Monday, May 02, 2005

Our US Trip: Part 6 - Las Vegas - Gob-smacking wealth in the City of Business Cards

Wednesday 8th December

A fairly restful night in our air-conditioned $69 per night luxury room. Looking back, with the exception of the nights spent at Paul and Roz's place in San Francisco, TI was the cheapest place we stayed. And probably the most luxurious. Our latest morning start yet, as we were up and moving around 11am. The weather was once again cold and overcast, if a little better from the previous day.

First stop was (once again) Starbucks. They seem to catch a lot of flack from people about the fact that there is a Starbucks on every corner, but the coffee is generally very good, and certainly is an order of magnitude better than coffee just about anywhere else in the States. Except Peet's, of course.

And once again we started off south down the Strip to check out all the joints. The cabbie had recommended M&M's World, so we first went in there. We didn't buy much, well I didn't buy much. They have a rainbow selection sold by the pound, so we bought some mixed green and gold peanut M&M's for Paul and Roz to be patriotic.

After this, we lunched at Subway, while looking out at New York New York.New York New York
On top of the casino is a roller-coaster, and despite the bitter weather, it was still operational. Well, I guess it wasn't raining. And on we walked, stopping in a souvenir shop on the way to pick up a few presents, and a corner store to buy some supplies. At the corner where the Tropicana is, I got a phone call from home. Greg was asking me whether I'd be playing basketball that night. It must've been Thursday morning back home! Naturally I told him, that while I was keen, I would probably be unable to get there in time.

While at Tropicana, Ali and I had a "Free Spin" on the wheel at the outside of the casino. You "win" a free deck of cards, and to collect, they craftily make you descend into the bowels of the casino to retrieve them. Included in the winnings was a brochure for their entertainment; we noticed that a show was shortly about to start, so we did the poker machine polka to find the place where the show was on: a stage literally placed on top of a bank of poker machines. While waiting Ali pulled $7.50 profit out of a 5 cent machine.

The free show was "Airtime", which featured a couple of very muscly and very gay blokes and a couple of barely-dressed chicks, who did a suspended acrobat type act over the stage. One of the chicks did a hoola-hoop dance with lots of twirling. She was doing the "spotting" thing which ballerinas do to stop getting dizzy, and on her way around I could've sworn she winked at me! Next time around, yep she's winking. Subtle look around, no I'm the only bloke in the area, she's got to be either winking at me or Ali. Ali leans over, "I think she's winking at you," in a very matter-of-fact voice. Then I notice she's not only winking at me, but at a whole bunch of people on her way 'round. It's obviously some showbiz trick to draw you in. After the show ended we left the Tropicana, all the better for the experience.

Further down the Strip we eventually ended up at the pyramid-shaped Luxor . Ali had to ride the lions out the front. Another "sheer-scale-will-amaze-you" type place. We decided to take a peek inside but the photos just do not do it justice. I was actually starting to get sickened by the amount of money that was just floating around in these edifaces. Rooms up inside the pyramid, stone features inside the foyer, uggh, it must've cost tens of millions to build this place. And here I am, an arse-hanging-out-of-my-pants Australian along to have a Captain Cook at the place.

Luxor was our last stop on our walk south, and we'd taken about three hours to get that far. Three hours! So we headed back, looking in at most of the casinos on the way, just for a gawk. Snapped a couple of shots at MGM Grand (and one which I should've shown of the previous day at Paris).

Paul or Roz had recommended we stop in at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville. We did, and we were originally intending to stay there for dinner. But it was not to be. After waiting for quite a few minutes at the near-empty bar to be huffily served by the rude barman I returned with our drinks to the table Ali had found. The second round he charged me two dollars more and was even ruder. Obviously I hadn't given him enough tip in the first round and he was trying to make up for it. Which was rubbish because I gave him plenty. Anyway we voted with our feet and left after we had quickly finished up. No need to give them anymore money. I don't recommend Margaritaville.

FatburgerI snapped one of my most favourite shots here. I just couldn't imagine in Australia that anyone would want to eat in a place called "Fatburger." We didn't enter or taste the food, so it may be my loss. However, I'll stand by my decision.

