Well, here we are. It’s Friday, May 29, and it’s time to go back to Las Vegas, and then the next day, home.
As I mentioned in the earlier post, we got up early to try to see some things in Death Valley before it got too hot – so it was at this point we went to the Devil’s Golf Course and found the spot where my son posed in the steps of R2Ds, and then, on the way out, the Harmony Borax Works and Zabriskie Point.
Back in Las Vegas I stopped at a car wash. See, I had this little incident..at the Grand Canyon…
It happened on that drive along Cape Royal Road, when we had parked and hiked a bit. We got in the car to continue on, I backed up and BAM. Panicked that I’d hit another car, and I was very relieved to see that it was only a very skinny tree that had snuck up into a blind spot. About a two inch irregular patch of paint had come off, and of course there was a good bit of tar on the bumper. I had gotten a lot of the tar off with some stuff I’d purchased earlier, but I still wanted to spiff the whole machine up before I turned it in and walked away, whistling, No, no problems, everything’s fine!
As it was, there were already some scratch on that back bumper, although my damage did stand out a bit, even in that context. So I washed the car, just to be safe. I guess. I don’t know. It probably all stood out even more on a clean car. But no matter. The guy inspecting the car when I turned it in didn’t blink twice at anything, and no one’s demanded damages. Honestly, I imagine that the volume of cars rented in Las Vegas is so great, with a good many of them taken out into the desert and to the parks, the loss of two inches of a paint job is probably nothing.
Okay. So, car washed, one more In n’ Out lunch consumed, and then to the Strip to the hotel.
This would be our last night, so I’d thought, well…might as well stay on the Strip. Let’s have that experience…
Preface that: Las Vegas has always been one of those places – one of the few places – I’ve had no interest in visiting. Sure, I’ve been curious…what is it like??? But I could have died, fully content, without ever having been to Vegas.
But here we were. We stayed at Excalibur – the castle-themed hotel, across from New York, New York and the MGM and near Luxor, the Egyptian themed hotel. I figured it would have the most interest for the boys, Because Knights, plus it was one of the cheapest. Now, let me add that it wasn’t super cheap because it was a Friday. If we’d stayed during the week, I could have gotten a room there for under fifty bucks, but, of course, this was the weekend, so it was more. Not exorbitant, but not cheap, either.
But since we got to Vegas before check-in time, we made a stop:
The Pinball Hall of Fame. I had misunderstood what I’d read about it, and went into it thinking that all the games were just a quarter, but not so. The games that were originally a quarter were still that, but everything else was what you’d expect to pay for pinball and a few vintage video games. It was a decent way to spend an hour. Nostalgic, for sure.
Then to check in. Oh, I don’t want to give an hour-by-hour account. Because you all want to know why I’m so judgy about Vegas, right?
Here’s the thing. Well, here are the things.
- I’m not a prude or puritanical. I’m super protective of my kids – more so, in fact, than some parents I know who are more personally prudish than I am. Weird. But in terms of myself, it takes a lot to offend me or upset my equilibrium. I tend to view life from a human interest perspective, not as someone who think she’s ( or would like to be) the Deity on the Judgment Seat.
- I had told the boys before we got to Vegas, “In Las Vegas, you are probably going to see adults at their worst.” Wasting time, wasting money, drunk, hooking up (in so many words), just Randomly Satisfying Hungers. Prepped. Ready. Realistic.
- I was curious about the Strip – the architecture, the themed casinos, and so on. And although I’ve been to NYC, Paris & Venice for real, and we’ve stayed in an actual castle, I was determined not to be snobby about all of that. I was interested to see how the experience would be compressed for the Vegas clientele. Like Epcot, right? Even though I don’t like Epcot either. But still! Have fun! Look at the cool things creative and inventive humans do!
The plan was to check in, the walk up the Strip. I wanted us to see the various casinos, and then end up at the Bellagio fountains, and see all that.
Here’s what happened:
We checked in, then walked down to the Luxor, saw that. Walked back up to New York, New York. Saw that. There’s a roller coaster that goes in and out of the casino, and inside the shops and restaurants are arranged in faux NYC neighborhoods.
Walked across the street, went to the M & M Store. Got back out on the street. Walked half a block north toward the rest of the stuff…I paused. We paused.
My ten-year old looked up at me. He said, “I don’t like this. It’s creepy.”
Back to the room. Screw the Bellagio fountains. Get ready to go back home.
What was it? A combination of things.
- The general depression that results any time you’re one of thousands of people milling around noisy, brightly colored structures built solely for the purpose of manipulating you into spending mo money.
- The slot machines, everywhere, powered by slouching humans in turn fueled by cigs and drinks.
- Energy fueled by consumption of lots of cheap booze being consumed everywhere, sitting, standing, lying down. It’s a different, distinct kind of energy.
- Folks chugging in the middle of the M & M store.
- Young women strolling down the strip in string bikinis. Young women in micro-minis with tops falling open to expose almost everything.
- Bros in packs. Enough said.
And then there were the porn slappers. I had heard about the porn slappers, and stressed about the porn slappers, and posted questions about the porn slappers on a travel discussion board that I frequent. This was of great concern to me.
“Porn slapper” is a term for people who stand on the trip with small cards advertising escort services. They hold the stack of cards and slap them against their skin, making a bit of noise, getting attention. I had wondered how pervasive this was, how obvious the message of the cards were. I got lots of answers which clarified nothing and led me to believe either that these escort service cards would constantly rain upon our heads or that it was an overblown problem and not an issue, and your kids see Victoria’s Secret in the mall, right? No difference.
The reality was somewhere in between.
The “porn slappers” were definitely out and about. And since I was obviously not a potential client, when we approached, they held the cards still and looked another way. But…here’s the thing…the cards littered the ground. Everywhere.
And here’s what really made me sad. These “porn slappers?” All, without exception, middle-aged Latino men and women of indigenous stock. Shorter than I am, stocky, Spanish speaking. Probably illegal immigrants. I was probably making a lot of assumptions here, but all I could think when I saw them was, “Okay, Catholic Church, defender of the immigrant…where are you? Do something to find these people are truly dignified means of work…somewhere.”
Oh, the whole scene was just so weird. It was such an odd vibe of wandering, waste and loss. It made me want to pull everyone together, close, and talk about what we all really yearn for, and if I couldn’t do that, to run away and shake it off, hard.
Vegas was terrible. But in that revelation, maybe Vegas was not so bad.
Insert Metaphor Here.