Las Vegas exists to serve one purpose…get your money from your pocket to their pockets as quickly as possible.
I know, I know. Saying something like that is as trite as making fun of air travel, people who can’t drive, and for Minnesotans, any conversation about snow. However, it’s absolutely and stunningly true. I’ve always had this picture of myself boogying my way into a crowded place while the Bee Gee’s Staying Alive played in the background. If any place was supposed to commence with the glamor of this notion, it was supposed to be LV.
Instead, I landed at McCarran International Airport in complete amazement of how I’d only been in the town for less than three seconds before I was offered the opportunity to gamble. I have to think the type of person who gambles at an airport has a special kind of stupidity that can only be momentarily silenced by the clambering of machinery and music, which has recently gone fully digital…a way to optimize winnings and take any exercise or fun out of the process. If they invented a machine that would kick you in the balls 100 of every 101 times, but there was a small chance one of those times could be worth slightly more than you invested…would you pump your hard earned American wedge into it?
Alright…so you’re starting to pick up on the fact that I don’t like gambling. I was taught at an early age what a decent return on investment should look like. My parents instilled a sense of responsibility in me that has yet to allow me to throw my hat over the wall for the very, very small and constantly marginal chance to win big. You gotta play, to win, right? I’ll respectfully beg to differ. A colleague of mine once said that he’d rather spend 30 bucks playing golf than gambling any day, because there was a guarantee in his return. I agree fully.
So why the hell was I in Vegas? The mecca of gambling and licentious behavior.
Well, it was for the latter of course. What better place for a few friends from across the world to hang out, get drunk, and meander through city streets screaming at the top of their lungs…well, that’s mostly true, unless you happen to be paying attention to how much drinks cost.
Wait, what? Where the hell is Elvis? Frank Sinatra? I just paid 9-fuckin’-dollars for a Corona, and this is the kind of street entertainment I have to suffer through? I’ll give him credit, using his dad’s 1970s Gym Socks for arm guards was awfully clever…but come on. Weren’t we once sold on this dream of Las Vegas being an all inclusive resort of the American dream? It’s not…instead all you hear is flick, flick, flick.
What does flick flick flick mean? If you have been to LV, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
If you haven’t, then once you get there you will know in seconds. Every ten feet some transient street peddler is flicking cards together with pictures of scantily clad (or just plain naked) women with phone numbers. I feel like on the card there should be an asterisk, letting you know it may not be the girl in the picture, or a girl at all on the other end of that phone. They aren’t allowed to talk or harass you, all they can do is slap their cards together and motion toward you…which is fine, but it happens over and over, and over again.
I walked by these two as we made our way down the strip. I have to say they were the most creative of the street performers that I saw out pandering for money. Just like in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, there are quite a few trademark rip offs running up down the strip trying to peddle a few bucks for a picture…except, when they don’t get the cash they tend to yell at people…it’s a shitty business, and I had no part of it. Of course, I stole this picture using my wide-angeled lens and a bit of chance luck…all the while the robot man is yelling at somebody who snuck in a photo with his wife who had just jumped behind them, like a ninja.
I shouldn’t be jaded, these are just people after all…not ridiculously rich land owners that I envy only for their cunning and inexplicable ability to exploit American stupidity.
After all the Vegas secret is to attract people with a concept. Feed them full of plasticated goodness and create a sense of uniqueness. Many buildings were an amazement and with much credit to their owners, designed completely around profit.
The Venetian gives you many different experiences…but one commonality you will find amongst every building you find your way inside of, it’s designed around retention. There are no clocks, there are no windows. In effect, time and decency don’t exist, and nor do the exits. You can’t walk outside of the strip without trying really hard to get away from it…every door you stumble through takes you past retailers, gambling areas, and suckers.
What’s most attractive about The Venetian is the inside. It gives you the illusion of walking through romantic streets with gondolas and shops all around you. Most of the other casinos and resorts we went through had attractions that were completely kitschy and outdated…but there was something kind of unique and neat about this place…for a while at least.
