Vegas, Baby!

I’d planned on writing a great post about our vacation – and then work intervened and the 4th of July and . . . well, you know how that tune goes. Time gets in the way. Work gets in the way. Real life gets in the way.

So yes, we went on vacation and, irony alert, we went to Las Vegas where it was about the same temperature as home had been a few weeks before. Of course by the time we got to Vegas the temps had moderated at home, so here we were in Las Vegas at 105 degrees. Yeah. If you read my last post, A Bitch in Heat , you know I don’t love the heat. I like it cooler – always have, always will. I don’t love cold weather, exactly, just that perfect 70 to 72 degrees that we have more often than not in Southern California. Probably one of the reasons I’ve not been able to move anywhere else, no matter how much I complain about traffic on the northbound 405.

However, being in Vegas, even in summer, isn’t about being in the heat. The only times you really are in the heat are when you’re walking from your car to the hotel or casino and from one casino to another casino, and that’s about it. I think if you worked it right, you’d be able to spend about 97% of your time in air conditioning. But the one thing you cannot escape, whether hot or colder, is the dryness of the air. I wouldn’t exactly say that LA is particularly humid, either. But that desert aridity is striking. I don’t normally need to put anything on my lips, but I was slathering on lipstick and rubbing on moisturizer a few extra times a day. I’d wake up in the morning feeling all dried out and pruney (is that a word?). And start the moisturizing rituals all over again.

Right now, Las Vegas is a big bargain. Hotels are lowering their prices and one I can send you to right away is Excalibur which is doing a $41/night fare for midweek as long as you book online. Check it out. We paid less than this, though, because we stayed in a timeshare which, although on Las Vegas Boulevard, was as they say there “off strip” meaning a couple of miles south of the strip. If any of you are on the west coast you’ve probably heard the radio spots for Tahiti Village and that’s where we stayed. There are these D-level celebs (no, not Kathy Griffin!) shilling for it (Alan Thicke and Tanya Roberts are the main two) and they offer the free 3-night stay as long as you sit for the pitch.

Last October when we stayed at New York New York we got stopped by the shills and were persuaded to sit through the pitch in exchange for Cirque du Soleil tickets. It actually worked out pretty well – we didn’t buy anything and we got to see a Cirque show. This time, I paid for a co-worker’s time at his timeshare. However, I made the mistake of mentioning that I wasn’t an owner, which energized the Tahiti Village employees to try and get us to sit for another 90-120 minute pitch. No thanks. Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt (and the hat). It was rather comical as the front desk tried stalking us with promises of a “welcome package” which just had one teensy tiny little condition attached to it.

As I mentioned, this was a follow-up trip from last October, which was my first time in Vegas. Up to then, I’d spent almost 50 years thinking I would really hate it because it was so fake, and plastic, and inauthentic and so on, ad nauseum. The truth is, I was afraid. I was afraid I’d like Vegas and that I’d like gambling. And I didn’t think I could tolerate getting involved in any other compulsive activities in my life. Last October, for the first time in my 50 years I played a slot machine. And I won. Not big, but enough. And I felt that euphoria that you get when you win and think it will always happen. And then, inevitably, I lost. And I got to experience what it was like to wonder if the next time I’d win. From whence comes madness.

Luckily, I had the ‘Publican with me, who’d done enough gambling in his time to understand these feelings but could still control himself with his frontal cortex. I, of course, was more controlled by my dopamine receptors, the pleasure and reward areas of the brain. Basically, he said, “here’s the deal – we have $300 and once it’s gone, it’s gone.” Pretty short leash, but it worked. We never took out more money and it turned out to be enough for our trip; we even took some money home.

After the October trip, I started crawling the web and learned about random number generators and odds and even got interested in learning blackjack and poker, because obviously slots, as fun as they are, are always going to be the winners, not you (in the long run).

In between these two trips, we also went to a few local Indian casinos for day trips and got over to the Hustler Casino to play poker (well, I watched that time as the ‘Publican played.)

This trip, we again did the $300 leash and I won almost that much the first night – yes, on the slots. So our bankroll was up to almost $600, which I proceeded to more slowly lose over the next few days. But that was okay, since our deal was preserved. It was entertainment money and we had enough for the ‘Publican to get in some poker cash games and a few extra hold ‘em tournaments.

