Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Las Vegas Trip 4/4 - more pictures

Mandalay Bay gryphon

Mandalay Bay lion (I guess)

Mandalay Bay Old Moulmein Pagoda Looking Lazy at the Sea (or facsimile thereof)

Luxor Ram-headed sphinxes (pretty good copy of original)

Luxor Sphinx, who is a bit too masculine and Caucasian for the job if you ask me

Wynn and its walkways (some working)


Sigfrid and Roy memorial

Mirage and its volcano-cum-fountain

Ballardian drained swimming pools, with rare rainwater addition
"Hey, Google" was the mantra of CES this year

A selkie statue at Caesars

The older casinos were more fun, weren't they?
Though this is pretty fun too
The tip of the strip (panorama) -Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Excalibur, New York


Posts in this series:

Las Vegas Trip, 3/4

The Flamingo

Flamingo puts its foot down

The second expedition was to see how the growing tip of the strip was getting on. I bought a monorail ticket and rode up and down it a couple of times to see where it went, which is from SLS (whatever that is, near the Stratosphere), to Westgate, the Convention Center, and then up the back alley behind the strip to MGM Grand. (It seems to go to fewer places than it used to, but maybe that’s just me.) Then I took it back to MGM and walked to Luxor and Mandalay Bay.

Mandalay Bay is now sadly famous for last year’s mass shooting incident and during the coverage of that I’d got the impression that it was in the middle of things. It’s not, it’s still right at the very end of the strip with nothing beyond it and nothing opposite it. I checked out some locations on the exterior for an upcoming fiction story, walked back towards Excalibur, realized there was an elevated railway, got on that back to Mandalay Bay and back again to Excalibur. (It’s quite a boring El, so this was even less exciting than it sounds.) There’s a little homeless city by the overpasses there, which I navigated to get back across the road and eventually to the Flamingo. Which was great; it’s an old-style casino with old-style attractions like a) giant flamingo statues b) flamingos c) a black swan d) feral showgirls hanging around outside in full feathers and e) a buffet.

Showgirls ignoring me because I aged out of the gullible customer age bracket

As far as I can tell, the feeding cycle of an escalator is to
eat a showgirl, hork up a pellet of feathers and then
shut down for 12 hours to digest

The escalators are called "thyssen" which is the Yorkshire
dialect word for "yourself", so these nameplates
doubled as a sort of friendly affirmation

Real life flamingos at the Flamingo

A black swan at the Flamingo

Speaking of buffets, the $10 days are long over. (Elan Sleazebaggano has changed his name to the less recognizably punterish Elan Sel'sabagno since then, and presumably does not hang out in casinos any longer.) I spent $43 on a brunch at Caesars Palace that was quite nice but I mean forty three dollars, and $23 (or something) at another one that was terrible. Bacon and eggs and muffins only, and they cleared my place when I got up for some seconds so I came back to find someone else sitting there. (She was very nice about it.) I did have a great meal at the Beijing Noodle Co. one evening and a very nice Thai meal at somewhere in a strip mall whose name escapes me.

Carp at the Flamingo, with tell-tale reflections

In other exciting escapades, I took a trip on the High Roller, a 550-foot tall observation wheel and took some photos of Treasure Island’s galleons for reference in the aforementioned fiction story. On the last day, we moved from Caesars to the Westgate, which used to be the Hilton, but seems to have had a troubled history since the Elvis days. Anything that’s more than a few feet away from the strip itself seems to have a hard time of it. Elvis himself was commemorated in a statue in the registration area, and in many photos about the hotel, as were other old timey Vegas champions.

Elvis in effigy

Gordon Ramsey is big in Vegas; his signpost appears to be
the Mad Cod's Amulet

Elvis in my hotel room

One other thing I noticed about the modern Vegas is the voices that tell you what to do – announcements, elevators, voice-overs, video recordings playing in the pods on the High Roller and so forth – are almost all young American males, rather than the soothing female slightly electronic tones you expect from your phone and airport walkways. There’s a hint of vocal fry. I think the reasoning behind it is that Vegas is really a very laddish (as the British say) town. It’s very much a drinking, sporting, gambling destination that attracts small gangs of young males. “Gangs” is probably the wrong word. “Bachelor parties of young males” may be a better collective noun. For such bachelors, the slightly submissive, domesticated Siri or Alexa would not be sufficiently hooky to engage their interest. The YouTube-star young male voices provide a much better come-on under the circumstances.

