Return of the freeze

The memories flood back, courtesy of Tacone’s yard-long colada

Photo: Richard Brian
C. Moon Reed

There’s a dark secret many of us try to hide: Back before I was a local, I was a tourist. I’d like to say tourist me was too good for yard-long containers of frozen sugar-booze, but ... well, you know. Things happen. For me, they happened like this:

Once upon a time, when the genie Aladdin was only halfway through granting the wishes of a new master, my friends and I booked a room in Planet Hollywood. As things are wont to happen when you mix three girls, too little sleep and too much fun, we got into a spat and one of us fell asleep. To distract me, the conscious friend suggested we explore the casino—that way we’d get a breather without straying far from our sleeping beauty should she wake.

We walked and walked, each turn surprising and delighting us. It was like one of those mythical Arabian tents that looked small on the outside and revealed a sprawling palace on the inside. This was the magic of Vegas, we thought. Never would a hotel sprout a shopping mall back home.

Restaurant Guide

Tacone Flavor Grill & Daiquiri Bar
At Planet Hollywood’s Miracle Mile Shops, 734-9727.

As we rounded one long swath of mallway, my friend and I discovered a curious storefront. At first it looked like a regular ol’ food-court restaurant. But as we approached, we noticed something unique and amazing: Slurpee-mixing machines. But it wasn’t Slurpees. It was frozen booze! My friend and I were amazed. We couldn’t believe it. Booze in a shopping mall. Sold for you to drink while you shopped. It was genius. Back home, they’d have never thought of this magical combination, much less been legally allowed to implement it.

Without saying a word, my friend and I jumped in line. We each bought one of those frozen flavored concoctions that are sold by the measuring stick instead of a more civilized quantity.

Feeling euphoric and somewhat naughty, my friend and I continued our shopping trip, becoming all the more giggly and forgetful of our previous concerns. We even went into some teeny-bopper store, drinks in hand, and brought matching “best friend” bracelets. We still call each other “be fri” and “st end” after the inscription on the classic broken-heart pendent.

The mall booze shopping trip is one of my favorite memories of Vegas, and I know that nothing I do in my Vegas future will ever truly be able to beat it.

Last week, I had to go to Planet Hollywood for some work thing. On my way out, when I was practically at the parking garage, I noticed a little café/booze stand called Tacone Flavor Grill and Daiquiri Bar. I’d sped past it a million times, normally scoffing at the stupid tourists waiting in line for those comical yards o’ booze. But because I was tired from my errand, I walked slowly. At my leisurely pace, I got a good stare in. Something seemed familiar, but I couldn’t remember what. It was like in the movie sequel Return to Oz, when the replacement Dorothy finds a land that is similar yet different. It wasn’t déjà vu, but for some reason I had the odd inclination to sidle up to the bar and order one of those embarrassing drinks. I did.

The biggest surprise: My berry-piña colada swirl was actually good. Sweet, but not too sugary. Everything else seemed a little lonely. Because the mall is so large, there is an eerie, whooshing spaciousness that seems to suck up all natural sound, save the canned mall music of inoffensive pop.

Really, the bar isn’t made to sit at. That’s why there’s a long line and a flock of empty tables. However, the spot does afford a good view both for people-watching and for studying the vestigial Aladdin architecture. And I did feel a certain kinship with the employees. We all could see the man behind the curtain, the reality behind the fantasy. And no, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised to discover that when the bartender called “free samples” into the crowd, it actually worked.

It took a long time sitting and sipping for a foggy memory to slowly emerge. I had completely forgotten my past life as a tourist. It wasn’t that I had blocked it out of self-preservation from embarrassment. It was just that my experience as a local was so vastly different from my previous one that I simply didn’t recognize the place. The only constant? Past or present, both gave me brain freeze.


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