Sunday morning in Vegas, and a couple of long married men are rounding off a weekend away from their wives - both of them, as naked as monkeys and dripping in oils, sitting on a big warm slab of marble.
“Dude, this might be the gayest thing I’ve ever done,” says Greg. He’s a father of three from Boston, in town for a real estate conference.
“Me too,” I tell him. “But hey, what about those Bears?”
Greg’s a pal from LA who left. That’s the thing about LA, people always leave. So we planned a Vegas weekend to catch up, just us and our comfortable shoes. We’re not gambling types really and we’re too old for mad benders and parcels. There would be no gurning on this trip. No multi-storey strip clubs. And definitely no Pepe Le Pew horndog nonsense on the casino floor at 4am, when we both know that it’s mostly whores at that time of night.
Instead, this would be a gentleman’s trip, a weekend of fine wines, naps, and room for dessert. Like The Trip but without the impressions. The years of leaving Vegas malnourished and slightly brain damaged are over.
We picked the Cosmopolitan on account of a couple of dubious Vegas rules of thumb. A) Always avoid the marquee hotels you see in the movies, because half of the Midwest is already there, taking selfies on the escalators. And B) newer hotels work harder for their tips. They’re trying to compete with the big guys, but they haven’t quite got there yet, so the smile hasn’t quite curdled. They’ll do you a deal.
I don’t know if any of that is strictly true, but it feels right. And the Cosmopolitan has it’s own special something. It’s a monument to surviving the recession if nothing else. Building started in 2005, and it was launched five years later, in the rubble of the recession, just drowning in debts. The original concept was a half hotel and half apartment complex. Mixed use is a big thing out west, especially in LA. It seems there are people who actually choose to buy apartments in malls. But the Vegas Strip? No one went for it. So they rejiggered the apartments into hotel suites – it’s one of the reasons they’ve all got balconies (other hotels wall you up in glass to protect against jumpers). And even though the bankers took a bath – Deutsche Bank sold the place for $2.2 billion less than what it cost to build – today, in 2014, it seems to be finding its mojo at last.
I could do the pitch – about the rooftop pools, the Jose Andres restaurants, the yadda yadda, but to be honest, it came down to the simple pleasures for Greg and I. Flirting with the bikini waitress who’s clearly out of our league. Paddling up to the pool bar for another fruity vodka cocktail. Stepping out onto the balcony, fifty floors up, as the sun sets over the mountains, and listening to the muffled roar of a million parties below, the unmistakable chorus of 'Turn Down for What'.
The highlight was probably the club - or “club concept” as it’s known – called Rose Rabbit Lie. It’s a restaurant, a nightclub, a speakeasy and a cabaret, with a bit of cirque thrown in, and stand-up comedy, and magic acts, followed by dance music…it’s everything. And the punters are right there in the middle of it all, almost part of the show itself. Singers jump up on tables, acrobats dangle from the ceiling. That’s how it is now – in the absence of any discernibly new youth culture, club life is all about context and juxtaposition. It’s this-slash-that culture - bar-slash-circus, tasting menu-slash-comedy club. Everything’s a mash-up, a fusion, a “concept” – they’re chucking it all in just so that the bovine hordes of consumer culture can feel something.
Well, it worked. We staggered home that night, properly spent. A little disco activity goes a long way when you’re over 40. And when we woke up this morning, we were eager for our bath-slash-massage. They’ve got this traditional Turkish Hammam in the spa, it’s their pride and joy. It’d be our treat for behaving so impeccably.
But first the spa called - they only had oneof us booked in. They could fit in two, but only one of us would get a female masseuse.
“Whatever, dude,” Greg said. “I’ll take the guy, you take the chick. It’s cool.”
Then when we got downstairs, the chick was off the table. Another customer had “insisted” apparently, and snapped up the last masseuse. I admit, I felt a bit deflated. I’d rather be pampered by girls. It’s not a happy endings thing, I prefer a girl to cut my hair too.
But instead, here was Eric, my flamboyant massage therapist. He and Marko led us into a big grey, marble chamber, and sat us down for the official introduction.
“OK, you boys are in for a treat!” he said. “You’ve booked the bridal package. It’s customary in Turkey for the bride and groom to get a traditional bath and massage on their wedding day before the ceremony. So you’ll both be getting bathed together, side by side!”
We both laugh. “We’re actually already married you know,” said Greg.
And Marko and Eric just beam at us. “Oh congratulations!”