Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Ultra-Amazing Sophisticated Fantastic Fabulous Las Vegas!

As previously reported, the wireless modem was not warmed up and it worked no where I tried it. Hence, no “live blogging” from the road as I had planned.

But I’ve got lots to say about our travels.

We arrived in Las Vegas on a Thursday evening and stayed at the Monte Carlo, one of the nicer hotels, in our opinion. The food was so-so, but the pool is nice.

Neither my wife nor I gamble. We’ve talked about this a lot, and formulated lots of reasons to not gamble.

My aversion to gambling has little to do with any system of ethics. While the idea of getting something for nothing, which is essentially the attitude one has when one places a bet on a game of chance, is counter to my philosophy of life, that’s not really why I don’t like to gamble. I don’t gamble because I don’t find it interesting.

This is the counter point to people who make the argument that the money they spend gambling is simply money spent on entertainment. They could spend it on football tickets, or admission to a museum, or at Six Flags, but they choose to spend their entertainment budget at the gaming tables or slot machines. These people enjoy it, and the drinks are free. I accept that.

I choose to spend my entertainment money differently. I’d rather have a nice meal, or go to the Louvre, or see a play. I get about as much enjoyment from gambling as I do from playing Shoots and Ladders. But to each his own.

Gambling, in itself, just isn’t that interesting. So why do people keep going to Vegas? What Las Vegas is really about, and I think the real reason that people enjoy it, is the allure of sophistication and excitement. You can get drunk in Vegas, play at being a “high roller” (at least as long as your cash holds out), see “sophisticated” shows, eat food from around the world all at the same buffet, see naked or nearly naked people, all within the strictly controlled and safe confines of a casino. It’s a fantasy world, where people can pretend they are experienced men (or women) of the world without ever having to actually engage the world.

The reality of Las Vegas is much more mundane. Las Vegas is cram packed with retirees dragging oxygen tanks and urinating on themselves so as not to leave “their” slot machines (which will soon get hot!), living out their twilight years in the twilight of the casinos surrounded by bleeps and bloops they probably can’t even hear. Las Vegas is full of mediocre food and absurd stage shows and water features that pander to the lowest common denominator. Regular people from all walks of life crowd Las Vegas Boulevard, people who have come to rub shoulders with the sophisticates they’ve seen in “Oceans Eleven” or even “Viva Las Vegas,” but end up struggling through throngs of people they see all the time at their home-town malls.

But the magic of Las Vegas is that, despite all this, people keep coming back. People still believe the fantasy.

Often, when I express this opinion of Las Vegas, people are offended. They accuse me of being a snob, but I don’t really care. I know what I like and I know what I don’t like. If people like Las Vegas, for whatever reason, good for them. They should stand up proudly and say that they, too, know what they like and what they don’t like. Why should my measly opinion bother them so much? I suspect it’s because they don’t actually know what they like or don’t like. Pity. Life’s too short to go to Vegas simply because everyone else does and you can’t make up your own mind.

We only spent the night at the Monte Carlo, and left early the next morning for San Francisco, which was, unsurprisingly, much more to our taste.

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