Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Las Vegas Part II

For the first time I had left the East Coast I slept in and when I finally set foot outside the city was in full swing. Traffic slugged along as people on the sidewalk weaved impatiently past others who had stopped to take in the sights. I decided today I would head to the Southern portion of the strip, having conquered most of the northern half the prior day. The air was crisp, but the lack of dust blowing into my eyes made up for it. I hadn’t expected it to be so chilly in Las Vegas and had not dressed accordingly. Luckily the soother portion of the strip is navigated mostly in doors, and other than my short walk over to the strip, I was more than comfortable. 

The Eiffel tower soared up from the sidewalk, drawing my attention to the restaurant perched high above me. I have never been to paris, so I can say little as to the quality of the replica. Street performers entertained a crowd with dancing and singing before eventual making their plea for donations. People will go to Vegas and pay hundreds of dollars to be entertained in fancy auditoriums but are incredibly reluctant to throw a couple dollars into a street performers pail. I guess that’s real a summarization of Vegas, people spend extra money to get hotels close to fancier hotels so they can spend hours sitting at a slot machine that is no different than one you could find at a run down hotel and casino a couple miles off the strip.

Soon I had no choice but to leave the street level and head inside, but first I stopped on the bridge to take it all in. The awesome skyline facade of the New York, New York, stood across the street from the fantastical Excalibur castle. The White of the Tropicana a hint of sophistication in an otherwise gaudy panorama. Down the street stood the giant black pyramid of the Luxor and beyond that the Ritzy looking Gold towers of Mandalay Bay. Las Vegas is an amazing city, where one can walk miles without realizing it, distracted by the ever evolving beauty and decor that engulfs your every move. After a moments reflection I headed inside. 

The southern end of the strip is navigated indoors, a series of interlinked buildings taking you from one casino to the next.  I started inside the Excalibur, decorated in all it’s medieval glory. From there it doesn’t take long before the ceiling rises in a angle above your head, housing a room full of Egyptian statues and obelisks, each one carved with the all familiar hieroglyphs. The Luxor has always been one of my favorite Vegas buildings, the way the walls inside the pyramid rise up seems to just be more creative than the decorative touches of the other casinos. I walked slowly through the Luxor looking at the hieroglyphs that covered every surface, wondering if they meant anything meaningful, or if maybe an artist had slipped in a joke here and there.
Between the Luxor and the Mandalay Bay is a short shopping center, which serves no particular interest for me, save one bar, which is evidently 5 degrees inside. You have to rent a parka and mittens to go inside the bar which is made of ice, or so I am told as I chose not to involve myself in such frivolity knowing that I had just left Pennsylvania, where it was probably 5 degrees outside, if even that balmy. 

Inside Mandalay Bay the tackiness ends, no more historic theme typing the elements together, just opulence and a simple motif that speaks for itself. Mandalay Bay is arguably the end of The Strip, in fact I’m not even sure what is south of Mandalay Bay, although I heard somewhere that the Welcome to Las Vegas sign is just down the road and is apparently the actual signifier for the terminus of The Strip. 
I didn't have a relevant photo so here is one of frog statues.
I was to attend a concert in one of the Mandalay Bays many venues and needed to stop by to pick up tickets. That was the real reason for exploring the southern end of The Strip, an area I had come to know well over on my prior trips to Sin City. I bought the tickets and decided to grab lunch. A small eatery was tucked away behind an array of slot machines, whose apparent jackpot was over half a million dollars. Not a soul was playing these particular set of slots, and I decided to risk my two dollars in hopes of significant profit. I think I may have exerted more energy sitting down and standing up than I saved by having sat for the entire 45 seconds it took me to lose my two dollars, a fine reminder of why I don’t gamble. I do, however, eat, and as I final got my food I realized I had been hungrier then realized, forcing me to go up and order a second lunch to satiate my appetite. 
I don't know the meaning behind this. But here is headless Lenin. 
Stuffed I head off back down through the string of casinos, this time lesser impressed with the decor. At first all the glitz and glamour are amazing but quickly it turns to just turns to tacky mundanity, “Oh another sign emblazoned in lights,” I thought, wondering if this was all a tad excessive. 

I had decided to spend the rest of my day at a photography exhibit I had spotted at the Venetian the day prior. I headed back down, expertly weaving my way past the throngs of tourists who stopped for pictures or to just stare in awe at the wonders that  to me struck with majestic boredom. I entered the exhibit, it was nearly empty, just a few days ago the few people in the room would have upset me for even being there, now I barely noticed them, having become accustomed to the omnipresent crowd on the Vegas Strip. 

I shifted from photograph to photograph, reading the story behind each one. The exhibit was of National Geographic’s 50 Greatest Photos, a compilation of images that each told a fascinating story in their own imagery, but which each had an even more fantastic origin. It’s amazing how one simple image can capture so much about a moment, so much emotion, information, how in the fraction of a second the shutter closes, how much can be captured. 

I spent awhile in the exhibit, both because it was fascinating and because I had little interest in continuing my tour of Vegas’s forgeries. After the show I headed to my hotel to get ready for the concert, watching the sunset out my window as the lights of the city took over the illuminating duties. 

The night had taken over by the time I headed back towards Mandalay Bay for the concert, everyone had thrown on a dress or a nice shirt and were on their way to their respective entertainment activities for the night. I decided not to walk through the labyrinth of casinos and took the tram which was just across the street form my hotel and took me directly to Mandalay Bay, significantly reducing my travel time. I arrived at the concert, the room was filled with bright lights dancing in the fog created by machines. Performers dressed in costumes danced along the fringes of the room and the crowd assembled. As soon as the crowd was complete performers started dropping for the ceiling, suspended by wires and dancing to the music, hovering just feet overhead. The lights sync up with the performance, humanity dancing with technology, a perfection synchronization of light and dance. 
Ok I clearly didn't take enough pictures of Vegas. But I didn't feel like lugging a camera around with me, so I ask for your forgiveness. 
The show went on well into the night ad by the time I reemerged from the foggy liar the casino was nearly barren. Only a few dedicated stranglers remained at the slot machines. The tram was closed for the evening forcing me to walk back through the array of empty casinos and closed down stores. It was eerie to have the hallways so empty, I started to imagine Las Vegas as a ghost town, if somehow written history was lost and archeologists found Vegas, it was certainly be a conundrum. Vastly different cultures from different ends of the Earth and different eras all found together in a barren desert.

My daydreaming made the walk go fast, as did the lack of other people to have to fend off. I looked back at the skyline one more time as I crossed the bridge to my hotel. This was my last night in Vegas, a city I enjoyed, but couldn't seem to stand for more than a couple days at a time. The lights stretched down into the dark horizon as I turned and headed inside. 

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