That's Something You Don't See Every Day, Chauncey

Watch me pull a rabbit outta my hat!

All-Time Top 20 Favorite Movies, #18: I only lied about being a thief.

Posted by kozemp on November 5, 2012

I don't know what four nines does but the ace, I think, is pretty high.

A few years ago I was in Las Vegas, fleeing from yet another entry in a long, unbroken line of disastrous female entanglements. (Cue Colonel Jessup: “is there any other kind?”) Frankly, at this point I feel as though I should get some kind of award or something for my streak. We’re at, by my reckoning, year 18 on this thing now, and I really feel as though that kind of longevity deserves wider recognition.

I just realized that my ongoing horror story when it comes to the fairer sex is old enough to vote tomorrow, and I find myself suddenly a little more sanguine about it.

Anyway: Vegas.

I had fled to Vegas, and between outrageous restaurants, and shows, and attractions and more gambling than I ever thought I could possibly endure, I would proceed to lose, quite literally, almost every cent I had. As I recall I came home with about forty eight bucks in the bank, having burned through almost $3500 over the course of five fantastic days. Even though I don’t think I was up for a single second I had a fantastic time, and the shows and the food and the games did a great job of clearing my head and getting me over my troubles, and once I got back I managed to stay happy and entanglement free for almost six whole weeks.

But despite all the great stuff I saw and did, there’s one thing that will always stick out in my mind as why that Vegas trip was truly amazing.

Before I left I went on iTunes and found the track for what I wanted to accomplish, and my first night in town, I walked down Las Vegas Boulevard from my room at Treasure Island to the Bellagio. It was February, so it was a little mild at night, maybe in the 60s. You could walk around in jeans and a shirt. Very pleasant. I love Vegas that time of year.

I got to the Bellagio, walked up to the edge of the marble railing, and put in my headphones. I had decided that I wanted to recreate the end of Ocean’s Eleven, standing in front of the Bellagio with Claire de Lune playing, watching the water fountains.

This is actually not as easy as it sounds, primarily because the water fountain show at the Bellagio – which is the second best thing in Las Vegas, period – already has music, which is incredibly, I mean INCREDIBLY loud. So in order to most accurately recreate the end of the movie – which, yes, I realize is technically impossible because the film crew built an extension of the sidewalk so the actors would be closer to the fountains – and stand right up on the edge of the balustrade, you have to turn the volume up on your iPhone basically as high as it will go, and blasting Debussy tends to remove a little of the magic from the music.

All the same, I got the volume to a point where I could clearly hear Claire De Lune and not hear Josh Groban. (Seriously, so many of the fountain shows are Josh Groban, it makes me terribly sad.) And I stood there, on Las Vegas Boulevard, in the middle of a February night, with the music playing in my ears, and I leaned on the marble like Matt Damon and thought, “you know what, even with all this crap I got going on, life is still pretty great.” And I smiled, for what seemed like the first time in ages.

That isn’t why the story is amazing, though.

It’s amazing because when the piece was concluded, I stood up from the balustrade and took my headphones out of my ears. I looked over to my left and there was a kid standing there. Kid, Jesus, the guy had to be 24 or so. I’m getting old.

The kid was standing there, of some sort of vaguely Middle Eastern or North African extraction, wearing a leather jacket.

He had an iPhone in his hand and headphones in his ears.

He watched me put my headphones away, looked at me for about three seconds, then said, “were you listening to Claire De Lune?”

I chuckled, nodded a bit, and said, “yeah.”

He held up his fist in the air. “Awesome, man.”

We fist-bumped, I smiled, and turned around to walk back to my hotel.

I could go on for pages and pages about how much I enjoy Ocean’s Eleven, and why, and the joyful effortlessness of it; the sly, quirky performances and how it’s all the more amazing because this movie, and its almost as enjoyable sequels, are what Soderbergh and Clooney and Pitt dash off as a lark between other movies. I could talk about how even though I don’t really go for the casino culture anymore, or con artistry, or any of that sort of stuff, and that I’ve really divested myself of most of the trappings or reminders of that life, I still go back to Ocean’s Eleven, and laugh, and toss off the scores of brilliant quotable lines.

I could go on for pages about the movie, but I really don’t think any of that says as much about how endearing it is as two guys, standing alone in the middle of the night, watching the fountains and listening to Debussy, for one moment not being themselves, but the guys they admire up on the screen.

JLK

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