Las Vegas

If there was one word to describe Las Vegas, it would be “hustle.” The town propels you from one hustle to the next, hurtling you from place to place to the tune of America’s most powerful theme song: “Buy! Buy! Buy!” The lights of the town are a thin veneer under which writhes the death knell of economy. Sections of the strip have been closed under the expectation of reopening with even shinier lights and more thrills. The Sahara with its indoor roller coaster and attached bar is closed now, a black hole in the lights of the strip. A massive, multi-storied building meant to bring 16,000 jobs into the city was shuttered due to bankruptcy. But if you don’t look too hard, you can forget all that: how devastating our current economy is, how fragile the entire system has become. At least, until you arrive at the casinos. You’re not allowed to linger in one place for too long without spending money. Though they still serve free, watered-down drinks, even the players clubs no longer offer free money with their players club cards to get you started. Instead, you spend money before you even get the value on the cards. By that time, it’s really already gone. The constant flow of traffic, of movement, reminds me of an article I once read in Harper’s about the difference between “idleness” and “leisure.” With idleness, one does not do anything; one does not spend. But leisure, like manufacturing, is a business. The goal is to make money when people spend money to achieve leisure. My goal while in Vegas was not to “vacation” but to “live.” I needed a roof over my head and food in my stomach. But my primary goal was not to involve myself in leisure. Thus, I felt from the very beginning, the city’s resistance to me. Another thing that is more prevalent in Vegas besides casinos was time-share salesmen. Tim and I agreed to go to one, though that would prove ultimately to be a waste of time. First of all, there’s a “fall guy.” He’s the one that gets you to go sit in on the time share spiel by offering you great “prizes.” Ours was $200.00 in free food, three free shows, and entries to clubs. I had to give them $20 for each of us as a security that we would show up again at 11 a.m. in time to go to the “seminar.” They promised to return the money after everything was over. At first, I was afraid that we’d been “had.” It would be one of the easiest scams in the world for a guy to sit there with a book of copied material and easy-to-purchase forms to take your money, then be gone. And indeed, the “fall guy” does pocket the money after you leave. It’s his commission. The next day, Tim and I arrive at the same location and are loaded into a passenger van that heads us to a section of the town called Flamingo Street that is far away from the glamour of the strip. We get to a mostly empty collection of office suites and are taken into a room filled with individual tables and a few conference rooms. The salesmen offer drinks and snacks, giving you the illusion that they have tons of money and can give you whatever you want. Shortly after we sit down at a table to have our information taken by our “agent,” an African-American guy and his wife comes out of one of the offices and an agent announces them as the new “homeowners.” The whole office claps and ushers the guy out the door with a hero’s send-off.  He is smiling sheepishly as he leaves. Our information is taken and we spend a while talking to our agent, a middle-aged, silver-haired guy who does everything required to gain our rapport. He doesn’t ask us for anything, and he seems very interested in us: what we do, who we are as people. It’s hard for me to talk honestly to people who don’t really give a shit. You know, like those people who tell you you’re intelligent and that’s why they don’t understand why you made the bad decision they feel you just made. It’s kind of degrading. Anyway, before going, Tim and I had already decided on the parts we were going to play. I was going to be the wife whose biological clock was ticking and who just wanted to get married and have a house in the ‘burbs with kids. (Those of you who know me know how opposite this has been to my personality. That’s what makes it funny.) Tim was going to be the guy who just couldn’t settle down, who just wandered the globe without any thought of tomorrow who just wanted to be a kind of hippy from the ’70’s. That’s more true to Tim’s personality, so it wasn’t too hard for him to pull that off. Anyway, after the compelling video, the guy sits us down to talk about all these time shares that are available to purchase. Maybe I’m dumb, but I didn’t get any of the advantages. First of all, there’s this “points” system that equals up to four weeks of vacation per year. You spend all this money on a time-share house that you can either visit during your vacations, or you can use your points (earned by paying for the time share) that you can use in other places. Firstly, I can’t imagine only taking four weeks of vacation a year. Is that supposed to be a lot?? I think that it seems really silly that since a year of your entire life is made up of 52 weeks, only FOUR of those actually belong to you? The other thing is, even though you may get the four weeks of vacation, you also pay over seven hundred dollars a year for the homeowners association that