Saturday, June 29, 2013

BiSC III: Thursday (Day 1)

Now, I might be imagining things, but I could have sworn that when I woke up Thursday morning, I had a smile on my face. I'd be the first person to tell you that that is very likely physiologically impossible, but Vegas is where magic happens, so... let's just go with it.

I have this weird duality when I travel, wherein I absolutely abhor the idea of missing anything, and I want to be Doing Things all the time to make sure I realize the trip's full potential... but I also understand that I am on vacation and therefore there's no shame in resting, relaxing, and/or taking long, luxurious naps. Cognitive dissonance, thou art my best friend. The problem with the Doing All The Things mindset is that it is, simply put, exhausting. It sets you up for disappointment if you don't manage to do everything, and it raises your expectations for the outcome of the trip. If I had any regrets at all about this weekend, it was that I spent too much time Doing and not enough time Being. I threw myself into activities and while it was fun, I feel like I really missed out on the simple bonding and deep conversations that I was so very much craving. You can't win 'em all, as they say, and they're pretty much right.

This is all a roundabout way of saying that I decided to sleep in on Thursday while my three roomies went on an adventure, and while I knew it was the best thing for me in order to be able to function as the day went on, I was really kind of maybe sort of a lot jealous of their exploits. (This is a perfect example of Not Being Able to Win Them All.)

It's also worth noting that in that sleeping-in period, I had anxiety dreams about Pool Day, but we'll get to that more later.

I'll spare you the not-so-exciting play-by-play of checking out, checking our bags, and setting out to find the mysterious Reno Room up on the 3rd floor, home of the 2013 Registration Suite. Though, it is worth noting that the Flamingo was ready for us:

I got directions from the guy at the bell desk, and not to toot my own horn, but I'm pretty familiar with The Flamingo at this point - I mean, this was my fifth stay, I've seen a few things, is all I'm saying. So up we went on the mini escalators that everyone walks by without realizing it and wandered down and endless hallway because taking said mini escalators was NOT, in fact, the most efficient way to get there (cue fist-shaking at the bell desk guy) but eventually, we found it.

I never saw the Registration Suite in 2011, what with the being-stuck-at-the-Denver-Airport business, but in 2012, it was held in a conference room, complete with big table and it got real cozy real fast if you had more than ten people in the room. Which we often did. Plus luggage, because nobody wanted to check it when you could simply stash it. But walking into the Registration Suite this year, I knew that we had arrived. The room was huge - probably because it was the equivalent of two rooms. There were myriad tables with containers of cookies or other goodies as a centerpiece; there was the impossible-to-miss gift bag table, with balloons and a dazzling display of treats - namely, cheesecake pops that kind of looked like they had edible glitter on them, I don't even know. And our perennial favorite, Popchips. The gift bags, of course, were a point of interest, as they always are. They have been getting progressively bigger and better over the last couple years, and there was not one but two personalized items in them that we had each gotten to select ahead of time. Saying I was excited to dive into them would be an understatement. But, as always, that's another post.

The worst part of BiSC is farewell brunch, when everyone has to say goodbye. Conversely, the best part of BiSC is arrival time, when everyone gets to say hello. Hugs are doled out freely, oftentimes preceding any sort of actual introduction. There are squeals and bouncing and unintelligible murmurs of excitement and lots of gushing and, frankly, it reminds me a hell of a lot of when I was living in the dorms at Iowa State and everyone would be moving back in for the year.

One of last year's BiSCuits, Treavor, made an excellent point - at BiSC, there really aren't "cliques" so much as there are "comfort groups" - and he's right. Despite the fact that I want to meet everyone and want to become BFFs with everyone, I have always had a tendency to gravitate toward the same mini-group of people. I kind of latched on to them in 2011 when I was new and nervous because they included me and I was forever grateful, and I just became very comfortable with them. Over and over I would catch myself doing it, and I felt bad, but in the end: hanging out in a group of 60-some people is really effing intimidating. Even if you get along swimmingly. Even if everyone is super nice and accepting. Even if you want to hang out with everyone. It's a lot and it can be overwhelming. So I know I'm guilty of clinging to my safety group, and I feel bad about that.

For the most part, I recognized the majority of people from their bio pictures, or from their blog, or from facebook, or from wherever. For being a big ol' batch of introverts, you should see us. It's awesome and wonderful in the least anxiety-causing sort of way.

