Las Vegas is the human carnival. Where career gamblers mingle with Elvis impersonators while watching strippers.
You can see anything here, though most of it seems like a dream. I’d been twice before and those times I’d wandered through endless, airless casinos. I’d stayed out too late drinking potent cocktails and cured my hangover with a helicopter trip to the floor of the Grand Canyon. I’d marveled at the acrobatics of Cirque de Soleil and gasped at the unexpectedly austere beauty of the Bellagio water fireworks.
On my most recent trip to Vegas, things were different. You see, this time I was in Vegas for work. Being in Vegas on a work trip is like being a diabetic in a candy store: You can see all the fun you should be having…
I had been dispatched to the mega complex of the Venetian/Sands Resort & Casino for a trade show and this meant five days of standing around talking about software in an overly air-conditioned room… do you still call it a room if it’s more than 150,000 square feet?
Luckily, I had one thing to keep me company- my Smena. In the little free time I had, I made sure to do some exploring because no matter how many times you go to Vegas, there’s always something new to see. It’s a city designed to delight (or perhaps, more accurately, overwhelm?) your senses. As on previous trips I was bowled over by the architecture of the casinos on the strip, particularly the newer buildings which combine grotesque utilitarianism with a carefully selected and executed theme. The Venetian, where I was staying and working, maintains this curious charade of antiquity even in the areas where you can see the air conditioning condensers and electrical duct work.
I carried my Smena with me in the casinos, which at one point got me in trouble with a Venetian security guard. He wanted to know why I was taking pictures of the sides of the slot machines instead of the fronts and was convinced I was gathering evidence so I could figure out how to cheat the system. I tried to explain that I was aiming for art, but he was having none of it. I had to put away the Smena on threat of expulsion.
5 days in Vegas can feel like an eternity. Just as I was convinced I couldn’t survive another second, I found out that I had a free pass to an exclusive Sir Paul McCartney concert. In spite of his advancing years, he played an incredible two hour set like he was still a teenager in Hamburg.
See, that’s the thing about Vegas. Just when you’re sure it’s all fake and plastic, something truly amazing comes along to surprise you.