I had a fabulous time in Las Vegas last weekend. It is hard not to have a fabulous time in Las Vegas, an oasis in the American desert designed to make you - just you and only you, wonderful you - deleriously happy, night and day, even when you are losing copious amounts of your hard-earned money which is - of course - the real reason why Las Vegas exists. I was a bit in awe of the consistently cheerful and attentive customer service I found everywhere I went in Las Vegas until I realized that the cheerful and attentive Vegas employees lived happily and securely in the fact that the majority of their clientele were likely to become paupers within an astoundingly short period of time. In other words, the nicer and more helpful they were, the more likely that the asshole pitching a fit at them over some trivial minutiae or imagined slight would very soon be going home a broken man, and they were cheerfully and attentively helping to make that happen. Thus, even an underemployed person - unlike his or her counterparts on the rest of the planet - enjoys genuine job satisfaction, and it shows.
Everyone should go to Las Vegas at least once in their life. I have now been there twice, both times with my friend Babs. The first time was twenty years ago and I found it enchanting, although Babs (who was suffering from a sinus infection at the time) thought it was a human roach motel. This time Babs thought she was in heaven, which goes to show how bad a sinus infection can make you feel, but it is also true that she got to have a conversation in Portuguese with a nice Brazilian man and his daughter over pub burgers in the airport, while awaiting our departure. Speaking foreign languages has the same effect on Babs as breaking a capsule of amyl nitrate under her nose, so the weekend started off on a high note, in spite of the bastard who put his suitcase in my overhead compartment.
Here are some observations and tips for a wonderful time in Las Vegas.
When traveling to Las Vegas, it is very VERY important to choose a companion with complementary vices. Under no circumstances should two gambling addicts, drug addicts, sex addicts, or alcoholics travel together to Las Vegas. To do so reduces the odds that they will make it home in one piece. Better to take a more Renaissance approach, given that you will probably not be there longer than 48 hours, and play the dilettante. More fun, and less painful. Take a lesson from the daughter of a friend of mine, who obviously was not so discriminating in her choice of travel companions. She showed up for her flight home without her friends, her coat, her luggage, her purse, her money, and her IDs, and ended up begging the airport security agents, "I've got to get on that plane. If I stay here, I'll die."
Las Vegas is a huge theme park for adults. Each hotel offers the opportunity to visit another point on the space/time continuum. It is preferable to choose one that is themed to a place you've never been before because the themes are, in fact, extremely cheesy, but you will only know this if you are comparing them to reality. Hence, I found "The Venetian" to be charming, and avoided "New York, New York" entirely.
Eat anything you want in Vegas. Anything. You will walk it off. I promise. The traffic flow is designed to move you through a gazillion giant shopping malls, followed by giant casinos, followed by more giant shopping malls. Las Vegas really, really wants all your money. This is where having a companion with a complementary vice comes in handy. If a shopping addict is traveling with a gambling addict, they will inevitably keep moving.
Clubs are very silly in Las Vegas. The one I went to had go-go girls and a large pink dancing rabbit. The advice here is to not dress like everybody else i.e., sequined micro-mini dress (Forever XXI) and six-inch platform shoes (Target). Like a Vegas show with dozens of naked people onstage, the multiplied effect tends to numb the senses somewhat. Dress down a bit, if you want to attract some quality attention. This is Vegas, a city with a street named after Wayne Newton, for God's sake, not Monte Carlo. Show some savoir faire.
A bottle of Absolut (with table service) costs $500. Just sayin'.
Shows are AMAZING in Las Vegas. All shows, no matter who is playing, although I'm pretty sure that nothing could get me to sit through one with Celine Dion in it. I went to a show the first time I was in Vegas and was treated to a full-scale WWII dog fight, the sinking of the Titanic right there on stage, and a ballet/opera performed by naked people to the Blue Danube Waltz. Which I didn't know had lyrics ("Danube, you're so blue! Oh, blue Danube, we love you!"). And we were seated at a table with a group of Canadians who were in town for a miniature liquor bottle convention. You're jealous, right?
Why would anybody get married anywhere else? It's comparatively cheap, I would imagine, when you think of what parents would probably spend on some massive, over-the-top potlatch back home. And all the bride and groom has to do is make reservations, give a credit card number, dress nice, and show up. The wedding I went to had a lovely little chapel, a terrific minister, music, flowers, and a photographer. Then there was a dinner at a local restaurant and everybody went dancing later. Not much to plan; nothing to clean up.
Las Vegas wedding rule: If the wedding is at 5:00, the bride can drink until 3:00.
Prostitution is legal in Nevada, which means that you will see hookers in Las Vegas. Lots of them. Probably more than you realize since, in truth, they are virtually indistinguishable from the 20-something/Forever XXI/Target shoes club-hoppers. I'm sure that this has resulted in many an awkward moment.
It is interesting to listen to a prostitute negotiate a date, if you are anthropologically inclined. Gentlemen on a budget may wish to restrict themselves to the ones who spit in the hotel ashtrays.
Fast Cash and Ashtrays
Fast Cash - If you press the button that says "Fast Cash" on an ATM in Las Vegas, you will receive your money in hundred dollar bills. This should tell you something. And nobody will have any change.
Ashtrays - Las Vegas and the airport in Frankfurt, Germany are the last two places on earth that allow indoor smoking. I admit to feeling disconcerted by the sight of ashtrays everywhere in Las Vegas, reminding me that there is life south of the Mason-Dixon line and west of the Mississippi, but I liked the sort of '80s vibe they gave the place. There is something pleasantly nostalgic about having a cigarette with your cocktail.
Play dollar slots. Keep track of how much you're spending. The new computerized slot machines make this very difficult to do, since they make obsolete the use of physical coins, tokens, and chips which you could hold in your hand and count. If you don't want to lose your shirt, make sure you count - out loud if you have to - how many times you pull that handle to make the cherries spin. Of course you will look like a total dork, hotel personnel will laugh, and you will be considered undateable (except by the hookers), but you will not lose all your money. I went home "up" by three dollars.
Do not gamble while drunk, although it is very hard to say no to that perfectly made, icy-cold dry martini-with-a-twist that the very nice and pretty young lady in the shorts and stilettos keeps offering to bring you...
Aww, what the hell. Go ahead and gamble while drunk. You're in Vegas.