OK, so that’s not exactly true, but it makes for a good title. I did find myself a few monkey-related items for the office, though none of them were Vegas related. I was really hoping for a damn T-shirt from Hoover Dam (something similar to this one in idea, though definitely not execution), but all they had were crappy souvenirs (it took an act of Congress for the Bureau of Reclamation to sell “official” Hoover Dam stuffed ringtail cats). I also saw a souvenir I really wanted in the midst of an Elvis display in the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino: buttons that said “Elvis is a Jerk” and “I Hate Elvis.” Of course you couldn’t actually buy the buttons.
Here’s the short attention span review of the trip:
Worst part of the trip to Vegas: I didn’t see a single Elvis.
Temperature in Vegas Thursday afternoon: 113 degrees.
Temperature in St. Paul Friday evening: 62 degrees.
Total gambling losses: $4.05 (is that a tax write-off?).
Most underrated Vegas attraction: Howard Finster artwork at the House of Blues.
Best way to the airport: Limo. It cost only $2 more than a taxi.
Best contradiction: “When the Fun Stops: Understanding Problem Gambling” brochure available next to an ATM outside a casino.
Number of times we got lost in a casino: Twice (MGM & Paris).
Number of billboard-size TV screens viewable from my parents’ hotel room: Four.
For those with longer attention spans, continue reading…
As I’ve said before, Abby and I went to Las Vegas for my brother’s wedding. I don’t think we’d ever go simply for Vegas. Everything about the town is truly bizarre. The limo driver told us someone gets married every 15 minutes, and on Valentine’s Day it’s every minute and a half. Yet for all the promises and vows, stripping seems to be a city sport. Every street corner has several people handing out stripper cards and magazines that are barely legal. The slogans on their shirts promise “strippers direct to you in 20 minutes or less.” Vegas itself is located in the middle of a desert, and yet tourism is its leading industry and it’s the fastest growing community in the world (so the limo driver said — other sources say fastest growing in the U.S.). The tallest buildings are hotels and casinos, and they’re all located in a straight line along the strip, Las Vegas Boulevard (with the exception of a small clump downtown). It’s an odd city.
Of course gambling is what it’s best known for, though gambling is not the biggest money-maker. We wondered around more casinos (“caSINos,” as a certain bumper sticker says) than I care to admit, and they all look the same. Every casino floor was sensory overload. The actual card games were beyond intimidating (aside from having minimum bets that were more than the amount of cash I brought along), so I did try a few slot machines. I can’t understand these. You sit there and plunk your money away, push a button, and put in more money. It’s sick. The machines are set up to let you win a little so you feel like you’re making headway, but you always lose in the end. After finishing a roll of nickels I had won $1.20. Not too bad. Of course it cost me $2, so I was down 80 cents. Not too good. And some people do this for hours. I saw one guy running two machines at once. It’s absolutely mindless. All on the off-chance that you’ll strike it rich. I told my aunt it’d be faster just to give her gambling money to me.
Thankfully there’s more to do in Vegas than gamble. Though most of it still involves parting with your money. We spent most of our time taking in the odd sites, shopping, and eating.
We did manage to get away from the city twice to see some real attractions, Red Rock Canyon and Hoover Dam. Red Rock was cool, though nothing compared to the rest of the southwest. I was just glad to see some mountains and desert vegetation (joshua trees are so cool!).
Hoover Dam was wild. The ride out there offered views of mountains and canyons, though the dam itself was one big man-made mess screwing up a beautiful canyon. The sheer size of it was amazing, and I kept wondering why on earth they allow vehicles to drive across it after 9/11. Apparently they scaled the tour way back after 9/11, but all types of vehicles are still allowed to cross (we did have to pass through a police checkpoint). I also kept wondering about the ecological damage the dam might cause, since it was put in place to stop the seasonal flooding of the Colorado river that used to ravage the California valley. Natural cycles like that tend to have a valuable purpose. Surprisingly, I didn’t seen anything about that. Instead the film strips touted the benefits of a steady water supply, clean power, and recreational opportunities made available by a constant river and lake.
On the way home my grandparents talked about site’s glowing approval of its namesake, Herbert Hoover, someone they’ve rarely heard anything positive about. My grandpa wondered if Roosevelt got the idea for the Works Progress Administration from the Hoover Dam. He called the WPA one of the greatest things to ever happen to this country, pointing out that it put people to work for the good of the nation rather than just giving handouts like the current welfare system. Of course at the time the WPA was looked down upon as much as welfare recipients are today, at least in my grandpa’s family. It was an interesting conversation, especially when you consider how much work the WPA did. You can see examples of their work everywhere. His point about welfare was interesting too, and it makes me wonder about the similarities between WPA and communism. Of course now we’re way too deep for this blog entry.
And of course my brother was married to his high school girlfriend on Wednesday night. On the way home I was thinking about their wedding and the oddity of being married in Las Vegas. But I was thinking that perhaps it’s fitting. If your marriage begins in the midst of sin and skin, in the very center of what can often ruin a marriage, perhaps you’re stronger for it. If you can vow to love for a lifetime in the face of such temptation, as opposed to an elaborate, symbolic, drawn out ceremony, there’s something a bit more honest and true about it. Maybe I’m just swimming in contradictions and trying to find something meaningful to say, but I think there’s something strong and bold in a Vegas wedding, as odd as that may sound.
At any rate, it’s good to be blogging again.