the best

Mason's boss - who is also a good friend of his - was at Coachella this year, and we met up briefly so we could finally put a face to one another's names. We've been in touch ever since, in hopes of surprising Mason either on his birthday or just for a quick visit to AZ. (Mason has surprised me twice with unannounced visits to LA.) I'd told his boss that I'd try very hard to make the surprise trip to Vegas, but that money was tight and the more advance notice I had, the better my chances of being able to come. He kept assuring me I didn't have to worry about it, that he'd take care of it; I kept telling him that was an incredibly generous offer but one that I couldn't accept. Finally we compromised; if the trip was really going to happen, he'd would buy my ticket when everything else was booked, and I'd repay him afterward.

Below are two conversations we had last week, plus a glimpse of what happened in between:

TUESDAY 4 PM

- Mason's B day. Vegas bound.
- Live it up!
- It was more of an invite.
- When are you going out?
- Leaving today, back Saturday morning.
- Christ, you're there all week? Are you bringing a medic?
- I'm certified. Give me your full name and DOB.
- (redacted, probably pointlessly, but whatever)
- What airport? What day?
- LAX Friday?? I just back from Nocturnal. I can barely walk yet.
- Friday am? Back when? We gotta come home on Saturday at noon.
- Then I'll leave Saturday around noon, too, that's perfect. But shit, maybe I should come Thursday night then?
- Thursday night. For sure.
- Ok.
- Ok cool. Don't tell him.
- I won't. 
- I'll send you confirmation in an hour.
- Seriously?? Are you sure?
- Positive. He needs this. I'm used to the hours, but I've been working him hard. He's like a little kid driving to Disneyland right now.
- Right onnnnnn.
- Text you in a bit.

SATURDAY 11 AM

- You make it to the gate?
- Yep. You guys find a game to watch until your flight?
- Ya. We will be good.
- Can't thank you enough. You're a really awesome person. Now give me your email/PayPal addy.
- Naw. Stop.
- Seriously, give it to me.
- No.
- I can't even make a dent in what you spent but for my pride you have to at least let me try. You work really hard and that money isn't nothing.
- It's not about pride. We had fun. Bubbles popped. I definitely respect money and hold it in high regard, but I will always hold Mason and you higher. So...we good.
- I'm going to get you back one way or another.
- You can try. I'm pretty shifty.

---

I got in around five o'clock on Thursday and took a cab straight to Aria. I stood outside the casino for a minute while I texted Mason, twitching with excitement. I told him I hadn't been able to get him exactly what he'd wanted for his birthday, but that I had a good substitute. Ok, he finally wrote back, I'll take it. I grabbed my suitcase and wheeled it through the resort doors, making a beeline for the bar he, his boss, and another friend were in. When I was steps away I texted again. Will hand delivery be okay? I reached their table just as his umm...wha? reply came through.

Thus commenced ~40 hours of debauchery in varying degrees of legality.

And since I respect the What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas rule, I'll satisfy my need to document with just a few quick words. My friends - and I now count Mason's boss solidly among them - are amazing people. My wallet was pushed aside for two days; I wasn't allowed to pay for so much as a single cab ride or coffee. Tables at Hakkasan and XS, for Dada Life and David Guetta respectively (who apparently brought Justin Bieber up with him, though I'm not sure, because I was only barely alive at that point), dinners at Rose. Rabbit. Lie. and Jean Georges, endless drinks, and even a Benjamin slipped surreptitiously into a video blackjack machine for my cocktail hour amusement. (You lunatic! I scolded. I barely know how to play! ...I was hooked and loving it within five minutes.) But really those details pale in importance to the company I was in. Some I've known for decades, some I met for the first time, and some familiars I got to know even better. Just a stupidly great time with genuine and cool people.

One moment I will share: Friday, sometime about 2:00 am. Fifteen or so of Mason's friends are clustered around a VIP lounge, deep into celebrating. Some stand, some sit, but most of us are stomping and jumping, singing and pantomiming the Audien remix of Pompeii to one another like idiots, in various states of drunken - or yes - drugged-up bliss. There isn't a soul in the entire nightclub who isn't have the time of his or her life; XS is aptly named. I look over at Mason, who sits perched on the back of a sofa, surrounded by some of his favorite people and wearing a huge smile. I know how much it means to him, to watch his friends blending and bonding, laughing and living it up. And seeing how happy he is, I feel like I'm the one getting a present. If it takes the rest of my life to get squared up for my share of the celebration, it will be worth it.

I risk waking up in cement shoes by posting the few terrible photos I was lucid enough to take...but since I've censored the subjects beyond recognizability, I'm hoping it'll be okay.
















Forty or so of the best hours I'll spend this year, with some of the best people around. If I do end up in a body bag, it'll probably come with bottle service.