QUOTE: "One sign along Las Vegas Boulevard reads 'Before coming, consult your doctor. Before leaving, consult your psychiatrist.' ...."
"You haven' been to Vegas...? Meeeen.... you gotta go to Vegas!" This was one of the first things I was asked on my first day in Los Angeles. Ugandan friends in LA had also told me about it and I had good images of Las Vegas from one of John Travolta's movies so I was keen to see this place.
Later that week, courtesy of my hosts Lawrence and Amanda Harmon, we set off on a four hour drive to spend the weekend in Vegas. If anybody wants to give you the shock of your life, they should get you to Vegas at night. Meeeeen, I wasn't ready for what I saw when we got to there. I had never seen such a glorious display of night beauty as I saw on arrival. The place is a splendid wonder and the application of light-engineering is magnificent.
As I had been earlier informed, night and day are reversed in Vegas and true to this, the place was bustling with activity that evening. Las Vegas Boulevard, commonly known as 'The Strip' along which luxurious hotels and casinos are lined seemed like day time despite the fact that it was just minutes past midnight. We checked into our hotel and for the next two days I explored this bastion of obscene pleasure and indulgence.
Everybody in Vegas seems to be happy 24/7 and most of the rules that restrict 'happiness' elsewhere don't seem to apply in Vegas. Drinking on the street is permissible and being drunk is a good indication of one's enjoyment of the place. In good restaurants that I have been to in South Africa, although one finds a notice asking people to wait to be seated, we usually walk ourselves straight to the tables if we spot an empty seat. In Vegas, as I noticed at all the restaurants I went to in California, one has to wait to be seated. As we stood in a restaurant queue that morning, one of the two ladies behind us requested that we allow them to get to the front of the queue because her friend was too drunk. In Vegas, such a request is perfectly understandable.
Now to the real business of Las Vegas - gambling. There are gambling machines and tables at every turn. All hotels have entire bottom floors dedicated to 24-hr gambling and people never sleep. But that's not all, even restaurant tables have gambling cards that one can play while eating. If one thinks they will avoid slot machines at the hotels, take heart-you will find them at the filling stations and in supermarkets in case you discover that you have some spare change off your fuel or shopping. Gambling is big time business for Vegas. I'm told that in his campaign, Obama made some remarks about the morality of places like Vegas and almost lost Nevada, the state in which Vegas is located.
Pleasure overflows in Las Vegas, and so does 'sin'. No wonder it's dubbed the sin city of America. Billboards, branded cars and adverts in shopping corridors advertising ladies that can be delivered to your room are a more common sight in Las Vegas than the Coca Cola adverts on TV during a soccer world cup. All bear pictures of barely dressed ladies. At night in the hotel corridors one finds cards of topless or fully naked women with telephone contacts and the fees they charge. All this is perfectly normal in Vegas.
In all this, there is an immense display of wealth, both in infrastructure setup and in the amounts that people spend. Well, I have not travelled much but I surely have not seen such luxurious and massive hotels in one compact place as I have seen in Vegas. In one area, Donald Trump set up his hotel and bought the neighbouring ones. He knocked them down to create extra space for his establishment. Lawrence is particularly unhappy because his favourite hotels was one of those 'erased' by Trump, hence the reason we ended up at Treasure Island right opposite.
The majority of the people found along The Strip are visitors to Vegas. Their emotional state when they leave Vegas depends upon what they engage in. They could be very happy, very angry or very depressed. One sign along Las Vegas Boulevard reads "Before coming, consult your doctor. Before leaving, consult your psychiatrist."
Shew, you have to give it to Vegas! They've got drive-through weddings..... Yes, drive-through weddings. Just like when one drives to a KFC, stays in the car and drives off with their food, in Vegas a couple will drive to a marriage centre, remain in their car and drive away married with a legal certificate in hand. Hotels too have marriage chapels. By the way, isn't this the place they say Britney Spears went to party and woke up married without remembering where she met her husband? I can't blame her. Anything and everything is possible in Vegas!
Of course all is not happiness as portrayed. The night we arrived, there was a shooting at a top hotel on The Strip. We learnt of this through Facebook because in Vegas people are too happy to notice anything like a shooting. I was also told that if one wins big, they have to be careful as some people have been followed in parking lots or as they drive out of Vegas.
Driving from Vegas back to LA after determining that we'd seen enough sin, the traffic was very heavy on the road as is usually the case on Sunday evenings. There was a particular slow car at one point in the fast lane and I told Lawrence that had it been South Africa, we would flash him with our lights until he moves away. Amanda remarked that in California, that would be an offence and if the other driver reports it, a ticket would be issued. Lawrence added that being reported to police is the softer part - the other driver can stop and shoot.
They say what happens in Vegas remains in Vegas but I felt tempted to divulge a few of its secrets. Meeeen, I promise next time I won't open my mouth.
Twitter - @stwino