Is the boring stuff that happens is Vegas also required to stay in Vegas?
We arrived midday on Tuesday to a sparkling pretty sunny day. And since it’s not the golden economy of just a year ago, we could get straight into a cab.
(The last time I was there several years ago was when we still lived in LA, and I flew in mid-afternoon to find a taxi queue more than an hour long. I stood in the beating sun underneath an inadequate canopy and chatted with a coworker I didn’t especially like.)
All the cabbies in Vegas are chatty. Like chubby little teddy bears who want to pass the time ingesting your annotated life story, listening until they have an opening to sell you a hooker or two.
(Seriously. A friend arrived late, around midnight, and his cabbie insisted: “You know, they’ll come to your room.”)
The first day is an exercise in forgetting where we are, driving out of the city toward Lake Mead, stopping at Lucille’s for maybe the best BBQ I’ve ever had. The lake is so quiet, lovely and peaceful, but so sad, with its thick white streak of calcified drought.
As we waded in the clearest lake water I’ve ever seen, I wondered how long we could stay on our little road trip and avoid the Vegas everybody comes for. In the startling tranquility I was even more aware of the other world out there, the one where they’re going to run out of water in the next two years. The one where the inequities and the dirt pile up to make everything a little sticky, a little hard to breathe.
By the time we get to the Venetian, the surreal world of Vegas is all around us. Outside it’s still balmy and sunny and we’re breathing in the clean, summer-smelling air. Until we walk in the front door. Where we’ve apparently slipped into an elderly woman’s lingerie chest with fifteen pink sachets there to keep everything fresh. I swear, there is no place in the world that smells more colored pink than this.
And it’s in such stark contrast to the imitation Venice: the large-scale marble, the ornate chandelier, the ten foot tall flower arrangements. Everything here is built Vegas scale; it is a fifteen minute walk to our room in what their literature calls “one of the best hotels in the world”. …IN THE WORLD.
The words loom as large as the california king I’m going to flop myself onto.
We dodge the casino floor as much as possible, and gawk at the fools who paid $50 for a “private” gondola ride for two, complete with singing Vegas employee dressed in black and white stripes with a jaunty red scarf.
Vegas makes me sadder than any other city I’ve been to. The people who toil in this place, scantily clad and spinning their wheels, aren’t likely to hit it big like a waitress in LA. It’s the absence of opportunity that kills me here, the deadness in everybody’s eyes, like if they weren’t glazed over they’d be full of tears.
Which I guess you could say justifies the hands-out culture of this place, but that doesn’t make me like it. $17 for a bowl of soup plus 18% gratuity and a $4.00 room service charge? You better be paying your staff enough to not be tipped, because they’re not being tipped.
We pretty much avoided all the Vegas parts of Vegas this time, which was nice, if a little boring. I was seriously looking forward to sitting tethered to my desk at home after a day of poolside reading. And after my day of exploring the strip on foot, I needed three or four showers to feel like myself again. So by the time Friday rolled around, I was – to my surprise – eager to get on a plane.
We scuttled past the dinging casino machines, glowing lights, and half-hearted laughter, past the pink smell of the lobby, and into a cab that returned us not to normal society, but to the airport, which is filled with all of the above, except, most forgivingly, that torturous flowery odor, which, I swear to god, still haunts me.
What’s that smell? We’re sure it’s not pink? Check. Enjoy.