The High Roller

On the High Roller

View from the High Roller


I didn’t find the trip as exciting as that first time more than 20 years ago, and some of it is because Vegas has changed and some of it because I’ve changed. It’s quite noticeable – the young men handing out flyers to nightclubs, invites to meet scantily-clad ladies and half-off (scam) tickets to performances neatly ignored me as if I wasn’t there, which I wasn’t, in their eyes, as the 18-40 demographic is pretty much all that counts. And they’re right, of course. I had no interest in blowing hundreds of dollars a night, and it was clearly obvious. Mind you, if they want me to spend more money, they could fix some of the escalators so I could get to the casino floors.


New York and the MGM lion

Rameses and some more ram-headed sphinxes at Luxor

Posts in this series:

Las Vegas Trip, 2/4

I made a couple of forays outside the Caesars area. Firstly, since I was with people who had meetings at CES, I had a chance to take their stretch Hummer to my first stop, the Mob Museum. The mere existence of stretch Hummers still surprises and delights me (see Sizzler, above) and as it was daylight, once inside I was able to see how the magic is done. (Dark carpet, flat black paint, disco balls, plasma balls, or maybe just a loop of a plasma ball on a screen – wasn’t close enough to tell - and a very longitudinal sound system.)

The interior of a stretch limo Hummer. Now you know.

The Mob Museum was very interesting and surprisingly up-front about the Mob basis of Las Vegas. Put simply, modern Las Vegas is here because of two things – the gambling (which also attracted the Mafia) and the building of the Hoover Dam, which brought in thousands of male workers without family support. Both contingencies are fascinating, and a third reason for its fame is even more arresting - the hundred or so open-air nuclear explosions of the fifties and the thousands of government employees this brought in.

The Mob Museum’s exhibits and films cover the continental US, not just Vegas, and I admit, this not being my area of expertise, many of the names were only familiar to me through movies. Donnie Brasco. Untouchables. G-Men. Al Capone. St Valentine’s Day Massacre.

The Mob Museum

The museum is close by Fremont Street, which was the buzzingest part of Vegas when I first went but is now a sort of muddy tide pool left by the southbound outrushing wave. I remember getting an amazing abstract space-landscape painting here, painted by a young man who used spray-paint cans on a sheet of cardboard just lying on the concrete, employing the edges of other paintings and can lids to mask and shape the paint. (I saw him, or possibly his son, on the street by Cinq this time, now using a turntable at elbow height and with a respirator mask for protection, still doing similar paintings.)

1999 painting by that guy, whose
name I can't make out.
Sorry about cell-phone photo/glare.

It was uncharacteristically raining in Vegas this day, and that was how I learned that the canopy over Fremont Street is not actually waterproof. Apart from the old-style casinos - Four Queens, Binions, Golden Nugget - there was little going on except a flock of Russian women who hand you a sachet of something, maybe moisturizer, and while you are trying to work out what to do with it, engage you in conversation designed to work up to selling you something. I never found out what because after I rudely extricated myself from the first woman’s clutches, I managed to stay out of range of all the others. It does boast a Walgreens (they’re everywhere in Vegas) which had a rain-proof poncho for sale. (They apparently had two umbrellas under the counter but since they had lost their price tags, they couldn’t sell those to me.)

4 Queens in the rain,  useless canopy above

I’d made up my mind to walk from Fremont Street back to Caesars before I realized it was raining, and once I had the poncho, I went ahead and did it.

Stratosphere in the rain

North Vegas signage

More north Vegas signage

It was very cold, and wet, and not a nice part of town. It was six and a half miles back to Caesars, which gave me plenty of time to observe that the storm drains in Vegas are not built for downpours, so sheets of water several inches deep cover the sides of roads for several feet in. This means that troll-ol-ol drivers can play at splashing you by driving through them (since the sidewalks are wide enough to avoid the splash you can usually laugh along with these little teasers) but it also means you can’t avoid the flow whenever you cross a side-street. My Payless Shoe Sores shoes are So Cal designs, strictly not for use in damp conditions. They seemed to suck water inside by some sort of instep-driven pumping action and then not let any of it out again. Probably could come in useful in the Third World, but as shoes qua shoes, not at all useful.

