Las Vegas

My blog was incredibly boring last week, mostly because it was absent. It was absent because I was in Las Vegas for the majority of the week, and not by choice.

In the movies, Vegas is portrayed as a dichotomy between high class gambling and the lower class strip clubs and prostitution, although the latter are sometimes portrayed as high class as well. If the movies are to be believed, gamblers wear tuxedos and evening gowns, except for the occasional blue haired social security recipient dropping quarters into the slot machines while a cigarette dangles from their lips.

That last stereotype is prevalent. The tuxedos are nowhere to be found. Standard dress for a Vegas gambler is a t-shirt and knee length shorts. A baseball cap seems to be highly recommended to blend in with the crowd. I didn’t get a chance to see how accurate the strip club portrayals are.

Friends who had been to Vegas had warned me about the people who hand out business cards.

I have to post this with a caveat. I went to Vegas in a bad mood. I had two versions of Vegas in my brain – the one I see in the movies and the one I hear about.  Neither one seemed appropriate as a place to take a family. Of course everyone I mentioned this to immediately responded with. “There’s always Circus Circus.”

No, there is not.

Not when the wedding party is staying at the Flamingo.

I don’t really buy into Circus Circus anyway. I’ve been there as a child and it was a combination of Chuck E’ Cheese and the games at the county faire. It’s fun for about an hour, then you run out of money. Circus Circus is the myth we, as parents, use to convince ourselves that Vegas is Family Friendly.

Vegas is not family friendly.

All anyone has to do to verify that fact is step onto the sidewalk and look down. The naked pictures on the “business cards” at their feet should be enough of a hint. Then taking three steps and having three more of these cards thrust towards them, the epiphany should hit. Vegas is a place for adults and really should be adults only. The only reason it’s not adults only is that occasionally parents like to throw their money away on absolutely nothing just like people who don’t have kids.

Vegas likes people who will willingly hand over their money for zero capital gain.

Statistically, gamblers do not win in Vegas. Gambling in Vegas is not a two-way street. Between the Casinos and the gamblers, only one of them is actually gambling and it’s not the casinos. At that volume, the return on the combined bets is always a net gain for the casinos. That fact has the correlative fact that gambling is always a net loss for the gamblers as a collective. That a few of these gamblers manage to come out ahead is just enough fuel to inspire people  to risk their money on the wrong side of the statistics.

I cannot bring myself to gamble with any seriousness. I used to drop a pocketful of change in the slot machines when I left whatever casino I had dropped by, usually for a team lunch. But now the slot machines don’t have coin slots. It feels stupid to feed a dollar bill into a slot machine. Somewhere between the wistful hope in throwing away pocket change and the careful feeding of paper money, the fun goes away. I think I just enjoyed the kitsch factor of dropping in the nickels or quarters and pulling the arm. The arm is likewise, mostly history.

For people that truly enjoy gambling, I might be able to see some draw to Vegas.

For single guys who have disposable income and want the slow suicide of HIV, or the lifetime stigma of a horde of other viruses, there might be some draw in patronizing the business represented on the prior  mentioned cards.

There are certainly some shows in Vegas that cannot be seen anywhere else and honestly, there is, for most of these acts, no comparison. But, these shows only happen in the evening which leaves 21 other hours a day which must be filled.

Allowing ten hours for sleep, including extra time for the alcohol poisoning recovery, that’s still eleven hours. Watching a few fountain shows at the Bellagio might eat one of those hours.

The other hours must be spent on $20-$50per plate meals, gambling, or shopping for stuff that is either as overpriced as the food or about as worthwhile an investment as gambling. But really, how many “I lost this shirt in Vegas” T-shirts does a person need. Yes, I made that up. If it doesn’t already exist, consider it copyrighted. I’m very reasonable when it comes to selling my intellectual property, for anyone who is interested.

I also think that the Pawn Stars pawn shop should sell onesies that say “My parents bought me at the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop”. The photo I got of me and my sons with Chumley was one of the few positive highlights of my trip to Vegas, second to my baby brothers wedding ceremony.

My baby brother means well and has a truly big heart. However, why he decided my thirteen and fourteen year old sons should accompany the post-reception party on a bar crawl is beyond my comprehension. I tried to warn my sons it would be boring. It turns out that bars don’t let teenagers in…who knew? Oh, right, everyone. So after two hours of trying to gather the party in one place and finding one place to drink and take the kids…we dropped the 13 year old off and pulled the hoodie over my emo son’s flop and walked half a mile down the strip to the same bar they’d been to the prior night. My son did in fact get a rare chance to drink an intoxicant. He had a Coca-Cola with caffeine. Yeah, I know, I’m so sheltering.

