E3 2019 was my first E3. Despite being in this business for almost eight years, I’ve never been to an E3. I’ve never even made it to GamesCom which takes place in the country I currently live in. Talk about jumping into the deep end…
This feature is going to be me babbling on for around 29,000 words about my trip to E3 2019. It’ll detail the games I saw, the games I played, the mishaps and cock-ups, and even a little bit of my visit to Las Vegas afterwards. If that doesn’t interest you in the slightest, get back to the home page and find something else to read. If you’re in the tiniest bit curious about how one man ventured to the desert and made it out alive (though bitten to shit by mosquitoes) then read on.
Monday, June 10th, 2019 – Germany
Packed up and ready to go, I headed to the train station with my backpack full of clothes, chargers, cables, Nintendo Switch, and even my laptop. You’d be surprised just how much I can ram into my regular-sized backpack. In all, I had a pair of jeans (plus the ones I was wearing,) three shirts, four pairs of boxers, and four pairs of socks. Also, toiletries, cables, chargers and my mini netbook. The thing was stuffed and I was proud of my packing accomplishments. Unfortunately, it meant no room for E3 swag, but more on that later.
My long arse day began with an uneventful train journey from Wolfsburg, the city I live in, to Frankfurt, the city I’ve visited a couple of times previous. This time around there was no time to dilly-dally and see the sights. I was on a mission: GET TO THE FUCKING PLANE.
I’m terribly unorganised in my regular life, so the idea of getting to a certain place by a certain time scares the shit out of me. I have the unfortunate ability to be distracted by the slightest things. I’ll wander off and check something out if it catches my eye, or I’ll just wander around a new place to get a scope of it; I’m also extremely wary that we live in a pretty shitty world right now, so I’ll always walk around and find the exits before venturing any further. Better safe than being a statistic.
I eventually found my way from Frankfurt Hauptbahnhoff to Frankfurt Flughafen (airport) and did the usual check-in and security. The security fella asked me what games I played on my Nintendo Switch and if I played Smash Bros. I don’t, and he wasn’t impressed with me rattling off FIFA, LEGO Harry Potter, and a number of other third-part games. Whatever. I play what I like.
Once passed security I had a couple of hours to kill, so I did what everyone does at an airport; I searched for a power outlet and set up camp next to it. Did I look like a hobo? Yes. Did I care? No. Because I was going to E bloody 3!
Once on the plane and in my seat, I pulled out my Switch and got to work on some LEGO Harry Potter. I was quite lucky, actually, as there was nobody in the seat next to me so I was able to stretch my long legs out to the side. I also had the window seat, so I could peek out the window and watch Germany fall away into the distance.
A couple of hours later and I was landing in London, Heathrow. This was my connection and I had to go through extra security procedures. Most likely because I was flying to America for the first time. But maybe also because I’ve given Trump a bit of shit on Twitter. Who knows. After a few conversations with various airport personnel, I was cleared through security and had a short wait until I was on my flight for Los Angeles. I actually don’t really remember much of the flight. Probably because I was shit faced. They give out free drinks throughout the flight and whisky was on the menu. It would be fair to say, then, that I got plastered on the mini bottles of booze. Once I landed in Los Angeles, the excitement really started to ramp up.
Until I hit customs.
I spent almost 90 minutes queuing in customs amongst hundreds of other passengers who wanted nothing more than to get out of the airport and into their hotel rooms. Finally, after what felt like five Square Enix press conferences, it was my turn to go to the security guy and make him believe I was worthy of entering the Land of the Free.
I stepped up confidently and, in my best British accent, greeted the grumpy looking old guy.
“Evening sir. Passport, please.”
I handed him my passport with it opened on the page that shows my youthful face. The old grump scrutinises it for a few moments and then asks me to place my fingers on a scanner. Then my thumbs.
“What’s the reason for your visit?”
“It’s the big gaming convention that takes place every year in Los Angeles…”
Surely he must know about this? Surely I couldn’t be the only one trudging through customs to get to the holy grail of gaming?
“Never heard of it. Welcome to the United States of America.”
I was in. I trotted on by and gave one last glance towards the line that I’d left behind. I couldn’t help but grin at the thought of all those poor souls who would be there for another hour or so.
I made my way through the airport until I found the exit. After ten or so hours on a plane with dirty air and shit legroom, it was time to get some fresh air. So I light up a ciggy and then almost choked on it as I saw the swarms of people outside LAX, all waiting and waving at taxis, shuttles, and random cars. I smoked my cig and took it all in. The air was very warm, more so than what I’m used to. The crowds were so loud, too, with people bustling and jostling their way to freedom. I finished my cig and then headed back inside to find sustenance.
Just on the inside of my terminal there was a 7/11 store. I’d only ever seen these on TV, so I was excited to see what they had. Not much, apparently, as the shelves were looking a little bare, no doubt from the hungry travellers looking to eat something that wasn’t heated up at 30,000 feet. I managed to snag a hot dog. It cost $1.99 and it was heavenly. My colleagues here at Pure PlayStation have warned me of the dangers of gas station hot dogs and the like, but I don’t care. I love those meaty snacks.
Once I’d filled up and had a drink, it was time to get an uber to my AirBnB. This proved tricky as LAX is split over two levels, with app ride pickup stations being situated upstairs. This took me a while to figure out…
Eventually, I managed to order an Uber and get to the correct pick up point. The only problem was that I wasn’t the only person looking for safe passage from LAX. I waited for an hour for my Uber to arrive. During that time I more or less smoked an entire pack of smokes, drank my water supply, and munched on the last snacks I had stowed at the bottom of my bag. When the Uber finally did arrive, I was dead on my feet. It was 11pm and I just wanted to sleep.
I jumped into my ordered car, told the driver I was in fact the Chris he was looking for… and then spent another 20 minutes sat around waiting to get out of LAX. The traffic is insane and the drivers even more so. Still, I was in good company. My Uber driver was a Jamaican chap named Patrick and he was ever so friendly. He also thought it was super cool that I’d travelled from Germany to LA to come to E3; he said that he’s always loved gaming and that he’d love to be able to go to E3 at some point.
We chatted the whole ride to my AirBnB. I asked him all sorts of questions. Questions that only an ignorant tourist would ask.
“Where’s the hood?”
“You ever seen a gang shoot out?”
“Have you ever seen Bruce Willis walking the streets?”
“Where can I get some weed?”
The last question was the kicker – he had some weed on him! He even offered to share his joint with me once we arrive at my AirBnB. And we did. It was great. I choked on it like an amateur but damn I enjoyed it. Patrick was a cool dude, and even though Uber lets you tip drivers through the app, I decided to hand him a crisp $10 note anyway. With a final farewell that consisted of a bro fist-bump, I made my way towards the door to where I was staying. As promised by my gracious host, the key was in a drawer just outside the door.
I opened up and let myself in and I was truly shocked. It was a beautiful house. A proper old craftsman home. It smelt lived-in, in a good way, and you could smell the wood that the house was made of. I crept upstairs, creaking every damn step of the way, and let myself into my room. Again, it was brilliant. There was a really big bed, a desk and chair, a walk-in closet, and even a second bed. This second bed would actually come in handy, but more on that later.
I got myself stripped down to my undies, tucked myself into the big bed, set my alarms for the morning and fell asleep. It was a damn good sleep, too. One of the best I’ve had in recent times.
Tuesday, June 11th, 2019 – Los Angeles
I woke up at 6am and didn’t hesitate to get out of bed. Back home in Germany, I have to force myself to get out of bed every single morning. That’s because back in Germany I’m a shoe store manager. But here in Los Angeles, I’m a media person working for Pure Games Media LTD. Here I had a job that didn’t totally suck balls.
I got up, showered, brushed my teeth, and then unpacked my bag. I was only going to be taking my laptop and a powerbank for my phone – no need to take my undies and shirts to E3, not today, at least.
By 7am I was out of the house and out into the warm LA air. For a pasty white boy who grew up in the shadow of a Welsh mountain, this sun and heat was something else. Also, the dry air was playing havoc with my asthma. The cigs don’t help either, granted, but at least I’ve spent a decade punishing my lungs my own way.
I wandered up the street and onto a main road. Traffic was already flowing at this ungodly hour. I spotted a Shell garage across the road, so I made my way towards the crossing and waited for the green man to indicate it was safe to cross. I was a little taken aback when the red hand turned into a white man. Why isn’t he green? Green is the standard, no? Apparently not.
I hurried across the road as the timer started counting down on the crossing. It felt like a race, and if I didn’t get to the other side before the timer hit zero, I’d be the new ornament on a California license plate. But I made it, obviously, and then wandered into the Shell garage in search of breakfast. My god. The air-con was a dream. I could have just stayed there all day, but I had shit to do. I grabbed a couple of red bulls, a water, and Pop-Tart (strawberry flavour) and then made my way to the cash register. That’s where I spotted the hot dogs. Oh lordy. Was I really going to have another hot dog? And for breakfast? You bet your little tits I was!
“One hot dog please, just regular, not spicey.”
The Hispanic chap behind the counter looked at me with confusion.
“It’s self-service, bro. The buns are in the drawer, you pick the meat yourself, you know?”
No, I didn’t know. Obviously. But I did it anyway and managed to not screw it up. Once I paid for my healthy breakfast and a few snacks for later in the day, I got back across the street and ordered an Uber to the Los Angeles Convention Centre. It was barely 7.45am by the time I got there, but I was told by the E3 team that security was tight and that I’d need to pick up my media pass. I assumed it would take a long time, but after a couple of attempts at the wrong badge pick up locations (there was a separate one for media,) I was all set for the day. 8am and I had my badge around my neck. The thing didn’t start until 11am. I had three hours to kill.
I ended up wandering around the convention centre for a good hour or so, noting the numerous exit points. Hey, you never know what’s gonna happen. As I said before, better to be safe than a statistic.
One thing that I found really early on was that water was available for free. Instead of going to one of the many food and drink outlets to stock up on the precious H2O, you can just fill your water bottle at one of the many drinking fountains scattered throughout the convention centre. I really liked this. It encouraged me to drink more water, save more money, and not buy beers. Yes, beers were on sale from pretty much the start. The main entrance had a little cocktail bar where you could buy everything from beers to spirits.
For the next couple of hours I mooched around until I found some uncomfortable sofas inside the Into The Pixel lounge. There wasn’t much going on. Myself and a few others were scattered around, laptops out, phones on the go. I even saw a PS Vita being played. Only at E3…
10.45am rolled around and I was ready to get my arse to my first appointment. But first, a cig. By this point I had learned of all of the best smoking areas and I could pretty much navigate myself towards them with no effort. I suppose in the event of an emergency, you should always follow the smokers. We’re useful, sometimes.
I got to the Concourse Hall and made my way inside the very large room that was split up into individual booths. I walked through slowly until I found Kalypso Media’s booth. Being the ever so polite Brit, I walked in and announced myself to the chap at the desk by the door. He greeted me with a friendly hello and then shook my hand, all the while looking at my media badge. This is something I learned early on; when you go up and say hello to somebody, the eyes always drop down to the badge. It took me by surprise a few times, actually, as people would greet me by my name and I’d be like “how the hell’d he know my nam – ah…”
There’s something odd about meeting somebody in person when all of your interaction has been done via e-mail. The chap who greeted me at the Kalypso booth was called Matt Garville, and I recognised his name instantly. I guess for people who’ve done this a bit more than I, it’s normal, but for me it was quite strange.
I was the ushered over to a guy whose name I have unfortunately forgotten, but I remember him well. He spoke with a German accent, so I greeted him in his native tongue. He was shocked to see that an Englishman was able to converse in his language. We chatted for a few minutes and he asked me where I lived in Germany and why I lived there. I told him I lived in Wolfsburg.
“Du armes Ding!” he exclaimed.
What he said was “you poor thing!” before telling me I should move to his part of the country. See, I always knew that Wolfsburg was a shithole and it wasn’t just my imagination… After a few minutes of polite chatter I was ushered into a little room where a TV was set up with Tropico 6 ready to play. I was greeted by Mark Mussler, lead level designer at Limbick games. He was a friendly chap and he made the appointment a pleasure. We played through a couple of scenarios from the game while I asked all sorts of stupid questions. It turned out that not all of them were so stupid, but I’d gotten so caught up in it that I’d overstayed by a good half an hour! I was supposed to see a couple more of Kalypso’s offerings, but it was now 11.45 and I had to run to find where my next appointment was being held.
I thanked everyone for their time and made my way back into the main foyer. The air-con was amazing. Have I already said that? I don’t care. The air-con was the best. Outside was sweltering hot but inside was chilly, just how I like it. Alas, I made my way back outside for a quick smoke before heading towards the West Hall meeting rooms. It was here that I was due to see Dying Light 2 in action, and I was excited.
I got to the meeting room with a couple of minutes to spare. Manning the door was a chap called Yunis Ibrahim. Again, another name I see on a daily basis on my inbox, but I was meeting him for the first time.
“Yunis Ibrahim! Hello mate!”
He looked at me a little baffled before his eyes diverted southwards to check my name.
“Hi Chris, how’re you?”
We exchanged pleasantries for a couple of minutes before I was ushered through the door into a little waiting area. But this wasn’t your ordinary waiting area, like at the doctors or something. No, this one had a bloody bar! As almost everyone else had a drink in their hand, I succumed to peer pressure and made my way to the bar.
“Hello. May I have a Jack Daniels and Coke please?”
The little lady governing the bar poured my drink and then handed it to me.
“How much is it?” I asked, with my wallet ready in my hand.
“Nothing. It’s free.”
She laughed at me and could probably tell this was my first time. Ha. It was I who would have the last laugh. I downed my drink and asked for another. Now she had more work to do, and this time I wasn’t even going to offer to pay. I was the real winner here.
I mingled around with my drink in hand, very aware of the fact I’d just downed a really strong drink before midday, something I’ve not done since my teenage years. Then I saw him. Hip Hop Gamer. This guy gets a lot of shit online. I don’t know why and frankly, I don’t care for the drama. All I know is that the guy walks around with a big wrestling belt draped over his shoulders everywhere he goes. I’ve had a few interactions with him on Twitter and he was always nice enough.
“I know who you are! You’re…” The name actually escaped me for a moment
“…Hip Hop Gamer!”
He was delighted to see somebody had recognised him, and then he invited me to spin the thingy on the massive belt he was lugging around. I gave it a spin, shook his hand, and then quietly retreated to a dark corner of the room until we were told to go through to the next room.
The next room was really quite dark. It was like a mini-cinema of sorts with nice comfy chairs and a big screen at the front. On each chair stood a box. My first E3 2019 swag. Nice. I placed my box down by my feet and settled into my seat, peering around at who I was sitting amongst. To be honest, I didn’t really recognise any of the outlets on the badges sat to my immediate left and right, which was a little disappointing, but whatever. It would have been nice to see some names that I recognise, if only to say a quick hello and to let them know I appreciate their work. Alas, it wasn’t to be.
After a short introduction from a few members of the development team, myself and the rest of the room were shown a gameplay demo for Dying Light 2. I won’t say much about it here, but you’ll find my impressions on it in a separate article which will go out soon. [Here it is!]
