I was excited for the two days ahead, en route to Vegas to help with a skateboarding contest being held by Transworld Skateboarding at Craig Ranch Skatepark in North Las Vegas. But there would be two nights during my time there: time we could use exploring the city and discovering new experience. After about four hours on the road and a quick stop to check out the skatepark for myself, I met up with the Transworld crew who had just flown in from San Diego, CA. A few friendly introductions and some talk about logistics, and then we were off to a sponsor dinner at The Venetian. Not a bad start to the trip.
Following a quality burrito and Modelo pint, we slowly made our way outside to see that the sun had set and the creeps were out. It was my first adventure in Las Vegas, and the people-watching was stellar. For those of you that haven’t witnessed night moves on The Strip in Vegas, picture the typical crowd from Disney World, strollers and all, but with stronger tall drinks, lights like Time Square, and club promoters hassling you to get in a shuttle the following night for “free.” I couldn’t possibly go into all the solicitation that we grew accustomed to blowing off. People are gnarly and hustling in Vegas: whether a pimp, a strip joint promoter, or a homeless person. Everyone has an agenda. And those that don’t are mere targets in the ecosystem that is Sin City.
After a little bullshitting and wandering down the block, half the crew decided to head back to the AirBnB for a night of recharging sleep. And I didn’t blame them. We all had to be up at 7:30 am for the Transworld C.U.T. (Come Up Tour) stop the following day. But as it was my first time in Vegas, and only 9:30 pm, I was one of the crew members who opted for more alcohol and time out on the town. We immediately meandered into the nearest building to try and get a drink, got one. Too expensive, not getting another one there. The right idea was to get a 3-pack battery pack of tall cans and keep the people watching going. We were in Treasure Island, at ground level, where the intro to casino life was had by myself and a younger peer. The other member of the trio was a Vegas veteran of sorts, so we decided to loosely (and cautiously) follow his lead. Many hints were made in the direction of downtown Las Vegas, and we eventually chose to make moves there.
Las Vegas is much more than the strip. It’s a city of 600,000 people, but the infrastructure, tourism, and surrounding suburbs create a much larger city. Downtown Las Vegas (or “Old Vegas”) was the original strip in Vegas but was gradually and eventually overshadowed by the new-age Strip that inevitably became the icon of Las Vegas as people know it worldwide. The Strip is where you can go to dance, gamble, and spend money in fancy malls with marble floors and ceilings made to mimic beautiful blue skies. Downtown has become a place where (there are still lights and attractions, yet) the lower class typically go to party and do all things Vegas on their own terms. Some would call it seedier. Most would call it a bit more dangerous. I like to think of it as a more real and raw version of “Fabulous Las Vegas.”
I’ll spare the beautiful and ugly details, but the venue was fun, I got to know the homies much better, and we stayed out a bit later than anticipated. Eventually, we took off in the direction of the nearest bus stop, missed a few buses, crammed into one full of frustrated locals, making me feel a bit self-conscious. But fuck it, I was on vacation too, sort of… We were back on the Strip but only for one beer before heading back to the AirBnB via Uber. the compromise amongst the group was to return to the strip to save money on a ride back but staying up just a bit later. Rolling over to go to sleep, it was about 3:30 am…
At 7:00 am, I hear, “The bus is leaving in 10 minutes.” What?! Oh okay. Let’s do this. Contest time. It was the six of us headed out from the AirBnB: some full -time TWS employees, some temporary, and some just interested and dedicated skateboarders on behalf of the mission (me). And it was a mission. Setting up for the event was already a bit of a chore, given the desert sun and rising temperatures were only going to go further up as the day went on. We all helped put up banners, figure out the electrical connection for amplified sound, register contest skaters, and generally organize infrastructure and product. It was a great day of watching the young-uns rip, even some that drove all the way out from San Bernardino County near LA! Skaters of all shapes, sizes, colors and styles were out for the opportunity to have a “Check Out” in a print issue of Transworld Skateboarding. The day’s participation started off slowly, but the hype became more and more apparent as the hours passed. The first part of the contest was set to begin at 1 pm.
