LAS VEGAS - Why am I here? Well, why are you there? Heck, why wouldn't I be here? Where else in America can I play blackjack and go bowling 24 hours a day? I can drink PBRs for dinner or breakfast without shame, guilt or consequence.
I love this town. Las Vegas is all about excess; it's like ESPN, without "SportsCenter."
Of course, I come annually for the World Series of Poker, but there's so much more here. (7-Elevens with slot machines!) I want you to come, too. So here is Couch Slouch's Summer Guide to Sin City:
Dress lightly. It's 103 degrees as I write this poolside at the Rio. But as they like to say, it's a dry heat, and after the sun goes down, it's nice enough to allow the mob to dig holes in the desert to store select bodies that are no longer breathing.
But bring a sweater. The casinos like to keep the thermostat at 68 or below; apparently, cooler climes pry more pennies out of your pocket. So in 15 minutes' time, you might go from a Buffalo winter at New York-New York to a sauna bath on the Strip.
Be careful when you step into a taxi; better yet, don't step into a taxi. Unfortunately, the city has a fairly rotten cab fleet. Crooked to the core, many drivers particularly enjoy ripping off customers on trips leaving the airport; they will take you for a ride - like through Carson City to get to Fremont Street.
Go bowling at the Gold Coast. Next to the Rio - home of the wonderful World Series of Poker - the Gold Coast casino offers a delightful 70-lane bowling center where it's a buck a game after midnight. That's 10 cents a frame, folks. There's nothing like rolling back-to-back 137 games at 4 a.m. while having a cold one or two.
Please tip your dealers. You think it's easy dealing poker or blackjack all day long to disgruntled card sharks and drunk tourists? Show some love.
Someone come fix my favorite weather site. If you drive to Las Vegas from Los Angles, you get to see the world's tallest thermometer alongside Interstate 15 in Baker, Calif. But it's been busted - and for sale - for several years. What's the point of having a 134-foot-tall thermometer if it doesn't tell the temperature? Wouldn't the British buy a new battery for Big Ben if that baby stopped?
You can help the economy by gambling a bit less. Next time you're here, play 75 fewer blackjack hands and spend some time off the Strip at other retail outlets; they need the business and they appreciate it. Also, buy the Las Vegas Review Journal in the morning - newspapers really need the business - and leave it in your hotel room for the end of the day.
Bet with your head, not over it. If you go to a sports book, this is what I advise: Instead of betting, say, $100 on a baseball game, bet $50 on two different NFL teams' win totals. A baseball game's over in three (or four) hours, but if you wager on whether or not the Chargers will win more or less than 7 1/2 games, that provides a season's worth of action. This gives you more bang for your losing buck.
If you're gonna splurge once, this is what you do. Michael's Gourmet Room used to be at the defunct Barbary Coast casino and now is at South Point. There are better restaurants in town, but this old-school, 50-seat joint is a hoot and a holler. Yes, even with the complimentary relish tray, complimentary cleanse-the-palate sorbet and complimentary dessert platter, the cost is staggeringly high. But I love how they come and swoop away your olive pits within 25 seconds, and when else are you going to have the chance to order chateaubriand (for two) for $160?