“To the MGM”
We were driven down to the normal Uber entrance by our driver Huxley in black E-class Mercedes.
“Keep your phone on it’s going to be a late-night”
Wandering with purpose through the gleaming halls of the MGM Grand. Past the bulging multitudes praying to their idols at the slot machine. Buffalo Gold and Willy Wonka flashing hypnotic lights and playing subversive noises to the fat patrons spilling out of their chairs and the old gamblers barely able to get up between cigarettes. We pushed on past the tables and through the bar around the corner and into the high rollers casino. The Mansion Casino. None of the hoi polloi seemed to notice this second casino. A quiet and well-appointed lounge for the wealthy to gamble huge sums of money nearby but out of sight from the plebeian masses. Table games only. Empty craps and roulette tables gave way to baccarat and blackjack tables populated by individuals with hundreds of thousands of dollars in chips zealously guarded on their tables. In the casino, we take a left into a room with more tables and right past the bar and even more tables. Finally, we make it out the backside of the Mansion Casino into the second hotel inside the MGM. Sophisticated offices held Asian casino managers casually chatting while eating takeout sushi. The piercing glare cut through us as we walked by. Somehow they knew we weren't high rollers but belonged.
Another right and then a left into the bathroom before we got to the real entrance. Jay had to poop and we needed to pee. We took a minute to collect ourselves in the ceramic-lined bathroom. A tray of travel-sized scope mouthwash bottles sat out for the taking. I ripped one open and swirled half the contents around in my mouth. Spit into the gleaming basin and then stepped outside the bathroom. The Three Musketeers were back together and drained out bodily fluids. Ready for the next phase of entry into what was billed as the most expensive hotel on the strip. A long hallway decorated for Lunar New Year with delicately hung Chinese couplets on either side. Mirrors on all sides and a large black man sitting at a desk at the end. We confidently strolled the 100 steps up to him and explained we were headed to room 34.
“No, I don’t think you are…”
“Oh oh right we meant 32”
Standing up he points us down a hallway to the left. I noticed for the first time a huge courtyard down the next hallway.
“Go down there and then take a right at the bouquet of flowers. Then take the elevator up”
Immediately forgetting his directions we set out past the Mansion’s Spa into the courtyard. A glass ceiling 60feet up tried to disguise itself as the night sky. Perfectly manicured raised bed flower gardens with a rainbow of year-round blossoms. A 10 ft tall fountain on a pedestal in the middle of the plaza. More Chinese New Year’s decorations. Massive plastic Pandas in wacky poses made sure you didn’t forget that the Chinese were the real high rollers. We couldn’t help but stop to take it all in. Rooms starting at $5k for the night and we had walked right in (with an invitation of course). We walked to the fountain and took a right into the first hallway we could find. Huge intricately inlaid wooden doors popped up periodically on either side of the hallway. Room 7. Room 5. Room 3. We were lost.
“Where is room 32?”
“Go back out to the fountain and take a right into the next wing”
Left. Left. Left then back to the courtyard and right into another wing. Past a bar with a pool table, a foosball table, and a shuffleboard table. Ten or so tables that looked ready to host tea 16 hours later lined the floor. All poshly decorated all empty except for one gentleman with a white ponytail walking past us sipping a vodka soda. Through the bar. Through the tea lounge and past the bouquet of flowers we just remembered that we were instructed to find took us to the final right then left.
“Who do you know here?” Asked a large Hispanic security guard.
“Rico, Rosco sent us.”
He turned and pushed the button for the elevator. Behind us walked a group of tatted-up tough guys. Not giants like bodybuilders not much taller than 5’9” me. But damn were they jacked. Shredded muscles covered in tattoos up their neck and next to their eyes. They looked like they could kill if they needed to. I found out later they were MMA fighters. We piled into the elevator exchanging barely audible greetings with the fellas.
The elevator doors open into a foyer. Music slams into us. They really know how to soundproof a hotel when they want to. Taking a left out of the elevator we see an expansive living room half full with mostly dudes and some women who can only be described as professional talent. A wet bar with bottles and cups strewn about on the left side. A ping pong table in the middle. And a dj set up with two PAs on stands on the right. The room's mediterranean tile had the sheen of a frat party at midnight. The coffered ceiling reminded you that you’ve made it to the top.
Poster boards with signs written in sharpie were on each of the bedroom doors. Rico’s room, door wide open with a hookah burning and no one to be seen. The Boom Boom Room, empty except for a young-looking girl in a Balenciaga sweater passed out on the bed. The Law Office Of Street Jesus. The desk in the office was covered in plates of unidentifiable white powders. Blunt guts spilled left and right and jars of pungent weed. There he was, Street Jesus, holding court with his long beard and longer hair.
