My second night in Las Vegas saw me check into a hostel and go midnight skinny dipping with the fabulous gay guy on shift and the semi-hot Swedish girl who was hanging around for some reason.
It was almost midnight when I’d managed to make my way, with my big rucksack, from the Imperial Palace Hotel in the centre of the Strip up to the downtown/Fremont Street area. Fremont Street, I thought, was where the addicts come. I saw at least three people in the corner of a McDonald’s sipping milkshakes and crying.
It’s the part of town for the freaks. The tourists stay in the Bellagio and the MGM and the Flamingo and spend the cash they’ve made from working their boring little lives. But the wasters of society, the fuck-ups, the people who’ve lost it all and are trying to salvage something – they stay downtown, away from the glamorous Strip.
The gay guy working the late shift in the hostel was just such a waster. He’d come down from Oregon for the weekend with a few friends to have a bit of fun. Four months later, he’s still here, $14,000 in debt, trying to rescue something. He was like a little lost puppy waiting for someone to come and take him home and give him treats and teach him tricks (I think I may have stretched that analogy too far).
I was exhausted after a long day at the Grand Canyon, but this was Vegas, I couldn’t just “go to bed.” So we talked, and he told me about his life, and then he suggested we go jump in the pool – for those not familiar with the hot parts of America, every hostel has a swimming pool. They’re mostly small and disgusting and you’re lucky if you don’t end up with some kind of horrible disease from them, but this one actually had water the colour of blue in it. I was astonished.
“Skinny dipping?” I pondered. It was an awfully warm night.
“Sure thing, cutie pie.”
“Me tooooooooo!” shrieked the Swedish girl who was in the middle of cooking some pasta. We all know what those Swedes are like. I was surprised she wasn’t naked already.
So we jumped in the pool for twenty minutes, me skinny dipping with a gay guy and a Swedish girl in a Las Vegas hostel. I still hadn’t been inside a casino since I’d arrived here. But I was starting to get a feel for what Vegas was really like; if you go to Sin City and you don’t end up skinny dipping with a gay guy, you’re doing something wrong.