Vegas, con't.

On the second day we decided on how to split the day's chores: my wife would shop, and I would walk around and take pictures of buildings. Adjacent to the Venetian / Palazzo, which occupies about nine square miles, there's a shopping mall called the Fashion Show, which is sixteen miles long but only a mile wide; I left her there and said we'd meet up at the room in two and a half hours; that ought to be enough. There are only so many shoes one can try on. The first place I went? The sad remnant of an old downmarket casino, the Frontier. If I have my history correct, the New Frontier replaced the old New Frontier, which replaced the Last Frontier.

I thought they would have started the replacement by now. it's supposed to be the Plaza, a gigantic resort casino to compete with all the other new resort casinos. (Really, I worry for these guys. It's like 1955 all over again. That was the year four casinos opened in the spring.) That's what Vegas needs, of course; another luxury multi-billion-dollar resort, not an amazingly cool reinterpretation of classic Vegas for the 21st century. Because there are are so few luxury fantasy locales, and a total glut of swank hip joints with plasma TVs and shag rugs and Jet-Age decor to cater to the younger Rat-Pack wannabees.

The tower was imploded last year: kaboom.

The sign remains:



It's not exactly classic Vegas, not with a mechanical bull and a Gilley's outpost. But ah, that sign:


On the sidewalk by the Frontier site was a rack of "escort" magazines, advertising the services of real guaranteed actual ladies. One of the mags was called "Affordable College Girls," which was a welcome assertion; one hears that College Girls have been priced out of the middle market these days. Nice to see someone filling a niche.

I'm still unsure how that works, since prostitution is illegal. Obviously these books are chock full o' hookers; the armies of squat hired men snapping pictures of scantily-attired lasses are obviously advertising services horizontal in nature. Everyone knows this. I suppose as long as they're not on the street or looking too obvious as they cross the lobby, blind eyes are turned.

I crossed back to the Wynn, which has a certain restraint. Like this:

For Vegas, that's restraint. The towers aren't gussied up to look like anything besides a suburban office plaza with a minor pompadour, but the grounds are gorgeous, and the interiors elegant and almost intimate. The shops made me feel shabby, poor and unwelcome, which was no doubt the desired effect. Most of these shops left me feeling unworthy - but then again, I'm not the target market; the idle rich are the preferred demographic. Rich sculpted enhanced wives, offspring of the idle European upper-class, businesspeople who'd made a pile a few years ago and settled into a life of meandering through the spare confines of boutiques with names like Le Gougerie, considering $197 T-shirts.

There's more of the place in the video below. That's where I'd like to stay next time.

Down the strip. I passed the Mirage, which obviously isn't, and made my way towards one of the most remarkable complexes in the United States: Caesar's Palace. For some reason I always thought it was a cheesy joint - waitresses in togas, fat guys wandering around with grape wreathes on their heads. Oh, the Romanity. The recent construction answers the question of what the 12th century would have looked like if Rome had never fallen, and they perfected skyscraper design.





Above: The shopping center has a copy of the Trevi fountain outside, and you certainly can't say that about many places. There's not much about the Shops at Caesar's Palace you can say about many places; it's huge and lavish and features giant statues in vast enclosed public squares every ninety yards or so. We toured it later that night, and stopped in FAO Schwartz to get something for (G)Nat. They did not have Pokemon or Wii, explaining that they didn't (sniff, noses in air) carry things you could get at Wal-Mart. They did, however, have life-sized stuffed tigers for $4,000, which could have shipped to your home, where it would stand in the corner of the child's auxillary playroom, ignored, while your child played Pokemon on the Wii. Snobs.

I walked down to the MGM Grand, which always seems to be the most cigarette-smoke-smellingest place on earth, then started back up. Went to Retro Mecca: the Coca-Cola store. O how I love that place. I bought seven juice glasses printed with 60s ads. The clerk wrapped them up with care, and the bag ended up two cubic feet thick. Gah. If I was going to put them in my luggage, I might as well drop them on the floor and stamp on the bag now.

Back up the Strip. Paused to goggle at the Paris, which has small version of the Arc de Triomphe and the Paris Opera House - where, ha ha, the Phantom of the Opera doesn't play. That's over at the Venetian. You would have thought they could have put those two together. It's like building a resort casino based on the Pentagon but putting the nudie-revue version of "Seven Days in May" in the Kremlin Hotel.

It's an impressive copy:



By now I figured my wife would be done shopping. She is not a power shopper, after all. Not one of those women who lives to shop. But apparently the number of footwear options at this place was when I raised her on the wireless I learned she was still at work, so I told her I'd meet her at the Starbucks on the ground floor. I bought a Wall Street Journal - the front page had a story about the reasons newspapers were having hard times - and headed towards Fashion Show.

Most of the people in the Starbucks were foreigners, except for a couple whose attire shrieked Northeast; she was tan-blasted with wet hair and an exposed midriff (belly-dangle? check!) and he was dressed entirely in white. The baseball cap, the warm-up suit, the shoes, all blindingly white, except for the gold trim. The warm-up suit had a gold zipper down the front and useless gold zippers at the cuff. He looked like human vanilla. He looked like a man from a future where people had lost the knowledge of such arcane, ancient devices as "belts" and "shoelaces." He looked like an idiot, to put it bluntly. Plus, dude, it's after Labor Day.

I started to read the article about how newspapers had met thier nemesis in the form of the internet, but then I remembered that I was getting a pretty good wireless signal in Vegas, and read the internet on my iPhone. I read wikipedia articles about all the casinos. Then I read the newspaper.

And that was Vegas. Well, not all of it, but you get the idea. Oh: I’d mentioned the bartender who took pity on us.  The second night I decided to spend the winnings of the day before, and we settled down at the Oculus Bar in the middle of the clangorous casino. The machine didn’t have a straight five-card option, but presented us with an annoying array of games. I asked the bartender if they had a five-card machine, because this thing wanted me to play three hands at once, and I was baffled. He checked the other side of the bar, noted that the simpler machines were all occupied. I held out a twenty to pay for the drinks, and he waved it away. Something about us said ABSOLUTE NOVICES who would possibly lose all our money, and he wanted us to have a moment of generosity by which we could remember Vegas. I thanked him and tipped him and found a machine that suited my needs.

We lost all our winnings. It took a while. We had a grand time doing it.

Below: a streaming video of the glories of the Strip, set to Resphigi’s “Fountains of Rome.” Enjoy, and I’ll see you at – and back here Monday with a new site ready for 08.








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