Transworld hosted their first ever women’s division at C.U.T., which was rad, and the competitors were killing it! It’s so sick to see female skateboarding grow and become more real all the time. The men’s division was so fun to watch, but I had to stay focused. Myself, Paul Kobriger, and Chad Foreman were judges for the contest and had to be posted the whole time, watching and dissecting each jam heat. Exhausting but so FUN! The contest ended. A kid by the name of Nick Michel walked away with the number one spot. Watch out for that kid. He’s got something special, and I hope he keeps skating. A big bag of tricks, solid style and incredible consistency. Granted he was skating his home skatepark… Right after awards for the main contest, Arizona Drinks held a high ollie contest, where the fine men of Arizona stacked their empty tall cans to make a tower. The higher the tower went, the fewer guys that could clear it (from a bump/kicker). And eventually Shawn Weaver got a melon grab over the tallest stack of the day!
After the contest, after we all had showers, and after some had to leave for the airport, we all went out for a nice dinner. A much needed dinner after a long day. Many thanks to Transworld for their contributions on the trip, including that meal. Much love! A big lasagna and nice spaghetti dish complemented by a few Stellas, and we were off to a start for the night. I’m not naming a lot of names for this blog, but one of the homies had been drinking all day and was truly "on one" by the time we got in the Uber to go to the restaurant. Funny vibes all around, and by the time we were wrapped up with the dinner, we all just went for a walk in the casino. We were in Caesar’s Palace and eventually got lost trying to find the exit. We were all pretty over it at a certain point and were desperate to be outside.
This is my personal opinion and shouldn’t reflect on anyone else: Las Vegas is a great place for what it is. You can go there to gamble. You can go there to wonder at the human creation (or destruction, however you look at it) that is the city. You can even go there to get an escort for the night. Whatever. But there are just so many “whatever" kind of people that go to Vegas to spend their money, lose their money, and be unhealthy all at once, on vacation. After enough of it, you start to lose faith in a humanity a bit more than before. It’s a challenge to see neglected children and drunk idiots doing nothing constructive for consecutive nights at casinos, clubs and in the streets on The Strip without being bummed on the fact that those are the lives of so many. Vegas is the amplified television of yesteryear. It dumbs you down by lighting you up. "Don’t think, just do. Do this. And that. And that. It’s worth it. It’s Vegas. Fuck yeah. Only in Vegas…” It’s ridiculous. And people love it. I’m not gonna lie: I even enjoyed it a bit. Guilty pleasures are alright in small doses. But Vegas is the politically correct epicenter of guilty pleasure for Americans (or anyone in the world). It’s a trip. It’s a long strange trip.
At this point, several drinks were had and the sun from the day had really sunk in on us. It seemed like all at once, everyone became really tired and we all decided bed sounded tight. JZ (what up!) hooked us up with a ride back to the AirBnB, and we made our way up to the apartment. Everyone was in there, passed out hard. And the doors were locked. There was a balcony accessible from the side from where we were, but there were bars on the opening and no way to get in but by climbing around the cornered wall … three stories above the ground. I was sober enough to do it ad drunk enough to want to. And so with that, I scaled the ugly stucco apartment building with all of my might and concentration. It was surprisingly easy (seemed so) and I walked inside casually to open the front door for Sully. Stoked that I’m alive. Always am.
The next day, a hangover was present but not debilitating. I felt productive yet tired. So I decided I should take care of that by scarfing down some In N Out. What better to way to fit into the American Wasteland than fast food before a long road trip home from Vegas on Memorial Day Weekend! I’d separated from the crew an hour prior. They had a flight to catch and I drove, so I said my good byes and peaces. To those I already knew and to those that I met this past weekend: much love and thanks for the good times. I’ll see you in San Diego soon!
The trip, all-in-all, was amazing. Great times peppered with lots of challenges. Hard work mixes with fun more and more easily the more you do it, and the weekend in Vegas was a well-mixed work-play weekend. I’m grateful for the friends and acquaintances on the trip. Grateful for the ability to travel, skateboard, and pivot all the time.
I won’t be going to Vegas without a good reason anytime soon, but I get the feeling I’ll find myself at the Griffin Bar again in the future. Cheers ;)
- 7Ply Epic