Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Las Vegas

I love real Casinos; the kind with themes, not Card Rooms and not the Native-American-Truck-Stops-with-Slots like they have up North. What I really love are Casinos in Las Vegas, because nothing in Vegas makes any sense whatsoever....

Ancient Egypt is next door to King Arthur's Excalibur. You can throw a rock from New York, New York to Monte Carlo, France. Ancient Rome is across the street from a land that apparently worships Flamingoes.

I am excited by this. A planet just for Hollywood! An entire world devoted to M&M's!

All of the world's greatest cities on one street, and Las Vegas Boulevard ("The Strip") is miiiiles long. Between Mandalay Bay and the Stratosphere (the casino - not the layer of air) there is plenty of room for Reykjavik! Sarajevo! and Ulan Bator!

I like the clearly themed casinos best; it's soothing somehow. Treasure Island = Pirates. Got it. Imperial Palace = pre-fascist Japan. Check. Circus, Circus = a million, billion screaming kids. Because when you get right down to it, what IS a 'Bellagio' anyway?

Purses designed by Dung Beetles, apparently.
So yes, prevalent themes, but very selective representation. In Paris, for example, I could find neither a bank of slot machines dedicated to the years of Nazi occupation, nor a restaurant with a guillotine motif.

But hey, if you wanted a history lesson you would have gone to a museum. And not the Liberace one. Still though, the contradictions, the jarring juxtapositions, the glaring gauche god-awful gaudiness of it all just overwhelms you after awhile.

A roller coaster around the Statue of Liberty? Okay. A 15ft. Statue of David in Caesers Palace? Well, Michelangelo sculpted that 1,600 years after the time of Caeser Augustus, but yeah. Sure. Whatever. The Mirage has a tropical theme throughout. No desert Iconography at all; it's all jungle. There's even tigers there.  There are no mirages at The Mirage: It should have been called Amazon, or Africa, for white people!

You know, I would not put it past America to put
a roller coaster around the REAL Statue of Liberty.
All of this I could swallow. Until I got to the Venetian, saw that statue, and kind of lost it. On the surface this would seem like an easy Casino to design, because no American has any idea what Venice looks like. Just give 'em a gondola ride with handsome gondoliers in straw hats singing like Dean Martin, and your home free. 

Hell, they should dig a tunnel under the Strip and have the gondola ride wander through the pirate ship battles at Treasure Island for a real cross cultural time warp. Nobody would bat an eye.

Las Vegas is ignorance allowed free rein. Americans have no idea what Paris is like, so they are perfectly content at the Nevada version. And whose to tell 'em different? You certainly won't find any actual French folks, let alone Parisians there. Same with New York, New York. No guest there has a clue what Manhattan is like, because all of the real New Yorkers vacation in Atlantic City. 
These are "Pirates" No, really. See the ropes? 

For the record: The knock-offs in the desert are friendlier, cleaner and less crowded than the originals. But the originals have the History.

Silly me, I went to Las Vegas looking for History. What a rube. What a moron. What an American. So I stayed at none of these places. I stayed downtown at the Golden Nugget, where the real Vegas used to be. ('Real' here meaning, rude, dirty and crowded.) But not anymore! 

Now the authentic old Las Vegas downtown is quite obviously trying to repackage itself as part of the perpetually new Strip. Better hotels! Bigger shows! More lights!  Fakier tits! In fact the entire downtown district is now one huge light show, blocking out the very moon and stars. Very impressive hourly shows that ALMOST caused the army of Seniors at the slots to pause in their relentless quest to blow their kids inheritance one nickel at a time.

Dress made out of wrapping paper
bows. Who wouldn't want that?
But I took a walk around downtown at 7 in the morning, and the old downtown is still there at that time of day. And its not attractive at all. But that's authenticity for ya!  And that's why most folks are down at the uptown end of the Strip, where reality and history have been dispensed with.

For the record: Vegas has a dismal history: 
  • It is a natural spring that became an indian camp (and failed), 
  • that became a Mormon settlement (and failed). 
  • Farming community? An idea that evaporated. 
  • Railroad? Passed 'em by. 
  • It tried to became housing for Hoover Dam (and failed - hello, Boulder City), 
  • became an army barracks (and failed - Area 51 sealed itself off), 
  • and now is desperately trying to be Monaco mixed with Disneyworld, with mixed results in this mixed economy.
The only way Vegas survived at all is by underbidding for the dark side of the American soul: The saving grace for the region was not gambling - that came later. What got the attention and traffic initially was the don't ask, don't tell, no-fault, drive-through divorce laws. 
Art. This is Art. Or maybe the one on the left is
named Art. 

That brought the Hollywood rich out to the area. And they needed something to do out there until the Press cooled off. And that's what brought the venture capitalists out, sniffing for a way to engage to idle rich. (Venture capitalists with names like Bugsy and Frenchie.)

Then there was the whole State Cathouse idea. (ahem)

Vegas was the fastest growing city in America for 60 straight months, before leading the planet in foreclosures for 22 months, and still the population is growing exponentially, which makes no sense, which is Vegas, which is why I love it so.

Oh, and the thing that freaked me out at the Venetian was sitting outside of their 'Area 51/alien autopsy' theme bar.

Let me say that again, slowly. 

At the Casino in Medieval Venice is an Alien Autopsy bar - with me so far? - And at the entrance to this is an Easter Island statue. Oh, of course I could see - um, wait: WHAT?

Seeing this after four days of flashing lights and clanging bells and four meat buffets caused my mushy brain to seize right up. I guess I had just had enough of Las Vegas not making any sense. 

Ya see, because the Rapa Nui people were really space aliens and the
alien autopsy revealed the secret behind the Moai.....um.....no.....hrm.
I mean, the town is meaning-proof. Its irony and sarcasm-proof as well. It will take in any amount of scorn and/or logic that you can heap on it, blink, and offer you Krispy Kreme doughnuts with room service.

It is Shamelessness with a City Hall.

So you figure Vegas out. I'll be looking for the CHEAP TABLES.

Angus McMahan

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P.P.S. The 'YoHos' picture up there I took at Treasure Island (along with the 3DD mural below). The 'subtext' wrestling pic is from the "Zumanity" website. Everything else is mine.

I'm thinking of making this the new banner for Angus-land. 


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