Once the session was over, myself and the rest of the attendees were marched back out to the masses. It was still only 12.30 which meant it was industry-only hours, but the place was packed full of people, many of them livestreaming themselves over the internet. I thought the selfie stick died out in 2018. I was wrong…
By now I had around 20 minutes before my next appointment. My choices were either eat, or smoke. As I didn’t want to risk getting my shirt dirty, I made my way outside to my favourite smoking perch for a cig. I still had my Dying Light 2 swag box in my hand, so I set it down on the wall and lit up a cig, wondering just how in the hell I was going to get this thing back to Germany. My answer came in the form of a French guy who came over to ask what was in the box.
I had briefly opened it to see what was inside. It was a nifty statue of one of the game’s characters. I told the guy and then showed him.
“Wow, ‘ow cool!”
“You like it?”
“You want it?”
“Really? Are you sure?”
“Ouais. I can’t take this to Las Vegas, here, take it!”
He was so happy and I was quite pleased to have made somebody’s day. It’s not often that I get to do nice things for strangers, so it was good to do something. Even if it was for a Frenchie…
After a few minutes of hanging out in the sun, I ventured back inside to the welcoming air-con. Seriously, I cannot sing enough praises for the air-con in America. Back here in Germany, air-con is considered a dirty word. During the height of summer I like to keep my shop cool, but my employees and customers alike always complain that it’s too cold and that the breeze on the back of their neck will make them sick. That’s bollocks, obviously, but Germans swear by it. You can imagine my despair upon returning back to the land of bratwurst…
I texted the guy I was meeting to see where he was. His name was Jim and he was the lead developer on Freedom Finger, an upcoming indie game featuring the likes of Nolan North and John DiMaggio.
Jim was at E3 2019 guerrilla style. Armed only with his laptop and a gamepad, he was showing off his game wherever he could find a space. He told me that he lives in Los Angeles so the costs were basically non-existent. Good hustle.
After a brief WhatsApp exchange that included me asking him to send a photo of his approximate location, we met up in the same area I was sat in earlier that morning at 8am. I mosied up to the table where he was sat with his laptop, a gamepad, and a middle-aged lady. I quickly gathered that she wasn’t a part of the presentation, and once the demo kicked off and the foul language blared from the laptop’s little speakers, I could sense her disgust, too. I’m guessing she won’t be playing Freedom Finger when it releases… Again, I won’t go into much detail here, but you can read my preview on Freedom Finger through here (once it’s live…)
After a 20-minute chat and a few levels of the game played, we wished each other a great E3 and I found myself with 90 minutes of free time before my next appointment with Warner Bros. and TT Games. By now my stomach was screaming in protest, forcing me to duck outside to one of the many food trucks and their shit-in-a-tray merchants. I opted for a hot dog. $8. Eight. Fucking. Dollars. It wasn’t even as good as the 7/11 breakfast I’d had that morning! The cheeky bastards didn’t even bother to wear a mask as they robbed me blind. Still, grub is grub and I needed it.
It wasn’t long after that the hot dog wanted to come back out. I briefly considered a return-to-sender approach, considering the outlandish pricing, but decided that I’d very much like to be invited back to E3 next year, and that showering the hot dog lady in molten poo was probably not going to help my case. I’d already made a point to remember where the lavatories were, and thankfully there was one only one minute away.
I rushed inside and found an empty stall. This was my first time using an American public toilet, and I imagine if somebody was watching, they’d have found it hilarious. Fair warning: There will be some extreme potty humour here. Literally. I’m going to detail my poo. If you don’t want to read about it, skip ahead until you see the words ‘POO FREE ZONE’. Thank you.
Now, here in Germany the toilet are relatively clean. We pay to pee and poo here, so it’s expected that the bathrooms are well maintained. The toilets clean themselves. No, really, they do. The seats revolve and a cleaning system pops out of the wall the clean the seat. Some even have automatic air fresheners. America is… different.
For one, the toilet seat was covered in dark piss. Whoever did this crime definitely needed to get to a water fountain, pronto. And maybe get checked for Parkinson’s disease. Seriously, how can you miss? I was initially disgusted, but then I found the piss had even reached the side wall of the stall. That disgust quickly turned to admiration. This was a guy who didn’t conform to societies rules. Drink enough water? Nah. Piss in the toilet? Nope. He probably didn’t even shake his piece and wash his hands afterwards. Hero. But still a dirty prick.
So I mopped the seat clean and did my best to not stand in the puddles. I failed, obviously, and my lovely boots were now swimming in amonia-ridden urine. Then I saw something on the wall. It was a thing where you can pull out a seat-shaped piece of paper. Being the astute dude that I am, I deduced that this must go over the seat. But what about the paper in the middle? I had no idea, so I left it on. I placed the bum protector on the seat and then plopped my arse down. No effort was required to let the dogs out, but that victory was short-lived. See, the paper in the middle of the bum protector didn’t break, so I was left with a puddle of poo dangling inches from my palace of riches. What do?! How solve?! What fuck?!
A few more shots from the brown cannon and the paper gave way and fell into the water. Then I heard the guy next to me going through what sounded like hell. Hell, I could see he was going through hell. For those who don’t know, American loos have big gaps at the bottom of the stall walls. This means you can see the feet of the guy next to you. I don’t know why it’s this way. It’s odd but at the same time, it really felt like we were all in this together. My neighbour’s feet were shaking and he was going onto his tippy toes as he made room for another shitty hot dog.
POO FREE ZONE POO FREE ZONE POO FREE ZONE
Once I was done and my hands were thoroughly cleaned – I even used my extra hand sanitiser – I wandered through the main West Hall for a while. I hadn’t been inside yet and I wondered what lay ahead. I flashed my badge at the security guard at the door and strolled through.
Oh. My. Days.
I was shocked. To my right was a huge climbing wall which was a big show thing for Nintendo’s Mario and Sonic Olympic Games. There were folks queing to have a go at scaling the big wall. I’m not a fan of heights and my legs got a little wobbly just watching people going up and down. It was an overload for the senses. The noises, the lights and the sights had me dazzled so much that I simply stood still for a few minutes, taking it all in.
I spent a while wandering the hall, taking pictures and saying a courteous ‘hello’ to anybody who greeted me. What surprised me was how nice everyone was. Random people would greet me as I stood and looked on at games being played. This is something I never get in Germany. People here are cold and miserable, but the folks in LA were warm, friendly and inviting. I saw groups of strangers talking excitedly in lines. People posed for pictures against huge replica models from Monster Hunter. It was great and a really communal feeling.
I was so caught up in everything going on in the West Hall, I almost forgot about my appointment! Told you I was terrible…
I checked my phone and saw I had only ten minutes to get to where I needed to be, soI raced across the huge connecting corridor to the South Hall. Walking the concourse was mental. So many people with so many phones strapped to selfie sticks. It seemed everyone had already gotten as much E3 2019 swag as they could carry. Sweating obese men waddled their way through the crowds. Cos-players stopped for selfies with adoring fans who didn’t even know their names, just their costume. It was a lot to take in in such a short walk. I reckon one could easily sit in this area all day and never get bored of watching the crowds. But I didn’t have all day, I had only minutes to spare before being late and making an arse of myself.
I entered the South Hall and was once again knocked for six at the sights. But there was no time to admire the elaborate stages or the scantily clad dancing ladies pulling moves on a brightly lit stage. I marched my way through the crowds and got to the Warner Bros. booth, went to the media section and was instantly greeted with a “hi Chris, you’re here for the 3.30 with me, Mark.”
Once again I was briefly amazed and then remembered that my name was hanging from my neck. I’m not as famous as I thought… Though more on that later!
I spent a few minutes chatting to the Warner Bros. UK PR manager, Mark Ward, who was a really lovely guy. We talked about the flight in, the horrid lines through customs, and about E3 in general. I explained it was my first time and that I was the only person from the site in attendance, despite half the team living in America. Dedication, yo. A few minutes of British chit-chat later (and yes, we talked about the weather,) I was lead into a mini-theatre along with everybody else to see LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga in action.
Here’s where disaster struck. I noticed going into the room that it was really hot and stuffy. Apparently the air-con had broken down a little earlier and the convention staff were scrambling to get it fixed. It was hilarious to see Warner Bros. staff lugging in huge, brand new tower fans and setting them up at the front to blow cool air over the audience of about 30 people. I was sat near the back and didn’t feel a thing, but I appreciate the effort that went into it. Again, I won’t say much about LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga during this lengthy piece, but you can read my preview article through here.
Once the presentation was over, myself and the rest of the group left and received our E3 swag. I was actually pretty chuffed with this one: A LEGO Star Wars figurine of Finn from the new trilogy of films. I could actually take this one with me! Success!
Now I had an hour to kill before my next appointment with Exor Studios who were showing off The Riftbreaker in the same hall. As you can guess by now, I darted towards an exit and lit up another cig. The smoking areas were honestly some of the greatest smoking areas I’ve ever been a part of. Ok, we’re all engaging in a disgusting habit, but we’re doing it together and everyone is up for a chat. When I go for a smoke at work here in Germany and someone else from a neighbouring store is also out the back having a cig, the most we ever say is “hallo.” It was good to be amongst my people, then, and I got chatting to more than a few people. Most of them asked if I had a business card that they could have. Much to my embarrassment, I didn’t. I had ordered some before my trip but the didn’t arrive in time. Instead I told a lie. I’d say that I only brought 100 with me and that I’d already given them out. What I should have done is start handing out the ones that I was given by others. Maybe next time.
A couple of smokes and a litre of water later, I was back in the loos, but this time only for a pee. Thankfully it was uneventful and so I headed back towards the crowds and quickly found Exor Studios’ booth. The guys only had a small booth with a couple of TVs and laptops set up to show off their hard work. I really enjoyed this meeting and the guy running it (again, another name lost to my poor memory) was really friendly and showed obvious enthusiam for the game he and his team have been hard at work on. You don’t need me to say it but I’ll say it anyway: You’ll be able to read more about The Riftbreaker once my preview piece is written up and put on the site.
I had a good half an hour or so with Exor Studios which took me to 5.30pm. By this point my legs were shot and flushed with pain, so I decided to call it a day. I needed something to eat and I needed somewhere to sit. I ordered my Uber back to my AirBnB, and then headed towards the Shell garage to stock up on food. I’d planned on having a bit of food and doing some write ups on my laptop, but once I was back in my room I was done. I did meet one of the ladies who lived in the house though, and she was really cool. She warned me that I was in the desert now and that I should triple my usual water intake. She also noticed the mosquito bites on my arms and suggested I get some spray to keep them at bay. Advice noted.
Once again, I was back in my room with all the best intentions of sitting down and getting some work done, but the day was catching up with me and the bed was ever so comfortable. It’d be rude not to use it, right? So I stripped down to my undies, threw my socks off and belly flopped onto the bed.
The damn thing broke and I was wedged amongst the mattress, sheets, and wooden planks that had thus far managed to support me. Not to worry, the second bed was made and looked just as comfortable, even if it was a single. I tucked myself into the spare bed – very bloody gently, mind you – rolled over and fell asleep.
Wednesday, June 12th, 2019 – Los Angeles
The Breakfast Saga. This is how I will always remember this day in Los Angeles. I woke up at a ridiculously early time. 3am. I had gone to bed really early, so it stands to reason I’d wake up early, too. My body was still adjusting to this new time zone and the dry Los Angeles climate.
I woke up starving. The first thought I had was “foooooood” and so I crawled out of bed, got showered as quickly and as quietly as possible so as not to disturb anyone, and then sat down on the non-broken bed. I pulled out my phone and searched for a nearby McDonald’s. Victory, there was one only ten minutes drive away from me. I ordered yet another Uber and then headed downstairs and crept out onto the porch to wait for my ride.
A few minutes later and Sergio was parked up outside, ready to take my to my destination. He wasn’t very chatty and he didn’t seem all that impressed that I was British. Most people love the accent, but this guy couldn’t give a toss. It was a quiet and uneventful ride. Oh, apart from the drugged up woman lying down in the forecourt of a petrol station. LA, man. LA.
We go to the McDonald’s and… Yeah, it was closed. Google said it was 24 hours! Google lied! Don’t buy Stadia! I asked the driver if there was another one nearby. Sergio had a quick look on his maps and found there was one a few minutes drive away, but I would have to order an Uber again. So I sat in the back of the car and placed another Uber order, hoping that Sergio would be my dude.
Sergio’s phone pinged.
“Hey, here we go. Alexander, right?”
“No… I’m Chris…”
So I had to get out and wait on the side of the road until my next ride picked me up. Unfortunately this meant hanging around in what seemed like a shady neighbourhood at 3.30am. There was a guy walking across the McDonald’s car park. He looked shifty as hell but he was also a smaller man. I’m quite tall and, not to brag, built like a brick shit house. So I stood up tall and didn’t show any sign of weakness. I stared him out like a wolf. He walked on. Good thing, too, because he didn’t know if I was packing heat. I wasn’t, but he didn’t know that.
Eventually my Uber arrived and we made haste towards the next McDonald’s. My belly was rumbling and I was salivating at the thought of a McDonald’s breakfast. Again, this was another quiet ride with a driver who probably didn’t want to be out at this ungodly hour. I couldn’t blame him, to be fair. The streets were littered with the down and outs and that’s quite a depressing sight. Something TV and movies don’t show is the absolute poverty that is present on the streets of Los Angeles. It may be the home to Hollywood and some of the richest people in the world, but what I saw didn’t show an even distribution of wealth. I give Germany a lot of shit but it’s rare to see a homeless person roaming the streets at four in the morning.
We pulled up to McDonald’s and… also closed. What the hell?! I had no choice but to jump out of the Uber as the driver had another fare waiting to be picked up. Once again I found myself on the streets of a shady LA neighbourhood. I ordered yet another Uber to take my back to my AirBnB. I was cutting my losses and admitting defeat.
I stood on the pavement and lit a cig while I waited. Then I saw him. Well, actually, I heard him before I saw him. Some 100 yards down the way was an old black dude who was obviously homeless and obviously a little crazy. He was walking all over the sidewalk with a couple of plastic bags full of rubbish in each hand, screaming at anything and everything. He even stopped to give a special shout to a newspaper bin. Then he saw me.
“Mornin’ sir, could I trouble you for a cigarette?”
“Er, yeah, go on then,” and I handed him one of my cigs.
“Thank you very much, sir. What’s your name, sir?”
“My name is Steven. Thank you, Chris. God bless you.”
Then he started to walk away, but after a few steps he turned around and said…
“What did you have for breakfast, Chris?”
Was he fucking kidding me?
“Nothing! Nowhere is fucking open!”
“Oh well, maybe we’ll see each other in the breakfast room.”
And then he walked away and carried on his random ranting. What a strange encounter, right? It was like something from GTA. I was genuinely bemused. A few boring minutes later my Uber arrived and drove me back to home base. It was as I got to the door and looked down at my phone, Uber gave me a notification about having food delivered via UberEats.
Seriously. Now you tell me that I can get food delivered to me? By this point I’d already spent around $16 on Uber rides, though with nothing to show for it, save for a story about Steven. What the hell. I’ll order a McDonald’s.
Instead of going back inside I decided to sit on the porch and smoke a cig while watching some random YouTube videos. 20 minutes passed and I was just getting into catching up on an E3 press conference when my food arrived. I ran down to the road and practically snatched my long-awaited meal from the driver. By this point it was gone 5am and it was already starting to get light, so I decided to sit out on the porch to eat my breakfast.
