19 years. That is how long it has been since I've talked to my college roommate, Mike. Our lack of communication had nothing to do with a fight, disagreement or general distaste for one another. It was simply, life. Through the years, I've thought of Mike many, many times. I was a groomsman at his weeding and through our two years together in the dorms at Purdue, we were inseparable. After unsuccessfully stalking him across social media (he abhors it), I had recently heard an update through his brother-in-law/fraternity brother of mine I recently connected back up with. Mike was great; married with kids and happy. Much, like I always knew he would be.
So, when Mike's brother Chris dropped a surprise email (thanks to my love of social media) inviting me as a surprise guest to Mike's 40th birthday party in Las Vegas, I couldn't make my reservations fast enough. One, I never turn down a trip to Vegas. Two, it was Mike.
Admittedly, I was a little nervous. As I told several friends, this was a big deal. It's not like you can plan on a whim to reconnect with a friend who you have not seen in almost two decades.
To sum up our meeting. I knocked. He answered. He asked where my hair went. I observed he hadn't changed a bit outside of dropping his mullet and with a snap of the fingers, it was like there was never a 19 year gap. Everything just clicked.
My memories, stories and laughs were Mike's memories, stories and laughs. I found it reassuring that of all the things I thought were funny, were actually funny and most importantly, correctly recounted. With two guys named Mike, our last names again became our first names. It was truly if we never lost daily contact.
Not only was I able to meet up with Mike, but his brother Chris, and their great group of friends. They were all great guys and they made the trip incredibly memorable. As a group, it was a unanimous decision that our three nights in Vegas really felt like six. We completely lost track of time and worked ourselves into the ground.
So, how exactly did we manage to have so much fun? One word. Keno. Yeah, bingo.
Crazy, I know. However, when you want to do something that is fairly slow paced, provides "free" drinks (Sierra Nevada, folks) and has a relatively low buy-in, Keno is where it is at. Yes, the older crowd was somewhat amused by our unified exuberance over the numbered ping pong balls, but it really was a great way to spend a day. Plus, the seats where fairly comfortable and most importantly, when you figure in the beer to betting ratio, we all either broke even or came out a little ahead. Try that playing blackjack.
What else was great? The cabana Chris rented at New York, New York. For 10 hours, we had a pool side cabana which included a fridge, TV, Xbox and bar credit. We didn't have any trouble filling the day with Mantivities, that's for certain.
Although we rode the NY, NY roller coaster about 3 times too many and were moderately concerned every time one of the life guards took his chair and fell asleep, it was a fabulous way to spend a hot Vegas day.
Probably one of the most amazing things I learned during our trip, was that Mike worked for a brewery...and not just any brewery, but Deschutes Brewery in Oregon. Mike and I have always liked our beer and I guess it should come as no surprise we both love great beer. Hearing Mike talk about the magic of cask ale literally brought a tear to my eye. Who would have guessed that for guys that once thought Bud Dry was the next great thing, we would one day discuss the virtues of a fine IPA or porter.
Using the local rep, Mike found Deschutes served at Paris. We swung by and walked away with mugs of their Mirror Pond Pale Ale. Yes, "walked away". Did I mention I love Vegas? The max event, was the discovery that Todd English's Pub at City Center has Deschutes on cask. After a long day of playing Keno, I was overjoyed to try both their Black Butte Porter and Inversion IPA. Both were on cask and both were great. Todd English's Pub is always a must stop for me. Now, even more so.
Words cannot really sum up what this trip/reunion/birthday celebration meant to me. Mike and I were two guys, from different parts of the country, who were thrown together for this thing called college. We didn't just get along, we got along. For two solid years we shared a ton of experiences and as we discovered, many of these, even 19 years later, will never be forgotten. I have a feeling our Vegas adventure is part two of our friendship. Even after our paths split, our love for life, laughs and incredibly great beer prove we've been running on parallel rails for all of these years. Even, if we didn't know it. Cheers, Mike and happy birthday.