Las Vegas; early mid-life crisis edition.

My tour host had announced that one night in Vegas was the perfect amount of time, but two was usually too many. My parents had both told me that I probably wouldn’t like Las Vegas due to it’s general excessiveness, and so the challenge was on – one night not to hate Las Vegas.

Lady Vegas, fate has set us up for a one night stand. I’m coming inside you, it’s been a while, and I’m not as resilient as I was when I was younger. Be gentle.

My perception of Vegas before arrival was that it existed almost as a giant monument to America’s lack of modesty; it was all about money, alcohol, sex, drugs and Elvis Presley – it was essentially everything I hated about stereotyped America (except Presley) rolled up into one large throbbing chasm of despair. This preconception stemmed from my love of Hunter S. Thompson, my parents personal experiences and stories, and a voluminous amount of media coverage from Ocean’s 11 to The Simpsons. I didn’t have a choice, but if I did, I wouldn’t have been setting foot in America’s city of sin.

The bus ploughed on through the desert. I daydreamed of snowy mountains and luscious rainforest as I gazed distantly out of the windows. The metropolis started to form around me as scatterings of single story suburbs which then proceeded to stack higher and higher around me until the sky was but a distant memory. We passed the famous “Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas” sign without stopping and we were inside Nevada’s infamous snatch.

I’m going to use a point system to aid my story from this moment onwards, where Vegas living up to my shitty expectations gains itself one point and me surprisingly having a good time gains me a point.

We stopped at the very modest hotel a few blocks away from the strip and checked in. We then met downstairs by the very modest pool to relax in the afternoon sun with a couple of modest drinks. Pratik (a short Indian boy with the uncanny ability to sleep (while looking worryingly dead) through me tripping over a backpack and almost smashing a lamp on a hotel floor) and I then realised we have left our small and diminishing collection of brews in the now locked up tour bus (Vegas 1, Tom 0) and they would be irretrievable until the sun rose again, so instead just enjoyed a short alcohol free dip in the pool of questionable hygiene standards (Vegas 2, Tom 0).

Pratik had every intention to go and watch a show so began formulating a plan. Some of the other people from the tour bus also wanted to join us so we all agreed to meet in the hotel lobby. Pratik has dressed up very smart with a perfectly ironed light blue shirt and looked like the sort of gentleman who would pull your chair out for you on a date, maybe even lay his coat over the puddle to walk you across or present with a single rose and a gentle kiss on the cheek at the end of the night. I, however, looked like a turd that had been rolled in glitter with about a week and a half of stubble, holes in my shoes and creases the size of the Grand Canyon in my obviously cheap and un-tailored attire. We then ran across our crazy German friend in the corridor and all got lost in the maze of identical consecutive corridors (Vegas 3, Tom 0) until we stumbled across Julieta standing in the lobby, looking beautiful and elegant in a leopard print dress. My friends were looking damn fine, and I will admit, I was most impressed (Vegas 3, Tom 1).

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(In this photo, it looks like I have really really long and flexible arms)

We then waddled towards the strip to find a ticket office, during which a few other travellers from the tour bus drove past us in an open-top jeep after an afternoon of firing automatic weaponry, looking smug, relaxed and almost post coital, which highly amused me (Vegas 3, Tom 2). My friends then enforced their generosity on me (Vegas 3, Tom 3), insisting that they pay for my ticket to the show. I was humbled, thankful, and actually quite emotional. Also, the playing field was now even, so I was starting to hope I might actually enjoy myself.

We walked across the footbridge to the *sidewalk* in front of the Bellagio to watch the fountain show, which was fucking impressive (Vegas 3, Tom 4) but I was most disappointed when it occurred to Uptown Funk instead of Claire De Lune (Vegas 4, Tom 4), but then again, we hadn’t just robbed three casinos simultaneously (Vegas 4, Tom 5).

And believe it or not, I was actually winning.