For those who are wondering, I had a Sausage and Egg McMuffin, a coffee, and a Sausage Biscuit. Now the latter threw me off a little bit. I ordered it on a whim, and because I needed to hit a minimum order to avoid a low-amount fee. It’s basically a McDonald’s sausage in a scone. Back in Britain, where I originally come from, scones are not eaten with meat. They’re normally treated as a cake. A normal scone would either be buttered, creamed, or slathered in a nice jam/preserve/marmalade. Not here in America, though, oddly enough, you do get a strawberry preserve packet. Did they expect me to put it on the sausage and scone? What is this madness?! I still ate every last crumb and enjoyed it. Total cost for this breakfast? Well over $30. Not a good start to any day.
Once I let my food sit and a cigarette almost burn my mustache, I headed back inside and crawled back into bed for a couple of hours. I didn’t have any appointments until 2PM, and even then it wasn’t at the Los Angeles Convention Center, but instead a few minutes down the road at a nearby swanky hotel.
9am rolls around and I find myself full of beans, so I get up, grab my back and head outside to my waiting Uber. By now it had become habit to wake up and order an Uber. Now that I’m back home in Wolfsburg where we don’t have Uber, it feels odd to not use it. I suppose I’m saving money…
I got to the convention center and went through the usual procedure of opening up my bag, showing my pass and my photo ID before heading straight to one of the big showrooms. It was relatively quiet at this time so I decided to have a mooch around for a queue that wasn’t too long. I stumbled upon the Watch Dogs Legion booth where the waiting time was apparently only 30 minutes. What the hell. I can stand in a line for 30 minutes. I did an eternity at customs, after all, so I joined the line and listened in on the conversations going on around me. Assassin’s Creed style. OG Assassin’s Creed style, mind you.
Manning the lines was a Ubisoft employee who was trying to get everybody to do something with a QR code for free in-game content for some of Ubisoft’s current and upcoming games. He approached me and asked if I would like to get my QR code scanned.
“I don’t have it mate. Sorry.”
“Then sign up! You can get free in-game items for Ghost Recon Wildlands and For Honor!”
“I don’t play either of those. Sorry.”
“Rainbow Six Siege?”
Then he slumped away, disappointed to not have snagged my precious personal data. I know what their game is. I’m not playing it. I’ve played Watch Dogs, mate, I know all about your Big Data.
Nobody else seemed to care, though, as they all pulled out their phones and signed into their UPlay accounts and got their codes scanned. I found this quite impressive, actually, and I’ll tell you why. How many of you console players can honestly remember your UPlay account details? Not many, I’m guessing. It’s one of those where you sign in at the start of a console generation and then never touch it again.
The sign claiming it was only a 30-minute wait turned out to be bollocks. 45 minutes later and I was still stood outside the booth, though the next group to go through would include me. When I finally did get in, I was a little underwhelmed. Not because it was a bad demo or anything, but because I’d become accustomed to comfy cinema-style chairs and mini-bars. The Watch Dogs Legion booth was just a huge TV on a wall and a few rows of basic chairs. Perhaps I’d become spoiled, but at least there was some swag waiting for me on the seat I chose. And what’s more is that it seemed like something I’d be able to pack into my bag and take with me! More victory!
This time it wasn’t a statue or a mini-figure, but instead a barmy pig mask, much like the ones worn by some in-game characters. It was still in its packaging, too. That’s added value on eBay.
The demo kicked off and I the whole room went quiet as one of the game’s developers showed us the initial reveal trailer before going straight into some gameplay. It was a decent demo but it was cut short by a brief power outage that turned everything off for a few seconds. Being the robot that I am, the instant the lights went off I was out of my seat and out the door by the time the lights came back on. I imagine the person sat next to me (I was sat on the end of the row closest to the door) was amazed that I had managed to pull of the Houdini act so well. Remember: Better safe than a statistic. I wasn’t taking any chances. Within 30 seconds I was outside in the smoking area with a cig hanging from my mouth. Luckily I had stashed the mask inside my bag early on in the demo so it wasn’t left behind once I made my quick escape from… a brief power outage. Again, I’ll not say much about what I saw in this piece, but you’ll find my preview here once it goes live.
After the walk around the hall, the long wait for Watch Dogs Legion and the demo cut short by the outage, I didn’t have much time to get to my next appointment down at the Figueroa Hotel. Google Maps told me it was only 11 minutes walking distance from where I was, but the big G in the sky wasn’t accounting for foot traffic and my childlike sense of wonder. I had 45 minutes to get to my appointment, so I left after smoking and helping a French lady find the Nintendo booth.
Good thing I left early, too, as I ended up wandering across the foodtrucks in search of food that wasn’t overly expensive. I walked past the hot dog seller that broke my bum the day previous and considered giving her my newly acquired pig mask so that she may rob passersby in true bandit fashion. No, this is was my swag. I didn’t end up buying anything from the foodtrucks inside the convention centre but I did get a hot dog outside. See, E3 is always a big event, and big events bring hustlers. Some of them are out to scam the ignorant, others are just looking to make a few extra pennies by selling their wares in a high-traffic area. So outside the convention centre you’ll find dozens of men and women pushing along portable hot dog trolleys. I definitely question the hygiene and food safety practices of these vendors, but one lady had some friend onions that smelled too good to miss out on. Plus, she was one of the few not preparing food with a cigarette hanging from her mouth. I like my hot dogs smokey, not ashy.
I paid $4 for my hot dog and you know what? It was actually really good. The onions were perfection and that lady earned her money that day.
I got to the Figueroa Hotel two minutes late. As a Brit, that’s considered pretty good. As a person who has lived among the Germans where punctuality is is a defining trait, I was ashamed. I greeted the PR chap, David Martinez, and apologised profusely for being two minutes late. He said not to worry about it, it’s only two minutes. Only two minutes?! Is this how America runs? No wonder the country is going down the shitter…
After a couple of minutes greeting everyone and getting a drink (I opted for a safe water this time around) it was time to play some games. The first game I played was called Mosaic and it was being presented to me by two of the members of Krillbite Studios, a Norwegian developer. The first thing that struck me was not the game, it was one of the lads from the studio. Why? He looked just like Henry Cavill, best known for playing Superman in the most recent DC movies. I even said this too him, much to his amusement. Apparently he doesn’t see the resemblance. I’ll leave a picture down below and you can decide for yourself. Just, er, imagine him with a haircut and a few extra pounds.
After a good 20 minutes chatting with the boys and playing their game, it was time to cross over to the other sofa for my next appointment. Nice and easy transit time.
I hopped over to the other couch where I was greeted by Danny Wynne, the mastermind/psychopath behind Atomicrops. The game is barmy in every way possible, yet I enjoyed my time playing. Danny explained that he was a fan of Stardew Valley but that he wished he could have more combat in the game, so instead of writing a kind suggestion to the Stardew Valley developer, he decided to make his own game. It was as fun half an hour where I died plenty of times, got married once (in the game,) and found my next definite Nintendo Switch purchase. I’ll have a more detailed write-up on Atomicrops soon, but just know that if I like it, you’ll probably like it. Maybe. [Preview here!]
Once I was done shotgunning baddies and growing my crops, it was time to leave the Figueroa Hotel and make my way to to the convention centre for my afternoon appointments. I got back outside and back into the uncomfortably warm Los Angeles air, and then I felt really poorly. Like, proper sick. The heat was not playing nice with my body and I needed to take a break.
I slowly walked back towards the convention centre, hugging the shade as I went. I stopped at a crossing and decided to take a moment to lean against a wall and regain my composure. That’s when I saw him. The most crazy man I’ve seen in my entire life. Now I know I shouldn’t laugh – and at the time I didn’t – but in hindsight it’s probably one of the funniest things I’ve encountered in my entire life, if only for the complete absurdity of it all.
I was leaning back against a relatively cool wall, taking a sip from my water bottle. A black chap was walking down the street from the direction I had just come from. He was obviously living the rough life and much like Steven, he was shouting to himself and everything else. I watched with curiosity as he approached a bin and started to peek inside it. This isn’t an unusual sight for me; here in Germany it’s quite common to see folk going into public bins to fish out plastic drinks bottles and recyclable cans. They’re work 25c each at the local supermarket, so the poorest in society scrounge a few extra pennies by collecting the throwaway cans and bottles.
What he did next was the surprise. He stuck his arm into the bin and pulled out a Starbucks cup, peeled the lid off of it and took a little sip. Ok. That’s pretty odd, I thought, but then he went a step further. He poured the contents of the cup over his left shoe, all the while looking me dead in the eye. I was astounded. I couldn’t help but look around in exasperation at the people passing by, apparently oblivious to the actions of this poor fellow. Either nobody noticed or nobody cared, and I’m leaning more towards the latter. It’s hard to ignore a man pouring coffee over his broken shoes.
It didn’t end there, though. Once again he dug into the bin and this time pulled out a water bottle that was about half-full. This was a surprise. This is basically the desert, who’s throwing away good water?! The man took the cap off, took a swig, and then poured the rest over his other foot, then threw the bottle back into the bin. He was still staring at me and I him. I was a touch worried he was going to come over to me and engage in a mental conversation. What would I say? What would I do? Would I be expected to engage in foot-soaking with trash drinks?
He didn’t come over. Instead, he went back into the bin for round three. This time he hit the fucking jackpot. After a few moments of rummaging through the waste, he pulled out a half-eaten McDonald’s ice cream cone. I remember thinking to myself “no fucking way…” as he inspected it before ramming it into his hungry mouth. Again, he stared at me the whole time, perhaps daring me to say something. I was his only audience, after all, as nobody gave him a second look. For a moment I was in shock at what I was seeing. I also found it a tiny but funny, but at the same time incredibly sad. I felt around in my pocket and realised I had a few loose dollar bills that I hadn’t tucked into my wallet. I was going to give them to this man so he may eat/drink something that hasn’t been discarded. Before I could do my good deed, however, he was already walking back the way he came at a mean pace.
I spent a few more minutes leaning at the street corner, trying to decide what to do. I didn’t fancy the walking around at the convention centre, but I didn’t want to waste the rest of the day either. Torn between my work duties and the desire to get shit-faced high, I googled my options. I could go to Santa Monica, pick up some weed and then head to the beach. Or I could get an Uber uptown and go and see what it’s like in proper Hollywood. Or I could mooch back over to the convention centre and keep to the two appointments I had that afternoon. One was for a game I was sure I was not going to enjoy, the other was for gaming apparel, bags and the like. I decided to call it a day and to just go back to base and get some rest.
Again, I returned to an empty house. This didn’t bother me, though, as I just wanted to get to my room, drink like a fish and then lie down. One litre of water later and I was back on the bed. I intended to lie down for a little while with the intention of seeing what the nightlife of LA had to offer. It was my last night here, after all. But I decided against it. I had to be sensible. I had appointments booked for the next day and I had some clothes that needed to be washed. I noticed there was a small mini-shopping centre just on the corner of the street where I was staying, so I packed my dirty clothes and headed on out after a little rest.
The shopping centre was… ghetto. There was a laundromat, a couple of clothes stores, a barber shop, a liquor store, and a couple of other establishments that I didn’t really care to notice. I hadn’t really paid much attention to where I was staying, but this evening would be an eye-opener.
I went inside the laundromat and walked around aimlessly. I had no idea how this place worked. Thankfully a kind Asian lady who worked there noticed me. Hard not to notice me, really. I’m six-feet tall and white. Everybody else was a good foot smaller and Latino or black. You can see where this is going, can’t you? No? Hang in there.
She asked me how much I had to clean and I explained it was just a couple of shirts, some socks, and a pair of jeans. She guided me towards the vending machine that held the different detergents and fabric softeners, suggesting I get the cheapest box as I only had a small load. She then marched me over to a machine and showed me how it worked and how much it cost. It was actually really cheap. I pulled out $2.50 in quarters and inserted them into the machine. That was the last of my small change. I sat down and waited. The timer said it would take 26 minutes for the wash to complete. After a few minutes I realised I’d need some change to use the dryers, so I wandered around until I found the place to make change. It was at the back of the store. I wondered how much it would cost to dry my few items. Back when I was living in Cardiff, Wales, the launderette was relatively cheap to use the washing machines, but they stung you on the dryers. It would often cost triple to dry the clothes than it cost to wash them. I assumed that must be the case here, so I pulled out a $20 and stuffed it into the receptacle in the wall. I didn’t think it would give me $20 worth of quarters. In my naivety, I assumed I’d get a $10 note back and then $10 worth of coins. Nope. The pennies dropped like I had won the jackpot, and the little Asian lady popped her head around the corner to see what all the noise was about.
“You put big note in machine?”
“Yeah…” I replied sheepishly.
“You need that many quarters?”
“No, probably not.”
“Yes, thanks. It’s OK. More coins is always good.”
She giggled to herself and then retreated back to her duties. I didn’t realise just how many coins I would have. Some quick maths tell you that I had 80 coins now in my possession. My wallet doesn’t hold that many coins. My pockets can’t handle that many coins. What was I to do? I I stuffed as many of the coins as I could into my wallet, and then the rest into my jeans’ pockets. I wandered around the laundromat and found another vending machine, the kind that dispenses snacks, not soaps.
I got myself a Pepsi and a Twix and then sat my stupid arse down to wait for my clothes to be done. Once they were done, I took them out and transferred them to a dryer. Do you know how much the dryer cost? Two quarters gets you 24 minutes of drying time. That’s more than enough for a pair of jeans, a couple of shirts, and some socks. I know you’re wondering about my boxers, but we’ll get to that later.
So I was still holding on to more coins than I knew what to do with. I couldn’t bare carrying them around, so I decided to mooch around and see if I could use them in any other way. There were a couple of arcade machines at the back of the store, but I didn’t much fancy playing them. I also didn’t want more snacks; I needed real food, gas station food.
Instead, I paced the place in search of new customers who had yet to pay for their washing machine. I’d walk up to them and offer to pay. Some didn’t seem to understand a word I said, but I shoved a few coins in their machines anyway. Others looked at me with a questioning look, and others were really grateful. A mixed bag, then. They must have wondered what a white boy was doing walking around paying for people’s washing. I bring that up again as I really was the only white person I saw that evening. I stood out.
After disguising my hatred for coins as being a good person, I grabbed my fresh clothes (they smelled amazing, too) and headed outside. That’s when I saw them and my prejudice kicked in. See, from where I was and where I wanted to go, there were two options. I could walk to my immediate left and exit the mini-mall via the front entrance, or I could walk right and leave via the back entrance that leads out onto the street where I was staying. Why would I even consider taking the indirect route, you may ask yourself? Here’s why.
Outside the liquor store stood a group of large black dudes, all drinking booze from brown paper bags. Just like in the movies! Except this wasn’t the movies and I was by now very aware that I was very out of place here. I’m ashamed to admit, but I was strongly considered taking the indirect route to the gas station. I stood for a moment, pretending to browse my phone and then thought “fuck it” and turned left. I walked tall and with purpose, but not so fast that anybody would think I was in a hurry to leave.
As I approached the group outside the bargain booze store I said “evening lads” and wondered why I had said it. Nervousness, perhaps? A false sense of bravado? Who knows. All I know is that I got a few nice replies from the guys who were just minding their own business. One even said “evenin’ family.” This is a colloquial slang and I really like it. So nothing happened. I, minding my own business bade these chaps who were minding their own business, a good evening, and they returned the favour.
Feeling a little ashamed and foolish, I crossed over the road to the gas station. Once again I was greeted with god-like air-con. I mooched around the aisles, searching out new snacks to try. I ended up buying a weird combination of food. I got a strawberry Pop-Tart (new favourite snack,) a can of Red Bull for the morning, a turkey and cheddar sandwich, a cold sausage biscuit, and a warm-ish cheeseburger from the hot counter next to the cashier desk. And a pack of cigs. I can’t begin to tell you how many cigarettes I’d given away so far. People in America have no problem bumming a smoke from a stranger. I can’t say I’ve ever done it.
