One for the money, two for the show, 0 for Vegas

Trip Start Oct 05, 2005
Trip End Apr 06, 2006

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Flag of United States  , Nevada
Thursday, March 2, 2006

"By the dim and yellow light of the moon... I beheld the wretch... The miserable monster whom I had created." (Mary Shelley, Frankenstein)

America is a country of superlatives, and Vegas has to be the biggest, brashest, kitschest, most tragic of them all. A huge neon blot on an otherwise unadulterated desert landscape, it epitomised everything I hated about the States.

On the journey to my hostel, Sin City, the driver took the opportunity to tell us where to score the best prostitutes, and how to avoid being caught on "whore-cam", the city's own CCTV device for detecting illegal soliciting. This is also a place that distributes free porn on the streets and sells cigarettes in the pharmacy.

But some things have to be seen to be believed and Vegas is one of them. The Strip, which runs the length of the town, looks like some kind of Monopoly on mushrooms, with huge themed hotels competing for attention and money - Paris has an Arc-du-Triomphe and an Eiffel tower, New York New York has a mini Statue of Liberty, and Venice has canals and gondoliers singing "just one Cornetto". The whole road is full of zombified tourists traipsing from one casino to the other (sometimes they take the bus the ten-metres to the next one). I heard that some people wear nappies while playing the slots so they don't have to leave their seats to spend a penny.

I haven't really done any gambling since my dad and I used to put money on the horses when I was in sixth form, and I sure as heck wasn't going to start now. Nor was I in the mood for drinking. Which kind of posed a problem in a place where the nullifying or parting of one's senses was the pastime du jour. So I went to the Grand Canyon instead.

This, I felt, was something else that had to be seen to be believed. It took four hours to get there, and four hours back, so I was expecting big things. Luckily, I wasn't disappointed, but I was also expecting searing, desert canyon-like temperatures, so was surprised to arrive to bitterly cold winds and hailstones. I looked at the weather chart and ours was the only day in two weeks that had a big black cloud over it. Honestly, I could make a fortune putting in appearances in drought-ridden countries. There was only one thing for it but to hit the pub and make the best of a bad situation. I had to keep popping my head out of the door now and again to remind myself where I was.

On the way home, not too far from Vegas, we learned about a place called Area 51 where the US government conduct research on UFOs and dissect alien bodies.

There was definitely something very creepy about the whole Vegas area. As we drove on through the desert the sky was so black I thought Armageddon was coming.
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