A couple got married just to the left of this lamp post inside…To each their own, but damn that’s redneck.
It is kind of cool to see some of the old buildings that really represent Vegas’ true legacy. Circus Circus in all of it’s cheapness, The Mirage, and Caesars Palace all provide a tiny notion of what the landscape looked like before and allow you to transcend the superficiality of the city for a brief moment in order to respect what it all really means…if only for the briefest of moments. Even the cynical, like myself, are occasionally stunned by the surroundings.
You can pay a few bucks and head to the top of the “Eiffel Tower” at the Paris Casino. You can get some great views like the prior image and see quite a bit. Probably best at night, we went in the day. The only irony is that you have to pay someone to get a birds eye view of a place that is designed solely to remove the money from your back pocket…It’d be like paying the devil 60 bucks to give you a birds eye view of hell, before he led you into yours.
But why not? I venture that everyone who goes to LV says “Well, we are on vacation” at least once a day. For some it’s before paying an astounding entry fee to an attraction that is sorely not worth it. For others it’s financing a second mortgage to pay off their debt at a poker table…and even for a few it’s opening a credit card to take with to the strip club you just found. Whatever your poison, they’ve got it.
The biggest illusion is the food…every place we went to whether cheap or high brow was absolutely shit. There is no value in the less-than-ridiculously priced restaurants…It’s almost like casino owners begrudgingly allowed some of their gambling revenue square footage to go the way of making malts and shitty steaks just to keep people from possibly leaving their casinos. Some bad “American” fries and water that tastes like a shoe will convince anyone that they shouldn’t be there and in fact they should be back on the casino floor where they belong…Stay for desfsert? nah, I’ve got some sinnin’ to do.
The same could be said for a lot of the theme bars. Dicks Last Resort is the most godawful place I’ve ever been. We didn’t eat there, but there was plenty of evidence of people who had. We only had drinks long enough to realize the beer was expensive and terrible and the staff, while trying to be coyly rude, were actually real assholes…for really, dude…Pop your collar some more and kindly jump into a river.
Further extending this tradition of annoying me, The Excalibur, my god. Really?
I want to say our hotel cost something like six dollars a year or something…the TV only had a channel that had LV adverts running…every square inch of the building seemed creepy…Even though outside the incredibly tacky design made you think you were inside a castle, the real inside closely resembled a Ramada Inn cleverly placed near an Iowan airport. The sort of place you’d be disappointed if you didn’t manage to murder a hooker during your stay. However, it’s one of Las Vegas’ “Family Friendly” casinos…can’t wait to go on a tirade about this point.
Family Friendly. Seriously? Honestly, don’t bring your kids here. If you do, don’t expect the freaking SpongeBob Squarepants exhibit to be open at 11:30 AT NIGHT. That’s right, as you stand there yelling at the sign in front of the attraction with your poor kid in tow lamenting about how you aren’t able to drop him off and do some gambling, realize, you suck at parenting. You might think I’m speaking in general, and for the most part I am…but bringing near-adult children and young children are two different things. I saw so many young children that were chained to their parents gambling, smoking, and drinking…it honestly made me a bit upset.
Anyway, let me digress, and remind you not to spend too much time in The Excalibur. If Las Vegas is a hideous beast, The Excalibur is the beast’s asshole…it is the warm home to a bunch of people who seem like they can barely afford Ramen noodles, let alone a trip to Las Vegas. It’s as depressing in it’s company as it is in design. At least The Luxor, Mandalay Bay, MGM and the like have something sort of upscale to offer. The Excalibur has the kind of carpets you’d expect in a 90 year-old woman’s house and the kind of people you’d expect to rob it…
I guess that didn’t keep us from drinking in it’s bars though, which never closed…Cheap drinks were impossible to find. We asked a lot of locals where they went to drink…finally on the last day we found a couple of places that were reluctantly told to us, only to find them resemble everything else we’d already been exposed to. Seriously, no one could survive in this town paying casino prices. So where do they hang out? It is almost like they have all been encouraged to either not ruin their local spots, or they’re paid supporters of crappy theme bars and clubs, the like they’d been referring us to all the time.