I paid for my goods, had them bagged up nicely, and then retreated back to base. The lady who took my cash and bagged my goodies gave me an odd look, and I now realise why. See, the sausage biscuit is stored in the cold fridge alongside the sandwiches, but you’re meant to heat it up in the microwave they have on-site. It wasn’t very nice cold, let me tell you that much.
I’d set myself up at the desk in my room (again, I saw and heard nobody) and prepared my snacks in the order I would eat them. I also got my laptop out and prepared to sit myself down and do some work. I didn’t end up doing much. I think I managed to write one or two articles and that was it. I was done. Pooped. Exhausted. However, I was also a little bit excited because that would be my last night in Los Angeles. I had a flight for the following day booked for Las Vegas, where I would spend four days running around the desert in search of stippers and cocaine. More on that later.
I got myself undressed and tucked up into bed, thinking all the while about the bright light city that I would be descending on the next day. I quickly fell asleep before being awoken shortly after by what I can only describe as gunshots. No, I’m not joking. It honestly sounded like gun shots. I sat upright in my bed and listened hard. They came again.
POP POP POP POP POP
Where in the fuck was I? I thought I was in a nice neighbourhood? The AirBnb reviews were nothing but praise for the host and his family’s home. I decided to double check the AirBnB listing and have a good, thorough read.
Balls. I was in da hood.
I entered the address of the place I was staying and it turns out I was smack bang in the middle of South Central Los Angeles. All I really know about this place is what I’ve seen in movies and on TV. Thank goodness I had not been a menace while I was drinking my juice. Who knows what could have happened.
I got back into bed and fell into a light sleep, wondering if I need to set an alarm or if I could count on ‘da hood’ to wake me up with a volley of gunshots. Best to set an alarm.
Thursday, June 13th, 2019 – Los Angeles
I woke the next morning with a skip in my step. Vegas, baby! I still had a few appointments to get to at the E3 convention center, but once 2pm rolled around I would be free! I got up quietly, showered, brushed my teeth, and then started to pack my bag. As I wasn’t going to be coming back here again, I was going to have to pack all of my clothes into my rucksack and take them with me to the convention centre. This is when disaster struck. As I was placing my carefully rolled jeans, shirts, and socks into my back, I realised I had left my dirty undies behind when I went to the laundromat. Dang it! I still had three pairs of clean undies. Was I really going to take my worn ones with me to E3 and risk them being ruffled by security? Yes and no. I sacrificed a couple of pairs to the bin but kept the ones that were least offensive to the nose. They were stuffed right at the bottom of my bag in a separate plastic bag. How hard can it be to wash some knickers in a Las Vegas hotel?
By 9am I was out the door and hopping into my last base-to-E3 Uber. I was sharing this ride with a couple of others, though they weren’t all that talkative. In fact, they didn’t say a word the entire journey, not even a ‘bye’ as I hopped out down the street from where I needed to be. You win some, you lose some.
I spotted a 7/11 across the way and decided to go and have another $1.99 hot dog, and maybe see if I could pick up a couple of souvenirs. That’s when I was stopped by a large black dude who was wearing a shirt that told me he was actually a member of staff at the convention centre.
“Excuse me, could I buy a cigarette?”
He was actually the first and only person to offer to give something in return for a smoke.
“Nah, you can just have one.”
I pulled out a cig and handed it to him and offered him a go of my lighter.
“I got one already. Thanks, mate!”
I’ll never get over just how odd it sounds when an American calls somebody mate. It always takes me back to the scene in Uncharted 3 where Charlie Cutter is having a hard time getting through the narrow space due to his claustrophobia, when Nate (Nolan North) calls him mate. I don’t know why, but it has always stuck with me. Anyway, it was a nice day and I was in a good mood. Anybody who wanted a cig was welcome to them.
I got to 7/11 and browsed the various LA-related trinkets they had for tourist scum like me. I settled on a ‘I Heart LA’ keyring and an expensive charger cable for my powerbanks. I thought I had packed everything required for this jaunt to America, but I had neglected to bring a cable for my powerbanks. My phone uses the USB-C cables, whereas the powerbanks use the older style. Mini USB, I think. It cost me $11.99. I’m going to keep this thing for life.
I took my time walking to the convention centre. My first appointment wasn’t until 10am and I was here quite early. I found a spot in the shade and sat down to eat my hearty breakfast. Extra onions because, apparently, I don’t care how my breath smells. I sat and watched people for a while, browsed my phone, sent a few emails and WhatsApp messages, and informed the Pure PlayStation team that I was still alive and that Kyle would not be taking over and ruling with an iron fist.
My first appointment of the day was with Woojer to try out their haptic feedback vest. I was actually looking forward to trying this one out as I’d never got the chance to try such a thing before. My enthusiasm was soon dashed, though, as when I got to the booth it was clear that Woojer was all but ready to leave. In fact, a few other booths were looking very bare, and a couple had completely vanished overnight. Still, I introduced myself to the ladies who were stood around at the booth and explained that I was their 10am appointment. It wasn’t very busy, mind you, and I reckon I could’ve rolled up at any time and they’d have given me a go.
The Woojer vest was not great, though a big part of this is due to how the unit was demoed to me. Instead of wearing it and playing a VR game or a regular game, I was plugged into a Samsung tablet where there were a dozen or so different demos. Not game demos, mind you, just videos. The ladies, who were nice enough but clearly couldn’t have given a fuck that day, strapped me into the vest and then slapped a pair of headphones over my ears before hitting one of the demo buttons on the tablet sat in front of me.
The demo was a video of a T-Rex angrily stomping down a hallway towards where the camera was. Each stomp and roar could be ‘felt’ via the vest. I wasn’t really impressed but I was far too polite to say ‘this is a bit shit’ outright. Instead, I tried out a few of the different demos before the guy who was in charge came over for a chat. We spoke for about 10 minutes about the vest, E3, Las Vegas and other menial things before bidding each other safe travels. The appointment was supposed to run for 30 minutes according to my calendar, but I was done in just under 20. It meant I had over 90 minutes to kill before my last meetings of the day. Can you guess what I did, kids? Can you? Of course you can. I smoked.
On my way to a smoking area I passed by a lot of booths that were still operating at full capacity. One such shitbag of a booth was actually selling lootboxes. I was tempted to kick over their display and blame it on lack of sugar/broken leg/being blind from birth, but I very wisely decided against it. My self control on this trip was unusually excellent. I’m a bit of a loose canon at the best of times and I have a tendency to do and then think, but I was actually on really good behaviour. Not that it matters to anyone else, I just wanted to put it out there. Little achievements and all that.
Another booth that I walked by had a haptic vest setup, much like the Woojer booth that I’d just come from, except for one minor difference: GAMES. They had someone strapped into a VR headset while they played a colourful shooter. I stood and watched for a few moments as the player squirmed after being blasted with a volley of shots. It looked fun. I was jealous. Fucking Woojer…
I spent the rest of my time smoking and mooching around the halls. I managed to get some hands on time with a fair few games during this time, though, as it was easily the quietest day. I suppose a lot of people were already heading back or home or simply recovering from the day before. Didn’t matter to me, it meant I could just walk up to a screen and a controller and have a go of some games. I played a bit of Borderlands 3, which was alright. I got to try out the upcoming Destroy All Humans! remake, which was silly fun, and a few others that I’ll be writing about in the near future.
Ten minutes before my next appointment and I wash dashing through the hall to get there on time. I needn’t have rushed, though, as I ended up standing outside for 15 minutes while waiting for the PR people to get me in and get some games in my hands. I honestly felt ridiculous stood there for so long, but eventually the PR dude in charge, Damien Sarazzin shook my hand and guided me into the Big Ben booth. We spent a few minutes chatting before I was ushered over to a seat and a screen to play The Sinking City. It was a really enjoyable demo, too, and you can read all about that through here.
I had around half an hour sat playing through one of The Sinking City’s investigations before I was told time was up and I was due to play Bee Simulator. I bade Mr No Name goodbye (read the preview and you’ll understand the reference,) and made my way across the room to another telly and another game. This was a little odd, though, as the chap hosting the demo looked stunned to see me.
“I know you! We have met before!”
Damien looked at me, then back at the demo dude (again, I’ve not kept the name in my memory,) before looking back at me, puzzled.
“I don’t think we have mate,” I said with a nervous laugh.
“No, no, we have. You were at GamesCom? Or PAX East? PAX West?”
Again, Damien looked perplexed and I was at a loss for words. This would not be the last case of mistaken identity on this trip.
“No, I promise you, mate, I’ve never been to PAX or GamesCom. This is my first E3, too, and I’ve never seen you before!”
The developer looked a little saddened that I wasn’t who he thought I was, but we soon got over and brushed it away as me having a very average face. We got on with the demo and I asked my silly questions and got my answers. I didn’t really expect much from Bee Simulator, but when it was time for me to move on to my third and final game of the day, it wasn’t with joy. I really liked Bee Sim! I’ll have a more detailed write-up in the coming days, so be sure to keep an eye out for it.
My final game of the day was Overpass, however, this was neither a hands-on nor hands-off demo. The guy presenting it to me explained that for some reason the build they had prepared for E3 was not working, so instead they were showing some B-roll footage while the developer talked about the game. Not the most exciting moments of E3, sure, but at the same time I was jittering in anticipation. Once this guy was done talking, it was time to head to the airport for Vegas!
The demo footage was finished and it was time for me to get out of there. Then Damien, the friendly PR guy, caught a hold of me and asked where I was going and if I wanted to play some other games that were available, like WRC 2019.
“I’d love to, mate, I really would, but I don’t have time. I’ve got to catch a plane, I’m going to Vegas!”
“You’re going to Vegas?”
“Yeah mate, so I need to get going.”
He then told me that’s really cool but he had hoped I’d be able to get my hands on a few other games. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. I thanked him for his time and promised that next time I’d play everything, and then I made a mad dash out of there before anyone else could stop me. I checked my phone. 47% battery. Not the end of the world, I thought, as I’d be able to charge it somewhere at the airport.
I headed out to my favourite smoking perch to have a cig, a snack, a drink, and to plan my next move. I’d need to get an Uber to the airport, and I needed to be there in good time. I was also very aware that inside the backpack I was lugging around was a large pig mask with what I assume was a fake flare. I pondered this while smoking my cig. Would I get taken aside at airport security? Would they let me take it with me on the plane? Would I be stopped and searched and treated as an enemy combatant because of my lovely accent?
The solution to my problem strolled over with slicked back hair and Family Guy British teeth. The toothy man asked in very posh English accent “excuse me, could I pinch a cigarette?”
This seems to be the normal greeting in LA. Nobody says “hello” or anything regular, they just ask for a smoke. Fair enough. I offered one of my expensive cigs to the man and we had a little chat, bonding over the fact that we were both English, but clearly divided by my straight teeth and his comical chompers. I noticed he was carrying a large promotional bag, so I asked if he had managed to grab some swag. He explained that he had only managed to get some socks and a few pins, as he was only here for the last day. He also explained that he didn’t even register for E3, but instead turned up on the last day and blagged his way in as media by showing off his website and a little techy thing he had made. Imagine that? Flying all the way to Los Angeles with the intention of blagging your way into E3. That takes balls.
I looked inside his depressingly empty swag bag and sighed.
“Mate, I’ve got something cool for you.”
I reached into my own bulging backpack and took out the Watch Dogs Legion mask and handed it to him.
“Wow, really? That’s brilliant! Thank you!”
Another day, another good deed. Surely this would translate into good luck in Vegas, right? We chatted for a couple minutes more and I actually liked this guy. He was a bit arrogant and a I definitely got a dick-ish vibe from him, but I liked him all the same. So, being that I’m a nice guy, I handed him the rest of my cigarettes and wished him a good day. I had another pack in my bag. The ones I gave him? That was a karma trade for Vegas luck.
I ordered yet another Uber, made my way to the pickup point and waited patiently. Despite there still being much of the day left to go, I noticed a lot of people leaving the convention centre. Perhaps, like me, they had flights to catch. Or maybe they’d just seen everything. Who knows. I smoked a cig and stood leaning against a wall, looking super fucking cool. At least in my own mind.
My Uber soon arrived and I was on my way to LAX. It was an uneventful ride through the city so I sat back, closed my eyes and enjoyed the air-con. I was already tired and hungry. The plan for the airport was to find something to eat and a place to sit and charge my devices while I got some shut eye. That was the plan. My plans never go to plan because I am a wanderer, as you surely know by now.
Getting into LAX is a hell of a lot quicker than getting out, but it isn’t any less hectic. Cars beeped at cars, people screeched at people, people screeched at cars, and cars beeped at people. It was pure madness and I was happy to be leaving it behind me.
My driver dropped me off at my terminal and I made my way to the designated smoking area to burn some tobacco in front of my face. What? Do you know how many times I’ve written about smoking so far in this lengthy article? I need to find new ways of describing it to keep things as fresh as a Marlboro Red.
I realised I had maybe, just a little bit, over-prepared. I was at the airport a full three hours early. Bugger. Still, security might take ages, I thought, so it was for the best that I was here in good time. Nope. Security was a breeze and took little more than 15 minutes of standing in line while airport employees barked their orders at us stupid flyers.
“Take off your shoes! Your jackets! Your belts! Remove your electronics! Phones, laptops, tablet computers, games consoles! All of them out!”
They must get sick of saying the same shit day-in-day-out, but bless them for not all being grumpy bastards. Some of them even managed to smile. I couldn’t do their job, that’s for sure.
Once past security I realised I was starving and needed to eat something. Unfortunately my terminal was very, very busy, and the food options were very, very shit. I settled on a knock-off Subway sandwich which cost twice as much as a regular Subway sandwich, and tasted half as good. I don’t really like Subway, so that should give you an approximation as to how crap it was.
I spent most of my time wandering the terminal, seeing what people were doing to fill the time. I saw a family bickering over who gets to sit where in the waiting area. The teenager lad wanted to sit on the seat that was directly opposite a rather… Well endowed lady who was beating the heat by ditching the heavy clothes. The kid got his seat and I watched as he sat and pulled out his phone as a cover for his perving. Damn good hustle, kid, damn good.
I also stumbled upon a group of boy scouts, and literally stumbled upon their troop leader who was lying on the floor getting some sleep. They boys were all excitable and fidgity, whereas the adults in charge looked positively fucked. I hung around that area to listen in and I learned that they’d been screwed over massively by Delta airlines and has been bumped from not one, not two, but three flights. They’d been stuck in that airport for over 24 hours. Poor bastards.
I eventually found a table that was next to a power outlet so that I could charge my phone and my spare powerbank. But it meant sitting within the seating area of an in-terminal restaurant and being within earshot of people eating loudly, smacking their lips. This is something I absolutely hate. I banned my best friend Sam from eating in front of me within a week of meeting each other at the age of 10. I don’t let anyone who can’t eat like a regular person near me. Yet here I was sat, directly opposite some middle-aged man who had obviously eaten a few too many dinners in his time, watching him shovelling food into his mouth, his hands shaking as he did it.
I distracted myself by catching up on as much E3-related news as I could. Despite being in the thick of it, I actually missed a hell of a lot of information.