The strip turned out to be much longer than originally perceived (Vegas 5, Tom 5) so it took a bit longer to get to the casino where our show was situated. We ate dinner in a restaurant in the casino which, of course, was absurdly massive (Vegas 6, Tom 5) and I consumed one pint (Vegas 6, Tom 6) of American measurements (Vegas 7, Tom 6 (The Brits will understand this)) at vast expense (Vegas 8, Tom 6) as we laughed at the louche decor of scantily dressed asses hanging from the ceiling above us (Vegas 9, Tom 7, I feel Vegas deserves a point for it’s cheap tackiness and I deserve a point for letting it amuse me). While everything felt superficial, I felt I had transcended this into a position of superior mockery.

The inside of the casinos is something to talk about. It was everything I feared (Vegas 10, Tom 7) and I thought this might be because we were in one of the cheaper ones closer to the end of the strip but as it turns out, the inside of the Bellagio which I visited later wasn’t much better (Vegas 11, Tom 7). I was expecting at least an elegant veneer to dress up this show of delinquency and vulgarity, but instead it’s all on display, like a naked corpse. It feels like sitting inside a Weatherspoon’s pub at 2am, complete with bad carpet, poor lighting, drunken idiots and depression (Vegas 12, Tom 7).

Lady Vegas, you’re drying up. I’m failing my mission. Please don’t bite me and leave me with a contentious rash. Is there still time to turn this romance around?

Our show was Cirque Du Soleil’s “Mystère” at the Treasure Island Casino. It was a small intimate setting which pleasantly surprised me (Vegas 12, Tom 8) which also meant that although we had the cheapest tickets in the house (Vegas 12, Tom 9), we still had a good view of the whole performance. The acrobatics were so phenomenal (Vegas 12, Tom 10) I was very tense for the whole show anticipating a broken neck. I was most impressed with the trapeze show near the end and most surprised nobody smashed into anybody else (Vegas 12, Tom 11). The whole show was creepy, disorientating, awe inspiring, impossibly difficult and just all around amazing, so much so I’m going to give myself another point (Vegas 12, Tom 12).

We missed our entry slot into the nightclub at Caesar’s (Vegas 13, Tom 12) and as we weren’t all cute and female (at least Pratik and I weren’t) and as Vegas is a very sexist city (Vegas 14, Tom 12) we wouldn’t be able to gain entry to one of these infamous nightclubs, even if only for reference’ sake. As it turns out, if you’re young and posses a vagina, you can have the time of your life in Vegas for basically free. The reason for this, is because all the men are paying for it. This completely disgusts me as, in my opinion, everybody should be treated equally, whether they are male, female, transgender, raptor or llama. Blatant shows of discrimination sicken me, and when the next day somebody told me that they nearly got separated from their girlfriend in a club simply for being male I was absolutely appalled (Vegas 15, Tom 12).

You can legally drink on the street (Vegas 15, Tom 13). It’s like being in Germany and having a little party under the bridge in Köln and it’s a million times cheaper than what you’ll pay in any establishment. This did mean that on our commute back to the hotel there were a few drunken idiots around, but that was to be expected. Amongst the ocean of exposed flesh, the drunken zombies and flashing lights, we wove through the Vegas nightlife back to our humble abode.

15 – 13… Okay, so statistically Vegas beat me. There is a but though (and not one hanging out of a drunken girl’s slightly too short dress). The next morning on the bus to Death Valley everybody was looking very sorry for themselves apart from myself and the small group that I accompanied for the evening. I could not stop laughing at the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet as somebody rocked around in a pair of sunglasses, refusing everything except a solitary dry piece of white toast and a litre of orange juice. I was expecting to leave Vegas in the back of an ambulance, on the brink of comatose and swatting at invisible bats but I was absolutely fine, and while everybody else was in agony I could not stop smiling and laughing at their stories.

I want to hate Vegas, I really do. I want to fear and loathe it. And while somebody the next day told me I sounded like an old man for not getting wasted, I had a pleasant experience with some wonderful people without getting into debt or stuffing the trunk of a car with every conceivable drug known to man. I am in no hurry to go back, but I also think that one night in this impossible city is an experience we should all endure, whether it’s to party your knickers off, lose all your belongings in a game of poker, rob a casino, or just to watch a show, have a quiet drink, and go to bed at a reasonable hour. I want to hate Vegas but I can’t – she is exactly what she is and I left her with a smile on my face and no regrets.

I give Las Vegas a thumbs up, but a thumb painted like the American flag wearing yellow spandex and sunglasses after the sun has gone down.

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