Fear And Whoring In Las Vegas: Part One
6 am. 6 am is fucking early to me, but here I am, awake and getting ready to hit the road. Destination? Las Vegas, Nevada. Most people equate Vegas with drinking, gambling, fornication, and all around sinning. But this trip to Vegas is to attend the Consumer Electronics Show, the biggest tradeshow of its kind. The common depiction of CES coverage is a bunch of nerds who get up in the morning, go straight to the convention, attend meetings and get hands on with products, then go back to the hotel room and blog their little hearts away. But are the journalists’ Vegas and the sinners’ Vegas really so disconnected? It is my suspicions that they are not.
After getting to the airport and onto the plane with no problems, I run into my first major frustration. The flight attendants announce that all alcoholic drinks must be paid with by credit cards, no cash accepted. Fuck. As a true paper chaser, I only carry around cash on virtue. This is not going to be a fun 3 hours, as I was hoping to be drunk by the time my feet hit Nevada soil. As the plane lands and I turn on my cell phone, I have a voice mail from Ron, our “event coordinator” if you will, telling me if I’m in town by noon I get to meet and go to lunch with Ludacris. I look at the time. 12:20. Fuck my life.
As I get to the hotel and meet up with the group, we decide how to spend the rest of the day. The Sony press conference is first, followed by the Microsoft press conference. However, to get into the Sony press conference, we need to have registered by email a while back, which only one of the four of us did. In the first of many situations that we weasel through, we pull up the email on one of the guys, Derek’s, phone, register the other three of us, and hope it’s not too late. When we arrive at Sony’s area, we are relieved to find out that registering an hour early will get us in. The calm doesn’t last for long, however, since as soon as you get in you need to present a business card. This would be fine, but my business cards weren’t scheduled to get to me until the next day, as I didn’t think I would need them yet. A guy from our group hands me one of his cards, and I pray the lady doesn’t actually look at the name, because I do not look like a Mourad by any stretch of the imagination. Again, luck blesses me and we get in with no problem.
Before we take a seat, my eyes fixate on the Holy Grail of an alcoholic, the open bar. I never really associated press conferences with double fisting Jack and Cokes, but dreams do come true. Soon after I sit down, however, I find out two Jack and cokes are not going to be enough to make the conference interesting. There is some neat stuff Sony is showing off, but there is no enthusiasm whatsoever. Everyone reads off a teleprompter, but Steve Haber, Senior Vice President for Sony, who was talking, sounded like he’d rather be getting a prostate exam instead of being onstage. Another thing I noted was that there was no talk about the Playstation 3. I mean, the words “Playstation 3” were said twice, but only in passing, and it was never actually talked about. In Sony’s favor though, they had an OLED screen that could be folded like a piece of paper which was pretty impressive. Almost as quickly as it began, the speech was over, and we were able to go back to the business at hand, drinking Sony’s booze. 5 or 6 drinks later, it was time to go to Microsoft’s conference.
Microsoft was at a hotel farther away, and we showed up right before it started. Seating was extremely full, though that wasn’t a problem for us, as Aaron Greenberg, Group Project Manager for the Xbox division, comes up to us and seats us next to him and a cute Microsoft PR girl. I know I’m going to sound like a fanboy here, but the press conference illustrated what was different between Microsoft and Sony. They both have good products, they both have people who know what they are talking about, but Microsoft ejects a passion for what they are doing. Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, gave the speech, and he too had a teleprompter, but he only glanced at it once every few minutes, showing an inflection in his voice, getting genuinely excited about what he was talking about. Also, where Sony was mum on the Playstation 3, Ballmer talked quite a bit about the Xbox 360. It wasn’t even a lot we hadn’t heard before, mostly about Live Primetime and a new “game creator” on the Community Games Channel called Kodu, but the point was that they weren’t afraid to talk about their gaming system, even if they didn’t have much to talk about.
Unlike Sony, Microsoft does not have an open or even a closed bar. This made me sad for all of two seconds until Aaron Greenberg invited us downstairs for drinks. This was the first of many surreal moments of the trip. I mean, Christ, the head honcho of the 360, is buying me drinks. After some time in the bar, we head back to our hotel, making a pit stop at a McDonalds, which I know is classy, you don’t have to tell me. Now I have been in a McDonalds while drunk many times, but I have never been almost kicked out of a McDonalds, which was about to happen. Apparently managers of restaurants don’t like it when you’re constantly screaming ‘fuck’ at the top of your lungs. To each his own I guess. At the hotel we find about 20 of those little single serving alcohol bottles they serve on planes, and Mourad looks at me and says “I’ll go shot to shot with you motherfucker”. Now, I’m not a proud man, but a challenge like this cannot go unanswered. We each throw back a whiskey bottle, then a vodka, then a whiskey, then go easy on ourselves with a shot of Bailey’s. This is getting rough.
We decide to walk over to our other hotel room and keep the competition going. Before we leave an admiral’s hat appears out of someone’s suitcase, and I decide to wear it out. As soon as we hit the street, I am the center of attention, which means I am happy. People are calling me Captain, asking me where I got it, one gorgeous girl walks past me, does a double take, then turns around and salutes me. Life is good. When we finally get to the second hotel, the Flamingo, we get our first chance to play the awkward elevator game. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s one of the most fun things on earth. You get into an elevator with at least one friend and at least one stranger, then you start a conversation with your friend, saying the nastiest shit you can just to see the stranger’s reaction. For example, “So as I was saying, there I was fucking a guy in the ass last night, and after I come I lean forward and kiss him on the cheek and he turns around and says ‘What are you, gay?’” Strangers will almost never say anything to you, no matter how fucked up your conversation is. In the room we instantly break out the mini-bottles again. After 5 or 6 more we decide that we are both in enough pain, call it a draw, and call it quits for the night.