Aug 27, 2008

Vegas in 48 Hours

Larry and I returned from hell –– I mean, Las Vegas: a constant onslaught of noise, heat, blaring music, slot machines, drunken gamblers, trashily dressed women and sleazy ogling men. And that was just the shopping mall.

I realize that lots of people love Las Vegas. In fact, it’s surpassed Disneyland as the #1 tourist destination for families. I guess for the occasional caged wildlife on display in the lobby. "And if you are bad, Timmy, we will throw you in that cage." Okay so people come for the hotels. The Strip is now populated with megaplex resort hotels that offer luxury rooms, dining, high-end shopping, and mega-pools. Even topless pools.

Larry and I didn’t come for the gambling, drinking or shopping. We came to see the Cirque Du Soleil’s Beatles LOVE show which was at the Mirage. That hotel cost $180 a night, but that’s not how we roll. So we ended up across the street at the Imperial Palace, at $55 a night. I had requested a room away from the strip, so they had placed us in a separate building wedged between the parking garage and the AC turbines, accessible only from a frontage road. So they moved us a room attached to the main building, looking down at the parking garage.

On the way to our room we stopped to admire the art in the gift shop window: I guess I would call this "Mermaid with Severed Head." No wonder Vegas is so popular. There is Something for Everyone. Our room was fine. Away from the street, it was quiet, minus the A/C noise, but at least the AC worked. The bed was firm, and the sheets were clean. That’s all we needed. Oh, and Larry wanted a pool.

It was a large over-chlorinated bath, and our fellow $55 a night guests were of the gangsta variety. Well, that’s what you get when you pay $55 a night. I read on one website that you could go swim in other pools. So we got out of the Clorox, dried off (in five seconds in the 100+heat) and went to explore pool accessibility at some of the other hotels. Ceasar’s Palace, the Mirage and Treasure Island (they have a wave machine). The pool was cordoned off and had a guard gate, and you have to flash your hotel key card to get in.

I asked the pool guard if we could buy a day pass.
“For Topless Pool,” he shrugged. “Twenty buck for ladies, fifty bucks for guys.”
“We can’t buy a day pass for the regular pool?
“How about if we buy massage packages at the spa, which is adjacent to the pool and from where I’m standing, I see women going in and out to the pool patio?”

Next time, Larry suggested, we’d come with friends and get a suite and split the cost. Or find a pool that sells day passes.

Like I’m going to come back?

We went out to the street to walk around, and within five minutes I was on sensory overload. There were booths selling all sorts of tchotcke and trashy clothes, leather faced women who wanted to spray cologne in my face. A row of illegals were shoving business cards at us: they read, “Women direct to you.” They weren’t women on the cards, just naked torsos. A truck drove by hauling a mini billboard for “Girls Who Want To Meet You.” A Latina gal with bleached blonde hair relaxed in a thong and bra. She didn’t look that excited to meet anyone.

Larry is full of surprises. He cries watching Lord of the Rings, he loves Disneyland, and has the White Stripes and Kelly Clarkson on his iPod. Larry doesn’t like fakery or glitz, so I was surprised to learn that Larry has been to Vegas a few times. “We liked the buffet at the Rio,” Larry said. “But the Excalibur’s got a nice pool.” How many times had he been here? Several. Mostly with his ex-girlfriend. And look how that ended? Years of therapy. He said therapy was to heal from the relationship; I think it was to heal from Vegas.

After a nap we looked into dinner. We thought we might want to do one of those buffets, since I’m into sushi and Larry is into fatty pork. I went online and found a terrific website: Cheapo Vegas. They will give you the low down on everything from hotels to food. Check out their buffet descriptions.

Round Table Buffet: Consistently ranked in the bottom third in Las Vegas, the Excalibur is underperformed by few. You can get indigestion for the price of a decent meal. Casseroles and low-grade meats sit under heat lamps in this enormous buffet. Stay away at all costs.
Fellini's Ristorante Italiano: You know what would be cool? If this restaurant had a Federico Fellini theme. They could have a giant statue of the Virgin Mary floating overhead, and a bunch of crazy Italian clowns dancing around, and your waiter would repeat the same words over and over. But it doesn't.
a Creperie: We could make a tasteless joke involving a homonym on the name, but we're too classy for that.

We hadn’t eaten anything but string cheese since breakfast, so we needed to eat eventually. We walked south a couple blocks, past one of the older YEE-HAW GAMBLING HAWL hotels and found the Paris. It was a huge relief to get out of the heat and into some relative quiet. The first floor casino’s ceilings were high, so it wasn’t as noisily. They were painted like the sky and artfully lit so you felt like you were not in Paris, but in a Disney ride about Paris. Larry and I strolled around and for the first time since we got here I started to relax. Wow, I was tired. And hungry. We made it down the Parisian themed passage of shops, until we realized we were heading into Bally's. So we turned around and walked back along the fake Paris street.

I spied an older couple walking toward us with their adult, handicapped son. They each had an arm on him, helping him walk as he looked up at the architecture and the fake sky. Just as they passed I caught the expression on the son’s face. Joy. It was the most spontaneous, real moment I’d witnessed since we got here.