Now, I don't like to play favorites and single out people because everyone is so awesome, but I will say that I was excited to finally meet Jamie. I'd been stalking reading her blog for almost as long as Nicole's and Almie's and the fact that she'd been in Paris the last two years meant that she hadn't been able to come to BiSC. But she was here now and I felt like I'd achieved some degree of closure. So naturally I opened with the fact that back in the day I'd met her brother because he'd been promoting one of his gigs via MySpace (ahhh, nostalgia) and we'd messaged a couple times and I met him after his show and one of his CDs signed (I actually still listen to it from time to time - there are a couple songs on there that I absolutely adore and make my list of all-time favorites) and this was all BEFORE I'd ever even heard of Jamie or had a blog and it was only because I saw him post on her facebook wall that I even made the connection and I felt like the biggest creeper of all time. Because that's how bloggers bond: through sheer awkwardness and confessions of creepy Internet lurking. At any rate, she is delightful and just as pretty in person as she is in her pictures (in case you were wondering) and the pattern on her nails matched the pattern on her skirt and it was pretty much awesome.

The Sharpies for the Twitter Handle Tattoos came out early this year; usually it's a Thing that happens during the Thursday night opening mixer, but the ladies in charge had something else planned, so: why wait?

Photo credit: Terra

The thing I kind of love the most about the Sharpie tattoos (other than the fact that they're a great identifier if you're not sure who you're talking to, which really didn't seem to be a problem this year), is that whenever I would catch sight of it in my peripherals, it kind of looked/felt like I had a real tattoo, and I always felt like a bad-ass. I would (probably) never get my Twitter handle tattooed onto my inner forearm in 2.5" letters, but imagine if I did. It would be bad-ass.

In addition to the meeting and greeting and reunioning and hugging, there was a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity happening at one of the tables. If you're not familiar with Cards Against Humanity, it's basically Apples to Apples but with everyone muttering "I'm so going to hell for this" after each turn. I believe the tagline is "A party game for horrible people." In other words: it's hilarious. And not for the easily offended.

I'm trying something a little different this year, wherein I don't break the Internet by posting a thousand photos each post, and instead, creating a series of collages. So, without further ado... a visual sampling of Thursday In The Registration Suite:

Represented here: hugs, hellos, Sharpie Arms, Hallway Jumping, and Joe the Intern.

I kind of lost my train of thought so I will just skip to the part where my 2013 roomie slash partner-in-crime Germana arrived and we set out on the Most Important Quest of any worthwhile trip to Las Vegas: the acquisition of sequin fedoras.

To be fair, I had already been gifted a (light up!) sequin fedora from Mich, but I still feel like a trip isn't complete without purchasing a new one (and they're only about $15 anyway) so I acquired myself a gold one - which in hindsight, I always wished I had gotten in 2011 for the Black/Gold/White Party. (It wasn't until Sunday right before brunch in 2011 that I worked up the courage to buy a sequin fedora - and wear it - and at that point, I went for hot pink, obviously.) Germana also went for the gold but we didn't get twinsy very often, because we rotated the black and the gold back and forth based on what matched our respective outfits for the day.

It's worth noting that I had purchased a white/silver fedora when I was in Las Vegas for work back in January - I wanted to make sure I had one on hand for our Wicked White Party (you'll see) and I didn't want to take the chance of them not having any more white ones when I came back. I actually had to very carefully pack my entire suitcase around my fedora to make sure it arrived back in Vegas safely. (PRIORITIES!)

I know how to party.

Because Germana is smart and things in Las Vegas are expensive, I followed her lead and we walked down to the shady-looking convenience store on the corner behind the Flamingo. We stocked up on Wheat Thins, potato chips, and ginormous bottles of water. (Hydration = important.) We got cat-called on the way by two dudes sitting in the parking lot. Clearly, it was the fedoras that caught their attention.

The quick jaunt to the c-store was my first indication that perhaps the weather wasn't going to be so miserably hot as (a) the last few times I'd been here and (b) the forecast had called for. It was really warm, sure - probably somewhere in the low 90s (I don't even know what that is in Celsius, SORRY CANADA FRIENDS) - but I wasn't immediately bathed in my own sweat as soon as I went outside, and it was almost, dare I say, comfortable. This was promising.

Back at the hotel, we began the Very Important process of getting showered and groomed for the opening mixer. For reasons that I shouldn't even need to explain to you, this also involved propping up Germana's iPad and brushing up on our Thriller dance skills. If I have one complaint about the Flamingo, it is that there is an inadequate amount of space for choreographed dance routines. I'm just sayin'.

Perhaps not so ironically, this is what greeted us at the bottom of the elevator bank.

One of the (many) best parts of BiSC is the time period where everyone meets up in the lobby to prepare to depart for our location (I think someone called it the "BiSCuit migration"?). It starts off with just a few, and there's nothing quite like seeing familiar faces in a sea of random people. Doesn't matter if you had just seen some of these people minutes or hours ago - it's like a mini-reunion all over again. People show up, there are squeals, and usually there's a fair amount of exclamatory statements over people's outfits. I mean, it's Vegas. If you can't wear your fun attire here, then there is absolutely no point.

