Pursuing your dreams apparently also means living on a budget. So when my partner, Luke, wanted to go on a last minute vacation together, we had to make it cheap. Luckily since we don’t have to worry about hotels, all it came down to was the travel expense itself.
Our first thought was to visit our friends, “The Johns,” in San Francisco. We call them The Johns because between the two of them, they have the name John three times. It’s not because they have an affinity towards prostitutes or toilets or anything in case that's what you thought. However, I classically waited until the last minute to buy tickets and prices had gone up too high. So we opted for our fallback plan: just go to Las Vegas.
To people’s surprise, I actually really enjoy Las Vegas. I don’t gamble at all but Vegas has three things I totally love: great restaurants, live entertainment, and amazing day spas. Thus I can get naked, stuff my face, and be insanely jealous of how much more talented other people are than me. Plus as a bonus, we could just drive there and I love a good road trip.
At the last minute, Luke’s longtime friend, Tom, asked if he could join us for the drive out. He’d stay at a hotel for a couple nights and fly back on his own. Tom’s a hyper-intelligent guy who has saved our asses many o’ times when it comes to our many flubs in homeownership. Also he’s just plain fun to be around.
The evening before we left, I started coming down with a cold. I slammed Vitamin C, Zinc, and any other supposed immune system booster I could find. But the next morning I woke up feeling like shit. I had so much mucous residing in my face, it practically gave me a headache.
This was not the ideal way to start the trip. Nonetheless, the drive offered some beautiful views and we got into Vegas safely that evening. We dropped off Tom at his hotel and met up with our host at his home where he cooked us a lovely dinner.
The next morning I popped some DayQuil and allotted myself a smidgen of caffeine (that of which I normally don’t partake) so that I could muster up some energy for the day. We met up with Tom to walk the strip and my various chemical intakes seemed to do the trick… aside from the fact that I was still using 130 tissues per minute.
After window shopping some games we’d never play and stores we could never afford, we decided to sit down for lunch at a little cafe in the Bellagio. Tom took out his phone, opened his Scruff app, and began venting his frustrations with guys who want bareback sex (regardless of their being on PrEP).
If I am to be considered “sex positive,” then the rest of what Tom had to say could easily be seen as “sex negative.” I tried keeping my perspectives to myself but as Tom’s opinions became increasingly judgmental and offensive (especially for someone with HIV), I got sucked in. I won’t go into details of how the argument unfolded. In fact, I’ll just save it for the next essay because I think it raises some questions and issues worth discussing.
Sometimes when folks are super intelligent, they seem to take issue with the idea that they could ever be wrong about anything. So between Tom’s incessant need to be right and my increasing frustration, we quickly went from simply disagreeing to being entirely disagreeable. When I couldn’t take the circular argument anymore, I stood up and excused myself from the table.
Okay… actually, I might've been slightly more dramatic than that. Really, I stood up and screamed “I NEED TO BE ALONE!!!” and stomped off. I don’t get in fights with people often. So when I do, it feels totally jarring.
When I safely got one thousand feet away from Tom's opinions, I immediately realized my mistake: I left Luke behind. I quickly sent him a text apologizing, saying that I was done with Tom for the day but if he wanted to spend more time with him, it’d be fine. I meant it too. I had no problem going out on my own for a while. Maybe I could find a nice corner somewhere to take a nap or something - just like a hobo. However Luke responded that he’d like to come be with me.
When we found each other, we spent some time walking and talking - trying to make sense of what in the hell had just happened with our friend. Luke isn't the kind of partner who just sides with me because of a relationship bias. He's incredibly objective. So knowing that he, too, felt perplexed was comforting.
We decided to shake off this next vacation setback by figuring out some shows to see. Since we had just been in the Bellagio, we decided to check out tickets for the Cirque Du Soleil show “O.” I had always heard such amazing things about it. And as fortune would have it, we discovered discounted tickets for the following night’s showing.
The Cirque Du Soleil gods didn’t stop shining down their good fortune on us there either. When we moseyed on through the New York New York hotel, performers were handing out discounts for that night’s late showing of “Zumanity" - the Cirque’s sexy adult show.
“FUCK IT,” we jointly decided. “Let’s do that too!!” I really wanted to see something more adult and sexy anyway. Plus, after the argument with Tom, I needed something that embodied sex positivity. And for discounted tickets, we got some shockingly awesome seats.
Zumanity certainly didn’t fail to disappoint. While the humor got a little hokey at some points, the acts were phenomenal. They celebrated straight and gay and everything in between. And to my pleasant surprise, they seemed to feature just as many male acts as female. Plus during the James Bond striptease act, we got to see a partial dick slip from our seats. A DICK SLIP - the very thing angels are made of!
As we made the one mile walk back to our car parked at the Flamingo (the only place that still offered free parking), we thought we had totally succeeded in getting this vacation back on track. I went to grab my keys out of my pocket and didn’t find them. I assumed Luke must have had them only to find out that he did not. Somehow, amongst our fun that evening, I lost my car keys and we were locked out of my little, white Prius.
I started to panic. What should we do? Retrace our steps? But we had stopped at so many places over that one mile stretch (over half of which were now closed). Call a locksmith? But that’d be so expensive. Call the lost and founds? None of them said they got turned in.
As we walked up the strip calling locksmiths, we got increasingly annoyed at all of the guys shouting at us to go to their strip clubs. Couldn’t they see that we were two distressed dudes totally holding hands? Having boobs floundered in front our faces was the last thing we wanted.
