Saturday, December 3, 2016

Las Vegas Life

I got my introduction to ride sharing in Las Vegas where my wife who likes Lyft showed me how it's done. We hung around with a bunch of other disreputable characters like players in a modern stage drama or possibly like junkies waiting for a dealer to show up with a fix. I felt rather daring waiting for a car far from the orderly world of the taxi rank at the Las Vegas airport.
Once delivered to our Hilton hotel by a  chatty civilian driving a private car for profit, with no money exchanged except by electronic devilry, we were free to wander so we did. Las Vegas lives large, twenty four hours a day and we found a Walgreens filled with fresh food and craft beer more like a Publix than a pharmacy. 
The joke for my wife was to be photographed in front of landmarks, the Eiffel Tower, a Venetian gondola so we did for fun and it was fun. 
I am not a fan of eating famous chefs' food to be honest. I am tired of the cult of celebrity in all things because I am not at all sure that working to make yourself famous makes you capable of anything except seeking the spotlight. So when my wife sought a  pause I agreed happily when I saw draught Guinness on offer at Burgers and Beer. Mario Batali is the name associated with this outfit and we shared a burger and  a tub of  shishito peppers which are slightly sweet but have a faint peppery burn if you chew them. There were too many to eat and we took half in a box. The burger really was delicious. So that puts me and my celebrity obtuseness back where I belong. Could have snarfed a whole one.
I sent this picture to a car fanatic friend  in the spirit of bargain basement Las Vegas. He declined to imagine they were selling Ferraris for ten dollars on the famous Strip. I live in hope.
Walking the strip in the evening enjoying the cool night air with no breeze at all was very pleasant. We walked a few miles but wanted to explore further afield so we called Lyft into action. You can get a ride on the street but have to find a hotel for pick up which isn't quite as easy as it sounds. I would find Lyft less intimidating if the pick up pin was easier to drop. Perhaps I'm just incompetent. My wife likes Lyft because they don't increase fares randomly as Uber does to cover peak periods and Lyft allows you to add a tip on your screen when you rate the driver, so I never used Uber.
My wife found me a Cornish Pasty shop (LINK) in Las Vegas, one of a rather short chain. They are essentially pies filled with meat traditionally or vegetarian in the modern era and I like them very much, not that I see them very often. I ordered the original and Layne had the lamb and mint. I was surprised once again how Las Vegas produced something authentic and good  in such an unlikely town. I'd go back for more not least because they have Boddington's on draught and a  sticky toffee pudding better than I'd have hoped. This is not food you eat each  day but on a visit I'll be back. Not for people who think the English can't cook, that old shibboleth...
Penn and Teller. First a proper pasty then the magic show I have wanted to see all my life. Got that one done. This show is extremely approachable and tremendous fun. What you see below is members of the audience wandering freely inspecting the props. We were snug in the mezzanine away from fear of audience participation, my buggabear, for the 90 minute show. I can't describe it but I looked for a LINK that might help. They didn't saw a woman I half though they did put an audience members phone into a fish and they did make an elephant disappear. I loved it.
And there they are after the performance hanging out in the corridor doing the modern equivalent of signing autographs.
Taking pictures...These are performers who are not too cool to ignore the people who made them rich and famous. They are the celebrities I'd like to enjoy, people with skill and a level of humility that connects them to the people who are astounded by those skills. And if I had to live and work in Las Vegas for forty years straight to make 300 million dollars I'd say thanks no, let Penn and Teller do it, they do it so well.
We both had a blast.
Then we went up 107 floors accompanied by an actual elevator attendant, not seen one of those in a  while, to the bar at the Stratosphere. 
It is like everything else absurd but worth the view.
The restaurant level rotates while the bar upstairs remains still so the effect at first induces motion sickness as your brain tries to figure out why stuff is moving. We spent $32, the cost of a Key West parking ticket and well worth the ride. Please note: no casinos involved... 
We fortified ourselves for a ride to Death Valley with a breakfast at the Egg and I, touted as the locals' breakfast diner. Poor locals. Layne's French Toast and bacon came with no discernible bacon and lots of whipped white creamy stuff and my green chili hash was a watery mush lacking the desired green chilis though it did come smothered in the ever popular chipotle flavoring. I don't do breakfast much as I work nights, maybe it was delicious and I failed to notice.
So not all food was brilliant but as my philosophical wife said you need to learn your way around. I will say that Las vegas represents quite the ethnic melting pot and we saw signs of cultures from all over the place, off the strip and celebrity-free.
The Bellagio is home to Cirque du Soleil's Eau which means water in English and is pronounced Oh. It is also home to a famous conservatory, so famous I'd never heard of it but my wife had luckily. We didn't get to see the art gallery before it closed for the night (some things have a closing time in Las Vegas) but we did get to see the extraordinary creation on its last night before being replaced with a seasonal display for Christmas. I just stood and stared, amid the chattering masses all around me. I know you think you've seen it all but not quite you haven't.
I worked Thanksgiving night so we had ours by the lagoon at the Bellagio, next to a vast body of water in the middle of this desert town. The outside world has no connection to the bubble this city lives in. Lake Mead may be down feet but the Bellagio sprays water in the air to music every half hour, come hell or no water.
And after the Cirque show, breath taking as you might imagine we sat in the waiting area at the airport reflecting on four days that I had been dreading. Suspension of reality, perhaps but a moment of privilege to be alive to see bread and circuses in action. I failed to photograph the Trump skyscraper but I wondered how exactly the Trump Revolution will change our world. I am no great fan of revolutions, I know my history and I have seen revolution close up and it is a bloody business. I voted for Clinton with no great enthusiasm, a vote of cowardice you might say, but now we are here I figure Trump's will be an administration of unintended consequences as every time he changes one thing in the intricacy of government a dozen interlocking pieces will be affected. Those who say good and bring it on should try to remember the last time they truly suffered privation, then ask themselves what it might feel like.  Living off your fat is not as much fun as it sounds, and if it all goes horribly wrong that is what we may be reduced to for a while, like our grandparents. My strategy is to keep accumulating experience and hope for the best and may the awesome power of inertia slow the  flame of revolution down. 
Perhaps I am the last person left in America who thinks this country is pretty good the way it is. I have found no better place to live yet the idea that making America great "again" finds my neighbors nodding solemnly in agreement. I blame myself for not knowing people in the middle of the country are hurting so badly they want all the building blocks of our lives to tumble down. Let them have their wish is all I can think and perhaps things will get better. Cancelling the Trans Pacific Trade pact seems a good start and maybe in four years I'll look back and say, well he was more like Teddy Roosevelt than I ever expected. Or not.
Meanwhile I have my dog and my job and whatever else happens I still have Las Vegas in my memory bank and I, liked it. I never thought that would happen. But there again I never thought Trump would either. Life is full of surprises.