My Neon Christmas

It's beginning to look a lot like... oh, look kids there's a stripper puking on Santa!

So, I spent the holidays – the one with Santa and elves and huge religious overtones – in the city of sin this year, officially known as Las Vegas by most map makers.  I’ve been to Vegas before on business, and I had a great time, mostly because I was being wined and dined and given five star meal after five star meal completely gratis.  I had very little out of pocket expenses that trip, so how could I not enjoy it?

My wife has never been, and she wanted to experience it just once, so we figured why not.  The trip started out on a good note.  We arrived late and missed our connecting flight.  Delta said, ‘no problem,” and upgraded us to first class for the next available flight.  In case you’re wondering, first class rules.  They waited on us hand and foot.  They brought hot towels.  They offered us free drinks every ten minutes.  They brought us a delicious meal.  They gave us a free headset to watch a movie of our choice.  In short, we felt far superior to those in lowly coach.

We arrived in Vegas, took a car to The Bellagio and checked in.  Yes, the Bellagio.  It was pricey, but we figured this was a onetime shot.  We might as well live it up.  Plus, it was Christmas.  Why not treat ourselves?  The first thing I noticed was there was an enormous number of children in Vegas.  I’m talking small children, six and under.  I had heard sin city was more family friendly, so I wasn’t completely shocked, but it still threw me a little to walk through the casino and continually get cut-off by a stroller.

The other thing was that everyone (except us) had a camera.  That’s fine in and of itself, but the trouble with people with cameras is they want to take pictures of people standing in front of various picturesque scenery.  Since it’s picturesque, it’s usually well traveled.  The people taking the pictures expect a large amount of space so they can take the perfect picture.  They want 6,000 people to stop walking so they can carefully frame the scene and snap off a shot.  The first day, I stopped several times so the vacationers could get their much coveted picture, but by day two, I had had enough. I’m sure you can spot my wife and me in hundreds of pictures taken by Vegas tourists.  Rude?  Yes, but I submit it’s equally as rude to expect throngs of walkers to interrupt their travels at your picture taking whims.

Also, by day two it was painfully obvious that Las Vegas is not family friendly.  It is no place for kids.  Sure it has rides and a couple of people dressed as cartoon characters on the strip to entertain the little ones, but each casino is one giant ashtray with millions of smoldering cigarettes polluting the not-so-well-ventilated air. Believe it or not, a lot of parents, prefer the casinos to the rides, and they chased their kids around the slot machines, taking care to press the spin button, so as to not waste a single opportunity to lose their money, all the while exposing their offspring to an unsavory amount of cigarette smoke.  I also witnessed a couple of boys no older than eight happily watching a couple of scantily-clad girls gyrate and spin around a stripper poll in one of the casinos.  Trust me, if I were eight, I would have been standing right beside them, giggling madly and hoping desperately that my parents had forgotten all about me.

Now, the people visiting sin city are nice enough, but they are rubberneckers.  They walk perpetually looking to their right and/or left.  There is so much to see that looking forward would not allow you to witness some pyrotechnic feat or aquatic choreographed spectacle.  Everyone on the strip and in the casinos is basically a human bumper car.  You will crash into another person frequently in Vegas.  It is unavoidable. The law of Vegas is two objects in bipedal motion will eventually collide.  I don’t mind the gawk and walk collision nearly as much as the texters who have no regard for the sites around them or the people in front of them.  They text and walk and strike with attitude.  They are actually irritated that you got in the way of their texting by walking in a designated walking area.  I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to grab a phone out of someone’s hand and smash it to the ground.

And that brings me to another point about Vegas.  Your personality will change in sin city.  You know that person you become behind the wheel of a car, the one who rants and raves and curses every other driver on the road?  That’s who you become on the strip.  It’s a self defense mechanism.  I’m a mild mannered guy. I rarely lose my temper in public, but even I found myself yelling at some poor little old man because he dared say something snarky to my wife when she was merely following the directions of the employee of the venue we were visiting.  The look of terror in his eyes still haunts me.  I imagine now I will be the last thought he has when he lay dying on his death bed. So, I have that going for me.

Here is the odd thing about Las Vegas.  I have filled this post with almost 1,000 words of complaints, but I swear to you I had a blast.  It was a cesspool of excess and the creep factor was turned all the way up to eleven, but it was lampshade-on-the-head fun.  Most of that is because I was with the person I adore most throughout space and time, but I also have to give credit to the city itself.  It is a steaming bag full of knee-slapping fun.  There’s just no way around it.  Will I go back?  Probably not.  I’m not a gambler, so if I want a city with a lot of people, terrific stage shows and excellent food, I’ll go to New York.  But I am so glad I got to experience sin city with my lovely wife.  There is no better person to commit a variety of sins with.

So, what have we learned?  I’m sure I will be the object of revenge by the ghost of some surly little old man some day.  And, the only thing that stays in Las Vegas is your children’s innocence and lung capacity.  Other than that, you will bring home a heavy dose of regret and a complex mixture of sweet memories wrapped in a thick coating of debauchery.

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