Monday, September 24, 2012

Viva Las Vegas

If the great Italian writer, Carlo Collodi, were writing his classic story "Pinocchio" today, instead of sending all naughty boys to Pleasure Island, their destination would be Las Vegas. This is truly the adult playground of the world. Back in 1959, when Vegas was little more than a dusty, mob-run town, a now iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign was designed by a 17-year old girl named Betty Wills for the Western Neon sign company. The sign is still located in the median at 5100 Las Vegas Boulevard South on "The Strip"  where it greets visitors to a now burgeoning tourist paradise. The town itself is like a surrealist landscape covered with gigantic hotels, glittering casinos, restaurants, girlie bars and a million palm trees. Elvis impersonators, faux showgirls, and cartoon characters walk the strip charging people to pose for pictures with them. Seedy looking characters hand out cards with nudie pictures on them advising where anyone who is interested can risk contracting the STD du jour. 

Our flight from Phoenix landed at McCarran International Airport on a Monday. Without looking at any signs, you would know the city you were in by the lines of slot machines in the airport corridors. We stayed at the Aria Hotel, a new hotel with over 4,000 rooms, which sounds immense until you learn it is only the fifth largest in town. Everything in the place was ultra modern. A remote control unit in the room operated everything including lighting, clock, television, room drapes, even the privacy sign for housekeeping. We sat there like two senior citizens trying to turn on the lights while the drapes kept opening and closing. The view of the city was breathtaking from the 25th floor, and we needed to pack sandwiches for the trip to the elevators. There are 16 restaurants in the hotel, most ridiculously overpriced. I was afraid my fumbling with the remote might cost us thousands in room service charges!

We saw two shows, a theatrical magician named Criss Angel at the Luxor, and a sensational version of Jersey Boys at the Paris. Being foodies and looking for any way to stay out of the casinos, we had some wonderful dinners and companion wines. The service in Vegas is impeccable since the whole economy revolves around tourism. Walking the strip at night is like being in a mile-long Times Square. The heat there can be daunting so walks are usually confined to early mornings and evening hours. They should get the folks handing out the nudie cards off the streets; it gives the Strip a "Midnight Cowboy" feel that I could have done without. When we finally did hit the casino, I played video poker as usual and hit a Royal Flush jackpot for $1,000 bucks which is highly unusual.

We also toured the Hoover Dam, an incredible engineering project that literally changed the landscape of the southwest. "Hoover Dam straddles the mighty Colorado River, which forms the border between the states of Nevada and Arizona. Considered to be the world’s largest dam and an engineering marvel at the time of its construction in the 1930s, Hoover Dam brings much-needed water and power to the Southwest. Damming the Colorado River created Lake Mead, a National Recreation Area managed by the National Park Service. A spectacular four-lane highway bridge arching across the Colorado River opened in late 2010 and carries traffic between Nevada and Arizona. The older two-lane highway across the dam could no longer handle the 14,000 vehicles that travel here each day. Below the dam, you can launch paddle craft for a trip on the Colorado River or take a guided river tour." (TravelNevada Website) 

Travel can be tiring but it does allow you to see our magnificent country. Las Vegas is a very intense place that sucks you dry (in more ways than one) but the sensation of being there is like going over the top of the highest hill on the Cyclone roller coaster. You hear those last few rickety-ticks and then plunge straight down, pinned to the back of your seat and screaming your head off. That pretty well sums up Las Vegas.


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1 comment:

Joseph Del Broccolo said...

I kind of feel like I am swallowed up in places like Vegas!