Bright light city gonna set my soul
Gonna set my soul on fire
Got a whole lot of money that's ready to burn
So get those stakes up higher
Las Vegas, Nevada, is an unremarkable four-hour drive from the Grand Canyon. Remaining in one's air conditioned vehicle is a comfortable way to pass the time, although it gives a false sense of just how excruciating it is outside. Sure, I saw the external temperature listed as 44 degrees celsius but it's easy to remain oblivious to what that actually feels like until you step outside and have it bearing down on your person. It feels like being smothered in an invisible weighted blanket that just came out of Hell's dryer.
This would be my third trek to Sin City, a place I normally would avoid as I am definitely not a Vegas-type person, but I thought it would be interesting for my partner who is from a communist state in India to see the trappings of capitalism at its grandest form. The bougie in Las Vegas is incomparable to anything he grew up with (although he has experienced Dubai which is absolutely the Vegas of the Middle East). This would also mark the first time I had a vehicle while visiting, previously only exploring a limited tourist area on foot. Driving down the glittering Strip at night, next to Lamborghinis and other pricy Italian sports cars, owned and rented, was a truly memorable moment. But it was also fascinating to see the side of Vegas beyond the glitz and glamour - it's nondescript suburbia.
Our hotel room wasn't ready when we arrived, so we spent a few hours shopping at a few stores along Tropicana Avenue including a grocery store that had slot machines within it. It was around 2:00pm and people were playing them. Naturally. We then hit up a Wal-Mart to pick up some essentials. Perusing American big box stores is a fun experience for me. I like seeing all the stuff they don't sell up in Canada (and there is a lot of it). I've always been the type to want to try everything, although with my recent evolution in eating habits I've become a bit more discerning. Nonetheless, the candy and chip aisle had me twitching like a junkie needing a fix. I permitted myself a bag of Doritos in a flavour I'd never encountered before as well as an Almond Joy. The following day we shopped like the wild rock stars we are at both Whole Foods and Trader Joes where I bought a number of healthier groceries including different types of flour and spices that I've been incorporating into my cooking since returning. Sidenote: dark moscavado sugar from the island of Mauritius is legit changing my life.
Our hotel room at the Luxor still wasn't ready when we returned, leaving us to loiter around the casino and adjacent properties where I became so parched after a ten-minute walk outside that I didn't bat an eye at spending $6.50 U.S. on a small bottle of water. During our excursion, my partner could not believe that all of these giant hotels had giant casinos operating twenty-four hours a day. He didn't see a point to it. Admittedly, neither do I. But one of the pillars of the American business model is the belief that a fool and their money are soon parted. Nowhere has this belief gained more efficiency than Vegas.
It was July fourth and crowds were to be expected but our hotel appeared to be a disorganized mess. It took an additional three hours before we could check in. I was relieved when we finally got the key, only to be disappointed upon entering the room. The upgraded suite that I assumed would have a decent view overlooked a roof, while the only recognizable landmark visible was the Mandalay Bay tower looming in the background in which the deadliest mass shooting in United States history occurred less than a year ago.
There's a thousand pretty women waiting out there
They're all living devil may care
And I'm just the devil with love to spare
Viva Las Vegas
We didn't gamble. We didn't see any shows. We did, however, have an enjoyable history lesson one evening at Vegas' Neon Museum. Yes, I'm a nerd who would rather be feeding my mind than drinking it into oblivion at a nightclub. No shame in that. I've always been fascinated with the art of neon signage. I feel it is a legit form of advertising that is lost in modern society, at least in the Western world where it is unfairly considered kitsch. In parts of Asia I have traveled it is as much a part of urban identity as, say, a park with entire blocks (even neighbourhoods) bathing in their glow. I personally akin it to an illuminated garden that magically comes alive as the sun sets. I admit, it might not be for everyone, but in an era of branded homogenization, imagine how much more interesting the world would be with less golden arches and more unique visual design morphing our streetscapes into public galleries.