It’s Vegas Baby!

June 2011

Kathy and I decided to visit Las Vegas to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.   Neither of us had ever been there, but we wanted to see the lights and architecture of the adult “Disneyland”.  With a direct flight available out of Norfolk, we would minimize the usual airport hassles.  We left midday on Thursday before the Memorial Day holiday weekend.  Every seat on the plane was filled.  Obviously, lots of people like to risk their money and party.

We would be staying at the New York, New York hotel and casino.  The place is an amusement park like impression of the big apple with lots of scaled down skyscrapers and buildings.  It had a roller coaster running through the huge complex.  As in all places in Vegas, one enters thru the casino, which is roughly the size of 5 to 10 football fields. Casinos are dimly light, with no windows or clocks.  Once inside one is suppose to lose all track of time and gamble on.  Just inside the entry was a large island of slots with a Ferrari sitting on top, the prize for hitting the jackpot.  Other than at the slots or the gaming tables, there is no place to sit. 

Our room was on the fourth floor of one of the many towers.  Fourth floor rooms are in the economy class (Southwest package deal), and had a view of the rooftop of some of the casino structure.  It was ok and included a daily complimentary lunch or breakfast at the buffet in the adjoining MGM Grand or other casinos.

Again, casinos are huge and typically include dozens of restaurants/bars and at least 2 or 3 Starbucks.  We walked around to scope out the place and had dinner in one of the NY restaurants (not memorable).  With the four hour flight, and three hour time difference, it was getting very late for us old folks.

The Vegas strip is about 2 miles long between the city and the airport.  The street is 10 to 12 lanes wide and traffic is constant.  There are very few places to cross the street at ground level.  There are crossover bridges at widely spaced places.  Walking about is a challenge.  The crowds are intense and constant.  On every corner there or 5 or more Mexicans pressing handouts for strip joints in your hand.  They are very intrusive and I fantasized about being a ninja and punching each of them.

My preconceived notion (Frank Sinatra and James Bond movies) of Vegas was of well-dressed, beautiful people at the gaming tables, sipping a martini.  The reality is just the opposite.  The tens of thousand of people milling about were 20-30 somethings, very casually dressed and drinking frozen concoctions from 2-foot tall plastic containers available from street-side stands.  The young people seemed to travel is packs of 3 to 6 and the scene is like a Spring break and Mardi Gras on steroids.  The “uniform” for many of the young ladies was a tight fitting tube dress and started, strapless at the top and terminated maybe 2 inches below their crotch.   Color was either black or sequins. 

Friday, we bought a monorail pass and toured the strip.  The monorail runs a couple of hundred yards behind the casinos and is really inconvenient.  We went to the far end of the strip to the Sahara, which is closed and being demolished.  We walked to the Imperial Palace casino, which has a car museum on the 5th floor of the mammoth parking garage.  Some cool cars, all for sale.  I guess if one where to hit it big; you could stop in and buy a vintage ride. Kathy had her new camera along, and took lots of pictures.

We had lunch at one of the approved buffet rooms.  Not good.  I forget what we did for dinner, but we did have tickets for the Jersey Boys, (broadway) show that evening.  We sat about 10 rows from the stage and got accosted by the sound system. At this point we are beginning to think that we had seen enough of Vegas.  We stopped at the casino that has the big fountain shows.  Neat at night.

We did from time to time play the slots.  During our trip, we fed about $15 to the machines, total.  Unlike the 1946 vintage slot machine in my dining room, the Vegas slots have no coins or levers.  You put money in a machine and get a debit like card and use it to feed the electronic money eaters.  No buckets of coins anymore.  If you happen to have a credit balance on your card (we have one with 7 cents on it), you take it to the cashier for cash and fill out IRS forms if you are a winner.

The next day, Kathy went off to find an antique market, and I just wandered about and people watched.  I did spend some time in the sport wagering area watching some tennis and soccer (Boy, I must have been really bored!). We had dinner at Wolfgang Pucks, which was OK, but not great. 

We got up Sunday and had breakfast at Starbucks and watched the Indy 500 on the TV in our room. (Race started at 0900, Vegas time).  Afterwards, we checked out and started the trek home.  We were happy to leave.  I just don’t get the Vegas experience, but am glad I saw it.