I went to Vegas with some pre-conceived ideas, mostly taken from old movies where they sung about the Strip. I based much of my opinion on the TCM’s Rat Pack movies where Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. sang while they drank and smoked on stage. I had seen numerous movies with the miles and miles of roads that straddled the Nevada desert. Even my then six-year old sent me a postcard from Vegas when she went there on her first US trip with her paternal grandmother, a postcard of lights and fountains which I kept because she signed the back with her childish attempt to describe the place.
For years I’ve read, watched and heard about, what else? Vegas. For many of those I know who’ve been there and later developed a taste for gambling, Vegas was the ultimate travel destination. A shot at big money and then by off-chance, to see the over the top shows. And in the eyes of those who’ve been there and thought themselves sophisticated, Vegas was the cap of hedonism, where one could let their hair down, drinking beer and smoking themselves blue in the face, as they walked up and down the strip.
But a Vegas visit was more than due. My husband used to go to Vegas twice a year. He hadn’t been back after we got married. I had never expressed interest in going to Vegas because I preferred to go somewhere else. But after seeing an Andrea Bocelli DVD where he performed at Lake Las Vegas, I knew that a visit to Vegas had to be sooner than later.
Like other tourists I took pictures, marvelled at the grand architectural feats of the Venetian and the Bellagio and the hotels along the strip, each trying to outdo the other. I wasn’t the only first time visitor to Vegas, my sister’s boyfriend, an American at that had never expressed interest in seeing the place. My sister said he didn’t see the point of going there.
My husband knew I had no interest in gambling, so we both understood that I was going there to see the shows and shop. And unlike our earlier sojourn to Toronto last summer where we took our time and rested, our Vegas trip would be anything but. There were the shows lined up each night. The long lost aunts and uncles who made Vegas their retirement homes and whom we needed to see (they had provided the tickets to the shows for free). We saw them. Laughed, reminisced about the past, and what had happened to whom along the decades we had not seen each other.
Each night we would dress up, walk to the show’s venue (Bally’s for the Jubilee. Wonderfully grand, all that I believed Hollywood entertainment was all about. The second night a Cirque de Soleil show called Mystere at TI: I thought it was child’s play, more appropriate for children than adults. On our last night we watched the Legends at Imperial, all impersonators from Jay Leno, Madonna, and Ann-Margret. I thought Elvis was the best of the lot. The impersonator sounded and looked like Elvis).
We had planned a side trip to Hoover Dam on a couples’ trip, me and my husband, my sister and her boyfriend. Hoover Dam was not a disappointment. It was just as I had envisioned it to be as I had first seen it in Superman’s movie in the 1970s. We did some shopping on the side on the way home, expressed a need to eat Filipino food and found one along the Strip, an eatery where everything they served was greasy and unhealthy.
But one thing for sure that I will not miss: the cigarette smoke that hang in the air even in the morning. In Vegas, non smokers are the minority. As I passed the maze of the gambling tables searching for my husband, it seemed that everyone was trying their hardest to smoke themselves to death. And because I refused to sit it out, my husband asked me to go up to our room and wait there. I told him not to worry about me. I wandered through Treasure Island on a Sunday when the malls closed early. I was told very clearly by my mom that when people played, they did not want someone hanging around or watching their game. She said it distracted them, and I had the grace to tell my husband not to mind me. And of course, he won at the slots. He was so happy that I went so far as to take a shot at the slot machines after we watched The Legends at the Imperial. By this time he had won three times, and he said he felt he was on a winning streak. Who was I to rain on his parade?
Vegas, for all the gambling and smoke, have some saving graces. On our second night after watching Mystere, we headed to the Bellagio. I loved Bellagio’s resplendent autumn display at their conservatory and botanical gardens. It was easy to conjure the haunting notes of the Autumn Leaves in the background. It was perfect, the gourds and flowers were rich and real, and there was the unmistakable scent of autumn in the air. And who could forget the dancing fountains of the Bellagio?
On our last night there, after watching a show at the Imperial, my husband and I walked to Denny’s for a trans fat-filled, steak and French fries meal. We were famished after all the walking. And then afterwards, we went for a quick look see of the Venetian’s Grand Canal. I didn’t have the chance to glide down the canal, so pictures had to suffice. When your companion prefers to play the slot machines, it is better to concede. After all, he had spent a great portion of the morning and the afternoon following me from shop to shop at the Fashion Show Mall across from Treasure Island.