Saturday, June 11, 2011

People Watching

Stacy and Clinton would have a field day at the McCarran Airport here in Las Vegas. I wold not be overstating if I said that very, very few people are dressed appropriately here. Yes, I realize that my understanding of appropriate may not be everyone's (though I can't understand why not).

There are also many women wearing pants so tight I'm not sure how they'll actually be able to sit down on their flights. There are also more sequins than you generally expect to see at an airport not worn by 6 year old girls. The men are just as bad - but mainly in the zhlubby direction. Big cargo shorts, polo shirts and flip flops. Nothing that fits well.

There are too many women who have colored streaks in their hair - blue, pink, green... in other words, not something they got at their local salon. And each of these women is well north of 20 years old, and probably north of 40. It's just not right.

Having nothing to do with fashion, it is clear that many people here enjoyed at least some of their time in Las Vegas at a buffet, or perhaps several. To be clear, these do not seem to be the same people who are wearing skin tight clothes, which I appreciate....

Shockingly (and not having to do with fashion), I have seen a few of those 36" cups (and their longer straws).

Friday, June 10, 2011

Louie Anderson

is a funny man. He looks older than you think he'll be, and that could be because he is older than he was in anything in reruns on tv. He's a big man, sort of like the Stay-Puffed marshmallow man, only dressed in black. He played in a relatively small theater and an all-ages audience. Most of his act was funny, and parts of it were very, very funny. Meaning they should have supplied either tissues or Depends.

As we were standing in line to enter the theater, the man in front of us was reading a book. He was leaning against a slot machine and I was standing right behind him, next to a woman dumping her dollars in and smoking like it was her good luck charm. There were a good six feet between the man and the front of the line. I asked if he could move forward and he said he wanted to lean against the slot machine for support as he read. Maybe I should clarify - he was resting his elbow on the machine so he could hold his book up. My impression was that he was leaning there for comfort, not physical necessity. So I politely asked him if I could stand in front of him to get out of the direct exhalation path of the woman at the slot machine. He gave me a dirty look and then I just moved up and told him he could have his place back in line when they opened the doors. And then of course my two friends came and joined me in line and then his wife arrived. An abundance of dirty looks wafted our direction and it did cross my mind to go ahead of them into the theater. Alas, we did not.

Though not about Louie Anderson, there was one other phenomenon I've noticed here in Las Vegas. On television and on billboards all over town, I've never seen more ads for bail bondsmen, attorneys who can help you beat bankruptcy, DUIs, and debt reduction services. Contrast this to the boutiques in City Center and you can easily understand the economic extremes of our country.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

More on Vegas

It's easy to write about the consumer excesses here. Much harder is writing about places like the Valley of Fire and Red Rock Canyon.

The Valley of Fire is a state park just north of Las Vegas and just west of Lake Mead. The rocks are a serious shade of red and the shapes they've taken on from wind and water erosion are surreal. We did one short hike off the main road to something called Mouse's Hole (or something like that). It had been a hide out (presumably for someone named 'Mouse') and a place where water collects during the rare rains. It was only supposed to be a 1/2 mile hike round trip so we figured it would be pretty easy. We hadn't counted on it being 100 degrees and a mostly sand trail.

The actual water hole was anti-climatic. The most exciting part was a yellow snake having a swim. There were two guys already there watching the snake and who told us where to look. They thought the snake was 4-5 feet long. I told them that guys always overstate size and that it looked to be about 2.5 feet to me. Thankfully, I did not get pushed into the hole.

Along the way, we saw petroglyphs, chuckwallas (a kind of lizard) and some other kind of lizard. (Isn't it impressive enough that we know how to identify chuckwallas? We can't learn about all of them!)

Yesterday we went to Red Rock Canyon. I was on a hunt for big horned sheep but all we saw were a few chipmunks (which I, of course, renamed "little big horned sheep") and the rustling of some larger animal behind a tree. One of the remarkable things was the drop in temperature between the start of the trail and the end (of our little hike). It must have cooled down 20 degrees, which gave us a really comfortable hike until it started raining. I'm not sure if it rains there often, but there was a lot of greenery and most of the cacti were flowering.