Freemont Street, or “The Freemont Street Experience” was the highlight of our drinking tour…we found quite a few places to saunter in and out of and there were plenty of ‘promoters’ offering us free admission, a few of which we obliged. I highly recommend getting down there and off the strip for a bit…it’s not that much better, but it’s still well worth the time, which you’re bound to waste drinking somewhere else, anyway.
One of the advantages to drinking in LV is that you never have to drive…everything is available to you 24/7 (evil and good), and there is always something to do if you’ve got a few bucks and a few friends around you.
One thing I really did like was the more modern architecture just around the bend from our hotel. I really dig the glass and smooth contours of these buildings. They almost provide a shred of hope, a notion that there is a new Las Vegas in the works. One that is modern and not solely based on tacky ways of luring dollars out of your back pocket. While we didn’t spend much time inside of these buildings, we did spend a lot of time admiring them from the streets an snapping the odd picture.
My favorite picture from the trip. A lucky snap.
High-brow shopping clads the street below these marvelous glass monstrosities.
I’m certain I couldn’t afford much in these places…but then again, I’m not that kind of person anyway.
I live a simple life…although, given the chance I’m sure I’d live up to be a great rich dude.
I’ll end my diatribe on the newer section of the strip here, on my second favorite picture…I’d like to live in a building like this some day…perhaps with a helipad and a bar on every other floor…wow, I’m starting to feel less jaded about LV already.
And…it’s back. The Statue of Liberty stands out in front of New York, New York…As a casino it’s as boring as the others, but we did pop into the Coyote Ugly bar on the last night to watch women dance and harass men from their perch on top of the bar…a complete meat market full of popped collars, drunk chicks, and tight jean shorts…it wasn’t all bad. 🙂
I’ll save you the rest of the details…after all, there aren’t any decent pictures to accompany my stories. This trip was really centered around seeming some friends from afar, getting drunk and being merry. Let’s face it, what happens in Vegas is too boring to tell anyone else…unless you really did bury a hooker, in which case you should just keep that to yourself.
One of the best parts was getting out of Vegas to see the Grand Canyon and all of it’s amazingness. We also stopped at the Hoover Dam along the way, certainly something you should experience if you’re in the neighborhood.
I’m not one to photograph myself…but I thought I might as well take a momento away with me 🙂
We ended up being a little turned around after realizing that they’d completed the bridge at the Hoover Dam and got rid of the old windy roads that used to lead straight through it. We were lucky, because we had decided to off road a bit and get to the back of Lake Mead and got to take in some great landscapes before making our way back in.
The Grand Canyon is simply amazing. My friends from the UK were pretty impressed, but quick to make a few jokes. I was quick to remind them that what they were looking at was bigger than their entire country…
The ground was cold, it had just snowed when we got up there…I recently visited Denver and it was really cold there as well…it’s almost like a conspiracy that wherever I travel I bring the cold with me…coming soon to freeze your town, The Lunk.
We hit the rim of the canyon just as the sun was starting to set…You could spend a lifetime photographing around the canyon areas, unfortunately I only had but a few minutes to grab a few shots and hit the car for the long ride back to Vegas.
All in all, if you’re going for a long weekend to get drunk and hang out, even to gamble a few bucks…Vegas isn’t all that bad. Just don’t spend too much time, and don’t take anything seriously…once you start to dissect people’s sad lives pumping their money into slot machines, you’ll have a tough time removing that cynicism from your thought process. Instead, take a deep breath, drink a few expensive drinks, and go do something kitschy and stupid…you’ll like yourself better in the morning that way.
Just, for god sakes, whatever you do…don’t be “that guy.”
All for now kids,