Finally Luke reached a locksmith and after explaining that we’d need a replacement key fob for the ignition, he quoted us $140. This didn’t seem as bad as I’d imagine. It still sucked but I could handle it. However when the actual locksmith arrived, he suddenly had a different quote… of $500.
I felt like he’d punched me in the gut. To a wealthy business man, $500 would be nuisance. To a blogger/bartender, it’s kind of everything. While the locksmith worked on resetting my car to a new fob, I sat on the bumper of an SUV trying my best to hyperventilate. But strangely enough, I couldn’t do it. No matter how badly I wanted that physically visceral reaction, it just didn’t come. Maybe my Wellbutrin was actually working.
The next morning I woke up feeling hungover. Except instead of alcohol, I had just drank one too many heavy emotions. Luke and I debated whether or not it’d be wise to go drop the money on a day spa now. However since it was one of the main reasons we even came to Vegas, and since now I needed some self care more than ever, we decided to go.
We opted for the Canyon Ranch spa at The Venetian. Someone had highly recommended it and neither of us had been. But after dropping the $60 entry fee, we discovered that it wasn’t quite what we’d hoped for.
I mean it wasn’t horrible. It’s not like we ended up in Auschwitz or anything. It was still nice and relaxing - just a bit lackluster. Perhaps it was truly the firstiest of first world problems. But between this, and getting sick, and fighting with our friend, and dropping hundreds on my car... I couldn’t help but just feel sorry for myself. Hell, I couldn’t even taste the delicious food we came for because of all zinc tablets I’d been sucking on.
“I’m struggling,” I told my partner in the dry sauna (that felt neither dry nor sauna). “In addition to everything else that has happened, I just feel so dumb for losing my keys and getting taken advantage of by the locksmith.”
He tried comforting me by reminding me that, in time, I won’t feel so affected by this anymore. And while the car situation was unfortunate, we did what we had to do. We needed to move on.
“We have already had some good times on this trip too,” he said. Like always, he reminded me not to just focus on the negative.
Of course, being so damn good at depression as I am, I kept taking his comforting advice and flipping it into something negative only to sulk even more in the idea that our vacation had been ruined. I could tell he was getting frustrated with me. Thankfully he doesn’t ever really get mad at me… or most anyone for that matter.
We broke from the spa for lunch and just found a foodcourt to eat whatever made the most sense. As we sat there silently chomping on some terrible, fourteen dollar gyros, I looked over at Luke and noticed that he didn’t look like a man having a good time. I could see him staring over at the table of five older, black women laughing together and wishing that was us.
In that moment, I realized something. It wasn’t all these terrible things that were ruining our vacation. It wasn’t my cold and how junky it made me feel. It wasn’t Tom and his uncompromising opinions. It wasn’t even dropping the $500 on my stupid car. It was me. I was the one who was ruining it.
I had forgotten one of the main staples I use to have a healthy brain in day-to-day life: people/things cannot “make” me feel anything. I am solely responsible for how I feel in regards to the things that happen in my life. If someone or something has made me feel bad, its entirely up to me to change it - not them.
In my work in mental health, I learned that “thoughts” and “feelings” are not the same thing. Rather they're cyclical with one another. Negative thoughts lead to negative feelings which then lead to more negative thoughts and so on. Now more than ever, I needed to disrupt this cycle so that, if nothing else, the man I loved could have the good time he came here for.
When we went back to the spa, I began focusing on the benefits rather than the drawbacks. It didn’t hurt that a couple of hot guys showed up that I could look at. I also started psyching myself to go see “O” that evening.
During the show, I lived in the moment and enjoyed the wonder and magic of it all instead of letting those nagging thoughts eat at me. By the end of the evening, my brain had almost fully returned to that state of vacational bliss. On our drive back to the host home, I had another "fuck it" moment and decided that we should go ahead and splurge on another day spa - one that we already knew was great.
“Are you sure we should spend the money?” Luke asked when I suggested it the next day. Luke doesn’t really care about money. He clearly questioned this out of concern for me.
“Yeah. It’s one of the main reasons we came to Vegas,” I said. “I’ll figure out how to make up the money later. Let’s just enjoy this now.”
Thus on our final day, we went to Qua - the spa at Caesar’s Palace. It was everything we needed it to be - from the perfectly temperatured dry/wet saunas... to the cold room that snowed... to the many hot tubs and waterfalls. We even made a new friend. Doing this also reminded me that sometimes its worth spending the money you don’t have in order to get the emotional wellbeing you really need - especially when you can share it with someone you love.
That evening our host scored us tickets to yet another show. We joined him and his friend at one of their favorite local joints for dinner - getting to have some good insider experience in Vegas. And while the show was not as impressive as Cirque Du Soleil, we still had a great time there too.
When we walked into the garage, we saw security standing around my little, white Prius. The bumper had been completely ripped off the car in what looked like a parking garage hit-and-run. Totally stunned, neither of us could say a word. A split second later, we noticed the bumper sticker that wasn’t mine and that we didn’t even park in that spot. Luke and I simultaneously bursted out into a relief of hysterical laughter. Although we felt bad for whoever owned car, we kissed to at least lock in our gratitude that it wasn't mine.
The morning we left Las Vegas to head back home, we realized it had truly been the best worst vacation we could've possibly had.
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