Las Vegas. Sin City. The City that Never Sleeps.
I know that New York City is also known as the City that Never Sleeps, but there is a difference between having people around at any time of the day, and having everything OPEN 24 hours a day. In Vegas they’re not kidding around about that whole no sleeping business.
Jeff and I came to Las Vegas this week — he for a conference, and me for grins and giggles. It’s not that I love Las Vegas, or that I hate it — to me it is a Petri dish of itself, its uniqueness making it its own entity.
At daytime, the Vegas strip looks like an aging showgirl. You can definitely see all the wrinkles, the work that’s been done, the cracks in the foundation. But, come night, and the old girl can shine, is still seductive and beautiful, and can turn heads.
Las Vegas is a city of excesses in appetites. Gambling, sure, that is the original and its most prevalent “Vegas thing.” There are slot machines in the airport, so you can gamble immediately upon arrival and the last minute before leaving. I am constantly surprised that there are no slot machines in the women’s bathrooms, perhaps the only place were there no slot machines. While gaming tables are restricted to the casinos, slot machines require no human interaction. They also require no happy faces. I am yet to see anyone actually look like they’re enjoying themselves while pulling the lever or pushing the buttons.
I am not a gambler. I find it mind-numbingly boring to sit at a machine and feed it money or try to do math at the poker table. Baccarat games bring to mind James Bond, but I wouldn’t even know where to start to play that, nor do I care enough to find out how to play. However, I do like my booze, and that is main reason I can be found (in the evening) at the penny and nickel slot machines, pushing an occasional button as necessary, betting near the minimum, and craning my neck looking for a waitress. I like to mix it up, a margarita here, an amaretto sour there, a Bloody Mary for nutrition, and all for a low, low price of $1 per drink that I tip the scantily clad waitstaff (and a few bucks for the slots).
But I cannot drink on an empty stomach. I never could, and was brought up not to do this — the sign of a true alcoholic. This brings us to the third vice of Las Vegas — the over-the-top food. The city boasts Five Star Michelin and award-winning restaurants, celebrity chefs and world-class, and world-diverse eateries. A foodie can lose her mind (and her waistline) here. For example, the Wynn Hotel & Casino boasts one of the top buffets in the country, which includes six different type of meat sliced for you, sushi and sashimi, crab legs, an upscale taco bar, a latkes bar (apparently there is such a thing), dim sum, and a whole a separate room just for desserts … yeah, you get the idea. For me this means that no matter how much I walk during the day, there is no way on earth I am going to be able to lose weight here, but would be lucky not to gain more than 5 pounds.
The air inside the casinos themselves is incredibly well ventilated. I can’t smell the cigarette and cigar smoke (people are still allowed to smoke in the gambling areas), not unless I stop to concentrate on that faint aroma. But even then the smell is more like a memory than the actual whiff of smoke.
And there are always the lights. From the blinking machines to the giant curved screens on The Strip, the bright pin-point lights from the ceiling that make even the gaudiest baubles shine like diamonds, to the crystal chandeliers creating an elegant atmosphere, to the light shows, and lighted fountains, and all the neon. This city doesn’t cheap out on electricity.
This spring Las Vegas is lush and green — it rained a lot during winter and even snowed once. I am awed by lush palm trees — as a Coloradoan they are a foreign thing to me. Something I learned — all the palm trees in Vegas are transplants, this is not a native tree. I doubt there is anything too native in this city. After all, this place was carved out of the desert, brush and sage and sand, arid dry air and made for the hardiest of vegetation.
Outside of our hotel room, it’s tough to think because of all the noise. The Strip is never quiet, there are always dinging bells, sirens, beeps, chimes and tinkles. There is constant music, usually from either the 1980s or Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and friends being piped not only in casinos, but also from speakers on the streets mounted near the top of the palm trees, plus the constant stream of conversation in many languages: it’s the never-ending cacophony of Las Vegas.
This is the kind of place where when I go to the bathroom at 4 a.m. and accidentally wake my husband, I explain that I need a drink and then qualify that it’s water. Las Vegas is a place made for all the Anonymous — Alcoholics, Gamblers and Overeaters. It’s an over-the-top, insatiable maw of a city that chews up and doesn’t even spit out. It’s ironic that it was in Vegas, four years ago, during our previous visit, that amid all that is excess, I discovered that I was enough. Just as I was, I was complete, I lacked nothing.
This thought struck me as I was walking down The Strip, as it began to rain. Everything I needed I had, and that was a magnificent, enormous and freeing feeling, one I trot out and remind myself of whenever my insecurities and inadequacies rear their ugly heads. It’s true not only of me, but of all of us. We are self-contained and perfect, so much bigger on the inside, where it counts, we simply need to remind ourselves of that from time to time. Stop in the middle of the day, take a deep breath, and let all the distractions of life flow around you. All that noise, all that glitter, it’s not real, not in any sense that matters. What counts is what you are underneath — the opposite of the very essence that is Las Vegas.