Friday, 9 September 2011

Las Vegas

As the skyline of the city rises up out of the horizon I feel a shot of excitement of a kind that I haven’t felt since we landed at JFK and saw Manhattan for the first time. You can’t go to Vegas if you’re going to try and take it seriously. It’s a city that is founded on people’s ignorance or reluctance to accept the inevitable (myself included). So don’t laugh too long at the tackiness of the midget Elvis’ or the fountains that dance to Celine Dion, because in the end they’ll have the last laugh. Your only real choice is to take a deep breath of the oxygen rich air that the casinos pump out in order to relax you, hit the strip and go with the flow. That way you might just get lucky, or if not, someone else will and then they’ll throw 100 $1 bills into the air outside the Venetian. (I got 3 dollars this way)

There’s not much point in trying to chronologically describe what we did, it’s just a blur of video poker, slots, roulette, blackjack, poker, all you can eat buffets and complimentary alcohol. Most of this occurred whilst sauntering from one climate controlled space to another, I don’t remember seeing the sun. Our base of operations was the Luxor, a giant hollowed out glass pyramid, which boasts both the brightest light in the world and the largest atrium. At $40 a night on a weekday, it’s cheaper to get a room here than at a Motel 6 on the outskirts of Cleveland. It’s a short walk from our room, down the Nesquik smelling corridor into the casino floor and then onto the strip.

The strip is composed from a framework of floor slab towers that have the most economical hotel room plan. Draped over this is an easily detachable themed façade system and illuminated signage that can be removed and replaced in order to keep up to date with the ever-changing identity of Las Vegas. Below all these towers are the bunker-like labyrinthine casinos where, with no natural light or clocks, all perception of time is lost. To maximise foot traffic, an elaborate circulation system has been created linking everything together. Bridges, tunnels, trams, monorails, and travelators suck people from one den of iniquity and funnel them into the next. You can even take a rollercoaster, an inclinator (a diagonal elevator) or my personal favourite; the mythical spiral escalator in Caesars.

The constant cycle of construction and implosion in Vegas is crystallized in the Neon Graveyard Museum, a collection of old unwanted signs that once illuminated the strip. The now abandoned Sahara Casino, which is accessible through it’s liquidation sales program, is another legacy of a by-gone era. The no-longer illuminated palm tree park in front of the casino creates a very surreal experience, as though the desert has already begun to reclaim the land.

The fun can’t last forever; it’s time to go. But not before exchanging our beloved Prius at the Mccarran International Hertz, its wheels were getting dangerously worn. I wonder how far a forensic team could get at working out where we had driven, studying only the car and it’s contents. Trace amounts of cream cheese from a New York bagel; a ticket stub from a drive-in movie in Detroit; paintwork slightly damaged by the salty air from New Orleans; orange dust from monument valley found in the foot-wells. So now I’m writing this as we drive through Death Valley in our new Mitsubishi Spyder with the top down in the middle of the night. So I guess I won in the end, kind of.

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