It took nearly an hour for our waitress, a fireplug Russian named Olga, to get us our food. We walked back through Ceasar’s Palace, arguably the largest hotel on the strip. It spanned two entire blocks. I stopped in The Cher boutique (she's doing a show) and bought a magnet for my friend Matt. We just to rewrite Christian praise songs sung by Cher. Lke this old one by Steve Green
Do you believe...people need the Lord (need the Lord, need the Lord)
I believe something inside me saying ... He really is the open door, whoa...

Outside the Cher boutique, Larry spotted a poster advertising an art gallery with Peter Maxx, “just ahead in the Forum Shops. But the deeper we walked into the Forum shops, the further from Peter Maxx we went. We never found Peter Maxx. But I did see a woman who looked just the bleached blonde Latina “Girl Who Wants To Meet You.” She was heading into a gangsta hip hop bar. Maybe for a date. Maybe for a job.

A set of fountain statuary started moving, and with the help of some very bad holographics, started acting out the myth of Poseidon or Neptune or Aqualung. That's when we left.

We did stroll through the Bellagio on the way back. Despite the annoying excess, we did find some amazing art: like this ceiling display at the front desk. All blown glass. I guess I appreciate extravagance in art. Something you can't own but you can enjoy. Besides, it was free to look at. Unlike the trashy 'girls who want to meet you.'

The next morning, we woke up late. Larry felt dizzy. So we found a Wallgreens online next to the MGM Grand, and took the overpriced but air-conditioned monorail down the few blocks to the MGM Grand. We had to walk at least the same distance through the maze of shops and casinos to get out to the street. Wallgreens was out of Smart Water so I got Larry some electrolyte supplements and we walked back in the heat.

There was no way we were going for a Clorox dip. We tried the Mirage again, but the pool was closed. “There’s a lightning storm on the way,” the guard told us and a bunch of other poolgoers.

Why can’t we go in the water, it’s just lightning.”
You don’t want to get electrocuted,” the guard explained.
The guy was still pissed off.

I wanted to see Hoover Dam, so we got in the car and drove west. By tht eime we hit the freeway heading south to the dam, the storm had moved in. buckets of rain, shots of lightning. An emergency wanring came on the radio and told us, “Turn around, don’t drown.” SO much for Hoover Dam.

We made it back in time for a nap. I took a shower. Problem was, the water wasn't draining. I fished this out of the drain. Notice the layers of differerent color hair, matted wtih oil and soap scum and goo. My guess this was a hairball months in the making. Maybe years.

Not that I was hungry after that, but it was time to go get dinner and wait for our raison d'etre en Vegas: the Beatles LOVE.

We went over the Mirage and decided to eat at “Cravings Buffet. I could have sushi and Larry could have fatty pork. The food wasn’t that great. Maybe it was the hairball still in my memory. Or maybe it was the fact that everything was dried out. The macaroons were nice, though. We walked around the casino. I was hoping to find CNN on a jumbo tron. Don Miller was giving the benediction at the democratic national convention, and we wanted to see it live! Maybe they'd have CNN in the sports betting area. I imagined über-reactionary pastor Mark Driscoll betting 5 to 1 that Don prayed like a heretic. But no CNN. We snuck back into the café, but the convention was over for the night.

It was time to see LOVE. Larry and I had been talking about seeing it since it opened two years ago. I’ve never seen a Cirque Du Soliel show, so I could tell you I was pleased. But that would be an understatement. Not just because I love the Beatles and I’ve been playing the LOVE CD all year. Beatles producer George Martin and his son did the music, using a thing called “mashing.” Take the opening track: They take the opening chord to “A Hard Day’s Night, follow with the drum solo from the end of Abbey Road, add the guitars, the escalating strings from A Day In The Life, and then boom, in comes “Get Back.” But when we actually heard that music and watched the opening, it was incredible. I burst into tears. This is from a BBC documentary on the making of LOVE. Scroll ahead to about 40 seconds into the clip and you’ll see the opening.

They didn't show the Beatles faces until the very end of the show, and it paid off. When they finally did, Larry and I cried. I just missed John and George. I guess I missed part of my own childhood. I missed what good art really can do for your soul. It was worth it, enduring all of the gaudiness and faker of Las Vegas, just to see this show.

We stopped at Hoover Dam on the way home. Larry and I both love road trips. We haven’t done much since gas skyrocketed. But we’re both working long hours and don’t get a lot of time together. So just hanging out in the car for five hours is a treat. It was a great way to celebrate our first two years. I feel pretty blessed, I married a guy who cries at Lord of the Rings, and at the Bealtes LOVE show.

We’re already talking about going back. For the Beatles. Not for the buffet.


Bryan Allain said...

I'm a sucker for a good road trip story. sounds you y'all made some great memories.

BUT that hairball...ohhh, that hairball. I was eating toast and drinking coffee when I saw it. and i shall never be the same.

Ted and Lori said...

Are those Larry's glasses? Cute shirt :) And the hairball: I have no words. I had to scroll down quickly to get it out of my window.

courtney rose said...

The picture of the two of you is beautiful! Such a lovely couple. Certainly more lovely than the fur ball. Sick and wrong.

Re: Vegas. Great write-up! That place drives me insane.

By the way- Jason and I finally watched a dvd featuring Gaffigan. FUNNY GUY!! Thanks for introducing us to him on your blog!

Penny said...

you guys are KEWWTE! miss ya.

Penny said...

you guys are KEWWTE! miss ya.

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