Monday, December 13, 2010

Viva Banana Derby!

Bobo bounces up and down on the back of his Golden Retriever. This crazed capuchin monkey wants us fired up for his big race. We oblige, cheering wildly. I turn to give Erin an awkward, white guy high-five and Zaaahhh...Shit!

My tongue's burned by the scorching hot peanuts from my deep fried Snickers. A fast gulp of my frozen margarita extinguishes the fire and I’m hooting again.

Two monkeys will soon be competing in a pseudo horse race, jockeying on the backs of dogs. It’s the Banana Derby…and right now, it seems perfectly normal.

I’ve been in the Vegas mix for seventy-two hours and my mind has adjusted to the sensory firestorm. This town is intent on obliterating the line between reality and fantasy—clocks don’t exist, public intoxication is encouraged, and Roman emperors reign.

All hail the Blogger!

But tributaries of reality do seep into the fantastical flood.

Today starts, like so many in Vegas, with a very real hangover and a Bloody Mary. I stumble out of my room and wander through the thousand-mile stares of slot machine zombies.

After some stumbling around, our group meets at The Mermaid Bar in the Silverton Casino. Another round of to-go Bloodies are ordered, and we file onto the waiting limo.

It's a one-drink trip to Lake Meade where a fully staffed yacht picks us up for a five-hour tour.

The first stop is for a picture near Hoover Dam. I didn’t even realize we we're on the reservoir created by the Hoover Dam. Christ, even the lakes are fake here. It doesn’t look as impressive on this side of the dam; the towering wall of earth and concrete is on the other side.

“Can we get any closer,” I ask. 

“Only if you want to get shot at,” replies the captain.

Federal agents patrol the dam to thwart any potential terrorist attack. They will fire warning shots if you get too close.

A terrorist threat?

That’s a dope slap of reality. But not to worry, fantasy is still running this boat. Actually, this guy is...


Predictably, after an hour of apps and more drinks, a whipped cream and champagne fight erupts in the hot tub. A bit of bubbly stings my eye, so I jump out of the cream puff war to clean my face and notice the bartender in the background. She thinks no one is watching and I see a slight frown, a moment of introspection. This is her job. I wonder if she’s married. Does she have kids?

As I contemplate going to talk to her, the crew opens the two-story high waterslide off the back of the boat and I make a run for it. It’s a slick ride down and I'm the first to splash into the manmade lake. The water delivers a sobering jolt.

Doing my best doggie paddle, I get back and jump aboard. Everyone else splashes in the water, but I retreat into a towel and walk along the rail of the bottom deck.

The sun’s dropping and the horizon’s a pastel gradient of purple and pink. The vast, barren landscape may as well be Mars to this son of New England. It’s quiet. 

The yacht engines fire back up and wake me from my daydream.

Back on terra firma, we pile into the limo bus and an impromptu dance party erupts as we hurtle down Interstate 215. A quick pump of the brakes would produce a few broken limbs of reality. Fortunately, it’s a smooth ride and we’re flying high, like a G-6. The limo drops us off from our million-dollar yacht day to a five-dollar carnival night in the Silverton Casino parking lot. Nobody’s wearing white.

Fair Enough.

We’re not here to barf on The Zipper or stab anyone. We want the Banana Derby.

Bobo, the star monkey, is leashed by a heavy chain. This bothers me. And apparently, I'm not alone.

The Derby owner parades Bobo around while rattling off information and jokes with the speed of a country auctioneer... We hear about the first time he discovered Bobo riding the family dog and how capuchin monkeys live almost twice as long in captivity than in the wild (as long as they don’t drink or smoke...yuck, yuck). I aggressively slug off my margarita now. Ahhh…fan-ta-seeeeee.

30 minutes of build up for a 2-minute dog race. Shockingly, Bobo wins.

Like everything else in this town, it was rigged. And I can’t wait to come back.

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