takes care of the place you just purchased and you also pay them a couple thousand dollars right then to “purchase” the weeks in the timeshare. And you continue to pay them monthly for the property you have purchased. I think I could spend MUCH less than that just taking the damn vacation. The other thing is, how many people they can sell this same property to! I’m only buying a couple of weeks at the place, but I’m paying HOA fees and so is everyone else who purchases time at the property. Who is getting all THAT money? I just don’t see how any of it is a good deal. Anyway, we played our roles pretty well. I pretended to get really upset that purchasing a time share was going to take away from my goal of buying a real house and raising a family. I even told them I didn’t like to travel! LOL Anyway, they were really worried that I was totally mad and that Tim was going to be in the doghouse. It was pretty funny. Ultimately, it turned out that the shows we got for “free” I ended up having to pay for because all of the “free” tickets were “sold out” (funny term) and to see the show I’d have to buy a premium ticket. The coupons turned out to be saving $25 dollars on an order of $50.00 or more at a restaurant and stuff like that. So I’m not sure how much money I actually saved. Of course, it wasn’t worth the hassle. But it was a humorous experience. While there, I stayed in a hostel called “Hostel Cat” which was the place they used to film the wedding chapel scene in The Hangover. Of course, Hostel Cat looked nothing like the chapel. They built all that stuff for the set. They also built a bus stop nearby for the car in the scene to run into and all day they kept having to tell tourists that the bus stop wasn’t real and that buses never stopped there. I loved the hostel, where I paid less than two hundred dollars for eight days.
The casinos are like cities unto themselves. Some, like the Venetian and Caesar’s Palace, are decorated like the ancient cities their names invoke. In the Venetian, you can take a gondola ride piloted by a singing gondolier through indoor canals. But, since times are tough, the parts of the canals that go outside have been drained and the gondola rides are prohibitively expensive. The ceilings are painted to look like blue sky. In Caesar’s Palace, a spiral escalator winds upward three floors. Statues of Zeus, Pegasus, Diana, Neptune and other gods surround a huge fountain made of marble. At the head of the fountain, two large, greenish Chinese-style fish didn’t quite seem to go with the decor. I had a miniature “wedding cake” cupcake at Gigi’s cupcakes that was quite delicious. Their selection was small, but they were quality fare. None of the buffets we tasted in Las Vegas matched the Harrah’s in New Orleans, and the servers there seemed really unhappy to be serving you, but the fare was tolerable. I visited the Pink Taco, a place on my bucket list, and it was pretty tasty. Two girls in the party seated after us had to go find shoes because the hostess was going to kick them out for lack of them. We also caught the Bellagio fountain dancing to a few songs as well as the Volcano at the Mirage. Those two shows are definitely worth seeing. The pirate show at Treasure Island was cheesy-sexy. Plenty of scantily-clad girls made raunchy jokes, though I didn’t get to see the whole show. We had to run from Treasure Island to Planet Hollywood in fifteen minutes, a distance that felt like five miles. It was probably more like two. We were going to see the hypnotists show. I am still not convinced that people were actually hypnotized, except for maybe two people. One was a guy the hypnotist said would have jock itch each time he was touched by the hypnotist. The funny thing was, when asked his name, the guy said it was “Jock.” His girlfriend swore it was true. The hypnotist nearly fell out. He said he could do that routine ten thousand more times and he was quite certain that would NEVER happen again. Tim and I also got to be a “test audience” for a show that may or may not ever be produced depending on audience response. It was called “Two Broke Girls.” It was funny even though it was also predictable. I also rode the zipline that is suspended over Fremont Street. At first, I was terrified. I kept looking up at the sixty foot height questioning why I had decided to do that. I’m not much for falling. Turns out, it was easy as pie and not scary at all. The show that was playing on the lighted awning that spans Fremont Street was a tribute to all the old video games like Mario, PacMan, Gallaga, and was accompanied by the music from the original Super Mario Brothers. Man, I miss those days.

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~ by ImaginaryCanary on July 20, 2011.

3 Responses to “Las Vegas”

  1. I like your description of Vegas as related to the economy and also your adventures with the time-share scam. I would’ve gotten too frustrated to enjoy that at all.

    Btw, I think that Two Broke Girls might make it further than you think. If I’m not mistaken, I’ve seen a commercial for it in the theater about it being on this fall.

  2. I’d like to see it come on TV. Anything other than dumbass reality shows. Blech.

  3. I get 10 vacation days a year…thats all I’m gonna say.

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