Back on the consumer end of things, we explored the Aria hotel and casino this morning. The first thing you notice is that they must have a very high-end air filtration system. It barely smells smoky. The second thing you notice is that it's really beautiful. They've paid attention to the smallest details on the floors, walls and the ceilings. They even have art in the bathrooms - and in the individual stalls. You have to have a room key to get into the pool area but they let us walk around - it looked like the kind of place they use for movie sets. We also learned that to rent a cabana for the day was as much as our hotel is for the whole week. And all the plants and flowers we saw there were real. We were clearly out of our league.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Las Vegas...

The only word I can think to describe Las Vegas is 'profane'. It's a city of obscene excess. Of lights, food, noise, people. And natural beauty. The mountains surrounding the city are spectacular, as if to remind everyone that gambling and showgirls and timeshare presentations are not why they should really be visiting the city.

In every venue we've seen so far, people are normal looking. They aren't all (necessarily) beautiful or skinny or white. They appear (and sound) to be from all over the world. The only generalization that seems to hold is that older women smoking cigarettes seem to be over-represented at the slot machines.

Perhaps because it's so warm, people (the ones who aren't necessarily beautiful, skinny or white) have a lot of exposed skin, which means their tattoos are also exposed. I'm sure I've said this before, but again, I don't think I've ever seen as many tattoos. Full sleeves, up the neck, down the legs, around the torso.... And it's not just one small tattoo that you can see while they're at the pool. It's multiple tattoos whose places seem randomly chosen, and it's really not a pretty site.

There's a gimmick here I just don't get. There are people walking around with drinks in containers that are 36 inches long. They look like long thermometers with even longer straws. I've seen a few places that sell them and they cost about $36 for the drink and souvenir cup. What would possess someone to buy one of these. It's not like it will fit in your carryon!

We're staying in a place that has a Tahitian theme. It's a decent place with a bedroom, a bathroom that's too big and a living room/kitchenette. Yes, the couch is essentially in the kitchen. I hate that it only has one window (in the bedroom) that doesn't even open. It's fine for the week but for that last reason alone, I wouldn't stay in this type of room again. There are silk and plastic flowers and plants everywhere. I'm sure it has to do with the fact that water to support the real flowers and plants isn't naturally found here in the desert. My two cents - pick a different theme.

We walked into the Luxor yesterday. It's a huge pyramid shaped hotel. (If you're a fan of The Amazing Race, you saw them rappel down the side a few seasons ago.) Between the 2nd floor and the top of the pyramid it's an open atrium with rings of hotel rooms going all the way up the to the top. So I had to wonder, where are the elevators. It turns out - they don't have elevators. They have inclinators. What's an inclinator? It's an elevator that goes in a diagonal line up the corner of the pyramid. It's very Willy Wonka.

Wherever you look, there seem to be Oxygen Bars. I just don't get it.

Lastly, it's not actually as easy to find a decent place to eat as you would think it would be. Yes, there are buffets, but how much can you actually eat. And there are the famous restaurants, but they're pretty expensive. And there are casual and fast food places that are the same everywhere. Tonight we drove around longer than I'll publicly admit looking for something that was simple, not crazy expensive and not a chain we could find somewhere else. We found a deli-pizzaria (appropriately called Deli-ria) that fit the bill. It was run by an Iraqi who lived in Michigan the last 14 years and just moved to Las Vegas a year ago. Though there were prices for the sandwiches and salads on the menu, I asked for something that wasn't listed. Four bucks later I had a plate full of food - (tuna, tabouli and stuffed grape leaves for those who are curious).

What I do really like about Las Vegas is that you can literally just drive out of town into nowhere. All of the sudden, the street drops down to two lanes with a great view of mountains and nothing else. I'm not sure how far you have to be from the city of Chicago for that to happen.