30 January 2008

Back from Vegas again

I spent the weekend in Las Vegas for my birthday, staying at the Imperial Palace. The accommodations were fine, considering the age of the hotel, and you can’t beat that “center strip” location, with Caesar’s Palace, the Venetian, Harrah’s, and the Flamingo all within short walking distance. Imperial Palace itself has only a decent casino with poor ventilation that makes the smoky atmosphere harder to take, but their population of “dealertainers” (celebrity impersonators who work as dealers at a central pit) is amusing for a stretch, and it did allow me to see a performance from an Elvis impersonator, which makes any Las Vegas trip complete. Imperial Palace also lifted thirty bucks off me at craps, not a bad loss when compared to the $200+ my father lost at the same table.

The trip had a thrilling start, since we arrived on January 25th, the day a fire started in the Monte Carlo Hotel. The top floors caught on fire and the entire hotel was evacuated. No one was killed, but as of this writing the hotel remains closed (all the guests were moved to the Monte Carlo’s sister resorts of the Mirage and Treasure Island). Coming in on a taxi from the airport, we were treated to the grisly view of the burned upper floors of the hotel, which looks like a giant monster took an enormous bite out of the structure. Our taxi driver thought it was amusing that the fire took out the luxury and expensive rooms of the hotel. Here’s a time when the cheap seats are actually much safer.

I gambled very little, in general. I’m not much of a gambler, although I find the games and the odds interesting. But I don’t like losing money, and if you gamble long enough you will lose money. I might drop a few twenties in poker machines during a trip to Vegas, and play a table game with low enough minimums once (craps on this trip, because I never found a decent blackjack table), but that’s my limit. I played some slots at Bill’s Gambling Hall & Saloon (the former Barbary Coast) and did well, and enjoyed the “100 Hand” poker machines at the Venetian, which let you get a lot of time for your money. Just hanging out in the beauty of the Venetian is worth it—that’s my favorite of the big resort hotels.

Friday night I went to the main nightclub at Caesar’s Palace with my friend Maja, Pure. This is one of Vegas’s prime nightspots, and apparently makes the tabloid news regularly because of its celebrity patrons. I say ‘apparently,’ because I never pay attention to that sort of gossipy sludge. Nightclubs aren’t my scene, and the crazy Mammon-obsessed Las Vegas versions are really not my scene: velvet ropes, hour-long wait while the “VIPs” waltz let right in, surly bouncers who expect to be bribed, discriminatory policies (women free, men pay $30), and a million extra ways to fleece money off customer once they are inside. The concept of Customer Service simply is not in the vocabulary of nightclubs. However, I still had a good time: it was my birthday, I just relaxed and enjoyed this rare occurrence of nightclub life in the city with no memory. Maja and I started to dance in one of the rooms, and people walked up to us to ask if we were professional dancers. No, but we play them in nightclubs.

Saturday night we saw Penn & Teller at the Rio. This was the first time I visited the Rio, and unfortunately the line was too long for their famous Carnival World Buffet. I enjoyed the show—I’m a long-time Penn & Teller fan—especially a gag involving knife throwing that isn’t actually a trick but a deception pulled on one audience member for the enjoyment of the rest of the audience. I would tell you more, but Penn threatened all of us not to tell. He’s a big guy who can juggle broken bottles, so I’m going to obey his orders here. Teller pulled a great stunt involving goldfish and also performed his classic “Shadows” illusion where he cuts the roses from a shadow of a rose plant, causing the roses to fall from the actual plant as well. Penn did some mentalist stunts, and of course took time to explain to the audience that anyone who claims psychic powers is only indulging in the same sort of trickery. The show concluded with their signature “bullet catch” trick, which completely baffles me. I can conceive of ways that most tricks can be done, but not this one.

Coming home on Sunday ended up a prolonged affair when poor weather across the country caused massive delays. Our flight ended up leaving at 11 p.m., when it was originally skedded for 7:30 p.m. The airport was insanely crowded and uncomfortable, and not the best place to spend a long delay. Maja and I, however, started practiced dancing and ended up teaching dancing to a crowd of junior high school girls coming home from a soccer tournament.

So I’ve taken two trips to Vegas in five months. That ought to hold me until… well, the Lindy Exchange in October.