Half an hour before the plane was due to board, I made my way to the general area of my gate. I wasn’t looking to stand in line or anything, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss the plane. This was a trip to Vegas, there was no way I was leaving anything to chance. The irony in that sentence is fucking beautiful.
I stood in my spot listening to The Killers, the only music I listen to. No, really, I honestly do only listen to The Killers. Well, I suppose that’s not entirely true; I also listen to Brandon Flowers’ solo albums. I don’t care. I like what I like and I’m not ashamed of it. This trip to Vegas was a pilgrimage for me. The Killers, if you weren’t aware, hail from fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada, so this was my Mecca.
For years I’d listened to Brandy (my pet name for Brandon Flowers) sing about his home town.
“I see London, I see Sam’s Town.”
Sam’s Town is a hotel-casino resort in Las Vegas.
“On the corner of Main Street…”
Main Street is a big road in Las Vegas.
“Welcome to fabulous… Welcome to fabulouuuuuus, Laaaaaaaaaas Veeeeeeeeegas.”
Las Vegas is, er, well, whatever.
A young lady prodded me in the chest as I was in the middle of my daydreaming. I took my headphones out and she asked if where I was standing was the line. I looked around and realised that there was a line of people in front of me and a line of people behind me.
“Er, I don’t really know. I just stood here a while ago and it looks like it has turned into a line. You can join here if you like?”
She giggled and then stepped into the line. I’m sure I heard someone muttering behind me, but c’mon, we’re all getting on the same damn plane and we’re all landing at the same bloody time. Get a grip.
Soon came boarding time and we were called in groups relating to our seat numbers. Once my group was ready to board, I marched forward behind a small lady who looked awfully familiar. She looked a lot like Trinity from The Matrix movies – NAME – and I wondered to myself if it actually was her. Should I ask her? Probably best not to.
Once on the plane the usual mayhem ensued as people took seats that didn’t belong to them. Idiots clogged up the narrow gangway as they put their tiny handbags and rucksacks in the overhead bin when they could easily be stowed under the seat in front of them. Amateurs, complete amateurs. The Trinity lookalike struggled to lift her case up to the overhead bin, so being the polite chap that I am, I asked her if I could help her.
“Oh, thank you so much.”
I lifted her case and put it into the overhead bin and she took her seat and smiled at me. If she wasn’t Trinity, should could buy some cheap dominatrix gear and make some sick cash by working as a lookalike. The resemblance was uncanny.
I made my way to my seat and my ticket said I was in the window seat. Jackpot! I didn’t even pay for the privilege. There was a little old lady sat in the middle seat, though, reading a book. I asked her if I could get to my seat and she just nodded. It turned out she didn’t speak much English and was actually French.
Once in my seat I was excited. I was humming Elvis Presley’s ‘Viva Las Vegas’ as we took off. I wasn’t even scared during take off. Normally I’m shitting myself as the engines fire to life and we defy gravity, but not this time. This time I was just so excited!
Thurdsay, June 13th, 2019 – Las Vegas
An hour and a bit later and the plane we had landed at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was already dark but I could pick out the iconic hotels, resorts, and casinos as we taxied along. The big beam coming off the top of the Luxor was incredible.
A few minutes of jostling and waiting for idiots to retrieve their stuff and I was off the plane and into the airport. The fun started here. The airport was very much on-brand with its destination; slot machines were everywhere, and tourist shops were all shining their wares in the windows like Amsterdam whores. I loved it immediately. I practically ran to a slot machine and stuffed a quarter into it, hit the ‘play’ button and experienced my first gambling loss of the weekend. Amazing. But I needed to pee and poo, so I headed to the loos and did my business. To be fair, they were very clean. I thought they were sparkling clean, but that was just the fancy decoration. Here’s something I didn’t expect though: the toilets had a TV playing sports. Not inside the cubicle, but out in the hand-washing area. How odd.
I did my business and then made my way to the ride pickup area in the airport. It wasn’t as mental as LAX, and in fact it actually seemed a little more organised. An entire floor of a multi-story car park had been transformed into a ride pick-up area, separated into different zones so you would be easily able to find your ride once it arrived. I liked this system a lot, but my driver didn’t seem to care for it. Instead of telling me where he was, he just wrote “I’m here.” Where, mate? There are at least 30 other frigging cars around here, which bloody one are you???
I eventually found him and jumped in the front seat as the back was occupied by two young fellas. I turned around and said hello and started a bit of chat with them. This wasn’t their first time in Vegas, and in fact they make the trip every year from Atlanta, Georgia. They joked about their last visited and how the staff in Ballys hotel and casino were racist for accusing them of smoking weed in their rooms. They explained that they had smoked weed in their rooms, but had done a decent job covering the smell. Fair play. I was getting tips here.
I had done my research on cannabis law in Las Vegas before arriving, and I was a little worried. According to the law, anyone over the age of 21 may purchase and consume cannabis from the cannabis stores in the city, but they may not smoke it in public. It has to be smoked on private property – hotels don’t count. I’m an Amsterdam veteran and so I know how to smoke on the down low, but the thought of getting a huge bill from my hotel was not a comforting thought, and I didn’t want to end up in a Las Vegas jail cell either. Turns out I needn’t have worried one bit, but more on that later.
My ride to my hotel, The Strat, was great. My driver, an old Korean dude, was amazed to meet someone who came from Wales. He asked me all about the famous landmarks, most of which I knew nothing about. I know Snowdonia only because it was essentially my back garden for 18 years, but the rest? No bloody clue. Still, it was nice to chat, even if I didn’t really understand a lot of what he was saying. He was nice enough, though, so he got a $5 tip via the Uber app. I was feeling generous.
I walked into my hotel and found the check-in desk. Thankfully it was empty and I had avoided the long lines I had read about online. I strolled up to the desk and announced myself as having a reservation. The lady was not very nice. I don’t know if it was that she had had a long day with shit customers, or if she just hated the way my face looked and my mouth spoke, but she was not what I expected. I thought Las Vegas was known for its hospitality, but you wouldn’t have guessed it by the attitude of this lady.
I had paid for three nights in a room with a view and a King bed. She told me that all that was available was a room with two Queen beds and if I didn’t like it, there was nothing she could do. This was before I had even had a chance to question why my reservation I had paid for was not being honoured. Still, I gave as good as I got.
“So I’m getting two beds right?”
“Yes, that’s correct.”
I do a dramatic look around me.
“Do you see two Christopher Hardings stood in front of you?”
“No, sir, but there’s nothing I can do.”
I decided to just leave it and get to my room. I was tired and needed to get a shower. I took my room keys (she gave me two, presumably one for me and one for my evil twin) and made my way to the elevator. I caught a glimpse of the casino as I headed towards the North Tower lifts. I was tempted, but I was tired and I planned on getting an early-ish night so I’d be able to have a full day of fun tomorrow. You know what I said about me and planning, right?
I stepped into the lift, which stunk of weed, with a middle-aged couple and asked them which floor they were going to.
“Are you guys gambling, then?” I asked.
“Oh boy, yeah, we’re gambling,” said the man with his cowboy hat that was at odds with his garish shirt.
“Not really, no.”
“How much have you lost?”
“Ha! I wish. Six thousand.”
The lift stopped and it was their time to get out. The woman didn’t look happy and I sensed that maybe an argument would be had before they slept that night.
I got to my room and opened the door and let myself in. It was a nice room, to be fair, with a big TV, a shower and a bath, and two beds, one of which would be useless. Still, the first thing I did was messy it up out of spite. Then I emptied my heavy rucksack all over it. I got myself naked and sat on the edge of my bed as I fiddled with the TV. Honestly, I never really watch TV in any hotel, but I’ll always turn it on to have a look at what’s on.
I settled on watching a CNN debate. It was weird. How they do TV in America is not how we do it back in Britain. It’s all so dramatic and in your face. The topic of the debate was, of course, Idiot King Trump, and on one side of the screen was the floating head of somebody who says that what Trump is doing is illegal. On the opposite side of the screen was a floating head of some blond lady who was vehemently fighting Trumpy’s corner. In the middle, the floating head of the show’s host. He wasn’t saying anything, he was just… there. They all had really, really white teeth. Like, comically bright. America, I suppose.
I thought a little while about what I should do. Should I get in the shower and then get some sleep? Or should I go down to the casino and have a wee gamble? I jumped in the shower with the intention of making my mind up once my body didn’t smell of stale cigs and sweat. The shower was heavenly, mind you, and I spent a good15 minutes in there with my phone blaring The Killers.
Once I’d finished slathering myself in the complimentary shampoo and body wash, I sat on the edge of the sleeping bed, naked, but rejuvenated. I wanted to go out. I wanted to see the bright lights and have some fun! I looked over at the other bed which had my clothes, laptop, and money strewn across it and decided I would iron my shirt and jeans and then get an Uber to downtown Las Vegas to see the casinos on Fremont Street, and maybe see what the Fremont Street Experience is all about.
I searched my room high and low, yet I couldn’t find an iron and ironing board. Surely there was one somewhere? I’d read somewhere that all Vegas hotels come with an iron and an ironing board so that nobody looks like a scruff when they’re playing with money. Seems that information was wrong. I found the room guide and it did mention that there were ironing and laundry facilities, but that they were on request. I picked up the room’s phone and called down to reception.
Who answered it? That horrible woman who checked me in, that’s who.
“Hi, I need a shirt and some jeans ironing, how could I go about getting them ironed? Do I need to take them somewhere?”
“It’s going to be a couple of hours until we can get it done. You can come down and wait,” she said, very rudely, too.
“A couple of hours? OK… Is there no way I could just do it myself? I don’t mind, honestly!”
“No. If you wanted your clothes ironed, you should have arrived earlier,” the sassy cow retorted.
“Oh, right, would that have got me the room I paid for, too?” And then I hung up. Like, I wasn’t being rude, I even offered to it myself if they would let me, but that woman just had an attitude.
Fuck it, I thought, I’ll just make do. Bear in mind that my options were the shirt I had worn all day, which by now was a little whiffy, or a shirt that had spent the day rolled up inside my rucksack, and looked about as wrinkly as my nutsack. I improvised. I wet my hands with hot water and started pressing over the creases. It wasn’t working amazingly well… So I laid my shirt in the bath, chucked some hot water over it, and then pressed my hands across the shirt from its collar to the bottom. I repeated this for about ten minutes and you know what? It actually turned out alright! But it was still sopping wet so I stuck it on a chair in front of the godly air-con that was chilling my room, and left it there for 10 minutes while I ordered an Uber. When it came time to get down to the taxi area my shirt was’t quite dry, but that needn’t have mattered as the air outside was sweltering hot, even if it was gone midnight.
I hopped in my Uber and greeted my driver, a lovely lady called Brittany. She asked where I was from and what brought me here, and then congratulated me on doing it all by myself. Yeah, go me! I’m a big boy now! I also explained that I’d always wanted to come to Vegas because this is where The Killers are from, and it turns out her daughter was also a massive fan of The Killers and that she had planned to go and see them live later in the year. Nice chit chat. She also warned me to keep my money close as downtown Las Vegas isn’t quite as tourist-friendly as The Strip. I could see that on the ride in as shifty looking characters lurked the poorly lit streets and side alleys.
Brittany dropped me off at The Plaza hotel and wished me luck, which I was surely going to need.
It was breathtaking, honestly. The lights were amazing and I could hear all the action going on at the Fremont Street Experience – an all day attraction – even if I couldn’t see it yet. I headed straight inside The Plaza casino with my pocket stuffed with quarters. I was going to dump these in the first slot machine I could find. Only… That didn’t happen. This is 2019, and things are a little different here than they were in the days of Elvis and the Rat Pack. Coins are no good here, just notes, or as they call them here, “bills.”
So I was piss out of luck. I sat down at a slot machine anyway and fed it a $20 and started to “play.” I write that in quotation marks because you don’t really play, you just hit a button and see what the machine says. It’s safe to say, then, that my money was well and truly pissed up the wall on that little jaunt, so I quite while I was ahead. I wanted a drink and to see some fun stuff so I headed outside and towards the deafening noise of the Fremont Street Experience.
Despite weed not being legal for public consumption in Las Vegas, the street stank like Amsterdam. By the time I had walked the length of the massive sheltered street (the roof is made up of millions of little lights!) I had seen at least a dozen or so people openly smoking big fat joints without fear. I wanted me some of that, but first, a drink.
I found a street bar where the ladies were wearing not very much. It wasn’t my first choice of place to get a drink, but the only choice I could see. I was embarrassed, big time, when the lady with just a bra and knickers on asked me what I wanted.
“A beer, please,” I half shouted over the noise.
She filled a huge plastic cup – surely bigger than the pints we have back home – and told me it cost $14. Wow. That’s the most I’ve ever paid for a beer. I handed her $15 and said keep the change. She smiled and said a word of thanks and then climbed up onto the bar and started dancing. Honestly, her and two others were dancing along the bar to music that was surely doing our ears no good. I got my shit together and turned around and started walking back along the street, this time taking my time to really see what was going on.
There was a huge concert of sorts taking place to one side, with a crowd of a few hundred dancing along to the electronic music that was giving me a headache. The stage was being manned by some fella in a gimpish looking mask, backed up by a dozen scantily clad ladies. I didn’t linger too long and instead moved on down the street where I saw various street performers looking to earn a few pennies for their talents. I say talents, but one guy was offering a free kick to his dick and balls for $5, and he even had a sign that said “I BET YOU KICK LIKE A PUSSY.” I was tempted to take him up on his offer, but what if I actually did do some real damage? I don’t think I could live with the thought of having ruined a man’s jewels when he has done nothing wrong to me.
One “performer” was an oldish guy sat in a wheelchair with a sign stating that he was a 92-year-old WW2 veteran. For one, this was complete bollocks. The dude didn’t look a day over 65, and what self-respecting veteran sits inside a designated performance area (they’re marked out as circles on the ground) to beg for change? Again, I was tempted to go over and call out his bullshit, but, again, I thought better of it.
Another performer was actually performing. He even looked somewhat familiar… He was doing some magic tricks, and although he was fooling the handful of people stood in front of him, he wasn’t fooling me. Why? Because I’d already seen this guy on Penn & Teller: Fool Us! A little dizzy and disorientated by the excessive noise, the bright lights, and the expensive beer I was halfway through, I blurted out the secret to the trick. The small group disbanded and the magician looked crestfallen. I’d probably cost him a few dollars. I felt bad so I dropped a handful of quarters into his change bucket, said a quick sorry and then buggered off. Ha, I’d ruined a has-been! I felt quite bad about it. How was it that he was once performing on TV in front of an audience of millions, but was now scrounging a living on the dazzling streets of Las Vegas?
I looked up and saw a young woman hurtling through the air on a zipline that ran the length of the Fremont Street Experience. Mental. You wouldn’t catch me doing that. Each to their own, though.
I was soon down back at the end of the street where I was dropped off by my Uber. I still had a little beer left so I perched myself on one of the anti-terrorist-van-attack barriers and took my time sipping it. The pungent smell of marijuana was filling the air and I wanted me some of that action. Back in the day you’d ask a hippy-looking dude where to get some grass, but this is 2019 so I pulled out my phone and hit up Google.
According to my research there was a dispensary not far from my hotel. The plan, then, was to get another Uber from my current location to the dispensary, get some ganja, find a discrete place to smoke said ganja, and then hit the casino on a solid high. I ordered my Uber and waited in the ride-pickup area outside The Plaza hotel. I was to be sharing this ride with two other chaps who were friendly enough. I told them about my travels to E3 and they were super jealous.