The other aspect of Vegas that makes it totally not family friendly is their widespread lack of no-smoking areas.

Sure, just thirty years ago, no one thought twice about smoking around kids. But this is the Third Millennium, people. the average IQ is now sufficiently above sixty to allow most people to realize that the kids watering red eyes should be a sign that their bodies do not like the smoke. The wheezing hack is not how a thirteen year old should breathe. Add to that a preexisting condition like asthma and its a near pinnacle wrongness.

As an only reasonably responsible parent I will say that I don’t care if my sons watched the go-go dancers in the casinos. I didn’t say the strip clubs–there is a difference in the amount of clothing present, a very small but important difference. I don’t even care if they saw the escort business cards. Boobies are PG. I am fairly pissed that nothing I could do could prevent them from smelling of tobacco smoke by midday and being covered in stench by the end of the day.

My four year old daughter spent very little time in the hotel outside of her room. She was there for barely more than a day and slept for half that time and spent the majority of the other half at the wedding, which was at some eco-park that made an excellent setting for the nuptials.

I’m not saying I couldn’t go to Vegas and Have fun, but I  am saying couldn’t do it for less than five hundred  dollars a day between myself and my wife.  I managed to only spend about $150 a day for my whole family, but it was a really damned boring trip.

And as much as I love my baby brother, I can’t say anything positive for his sense of time. As a guy living with aspergers one of my traits is a necessity to plan my time. This pretty much means if someone tells me that dinner will be at 6pm, dinner better be darned close to 6pm  or I start to seriously fret. If someone tells me lunch will be at noon at the buffet, then, sometime after 12, informs me that they are eating lunch alone in their room, it’s an emotional disaster.

If I make the realization that there is not actually a plan in place to do anything that would be remotely fun for my two sons, and I then decide to depart early to the airport, it’s a bad idea to interfere with that plan. Checkout time was noon, flight was at 730pm. Budget was low. My plan was to find comfortable seats in the airport near a power outlet so my sons could play games on my old laptop while I used my newer laptop. It was a sound plan. My baby bros’ plan was to spend the afternoon doing stuff with my kids. My kids wanted his plan despite the fact that no-one identified what stuff that would be.

I went to the airport alone, with my bro promising to bring my kids in ample time to get through security. The difference between my original plan and the new plan is that I couldn’t pass through security until my kids got there. This severely limited the seating options. But it would have been worth sitting for three hours on the floor if my kids got to spend the afternoon hanging out with their fun uncle, right? Well yeah, of course. Unfortunately that was not the reality. The reality was that baby bro had no plan for anything fun for my sons and spent the afternoon trying to come up with something. My kids got to the airport on time, but had done nothing but tour Vegas in the backseat as baby bro ran to pick up some stuff left at the wedding site.

Nothing in Vegas is cheap. Meals start around fifteen dollars per person. For a family of five, that’s just insane. Even the fast food has a mark-up, though it’s still priced far more reasonably than the other options. The lines at the few fast food outlets are discouraging.

Yes Vegas has shows. Shows are in the evening and I was there for two evenings. Evening one: Rehearsal Dinner. Evening Two: Wedding and reception. Shows? They’re not cheap, but I’d have found the money.

I know I admitted I could have fun in Vegas for about $500(not including hotel) a day for two people. However, I don’t foresee that coming to pass in the future. I have other places higher on my list of places to go and the only place I need to go more than once is New Orleans. I can do New Orleans on about $100 per day per person (not including hotel) and have it be non-stop entertainment.

Bottom line, Vegas is not family friendly. It’s not anything close to a cheap vacation. Other than specific shows, there is nothing in Vegas that cannot be found elsewhere. Gambling is just about everywhere, Drinking is pretty much everywhere. The Glamour of Vegas is hard to find anywhere, especially Vegas. The crowded sidewalks? It’s tough to find sidewalks so perpetually crowded. I’ve been on the sidewalks of all the biggest cities in this country and they might have peak crowds, but for the most part, the sidewalks allow for some shoulder room. The Vegas Strip is an unending dense mulling. I’ve seen something similar on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, but that street is only crowded for a couple hours a night. The Vegas Strip is an unending crowd from ten in the morning until two in the morning.

So, wanna have a wedding in Vegas? Send out Announcements, not invitations. If you insist on inviting folks, don’t invite the kids.

There were some positive parts of the days in Vegas and, by far, not the least of these was the actual wedding. Seeing a Yoda-head wedding cake was great, and should be a once in a life-time experience. Really, it Should be a once in a life-time experience. The Bellagio fountain show was nice. The Pawn Stars’ shop was, as I’ve mentioned, interesting.

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