Sunday, July 5, 2015

All you need's a strong heart and a nerve of steel

Well, I can cross the number one item off my bucket list now. 

Several weeks ago, Jamie and I went to Las Vegas for our 10th wedding anniversary. It was an experience I’ll never forget. Like many American cities, Vegas is a place that you can’t completely take in over the five days we were here, so I’ll share some random observations on the place. 

  1. Las Vegas is, in ways both good and bad, the most American of all U.S. cities. It contains incredible wealth, and, of course, the promise of more wealth—but if you walk just blocks from the casinos, you’ll see homeless people sleeping in doorways. 
  2. 1957 is over and all five members of the Rat Pack are dead. Don’t go looking for your mom and dad’s Vegas—it’s gone. Today, “Old Vegas” means a $3 martini at happy hour, and Frank, Dean and Sammy have been replaced by rappers and club DJs whom I don't know from a can of paint. (The more I think about it, “1957 is over” is great advice for life, not just Vegas.)
  3. McCarran Airport is the only airport I’ve been to that has slot machines (although I didn’t see anyone playing them). Hey, you have to do something to break up the incredibly long walk from the gate to baggage claim.
  4. A downtown hotel—the Golden Nugget—was an excellent choice, as The Strip, with its crowds and craziness, would have overwhelmed us. Even at 11 p.m. on a Sunday night, the crowd walking around the GN still resembled a scene from the movie Idiocracy.
  5. One thing I noticed, being a letter carrier, is that mail trucks were on the street at 8 a.m. I later learned that the work day starts at 5 a.m. for letter carriers in Vegas. And when the temperature hits 90 by 11 a.m., you know why. 
  6. I highly recommend Eat Las Vegas for a great breakfast.
  7. I was a bit disappointed in the selection of tracks at the sports book. Maybe I’m spoiled because I have a Twinspires account, but—I flew across the country to bet Finger Lakes? Then again, I’ll take a 60-1 shot across the board at Yonkers Raceway, no matter where I bet it.
  8. It was cool to go to a window and bet on baseball as if it were a horse race. And I’m now 2-for-2 on baseball. Thank you, Buccos!
  9. Our first Vegas show was the drag show Divas featuring Frank Marino. Quite well done. You mean that wasn’t really Britney Spears?
  10. The Neon Museum is a priceless look at Vegas history. It consists of old neon signs from long-gone casinos and other attractions, accompanied by remarks on the city’s history—both glorious and not so. 
  11. Guy Fieri’s restaurant in the Linq is really good. Not what I expected after reading a hilariously bad review of his New York City restaurant. 
  12. Our second show was The Million Dollar Quartet, based on the real-life meeting at Sun Studio of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. The music was live and great. 
  13. The Strip is home to the most garish architecture I’ve ever seen, and it all seems to be fighting to occupy the same space. 
  14. How ironic that, for all its glitz and glamour, the most beautiful sight in Vegas is the mountains off in the distance. 
  15. The area on Las Vegas Boulevard between the downtown casinos and the Strip casinos looks like it was destined to be on “Cops.” Bail bonds, strip clubs, pawn shops, quick loans. And wedding chapels, too. 
  16. Name a hit TV show, classic movie, or recording artist, and there’s probably a slot machine based on it. 
  17. Our 10th anniversary dinner was at the Chart House in the Golden Nugget. The hotel’s theme appears to be fish—you can swim alongside them in the pool and watch them in a large fish tank as you eat at the Chart House. There are fish in the tank that I never knew existed—none of which, thank goodness, were on the menu.
  18. There’s no greater feeling than winning enough money at blackjack and craps to pay for the trip. 
  19. Except celebrating 10 years with the love of your life.