Las Vegas isn’t always my cup of tea. It can be hot. It can be crowded. I’m not much of a gambler.
My first time here, I was totally overwhelmed. I had no money, and a friend and I stopped here on a cross country trek in his pickup truck right after college graduation. We stayed in a crappy, cheap motel whose cleanliness would, no doubt, utterly terrify me today. Though it was Halloween weekend on this visit and that particular terror may have been apropos this time, that time it was late March. But, when you spend three years living in a fraternity house, your cleanliness standards are at a different level. A much different level.
On my second visit, I started to get Las Vegas. I came to the National Beer Wholesalers convention with several senior leaders of the software company for which I worked (we were in the beverage distribution business). My most memorable memories were all sitting around a $2-minimum-bets off-Strip blackjack table learning (in my case) how to play. It was a blast. My second memory from that trip was that we left August Busch’s speech to see the OJ Simpson verdict read live.
On my third time, I arrived with a friend with dirt encrusting my dirty skin, stinky and completely covered in dust, sweat and grime from a week of hiking and camping in the deserts of Arizona and Nevada. I’m quite sure we made an impression on the front-desk staff at the MGM Grand.
I’ve had many subsequent trips for conferences, business meetings and stopovers (plus a fairly traffic-free drive through during COVID where we saw the best billboard ever: “Sorry, We’re Clothed”. Can you guess what kind of establishment?). And while I wouldn’t choose Vegas for my own vacation, I now can see why someone would.
My best Vegas memories are the Cirque de Soleil shows. The Beatles’ All You Need is Love is trippy and O is majestic and otherworldly.
Going with friends who know what they are doing at a table (blackjack, roulette, craps, etc) makes it fun and these particular friends are Vegas regulars and VIPs and make the experience a different level. This time, I learned craps, with expert tutelage, and while my one turn of really lucky rolling won others a pile of cash, I ended up down but had a good time and learned in the process. I guess my horrifyingly quick downfall from 5x up to out of our gambling allowance was worth the price of a lesson.
We arrived, this time, early on a Saturday morning for a friend’s 50th birthday party on the weekend before Halloween. It was not only an opportunity to celebrate with him, but a reason to return and to see several friends we’ve not seen since before COVID. I expected Vegas to be all done up and a little nutty over Halloween mostly because of the spookily and exorbitantly inflated hotel rates. So, with Edgar Allen Poe short stories in hand for my annual Halloween reading, we touched town in the neon and glitter oasis in the desert for all of the hoots and howls Vegas had in store.
Aside from the usual Botox-induced masks, scantily clad ladies on the Strip hawking photos to beer swilling dudes and a few party-goer or hotel staffer costumes we saw little evidence of Halloween (granted we left on the actual day of All Hallow’s Eve) but our Armenian cabbie told us that to catch all of the ghosts and ghouls and to be frightened and entertained we should head to Fremont Street in Old Las Vegas for the shenanigans and sights. Alas, with the witching hour approaching and an early morning conference call on the books, we retired to the crypt of our hotel leaving the Halloween of Las Vegas to our nightmares. Boo!