viva... viva... las vegas!
We stayed here at the Flamingo Hilton on the strip. This is supposedly one of the original hotels of the strip, but I saw nothing remotely akin to "history" here. Nothing but the nauseating in-house show "Toni Braxton Revealed." Ugh. No thanks, let her stay covered by the years and general disinterest, please.
As you are probably aware, Vegas is all glitz and glam and gambling and drinking (in that order) and that's all it basically has to offer. There are no peaceful little coffeeshops on the streets to rest in, no bookstores, nothing familiar at all. At least not on the strip. I'm not sure why we believed staying on the strip was necessary, but that's what we did and we both regretted it. Like a big Disney World with gambling, the strip was polished, sanitized, mostly G-rated and mind-numbing. The only "sins" I saw in Sin City were gluttony, greed and overconsumption. Oh, and mark-ups on goods and services that would make any good capitalist's jaw drop. They ought to change the slogan to "Whatever money you bring to Vegas stays in Vegas... and then some."
You see these slot machines? Three days ago I would've looked at this picture and thought "Wow! Decadent! I can't wait!" But now I know. I look at this picture now and all I can hear is that terrible, hypnotic "faux-euphoric" musical sound eminating from all those machines going at once. If you haven't been to Vegas there's no way I can explain it, it's like the "flashback" music that plays in a television show as the screen gets wavy and the image changes from the present to the past. And it blasts out from all the machines in one huge, disharmonious wave that must be intended to lull you into losing more money.
The strip is full of casinos. This was the only just plain BAR we could find to hang out in on New Year's Eve. First of all, none of these girls were there. I don't know where these girls went, but they obviously had other plans for New Year's. Instead there were a bunch of really sweet, really cute, vaguely ethnic male bartenders who all looked like brothers from the same Hawaiian island and who took good care of us all night. Or I should say all *evening* because we were there from just 4pm until 8-ish.
After drinking several (at least 6) Vodka Red Bulls each, my brother and I stumbled out the door onto the strip carrying gigantic "beer bottles" holding at *least* 60oz. of beer. People actually took our pictures, such was the spectacle. I'll take a picture of the bottle later and post it, because of course I saved it, but I don't have the energy now.
We ended up sitting on plastic pylons right in front of O'Shea's (where Vince Neil has a tattoo shop and an Irish midget is the mascot) because they had easy bathrooms to access and the strip was rapidly filling with people, making that just as good a place as any. David started talking to two German guys about philosophy (that's my brother, swigging from a 60oz bottle of beer and trying to get people excited about Kant) and I just sat there drinking and watching the crowd, including a guy who sat next to me for several minutes, finally puked, and then tottered off with his friends.
At some point near 11pm, my brother decided he wanted to go looking for some acid. This did not seem like the most well-considered plan in my opinion, but to each his own. I wished him luck and went looking, myself, for a Subway sandwich. It wasn't difficult to find. With about twenty minutes to go until midnight, I finished my sandwich and stumbled back onto the (now completely packed) strip and headed instinctively back to the hotel. We didn't even have a room anymore because we'd decided it would be foolish to book a room for New Year's Eve. Foolish, I tell you! Because we were leaving so early the next morning and we knew we'd be out partying so late...
Well, some of us were out partying late, and others of us were sneaking back up to the warm caccoon of the 20th floor elevator lobby of the Flamingo to sit in solitude above it all when the clock struck midnight and the sounds of fireworks exploding over my head from the roof of my building sounded like bombs dropping. It was a true blue spectacle, as SK would say. But one that I couldn't see. I could only hear the reverberations and see faint wisps of ash falling from above me.
Once the noise died down, I rode the elevator back down, got our bags from the luggage vault and took a cab back to the airport. By 1am I was laying in an uncomfortable heap in the deserted Alaska Air check-in lobby, trying to sleep but too cold to get comfortable. Dave called around 4am to say he'd finally made it to the airport himself. I found him and we both went back to the cold hard floor to wait until the check-in stations opened. I finally slept, for at least an hour, and it was bliss.
Now I'm home. All the airport stuff is over, Dave is gone back to North Carolina and Vegas is safely behind me. What misery. But because I hate complaining too much, I'll leave you with the two things I actually really liked about Vegas, are you ready?
These mountains, that cradle this unlikely desert city, are gorgeous. I kept staring and staring at them from our very high up hotel room. So nice. I told Dave I would rather die cold and alone up in those mountains than surrounded by people and warmth and the faux-euphoric trilling of the slot machines inside any of the casinos on the strip. Give me a cold mountian death any day.
The Flamingo Hilton is home to this lovely wildlife habitat. Seriously. The very lush courtyard of our hotel contained a variety of beautiful and unusual birds, including these flamingos, two sacred ibises, some kind of tufted crane, a pair of guinea foul, and at least one Australian black swan with curly black feathers and striking red beak. I happened to wander out yesterday during one of the informational tours of the habitat, so I learned all about the birds they care for there. This was, hands down, the best thing I experienced in Vegas, which isn't saying much, unfortunately...