Monday, October 30, 2006

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

A trip report on my recent Las Vegas vacation -- Dalton Hammond

We were somewhere around Boulder on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.

Fortunately I had not included my water pill in my morning medications so I was spared the indignity of having to pee all over Pappillon's shiny helicopter and embarass my five young Grand Canyon Tourmates -- Englishwomen who only wanted to talk about this year's Ryder Cup. Wild horses and burros grazed on the sagebrush a hundred feet or so below us. We were wearing noise-reducing headphones (Sennheiser , no less) and communicated to our tour guide and pilot with microphones.





Preparing myself for the possibility of a helicopter crash in the Nevada desert I had gone online and studied the basics of desert survival and so I felt that in an emergency I could find some way to get along in the wilderness until the arrival of a camera crew. But I could never have prepared myself for the terror I now faced.

For over an hour I wandered, completely lost, never once seeing a familiar landmark or another person. It was dark and beginning to turn cold. I stopped to catch my breath and think. Uncertainty sang in my veins -- alto, I think. Where was the path where I had entered this God-forsaken place? Was there a way to get out? Would I ever be found alive?

Would it be wild dogs or crows that will lick my bones? I remembered the lions and tigers Kim and I had seen at The Mirage Hotel the day before, just memories now. Later that night she had gone looking for me, finding her father at his Double Diamond slot machine watching his Progressive Jackpot winner's light flashing.

At least I had seen the world on this Las Vegas trip. I mentally thanked all my friends who suggested Hoover Dam, which I saw from the 'copter and the Cirque Du Soleil production of Ka which impressed me more than anything I have ever seen on a stage, including the $150 ticket price. I guess you could call it a stage. I never saw an entire stage floor move in so many different ways. I was afraid the whole thing would tip over and fall on me, right there in 3rd row center. The 3-or-4-foot wide front apron did not move. Teasers and the cyclorama were not evident, if extant. No front curtains were ever used. They performed behind, around, above and among the audience.

As the show started it seemed we had gone to Hell with fountains of fire going off everywhere, but particularly from just behind and below the apron, where you'd expect the footlights to be. A performer-creature stood in the spotlight ten feet away from me and started gibbering to a fellow-creature who was lurking far away on one of the many balconies and crows nests which were ensconced on the theatre walls.

My aisle neighbor took out a flash camera and snapped a picture of The Thing. The Thing then came down into the audience and brought my neighbor and his camera back onto the stage apron where he was relieved of his cigarette pack. The Thing waved the Marlboros at the audience a few times for attention and then tossed them over his shoulder into the abyss where a fountain of fire erupted briefly to signal their demise. Then the camera was tossed and a another fountain of fire erupted briefly. My neighbor guy objected so The Thing tossed him too. POOF! We got the idea.

At times I could see the huge main shaft of the equipment that was moving the huge stage around. It looked like something you'd open a drawbridge with. It reminded me of the engine room in the U.S.S. North Carolina.

The whole show was Spectacular to the nth power. I give it a One-Thumb up, my highest possible rating.

I saw the Tower of London, Eiffel Tower and Empire State Building on the walk back to my hotel from the MGM Grand Hotel, which happens to be bigger than Moore County. And Caesar's Palace across the street from Harrah's where I stayed was bigger than that.

It had been a wonderful vacation but now I was hopelessly lost. While I wondered how I would be remembered by the living I began to get thirsty. If I had known I was going to die I would have changed my $10 one-drink minimum purchase virgin Pina Colada to the real thing at the free magic show. "Free" is an illusion, I thought as I considered my present constraints, at least four floors above the ground.

I thought about Harrah's Progressive Jackpot cash in my pocket, totally useless in my present situation. All is Vanity.

Then I saw it: My salvation. I hoped it wasn't a mirage. Carefully I approached it, swallowed hard and pushed the button.

"RDU Airport parking. Can I help you?" it said.

"Yes ma'am", said I. "I can't find my car!"





"RDU Airport parking. Can I help you?"

"Yes, sir. I paid my $50 parking fee in advance at your EasyExit credit card station but this exit gate won't let me go through. It wants another dollar."

"Yes sir. That's because you took more than 30 minutes to leave the parking deck after paying."

"Right. Except it took me an HOUR to find my car. I finally had to use one of your call boxes for help."

"Sir, we expect you to be able to remember where you park your car."

"Well nobody told me you've got TWO G-2 levels! And where am I supposed to pay this damn dollar?"

"You'll have to come to a manned toll gate."



"Yes sir, can I help you?"

"Yeah, here's my paid ticket showing I already gave you 50 dollars and after I wandered around in the cold for a solid hour carrying sixty pounds of luggage looking for my car because this damned place is so poorly signed you now want to charge me another dollar for my trouble? What can you do for me?"

"Well actually sir you owe another TWO dollars."

"What are you talking about? The machine at the gate next to here just said ONE dollar!"

"Yes sir. Another hour just clicked on the computer since then."

(He is merely a slave in the system. Be a nice victim, pay the money and leave.)




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