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Journals of an Insane Genius -- November 1998

It is the moment I've been waiting for. Over a year ago a friend from work went to Las Vegas and when he returned he gave me a coaster from the Holy Cow Microbrewery and Casino. He then proceeded to rave about the quality of their beers for the next quarter of an hour. He did not, much to my dismay, bring any samples. I gave the coaster a place of honor in my cubicle and for the next year I occasionally caught myself gazing at it and daydreaming about my next visit to Vegas when I would make a pilgrimage to the Holy Cow microbrewery and casino.

Finally I have arrived. The waitress approaches and I say what I've been waiting a year to say, "I would like a pint of the darkest, nastiest, thickest beer you have."

"We're all out of the stout", she replies. I am devastated beyond words. I realize why I became an engineer and not a poet when I find that I am unable to describe my anguish. The waitress is getting antsy because I still haven't ordered yet. Tom, my travelling partner on this trip, seems more interested in the ballgame. Of course, we're in a microbrewery where beer is being brewed less than thirty feet away and he just ordered a Budweiser so I expect no sympathy there. I order a pint of their "Gamblers Ambler" red ale.

The beer arrives and with the first sip my despair washes away. This is incredibly good beer. And they have four other selections to choose from. Tom has wagered on the game we're watching, but since his team is winning he's agreeable enough company. So we sip our beers and watch the game. I also sample pints of their "India Pale Ale" and "Traditional American Lager".

Tom starts doing Harry Caray impersonations ("Holy Cow!") so it is definitely time to leave before he starts singing "Take Me Out To The Ball Game".

Just down the street is the Stratosphere, home of the world's highest rollercoaster. There is no way that I can get this close and then not go for a ride. It costs five dollars just to take the elevator to the top of the tower, and six more to ride the coaster. Tom, whether through fear or frugality, declines the opportunity to ride the coaster and says he'll meet me in the tower's bar.

I grab the front seat. Having worked and lived at an amusement park in the early 1980's I know that the best seat on a rollercoaster is either the very front or the very back. After I'm locked into place but before the ride starts I peer over the edge and look down almost a thousand feet. A helicopter flies by, below us. I find it a bit disconcerting to realize that if I get thrown from the ride I'll be cut to ribbons long before I hit the ground.

The ride starts and it's a blast. Two laps around the track. If it were on the ground it would be an incredibly tame ride, but there are two interesting hills where it appears that you're going right over the edge before turning at the last minute.

I meet Tom in the bar, which is one floor below the observation deck and rollercoaster. The bar is very elegant. It is attached to the central pillar of the tower and forms a balcony overlooking the restaurant. It's about 4:00 p.m., so they are just setting up for dinner down below. The outer wall is all glass, providing a spectacular view of Las Vegas. I study the beer list and am pleased to discover that they offer a wide selection of beers, many that I have never heard of. Time to add to my bottle collection. I order a "Flying Horse Lager". Tom sticks with Bud, some people just don't care.

The Flying Horse arrives in a twenty two ounce bottle and it has a Pegasus on the label. Between "lunch" at the Holy Cow and this double size lager I suspect that soon the horse isn't going to be the only one flying.

The waitress learns that I collect bottles and she decides to help. On every subsequent trip to the bar in the course of serving the other patrons she selects an interesting bottle for me to examine. The last of my willpower fades under this kind of sales pressure and I order a Chimay Ale for twelve dollars. The Chimay is brewed by Trappist Monks in Belgium and is slightly over ten percent alcohol by volume, about two and a half times as strong as American beer. It is also another very large bottle, twenty five ounces, and it's sealed with a cork. At seventy two dollars for a six pack this is by far the most expensive beer I have ever tasted. It's worth it.

I'm about two sips from finishing when I catch some unexpected motion out of the corner of my eye. I glance over the side of the balcony and eventually decide that either the restaurant has started spinning or my head has. I think to myself, "Those monks weren't fooling around". Tom verifies that it is the restaurant spinning. We notice that it is now 5:00 p.m. and decide that must be when the restaurant opens for dinner. I lean my head on my hand and gaze out the window fully expecting to watch the Las Vegas skyline pan by. Except it's not. I look back down and confirm that the tables and chairs are still scrolling by, they are. Only the floor of the restaurant moves. The windows stand still and so does the bar, creating a slightly disorienting effect. I mention to the waitress that they really need to warn people before they set the floor into motion.

Time really has no meaning in Vegas, so I wasn't really surprised to notice that almost eleven hours slipped by during which my wallet had developed a steady leak. We're in the MGM Grand at this point and ready for a cab ride back to our hotel, about a mile and a half away. We exit the front door and get in line at the cab stand. Base fare is $2.20. We get in the cab the meter jumps sixty cents before we even reach the end of the cab stand, about a hundred feet.

"So you're saying we could get out now for three dollars, is that right?", I ask the driver.

"Yeah but that's a pretty lousy tip.", she replies, chuckling.

The fare reaches four dollars before we get out of the Grand's parking lot. The final bill is ten dollars. I make Tom pay, he had been winning after all.

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