Tuesday 20th March 2012
‘So there I was drinking my tomato juice & eating my complimentary packet of peanuts on a flight bound for a city that takes its extremes and indulgences to the limits.
Las Vegas, home to the ultimate playboy, Frank Sinatra, in the 50s, the king of rock & roll, Elvis Presley, in the 70s & the tennis legend, Pat Cash, in the 90s & now it was mine to explore for just 24 hours.
We were booked into The Dunes Hotel on the strip. My travelling companion, Jon, had been here before & had made all the arrangements before we arrived. We drove from the airport in a black stretch limousine whereupon they deposited us at our destination.
At 8:30am the casino was still going strong on its 24-hour shift. Judy, the receptionist, informed us that it was “89° & sunny” & called a bellboy to escort us to our poolside apartment. Vegas didn’t get going until it became dark, so with time to kill we decided to spend some of it around the swimming-pool drinking cocktails & talking to the Arizona women’s pool champion who was in town for a competition.
Las Vegas can cater for your every need. Prostitution & gambling are legal in Nevada and so too are firearms. You can walk into a gun shop & for $5 shoot an M16 rifle at a cardboard cutout. The barman in our hotel took great pride in telling us that Las Vegas is “the ultimate in adult excess.” At that point I was pleased I was just a tourist here for 24 hours.
By day the strip was deserted of people finding shade from the blazing sun in the huge air-conditioned casinos. By night this small town in the middle of the desert came out in full splendour.
There are no clocks in the hotels and casinos in Las Vegas, so you start your evening when the sun goes down & the huge neon signs, advertising the pleasures within, light up. Walking down the strip you are overwhelmed by the size of the hotels. Each hotel is fighting for your money to be spent in its casino, boasting $1.50 prime rib & fries or shrimp salad $2. These take equal billing to Tom Jones live at Caesar’s Palace. If you play for long enough on the slot machines the waitress will offer you free drinks and food while you play.
Not only inside do you get something for free, but so do the passers by. The Mirage Hotel displays a 150 foot mechanical volcano with lights, water, piped sound effects & running lava that erupts every 15 minutes, bringing the traffic to a stand still. Many of the hotels have a theme, whether it be Circus Circus with its overhead trapeze act or the twice daily display of swordsmanship & jousting in the mediaeval themed hotel The Excalibur.
Every year bigger, better & more extravagant hotels open. And every year thousands of tourists win & lose large amounts of money. As for me, I was a lucky one. I won $40 & retired at around 5am in preparation for an 8am flight.’
I wrote this after my first trip to Vegas in 1989. I was a 19-year-old vegetarian & although I didn’t partake in the prime rib, I did get the opportunity to sample the copius amounts of day-glow orange prawns from the seafood bar. (Not that solids were top of my priority list at that time.)
I remember them very clearly. Shelled & stacked high like a champagne tower of crustaceans. On reflection, I don’t know if they were actually the real-deal or just pulped up bits of who-knows-what in the form of a prawn but what I do know, is that they were in abundance & my fellow dinners were taking great plastic shovelfuls of them.
I’m not mad keen on self-service buffets on the whole. It goes without saying that anything cooked in such huge quantities is rearly going to be as good as something you can get a la carte but beyond quality, I can’t cope very well with gluttony & waste which is what this style of eating breeds.
When I see people piling their plates high & then subsequently leaving at least half of it, takes the pleasure out of having such choice. When we do on occasion frequent an all-you-can-eat Japanese restaurant, I make it know to my son, Zephyrus, that he can have whatever he wants as long as he eats it. Inevitably there are going to be things that he’s going to try & not like or just can’t eat any more of, but it helps to reduce the misuse of the buffet table.
I brought ours to the table still steaming.
“How many have we got each?” Zephy asked coming to the table licking his lips.
“I don’t know.” I replied. “I think there’s 19.”
“What each?” He said eyes popping out of his head.
“Noooo, in total! So how many’s that divided by 3?” I asked.
He likes maths & so we are told by his tutor, he’s pretty good at it too.
“6 each & 1 extra one.” He calculated. “Can I have the extra one?”
I, rather more slowly than him, made my calculation too, just to make sure I wasn’t dealing myself out of dinner.
“Will you eat it?” I questioned.
“Yeah.” He answered breathlessly like a panting dog.
“Go on then! Ya cheeky monkey!”
“Yesss!” He shouted shooting his fist into the air & placing the 7 prawn on his plate.