Unfortunately, this would not go down as a great Uber ride. My driver was an idiot. He dropped me off at some parking lot outside a bar that was some way away from where I wanted to go. He insisted that it was just a couple of minutes of walking from here, and so I got out and hit Google maps on my phone. It was a 10 minute walk through a neighbourhood that I didn’t really want to be wandering around at 1AM in the morning. So I ordered another Uber…
As good as Uber is, it’s only really as good as its drivers. Most drivers have been friendly, competent operators, but this guy was a fucking imbecile. My new Uber arrived and I explained that my previous driver dropped me here because he wanted to take a more direct route for his other fares. The new Uber driver was not impressed and said that if he could, he’d do the ride for free. He was ever so friendly and I can see now why he had a fiver-star rating. He also got a $1 tip from me. What? It was literally a four-minute ride.
I finally got to my destination. Hooray! The dispensary wasn’t exactly lit up like I imagined it would be, but it didn’t need to be. It just needed to be place that sold legal weed, and that it most definitely was. I entered via the indescript door and was soon asked by a chap at the booth for some photo ID. I didn’t have my passport on me, but I did have my UK provisional driving license. The guy checked it out and asked what it was. Like, how could he even doubt I was of legal age? I’ve got grey in my hair! I had a five day beard by this point and I generally look much older than I actually am. I explained it was a provisional driving license from the UK and, after a bit of scrutiny, the chap let me through to the main area – the shop, if you will.
I was amazed. It was a far cry from the dingy little ming holes I usually deal with in Amsterdam. This place was legit. It was almost surgical in how bright and clean it was. I looked around and saw screens all along the walls, each displaying the prices of the different variants that were for sale. I took my place in the queue and wished I’d had a piss before hand. I was bursting to go pee-pee but I didn’t want to walk out, piss on the street, and then come back inside and explain why I had gone out in the first place. I bit my lip and held it in. Slowly but surely the queue moved along and it was my turn to sit down and get a consultation. No, really, I was properly consulted on my purchase. What’s more is that the guy who was serving me was also called Chris, and his middle name was also Wayne. His last name didn’t match mine, however, so we stopped short of hugging each other and making plans to move in, but it was a funny coincidence nonetheless.
After a few minutes of asking me what my history with marijuana was (a bit in school, a lot in college, and plenty more once I moved to Germany,) I was picking my drug of choice. I ended up going with a couple of grams of Lemon Haze, a pre-rolled doob of Lemon Haze, and a disposable vape pen with Super Lemon Haze. Hey, I like what I like and I make no shit about it. I even got a receipt. How amazing is that? Ask for a receipt in Amsterdam and you’re more likely to get a slap to the face.
With my wares in hand I left the dispensary and turned the corner towards my hotel. It was only a couple of minutes away but the urge to piss was insane. I ducked into a dark corner of a side-street, pulled out my piss pipe and let loose. I’m pretty sure this is a crime just about everywhere in world. Oh well.
I got back to my hotel via the rear entrance and I could smell the weed before I could see who was enjoying it. It turned out it was a group of American lads. I walked up to them sheepishly and asked if they were smoking weed.
“Fuck yeah, brah!” One of them exclaimed.
“It ain’t illegal no more, bro, you can smoke that shit all day long,” another chimed in.
It was at that point I wanted to point out that Clark County law stated that marijuana was legal to possess and smoke on private property, and not outside the back end of a Las Vegas hotel. However, I was now in with the cool kids and I did not want a wedgie, so swallowed the desire to be a know it all and sparked my joint. It was bliss, until I choked like a pussy. Back in Europe we mix our weed with tobacco, but in America a joint is literally all weed, something I found out on my first night in LA. I coughed and spluttered before manning the hell up and sucking on that bad boy like it was mummy’s breast milk. Within a few moments I was well and truly buggered. My head was spinning and I could feel the giggles coming on. I bade my fellow smokers and law-breakers a good evening and headed inside to the refreshing air-conditioned hotel.
I had planned on going in and getting straight into bed to sort my wavy head out, but being the wanderer that I am, I instead mooched around the casino and perched myself at a slot machine. I fed a $20 into its greedy little slit and started playing. Within 10 minutes I’d lost my money and was ready to call time on my first night in Las Vegas.
I stumbled my way to the North Tower lifts, avoiding eye contact with anyone and everyone. I was paranoid that I was going to get chucked out for being as high as a kite. Once in the life, which was thankfully empty, I slumped into the corner and wondered just what in the hell I was doing. I was thousands of miles away from home, alone, and off my face on drugs.
I managed to get my room without incident. I lay on the bed with my little bag of goodies from the dispensary. I opened up the disposable vape pen. It really was quite discreet in appearance. If I didn’t know better, I’d have said it was a pen. It was white and around the same length as your standard pen, except partway down the shaft was a little see-through section with the cannabis oil. I opened it up, put it to my mouth and sucked hard and then exhaled, and then coughed like a pussy again. It was actually quite nice and the residual smoke that leaves your mouth is negligible; that means it’s safe to smoke in my room – awesome!
I took a few more pulls on the magic wand, rolled over onto my side and fell into an amazingly deep sleep. A little high, a little drunk, and little poorer than a few hours before.
Friday, June 14th, 2019 – Las Vegas
I woke the next day with what felt like the mother of all hangovers. My head was pounding, my mouth was dry, and I was freezing cold. I had let the air-con run all night long and now I was paying for it. Hey, better to be a little chilly than to be sweating buckets.
I lay in my bed for a while thinking about what had happened the night before, and then remembered the vape pen. I fumbled around the sheets of the bed until I felt the little bugger hiding under the pillows. When I was a teenager, we used to say that the best way to cure a hangover is to keep drinking. Surely that works with a weed hangover, right? I didn’t give it much thought as I sucked the druggy pen on my way to the bathroom to drop my morning deuce.
I sat on the loo for a while, reading emails and letting the Pure PlayStation team know that I am in fact alive and well, and that I haven’t sold any of my organs or my anal virginity to pay off a gambling debt. Not yet, at least.
The vape pen is a monster. It’s not like a regular joint where you can see how much you’ve consumed. It’s very easy to just sit and suck until you find yourself dribbling like a bag of kittens. That’s what happened to me. I was sat on the toilet, wondering why I was feeling super monged out.
I regained my composure, jumped in the shower, and the day began a-fresh.
I headed down to the ground floor of the casino in search of breakfast. I’d done my research, and my research told me that there was a McDonald’s on-site, but I couldn’t for the life of me find it. They really do make the casinos like inescapable mazes. I circled the floor twice – taking a rest at a slot machine that cost me another $20 – before I noticed the elevators going up to the retail zone and food courts.
Despite it being peak breakfast time, McDonald’s was not very busy at all. I queued for a couple of minutes, gazing at the board to see what was available here in America. Back in Germany, McDonald’s breakfast is tragic, truly. In America, however, it is like a god damn buffet! I ordered a big pancake breakfast that came with large pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, a hash brown and a coffee, plus butter and syrup to really make sure my heart gets a good workout at 8am in the morning.
I sat down with my tray of food in awe. I was surely going to miss this once I was back home in Germany, but I didn’t dwell on it. I sat and ate my breakfast with the munchies in full swing. I was still high as shit and I imagine it showed quite clearly on my unshaven face that was sporting a hobo-style five-day beard. I didn’t look great. But in my mind I was George Clooney taking a breakfast break in between Las Vegas heists.
Full from my heart-slaying breakfast, I was sleepy and decided I’d take a nap before venturing out into the otherworldly heat. It was still only 8am so there wasn’t any rush to get out and about. I’d go back to my room, take a quick nap to refresh myself and then make a move down the strip to break the bank.
On my way back to the elevator’s that would take me to my room I spotted an automatic roulette table. So instead of some stiff dealer lobbing the ball into the spinning wheel, it was all automated. Players sat around the the wheel at little touchscreens where they could place their bets. Not quite the traditional experience I was hoping for, but I guess it’s more efficient and economically viable than a regular table game.
I decided I’d see if I could get a good luck streak going early so I took my seat, fed the machine $50 and simply watched my neighbours for a few minutes. One man was clearly in distress as he was losing time after time. He swore loudly each time the little white ball failed to land on his chosen numbers. Eventually he left in a bit of a strop, muttering profanities as he walked away lighting a cigarette.
I watched everyone else intently to see what the mood was and if anyone was down for a few jokes. Nobody was. It was still early morning, mind you, and some of these people looked as if they’d been sat here all night. Every eye had a bag underneath it and the two ladies who were playing both looked a little worse for wear with their hair strained from a night of smoky fingers being run through them.
A cocktail waitress passed by and asked if we’d like any drinks. I was a little taken aback when everyone else ordered various cocktails and mixtures. Do all of society’s rules just fuck off out the window here? Is there no decorum?
“Can I have a whiskey and coke please,” I asked politely.
“Sure, honey,” the lady said as she jotted down my request.
Fuck. When in Vegas.
I started playing with small bets. A few wins and a whiskey later – I gave the waitress a $3 tip, which was precisely $3 more than everyone else did – I was feeling strong. I’d doubled my $50 and I was now sat on a bankroll of around $100. A smart person would cash out and run to the cage to collect their winnings. But really, was I going to run away with an extra $50 in my pocket? I didn’t travel all this way to win such a meagre amount. No, I wanted more! And that, my dears, is how the casinos take your money and build new hotels.
I was soon up to $150. The ball was landing where I needed it to, most of the time, and I was having a lot more luck than my fellow players, a few of which had resigned and were replaced by fresh-faced gamblers. I decided enough was enough. I hit the button and watched my token crawl out of the machine. This token was worth around $150 dollars. I didn’t cash it straight away, instead tucking it into my bulging wallet among my real money; the winning tickets can be used as credit to play any other game within the casino, so I thought I’d save it for later.
A little tipsy and worse for wear, I stumbled towards the North Tower lifts and ascended towards my room. I opened the door, kicked my boots off and fell backwards onto the bed and straight into a deep sleep.
I hadn’t set any alarms on my phone and ended up sleeping until 3 in the afternoon. Madness! Hey, at least I was getting some use of the room and its excellent air-con. But I woke up, yet again, with a stomach full of nothing. I was hungry again and needed to eat.
A quick brush of the teeth, a cheeky suck on the vape, and a quick elevator ride down to the ground floor, and I was stood outside the casino’s buffet. Game. Fucking. On.
I approached the lady at the desk and said I was here for the buffet.
“For one?” She asked.
Stupid question, really, as there wasn’t a single person within sight of me.
I paid the $24, took my receipt and got shown to my table. My server came over and asked if I’d like anything to drink, so I went with the safe option of a Pepsi. I sat and waited for my drink, observing the chompers sat around me. Not because I have a fetish for watching people eat – I hate the sound of it, remember? – but more to see what everyone else had stuffed onto their plates. They were amateurs. All of them.
I saw one guy who, given his size, should have known better than to stuff his plate full of carbs so early on. He had rice and pasta on the same plate with a side of southern fried chicken and a few potatoes.
What got a chuckle from me was the kid who must have been around 10-11 years of age, with a plate stacked with sweet treats. This guy knew what he was doing. He was a skinny lad so he obviously didn’t have the capacity to pace himself like all great buffet-eers, but he was still taking the house for a ride. I watched him stuff cake after cake into his face, gleefully grinning as his mother protested. His father didn’t seem to care as he was too involved in munching his noodles.
I took a few sips of my coke and then collected a plate and did a round of the buffet. I looked at everything without touching. I wanted to see the full spectrum of what I had to work with. There was everything one could want, from fried chicken, boiled rice, mash potato, bacon, noodles, pasta, ribs, chicken wings, spring rolls, and much more, including deserts.
I did my round and then began on round one. I got a couple of ribs, a piece of fried chicken and some rice to start things off. I wouldn’t ordinarily put rice on the first round, but it looked so good and I fancied it, so I broke my own rules. When in Vegas…
Back at my table I began to eat my munch, slowly and deliberately. The trick is to chew your food very well and eat it slowly, otherwise you’ll fill up quickly and won’t have room for everything else. Ten minutes later and I was done. I set my plate down, headed towards the dishing area and retrieved a fresh plate. This time I grabbed a bunch of noodles, some chicken wings, a spring roll and a fortune cookie. Yes, my battle plan had gone out the window and I would now be forced to win by sheer will power alone.
Round three, which I forgot to picture, was a stacked plate of fried chicken, more ribs, some bacon, some scrambled eggs, and a couple of other bits that took my fancy. It was a disgusting plate to look at, but it was easily worth it.
Round four and I was sweating. But again I made the walk over to the dishing area, grabbed a new plate and then headed towards the deserts. That little shit from earlier had cleared them out! There was barely anything left. A few sad looking danish pastries were sweating under the lights. A few questionable looking cookies were left untouched. I decided on a trio of deserts: a piece of carrot cake, an apple pie, and a cheesecake. Now that might make me sound like a fat shit but they were actually really small portions, and once I’d finished them – they were actually all delicious – I conceded. I swigged the last of my Pepsi and then left the battleground. I don’t think I’d done as well as I’d hoped, but I looked back at the remaining soldiers and smiled as a very large lady was turning her plate into her personal KFC bucket. What a warrior.
I wandered the casino for a while, dropping $10s into random machines, and then it hit me: the belly gurgles. I knew what was coming. I dashed back to the lifts and made a beeline for the toilet once I got to my room. I was pissing out of my arse! Yep, I definitely lost this round to the buffet.
Once the evacuation of my colon was complete, I took another shower, brushed my teeth again, and then decided on getting my arse down to the other casinos on the strip.
I Googled the surrounding area and the distance between my hotel and the rest on the strip. Which one would I clean out first? Which poor casino manager was going to watch me break the bank, time after time? I decided on Caesar’s as my first target.
Google Maps said that it would take around 40 minutes to get there on foot from my hotel, so I decided I’d take the bus instead. I could have gone for an Uber, but I’d already paid out a fortune to those bastards. Besides, the bus was relatively cheap and I got a three-day ticket for $20. The buses are really handy, too, as they go every 10-15 minutes during the day, and then every 15-20 minutes after a certain time of night.
I hopped on the bus and headed towards the back where a few seats were still empty. It was a really nice ride, too. The bus had amazing air-con and by taking the bus I’d see all the sights. It still took a good 20 minutes to get to Caesar’s, but it was more comfortable than walking and cheaper than an Uber, so it’s a victory in my book.
And there I was, stood in front of the famous landmark, the sun beating down my neck and the warm air choking my poor lungs. I made my way towards the grand doors and let myself in. I was gob-smacked. The air-con was even better here and it was much more lively than the casino at my hotel. I could hear the rapturous cheers of players who were enjoying a good run at the table games. The odd smell of perfume wafted up my noses, presumably fed through the air system to dull the smell of smoke, sweat and everything else. It was an overload for the senses. Slot machines whirred and wheeled as their occupants sat tapping their buttons monotonously.
I wandered around the casino floor for a little while, seeing what games were available. I ended up in the toilets before long, not out of necessity, but because I’d just wandered towards them.
I spotted another automatic roulette game with an empty seat, so I took my place and fed my cash into it. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to use my ticket from The Strat, so I played it safe. And played it as $100. I was in the mood for it.
I started small, placing bets wherever took my fancy. I wasn’t doing so well. I looked over at my neighbour who was having a great run of luck. I looked at his screen and his bankroll showed he had over $800 to play with.
“You’re doing well, mate” I said with a laugh.
