an IV in his arm, his Michael Bolton shirt off, and a Speedo barely covering his surgical tools. Naturally, we had questions.
Trapper began to tell the saga of the Speedo. He and Hawkeye had departed for the pool after we left for poker. Like a Terminator, Hawkeye immediately found his quarry among the crowd—Smitty and Double Down, already lounging in the sun. He walked up to them, removed the Michael Bolton shirt, and dropped his shorts to reveal a new black Speedo.
After adjusting his package to the point where he nearly broke Vegas’s already lax obscenity laws, Hawkeye selected the chaise longue next to Double Down and laid out completely spread eagled. Double Down showed me a picture. With Hawkeye’s tall, lanky frame in that pose and wearing that Speedo, he looked like an albino praying mantis that just finished marching in a gay pride parade. He looked so “appealing” that an older gentleman approached the group, complimented Hawkeye on his “banana hammock,” and offered to buy the boys beers. With the clarity of a Dateline NBC fan, Trapper declined, and eventually led the Speedo-clad and highly inebriated Hawkeye back upstairs.
Given the competition, attracting attention in Vegas is not an easy job. Yet people in the casino stopped what they were doing to gawk at the man walking past them wearing oversize Ray Bans, socks, shoes, and a Michael Bolton shirt that nearly obscured his black Speedo. Yes, Hawkeye had decided to forgo his cargo shorts and walk back to the room as if he was the most carefree Continental European in the world. Hawkeye also began asking, loudly and repeatedly, “Why is it so hot in here? It’s not this hot in Tor-on-to!” Note that he is not from Toronto. He and Trapper entered the hotel elevator as a middle-aged man entered with his teenage kids. Hawkeye, louder than ever, asked, “Why is it so hot in here?”
The father looked at him and said, “Man, it doesn’t have to be that way. Just take off your shirt.”
I’m going to remember that one when I take TBD to Vegas.
We Are the Chosen People, Yo!
The tale and Hawkeye's IV finished, our hero removed himself to the bedroom where he passed out. We decided to hang out in the room, drink, and play music for a few hours. Tickle, Snake Anthony, Z, Trapper, and I then had the weirdest experience of the weekend: we got into a serious conversation about religion.
I don’t really know how it happened. One minute, Trapper (clad in merely his boxers) and Tickle (shirtless) were taking the gayest pictures I have ever seen two straight men take who weren’t being paid money. The next thing I knew, we were discussing Catholicism and what it took to get into heaven.
Tickle is the most religious out of the three of us. I am a believer but lazy and disillusioned with the Church. Snake Anthony is an agnostic. At one point, Tickle was explaining that he couldn’t believe Snake Anthony would not go to heaven, even if he didn’t believe in God, because Snake is a good person.
“Dude,” I said. “What are you doing?”
“What?” Tickle asked.
“We’re in Vegas,” I said. “Why are we talking about this?”
“Because I don’t get to see my brothers very often, and I want to have a real conversation with them.”
It’s a very odd day when I find myself asking Tickle to not be so deep.
Our religious exorcism must have cured the demons in Hawkeye, because he rose from his slumber, ready to commit mischief. We all decided to get cleaned up and hit the casino at a fashionably late 2:00 a.m. Little did we know our religious experience was not over.
A group of guys approached our roulette table. Group is not really the right word. Posse dorkitas might be the better phrase. They were led by a guy who looked like the president of Marshall Mathers fan club. His baggy clothes probably weighed as much as he did, and he wore a baseball cap high and crooked over his hair.
The table had hit black about a half dozen times in a row until our Beastie Boi showed up. He put a bunch of chips on red. It hit. He bet red again. It hit. “Back to back!” he said in a Modern Homeboy accent.
We couldn’t help but laugh. This guy was trying so hard to be street, but he didn’t look hard enough for Sesame Street. I halfway expected this to be a gag for some TV show. On the next spin, as the ball was going around, he reached out and took some of his chips off of red. The wheel hit black.
