Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Viva Las Vegas, Day 1

When Jared first asked, “Wanna go to Vegas in February?” my reaction was probably not what he expected, considering I'd been prodding him about a getaway for ages. “No. What would I do in Vegas?” I sputtered. I had been envisioning a romantic beach vacation or a secluded cabin in the woods. From what I knew of Sin City, there was drinking, gambling, stripping and more drinking. But anyone who has visited Las Vegas in the past decade knows that its reputation as a seedy place of unsavory characters and debauchery is outdated.

Not that there isn't debauchery.

So I agreed to go. We booked our flight and hotel with Andy and Stephanie, a couple who we trusted would be excellent traveling companions. He is a lab biologist and she is a student working toward a degree in web design; both of them are relaxed, funny and fabulous. We booked for the weekend before Valentine's Day and waited.

On a Thursday morning we dragged ourselves from our Kent apartment at 3:45am, only to discover that the cab I had scheduled had not arrived. If there were a contest for having anxiety about tardiness, I would at least win an Olympic medal and would be considering going pro. I called the cab service and spoke with a man who assured me that no such reservations existed and instructed me to call someone else. Waiting for a second cab seemed too risky, so we resigned ourselves to paying airport parking feeds and high-tailed it to Seatac in Jared's 350Z.

Andy and Stephanie met us at the gate, exclaiming, “We're going to Vegas!” Jared had been to the city once before, but the rest of us didn't know quite what we were in for. The men waiting next to us in our terminal were discussing the advantages of not bringing a camera to Las Vegas, “Nothing incriminating that way. Plus, my phone takes photos.” Why are phone pics less incriminating than those snapped on a real camera? We didn't ask. I brought my camera. I planned to document the trip thoroughly.

What happens in Vegas gets posted on several social networking sites.

Aside from the slot machines flashing enticingly at you as soon as you disembark, the Las Vegas airport décor belies nothing of the surreal atmosphere outside its doors. The cabbie we chose overcharged us, and even though we all suspected it, no one said anything until I under-tipped him in front of the Luxor.

One of the older hotels on the Vegas strip, the Luxor still has an impressive exterior. The building itself is shaped like a giant pyramid, complete with a sphinx and a blazing spotlight shooting out of the pyramid's point. We wandered into the cavernous lobby, apparently seeming lost enough that we were pounced upon.

A small Asian lady materialized and twittered “Are you just checking in? Come this way!” We obediently stepped to the desk, where a man began firing questions that became increasingly more personal. “How long you folks here for? You wanna see some shows? Are you married? Do you live together? Are the addresses on your driver's licenses the same?” Fumbling for words, we answered the questions, increasingly confused until he showed us a map and continued, “Gimme just a couple hours of your time, come see these new properties out North of the city and see three free shows. Which shows do you want to see? Take this map. It won't take long. What should I put you down for?” Eventually, our wits having somehow returned, we conveyed that what we really needed to do was check into the hotel, not listen to a fast-talking salesman trying to push time-shares on us.

After dropping our bags off, it was still only 9:15am, so we snacked at McDonald's and wandered through the Luxor, examining the wedding chapel, pool, and enormous false Egyptian scenery. “Is that the Chrysler building?” asked Stephanie. “Do casinos recycle their props?” I mused. “Maybe New York, New York got tired of that one?”

We needed naps.

Unable to sleep, Andy headed to Dick's Last Resort, a bar in Excalibur, where the staff is intentionally as rude as possible. When Jared and I joined him later, the server announced, “Hey Ladies, are you with Princess here?” then looked at me, “Whaddaya drinking, Hooker?” When I answered, “Nothing right now,” she gave me a thumbs down and made a farting noise.

I was eager to get my first real glimpse of the Vegas strip, so we set out to explore. Despite the numerous times I'd been audience to people's recaps of their vacations to Las Vegas, I couldn't quite wrap my head around the bizarre combination of sights and sounds until I was there. The buildings were replicas of other things—a pirate ship, the Eiffel Tower, a castle—and all of them were glaring with lights and billboards. Stilettos, Uggs, flip-flops and sneakers shared the same sidewalks, and people with alcoholic beverages from Bud Light to 32oz hurricanes were taking advantage of permissible open container law. Someone in a Winnie-the-Pooh suit waved at us and I had my picture taken with him. A man in a wizard's robes painted gray stood motionless until a woman passed too near; then he pounded his staff and bellowed.

Even the outdoors in Vegas smells climate-controlled, when you aren't passing someone with a lit cigarette on the streets. Electronic bleeping and dinging rang out from every entryway we passed and on every corner, people thrust what appeared to be prostitute playing cards in front of you, slapping the individual card against their stacks making sharp snapping sounds.

We stopped at a cafe in Paris after gawking at the giant dome above us, painted to look like the sky and the storefronts and restaurants, all painted like Parisian shops. I ordered seared tuna salad, which arrived as large chunks of tuna so tender it practically melted on my tongue, on a bed of tomatoes with seasonal veggies on the side.

Since Andy was nodding off into his prime rib, we decided to head back to the hotel to relax before hitting the town again.

Instead, we all fell asleep. Jared and I tested out the jetted tub that overlooked the streets of Las Vegas, one of the highlights of the Luxor rooms. When I'd dried off, I texted our pals, and they might as well have responded “zzzzz.”

1 comment:

  1. Woot! Squee! You're back! Now I can once again live vicariously through your exploits. Das ist extrem gut. Mehr! Mehr! My only complaint: needs more hookers.