It was also a good chance to introduce people to the glory of the light-up fedora that had not been witness to its extreme awesomeness the night before.

This year's welcome mixer was being hosted by Serendipity III at Caesar's Palace. I've eaten there a few times and their food is delicious but, really, the whole point of this place is their Frozen Hot Chocolate. That stuff is to die for. I knew they were going to be feeding us a variety of "sweet and savory" things but so help me, if I didn't get anything Frozen Hot Chocolate-related (last year they had shooters, which is the next best thing to a full-size dish), I was going to create a public disturbance. (Spoiler alert: they had the shooters again and peace was restored.)

If you've never been to Las Vegas, allow me to share with you a helpful hint about getting anywhere: there is rarely a direct route to anything. You cannot simply cross a street to get across the street; you have to take the most convoluted route possible, usually involving going around, up, and over. Caesar's is across the street from the Flamingo; but it requires at least two outdoor escalators and a bridge to get there. Don't get me wrong, it's not quite the inconvenience I am making it out to be (most of the time) - you just need to allow for some creative nagivation.

Of course, the side effect of having these outdoor escalators and traveling in packs is that we often end up with an escalator entirely full of BiSCuits - or, as I so lovingly dubbed it last year, a BiSCalator.

And no BiSC is complete without at least one photo of the aforementioned BiSCalator.

Once at Serendipity, the hugs and the excitement continued at a fever pitch, as more and more people arrived. People I hadn't even really talked to much the previous year seemed excited to see me, which made me feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside, and new friends and old alike mixed together so perfectly that it was legitimately hard to tell who was new this year and who wasn't. We are one big happy family and that's just the way we like it.

We had the entire back patio to ourselves (because we roll VIP, obviously) and had our own mini-staff of bartenders and waiters and our own little buffet of appetizer goodness. There was a pineapple mojito that I think pretty much everyone had (though my requirement for every drink I ended up having was "something with mango" to which every bartender accommodated me nicely - so I think mine was more of a mango pineapple mojito. Full honesty? I don't generally like mojitos. But this wasn't bad.) There were fancy salad cups and fruit and tiny hamburgers and I don't even remember what else, but it didn't disappoint. There was evidence that we'd be having an ice cream bar later on, too.

Then... then Nicole brought out the icebreakers. The first one kind of defined our weekend (and all interactions thereafter) - according to science, if you hug someone for at least eight seconds, you are officially bonded. We were instructed to find someone that we had not met until that day as an 8-second hug partner, and I ended up with the lovely and super-sweet Laura. Eight seconds is kind of a long time to hug someone, especially someone you don't know very well, but... we all hugged and thus bonded and for the rest of our lives we are all shouting at each other about eight-second hugs. (So if you happen to catch this referenced in any of our interactions, you now know why.)

The next event was designed to be full of awkwardness and I think we have Andrea to blame for it: a staring contest. Oh, but not just any staring contests. A tournament of staring. There were brackets and everything, and a $200 goodie bag from HTC as the prize. I was hoping I could make it at least a round or two - I had no illusions of winning - but, alas, Edwin defeated me easily because I became all too conscious of the desert breeze drying out my eyeballs, and I could think about nothing but blinking. So, I lasted probably about ten seconds. Shameful, I know.

The tournament continued, however, and it got to be pretty intense. Hands down, the most insane eye-duel was between Larissa and Dominique V, and it wasn't even the championship staredown. Both girls were pretty much glazed over and Dominique had tears streaming down her face. It lasted an incredibly long time and I felt my eyeballs burning just watching them. One or both of them commented that they couldn't even see anymore and it was probably a good idea for Nicole to have made us all sign waivers this year. In the end, Larissa won, and made quick work of Kitty, who had vanquished Nico to meet her in the finals. It was ridiculous and crazy, and, in other words, very BiSC-like.

And at some point, they brought around frozen hot chocolate shooters, so I was a happy girl.

Hugs, frozen hot chocolate, Canadian money (yes, again - there were nonbelievers!), food, and general fabulousness.

As the night began to wind down, most of us realized we weren't ready to call it a night yet. How could we? This was our first "real" night in Las Vegas, we'd finally been reunited with our tribe, and the night was still technically young (at least on Vegas time - some of us were a little lagging because Time Zones are the absolute worst).

First things first, we decided to head over to catch the final Bellagio fountain show of the night. We waited for about twenty minutes until they finally announced over the loudspeaker that it wasn't going to happen because it was too windy. Bummer. On the bright side, walking back through the Bellagio to get back to the Flamingo, resulted in what is probably one of my favorite pictures of the weekend, and that's really the only reason I am mentioning anything in this paragraph, because I wanted an excuse to post it.

Thanks, Karlyn!