“You gotta manage yo’ money!” he said to us. “That’s what my people do.”
We looked at each other trying to understand what he meant. His people? Dorks? Caucasians? Caucasians shamelessly pillaging African American culture?
He must have sensed our confusion, because he turned his baseball cap around backwards. The back had a white, stitched Star of David on it.
We lost it. We started yelling “Back to back” and “Manage yo’ money!” with every spin. Unfortunately, our friend MC Dreidel didn’t find our humor too kosher, and he and his posse left in a bit of a huff for the craps table.
“I feel kind of bad,” I told Hawkeye, “they’re at the craps table like some kind of gambling diaspora.”
Snake Anthony’s phone rang the next morning. I heard this sound on the other end of the receiver, like Charlie Brown’s teacher on meth after sucking an entire balloon’s worth of helium. It had to be Tickle.
Tickle had decided to talk in the same voice as the Eminem song, “Fack.” It’s a terrible song, which is probably why Tickle decided to do it. He kept his voice in a high, loud, nasal tone all morning.
“Do you guys want to eat?” I asked.
“YEAH, I’M FACKING HUNGRY” Tickle said.
“Stop talking like that.”
“LIKE WHAT? WHAT THE FACK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?”
Tickle, Snake, Z, and I went to the Spice Market Buffet at Planet Hollywood. Cruising the myriad options, Z stopped at the Middle Eastern section.
“They don’t have any lamb,” Z said.
“OH FACK!” Tickle said.
He increased to Category 5 obnoxiousness during lunch. At the table, just as Snake Anthony took a sip of his drink, Tickle said, “DRINK ALL YOUR PEPSI.” When I plopped a spoonful of ice cream into my mouth, Tickle observed, “YOU LIKE CHOCOLATE SAUCE ON YOUR ICE CREAM.”
After finishing our lunch and heading up the escalator, Tickle kept babbling a train of FACKs at Z. Without uttering a word, Z shoved Tickle against the wall, forcing him to slide against it all the way up from the buffet. “OW, FACK, THAT FACKING HURTS!”
Tickle thankfully collapsed when we got back to the room, but the damage was done. We all started saying FACK the rest of the weekend. In conversations, on the phone, in text messages. Everyone but Z. Even now, it randomly pops into my head.
Some days I really hate my brother.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Thongs
That night, after another day of poker, I joined Trapper, Hawkeye, and Z for sushi at the restaurant inside the MGM. Looking over the menu, Hawkeye mentioned that the spicy tuna maki roll sounded good and he was going to get it.
“Would it be weird if I ordered the same thing you did?” I asked.
“No, not at all.”
Digging out my coyest voice, I said, “What if I said, ‘I’ll have what he’s having’?”
“Yes, that would be uncomfortable,” Hawkeye laughed.
I went first with my order. When the waitress turned to Hawkeye, he looked at me with and said, “I’ll have what he’s having.”
A bottle of saki and a giant Sapporo later, a group of young women entered the restaurant. The only real way to describe how they were dressed is hoochied. I don’t really know how else to label a skin-tight cheetah print dress or a black dress with a cleavage plunging like a Himalayan crevasse.
Hawkeye leaned in close to us. “I’ll bet at least one of those girls isn’t wearing underwear.” Trapper and I disagreed. Hawkeye took out a crisp Ben Franklin and handed it to Trapper. “Hundred bucks if you go over and prove they’re wearing underwear.”
Admittedly, it was a dick thing to interrupt some folks just having a nice dinner. I could tell Trapper didn’t really want to do it. But a hundred bucks is a hundred bucks, we had been drinking, and fuck it, we were in Vegas.
Polishing off the last of his drink, Trapper took the hundred and approached their table. He also demonstrated why he’s The Cleaner. Trapper is, simply put, the nice mischievous guy. He is happy to engage in these childish pranks, but he’s so friendly and disarming in the process that no one seems to mind. “Excuse me,” he said to the ladies. “I am so sorry to bug you and ask you this, but my friend bet me $100 and I had to take the bet.” He held up the Franklin to prove the veracity of his story. “He thinks at least one of you is not wearing underwear. I say that you are.”