The guy was a short Chinese fella with only one hand and one leg. He looked a little shifty with his cap pulled down low and his twitchy demeanour, but he turned out to be a decent guy.
A nice waitress came over and asked everyone if they’d like something to drink. I ordered a whiskey and coke and, much to my surprise, the waitress then asked me for ID. I don’t look a day under 30, despite only having turned 29 in July 2019. I showed her my ID and she was satisfied. The Chinese guy, however, didn’t get such an easy ride. He showed his ID and then she started to question him.
“Date of birth?” She inquired.
I can’t remember exactly what he said, but I do remember the lady saying “oh, you look so young!” and then him pulling off his cap to reveal his mostly receeded hairline while exclaiming “class of 88,” which, it turned out, was the same year the nice lady also graduated school. That would put her in her 40s. I still would.
She returned a few minutes later with a tray of drinks and, once again, nobody bothered to tip her. I reached into my wallet to hand her a few one dollar notes, but instead pulled out a couple of tens. I only realised my mistake once I put them on the tray and the waitress started gushing on me, saying how kind that was.
“No problem,” I said sheepishly, before finishing with a cheeky “don’t let my drink sit empty for too long though.”
The lady did not let me go dry. Before I could even finish my current drink she was back around with another one, this time without asking the rest of the players if they wanted a drink. Ha, that’s what you get when you don’t tip! Like, who doesn’t tip?
Wages in America aren’t great and a lot of people working in the service industry rely on tips from customers to get them to the minimum hourly wage. The laws surrounding minimum wage are at best sketchy, and at worst non-existent, depending where in the country you are. As a visitor, I saw it as my duty to do a little good and not just line the pockets of the casinos. I’d leave change wherever I went, and tip whoever served me, even for the littlest things. Nothing mind blowing, mind you, but enough that if half the people the employees deal with on that day were to tip the same, that employee would go home happy.
The Chinese guy was losing money, and as I was basically copying him, that meant I was losing just as fast as he was, but I had less to play with so I lost mine a lot quicker. Like a chump, I pulled out another $300 and put it back into the machine. This is called chasing your losses, and it’s a race you’ll very rarely win. I lost, and quickly. Desperate to get back to my winning ways, I put large bets on without much thought to it. I was quickly down to $0 and decided I’d walk away before wasting any more of my cash. It’s OK. The game was obviously rigged. Obviously. No joke, I actually heard a couple of people saying such things. Of course the game’s are rigged, but only by the Laws of Large Numbers. There isn’t a little midget sat inside each machine deciding who wins and loses. It’s called statistics and it’s the reason the house will always win.
I mourned the loss of my money by going over the street to the famous Flamingo hotel and casino. It was here that I found a bar with some tabletop gambling games, such as Blackjack and video poker. I stuffed $10 into the machine and decided on Blackjack. The barman asked me what I wanted to drink, and so I ordered a whiskey.
“Are you playing,” he asked as he handed me my drink.
“Yeah, Blackjack. Not winning though,” I replied glumly as I pulled my wallet out ready to pay.
“Nah, you don’t need to pay if you’re playing. On the house,” he said, waving my wallet away.
Sweeeeeeeet. Right, so now I was on free drinks. Here we bloody go. I downed my drink as fast as I could and then asked for another. The guy laughed and kindly obliged. This one I took a little slower while I tried – and failed – to win some money on the video Blackjack. Three drinks later and I was feeling quite lively. A group of young American fellas were sat along the bar beside me, each of them drinking and playing video poker while discussing their plans and activities.
I listened in and then asked the guy closest to me to pass the ashtray for my cigarette. He passed it over and then asked if I was from England.
“The accent gives it away, right?” I answered.
“Nah brah, I had no idea!” He half-shouted. He was quite drunk.
It turned out he was also taking the piss and had indeed noticed my accent. We joked for a couple of minutes before his buddies insisted they go to the sports book to do some betting. So now the four seats to my right on the bar were completely free. Felt a little lonely, honestly, but I drank my drink and played my game in peace. And then I saw him: My hero.
A guy in his mid-20s casually strolled over to the bar and took a seat directly in front of the barman who was busy cutting lemons. He seemed to make a point of putting his note very visibly into the machine before asking the barman for a drink. The barman took his request and handed him a bottle of beer with no payment necessary as he was playing at the bar. A few taps on the game’s buttons and My Hero was up out of his seat an away into the sea of slots. Then I realised he’d just hustled himself a nice cheap drink for $1. What a legend. A true master of the arts. And a bit of a scruff. I laughed as I watched the barman tell his colleague what had happened, and then mentally kicked myself for not thinking of it myself; I wasn’t exactly winning on the video blackjack.
I sat a while longer, enjoying the refreshing air-con and whiskey combo, pouring a couple of dollars into the machine every now and again just to stave off the boredom.
I headed back outside to have a suck on my vape pen. Despite having drunk half a dozen whiskey cokes, I was feeling far too sober. I needed to liven up a little bit. I took the escalator to one of the street bridges that connects one side of the road to the other. I stood in the middle and admired the view. It may be a city full of losers and idiots, but it was still beautiful in its own way. I stood looking out down the strip for a while, secretly consuming my drugs. I needn’t have hid it, though, as many were walking around openly smoking. I could have sat on the floor with a bong and I don’t think anyone would have batted an eye.
Once I was adequately inebriated, I decided I’d go back to Caesars and play a little more. This time I wanted to get onto the table games, not the automated shite.
Back inside Caesar’s casino, I made a beeline for the first table I could find. It was roulette. My favourite. I stepped up, swapped $200 for chips and placed my first bet, spreading $50 across 10 numbers. The dealer closed the bets and the ball whizzed around the wheel. A nerve wrecking few moments later and I had won my money back, plus a little more.
“Anything to drink, honey?” Asked a familiar voice.
It was the waitress from earlier! Before I could even say the words she was jotting down what I wanted. I thanked her and turned back to the table. For around half an hour I played, winning more than losing. I was a good couple of hundred dollars up, and my drink never ran dry. I was a bit of a state by the time I decided to bail out on roulette after a bad run of number. I stumbled through the crowds towards another game that involved throwing dice. I was intrigued. I stepped up and watched for a few minutes to see if I could suss out the rules. Sober, I probably could, but I was shit-faced and high, so I had no idea what was going on. I played anyway, placing my chips wherever the more experienced money men were placing theirs. It paid off for a while. This was craps.
In craps, everyone around the table gets a go at throwing the dice. Once you are the dice thrower, you are the “shooter” and everyone will blame you for their bad luck if you throw the wrong numbers. Nobody cares that it’s statistics and not skill, but that didn’t stop some grump old man berating me for failing him. One guy, however, walked away with over $500 dollars on my throw. I won nothing… Not even a pity prize or a participation chip. At least the drinks were regular.
Once the waitress came by again, I dropped another generous tip on her tray and told her I was going elsewhere. She looked a little sad to see her golden goose leave, but she wished me a great stay in Las Vegas and that I’m welcome back to Caesar’s anytime. Thanks, I guess. Does she secretly own the place or something? I wondered, as I walked back out into the dry outside air, if she would remember me when I return in 2020. I mooched down to the bus stop and waited for the bus to take me back up to The Strat. It was quite late by now and this was my last night in Vegas. I got back to The Strat and went inside to smoke a cig in the air-conditioned casino. This was to be my last night. Should I go to bed and have a decent night’s sleep before having to check out at 11am the next morning, or do I go out with a bang and make it a night to remember? I contemplated for a while as I watched the old ladies tapping away on the slots, all of them hoping to either make enough money to leave to their grankids, or enough money to leave the care of their grandkids. Who knows. Why were these people even gambling?
I tallied up my wins and losses in my head and came to the drunken conclusion that I didn’t really want to know how much money I’d thrown at games of chance. Back in my regular life I’m cold and calculated. I look at everything through the lens of logic, so to be here in Sin City taking chances on games that I knew were out of my control and stacked against me was strange. It had been a weird week, to be fair, and with that thought I decided I can’t stop the train just yet. I’ll have a good night and something to remember, and hopefully a reason to want to come back after E3 2020.
I headed outside to smoke the joint I had pre-rolled in my room that morning. As I stood outside, openly breaking Clark County law, this black guy came over to borrow a light. I obliged and we engaged in a bit of small talk. I asked if he had been gambling and winning.
“Nah, man, I don’t do that shit. I’m from here,” he said with a dry laugh. Then he said something that threw me for six.
“Hey, man, you looking for some party favours?” His voice a little lower than before.
“What are party favours?” I asked, stupidly.
“Coke, X, whatever you need, man.” He said in hushed tones.
I thought about it for a moment. I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve dabbled in narcotics in my time. I’m a big believer in trying everything at least once. You only live one life, after all, and the thought of not doing something scares me than the potential consequences of doing it. Still, I had to be sensible. I was lone in this strange city, thousands of miles away from home and with no friends to back me up or see me safely to my room should I get too fucked up.
“Nah, I’m alright, mate. I don’t really do drugs. Not my thing,” I half-lied as I stood there smoking a pure weed joint. Oh the irony.
I got halfway through my doob before the dry mouth took over and I started gagging on every toke. It didn’t help that the air was so dry and hot. I offered the rest of my joint to my new friend and he was happy to take it off my hands. He thanked me, shook my hand, and then carried on down the street, no doubt looking to help out tourists and their parties.
Now, from here, things get a little hazy. I actually don’t remember what I did for the rest of the night. I know that I got an Uber back down to the strip. I know from my bank statement I took money out at Hooters Casino and Hotel. I’m guessing I lost it there, too. I know I went back to the Flamingo as I have the bank statement to prove it, and I know I ended up back at Caesar’s, because I still have a winning ticket worth all of 77 cents. Hey, a win is a win. I didn’t do a great job at taking pictures. I took some, but they were mostly of my feet, the back of strangers’ heads, and one of a toilet. Not great documentation, then.
I know that after I was done on the Strip I got another Uber back up to Fremont Street where I took out more money at The Golden Nugget casino. I must have done alright here because when I woke up in my hotel room, fully dressed and feeling like shit, my pockets were stuffed with cash.
According to my ride history on Uber, I got back to my hotel at around 5.30AM, but the WhatsApp messages I wrote to my friends were timestamped for 6.14AM and again at 6.17AM as I sent drunken voice messages. I’m guessing it was after these little rants that I passed out on my bed and woke up to an alarm set on my phone for 10.30AM.
A good night, then. Hey, the fact I can account for my whereabouts is a significant improvement over a lot of my past adventures. One night out in Cardiff ended with me sleeping on the floor of a stranger’s house, naked, with no idea how I got there. This was definitely an improvement. I even had my boots on!
I sat up on the edge of the bed, my head thumping like a drum. I had a little less than half an hour to get my shit packed, get showered and presentable, and then be out of the room. I didn’t want to get stung by a late check-out charge so I took a few hits on my vape pen to get my head straight and then got to work. I jumped in the shower for five minutes, drinking as much of the water as I could.
I got out and got myself dressed and then packed my bag as quickly and as efficiently as possible. I decided to leave behind all of my spare boxers and socks and a shirt to reduce the weight of my bag. I still had the entire day before my flight back to Los Angeles, so that meant I’d be lugging my bag around for another nine hours before getting on a plane.
With five minutes to spare I had everything packed and accounted for. The room was a bit of a mess so I left a $10 on the side next to the TV. Whoever got to clean this room was at least going to be paid well for it.
I made my way down to the ground floor. I needed breakfast so I went back to the on-site McDonalds. This time I opted for a sausage biscuit (I actually really like them!) and a bacon, egg and cheese muffin with a large coffee. I knew this was all going to come back out the other end within the hour, but it filled my hole for a little while at least and allowed me time to sit and plan out the rest of my day. I actually hadn’t thought about what I would do on my last day in Vegas. It’s a bit anti-climatic when you know you can’t have too much fun because you need to be at the airport at a certain time.
I decided I’d walk from my hotel on the North end of The Strip down to the others. It was a long journey and by the time I had crossed the casino floor to the doors leading outside, I was tired. I got the bus instead, putting my three-day ticket to good use. That’s what a giant hangover will do to a man.
I spent much of the day just mooching around the middle area of The Strip, going back to the casinos I had explored the night before. I didn’t see my favourite waitress in Caesar’s, unfortunately, and I didn’t have any big wins either. Of course I gambled. What else is there to do?
I ate dinner at one of the restaurants at Caesar’s and then headed to the airport via an Uber. I was a couple of hours early but better early than stranded in the desert.
Before going into the airport I realised I still had my weed vape in my pocket and that little sucker still had some juice in it. Seriously good value! I stood outside for around 15 minutes, constantly sucking on it until, finally, the taste went away and the vape was dead. I looked at the sweet little bit of kit in my hands and thanked it for its service. It had served me well this weekend and I couldn’t have asked for a better companion. We’d been through so much together, it was a shame I’d have to leave him behind. I thought about trying to take it with me back to Los Angeles and then back to Germany, and then decided that was a bad idea. Even though it was empty and could no longer deliver that THC goodness, it was still drug paraphernalia and would no doubt be confiscated while I get fingers rammed up my arse.
I walked over to the bin, teary-eyed. He deserved better than this. This was a paupers funeral for a prince. I dropped him into the rubbish and then walked away, genuinely feeling sad. I think that thing had a bigger effect on me than I realised…
I got myself inside the airport, checked-in and then went through security. It was past here I realised that there were no smoking areas available. I still had a couple of hours until my flight was due to board. What to do? Luckily, I found a smoking area, but it was a smoking area with a twist. It was a mini-casino inside the airport, and inside this area you were allowed to smoke. I say “mini-casino” when actually it was just a room with some slot machines and video poker and video roulette machines lining the walls. Far from the fabulous glam of an actual casino. Still, you were allowed to smoke in there, but you had to be playing.
So, once again, I was feeding money into games of chance, but this time my reward was being allowed to sit inside a smoking area.
After I consumed more cigarettes than I care to admit, I decided to cash out my winnings ($40!) and go and buy something from the tourist trap gift shop. I ended up with a cool Las Vegas t-shirt, a key ring, and a mini one-armed-bandit. They all tucked quite nicely into my bag, too, thanks to me leaving some clothes behind in my hotel room. I wonder if the cleaner took them and decided to keep them? Is there a guy wandering around Las Vegas dressed like me? Maybe.
It was half an hour until boarding so I got myself sat down at the gate and waited for us to be called to our plane. The call didn’t come. Instead, we were informed that our plane was delayed by 90 minutes. What the actual shit? This would mean I wouldn’t get back into Los Angeles until around 12.30AM. Why is that a problem? Because I had booked a hotel near the airport so I could get some sleep before my flight the following day which was due to leave at 8.40AM, which meant I’d need to be at the airport for around 6AM.
A short flight later and I was back in LA. I can’t say I was too pleased, really. I ordered an Uber which took forever to get to me, so by the time I actually got to my hotel – a Holiday Inn half a mile from the airport – it was 1.30AM. I’d be checking out in just a few short hours. This hotel reservation had cost me $119. I was not happy.
Before going in I stood out at the smoking area to smoke a cig and message my friends to tell them of my poor fortune. While I stood there smoking, I noticed a scruffy white guy walking around, eyes fixated on the floor. No doubt he was looking for dropped change. He noticed me and then came over. Oh great, I thought, someone else who wants something from me.
“Hey brother, you got a light?” He asked me as he rummaged through the ashtray on top of the bin, picking out the best discarded cigs.
