In Taoism, one of the great religions of ancient China, "the Tao" translates into "the way," or "the path." The Tao Te Ching is its most important text, a simple yet profound book of wisdom.
Over the years, people have applied the Tao to other areas, in books such as the popular The Tao of Pooh (as in, "Winnie the..."; didn't you know that Pooh was a closet Taoist?) and The Tao of Writing, aimed at tapping one's creativity.
For the purposes of this blog entry, however, Tao refers to a hip, happening nightclub in Las Vegas. Forgive me for being so shallow.
On my recent trip to Sin City, members of the group I was with discussed spending an evening at a club, perhaps reserving a table and getting European bottle service, which is a fancy way of saying you're gonna pay through the nose if you want the privilege of "owning" one of their tables for several hours during the night and partying like a rock star.
I pushed for Tao, quite honestly because of its name, and the fact that I'd read the club had such lavish interior touches as a 20-foot Buddha, and also hundreds of mini Buddhas lit by candles surrounding one of the club's three bars.
I'd also read that among the hip and trendy clubs in Vegas, Tao was considered by many to be the hippest and trendiest. If I was going to party out of my league anyway, I may as well party all the way out of it, right? Right.
Members of the L.A. Lakers hold events there, rappers are known to drop in and hang out, celebrity A-listers show up and mingle, or retire to private VIP skyboxes. Paris Hilton spends time there, dancing sans underpants.
Anyway...by the time our group made its final decision on Saturday night, there were eight of us, and we were headed to Tao. Three-bottle minimum for a group that size, and I doubt I'll ever pay that much for two bottles of vodka and a bottle of Captain Morgan again. (until, you know, the next time I go back.)
At the entrance to the club, there were more than a dozen hosts and security people and ushers and...you name it, they were stationed there. We were herded into an elevator that took us up one floor, and when the doors opened, the first thing we saw was the bar with the 300 little Buddhas. I returned to that spot more than a handful of times throughout the night, just to stare.
The club was fairly empty when we got in, because we were advised to arrive early, or there was no guarantee that our table could be held. (someone with a handful of Benjamins could have come in, and our names would have mysteriously disappeared off of the guest list.) But within an hour, the other tables were filling up, as were the aisles and bars and every other available space. During its peak time, about midnight to 3 am, the place was jam-packed, and the bass-heavy, high-energy music was thumpin'. I was on an adrenaline high the entire time I was there.
There are two main rooms in the club, and I spent my time traveling between the two, going to the one in which our table was located to fill my drink, and then maneuvering back into the main room with the dance floor and an outdoor terrace with a view of The Strip.
The smallish dance floor could not have had any more people on it than it did. You didn't exactly have to be "dancing" when you were out there, you just had to bob up and down a little bit, and you looked as hip as everybody else. Seriously...sardine companies should contact Tao to get tips on how to more effectively pack their tins.
In the elevator on our way up at the beginning of the evening, the attendant told us to make sure and catch the show at 3 a.m. Someone asked, "what kind of show is it?" and he replied, "just catch the show."
I was in the main room at 3 a.m. to catch the show, and I still don't know what I saw. On one of the platforms off to the side of the dance floor was a guy dressed in a full-length Native American headdress, waving a five-foot scepter along with the music, and next to him was a stuffed animal of some sort...a lion perhaps? Don't know. Those two bounced along to the music, revving up the crowd, along with several gorgeous Tao dancers, of course. And then...shaved ice started falling from above the dance floor. So it was essentially snowing on the crowd.
No wonder the elevator guy couldn't tell us more about it. He didn't have a clue, either.
Here's where my story gets good...
During the snow and the headdress guy and the stuffed mascot guy, a girl standing next to me on the dance floor turned to me and yelled in my ear, "Do you have any idea what this means??" Possibly the most profound question of the night. I yelled back, "I have no idea! I've never been here before." (didn't want her to mistake me for an A-lister, ya know.)
I got a grin out of her, and she grabbed my hand and led me a little farther out on the dance floor. I wasn't complaining. So we're doing the dancing thing for a couple songs, bobbing up and down among the crowd, enjoying the, umm...atmosphere. I think (soon you'll find me questioning my thought process) that she's digging me, and I'm digging her. After about 10 minutes or so, she leans in and yells to me, "Are you from Vegas?"
And I say, "No." And before I have a chance to lean in and continue, "I'm from Wisco.....," she lets go of my hand, turns away from me...and a quick move here and a shimmy there, and she's four or five people away from me. A few seconds later, she's gone.
Apparently...........the correct answer to her question was, "Yes!" (I swear, next time I'm out in Milwaukee or Madison or anywhere for that matter, if someone asks me where I'm from, I'm gonna say Vegas. I learned my lesson, boy.)
So not only did I get to party at Tao. I also got rejected at Tao. Score!!
I was a bit confused, but unscathed. My goal was to stay until closing, and a buddy and I did just that. On many of the Web sites I've seen, they're supposed to stay open until 5:30 on Saturdays. But they closed down the room with our table at 4, and then closed the main room at 4:30.
As everyone was clearing out and it was easier to hold an actual conversation, my buddy and I stopped to talk to a security guy, and asked him if we could sneak upstairs for a minute or two and check out the VIP boxes. He said no, in a very friendly manner. I asked him if that was where Paris spent her time when she was at the club, and he informed us that, no, she liked to get her VIP table right near the dance floor, and every time she got up to dance, the DJ would announce her as "Princess Paris." Awwww. He also told us that she was there the night before we were there. Don't know if that's true or not, but who am I to say she wasn't? When we asked him if any big-name celebs were there during our Saturday night, he mentioned something that he thought one of the Wayans brothers had made an appearance.
So, not the cheapest night I've ever spent partying, but would I do it again? In a heartbeat. I would have stayed until sunrise if they'd have let me.
A little time spent in the casino at the Venetian before we left and a stop at the lounge in the middle of Mandalay Bay when we got back, and I didn't get to sleep until after 7 am the way it was. Only to be awakened two hours later, to get packed up and pointed toward the airport to catch a flight.
Can't wait to do it all again. Whenever that may be.
This time I'll remember........I'm from Vegas.
"The Tao is so vast
that when you use it,
something is always left."
—Tao Te Ching