Without missing a beat, one of the women said, “I’m so sorry, but your friend’s right.”
Trapper looked crushed. “You’re kidding?” he said.
She waited a beat before saying, “Yep, we are.” They all laughed, grabbed the sides of their dresses, and snapped the straps of their underwear to prove it. Chapman thanked them. The woman said, “You know, we’re impressed you had the balls to come over here and ask that.”
Never doubt the power of Trapper. He has a kavorka that ensnares men and women.
Brando II: Electric Boogaloo
We left to meet up with everyone else and close out our last night at the MGM’s dance club. Inside, the place was pretty hopping for a Monday night. I discovered that the club made an outstanding vodka gimlet—my drink of choice when I planned on having more than one. I began sucking gimlets down like gas was $2.00 a gallon and I was a Hummer.
At some point in the evening, Hawkeye had acquired a plastic scooper, like a sugar scooper for baking. I have no idea where he got or what possessed him to have it, but he carried it around in his shirt pocket for the entire evening, pulling it out to scoop alcohol from other people’s drinks. He whipped it out and took a sample of my gimlet. He nodded in pleasure, took another sip, and left to sample drinks from anyone who would let him sip from their cups.
We made our way to the dance floor. With my dancing hesitation broken earlier that weekend and my feet heavily lubricated with drink, I began busting my moves. It should have stopped there. However, the club had these platforms you could dance on—about the size and height of a large, square coffee table. I don’t know if it was the liquor or Vegas or maybe pre-parental ya yas that I just had to get out, but before I knew it, my feet were on the platform. I was table dancing.
And not just dancing. I turned into Trapper from our visit to Vegas last fall. I moved with the sweet, blissful ignorance of Elaine Benes at an office party. More importantly, I beckoned anyone and everyone to join me. Women, men, the guys I knew, perfect strangers, it mattered not. I wiggled my finger to invite them and pointed to the empty spot on the table where they could dance. Most looked at me with the skepticism reserved for strange men offering candy from unmarked conversion vans. Others declined amid their laughter. But damn if several didn’t climb up and dance.
The boys were enjoying the show. At one point I saw Snake Anthony and Tickle, looking at me and laughing in disbelief. I gave them a thumbs up and kept dancing. I felt a kind of power. Here I was, setting dancing back hundreds of thousands of years, yet through the sheer combination of total conviction and not giving a fuck, I got other people to join. This was so not me, and not being me felt pretty good.
It wasn’t until I stopped dancing and discovered that English had become my second language after gibberish that I realized the true source of my power. Courage, thy name is alcohol. Even in my drunken state, I was thankful no one had filmed it. I would have been less embarrassed to admit I was a 40-year old virgin.
It’s not a Trip to Vegas Until You Lose Your Pants and/or Appendix
Nine a.m. came entirely too early the next day. I opened a bleary, bloodshot eye, believing that the whole evening had been a dream. Until Snake Anthony saw me and said, “Oh my God!”
We both got ready, packed, and headed to the airport. A text from Tickle informed us that a) Trapper and Hawkeye had missed their flight, b) Tickle had barely made his, and c) he had left half his clothes in the dresser and closet.
“Shit,” I said. “I forgot my pants, too.” I had neglected to check the closet and left my best pair of pants hanging. Snake Anthony realized he’d left his pants in there as well. And there’s nothing like coming home to your pregnant wife from a bachelor party in Vegas to tell her you’re missing a pair of pants.
Our loss paled in comparison to Tickle’s the following weekend, when my brother went to the hospital with terrible stomach pains. It turns out The People’s Champ had a loser of an appendix and had to have it out.
After finding out he was okay, I said, “It’s a good thing it didn’t happen in Vegas.”
“I know, that would have been terrible.”
“Although at least you would have had two doctors and plenty of IVs,” I said.
“True,” Tickle said. “FACK.”