September 18, 2012

Where women are pizza

Where women are pizza

“You’re going to hate it here,” my husband warned me. It was May in Gambling City in the Desert. I’d just joined him at the end of his conference, and we had one night in the city before picking up our rental car.

It was the most bizarre city I’ve ever been in. Our hotel had this weird Paris theme, complete with a huge fake Eiffel Tower and a fake Arc de Triomphe. It was like a Disney theme park, except with booze, gambling, and hookers.

From our window on the 28th floor of the hotel, I could look down at a huge pool surrounded by lounge chairs. I figured I’d go down and have some quiet time by the water while my husband was at his meeting. That was a mistake. As I walked into the pool area, I was greeted by music so loud that the cement was vibrating. No matter where I went, I couldn’t escape the pounding noise or the merciless desert sun. And no one in the pool was swimming. They were standing up, drinks in hand, and from the snippet of conversation that I got whenever there was a pause in the screech of lyrics, I gathered that they were mostly trying to hook up.

Outside the hotel, throngs of tourists moved up and down the sidewalks. Several men were snapping cards – they looked from a distance like playing cards – and handing them out. When I got close enough, I saw that the cards were pictures of naked women. Well, they weren’t totally naked. The women on the cards were wearing bras that made their breasts pop up so much that their bodies looked distorted and painful, sort of like a breastfeeding mother with mastitis. Along with the image of the semi-naked woman, each card was emblazoned with a phone number and a message: “Hot women delivered straight to you.”

The casinos – and every building seemed to be a casinos, there were even slot machines in the rental car place – were designed like malls, which meant that I got hopelessly lost within minutes. Inside, the constant ringing of slot machines made me feel like my head was going to explode. Outside, everything was cemented and paved over. The bridges went over traffic instead of rivers. It was all very confusing.

I kept seeing plump young women, usually wearing make-up and showing cleavage, paired with old white men who in a parallel universe would have been their uncles. I did see some groups of friends who seemed to be having fun, talking and laughing as they pointed to gaudy signs and lit fountains. But I also saw a lot of people with deep sadness in their eyes.

The next morning, as we tried to drive away, traffic on the strip came to a stop. I peered out of the rental car to see what the problem was. A man, standing at the back of U-Haul, was emptying what looked like the contents of a house onto the pavement. He tossed each item angrily – couch cushions, dresser drawers, picture frames, dishes. A crowd gathered to watch as these possessions smashed and broke open in the hot desert sun.

16 comments:

susan said...

I'm not really looking forward to heading there for the Four Seas, I have to say.

John Swinburn said...

So many people in Las Vegas seem to be clawing for their one last chance for happiness after having failed to achieve it anywhere else. They fail again; it's heart-stopping sadness on parade.

liz said...

Ugh. I have so far avoided it, and I hope that I can keep that up.

Zhoen said...

Been through, managed not to stop in LV, but Reno and Wendover and Primm (where the very tall roller coaster is) are bad enough. There is a smell, that I always think is urine soaked carpets and desperation, pervading every structure in the state.

But I've also heard from friends who've had to attend trade shows there, that there is very good hiking in the area.

http://www.hikinglasvegas.com


Bardiac said...

The best thing about Lost Wages is leaving. In spring, if you can leave and go to the desert, it's incredible.

jo(e) said...

Zhoen: Yep. It's the nearest airport to lots of good hiking and rafting destinations. That's why I joined him after his conference. We drove to Zion from there.

jo(e) said...

Bardiac: Lost Wages? Oh, I LOVE that pseudonym.

Sass said...

I've never been to Las Vegas but I've always imagined that beyond the glitz and glamour of the twinkly skyline there must be a deep undetone of sadness. What an image you painted - I think I was right...

Jessica Homann said...

I have never been and I have never wanted to go...still don't.

Great post, though - - and I am so glad wonderful writers like you, Jo(e) are still blogging!

Anonymous said...

Yep. You've captured Vegas perfectly.

readersguide said...

Ick ick ick.

Close to Death Valley,though.

Lilian said...

the place I hated the most in the whole wide world.

your description describes PRECISELY everything I saw and experienced in my less than 24 hours there.

the awfullest place on planet earth.

JulieS said...

I have to spend a few days there each year for work, and each year I find it harder and harder to go back. Everything you said is true (and by the way, the buildings are purposely designed to get you lost inside so you'll stay and keep spending money; it's not just your aversion to shopping malls at work there). But the thing that consistently grinds me down and wears me out is all the noise. There are loudspeakers everywhere, even on the sidewalks, blaring music and sultry women's voices telling you to come on in for a deal. It's like they're trying to keep you stimulated and distracted at all times, but I just find it depleting and mean.

Rana said...

The trick to Vegas is to stay away from the Strip as much as possible. Even three or four blocks away makes a difference; then you see Vegas for what it actually is - a large desert city with one flashy industry. Go to the public library, visit the university, walk in the botanic garden, and it's a lot more pleasant, even when it's baking hot.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

When I went, I was taken aback by the H U G E F A C E S! The billboards were all for celebrities' performances -- they showed close-ups of those people's heads.

But I figured only I was weirded out, coming from a small town & not watching movies very often.

Las Vegas is a short flight from here; I know a few people who go often... I liked the Cirque du Soleil show, but that's it.

BrightenedBoy said...

I swear you can turn anything into a story.

Gambling City is this inherent contradiction that sort of embodies the United States: misery beneath a thin veneer of commercial gratification, all played out on a stage that ignores fundamental laws of nature (plunking a massive city in the middle of sand dunes) and is ultimately unsustainable.

I had to stop there while flying back from Pacific State and even the airport had slot machines.