“You want any blow?” I politely declined. The theater room didn’t have a sign or a sole in it. The golf channel played ideally to ghosts. As you walked down the hallway past drunken and rolling characters on all sides the smell of chlorine grew. The air moistened as we approached the pool. A group of guys crowded around two girls in the pool. Voluptuous and flirty tops off and bottoms under the water. They lavished attention on the biggest of the men. Showing off their custom-built racks.
We made it to the balcony on the other side of the pool. Excited and overwhelmed by the scene we lit a joint to help collect our thoughts. As we imbibed and tried to process the scene we looked out on another courtyard and the backside of the Strip. We dropped the roach in an already overfilled ashtray and went to the bar.
Bottles of Titos. Don Julio 1942 and Patron sat half-empty on the counter. No whiskey. “Some people just don’t know how to drink.” A mostly full bottle of Courvoisier sat hidden on the side of the bar. I loaded up a cup with ice and a big pour of cognac and got to mingling.
I was already drunk when we got to the party. I bumped a little bit of k on the way in and we’d just faced a joint. I was riding the wave of one of the strangest and possibly most expensive parties I’d ever been to. Flowing from room to room engaging anyone that would listen in deep conversation. A crypto millionaire casually chatting. Noticed as the richest guy in the room by the guys and strangely ignored by the hookers. A bubbly group of 6 strippers off duty and getting after it crowded around the hookah. Chirping in conversation and curious about me until the plate of coke landed in front of them. Like vultures on roadkill, they devoured the powder. The desire to pose for pictures pulled them into the bathroom. A huge tub jutted out of the center of the room. 6 chairs were around it in case you need to take a load off while taking a load off. The girls jumped onto the tub and did splits over it. Each one-upping the sexual ante for the camera. Leaning over tongue out ass in face. Posing for their onlyfans. The modern sex work economy playing out in front of my face.
Back in Rico’s room to hit the hookah. Back in the hallway. My empty cup weighing me down. More ice, more Courvoisier. Say hi to my new crypto friend and start talking money. A stunningly cute blond walks right up and hugs me to say hi. Tight black faux leather pants and a ripped top mended back together stylishly by safety pins. She looked almost innocent next to the strangely cinematic debauchery. Chirp chirp chirp. She told us about her business. How her dad was teaching her to trade stocks. The crypto king walked away. Innocent girl and I chatting it up. Our hand's touch. My hand goes to her back and she leans in. My drink is empty and so is hers. I guide us back to the bar. Chirp chirp chirp. She’s going back to school. She’s over the LA scene and looking for something new. We go near the dance floor. Out of nowhere appears the man of the hour. Rico is on a $10 million win streak at baccarat or so Instagram would have you believe. He cuts in and starts making out with her. Innocences? She excuses herself to follow him. He’s tatted from head to toe and she appeared almost porcelain in her charm. I heard later from my friend Jay that he was on the balcony smoking another number. He reported that Innocences and Tattoo walked outside, exchanged pleasantries with him, and then unceremoniously consummated what must have been a working relationship. Pant’s at their ankles, quick and dirty against the railing. Total disregard for Northway and his joint on the other side of the balcony
Swimming back through the party I met a magician and a delightfully lesbian couple. I held a random multiethnic group in rapt attention while I explained my theory that the secrets of the universe can’t be taught only learned. Left then right back through the party. Another drink. Another bump. Wavy. Innocences standing alone by the piano.
“Hi there, how’s your night going?” I was determined to understand the nature of her relationship with the dirty skater boy host. A pained look flashed over her face. There fora second gone the next. “Oh, ya know it’s alright.” She was all bubbles before and seemed melancholy now. Was I projecting? “How’d you end up here?” I probed. Curious and disgusted. “I liked one of Rico’s videos and IG and then he dm’d me”. The simple life of the modern hooker. Some fully conscious of their profession others marginally aware that they are outside of their comfort zone.
Hours passed in a blur of solo cups, joints, and conversation. The strippers, the pros, the lesbians, the UFC fighters, the crypto bulls, and me. Come together to celebrate the gambling winnings of a dirty tatted-up skater who no one seemed to know.
One day I’ll have money. One day I’ll rent out room 32 at The Mansions. I’ll throw a party for my friends and loved ones. No melange of strangers hoping to be slipped a $100k chip or a dirty tatted dick.
- Pondathan Lakeoff