At some point after this, we all ended up at Margaritaville, I don't really remember why or the circumstances that led us there (and lest you think it was because I was smashed out of my memories, let me reassure you, I had only had one mango-pineapple mojito and a crapton of water. This was an incredibly sober trip again for me, and I don't even want to hear about how I was doing Vegas "wrong" - because you can't. There is no wrong way to do Las Vegas, especially with this group. No one cares if you drink or not, which is great, because booze is expensive in this city, and I'm getting old and it's not worth it to me to feel like crap the next day, not when there is so much to do and see.) but at any rate, we were there, and people were dancing, and the floor was painted to look like water but it wasn't, so that was kind of a pointless bit of trivia for you, but then this happened.

LMFAO's "Sexy and I Know It" came on and Casey and Raoul OWNED it. You don't know how much I wished I had a video of this instead of a string of still shots. It was magical.

Earlier in the evening, Simone had mentioned that she wanted to go to a country-themed bar called Gilley's at Treasure Island because there was a mechanical bull. To which our consensus was, okay, we'll go, but you have to ride the mechanical bull. "But I'm wearing a dress!" "Then go put some pants on!"  Sure enough, she appeared at Margaritaville with her "bull-ridin' pants" and so we nodded in approval and set out with our fearless crew of five - me, Germana, Almie, Simone, and Casey.

Gilley's is the type of bar that I generally go out of my way to avoid. I mean, I have no love for country music and I feel no need to glorify the redneck stereotypes/lifestyle. I'm from the Midwest. I see enough of it unfolding, unironically, all the time. Well, okay. Not all the time. Where I come from, it's pretty evenly split between the "good ol' boys" and, well, regular people. I consider it a point of pride that people can't immediately tell where I'm from, aside from the way I pronounce certain words which gives away my "Iowa accent" which is, apparently, a thing. At any rate, Gilley's was pretty much like every country bar and/or Texas-themed steakhouse I've ever been to, so it wasn't much of a novetly for me, but Simone and Casey are Canadian, so I'm sure this entire place was utterly bizarre for them, and I could see why she would be intrigued by the experience and so eager to go. 

As with any redneck bar worth its salt, we encountered a belligerent drunk about thirty seconds after walking in the door. We made our way to the mechanical bull, and some drunk bro decided that he wanted to high five all of is. Okay, whatever. We all obliged... except Germana, who good-naturedly pulled her hands away at the last second. This apparently set this dude off, and he went from annoying drunk to belligerent drunk. We just stood there staring at him like wtf and some other guys stepped in and made sure he left us alone. I'm not sure it would have really escalated into anything but it was a bit surreal. And it kind of reminded me why I don't really like bars. Or drunk guys. I will say, though, for as many times as we've been to Vegas and wandered around at night, this was the very first time we've been hassled.

We'd come this far, though, and we weren't leaving without Simone having a chance to ride the mechanical bull. It was definitely one of the highlights of the weekend. She hung on for quite a long time (and, at one point, we noticed that there was video of her on the bull simultaneously playing on the Jumbotron screen on the other side of the bar, which was hilarious) and it was awesome and totally worth the trip. I'm not even sure I can adequately describe it, but: just picture one of your friends riding a giant mechanical bull in Las Vegas in the most stereotypical country-western bar you can find, and you'll get the idea.

Photo by Casey

At this point, we decided the best course of action was to take a cab back to the hotel, because it was late and any comfort our footwear may have retained throughout the evening was long gone now. The best part about being on the strip is that you are always at or near a hotel, and there are always cabs available, so we didn't have to wait too long.

Photo by Almie

As we all but crawled back to our rooms for the night, Germana and I did some math and came to the realization that she had been up for 26 hours straight that day - from an early morning flight out of Boston to a full day of Las Vegas to a late night of adventures on the strip, without a single nap. We high-fived and decided that we were bad-asses and maybe not so old after all. And then we promptly fell asleep, because, hey. It was super late and we still had a lot of weekend left to go and despite what I just said I'm still getting kind of old after all. (Let's not focus on the fact that I was in my mid-twenties when I started coming to Vegas and now I'm in my late twenties. Nope.)

(To be continued!)


Kelly L said...

"BiSCalator" is now my new favourite word.

Thank you for accompanying me to the scary world that is Gilly's. And yes, we don't have places quite like that in Canada (at least not where Casey and I are from.) Almost getting caught in a bar room brawl was totally worth it for the bull riding (one of the highlights for me too!) and the cowboy slot machine outside. And yes, I nominate "cowboy slot machine" as our band name.

Love & miss you xoxo

Kelly L said...

I love the BiSCalator. It's one of my favorite things and I love how it's a very serious thing and how we all whip out our phones and cameras to capture it. Traveling in a hoard of bloggers in one of the best ways to travel.