Communion Of Dreams


Slices of Vega$, II
January 31, 2010, 10:45 am
Filed under: Humor, Society, Travel

I decided not to do formal ‘travelogues’ for my recent trip out to Las Vegas for the SHOT Show, but instead do a series of small vignettes, over the course of the next couple of weeks.

Jim D.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Suites at the Venetian start out at “Luxury” and get more indulgent from there. The smallest is about 2/3 the size of my whole house in grad school, and the largest is bigger than our house now.

Note, I said “indulgent” – not “useful” or even particularly nice. What do I mean? Well, there were three flat-screen televisions in the room: one in the ‘living room’ area, one facing the bed, and even a small one in the corner of the bathroom. But the alarm clock face was scratched up so bad it was barely readable in the dark, the controls were confusing and marginally functional, and the radio didn’t work at all. The big picture window that looked out on the Venetian’s outdoor pool had a blind and curtains which were remotely controlled, but there wasn’t an in-room coffeemaker. The sectional couch in my room was stained and missing most of the upholstery buttons, and the one in my friend’s room was mis-matched bits from several couches that used covering material from different dye lots. I could go on.

At first glance, or on the Venetian website, the rooms look sumptuous. And they probably were when they were first built or when they are periodically rehabbed. But when you see it in person, it’s just a bit grim and superficial.

But I suppose it does what it is intended to do. Gives you the false impression of luxury while at the same time pushes you to go out the door and down into the casino/shoppes for coffee or comfort.

* * * * * * *

The whole time I wandered through the casinos, looking at the plethora of games and flashing lights I was completely ignored by the wait-staff. Completely. No looks, no smiles, nothing. I was a non-entity. It didn’t matter what time of day or night it was, or which casino I was in. I was invisible.

But the one morning, when sipping my coffee, that I stepped up to a $5 slot machine and stuck a bill into it – without even sitting down in front of the machine – I instantly became visible. Between the time I fed the machine my $10 bill and the few seconds later when I pushed the “play” button there was a nice woman with a cocktail tray standing there asking me if I wanted anything. It was rather amazing – it was like she had teleported next to me.

I thanked her, said no. She left.

I sipped my coffee. Pushed the “play” button again. Got my little adrenaline hit as a reward. Then turned and started slowly walking out of the casino, just looking at the machines. But before I left the little cluster of $5 slots, another woman appeared, wanting to know whether I needed some more coffee. I guess I looked like I might put some more money into a slot.

* * * * * * *

We walked down Las Vegas Blvd (‘The Strip’), just seeing the sights. It was brutal.

No, not the crowds. I can deal with crowds.

Nor the loud music pouring out of the various open doors. I went to enough concerts when I was a kid to be more or less immune to the appeal of bad sound systems.

The glitz and flashing lights was a bit hard on the eyes, and I worried that before we walked the couple of miles they would trigger a migraine. But I put on a ballcap (no, not the one I got here – never wear a local brand when you’re not a local – it marks you as a sucker) and kept my gaze lowered to street level.

No, the thing that got me were the long lines of touts for the prostitutes.

Seriously, there were places where you had to walk through a gauntlet of them, dozens long. Short, cold illegal immigrants slapping their little photo cards in that universal style of attention-getting I have seen in London, Buenos Aires, New York and elsewhere. Images of large-breasted woman of every variety, some paired up with a friend, on cheap card stock that littered the ground. In places the cards were so thick as to make it slick to walk, usually just past these touts.

Brutal. For everyone concerned.

* * * * * * *

Now, it isn’t particularly insightful or clever to observe that Las Vegas is little more than a pleasant facade over a money vacuum, an artificial construct with the sole intent of relieving tourists of their money. In fact, it’s a cliche.

So, why bother?

Well, because it was all so obvious. Las Vegas laughs at any attempt to expose the reality. It brazenly and openly says “yeah, this is all just a ruse to milk the rubes. What’s your point?”

You almost have to admire that level of mercenary behaviour.

Jim Downey


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