The Circus Circus clown is watching me float down here

Posts in this series:

Las Vegas Trip 1/4

Boy, Las Vegas has changed.

Or I have.

Or both.

Another glimpse at the supports underlying
the machine

I first went to Las Vegas in the mid-nineties. I thought it was the greatest thing ever. I like to see what goes into making a spectacle. What goes on underneath Disneyland or in a projection room or why a graphic artist chooses whatever style they use. Vegas, with its Big Top circus, Treasure Island galleon battles, dancing fountains and real centurions and Roman serving girls, was a must-see.

Treasure Island galleon, current trip

Treasure Island white galleon, current trip

Treasure Island has partially rebranded
itself as "ti". 

This is the sort of thing I came to photograph -
These stairs lead underwater to the white galleon. Food
for fictional thought.

At that time, the nineties, Vegas was hurting. It was sleazy, it was cheap, and it was tawdry. This is a great combination for a tourist. For instance, you’d get those $10 all-you-can-eat brunches, which were laid on because the casino was terrified that, if you didn’t get breakfast, you’d get up, go outside, see the sun and then be overcome with a desire to rethink your life like Elan Sleazebaggano in Attack of the Clones and never go back to the casino floor.

Isn't this where Elan Sleazebaggano hung out? Something something pari-mutuel racing.
(Of course, being new to America then, all all-you-can-eat experiences were marvels to me. Back then, when I discovered Sizzler I thought it was the Best Thing Ever, and boy, when I first encountered a Dollar Store, I think I bought one of everything in it, because everything was so danged cheap. In England, we had been using Viz’s Salad Thief on our single trips to the salad bar.)

A salad thief

The last few times I’ve visited Vegas, it’s been rich and powerful and the gigantic buildings and inlaid marble floors are a testimony to how much money they can ease out of punters’ pockets. (Though for some reason half the escalators don’t work.) I remember around 2007 being regretfully(?) told that a restaurant was fully booked for the evening, which I suspect was because we were not wearing formal clothes rather than there’d been a sudden run on Prime Rib dinners. The sleazy dive had gone upscale. The last time I was here was 2010, when Hyundai Hyundai was a new car and we made the trip to see my favorite band, though at that time I only managed to take in the Dead Weather, Paris Hotel, Nobu and a finishing flourish of Them Crooked Vultures.

Cosmopolitan's a bit eerie in the rain

Since then Vegas hasn’t had another of its sudden dai kaiju-like growth spurts. One hotel, the Cosmopolitan, was new this trip and there were several deep pits that presumably will be buildings soon, and one almost built giant fortress but the growth tip of the Strip is still maxed out at Mandalay Bay, currently facing nothing much across the way. The previous high-water mark, the almost lunatic folly of the Luxor pyramid and hotel, is still there but looking a little dusty as the sand has blown across it (as it has the original pyramids and original Luxor in Egypt, over rather more years). The aging vertex of Vegas didn’t matter as this time we didn’t stay at the meristematic end of the Strip, but at Caesars Palace.

Caesar in his palace

The centurions and serving girls were not in evidence this time, alas, but there were a number of shops inside where one could buy a jacket or a watch for several thousand dollars. Caesars is also well-suited for trips outside, if you can find a way out, since it is in the middle of the Strip and close by the Flamingo, Cinq, Harrah’s and Bellagio. Being near these means you are also near the rather sad monorail that runs behind the strip, to and from the Convention Center.

Monorail terminus

Linq. The bright thing on the right is a display sign at Caesars.
Linq, with the right-hand display showing a Caesars' column.
It's quite mindbending as you walk past it.


Caesars statuary

There's something about classical statue women in showgirl outfits
that isn't right. Their bodies are a bit too athletic, I think. (Pictures in our hotel room.)

Lucky sugar ducky

Trump Tower is kept behind bars for some reason

Posts in this series:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin
I sometimes mention a product on this blog, and I give a URL to Amazon or similar sites. Just to reassure you, I don't get paid to advertise anything here and I don't get any money from your clicks. Everything I say here is because I feel like saying it.