Las Vegas, Part Three: Strippers

16 Nov

from August 25, 2008

I’ve traveled a bit. In the US, I’ve been to Chicago, where the river is as viable a route across town as the train is here, but less polluted. In Houston I visited the battleships and memorials. I’ve seen the Air and Space Museum in Washington, the Liberty Bell and the corner of Swanson and Ritner in Philadelphia, Fenway Park in Boston, the sunset in Orlando, and in Cleveland I, um, played catch in the hotel parking lot because, let’s face it, there’s no reason to visit Cleveland. Once you’ve been to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame you may as well go home because that’s it, unless you can get some kicks out of seeing the building from the Drew Carey Show.

I spent two weeks in London and saw Buckingham Palace, visited Stonehenge, toured Scotland and fell in love with Edinburgh Castle, the prototypical “castle overlooking the town,” and in Paris I saw the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. It is fair to say that I’ve seen some sights. But none of them was quite like the Las Vegas Strip.

Or maybe I should say that all of them were quite like the Las Vegas Strip, because I saw castles, towers, statues, cities, ships, and even the Eiffel Tower in Nevada. Take the best of everything and you’ll find a big, gaudy replica in Vegas, all one after the other. The Strip is “big, really big.” Not so much in size as in sheer length, height, and lights. New York is denser, Hollywood has more celebrities, and Detroit is downright more deadly, but none of them can rival what Vegas has in sheer “whoa.”

We had just gotten off the shuttle from our hotel and were standing in front of Caesar’s Palace. Really, though, no matter where I stood for two blocks in either direction I’d be in front of Caesar’s. It is so big that if I won a jackpot in a casino at one end the news would reach the other end via the internet faster than if I stood up and shouted. Sound travels at over 300 miles per second. At that rate, news of my jackpot would reach the other end of the casino in a day or two. And by then I would have already been besieged by a dozen or so previously unknown and ne’er-do-well relatives begging for money.

We were towards the western end of the strip, and the M+Ms store was at nearly the other end. OK, sightseeing time. We walked down the strip.

And we walked, and walked, and walked. The Strip is “big. Really big” and we stopped for pictures. In front of Caesar’s it looks like you are in Rome, with statues and waterfalls and statues and statues and waterfalls and statues all over the place. The tourists weren’t too bad, and we all took turns taking pictures for each other. My favorite was a family from Japan who put their toddler in the fountain and then watched as he ran to the falling water and out of their reach. He didn’t want to come out and the father had to wade in after him.

Good thing they didn’t go to the Bellagio. That hotel had a huge array of fountains that “danced” to various songs. I was there for the “God Bless The USA” show. If the kid got in the water there the fountain jets would have shot him to Mars.

There are all kinds of theme hotels and casinos in Vegas. There is the Roman theme hotel, the Paris theme hotel, and the circus theme hotel. I saw the medieval castle theme hotel and the Egyptian theme hotel. By far, though, the most popular theme hotel is the Under Construction Theme Hotel. Every where we looked, we saw the skeletal beams of new hotels. They really carried the theme far. These places had doormen in hard hats and waiters in construction boots. Men with stop signs waved you past and barricades helped with the illusion.

The sense of opulence faded a bit there. In front of the cassinos it was clean and bustling with tourists. In front of the construction sites no one stopped. Everyone was rushing past to get to the casinos on the other side. This is where the seedier side of Vegas took root.

Every ten or fifteen feet was a short immigrant wearing a bright orange or yellow shirt that said “GIRLS! Delivered to YOUR ROOM! In only 20 MINUTES!” They all had business cards with naked women on them and offered them to whomever, male or female, walked by. Getting past these construction sites was like running a porno gauntlet. The guys didn’t just try to hand you the cards, they had a method which they seem to have perfected over the years and passed on to everyone working the strip. A pornographer would take a card from the stack in his left hand, tap it loudly twice to get your attention, and flourish it toward you. They never actually touch you, nor do they get right in your way, but they make it hard to ignore. At first it was funny, but after the first five or so it became less than a joke, and after twenty it became reeeeaaaaallllly annoying and I’d just glare at them before the tapping started. They did it anyway. At night these same guys wore giant illuminated billboards over their heads hooked up to big batteries hanging from their belts. I was sure someone was going to be electrocuted giving out a hooker’s phone number. I bet the paramedics there see a lot of that.

I also saw an actual pimp, in a big Snoop Dogg pimp outfit, driving a pink Cadillac. Take that, Philadelphia.

Once we got past the porn hawkers, we had another challenge- crossing the street. Think traffic in wherever you live is bad? Seen worse traffic? You haven’t seen Vegas. The lights never change, because on the rare occasions when they do, the tourists swarm across the streets, regardless of the light being red or green, regardless of cars inching their bumpers toward you, regardless of drivers screaming at you. Vegas has decided that it is just safer if no one ever crosses a street. This is bad for the casinos so they created giant walkways over the intersections. Great. But they lead directly into the casinos and good luck finding your way back out to the street.

It was hot, just over 100 degrees. It was very, very dry and, believe it or not, despite all the walking, and by now we’d been walking in the hot sun for the better part of an hour, I had not worked up one bead of sweat. If I had, there were plenty of guys hawking “the coldest water on the Strip!” every few yards.

Soon we reached M+Ms World. It was located between the World’s Most Neon McDonald’s and a mall that specialized in things like children’s tee-shirts and adult bondage outfits.




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