Just like always

The title of this post is strange, especially when you consider it’s about my trip to Las Vegas which was anything but ‘just like always.’ Then again, it’s also about my brother, so it works.

Last week, I crossed the United States for the second time, this time visiting Sin City herself, Las Vegas. In 2009 during the height of Hangover obsession, I wanted to visit and see the sites like everyone else. Actually, my interest started much younger with Vegas Vacation, the Chevy Chase classic. Literally everything I know about Vegas, I learned from this movie.

Naturally, I landed and saw the Strip and assumed I would eat at the most glorious buffets and put a coin and machine and magically win a car. My only goal was to see Wayne Newton. Maybe ride in a limo and hang out of the sunroof.

Spoiler alert: None of this happened.

My trip to Vegas wasn’t based on my own interest, but that of my little brother. My angelic little baby decided he wanted to go to Las Vegas for his 21stbirthday. It’s not that I didn’t want to go but going there since I stopped drinking seemed ridiculously less fun. I mean you can drink on the streets in Vegas! It’s basically a dream for partyers.

Getting there is pretty inexpensive, but I quickly learned that’s because the city will bleed you dry. I budgeted for all my food and transportation needs while I was there, and it was ALMOST as much as I paid to get, stay, and leave there. I have a lot of reasons I’m thankful I don’t drink anymore, but Vegas prices might be at the top.

My actual view. Yes my hotel doubled as a castle.

Still, my room had a great view of the strip because we were just two hotels away from the end. It was like a scene from a postcard when it was lit up at night. This was one of my favorite things from the trip. See, I’m all about the bright flashing lights. Orlando is my favorite place in the world, after all, and Las Vegas is like Orlando took a shot of coke and ecstasy and covered itself in glitter. Aka my dream.

Mandalay Bay and the lot where the shooting occurred

The other side of our hotel had a more somber view. Mandalay Bay is the first hotel on the strip coming from the airport, which means I could see the lot where the 2017 Las Vegas shooting occurred. Our Uber driver told us it’s been blocked by curtains for a year since the tragedy with no real plans about reopening.

It’s easy to hear about something and even see footage but seeing the site and where the shooter placed himself was heartbreaking. Near the lot was a billboard that read “#VEGASSTRONG” and reminders of this unity popped up all along the strip.

We started the trip with a journey to Fremont Strip, aka Old Vegas. It was just as cool as everyone said. The screen over the street was brightly lit and occasionally there was a special show featuring an artist. We ate in a restaurant located just off Fremont in an old timey casino and I was in love. It made me so interested in the history of Vegas, like how did it get started? Did someone decide to create a city founded on debauchery?

Devan and his sisters ❤️

The next day was my brother’s actual 21st, so we had breakfast, walked the Strip, and then returned for a nap and to get ready. We planned to be fancy people for dinner. Naturally, my Navy-brother outshone us all in his suit. Dinner was Gallagher’s and then we danced at Coyote Ugly. It seems really trashy, but it was a great time.

She ended up drawing a thong. It was great.

On our last day, we gambled a bit and almost broke even. It wasn’t even super tempting to keep trying because you can smoke in casinos and it was gross. Oh! We also walked to In N Out Burger. Before leaving, we went to Tournament of Kings, a Medieval Times-esque show, and there were so many hot dudes. Sorry to be crass, but it’s my biggest takeaway. Also we were Ireland and our king was super attractive but really kind of a disaster in the tournament.

Babe status

The best part of the trip happened in between all of the last day activities. After we checked out of our room, my sister and I weren’t sure how we would spend our time. We bought a pack of cards (actually used in our hotel’s casino) and went to the food court and played Rummy. Soon, our brother joined, and we taught him. He was so bad at first, it made Kristi look good. We did this before and after Tournament of Kings and it was so much fun, even if we were deliriously tired.

If I’m being honest, my relationship with my brother is strange. Not bad, strange, just strange. See, he’s my half-brother through my father and for most of our lives, our dad was our connection. When we saw Devan, it was at our dad’s. As we got older and our relationship with our father began to fall apart, we made more of an effort to see Devan on our own time.

As the years progressed, we gradually spent less time together. Gone were the full weekends where we slept in bunkbeds and fought about everything. It became whenever he and I were both at dads or when Kristi was home from college and then when I was visiting from school or Pittsburgh. We moved to Buffalo and it got even harder. Now the little brat is in the Navy adding yet another city we have to factor into meeting.

This trip would mark the first time in more than a decade we’d spent this much time together. Honestly, it made me a little nervous. What would our relationship be like when it wasn’t just for a few hours, dinner, and a movie?

Even with the weird dynamics of going with his family, it wasn’t different at all. Fortunately for us, Devan is the sweetest and most sincere person I may have ever met. He’s only concerned about the rest of us and making sure we’re included. Obviously he’s a total goober, but that doesn’t take away from him being the best guy I know.

As we played Rummy together, it reminded me of something he used to say as a child. It was somewhere between his phase of smelling our feet and locking us in the bathroom. We would all be in our dad’s room watching TV and he would throw himself on the bed in-between us, sigh contentedly, and say ‘just like always.’

I’ve missed that comfortability as we’ve gotten older. The three of us, often plus our dad, used to lie on his full-sized bed and watch movies together. I’ve tried so hard to distance myself from that time and my feelings because of my relationship with my dad that I didn’t realize I was starting to erase Devan too.

Lucky for me, because Devan is so great, he loves me just as much as he always has, and it shows. I love that through everything, we’re all still important to each other.

Admittedly my dad has failed in the father department in a number of ways, but I’ll always be thankful that through him I have my baby brother. I’m so thankful that when we’re together, it’s just like always with us.

Vegas, baby. Bringing families together.

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