Back we walked, north to TI, then it was rest, a little bit of telly, a snooze, and room service. We went fairly basic with the room service (hamburgers, etc) but it came to $38 plus tip and I was once again disappointed at the quality of the food. Too much and too disgusting. It was now mid-evening so we organised ourselves for yet another walking trip along the strip.

This time it was north, past the huge shopping-complex that we could see from our room window. It wasn't long before the area got rather grotty. I was keen to see Circus, Circus because of the whole "Diamonds are Forever"-James Bond connection. But it was easily the filthiest casino we'd been in so far. And they had a different hiring policy as well, since all the croupiers were Asian. There was an acrobatic show which we caught briefly, complete with live band which consisted merely of drummer, violin and piano accordian. Interestingly, the acrobats ("Isha and Misha" or something like that) were of some Slavic origin, neither spoke very good English. But after the show had finished, they spent about five minutes on the darkened stage going over a couple of moves that they'd obviously stuffed up. We saw them later that night walking down towards the "rich" end of town, chatting away in their native tongue. We didn't stay long in Circus, Circus, long enough to smell the stale cigar smoke only and then we left back towards TI.

As I said the area was a little dodgy. There was a very drunk couple who were being abusive to people who overtook or walked past them. We avoided conflict by walking into Frontier for a quick piss-stop.

One thing I could not get used to was the people handing out semi-porno business cards intending to attract you to strip clubs. It didn't matter that I was walking arm-in-arm with my chick down the street. Every time, they'd spot us, tap the pack of cards in their hand once or twice and thrust them forward towards us. One bloke was so forceful that Ali had no choice but to accept the card, which she quickly discarded. I will always remember Las Vegas for the piles of fluttering little cards in every gutter on every street.

For the last time, we made it back to TI, and went to the "Centre" Bar for a drink. But no dice, pardner, we couldn't get a drink because we didn't have a table or weren't playing one of those dickey-little bar-side poker machines. You can not only sit and get pissed, but you can also lose money gambling at the same time. How convenient. I was ready for bed, but Ali insisted we get a drink somewhere, so we followed the sound of music and ended up in Kahunaville within the bowels of TI. We scored our 2-for-1 cocktail for $7.50, and drank something completely indescribable. The entertainment was Duelling Pianos with two obviously very talented blokes playing and joking, but I was not impressed at all. The sound was so loud that it was actually hurting me to listen to. The jokes the guys said were just a little too off-colour (or should I say off-color) for my mood, and some of the humour was quite insulting in that insecure stand-up comic sort of way. After three drinks I managed to pry Ali away from there and we went out to the general casino.

After trying out a few machines, we both sat down in front of this 5 cent machine and began playing. And lo and behold, at 12:30am on Thursday 9th December we eventually received the fabled Vegas drink service. We felt a right pair of dicks actually because when the chicky came back with Ali's screwdriver and my bourbon, Ali asked her how much it cost and was told in a deadpan voice, "It's complimentary, M'am." Hee hee hee. All this must have inspired the gambling gods to look kindly on us, for Ali won $45 on the machine from an initial $5 outlay.

After this we were both ready to drop, so it was back up to the room and to open the Twinkies that I'd bought in the corner store earlier that day. They are not easy to find in Australia but I had had them before, and devoured two or three with gusto. Then it was to sleep.

The following day we were to leave Vegas for New Orleans. I could easily have done without the Vegas portion of the trip. The sheer wealth pouring into that place is staggering, and for me, it was just a bit too much of a disgusting display. I wasn't impressed by the "replicas"; quite frankly I'll be happy to see the Eiffel Tower and the Trevi Fountain. But the real one, not some plastercast knock-off (although I doubt that they were actually made of plaster!). I was not enjoying the food either, and with the sole exception of the Thai dinner we'd had the very first night, I was beginning to think that I'd never enjoy a meal in the US.

But Ali enjoyed Vegas, and for that I was happy that we'd come all this way. She came out a little ahead in the gambling stakes as well, so doubly happy as far as that was concerned. No million-dollar bonus win, however.

1 comment:

Alison said...

Ah babe, I loved reading this and the memories really come flooding back! I was very glad to "do" Vegas and now feel complete if i never go there again! However i think the sheer magnitude of the place can not be fully understood unless you experience it first hand. Put simply everything is "BIG"!!