“Er, yeah, sure,” I said as I handed him my least favourite lighter. I always carry two, and my nice one is reserved for me, not strangers.
“Thanks brother. Hey, are they Justin’s?” He asked, pointing towards my boots.
“No. They’re mine,” I answered, wondering if this was part of a con to try to mug me for my boots. Would he claim they were his friend Justin’s boots and that he was going to take them by force? Would he ram a knife into my neck and then take my boots? Maybe shoot me between the eyes?
“Nah, man, I mean the brand, Justin’s,” he said with a laugh.
I chuckled and explained that they are Clark’s boots. He complimented my boots and continued scrounging thrown cigarette butts, himself discarding the ones that weren’t viable to smoke. I felt sorry for him. He was probably around my age, give or take a couple of years. His shoes were worn and he was wearing dirty shorts and a t-shirt, though I noted he had at least a couple of other pieces of clothing in the plastic bag he was toting around with him.
One of the hotel security guards soon came over and told him to move on his way. Before the guard could usher him off, I pulled out my half-empty pack of cigarettes and a few notes and coins that were littering my pockets and handed them to the poor guy. He was grateful and wished me a good night as the security guard watched him off the property.
I stood and smoked another cigarette and couldn’t help but think about the poor fella who I had named Justin in my head, named after his love of my Justin’s lookalike boots. I looked up at my hotel and wondered how many rooms were empty that night, rooms that could be used by people like Justin. Sometimes that’s all it takes for someone to get back on the right track. A couple of nights in clean, dry environment where they can get themselves clean and together, and they could easily walk into a job interview and have their life turned around within a week.
I stumped my cig out, leaving half unsmoked for Justin’s next visit to this bin, and then headed into the hotel towards the reception.
“Hello, I had a booking, the name is Chris Harding,” I said sleepily to the lady.
She spent a couple of minutes looking for my booking and then took my credit card details. She pointed me in the direction of the elevators and wished my a good night. Little did she know that she’d be seeing me again just a couple of hours…
I got to my room and instantly stripped naked. It seems to be my thing now. Get to a new place, get naked. I was aware that I only had two shirts left in my possession and they were both a little worse for wear. I checked my room out. I had a nice big bed, the kind I had reserved in Vegas but had not received. A large TV, a bath and a shower with complimentary soaps and shampoo, and an ironing board and iron. Yes! Victory!
I took my dirty shirts and gave them a rinse in some soapy water. They weren’t dirty, they just smelled a little whiffy. After a ten minutes wash in the sink they were as good as clean. I hung them on the back of the chair that was in my room and then directed them at the air-con system that I’d turned to full blast cold.
By this point I only had a couple of hours until I’d need to be up and out on my way to the airport. Do I risk getting a bit of sleep and oversleeping? I was so very tired. However, I also know what I’m like when I’m so tired. I could easily sleep through numerous alarms. Best not to risk it. Instead I lay on the bed, balls out, with Netflix on my phone and a dozen alarms set, just in case I nodded off.
I didn’t fall asleep and with half an hour to go until I needed to be on my way to the airport, I started packing things again. My shirts were nice and dry, though a little on the cool, side. I stowed one into my backpack and kept the other out to wear, along with my new Las Vegas t-shirt. Seems daft to wear two layers, no? The plan was to take my shirt off once on the plane and just be in a t-shirt. Forward thinking, despite being absolutely exhausted.
I pulled out the iron and ironing board and got to work removing the creases and wrinkles from my shirt. It smelled great and I was quite pleased with myself once I finished ironing. I looked half decent, hobo beard aside. I quickly tidied the room and then made my way down to the reception desk downstairs.
“Morning, I’m checking out,” I said with a stupid smile on my face. The absurdity was funny, if frustrating. It was going to get much worse later, though.
“Didn’t I just check you in earlier?” The receptionist asked, puzzled.
I explained that I was supposed to be there earlier and that my flight had been delayed from Vegas and it took a long time to get a ride to the hotel, and that I had to leave early for a flight back to Germany. She looked at me with pity as I obviously looked very, very tired. I’d caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror before I left my room, and were it not for my clean clothes, I wouldn’t have looked out of place on Skid Row.
I ordered an Uber and then waited outside in the smoking area, wondering where Justin was now and what he was up to. Did he spend that cash on food, or had he taken it to a dealer and got himself something to help him sleep. Who knows.
My Uber arrived and I nodded off in the backseat for the duration of the journey. I woke up once we got to LAX due to disgruntled drivers beating the shit out of their horns. Even at this time of the morning, LAX is alive and kicking with cars blaring, travellers scurrying around, and loved ones holding up the traffic to say their goodbyes. Just send a damn text and move on.
I was here nice and early. No way was I going to miss this flight. That was my greatest fear, really, being the wanderer that I am. I got myself inside and had to check-in at a kiosk because the app on my phone apparently didn’t want to give me a boarding pass. Technology is wonderful, only when it works.
I got my paper ticket, folded it in half and tucked it into my wallet for safekeeping. I spent an hour moseying around the airport, ducking in and out for smokes and snacks. I eventually made my way to security to get through to the other side. I always wait a little while because, for the most part, airports don’t have smoking areas, and sitting around waiting for hours without a cig is basically torture for us addicts.
Once through security I trotted to my gate, found a seat and sat my arse down. I was exhausted. By this point I had only slept a few minutes in the back of a car over the last 22 hours. I still had another 3 hours before my flight was due to board, so maybe I’d be able to sit in peace and close my eyes for a little while. Nope. It wasn’t to be. A group of teenage girls came over to the area I was sitting. The spoke loudly and excitedly. I barely caught a word of what they were talking about. I wished they’d go away. 45 minutes later my wish came true and they scurried away to their flight. I still couldn’t sleep and my legs were getting restless from the uncomfortable sitting position. I decided to get up and go for a wander. No harm can come from that, right? I still had a couple of hours until my flight, so there wasn’t much to worry about.
I had a look around a few of the shops and then remembered that I hadn’t eaten breakfast. There was a Dunkin Donuts with a lot of people queuing up. Did Americans really stand in line for donuts at this time of the morning? Are they that good? I soon realised that I’m an uncultured buffoon and that DD sell more than just donuts. I joined the line and picked out a Turkey and Cheese sandwich from the cooler. The price? $11.99. Robbery. It was only once the line moved forward that I was able to see the full menu of goods on offer, including breakfast bagels that were reasonably priced. Rather than lose my place in line (and some pride) I decided to keep the expensive sandwich in my hand and buy it anyway. I had a whole load of American money that needed to be spent anyway, so what’s a little waste?
My turn came and I ordered a breakfast bagel that included sausage and egg and cheese. I wasn’t very optimistic but once my order was ready, along with a coffee, I was pleasantly surprised. It was huge! I stuffed the sandwich into my bag with the intention of binning it at some point later, or only eating it in an emergency. I sat down with my breakfast and carefully nibbled away. It was, hands down, one of the best breakfasts of my life. That’s a little pathetic, I know, but breakfast is usually skipped in my normal life, so the bar was pretty low anyway.
I spent the next couple of hours watching Netflix on my phone while it charged. American Netflix, mind you, not the shite we have in Germany. I managed to watch a couple of episodes of The Office and a bit of Avengers: Infinity War before my phone’s alarm signalled that I had half and hour to get to the boarding gate. I wandered back to my gate and stood around looking at the departure boards. My flight was going to be on time. Brilliant. In 4-sh hours I’d be in Dallas Fort Worth airport. In 14-ish hours, I’d be back in Germany. In 18-ish hours I’d be back at home and into my bed. In 24 hours, I’d be back at work in the shoe shop.
Fuck my life.
Shortly before boarding the airline employee explained that we would be called to the plane in groups, so we should note our seat number and then come when your group is called. I looked down at my ticket and realised there wasn’t a seat number. I did have a seat reserved – I’d paid extra to have a window seat of my choosing. I walked up to the desk and got the lady’s attention.
“Excuse me, um, my ticket doesn’t have a seat number on it. I’ve paid for a seat specifically, so I know what the number should be.”
This bitch was rude.
“Sir, stand back and I’ll call you when it is your turn to board.”
Had she even listened to the words that came out of my mouth? Was I slipping back into German without realising it? I tried again.
“That’s the point, I won’t be called because the ticket that I had to print out this morning doesn’t have a seat number,” I explained.
She looked at me as she picked up the phone and started dialling. She didn’t say anything and I wondered if she was calling security. I hadn’t raised my voice or slammed on the desk. I was far too tired for any proper confrontation.
She spoke in a hurry on the phone and then answered me.
“Look, can you stand to the side for a few minutes and then my colleague will help you.”
I took my place to the side and another guy stepped forward from behind me. Listening in, I heard that he also had the same problem that I did and, again, the lady was rude and ordered him to wait to the side.
A few minutes later and a flustered an joined the rude lady behind the desk. People were already standing and getting ready to board. The man picked up a radio thingy that made his voice come over the speakers.
“Good morning, we are overbooked on this flight and we are looking for volunteers to take a later flight in exchange for vouchers. If you would like to volunteer, please come to the desk now.”
I didn’t move. There was no way I was going to volunteer to take a later flight. The flight I was booked for was to take me to Dallas Fort Worth airport where I’d get on a connecting flight to Frankfurt, Germany. I only had an couple of hours layover in DFW so, no, vouchers are worth shit to me.
A couple of people did come forward and give up their place on the plane. Idiots. Once the man was free, I went up to him and explained my situation with my ticket and there being no seat number. Again, I was told to wait by the side. Then they started boarding people. I looked on as just 10 feet away people were going through the doors that lead to the plane. I stood patiently waiting for the lady to instruct me to follow a group through. She didn’t. She ushered group after group through the door and then, to my absolute fucking horror, she went through the door and closed it behind her. What the actual Jeff shit? I stood in amazement and terror for a moment. Did this mean I wouldn’t be getting on the flight? Did I fuck up, or did they? I decided there and then that this was not my fault. I was the first fucker here!
A couple of minutes later and the lady reappeared. I immediately confronted her.
“So, is it my turn to go on the plane now?”
She looked at me and then her face dropped.
“No, the plane is ready to take off, nobody can go through those doors. Were you supposed to be on this flight?”
I lost my shit. I’m not proud of it, but I genuinely lost my temper and felt like flooring this stupid woman.
“Are you fucking kidding me? I’ve been here since 5AM. I told you about my fucking ticket earlier and then you told me to stand to the side. You even looked at me as you got other people on the fucking plane,” I said, each word louder than the last. I was going to have a fucking aneurysm at this rate.
Her male colleague came over. He didn’t help the situation at all.
“Look, sir, nobody else is getting on that plane right now.”
I looked at him, I looked at her. My fists were clenched. Maybe I could knock them both out with one good swing?
“Right. So my seat, which I have paid for, is now empty. Great. Did it not occur to you that there was a missing passenger?”
“No, your seat isn’t empty. The plane is full.”
“So you’ve given my seat to some other cunt, then, right? Is that what you’re telling me?”
Both of them were shocked at my casual dropping of the c-bomb. I didn’t care. I’d scream it if it made me feel better.
“Sir, you need to go to the customer service desk for rebooking,” the man said, trying to keep his voice level, but faltering towards the end. I’d scared him a little bit, I think, or he was somehow angry? Not that he’d have any right to be. His day wasn’t being fucked up backwards due to idiocy.
I turned on the spot and shouted one last hearty “CUNTS!” before marching towards the rebooking area. It was packed. There was easily another 50 other travellers. Great. More waiting. I stood at the back of the sickeningly long line and pulled my phone out. I sent my shoe store employees a message saying that I was stranded in LAX because some idiot couldn’t do their job, and I wasn’t going to be making it into work until a day later at best.
Then I heard it.
“Could Mr. Christopher Harding please return to Gate 38C. Mr. Christopher Harding to Gate 38C.”
No. Fucking. Way. Could it be that I, Mr. Christopher Harding, was about to be put on my flight? My heart skipped as I raced back towards the cunts I’d called cunts just a few minutes ago. I marched up to the desk.
“You called for me,” I said.
The man and woman looked at me and then at each other before the woman started speaking.
“I’m very sorry, this was my fault. But why didn’t you follow me through?” she asked.
“Because it’s an airport. There are security measures. Your police carry guns. I’m not risking putting a foot in the wrong place here. You should have told me to go onto the plane when it was my turn,” I retorted, but calmly this time. Raising my voice wasn’t going to get me anywhere. Raising it enough might get me into the on-site jail, and then I’d be truly buggered.
“OK, look, the flight has departed but we can see if we can put you on another flight later today,” the lady explained.
I looked at her for a moment and then remembered that people are people and we all make mistakes. Hell, I’ve made bigger and badder ones that have costs people a lot more than a few hours in an airport. I apologised and explained that I was really tired and that I’m not normally so horrible. I forgave her and she said it was OK.
She tapped away on the computer as her colleague asked what he should do for vouchers. Oh daym. I was going to get vouchers? Sweet! Maybe this wasn’t a total disaster after all. I listened intently as they muttered to each others, and then I heard “$1200” and almost pissed myself. They were going to give me $1200 in vouchers? What kind of vouchers, I wondered. I wondered only for a moment as the man explained that I would get $1200 vouchers for future flights and that there were valid for 12 months from that day. OK, not amazing but hey, that’s next year’s flights booked!
I found out after finally getting home that the vouchers are a crock of shit. There are many terms and conditions, one of which is that they’re only valid for flights originating within America. So, yeah, I wouldn’t be flying from Germany to E3 2020 on American Airlines’ voucher. It’s not the end of the world, though, as I’ve offered my dear Pure PlayStation colleagues the vouchers so they may fly for free to E3 2020. Back to the story.
After 15 minutes of tapping on the computer and picking up the phone, I was finally booked for a new flight. To Paris, France. And then I’d get a flight to Frankfurt. And I had to wait another five hours for my flight to France. Better than nothing…
I had my ticket in my hand and a new gate to get to in the International terminal. Good news, though, the Tom Brady International Terminal at LAX has a great big outdoor smoking area! Hooray!
The rest of the journey home was uneventful. I got my flight to France, but I got stuck with the aisle seat which meant I’d have to move whenever the other two passengers needed a piss. I’m also certain that I caught the flu on that flight. A few days after getting home I was basically knocking on death’s door and pissing through the letter box. I’d never had the flu so badly. And to think that I laughed at all the Asian people wearing face masks in the airport…
When I finally did get home, I’d been away for the better part of 36 hours. I hadn’t slept a wink on the plane (I can’t physically do it,) but had instead spent my time watching movies and getting shit-faced drunk on the free booze. After a while the attendants stop coming around, but I found that you’re allowed to just go and help yourself. I must have spent a couple of hours sitting in that area, giggling to myself as I tried every variety of mini-bottle booze.
I got home, got naked, got onto my bed, and then smiled myself to sleep. I had done it. It hadn’t been easy, but I’d done it. I’d ventured from Germany to Los Angeles, alone. I attended E3 2019, alone. I did some good work while I was there, too, and met some great people. Then I went to Las Vegas. I gambled, drank, consumed, and everything else you’d expect a twenty-something to do in Sin City. I had a fantastic time. Of course it was difficult and at times a little lonely, but I made the best of it and made it home in one piece, plus the flu.
Now every day on the drive to work, when I hear Brandon Flowers sing the line “have you ever seen the lights?” from the track Sams Town, I always answer out loud with a happy “YES! Yes I bloody have!”
Same again next year, then.