Las Vegas: where the surreal becomes real. Where else can you eat a Nathan’s New York hot dog inside a pyramid while listening to a Mariachi band? All while deciding whether to brave the infamous Bodies exhibit or to see an actual piece of the Titanic wreck.
What makes the surreal become real? Money, Baby! Lots and lots of money. Billion dollar hotel complexes. More high-end stores in Caesar’s Palace than on Rodeo Drive. More Venetian glass in the lobby of Bellagio than in Venice itself. And to quote Bally’s, “thousands of rhinestones covering very little flesh”. The constant T and A does start to get to me though there are Ozzie beefcake shows for the ladies and gays.
The myth and promise of Vegas is captured perfectly by the crass statue at Harrah’s: all that lovely $$$ will eagerly flow your way. Erm, not exactly. The odds against are astronomical and so are the prices of everything. Even Starbucks. But you will have great fun losing your money.
BTW the Harrah’s statue gets my vote for “coyote ugly”. For non-noir fans that means waking up the morning after with a sex partner so appalling that you chew your arm off in haste to escape your own appalling lack of judgment.
Hey, I’m just miffed because the quarter slots devoured my $6.
Today, like Dan Simmons’ president character in Hyperion, I wandered the worlds, passing through Harrah’s to catch the monorail and tram to the farthest point, Mandalay Bay casino. Feeling a pang of nostalgia for management consulting, I visited its aquarium, Shark Reef.
Set in a Disney-like temple ruin, it sports beautifully kept fish tanks and a plexiglass shark tunnel though the sharks themselves are rather small. The guide tells us that of the 400 species of sharks only four, such as the Great White of Jaws infamy, are dangerous to humans who nevertheless are busy exterminating hundreds of millions a year of these creatures for shark fin soup.
What I really wanted to see though was the komodo dragon. Long ago, I sketched out an adventure novel where my heroes fought off one of these giant lizards. They’re hungry buggers, aggressive, with a nasty bite that includes venom and malicious bacteria to cause your wounds to fester even if you manage to survive a biting attack.
The KD of Shark Reef does not disappoint. It resembles a good-sized crocodile though with a lizard’s head. The yellow and brown colouring matches its dried mud habitat. To my surprise, I learn that it, too, is an endangered species.
To Luxor for my lunch of Nathan’s hotdog under the gaze of Ramses. And if you think I was kidding about the Mariachi band, the neon T & T on the right stands for “tacos and tequila”.
Inspired by Nathan’s, I take the tram back to New York, which boasts an impressive skyline and sizeable Statue of Liberty. Rain begins to fall. It comes down in a clammy mist rather than a downpour. It’s the first time I’ve seen rain in Vegas.
Taking shelter inside New York casino, I’m confronted by yet another replica of the Statue of Liberty: this time in jelly beans! Running late, I return to our hotel, having clocked 20,000 Fitbit steps, nearly twice the steps I count on running days.
More weird stuff, next blog.