Before we begin, I want everyone to go hug or call or e-mail someone they love, right now. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Anyway, R:tAG and I went to Las Vegas over the weekend, thanks to his employer which flew everyone and their SOs down, gave us some spending money, and put us all up at the Palazzo for two nights. We saw O and Spamalot and the Star Trek Experience (again) lost exactly one dollar gambling (R:tAG insists on feeding a dollar into a slot machine every time we go, as some sort of appeasement to the gambling spirits) and had some really good meals* and got into this private club (the Foundation Room at the top of Mandalay Bay) and had an amazing view of the city thanks to a friend of a friend.**

Las Vegas gets more surreal every time I go, and more expensive. When I first visited in the early 1990’s, on my way to somewhere else, it was depressing and seedy and sleazy but cheap. They assumed that everyone was there to gamble, so hotel rooms and meals were pretty much loss leaders. Now that it’s more like adult Disneyland everything is about twice normal price, at least on the Strip. Most of the shops are designed to make you feel poor and fat but if you are blessed with robust self-esteem like me, it’s very entertaining to go in and giggle at what people will pay $800+ for.

You also do a lot of walking. They’ve just added a monorail which goes from the MGM to the Hilton, but because it was an afterthought and because the casino buildings are so unbelievably huge, and because it is not easy to walk in a straight line in Las Vegas,*** it usually takes almost as long to walk to the nearest monorail station as it does to walk along the street directly to your destination. In our case at least the schlep to the monorail took us through the Grand Canal, which is a pleasant if disconcerting walk because they’ve painted and lit the ceiling to look exactly like early twilight of a spring day. It is very disorienting to leave the noon-time desert sun and walk into cool spring evening.****

But we're home now and I'm glad. Las Vegas is about the one place in the world that makes the Bay Area seem humid and inexpensive. Now we just have to prepare for the next visitor and restock the wine rack.

* The tuna carpaccio at Olives immediately joined a pantheon of dishes that I keep in my head and dream about when I get hungry. The lemon crème brulee at Table 10 was also damn fine.

** The whole place was done in this over-the-top décor that I can only describe as Tibetan Bordello, and mostly consisted of dark red fabric-upholstered corridors, underlit private rooms and Buddhist statues. The main area was shoulder-to-shoulder with people far far younger and hipper than I, and we didn’t stay too long but it was a pretty neat place.

*** And not because of the tasty cocktails. The whole place is a living lab for social engineering. Maps don’t show anything outside of the area controlled by the people who provide the map. You pretty much have to rely on signs to find anything even with a map, because everything is designed to obstruct sightlines and put your attention on the advertisements or the gambling machines or the bars or the restaurants. And the signs do get you to your destination… eventually. After you get led past all the advertisements and gambling machines and bars and restaurants. Even the carpet patterns manipulate you. I kept oscillating between being appalled and lost in admiration of the psychiatry of it all and the money on display.

**** And because I was traveling with geeks, the wonder of this was expressed by “Did you see that sky file?”


  1. neuba said...

    What did you think of 'O'? Me and my girlfriends absolutely loved it last year when we were in Vegas.

    Also, I like it a lot more than I thought I would. We definitely got a lot of walking in, and I was pretty much entertained with simply checking out all the hotels.

    Sounds like you guys had fun.  

  2. Amy said...

    O was amazing. We'd seen Ka a few years ago; they are quite different shows but equally jaw-dropping.

    Yeah, we were entertained pretty much just by wandering. The themes of the hotels are so different. You look at the *detail* involved (hand-laid tile mosaics in the bathrooms)... it's really interesting (and mildly outrageous) how much each must have cost.  


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