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Getting the fear

December 17, 2009

Our remaining days in San Diego were immensely enjoyable, in spite of experiencing a day of torrential rain which only occurs once a year. We journeyed across to Coronado, wandered down to Little Italy, saw the zoo and partied like it was 1999. Waking up with the taste of vodka still in my mouth, it was time to depart. A bus ride later we arrived at the airport, and after a long security process during which my bag was scanned twice, boarded a claustrophobic plane that would bear us to our next destination, Las Vegas.

Las Vegas airport is interesting to say the least. As soon as you enter the terminal you are faced with rows of slot machines and advertisements for firing ranges where you can “fire a real machine gun!” TV screens shout about various shows at various casinos, including Zumanity, an erotic version of Cirque du Soleil. We found a shuttle bus and after a strange ride around the seedier parts of Vegas arrived at Circus Circus where for $40 a night we scored a room. We settled down for a rest and enjoyed some American TV. First up was Divorce Court, where couples fight for $1000 settlements. This was intersperced with ads for injury lawyers and ambulance chasers, and health ads for conditions invented by pharmaceutical companies.

If there is one thing I have learnt about America, it’s that a pill can fix anything. Depressed and taking Prozac? You can also take another pill in combination with that, but it’s not recommended for the elderly or persons  under 18. Side effects may include dizziness, difficulty standing, low blood pressure. If you are diabetic you may die. And so on. For sexual dysfunction, take Cialis, but if you have an erection for 14 hours, consult a doctor. Join the Medical Clinic and get free catheters. You may also be eligible for an electric wheelchair at little or no cost to you. All I can say is thank Christ we have public health insurance.

We set off to walk the strip and after a good 15 minutes finally located the exit to the casino. Over the next four days we would become accustomed to places where noise and lights are constant, smoke lingers in the air and exit signs and clocks don’t exist. Paths go in circles. These places are designed to keep you in.

Our first night on the strip was nice, watching the Bellagio fountains and wandering the strip, where each casino is a world unto itself. Rusty soon returned home, still sick from San Diego, while I wandered into Paris where plastic cobblestones lined the floor, the roof was blue sky and the facade composed of l’Opera and the Louvre. Out the front stood a replica of the Eiffel Tower. Further on, the New York casino featured part of the Manhatten skyline combined with a rollercoaster.

The next day we realised there is not a lot to do in Vegas during the day so we watched more daytime TV before hitting a restaurant downstairs called Mexitalia. As the name would suggest, it combined Mexican and Italian cuisine. I opted for the all-you-can-eat pasta buffet, but was foiled by the fact the first serving I had was ridiculously oversized. We then set off for the “Old Town” of Vegas, a 15 minute bus ride north of the strip. Here was more like a nursing home where everyone wore a Stetson and ate buffets. We met up with Simona, a girl we had met in Diego, at a hostel on Fremont Street, which is the seediest area of Vegas. For the first time since I’d been in America I felt unsafe, and this was confirmed by the heckling we received from locals as we walked the streets.

We headed back to West Fremont Street, which has the old Vegas strip and prophets of doom bearing placards of repent all ye sinners in this place of temptation, but really, what place did God have here? We ate far too much at a buffet and sampled eight kinds of pie before heading back down to the strip. We started at the MGM Grand before deciding it was too highbrow and the Hooters casino nearby was more to our liking. I won $1.29 on the slots before we headed to O’Sheas, expecting an Irish pub but instead finding a casino. It was at this point we were over Vegas with its continual noise and lights and complete absense of anywhere you could just sit and drink and be without smoke-filled recycled air.

The next day I caught a bus down the strip and sat across from two men, one of whom gave a soliloquy on Afghanistan, Iraq and Michael Jackson while his companion nodded and interjected with “you’re right, you’re right, bro” and on and on until he departed with a “praise the Lord” and “always do, bro, I always do,” was the reply, and soon off he got too but why would you praise the Lord in a place like this? I got off at Paradise and walked for 40 minutes to the Atomic Testing Museum which was heavy on pro-nuke propaganda (it’s about the Security of the American People and it’s a Good Thing we could prove we had The Bomb said a former tester) but enjoyable for the simulated atmospheric test and TV screens that showed snapshots of world events and culture across the decades.

After dinner we went to a nearby McDonalds to buy large cokes for the rum we had to finish and after Rusty went to bed I stayed up watching Leno and drinking rum until the coke ran out. I set the alarm and went to bed anticipating being back on the road. We’d been in Vegas for three nights and as far as I was concerned that was two nights too long.

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