Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Las Vegas

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

Just got back from 5-6 days in Las Vegas Nevada. This was kind of an off-the-cuff trip for me. The wife goes every year for a business convention. This year I decided to tag along and see what it was like. Apparently I was lucky with the weather in that there were no 3-digit temperature days during the trip. I did find the weather quite mild. It was hot without being too oppressive.

My initial impression wasn’t that favorable. The strip (Las Vegas Blvd.) kinda’ reminded me of Hollywood Blvd. in that it was completely jam-packed with middle America looking tourists, lots of loud, mostly bad, music blaring out of speakers, and lots of shops selling overpriced trinkets that I can barely imagine anyone wanting to buy. Of course it’s all casinos too, but I’m pretty much completely immune to the “lure” of casinos since spending my money on gambling is, so far, something that’s been completely foreign to me my entire life. (Yippee! One addiction out of thousands that doesn’t come easily to me! :D). The biggest difference between the Vegas strip and what I remember of the Hollywood strip back in the late ’80s / early ’90s (I’m sure it’s changed now) is the huge corporate influence. It’s just all corporate music and corporate shops and corporate sponsored this or that. (For me a bad sign no matter how you slice it. It basically means there will be nothing really cool, just watered down, inoffensive and expensive tripe that corporations are so adept at churning out). I did find it cool that you can still smoke just about everywhere. It’s nice not to have to put my cigar out to pass through some crappy casino on my way somewhere else.

At first I wasn’t going to rent a car, but by the 2nd day, after walking pretty much up and down the strip looking for cool things to do and not finding much, I decided I needed the type of autonomy only an automobile could bring. Travellocity helped me find one for $15/day through Advantage. I wound up with a PT Cruiser (a car my wife and I always make fun of b/c we think it looks like a clown car). It turned out to be a pretty good car for cruising around (bonus – had an aux input so I could jack my iPod into it with a $6.99 cable from Radio Shack and listen to my own music!). It seemed to be good on gas, and Vegas’ gas prices are a few cents less than they are here in SE Penna.

Getting off the strip and cruising around the environs of LV made the trip much better. Everything on the strip was mad expensive too. 20 oz. bottle of water $3.00, Ashton VSG cigar $22-$25. (eek!), a totally mediocre burrito at La Salsa $18.00 + tax + tip, a 20 oz. drip coffee from Starbucks, $3.50. etc. etc. Just craziness. Once I got off the strip, the prices for most things seemed to normalize a bit. (Still couldn’t find a cigar worth smoking for under $9.00 though). At that point, being mobile, I spent most of my time finding cool places to eat and cool things to do — which for me is usually some kinda’ nerdy shit. Speaking of which…

I wound up going to The Star Trek Experience at the Hilton. I was gonna bag it before coming when I learned the tix were $42. or whatever. But they’re closing it down and I’ve heard good things about it, so I bit the bullet and went anyway. It turned out to be pretty cool. Lots of good costumes and props and stuff from the shows. It was cool to stand less than a foot away from Nomad (even though it was behind glass). I loved the Klingon knives too, made me want to get something like it, even though I’m not really much of a “knife guy”. There were two shows as part of the entrance fee. They involved live actors dressed as various unknown characters from the shows who interact with pre-shot videos of characters from TNG. Sound pretty cheezy? It was! But some of it was kinda’ fun and cool so it didn’t bug me that much.

A great thing that happened was during the show with the Klingons (when they were still enemies), there was a ruse that we, the audience, had gotten somehow beamed to the future and were being pursued by Klingons — presumably someone in the audience was a descendant of Piccard. (I know CHEE-ZEEEEEE! ;)) The cool thing was that there were motion simulators to accompany the “adventure” and that was decent. But there was a huge glitch and the show stopped mid-stream. So we had to start over. And these poor actors (a guy and a girl) had to stay with us for 15-20 very awkward minutes and improv, as they apparently aren’t allowed to break character. Suffice it to say improv wasn’t these people’s strong suit. It was so painful, and this guy and this gilr were squirming! Hilarious! Anyway, they got us back on track and resumed, and the show was decent. I’m glad I went.

The next thing I did was check out the Liberace museum. That was pretty funny. Those costumes were off the charts flambouyant. They had a few of his rhinestone-clad automobiles, his jewelry (mad bling), and some of his rhinestone bow-ties and stuff. Pretty cool little exhibit, and at $15. entry cost, probably the cheapest thing I did there.

The last night was Cher at Caesar’s. My wife was able to get tickets and though Cher is not really my thing, I was pretty into going and seeing this show. It was enjoyable. Cher’s like part of cultural history for me, given when I grew up. I remember watching Sonny & Cher as a little kid and liking it then, and of course she’s been in all kinds of stuff since then — which this show was quite good at pointing out (the whole time!) It was an odd one though. She did mostly cover tunes, and ones that I don’t think she had anything to do with either writing or being the original performer of — like Love is a Battlefield, that Pat Benetar originally performed in 1984 or so. I could see that there was a sort of theme about living in the past, which I guess was really supposed to be her 30-40 year retrospective, but I couldn’t help but feel something weird about it, like she was doing an I’m proving something I don’t really need to prove show. There were some sweet recollections of Sonny that she threw in (she did some interaction with video and there were video things between songs — while she was changing into the 20 or so different outfits she wore during the show). She had about 16 dancers, some of whom were pretty acrobatic. She also had a 7-piece band, 2 keys, drums, bass, guitar (I didn’t recognize him, but he was good — as much as one could tell in a show where you’re not really allowed to play much) and two backup singers. I liked the show, but it definitely was kinda’ weird to me. The audience seemed to love it though, so that’s really all that matters. Cher looked good considering she’s in her ’60s. She was in some kind of sheer, skin-colored body suit with glitter through most of it. She looked fit, but a little mushy. She also didn’t move very vigorously. But again, given her age, she looked phenomenal.

That’s about all I have on the trip for now. (More than anyone will actually ever read ;)). It was interesting to see Vegas for the first time. It was cool to eat at some places that aren’t on the east coast (Fat Burger, In/Out Burger, Jack-Off In the Box, etc.) I don’t think I’d ever go back if it wasn’t something necessary for work or if there literally wasn’t any choice in the matter.