I’m not sure how I feel about all of this stuff. I did experience some of the rush of gambling my first time, but this trip, I was a lot more zen about it. I just realized that there wasn’t a trick to it – sometimes you hit and sometimes you don’t. It’s all random and it’s all independent – the next time I press that button or pull the handle could be the same or completely different. There’s no such thing as a lucky slot machine. However, it may be it’s doing it’s bonus rounds when you’re on it – so for you, it’s lucky. That’s what happened my first night. It was definitely fun cashing in and getting hundred dollar bills.

But whether I was winning or just feeding dollars into the machine, it was all the same. Of course when I was in the middle of the losing, it felt . . . unfair! One day, I was having some luck playing a particular game and was sitting next to this guy who was just winning all over the place (just like my first night). When he left, I decided to move over to his machine, figuring – hey why not? It was hitting for him, it’s on a streak. Of course, you guessed it, it was one big dud. The worst thing, though, was when a woman came by, sitting down at the machine I’d abandoned and guess what? Of course – she’s now winning! Nothing to do but breathe, you know? Oh yes, and laugh.

What I’ve decided about Las Vegas is that it truly is an adult Disneyland. It’s quirky and weird and kitschy and overblown and just plain tacky. And I love it. For what it is, not for what it may even want itself to be – some high class fantasyland. It is fantasyland, of course, and in some cases, it’s quite lovely (think the gondola ride at the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian, or the bar at Paris), but come on. We’re really not in Venice or Paris here – we’re smack dab in the middle of the desert, where a bunch of mobsters came half a century or more ago, to create a place to take our money. I can live with that. And I can have a great time while they take my money.

Las Vegas Beauty
Originally uploaded by ATC Queen

8 thoughts on “Vegas, Baby!

  1. I use to live inn Las Vegas and the place just drove me crazy. Too loud, too obnoxious, too busy, too tacky, all the things we know. What made it fun to go there were the same things I found distasteful.It’s interesting to read about the city from another persons perspective. I haven’t been there in many years and would love to go back and experience it all from a tourists point of view. I’m certain I’d see it all differently this time.

  2. I love Vegas! The dry heat doesn’t bother me all that much and if it does, we head up to Mt Charleston for the day. We’ve learned to love Vegas as much for the areas surrounding Vegas as for LAS VEGAS itself.I’m a slot player myself but can’t drag myself away when I start loosing 😦I’m glad you had a great trip.

  3. Wow, great post! I’ve never been to Vegas, my wife has (before we met), she liked it of course. I’ll go someday, sounds like a hard place not to like.BTW- My understanding is that your best odds of winning at a Casino is at Blackjack. If you cared. 🙂Jim

  4. Hi everybody –Thanks for commenting.Bradley – I couldn’t live there – no way, no how. Okay, I’m lying – I could have a cheap high-rise condo there where we could drop in to play for a weekend anytime we wanted to. But I couldn’t live there full time – I’d miss being by the ocean!Mamaflo – ha ha, yeah, it’s hard to drag yourself away when you’re losing. It’s like . . . “next time, I’ll win!” I used every ounce of my zen-ness (!) to cut my losses and go to another machine. Jim – you probably would enjoy it, although I still know people who just hate it. I think with the newer hotels there, it’s more fun and I’m frankly glad they abandoned their ‘family friendly’ facade. It’s really set up for us adults who have a bit more moolah to spend and to enjoy. Yes – slots are just about the worst odds – table games are generally better, but you do have to learn how to play them. The worst of those is roulette, and the best is baccarat (although it was hard to find at least at stakes we could play). Craps and blackjack are somewhere in the middle in terms of odds. In all of these you’re playing against the house (the casino). With poker, technically, you’re playing against the other players, and the casino takes a rake, or a small percentage of the game to make their money. That’s why poker is so darn fast – a heckuva lot faster than the what you see on TV. The more hands that are played per hour, the more the casino makes!~Laura

  5. While I have never been to Las Vegas,and have no particular interest in gambling, I congratulate you for having contributed another word to the English language.Yours was the first use of pruney in the English language, and I believe it perfectly describes the desert experience on the skin.I also tip my hat to your restraint. I have been to casions in other countries, and the common theme is to encourage you to accept that loosing your money is an O.K. way to pass the time.Cheers.Rob

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