Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Escaped Mom Diaries: Day Three

About Las Vegas...

* After a couple of days, you kinda get used to the constant scream of sirens in the background.  Kinda.

* Summer temperatures in Las Vegas hover around 100 degrees during the day and cool down to the eighties at sunset; this is why the people are up all night and sleep all day.  It's not really that everyone here is a vampire.

* The vendors who wander the crowded streets at night hawking bottled waters to dehydrated tourists turn a tidy profit, easily getting $2 - $3 a bottle.

*  There is an unexpectedly large number of Oriental tourists here.

* A bevy of smiling foot massage ladies on the Strip also make big money soothing the tootsies of tourists who didn't realize they were going to do so much walking on the inappropriate footwear they brought with them.

* The casinos are open 24/7.  They are never empty.

* The inexpensive decent-food  buffets that the casinos used to use to lure in unsuspecting gamblers is, unfortunately, just a fond memory now.

* The "high roller" casinos on the Strip cater largely to a diminishing demographic of middle to upper income gamblers with discretionary funds to waste.  That said, the floors are generally crowded with gamblers, though most of the folks you see strolling through Caesar's Palace, for instance, seem to be sight-seers. A significant number of these bring a modest sum to the casinos that they know they can lose without hurting their bank accounts.  Though they almost never do win big, they get a charge out of the bells and whistles and lights of the city, anyway, so they don't really care.  A smaller but tragic portion of the casino population is addicted to gambling -- or just unreasonably desperate to turn the bad economic fortunes many of us are experiencing into sudden wealth -- and lose the precious funds they came with. A lot of people come to Vegas on vacation, just to have a good time -- sometimes even wholesomely so, but many lives are ruined here, too.

* You will find no windows in casinos; a gambler will gamble longer if s/he's unaware of time
passing -- day turning to night, night turning to day...

* They "pipe in" or spray some kind of strong, perfumey air freshener into the casinos -- and even into the parking garages, undoubtedly to cover up other stale smells resulting from the unwashed humanity sitting at slot machines and blackjack tables, night and day, day and night -- and no windows to open.

* Over the smell of the perfumey air freshener is the constant  smell of smoke. Everywhere you go. There are no smoke-free casinos in Las Vegas.  And it seems that smoking seems to go with gambling.  And drinking.

* The downtown casinos cater to a more modest gambler than those on the Strip.  "Modest" meaning the poor, the elderly, the infirm -- the locals who sweep the floors in the big rich casinos, the tourists who used their last tank of gas to get here, overweight, smoking, middle-aged women in pajama pants and dirty over-sized tee shirts.  It's a motley crowd in the North Las Vegas casinos, but their incentives for gambling are pretty much the same as the high rollers, only perhaps more everything:  more desperate, more devil-may-care, more catatonic.  And they don't dress nearly as well as the high rollers at the Bellagio.

* The chairs at the slot machines are the most comfortable chairs known to man.  For obvious reasons.

Vegas is not only about gambling, though.  At the tiny little tourist center on the Strip (just down from the Ross and the Walgreens), you can get deeply discounted and even free tickets to some of the many shows in town.  

* There are upward of fifty different shows scheduled in the city in any given month, ranging from magic shows featuring the likes of David Copperfield and Penn and Teller, to musical spectacles such as the
Flaming Lips  and Celine Dion, as well as comedians like Whoopie Goldberg, Jerry Seinfield, and Carrot Top.  Some of these are short run concerts, others run semi-permanently. Year round, you can catch Cirque du Soleil, and Blue Man Group, along with a host of other magic and comedy shows. Ticket prices range from $54 to see Penn and Teller (in the nosebleed section) to  $90 for Blue Man Group ( the cheap seats) to $108 to see Donny and Marie with binoculars, to $116 in the Mezzanine at LaReve, and $119 to squint down at Jerry Seinfield.  The best seats to see the Wizard of Oz, Broadway musical are $174, but some V.I.P. show tickets run as high as $250 a piece!  Can you imagine? (This is about how much it costs us to take the whole gang to a movie with popcorn and drinks, though.  Hmmm...)

* Between the skimpily-dressed girls in the every-present adds and the skimpily-dressed girls walking around everywhere, custody of the eyes is practically impossible here -- particularly in the gambling districts.  A guy would need black-out shades and a seeing-eye dog (or wife) to get through unscathed by the impurity all around him.

* The grounds surrounding the more opulent casinos especially are beautifully lush, and, though xeriscaping is obvious everywhere throughout the city and suburbs, it's amazing that this large city can survive in the desert like it does. There is a lot of landscaping, many signature palm trees, and tropical flower displays.   As a Coloradan, it makes me kinda mad (i.e., angry, irritated, aggravated) that our farmers struggle to raise crops because someone back in the day signed away oceans of water rights from our Colorado River to make this city possible.  A city that proudly advertises that its  GSP ("gross state product" -- and it is gross) is sin.

* The fountain show outside the Bellagio, however, is amazing, repeats every fifteen to thirty minutes -- and is free!  But good luck finding a spot by the railing where you can get a good view.

* Street performers ("Buskers") and "pay to pose" impersonators are everywhere too, especially after dark, and are a tremendous source of entertainment -- also for free!

The Mario Brothers -- homeless?
* But, the streets of Las Vegas are also home to an unusually large number of homeless folks.  I can only
surmise the reasons for this range from the simple fact that winters are mild here to the reality that  gambler's perception of the value of money may open tourists' wallets more easily to panhandlers.  Vegas is also a mecca to drug abusers, alcoholics, and runaways, a sad reality that slips in and out of the shadows behind the neon neon lights.

*  There are more than 600 churches in Las Vegas, most of which are not quickie wedding chapels.  They support a very large suburban population, as well as those souls in gambling-capital Las Vegas who are hopeless and searching.  But, when you think about it, it's no surprise Our Lord wants to be here...  Remember this episode of His life?
 10 And it came to pass as He was sitting at meat in the house, behold many publicans and sinners came, and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And the Pharisees seeing it, said to his disciples: Why doth your master eat with publicans and sinners? 12 But Jesus hearing it, said: They that are in health need not a physician, but they that are ill.~ Matthew 9: 10-12 

* The chapel where we'll assist at holy Mass for the Feast of the Assumption tomorrow is only a two-block walk from our hotel, on the edge of downtown Las Vegas. We know we'll find Jesus there.  And with Him, His Mother on her glorious feast day.  That trumps all the bad.  Including my own.

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