I have been to Lake Tahoe. I have been to Reno. I have never been to Las Vegas. Other than after reading an article in Sunset Magazine, I have not had the urge to visit Vegas. Perhaps it is because I lack the gambler’s spirit, unaffected by the call of the slot machines and craps tables. Or perhaps it is because I find the thought of DisneyLand for Degenerates slightly offputting. I have no problem with sex and debauchery, but the thought of being surrounded by chain-smoking drunks, feeding their cash into the slots just does not appeal to me. The Sunset article, covering less of the strip and more of the wilderness, almost made me interested in a visit to the desert blight that is Las Vegas. Fortunately, Jennie went instead and was able to convince me that I do not need to ever visit that fair city.
It is unfair, I suppose, to say that this is through the eyes of Jennifer, as she forgot to take her camera. So really, it is through the memory of Jennifer. I expected unhappiness her first day there, as the eight hour delay in SFO did not exactly set the tone for fun. Sure, she was able to catch up on her Malcolm Gladwell reading, but neither of us are fans of spending the day in transit. By the time she got there, she was tired, sweaty and in need of food, drink and sleep. She was not, apparently, in need of drunk 14 year old girls in thongs and nipplecatchers, downing margaritas and stumbling through the streets. Nor was she in need of being the only person in the state who doesn’t smoke. I still think she was off on the age, but who am I to doubt? Watching drunks wandering the sidewalks of Las Vegas was a common experience for her trip, thanks to the alcoslushies available pretty much everywhere. Fortunately, getting to the actual street was a challenge, so being drunk and mobile is not that big a problem.
She recovered by the next day and spent the rest of the week searching for good food and shortcuts to her conference. She found the shortcut. Good food turned out to be a bigger challenge. The common theme for food was red bell peppers. Canned red bell peppers. Which were well-matched with the canned asparagus, canned mushrooms and excessive use of salt. Pretty much every meal she had contained red bell peppers. I assume that the red bell pepper (canned) is the state vegetable. Or is it just a city ordinance that requires their use in all foods? Either way, a week of canned bell peppers does not put one in the mood for more. Jennie did manage to get away from the bell peppers and other canned vegetables twice, once by going to China Grill for yummy Chinese food, and once by having a delicious breakfast at Red White and Blue. Both meals cost a bit more, but considering every other meal in Vegas was over-buttered, overpriced and over-salted, it was worth it to finally have some edible food. And now, from the far end of the house, I hear the shout of “Oh by the way, I never did get away from the red bell peppers! For breakfast, I had a Denver Omelet, which had red bell peppers, and my noodles also had red bell peppers. But at least they were fresh.”
What do you do in Las Vegas if you do not gamble, do not feel like wandering around drunk and naked, and you do not have the time to get away from the strip? If you are Jennie, you wander the hotels and search for the Hard Rock Cafe. Jennie wandered between the Luxor, where she was staying, to Mandalay Bay and to Excalibur. All of them had impressive water features, with bridges, streams and waterfalls. They were also all pretty much filled with smoke and drunks and were engaging in psychological warfare: Every section, from the various shops to the restaurants to the casino to the lobby to the street out front had its own set of speakers, and was playing a completely different bit of music. The result of which was a disorienting and irritating cacophony. Perhaps that is why everyone was drunk — to tune out the music overload.
Her favorite sight in Las Vegas was watching it disappear behind her as she drove to the airport.